How to Build a Successful Team That Can Run Your Business For You

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If you’re a business owner or at the helm of an SME or a corporate department, checking out for a holiday or one of those situations when life throws you a curve ball, can be tricky. If you’ve made yourself indispensable and the business can’t function without you, everyone feels it when you’re not there - you, your team and the clients!  

Life has ups and downs and sometimes you need to be away from the office. And if you’re a good leader, you should expect your business to carry on as usual.

How so? Easy - if you’ve got a team who’ve got your back. With a few well placed protocols your business can be ready to keep calm and carry on - even when you’re not there.

 

1. TRUST YOUR TEAM

Recruiting right is imperative. When you’re faced with challenges that keep you away from the office, you must be able to trust your colleagues to carry the can. To make the decisions with confidence. To keep projects rolling and balls in the air. And to know what’s sensitive or complex enough to go on hold. They pull together, and rely on each other. You’ve led them so well they have the tools to function brilliantly even when you’re not there. It’s the ultimate compliment for a leader.

 

2. BE REMOTE

Capacity to work outside of the office is crucial for most of us.  We don’t just mean checking emails on your smart-phone, but the greater capacity of a compact but truly portable office – notebook, transportable wifi, updated contacts.  True, you don’t want to feel the demands of your business on a family holiday. But if you’re called away unexpectedly, or unexpected demands and decisions arise back at the office, it’s smart business to be portable. Technology rules. Use it.

Andrew Griffiths, an influencer for entrepreneurs all over the world, is said to have a portable wifi device from most leading Australian service carriers.  When asked why, he says ‘because you just never know when you will need them.’  It pays to be prepared.

 

3. PUSH THE WORK DOWN

Micro-managing and the old hierarchical ways of managing down have gone the way of the dinosaurs. If you’ve got great team players on board, they’ll relish opportunities to use their initiative and act autonomously. They don’t want to be managed. But they don’t mind being led.  

If there’s a task you can do, but the same could be done by one of your direct reports, then push the work down. Their work might not be an exact replica of yours, but the quality is likely to be close. Their sense of achievement from being trusted with the task is a powerful thing for you. Because next time you’re not around, and a decision must be made or a task actioned, they’re right across it.

As a leader you have a greater depth of experience than those around you. But you recognise that those on your team have great ideas to. And if they’re different from yours, that’s a strength. Kindle it, and keep it on your side!

Simon Sineck, author and coach to world class leaders, believes, ‘We’re not good at everything, we’re not good by ourselves.  Our ability to build trust and relationships is the key to our survival.’

So prepare your business today.  So that when you’re there and when you’re not, your team’s got your back.

 

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How The Kindness of Strangers Builds a Better Workplace

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Kindness is on trend right now. Writers, coaches and consultants everywhere are drilling CEOs and leaders on the importance of the simple act, the kind gesture, and the largesse it brings to the business landscape.

Acts of kindness and ordinary humility are the stuff of life. We sometimes wish we could bottle them and mist the corporate offices of our clients and colleagues with this precious and aromatic vapour!

Because simple courtesies are noticed when given and received on an individual level. But when they’re built into the collective mindset and everyday habits of a workplace community, they can really pack a punch - in the nicest possible way!

Try these - and see if you start a new trend.

SMILE

Children need little encouragement to smile or laugh, but sadly this often eludes us as we grow older! One of our most basic human gestures, it’s a gift we can bestow upon anyone - friends, work colleagues and strangers alike. In some workplaces it’s a dead set must - think what a difference a smile makes in retail. Everyone from Lily Allen to Tony Bennett urges us to do it. We think they’re onto something.

BE PATIENT

It’s a virtue, most definitely. Waiting in line? Service isn’t getting any faster just because you’re rolling your eyes. Practicing acceptance actually makes the wait bearable. Try to remember that time isn’t only our own, but something shared by us all. And some people need more of it than others. In everyday life that could be the elderly gentleman who’s taking his time to get on the bus. Or his wife, who’s paying for groceries in coins. We take our collective hat off to the shop assistant listening to the details of his regular customer’s medical condition. He asked ‘How are you today?’ and he meant it. Patience should be a way of life. Let’s bring some of it to work with us too.

LISTEN

We’re full of stories, our life is made up of them. And sometimes it’s our turn to listen. It’s a fine art to be able to lend an ear to a colleague or friend who needs to be heard, whether they’re sad, happy, disgruntled or inspired. We have much to learn - beyond the realms of the story. The details of what we’re hearing are, in a way, immaterial. What we’re learning is to give of ourselves. What we’re exercising is empathy. Both have an essential place in life, and in the office. 

BRING YOUR HEART TO WORK

True helpfulness sees us engaging with people beyond the call of duty. It means we do more than just give assistance when asked. It means we give it warmly and openly, making sure the beneficiary of our wisdom truly understands and is confident in getting on with the task! What’s more they might have enjoyed the connection they’ve just made with us.

And perhaps when we hold the door open for the person behind us, we linger long enough to make sure it doesn’t clip them when we let go. 

