Successful Leadership Tips in 2019 and Why it's Cool to be Quirky!

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Let’s be honest. As leaders we are all too aware of colourful workplace quirks. We all have at least one quirky trait that others might find challenging. It could be a glass-half-empty outlook. A bad habit of backstabbing absent colleagues in the lunchroom. The grunt involuntarily over a sandwich? Or sigh when given a task? An over-achiever with a tendency to brag? Or a know-it-all with whom every conversation is a competition? Heaven forbid – does someone smell?

With a little authentic and sensitively delivered feedback, these are all traits that can be reversed – as long as our clever self is open to changing for the better.

On the flip side are the more personal aspects of our makeup that we can’t do anything about. They’re the characteristics we’re born with, our makeup as a person, or conditions we develop through no fault of our own. The way we look, move or behave.

From behaviours to birth marks, mild obsessions, twitches, even comb-overs, height and weight. These aren’t just foibles – they’re features that can make others seem different to our own perception of what’s normal. But they are that person’s normal. If you’re not careful, these things can play out with awkward moments in the staff room, dead air in the conversation, averted gazes.

But no-one is perfect, and those attributes can mean a person brings something unique and highly valuable to the workplace.

We applaud leaders who look beyond these traits and recruit on merit. You know best practice is to create a culture of diverse minds, where employees engage with each other not because they can cluster together comfortably, but because they see their business being stimulated and enhanced by others who think differently. You know that looking different has little to do with a person’s smarts.

In this digital world, where enlightenment is merely a moment’s Google away, there’s no excuse for uninformed ignorance.

Here are 3 strategies to help you lead your employees to put embarrassment aside and embrace the characteristics that make us unique.

 

1. BE CURIOUS NOT INQUISITIVE

Curiosity leads to understanding. It’s the desire to explore, investigate and draw intelligent conclusions. Inquisitiveness is more about questioning things pointlessly. It can be prying and annoying. It’s also really un-cool.

If having a better understanding of the way in which someone is different will provide real value to your working relationship, then be curious. Ask them. Do it sensitively, and they might just appreciate your authenticity. It could make for a better working relationship and - who knows - all-round productivity.

 

2. SHOW DIPLOMACY

Even if a person’s behaviours seem obvious, it’s possible they are expending untold energy to try and control or mask them. Respect that. Okay, you might be taken by surprise by an outbreak of twitching, but the lunchroom or coffee station might not be the best place to ask about it. This isn’t theatre sports. Don’t make them feel like a performing poodle.

Keep your thoughts to yourself and show tact. People with different behaviours are used to a variety of reactions. Diplomacy is the one they like best.

 

3. BEWARE OF YOUR EGO

Sometimes our ego gets the better of us, leading us to make assumptions or draw conclusions without getting our heart involved. Don’t act on this impetus. It won’t be your best moment.

We all have our own quirks. Whether they’re intrinsic features we can’t help, or character traits and habits we’ve developed over time, it’s easy to forget that we’re all different in some way.

So, if you find yourself having an awkward moment, be mindful of the way you like your own differences to be handled by others. Overhearing about your third nipple, bald spot or portliness on the grapevine is probably not what you would prefer.

Authenticity is important, and candour can deepen a working relationship. But slowly and gently does it. You can change the habits of a lifetime if they really need changing. But only by looking beyond the quirks and foibles will you see a person’s true colours.

Be an awesome leader by role modelling the best leadership qualities and your flock will follow well. 

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Employee Development - How to Build a Team of High Performers

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So you think you’ve got a pretty good team around you. Well, what if they had hidden potential that you’re just not tapping into? Are they cruising - and could they be soaring?

A great way to stimulate your employees and improve everyone’s productivity, is to tap into hidden capabilities - the leadership skills they might be keeping under wraps, out of modesty or lack of opportunity.

You’re the boss! Create that opportunity! Because you’d be mad not to.

Turning staff into leaders doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s important to get cracking. Whether you’re managing a small team or a substantial department, here’s five ways to go about it.

 

1. SHARE THE VISION - AND THE PASSION

What is your company’s vision? And how is it reflected in your company’s culture? You can have the best strategic direction in the world, but if it doesn’t filter down to the people putting it in place, you’re going nowhere. Share what you’re trying to do. Include them in decisions and give them influence. It gives them a reason to step things up and take on responsibility.