Do that for someone at work, and you’re team building just as assuredly as if you were collaborating on a project. Do it for a stranger outside of the office, and you’re building a community.  

We have our failings as a species. Let’s bring some of our more precious human qualities to work with us. Kindness is one of our greatest and most intuitive. It’s what sets us apart.

That’s better than being on trend anyday!

 

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5 Powerful Changes That Will Make You Stand Out of the Crowd in Your Workplace

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If you’re looking to get ahead, now is the time to stand out from the crowd. Standing out is crucial to business success, but it is key to succeeding as an individual, as well. If you’re looking to set yourself apart in your workplace and as a leader, check out these 5 simple but effective ways that will help you do exactly that.  

 

TIP 1 - GET ENOUGH SLEEP

 

TIP 2 - PUT DOWN YOUR DEVICE

 

TIP 3 - ALLOW RISKS AND MISTAKES

 

 

TIP 4 - THINK ABOUT OTHERS

 

 

TIP 5 - RECRUIT SMART

 

 

And there you have it, 5 simple ideas to help you stand out in a positive way and become a game changer in your workplace. Do you have any tips? Share them with us in the comments section below.

 

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4 Reasons Why Empathy is the Most Effective Leadership Skill in The Workplace Today

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Leadership is a matter of great complexity, with room for many different types of leadership style.

In the past, authority and responsibility were the two crucial elements defining a leader. It was simple: a great leader had the presence to direct people and make decisions.

In the 21st century, leadership styles are changing.

Author and speaker Simon Sinek, believes that professional competence and presence are not enough. Good leaders inspire trust and must truly care about those around them.

He identifies four simple means of inspiring others and finding our own leadership capabilities.

 

1. TRUST

Great leadership is about looking out for those to your left and right, above and below you - creating a circle of trust. ‘We’re not good at everything,’ says Sinek. ‘We’re not good by ourselves. Our ability to build trust and relationships is the key to our survival.’ Building relationships and trust generates an environment where people share values, and work cohesively for one cause.

 

2. INNOVATE 

Managers become leaders when they are encouraged to learn, and leadership is a quality that can be taught. But look beyond training and certification programs, says Sinek. Universal online access to the best of contemporary thinking, gives us access to more innovative solutions that can translate to any workplace.

 

3. THINK ABOUT WHY

Sinek believes that very few people know why they do what they do. Most leaders know what they do and how they do it; but few really understand why they do it, and what really inspires them. Those who have a strong grasp of all three - what, how and why - are the ones who outperform the others.

 

4. CONNECT 

Relationships are built through conversation – and that means getting rid of devices when we’re talking to coworkers. Great leaders take the device out of the equation at crucial times. Holding a phone or even having it alongside you during a meeting sends a message to those in the room that they do not have your full attention.

Create an environment where a meaningful exchange can take place. Put your device in a pocket or a drawer. This sends a strong behavioural message which says you are listening and completely engaged.

 

In a changing world, it’s not so surprising that our leadership styles are evolving. Great leaders recognise that the concept no longer revolves around a lone figure of authority or a hierarchy.

Instead it’s an integrated team of individuals, brought together by a very human instinct - the urge to build relationships and trust. And that oldest of leadership qualities – the capacity to care.

 

 

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Top 5 Superfoods That Will Make You More Successful

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Whatever our line of work, we all experience stress in the workplace.

Stress has some immediate effects and it can impact us long term too, with a negative effect on our health and increased risks of depression, insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

Obviously worthwhile managing our stress, this being the case, and doing everything we can to keep our immune system enhanced and our stress levels low.

The good news is that some of the measures we can take are simple and delicious - although this might depend on how you feel about your green veg.

Diet can play a huge role in how we fight stress and remain well. For serious and long term anxiety and stress, you must of course consult your doctor. Meantime, there are easy additions you can make to your everyday diet that any medical practitioner will approve of.

 

1. ASPARAGUS

Start nailing your stress levels with the spear shaped wonder plant. Stress is often associated with low levels of folic acid. Asparagus is loaded with folic acid, and a handful of asparagus spears provides your body with over two-thirds of your daily recommended intake of it.

Fresh asparagus is best steamed for a few minutes and enjoyed straight from the garden or paddock - try sourcing some from a farmers’ market and know you’re buying the freshest produce direct from the grower. When it’s not in season, the tinned and jarred variety still contains a higher proportion nutrients than you might think. Frozen is even better.

Try mixing asparagus with a salad, or baked into a frittata or quiche for a tasty boost for your mental health.

 

2. AVOCADO

No wonder Sydney-siders go through so many avocadoes to alleviate their worries about housing prices - avocados are packed full of B vitamins that actively help with anxiety.

Avocadoes are a delicious and nutritious start to the day eaten smashed with dill and lime juice and served on toast. If you’re a traditionalist, try them in salads and sandwiches or smoothies. Mix it with some cacao powder and coconut oil to make a delicious ganache.

 

3. BLUEBERRIES

They might look innocent, but every blueberry is a tiny nutrient bomb just waiting to explode. They’re packed with helpful of antioxidants and vitamin C - and what’s more they’re sweet and juicy. Not only is this great for stress, it helps your immune system combat colds and flu during the winter months.

Blueberries are super versatile and can be used in a range of sweet and savoury dishes, or eaten just as they are, straight from the punnet.

The impact of colds and flu on the workforce is well documented and nothing is more miserable than struggling through with the sniffles. Bypass them with a blueberry boost!

 

 

4. ALMONDS

It’s by no means nutty to include nuts in your diet, especially when they’re full of B2 and E vitamins which help to boost your immune system. Just a small handful of almonds per day can also reduce cholesterol.

Almonds are delicious nibbled straight from the packet as a handy snack. But you can also enjoy them mixed with rice dishes, porridges, salads, cakes, or you can grab some almond butter for your toast in the morning! Buy the flaked variety and toast them - you’ll be amazed at the aromas and flavours it releases. Scatter them over your favourite yoghurt and you’ve got an extra nutritious and delicious lunchtime dessert.

Coming down with a cold or flu? We’ll bet you’re finding it difficult to concentrate. First make sure you don’t have any colleagues with nut allergies - and then include a handful of almonds in your lunch box to fend off those winter lurgies.

 

5. SALMON

It’s not called the king of fish for nothing. Salmon’s omega-3 fatty acids help to ease your body’s reaction to stress by limiting your spikes in adrenaline. It can also help protect your heart. If you’d like to be calm and rational in the face of client conflicts, tight deadlines and swift project changes, salmon is the fish for you!

For office lunches, smoked salmon is an excellent option. Pair it with cream cheese on a wholemeal bread, toss it through a salad, or enjoy raw salmon on some beautiful sushi.

 

Simple changes such as including a few of these healthy super foods in your diet can make a tangible difference.

Eat better and you’ll feel better - and your energy and motivation levels will register the difference. If you’re struggling to concentrate or keep motivated, try making some small changes to your diet. Keep your immune system fighting and perform at your peak!

 

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Successful Business Strategies and Why it Pays to be Nice

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One of Forbes magazine’s ten most influential business gurus, Richard Branson began his new year blog on an unexpected topic: kindness. ‘Over the break, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can all make this a stand-out year of happiness and positivity, and one of the best ways I can think of doing this is through kindness.’ The Importance of Kindness.

Most of us are taught the golden rule as children, of treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves. It’s what creates peaceful, harmonious and mutually supportive communities. This seems straightforward enough, right? Apparently not. Branson reflects that kindness is on the wane, lost within the chaos of our busy daily lives, sidelined in favour of more appealing and immediate agendas.

We like Branson. Not just because he’s a good chap but because he’s given the world a string of useable philosophies while building his eight billion-dollar businesses. One of his mantras is that running a large business is similar to running a small one, and it’s equally possible to do it in a way that is responsive, kind and friendly to those around you. ‘Kindness is such an important characteristic … we should all work on being more friendly, generous and considerate,’ he says.

In his post, Branson challenges us to complete fifteen random acts of kindness within the next twelve months. He makes some suggestions - tell a joke, call a friend, give a compliment, leave a happy note, smile at a stranger. Hardly an arduous challenge. One and a quarter random acts of kindness each month should be easily achieved, right? Then again, if Branson is going to all this trouble to challenge us to be kinder, maybe it’s easier said than done?

He is not a lone voice in urging us towards greater kindness. Once you start looking, there’s a multitude of leaders, writers and influencers who would like us to make this vintage value new again. Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval made it to the top of the advertising industry by exemplifying their simple but powerful tenet that it pays to be nice. They believed, contrary to the outlook of many who surrounded them, that nice people finished 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.

Seth Godin, who is best described as the ultimate entrepreneur for the Information Age, writes, ‘You've had a hard day, it's raining out, the world is changing, your boss is mean to you, the checking account is overdrawn, you're on deadline... But... Does every need have to be filled, every emotion in place before we're capable of being kind?’

Simon Sinek, a visionary thinker, motivational speaker and author says, ‘Kindness begets kindness, it's holding the door for someone, making a new pot of coffee, and letting someone into your lane. Putting others ahead of yourself - that is the practice of leadership.’

And within Australian shores, Hugh Mackay in his book The Good Life addresses the ultimate question: What makes life worth living? You guessed it, kindness figures highly. ‘We may aspire to lead a life animated by kindness and based on respect for others, but, for all kinds of reasons to do with our personalities, our temperaments and our circumstances, our life often falls short …’

Running a business could easily wipe the kindly smile off your face on some days. There are lows to be endured as well as euphoric highs. It can be hard to visualise let alone plan for a smooth road ahead. And on this roller-coaster ride you’re additionally responsible for bringing your team with you through every twist and turn, and guiding your customer experience as well.

What every leader and influencer appears to be saying is that kindness, at every stage of the game, is what makes all the difference to the journey - and the outcome.

Habitual kindness seeps through our interactions like warmth into our being on a summer’s day. It’s a strength, often underestimated and easily undervalued. As a code of behaviour, it’s less about leverage and more about nourishing relationships. Once you benchmark such a behaviour, it builds the kind of engagement that really makes your workplace stand out from the crowd.