 

2. LET THEM LEAD!

The perfect way to turn employees into leaders is to give them the floor. Know someone who’s got lots to say? Let them run a meeting! They’ll need to write an agenda, present their ideas, coordinate everyone else’s input. Remind them it’s not all about them - they need to let others have their say too. Whether it’s face-to-face or video conferencing, leading a meeting boosts your employees’ confidence and gives them a sense of control.

 

3. BE OPEN TO IDEAS

There are no ‘bad’ ideas. There’s brainstorming, there’s thinking out loud, there’s talking things through. Encourage everyone to have their say. Keep an open mind - no matter how mad the idea sounds, welcome it! You might not run with it, but nobody should ever be made to feel foolish for speaking up. Make it clear that making a contribution is valued. Your employees will feel confident that their opinion will at least be listened to - even if management doesn’t always agree with them.

 

4. SPICE IT UP AND MAKE IT FUN

Ever get those days when you’d just love to be out of the office? You can bet your team does too. So hold a meeting in the park! We spend a lot of our time at work - variety can add spice, ideas and initiative.

Set up a social club and ask them to come up with events - contests, office sweepstakes quizzes and competitions all add to the excitement, and prizes are appreciated.

Does your logo need revitalising? Could your branding be more zesty? Is there a newsletter or product that needs a new name? A bit of healthy competition gets people working together and involved in the company vision - with a sense of ownership when their ideas are adopted. The more engaged your team is, the more leadership qualities they grow.

 

5. GIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK

The best ideas don’t always come from the boss. Once you’ve encouraged your employees to bring their ideas to the party, make sure they’re valued. Talk their ideas through. Give them constructive feedback - how will their idea work, and what aspects need more thought? Take the time to consider all angles, give them praise and make it clear you’re taking their thoughts on board. If they know how serious you are about improving their work, they’ll be more ambitious, more innovative, and more productive.

That’s five ways to tap into potential, nurture their talents, create opportunity and hear them roar!

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The Most Effective Leadership Changes you Need to Make to be Successful

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To say that Marshall Goldsmith knows a thing or two about leadership is understating on a truly epic scale.

Rated #1 Leadership Thinker and one of the Top Ten Most Influential Business Thinkers in the World. Top-ranked Executive Coach at the 2013 biennial Thinkers50 ceremony, and twice a New York Times best-seller. 

Appearing in Australia this year, he gave a series of media interviews – all highly compelling and motivating. There was no shortage of insights for all types of heads - for anyone keen to learn how the world’s top CEOs achieve positive change and continue to achieve great things for themselves and their brands.

Here are just three of his top insights – because even the briefest moment of understanding can change things for you for good. And curiously, that’s one of his points.

 

DON’T BECOME A HAMSTER ON A WHEEL

Goldsmith shares the advice given to him very early in his career by Dr. Paul Hersey, co-creator of the highly influential management model Situational Leadership™. “One day he told me that I was very good at what I did, selling days and speaking, but that I was making too much money and complacent in my success,” Goldsmith says. 

“He told me that I was just a hamster on a wheel not going anywhere, that I would probably make lots of money and have a good life, but if I continued doing what I was doing I wouldn’t become the person I could be.”

Goldsmith was quite comfortable coasting on his success. People were happy and business was lucrative. So he ignored Hersey’s advice. Fast forward twelve years, and he finally got it. To go from good to great, you can’t rest on your laurels, even if you are dancing with a cash cow. You have to be truly engaged with the things that get you most excited. Ultimately, Goldsmith realised this was original thinking, writing, creating and research.  

His gold nugget was “I would never have known that coasting on our achievements can be one of the biggest flaws of very successful people!”

 

IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU

The trickiest part of transitioning into leadership is managing your ego.  It’s tough, says Goldsmith. You dedicate your entire career to winning, but as you get promoted and move up the ladder, winning should no longer be about you - it should be about the team. This, he says, can be a very hard transition for many leaders to make.

For those who are brave enough to put their ego aside, Goldsmith says the rewards are prolific. We all have wisdom: we know a lot, have great qualifications and a desire to help. A good leader has the capacity to put their own over-confidence on the bench, and look to others for answers.  They’re inclined to listen to what the others are saying and recognise that by doing so they understand all perspectives and not just their own, and become a well-rounded leader – and person – with authenticity and the backing of those around them. Self-awareness, says Goldsmith, is critical to success. 

 

YOU HAVE TO WANT IT

Counter intuitive it may be, but the clients Goldsmith spends the least time with are the ones who improve the most, he says, and those he spends the most time with often improve the least.  Great leadership emerges in a person not when they are told they have the potential to be better, but when they realise it for themselves – and want it.  You need drive and self-awareness to create change in yourself.