Whichever guru or influencer you favour, we’ll wager they’d look kindly upon your following in their footsteps on this.

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How to be Creative in Recruitment and Why the Top CEOs Diversify

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Recruitment is big business for small business, whatever the means by which you go about it - outsourcing or in-house, behavioural assessments or gut-feel, five long-winded interviews or just one snappy half hour with a top pick.

A candid chat we had with a senior executive from a national government department recently revealed much to us about his employer’s priorities. ‘I tick the box of the mature aged worker,’ said the sprightly 45-year old. ‘My manager ticks the box of Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander, and my co-worker ticks the box of graduate.’ It stood out as an unusual paradigm and had me wondering: are they really recruiting on merit, or just by numbers?

As business leaders we should be aiming for the right mix - a strong crew of capable and engaged people who like each other and love the brand. Some might say this is a tough call. We agree. That’s why recruiting well is tricky business.

Fortunately, the country’s smartest corporate minds are working together on this very subject. The collective board of Australian Chief Executive Women and the members of Male Champions of Change are a highly regarded coalition of decent, powerful men and women pooling their ideas and challenging the way we think about recruitment and diversity in the workplace. The individuals making up this coalition hold the top CEO jobs in the country.

Their latest dispatch to fire the synapses of our business world is a 15-page report packed full of ideas. In the Eye of the Beholder – Avoiding The Merit Trap is gaining traction everywhere – and rightly so.

Perceived wisdom, it says, is that we recruit similar, like-minded people in the belief that this creates workplace engagement and naturally cohesive teams. Not so. In fact what we get is a bias of sameness - in gender, ethnicity, taste, thinking - and everything else.

This doesn’t lead to creativity, great dynamics and good business. It leads to stagnation.

Characteristics and qualities tend to cluster within organisations. When recruiting, we often pick up on this pattern subconsciously and replicate it - without thinking. We might tweak our processes and try hard to recruit smarter, but our un-interrogated thinking limits the talent search, and the same problems manifest within our organisation. 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.’

At the other end of the spectrum, a brand which has side-stepped the Merit Trap and recruited smartly, exhibits a culture of diverse minds and inventive thinking. Employees engage with each other not because they’re able to cluster together comfortably with people who think similarly, 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 collective acknowledgement at the uppermost level that future challenges might not be answered in the same way as past ones – by relying on the same minds, and the same answers.

‘Roles are changing quickly.’ Says Shayne Elliott, CEO of ANZ, ‘I need people for the roles of the future. This means hiring for core capabilities – not technical capability which can be taught or bought. I need agility, broad- mindedness, ability to operate in an unknown environment.’

When our top CEOs voice misgivings about standard recruitment processes, we should surely listen. And if their thinking is different from our own – there’s a red flag worth noticing! With collected wisdom from the uppermost echelons of the corporate world, this is a source worth watching.

And if what they’re saying is that different viewpoints, life experiences and professional knowledge within the workplace brings enhancement which is not just a benefit but a core player in our business’s survival and success, that’s a rationale worth adopting. The beauty is that it’s not hard. The thinking has been done for us. It’s the smartest there is, and gives us the best platform to leverage from. All we have to do is follow suit and recruit. Diversely, creatively, daringly.

 

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Why You Need to Get Aggro About Health & Safety in the Workplace

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If you said, ‘human resources’ and I blurted out ‘workplace health and safety’ would that be a non-sequitur? Or is there a connection?

Let’s drop by Canada for a moment, where the WHS protocols lay out the direct line between the two with complete clarity. ‘Human resource professionals play an important role in ensuring health and safety, as they know the workplace, the employees and their job demands.’

Can’t say it straighter than that. Here’s what you, your HR expert or your team can do to meet those expectations - because a safe, healthy work environment is worth getting aggro about.

 

HIRE WISELY

‘Safety First’ is a useful mantra in industrial settings where it can be used to drive home the habitual use of proper safety measures. It’s equally relevant as the foundational principle for the hiring and orientation of new employees.

  • Give strong preference to applicants with a track record of responsible work practices - because their habits have consequences that go to the safety and wellbeing of all your employees.
  • Consider drug testing for those that will operate equipment or engage in overtly physical activities.
  • Use high quality, comprehensive materials for orientation, and don’t put new employees to work until they’ve mastered them.

 

TRAIN, AND MAKE IT FUN

What do training days and hernia operations have in common? They elicit the same level of enthusiasm from your employees.

Ironically, training might just save them from a hernia. Remind them of that! Queensland metal manufacturer Bremco cites lack of training as the top cause of workplace injury, and maintains that professional, relevant and regular safety training is essential for all. So get your team engaged - and here’s how:

  • Spark their imagination with safety training word games and other strategies that bring training to life.
  • Engage the mind and the body - get them moving
  • Bring in an element of friendly competition
  • Praise their efforts vociferously, and give them a reward at the end of the day

 

GIVE PEOPLE A VOICE

How’s your workplace culture? Is there open communication between team members? What about between the workforce and management?

A culture of open communication fosters a proactive approach when it comes to identifying threats to health and safety. This means that accidents ‘waiting to happen’ are more likely to be pointed out - and avoided.

Take your team’s concerns seriously. Quashing them with excuses about cost, loss of productivity or the hassle of installing safer equipment or adopting healthier workplace practice is counterproductive, not to mention dangerous and unethical. Injury, loss of life and the company’s liability when preventable accidents happen is a far greater cost.

Direct your managers and team leaders to encourage employees to be open about their workplace health and safety concerns. Want to go further and really change the game? Give permission for any employee to bypass their supervisor and speak to HR direct, anonymously and without repercussions. Those two steps will go a long way in promoting the open communication that boosts safety, employee morale and your bottom line through cutting losses.

 

GET CLEAR ABOUT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

It’s your job to be a stickler. A slack approach is an invitation for someone to get hurt.

Being lax about health and safety doesn’t make you a cool and laid back boss, it makes you negligent. And that’s what you’ll be labelled in the event of an accident. Rules aren’t always there to be broken - they’re there to be enforced, and it pays. Set rules clearly, and penalise for violations. Suspension or dismissal is totally acceptable for both ongoing minor offenses and grievous first offenses.

A word to the wise: injured employees and their lawyers can be quick to turn on employers. Having clear policies, expecting adherence and enforcing accountability for failure are necessary and protect you from this. Ignore it at your peril.

 

YOU NEED HELP - PROFESSIONAL HELP

If you’re a startup, or an established business playing with fire by neglecting workplace health and safety, it pays to consult with professionals about developing and implementing a comprehensive plan.

The peace of mind it brings - and the tangible protection - is invaluable. That gnawing anxiety about ‘what if something bad happens’ becomes a sense of having things properly under control. So be rigorous: smart hiring, thorough training, good communication and workplace accountability. You’ll thank yourself in the long term and the short, and be glad you’re aggro about something that reduces both injuries and costs.

 

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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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Diversity in the Workplace - How to Attract The Right Kind of Talent! (PART 2)

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One of my recent posts Diversity in the Workplace - How to Attract The Right Kind of Talent! was an interesting piece that seemed to strike a chord with many readers.

The article focussed on encouraging small business owners to keep an open mind when recruiting – to actively engage with potential employees who present special and different abilities. It mentioned in particular those on the Autism spectrum whose mindset may see them achieve brilliance in particular areas where neuro-typical employees would be stumped.

A good stereotypical fit for a role is not always the best one. Today’s solutions are increasingly about thinking of diversity and the different skillsets different individuals can bring to a business, including those who sit just outside society’s perception of ‘normal’.

With all the interest in this article, it seemed noteworthy to explore this idea a little more. And to share with small business owners everywhere, the value of looking beyond difference to see the true potential of a person’s smarts - what new ideas, fresh thinking and exceptional abilities can bring to any business table.

On Australian shores, President of Chief Executive Women Diane Smith-Gander explains ‘… the challenge is not to find who’s best for the job. Rather look for the best team for the task. If your team is not diverse then “being different” needs to be part of the selection criteria.’ She continues, [Recruiting on] ‘merit is a concept that has been hijacked to justify lack of diversity by applying a “best person for the job” principle.’

Unfortunately, when applied dogmatically as it often is, that ‘best person for the job’ principle often leads not to creativity, great dynamics and good business, but to stagnation.

When recruiting, it’s not unusual for managers and business owners to go through the same process and jump through the same hoops without thinking, replicating the same mistakes again and again. They might tweak things here and there in the interests of recruiting smarter, but un-interrogated thinking limits the talent search, and the same problems often manifest all over again.

Three years ago, Penny Andrews showed that autism didn’t hold her back. She became a library graduate trainee at Leeds Metropolitan University, having beaten 200 applicants to the job and proving that different smarts count. "Sometimes I feel people think I should be grateful that I have a job but I'm performing a useful task and doing it well, so they should be grateful to me," she said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports enormous growth in the number of people with autism, with data it collected in 2009 and again in 2012 through its Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers. This represents a vast pool of untapped talent within our communities. As small business owners we are ideally placed to think laterally, rethink the way we conduct our business and our recruiting, and potentially change both lives and our future fortunes.

Autism Speaks has already cemented in some of the groundwork, making it easier for small business owners to embrace new thinking, and access new expertise. Their Employment Toolkit: Employer’s Guide to Hiring and Retaining Employees with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) is the go-to for any employer wanting to gain further insight and experience in recruiting, hiring and supporting with diversity.

As a society, it’s time to be mindful. What makes a difference within any workplace is not just professional knowledge, but different viewpoints and life experience. The enhancement this rationale brings is not just a benefit but a core element in a business’s survival and success. That’s a rationale worth adopting. All we have to do is recruit diversely, creatively and daringly. For both parties, there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Standing on our principles here is a matter not of charity or social responsibility but rather the empirical benefit of taking on unique skills and diverse minds.

To view the initial article, which sparked over 600 social media shares, click here.