This is probably one of the reasons, Goldsmith jokes, that he will never be asked to coach Donald Trump!

As leaders of teams and small businesses, we have much to learn from Goldsmith’s approachapproach, valuable lessons which are simple but highly effective. ‘The less we focus on ourselves the more we benefit. It’s an interesting equation: Less me. More them. Equals success. Try it.’  So says Goldsmith and it’s hard not to agree!

 

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How to be a Successful Entrepreneur in 3 Easy Ways

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Taking the helm of any business is a leap of faith and a little like strapping yourself in for a roller coaster ride. As you head up the first rise born aloft on a stream of ideas and energy, you feel the wind in your hair and the euphoria of healthy business growth.

Cameron Herold, business coach to successful entrepreneurs calls this the ‘uninformed optimism’ stage – when you’re bursting with excitement, aware there are challenges ahead, but not really able to see what’s beyond that first big rise. A tower of terror or a smooth cruise to early success?   

As you continue to round corners and defy the force of gravity, it can turn out to be a wilder ride than you anticipated. Sure you get to enjoy the euphoric highs. But you’ve got to endure the lows as well.

These twisters can come at you right out of the blue. The moments when you revisit the high start-up costs against the low early revenue. The days when programming or development efforts are unproductive. The time when your partner’s positivity is on the wane and it’s up to you to keep things on the up.

On days like this it’s hard to visualise a smooth road ahead. Clear thinking is gone with the wind. You’re pinned to your seat, paralysed and screaming all the way down.

The way Herold tells it, the roller coaster of entrepreneurism has a one-way ticket and there’s no getting off. And how you weather the highs and lows will determine your success.

So let’s talk strategy:

 

1. BREATHE 

Grab the safety rails and remember the basics. When your mind is whirling with misgivings, your anxiety levels are heightened too. This affects your ability to make smart choices.  So take time out for a breather. A walk in the park, pounding it out with boxing gloves - whatever your chosen medium is. All the science shows that connecting with nature and taking a short burst of exercise are essential for resetting that mind, reducing stress and staying healthy.

It helps you reconnect with your inner adventurer – the one that got you started on this voyage.

When your calm, centred-self returns, revaluate any decisions you made. Make sure they were meaningful, sensible and insightful. The secret to weathering the ups and downs is staying on track.

 


2. CONNECT

With your feelings.  Strange advice for a business owner? Not so. Understanding your feelings and being ready for them when you round a corner and see what’s ahead, is essential. 

Talk to your team, partner, spouse. Identify the scary moments, and be open to feedback about managing them. Bring people inside the volcano and get them to support you. You’ll find out who’s got the strengths to last the distance, and ultimately, it will build resilience in those around you.

Herold asserts that highly driven episodes are a normal part of the entrepreneurial journey – they drive growth and makes things happen.  However, times like this must be managed efficiently and used to an advantage, or crisis is unavoidable.  

 

3. JOIN A FORUM

The feeling that you’re ultimately alone on your journey is one familiar to many entrepreneurs. Share those moments with like-minded individuals and you offset the force-of-gravity vulnerability this loneliness can turn into.

Choose the right forum – one that’s less about advice and more about sharing experiences on the road travelled. Mo Fathelbab, angel investor, corporate culture advisor and Founder of the Forum Resources Network, believes that forums are an important tool in dispelling feelings of isolation and learning from your peers.

Forums connect you with people you can confide in, trust and turn to. If direction is what you need, they can link you with services - legal, financial, planning and support.  These can help you put the brakes on or accelerate as required - reducing risk and guess work, getting the pivotal business moments right.

Membership is generally free, so this becomes a cost neutral exercise with big impact!

And when you get back in the front seat, keep in mind that the thrills and spills are part of the ride. It’s a blast one moment, and a dead-stop the next. Your responses will help you stay on track.

Surround yourself with people who can help you tame the beast, and keep your strategy fixed in place. That way, whether you’re racing downhill, pulling out of a lull, or cresting a rise, you’ll stay in motion.

Then put your hands in the air and wave! Because it’s all about enjoying the journey.

 

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Just Say Thank You! How to Manage Employees Effectively

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Are you saying goodbye to your staff too often?

Worse still, have you got a revolving door where staff are concerned? And are those still with you looking fidgety? These are signs you shouldn’t ignore!

Often it’s the simplest of things. The things your mother taught you.