 

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How Effective Are Your Management Skills? - 4 Ways to Lift Your Game

effective_management_skills_ways_to_lift_your_game

Ever been to the doctor, been prodded and poked, clamped, scraped, sampled, screened, diagnosed, prescribed and pronounced all better, only to wish they’d met your eye and said ‘G’day and how are you?’

In management and business we focus on strategy and outcome. The softer skills – managing the people who implement the strategy and bring us the outcomes - are often learned on the job. We acquire them though our own personal fumbles or, if we’re lucky, a mentor who imparts their wisdom. And we don’t see them as part of our core business. Big mistake.

You’re not alone if you find great people management, for all its perception as a ‘softer skill’, one of the trickier to master. But it’s essential if you want your people to feel – and perform - better.

Books, podcasts and even social media are great platforms for sourcing expertise. The methods you’ll read about are tried and tested, which takes away the guesswork and gets you up to speed quickly.

Mark Horstman author of The Effective Manager and podcaster of The Management Tools  is a go-to influencer on this subject. ‘Regardless of how long you’ve been managing or how many people report to you, statistics show you probably aren’t getting the most out of your team,’ he says.

So let’s run our hands under the hot tap, slip behind the consulting room curtain and examine how you could build better relationships and drive performance. There are four critical behaviours.

GET TO KNOW YOUR PEOPLE - 'SO BE FRIENDLY'

 

It’s simple: get to know the people who work for you and look to you for influence. Understand each of them, and know what they do well and not so well.  Your primary responsibility might be to achieve results, but giving the right tasks to the right people makes all the difference.

 ‘People and their behaviours are what deliver results to your organisation – not systems, not processes, not computers, not machines.’ - Mark Horstman

The best way to get to know your people, says Horstman, is to talk to them. Fancy that!  Fact: smiling, giving encouragement, talking and laughing are all behaviours that people absorb and appreciate. They’re the behaviours that encourage others to like you and be open with you. So being friendly, in a natural and authentic way, really is an insider’s ticket to knowing your staff well – with all that promises. Who knew?

TALK ABOUT PERFORMANCE - 'POLITELY AND PROFESSIONALLY'

 

It’s okay to share your thoughts about an individual’s performance – provided you have the skills to do it politely and professionally. Feedback shouldn’t be reserved for when things are going badly. Just as you might expect your boss or clients to communicate often with you, your direct reports are hoping for the same. 

If you’ve made the effort to connect with your staff, delivering feedback gets easier with time. Better still, once this kind of open communication is part of your culture, it’s a seamless, easy and cost-free way to achieve results and retain your team.

 

ASK FOR MORE

Raise the bar. Keep everyone within their comfort zones and you’re nothing more than a caretaker for the business, says Horstman. Team performance has to evolve at the same pace as the business grows. Everyone has to meet demands and it’s your role as manager to make that happen.

‘To be an effective manager means encouraging and inspiring all of your directs to higher performance even when they say they don’t want to – because you know that the organisation needs that to stay competitive’ - Mark Horstman

Horstman is clear on the need to challenge the status quo and keep average performers moving. That way, when the bar is raised, they’re less likely to become worrisome under-performers.

 

PUSH WORK DOWN

If there’s a task you can do but the same can be done by one of your direct reports – then push the task down. Sure, they might not do it as well as you, but if the quality will be close enough, enable them and hand it over. It’s empowering for them, and here’s the rub: it’s good for business too.

Once you’ve done that, turn your attention to what’s being pushed down to you – whether it’s from your boss or your clients. Show your employees that work is best shared not siloed. It’s a great tip for increasing productivity and creating capacity in your organisation.

That’s it in four. Know your people, talk to them, ask more of them and push work down. So-called soft skills which we prefer to see as a recipe for organisational health – and a way to lift your management game all round.

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Gender Equality in Recruitment and Avoiding the Merit Trap

gender_equality_recruitment_avoiding_the_merit_trap_hashtag_h_20180311-234243_1

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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5 Effective Communication Skills - Dealing With Difficult Conversations

Difficult-Conversations-and-How-to-Have-Them

Conflict is a fact of life, and it happens in every workplace. As leaders, we’re unlikely to get through day-to-day operations without the occasional tough, perhaps heated, or even hair-raising discussion with an employee or colleague.

Conflicts can manifest overnight and should be managed. Because they can escalate quickly when we don’t make the time to have those difficult conversations.

Such conversations arise for many reasons. It may be a simple matter such as leave or a pay rise request,  or more serious employee grievances or performance related issues.

No matter the nature of the issue, it’s important to deal with it straight away. Let it linger at your peril - that’s when things escalate. Going into the discussion with a careful and considered approach is wise. A difficult conversation, handled insensitively, can affect your relationship with the other party, and the wider workforce too – perhaps even your business relationships.

Fair Work Ombudsman Australia outlines the best practice steps for getting to grips with such conversations, making them easier and more constructive.  These steps provide leaders and business owners with practical guidance, and they’re designed to help us avoid potential pitfalls, oversights and general mismanagement.

1. NO SMALL TALK

Begin the meeting by stating what the issue is right away. Don’t preface the conversation with unnecessary small talk – this gives a false impression.