A new survey in the UK found that only 16% of employees had heard the words ‘thank you’ from their boss in six months. Podium Designs did research with 750 workers to find out about workplace satisfaction.

Ask yourself: when did you last say thank you, and mean it? If you value your staff, how do you show it?

It’s easy to keep it simple and let your employees know they’re appreciated. You know it. Your mum knew it. Here’s three off the top of our head:

  • Leave a post it note on someone’s computer saying ‘thanks for that report – top job!’
  • Better still, stick your head round their door and say it in person.
  • Next time you send out an email to everyone about a win you’ve had, thank one or two people who made a difference.

But beware! Don’t leave anyone out. If it helps, be methodical. Write yourself a list of names and tick them off as you thank them. Don’t do it too often. That would be weird. And don’t write it on a whiteboard in your office.

But get that revolving door to stop turning. (And don’t leave anybody trapped inside.)

If you start to notice gaps in the list, ask yourself what’s going on. Is someone not pulling their weight? Or are you ignoring them?

We get it, we get it. You don’t want to feel as if your mum is trailing you round the office telling you to mind your Ps and Qs and say thank you. How boring is that?

So, get more adventurous! Saying thank you doesn’t have to be a chore. Develop a cunning plan around staff motivation – and get known as the way coolest and most welcoming place to work.

We love this post from 6Q blog with 40 great ways to say thank you to your employees.

The writing’s on the (office) wall. Leaders who say thank you have more motivated staff, better rates of retention, and a better reputation as an employer.

So get onto it! Say thank you! And when you’re done saying thank you, talk to your staff. Talking is free and the outcome could be profitable.

Got a unique or favourite way of thanking your staff? Leave us a comment below!

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Success in Business - A Choice or Just Good Luck?

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What do best-selling authors John Grisham, J K Rowling and Theodor Geisel (creator of childhood favourite Dr. Seuss) all have in common?

Beyond their literary success and award winning feats of imagination, they each faced multiple professional rejections before making it big.

Grisham’s manuscript A Time to Kill was rejected by twenty-six publishers.  Dr Seuss went one better with And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, and was turned down by twenty-seven. And the first Harry Potter was shown the door by nine. 

Each of these acclaimed writers backed their work, refined it and persisted. Their determination was finally rewarded with publishing success and much loved books - and the rest is literary history.

That’s lucky for us, but it was more than luck that made the difference for them.

In his book The Drunkard’s Walk, Leonard Mlodinow tells his readers that hard work and persistence matter – because these are the factors that increase your chances of success when good luck, chance or a random act comes your way. 

 ‘A lot of what happens to us – success in our careers, in our investments, and in our life decisions, both major and minor – is as much the result of random factors as the result of skill, preparedness, and hard work.’ - Leonard Mlodinow

 

SUCCESS IS A CHOICE

According to the United States’ Pew Research Center, those in higher income brackets are far more likely to believe that individuals get rich primarily from working hard. Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.

American non-fiction author and finacial journalist Michael Lewis agrees.  'People really don't like to hear success explained away as luck, especially successful people.  As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable.  They don't want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives.'

Success, those who enjoy it believe, stems mostly from application to task - and a simple, dogged determination not to give up.

History too suggests that extraordinary dedication is what lays the groundwork for that moment when random chance plays its hand. 

Marie Curie was a Polish-born physicist and chemist and one of the most famous scientists of her time. Together with her husband Pierre, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903, and she went on to win another in 1911. She led her educational life in miserable conditions, without food or any home comforts, but her hard work determined her luck and that is why world remembers her today.

 

LESS PERFECTION, MORE AUTHENTICITY

From authentic endeavour comes authentic success – and those who are pretenders to the throne risk being found out. In 1989, performers Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus gained international acclaim as R&B duo Milli Vanilli. Their debut album “Girl You Know It’s True” earned multi-platinum success and the group sold more than 30 million singles worldwide. A year following their meteoric rise, the duo came under scrutiny after it was revealed that they did not sing any of the vocals heard on the recording.  They returned their 1990 Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

Their chance encounter with stardom quickly spiraled, leading to a career demise and public outcry over lip-syncing.  Attempts to re-launch their careers in a more authentic way were tarnished by the scandal. 

Eight years later, Rob Pilatus was found dead after allegedly ingesting a mixture of pills and alcohol. He was just thirty-two years of age. 