2. STICK TO THE FACTS

Stick to the facts rather than relying on opinions or hearsay. Give examples where possible. Explain how the issue is impacting on your organisation. Most importantly, focus on the issue at hand, rather than the person.

3. LISTEN

Listen to your employee. Considering their point of view is vital. There could be a range of facts or situations you don’t know about. Keeping an open mind may help you consider alternative solutions.

4. BE PREPARED

Be prepared for your employee to react emotionally. Consider telling them in advance that they can bring a support person to the meeting, if they want to.

5. BE OBJECTIVE

Manage your own emotions as well. Stay calm and focus objectively on the issues.

The ideal outcome is an agreement, and you should aim for a mutually agreed plan. Then be consistent and have the smarts to follow through. The more resolute you are with this, the greater the probability of a successful outcome in the long term. That’s a win for everyone concerned.

There are complexities and ambiguities in every workplace. These simple strategies are designed to help you manage them. Take some time to measure your own processes against them, and tweak accordingly.

Want to mitigate conflict in the first place? Keep communication channels open. Your employees should be comfortable in discussions with you. 

It takes time, skill and effort to lead people – so be brave and have the conversations that truly matter.

 

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Leadership Language - 3 Powerful Words You Shouldn't Use!

Mind-Your-Leadership-Language

Yeah, but no, but yeah, but …

Marshall Goldsmith likes practical and proven methods. He’s not a man to beat about the bush. As a world-renowned business educator and coach, Goldsmith’s singular ability to get results for top leaders has drawn over 150 CEOs and their management teams to transform their thinking and bring about deep and effective changes in their workplace – and their own behaviour.

One of his secrets? The ‘No, But, However’ theory.

Here’s what Goldsmith writes in his MG Thinkers 50 Blog. ‘An easy habit for people who like to win to fall into, and a surefire shortcut for killing conversations, is to start a sentence with “no,” “but,” or “however”. It doesn’t matter how friendly your tone is or how honey sweet you say these words, the message to your recipient is “You are wrong.”’

These three words, however you configure them, exhibit a lack of interest in exploring options and being open to the perspective of others present.

“That’s true, but I think that misses the point ...”
“Yes, but let’s remember that ….. “
“I know. However, the thinking around that has been …”
“No, that’s not what we’re talking about here …”
“Well maybe that’s the case, but if we look at past examples…..”

To Marshall, using of these words is a clear indicator of one’s leadership style. And it’s characterized by an underlying competitiveness and power play.

Does that sound like you? If you’ve answered ‘Yes, but…..’ then perhaps you need to read on.

The presence of these tiny inflections in your speech patterns and your thinking habits means other contributions in the debate sink into a kind of twilight zone for you. They may as well not be there. They’re irrelevant.

It leaves the other people in the conversation wondering whether commenting is in any way worthwhile, or having a future opinion is worth the effort.

When you occupy a leadership position, or any role of authority, it can be easy to override the ideas of others, and call upon your own view as the prevailing one. There’s no doubt that developing a presence as the other style of leader - a collaborative one - takes time and patience. You’ve got to listen to all those other views, think about them, maybe even incorporate them into your own thinking!

However, (did we really say that?) - the payoff can be golden. It builds a team of diverse thinkers, confident that they have the right to put new and interesting points on the table. Ultimately it builds the capacity for your business to make strategic progress, and innovate … without you.

It’s radical, but true. You may remain there, but your business and your colleagues thrive all around you. And if you get called away, take a sabbatical, or want to move on, you’ve created a successful and independent team – that’s a great legacy.

Think about taking this test. For the next few days, make a mental note each time you reply with “No,” “But,” or “However.” Why not make an actual note of it too – you may be surprised when you refer to it later. Go the whole hog and ask your team to help. Encourage them to call you on it! Brave enough? You’ll find that this elevates the quality of your guidance, and your team’s collaborative engagement.

The less we focus on ourselves the more we benefit, believes Goldsmith. We think it’s a simple technique that we could all benefit from!

(We should say at this point, that’s not Marshall in the pink tracksuit.)

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Bad Boss Behaviour - Are You Guilty?

Bad-Boss-Behaviour

Are you guilty of bad boss behaviour? The chances are that nobody will tell you, least of all your employees. But we will!

Employees tolerate a lot of bad management. Some bosses are untrained in how to lead. Others may be uncaring or clueless to the challenges faced by the individuals in their team. And some are just oblivious to the impact of their actions or interaction.

For an ordinary employee, it takes immense courage to give direct feedback to a manager. It’s risky too. What if it goes over badly? Are they likely to face a reprimand or worse?

If they choose not to table their thoughts, as most do faced with this intimidating scenario, then it takes a lot of commitment for them to look past any transgressions and stay engaged.

In the worst case scenario, an employee moves on to greener pastures, leaving their boss no wiser of their shortcomings, or the reason behind the revolving door and continual recruitment drive.

Worth addressing? We think so. Read on – because nobody need know you’re doing so, and it might save you a whole heap of grief – you and your employees.