It was already a heavy load to carry the secret for years, and it literally took my brother [Rob] six feet underground. I feel very lucky and blessed that I’m still here today able to breathe and reinvent myself. - Fab Morvan

Rowling submitted another manuscript after an eighth knock-back. Madam Curie chose her pioneering work in radioactivity over personal comfort and warmth. If only Milli Vanilli had been given the chance to make similar choices. 

Success is won, but with endeavour rather than luck. That’s not to say that drive and determination can’t be coupled with an open heart and acceptance of chance good fortune. It’s a golden pathway and the narrative of many a success story – in business, in love, in interests and in friendship.

 

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Gender Equality in Recruitment and Avoiding the Merit Trap

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It would be impossible, and pointless, to pick who’s smartest between the Australian Chief Executive Women - 400 of Australia’s most senior and distinguished women leaders - and the Male Champions of Change - a coalition of decent, powerful men stepping up beside women to create a more gender equal world.

Why, they’re equal in their smartness and their greatness, of course.

Between them, the members of these two initiatives hold the top CEO jobs in the country. Collaboratively, their latest dispatch firing the synapses of the business world is In the Eye of the Beholder – Avoiding The Merit Trap, a 15 page report packed full of ideas which are gaining traction everywhere – and rightly so.

When we talk about engagement in the workplace and building teams which gel and are productive, often what’s perceived to make things work well is similarity - in gender, ethnicity, taste. Such characteristics and qualities have a potential to cluster within organisations. When we recruit unconsciously, we replicate patterns over and over again.

While we might believe that we’re recruiting on merit, and not factors like gender, un-interrogated thinking limits the talent search. And our business suffers from that ‘bias of sameness’ we’ve talked about in our earlier posts.

This is the Merit Trap.

President of Chief Executive Women Diane Smith-Gander explains. ‘Too often, decision-makers think they're selecting the best person for the job on the basis of merit, but in fact they're favouring people who look like them or think like them and ignoring the organisation's future needs,’ she says. ‘When this happens, they've fallen into the merit trap.'

Elizabeth Broderick AO, former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner and founder of Male Champions of Change in 2010, says. ‘If women make up 50% of this population in Australia, indeed 60% of the most educated people, why are we not seeing them in equal proportions in organisations?  That tells me there is something other than merit operating in the environment.’

Put bluntly, as only we can, the upper echelons of our business world just might be continuing to recruit based on gender sameness. But they’re calling it merit.

 

AVOID THE TRAP

Avoiding the Merit Trap means setting out deliberately to create a culture of diverse minds. Employees engage with each other not because they’re able to cluster together comfortably with people who think along the same lines as them, but because they see their business being stimulated and enhanced by others who think differently.

Hard-wiring this new thinking into our strategic planning is a big and brave step – but an essential one. It takes a collective acknowledgement at the uppermost level that future challenges might not be answered in the same way as past ones – relying on the same minds, and the same answers.

 

ADOPT DIVERSITY

Jayne Hrdlicka, CEO of Jetstar Group is an early adopter of such thinking. ‘We make small changes to the system because no one believes it’s broken. But if we only tweak, we never get change. To move 180 degrees we have to have someone holding up the mirror at every stage of the process asking ‘why do we think that?’

 

THE FILTER DOWN EFFECT

The Merit Trap is usually a systemic problem, and it takes authentic and innovative leaders and innovative leaders to bring about real change. And here’s what happens. Once our business leaders are thinking about diversity as a means of keeping employees engaged, that thinking filters down through the organisation. Different viewpoints, life experiences and professional knowledge bring a bucketful of enhancement that creates – you guessed it - big impact.

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What’s in a Word? How to Plant Seeds – Not Weeds

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In business we like things to be forecast – facts and figures, spreadsheets, bottom line and top growth. And as humans we get great pleasure from knowing the simple thing, like where we sit, the hours we work, what the office etiquette is around the coffee machine, and how well we are performing.

Still, unpredictable things happen in the world of work. Benchmarks move and expectations change. It can be a sign of healthy growth, or that we’re capable of more. Either way, it must be spoken about – and well.

When things change, especially unpredictably, communicating well is not just best practice, it’s the growth stimulant that will keep your garden green. If you’re keen to keep your healthy workplace eco-system flourishing, your employees engaged and your people passionate, choose your words well.

As leaders, despite our best efforts, we don’t always get the balance right. One day we’re awesome. The next we fumble something, our reputation suffers and our brand takes a hit.

Here are two occasions in which a misplaced word or a communication blind spot can plant weeds instead of seeds:

 

1. DON'T SAY TOO MUCH

Recently a major Australian retailer made a very public announcement that they were in the midst of a billion-dollar corporate restructure. Every media outlet published a headline and details about ‘tough decisions’ being imminent.

So many words, so much newspaper print. Most ordinary Australians went on with their lives – all except the corporate staff of the retailer. “The first we knew of the re-structure was through the headlines,” one senior manager relayed to me. “That fuelled office banter and speculation. Everyone was talking about it, everyone except management. It was the worst time, disastrous for all of us working in the team.”

What created a disconnect for this gentleman was the world knowing first, whereas his team, the people at the coal face, were left with speculation, unpredictability and uncertainty.

Keeping staff engaged and helping them understand new directions encourages new growth. Saying too much, and not to them, is dangerous if you want to keep your people passionate.

Or as John Wayne once said, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.” It’s not the winning maxim of a headlining CEO, but it’s pretty snappy.

 

2. KEEP IT CRYSTAL CLEAR

Recently, I met with an Account Director from one of the largest and most respected professional service networks in the world. The company has supported her career from graduation, providing her with international roles and flexibility when children took her out of the office. She has many reasons to love her employer and it’s evident that her employer appreciates her loyalty and dedication.

However, she came to me feeling a little baffled. “I think I have just been blindsided,” she said. For months she had been squeezing what was really a full-time job into her agreed-upon three days. Naturally this took its toll on her usual cheeriness, and her astute senior manager picked up on this. He agreed that her workload was beyond three days and suggested that she should be paid for four instead, to compensate the growing demands of her role. Brilliant, she thought, reading this as a straight pay-rise for the same commitment.

A week or two later, HR met with her to confirm the new terms – three days in the office and one day working at home with the children. It wasn’t what she understood had been communicated to her. Nor was it what she wanted.

Meaning and clarity can get lost in translation, especially when there are different departments and individuals involved. Fail to spell out the details clearly and you can end up with a compost of uncertainty, confusion and mistakes. One party assumes the other knows what they mean. The other draws the wrong conclusions.

Napoleon Hill put it succinctly, as one might expect. “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” Besides being an impresario and author of the world’s first personal success books Hill was an advisor to two American Presidents, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D Roosevelt. His book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ has sold 20 million copies worldwide.

Good communication is like photosynthesis. Get the words down pat and the conditions right, and we all keep reaching for the light together!

 

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Trying to Balance on a Tightrope of Complexity

Trying to Balance on a Tightrope of Complexity

Complexity in the workplace is brought about by just one element: us. If you’ve got people, you’ve got complexity. Employees, customers, peers, colleagues, leaders. Our unpredictable and occasionally thorny nature and dynamics between us can test our leadership in a different way from other operational challenges.

There’s no denying it’s a tightrope walk!

And if your own personal talents don’t extend naturally to managing the complexities of your people, well it can feel like a highwire act with a troupe of monkeys.

What’s worse, the dynamics we enjoy with family and friends differ enormously to those we have in the workplace, so you can’t fall back on natural intuition. It’s best to understand the distinction between interactions inside the workplace and out - and then develop meaningful strategies to deal with them. That way you encourage productivity, a healthy culture and a love for your brand.

People issues can nosedive really quickly, but these three simple strategies are guaranteed to help you stay aloft.

 

KNOW YOUR STAFF – BUT KEEP YOUR DISTANCE

Keep your interactions professional from the onset and set reasonable workplace boundaries. This helps eliminate distraction and keeps everyone focused on completing tasks. It’s true that some workplace relationships develop into personal ones over time. But as a rule of thumb, interaction between co-workers, supervisors, clients and customers should stop at the end of the working day.

Having different boundaries for different individuals or within the hierarchy creates ambiguity and misunderstandings too, so stay the line. Keep it clear for everyone at all times and don’t go swaying in the wind.

Knowing your staff means knowing how they stay on track and perform their best. Getting through the working day is a balancing act for them too. Notice the small things about their performance. Generally, people perform their best at specific times of the day; they get distracted by the same things; and they get back on task by consistent means every time. Know these things. What makes them teeter and what restores them?

In understanding these nuances, you’re able to plan and benchmark expectations. By being upfront and showing you understand how they best keep their heads up and their gaze frontwards, you’ll both be clear about the end-goal and relaxed about the journey.

 

GET TO GRIPS WITH NATURAL DIFFERENCE

Value the differences between individuals. We don’t all think the same way nor perform at the same level. (See a previous blog post on why this is a strength in your team!) Why is it you can email one employee with a list of tasks which they immediately jump to, but another needs more direction, dialogue and input from you?  For one the journey is a swift trot along a tight zipline. For the other it’s a wobbly affair requiring a safety net.

In Debra Worthington and Margaret Fitch-Hauser’s book ‘Listening: Processes, Functions and Competency’ (page 78-79), they discuss Cognitive Complex.  This is the means by which we perceive incoming messages, organize them and use them to interpret what is being said.  One individual may require information that is detailed, specific and complex. Another may need only high-level facts for the same task. This cognitive complexity is not related to smarts, say the authors, but rather our mental agility in organizing elements and making sense of tasks.

By adapting your leadership style to suit individuals, you create enormous opportunity to minimize performance based issues and variances in productivity. Some just need a longer balancing pole than others.


 

PERSUASION 

Building agreement when points of view differ around the table can be tricky. Sure, sometimes an authoritative approach or executive decision may be required, but simply insisting it’s your way or the highway without bothering to get buy-in from your team can be really unsettling.

To get others to buy into the way you see things, you’ll need to ask the right questions. Asking your colleagues to think about things - by asking the right questions - allows them to arrive at the same conclusion themselves. This is the art of persuasion. 

Management consultant Dan Pink says, 'The key here is that we tend to think that persuasion or motivation is something that one person does to another.' In fact, he says, the trick is to get the person to persuade themselves.

So pre-plan. Arm yourself with the right questions to build dialogue - and employee engagement.  Keep the conversation on track but be flexible in your approach. You may be surprised at the outcome, and perhaps even find a new way to complete the journey which you hadn’t even considered.    

Despite our complexities, there’s one thing we all share. We like to feel valued! Thank your staff often.  It’s an easy and cost neutral habit that genuinely encourages engagement and builds your reputation as a leader.

These simple strategies help avoid complexities in the workplace. Take the trouble to measure your leadership style against them and tweak it accordingly. It takes time, skill and effort to manage the skywalk that is running a business. So balance your complexities, stay smart, fleet of foot, and don’t take a tumble! 

 

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No Act of Kindness, No Matter How Small, Is Ever Wasted

No Act of Kindness, No Matter How Small, Is Ever Wasted

Okay, so Aesop was an ancient Greek story teller rather than leader of a multi-national conglomerate. Even so, his words resonate with us in the business world today.

That’s because we know, in the deepest darkest corner of our corporate hearts, that they’re true.

The tricky part of management is the capacity to inspire, engage and teach resilience.  Leadership doesn’t spring from one single quality.  It needs a bucket full of authentic attributes for a standout leader to, well, stand out.

But one or two things are key.

In a previous blog, Virgin says get friendly. So let’s get friendly!, we looked at a very simple but effective leadership attribute.  Friendliness.  Let’s keep things amiable, and look at the power of kindness as well.   

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval made it to the top of the advertising industry by means of a simple but powerful philosophy: it pays to be nice.  They believed, contrary to current wisdom, that nice people finish first. They wrote about it in their book, ‘The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness’ and continue to campaign on the enormous impact of small gestures.

They cite six powerful principles for engaging employees and stakeholders with niceness. Here are the two which stand out to us.

 

YOU NEVER KNOW

Strangers are important, and niceness shouldn’t be reserved for those you know. ‘You have to treat everyone you meet as if they are the most important person in the world - because they are. If not to you, then to someone; and if not today, then perhaps tomorrow.’

Thaler shares a personal story of a deal she secured - $40million worth of new business. The source? An act of kindness to a junior colleague 25 years before.  Just a simple act, in a single moment, created a significant and lasting memory for this person. Over two decades later with their careers having moved in different directions, they sought Thaler out. Ultimately because they knew no better person to trust their brand too. 


 

YOU WILL KNOW

Kindness has to be authentic, and you will know when you mean it, and when you don’t. What’s more, so will the person you’re dealing with.

Our clever selves already know that engagement isn’t about a single moment.  It’s a collection of moments that dictates your style. That’s why authentic and consistent kindness is a truly powerful thing. Your people know they can depend on you.  

Grow the ability to be nice without expecting something in return, or calculating the leverage you’re gaining. Kindness has to be habitual - authentic and firmly felt.

Nowhere will this pay off more for you, and all those around you, than when the pressure is on.

Mark Horstman author of The Effective Manager says, ‘You can deliver tough messages with kindness.  You don’t have to be mean, short, or disrespectful to challenge people.  You don’t have to be brusque, or rude.  You don’t have to act like the boss.  Nor do you have to sugar-coat hard messages.  Be direct and be kind doing it.  That takes love.’

Deborah Khoshaba, Clinical Psychologist and Director of Training and Development for the Hardiness Institute, is of the same mind. ‘Authentic kindness is a decision to respond to the needs of others, rather than a compulsion to act good.’ 

Delivering outcomes with kindness takes mindful, authentic leaders. Khoshaba believes that those with the capacity to feel compassion and appreciate suffering have a much greater footing for a favourable reputation – which translates to their brand.

Here at #HR, we agree that kindness is a strength, often underestimated and easily undervalued. The effects may not be obvious or immediate. It requires biases to be put aside and a code of behaviour which is less about leverage and more about nourishing relationships.

But we’ll let Branson have the last word. He’s used a few key philosophies in building his eight billion-dollar businesses, but one of them is running a large business the same way as a small one – by being responsive and friendly.

‘If you aren’t making a difference in other people’s lives, you shouldn’t be in business – it’s that simple,’ he says.

The difference to make is a kind one – at every stage of the game.

 

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Keep Achieving! One Thing at a Time - Here’s Three Ways How

Keep Achieving! One Thing at a Time - Here’s Three Ways How

Cast your mind back to 1991, when Billy Crystal and Jack Palance went head to head in the blockbuster movie City Slickers.

Not many of us are mustering cattle in the wild west twenty-five years later, and our behinds probably still hurt just watching the movie, but its central drama still has huge resonance. And raises a chuckle.

Gary Keller, author, entrepreneur and cofounder of one of the world’s largest real estate agencies, recalls a pivotal scene from the movie in his bestselling book, The One Thing.   

Curly: Do you know the secret of life?

 Mitch: No. What?

Curly: This. [He holds up one finger]

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing.  Just one thing …

Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?

Curly: That’s what you have to figure out.

Keller reflects on why this struck a chord with him. ‘Where I had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.’  Concentrating on just thing at a time, even those itty bitty ordinary things, can make extraordinary things happen.

Best-selling author, global presenter and Smallville founder Andrew Griffiths and co-presenter Bree James ran a podcast recently on ‘Becoming More Productive in Business’.  In it, Griffiths observes that we are all time poor. The trick is to slough off all the things that are a distraction – and identify the one thing you can do right now at any given moment which will lead you on to success.

Keller and Griffiths both believe that good business is about investing your time and energy wisely and precisely – keep things moving, but don’t create a stampede.



Distractions can be hard to ignore – they’re made that way! Some of the biggest names have achieved success by designing the digital space to be deliberately inviting. No wonder we get distracted.

According to Keller, when we stay focused on exactly what matters the most at any given moment, that’s when real success becomes obtainable. If all your energy is channelled in one direction, things are achieved sequentially – one thing at a time.

So saddle up and let’s keep achieving with 3 key strategies:

 

1. BLOCK TIME

Schedule a regular appointment with yourself in which you prioritise and tackle the most important task on your list.

‘Think of it like going to movies. You’re there for ONE Thing—to see the film. Because you’re really clear about that, you turn off your cell phone, you grab snacks in case you get hungry, and you probably even make a pit stop before you go in. All this so you can have an uninterrupte experience.’

 

2. USE FIVE MINUTE WINDOWS

"Over the course of the day, I can get literally a hundred or more little tasks done in those five-minute windows," says Andrew Griffiths. Develop two lists - tasks which require a block of time, and tasks which need just a few minutes – before a meeting, between phone calls, before the teleconference, or when you’ve got a spare quarter hour.

 

3. SIMPLIFY

Make sure things get done efficiently.  If your computer takes 15 minutes to load, consider an upgrade.  If your interruptions are always for the same reason – approvals, social media management – think about automation.   What can be can be delegated? Is your five-minute list so long that a new resource is needed? 

Let’s finish on a high, by looking at one company that has done ‘One Thing’ really well.  Keller writes, ‘From 1998 to 2012, Apple’s ONE Thing moved from Macs to iMacs to iTunes, to iPods to iPhones, with the iPad already jockeying for the pole position at the head of the production line.’ Apple stand out. Their drive to deliver just one outstanding product at a time has changed the game. Sure, they brought out other popular gadgets, but those hummed along in the shadows.

 

Or as Curly would have said, ‘This cow’s having a baby. Now reach in and pull out the calf!’

 

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