WHAT IT IS TO BE INCOMPETENT

Incompetence is a slur thrown around and can mean different things to different people. Generally, incompetence is an inability to do your job satisfactorily, the way others might expect.

It can be a passing phase, brought on by random circumstances. We’ve all found ourselves in situations that overwhelm us and have felt unequal to the task in hand at some point. This is pretty natural in the normal course of things. Put your hand up and ask for help – situation solved. That’s not necessarily incompetence. That’s just you, having a moment.

When incompetence lingers and repeats itself, when the same situations occur on repeat, it’s more than just a passing phase. In this scenario, you need help. If you find yourself in a role where the shoe really doesn’t fit, the best course of action by far is to ask for help and advice, or find a role that’s better suited to your shoe size and skill set. That could be inside the company – or it could be elsewhere.

Own it. The problem, the scenario – be accountable. Because those around you have a ringside view of every stumble, blunder and fall. They’re most likely talking too, a situation which isn’t healthy or helpful for any of us.

 

CAUGHT IN THE CLUTCHES OF YOUR EGO

Egos are tricky things. If you’re not careful, yours can sneak up and announce itself when you least expect it. Before you know it, you’re acting in ways that simply aren’t conducive to good leadership. You’re not valuing your team, you’re not adding value to the discussion, and deep down you know it.

Our ego can be our biggest barrier to success. We’re all good at something but we’re not necessarily the best. Some people find that hard to accept, and they waste a lot of everyone’s time and effort in denying it. Ultimately, it’s worth sacrificing your ego and ‘settling’ for mainstream. Because if we all stick to what we’re good at and work together instead of trying to outshine everyone else, we can make greatness happen – together.

To be outstanding in a particular field takes a deep level of mastery. To create mastery as a group is easier. We’re better as a tribe. Try it.


CIRCLE OF TRUST - OR LACK THERE OF

Management gone wrong makes employees feel unprotected and insecure. It creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and a fear of consequences. Marcus Buckingham, British author and motivational speaker has famously said, ‘People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers.’

Great leaders can define a culture. They drive engagement, safety and trust. They look out for the person on their left, while supporting the person to their right, and they never forget about the people above and below.

This type of leader stands out. They’re instantly recognizable. Their employees can be seen to trust them implicitly - they’re given no reason to feel otherwise. And they’re followed because that naturally feels right to those around them.

A leader like this can be certain that when the chips are down their tribe will back them, working smarter, harder, creating greatness.

So if you find yourself standing alone, have a think about your circle of trust. Do you have one? Or are you mostly gazing at your own reflection? Perhaps a few people loiter around you submissively. If so, it could be because you’re paying their salary.

Give them a better reason for staying.

 

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Not Right Now, Thanks! Embracing Workplace Flexibility

workplace-flexibility

Is your workplace flexible enough to allow a senior member of staff to send this kind of message?

‘I work flexibly at Telstra. I’m sending this message now because it suits me. I don’t expect you to read, action or respond out of normal work hours.’

This is the email signature of Troy Roderick, Telstra’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion. Signs are that while it might still be a tad unexpected, it’s on the way to becoming the norm. And for good reason!

According to Australian research conducted jointly by Bain & Company and Australia’s powerful Chief Executive Women lobby group, juggling our career aspirations and family growth and needs is entirely possible - as long we think of workplace flexibility as a norm and not an exception to the rule.

In this 2015 report, The Power of Flexibility: A key enabler to boost gender parity and engagement, it’s emerges that Australian organisations have built good foundations for flexibility within their workforces. But key challenges still remain - especially if we want workable options for both genders.

As it turns out, workplace flexibility isn’t just a woman’s issue. Data shows that men are demanding work flexibility too. The primary reason is that they want to play more active roles as caregivers, and rightly so. If we really aspire to equality within our workforce at every level up to senior leader, it’s crucial both genders should be equally considered and enabled - with flexible work practices.

Gone are the days when employees worked 9 to 5, Monday to Friday and only within the same four office walls. The incredible transition of the digital age, and our new capacity to run operations and communicate 24/7 from anywhere with a wifi connection has changed everything in most of our working communities - and across the globe.

 

WESTPAC CASE STUDY – IT’S TIME TO LOVE BANKS

The 2015 report highlights Westpac Banking Corporation as a standout company. They offer a range of flexible work practices, as part of their longstanding commitment to flexibility.

Those of us in smaller businesses might debunk their efforts as 'big business with bigger budgets’. But there is no denying the teams at Westpac have done their research and are implementing change for reasons that resonate in small business too. There are many takeaways that smaller teams could easily adopt and weave into their own culture with tremendous benefit.

Brian Hartzer, Westpac Group CEO, nails it. ‘The way I see it, flexibility helps people achieve their full potential by removing barriers to success. If people have the flexibility to manage their personal commitments, they are more likely to bring their whole selves to work every day. And that means they’re more likely to do their best work and exceed customer expectations.’

Like the inside scoop? Here are five key practices Westpac leaders are required to implement, to facilitate flexibility:

  1. Make yes the default answer;
  2. Put flexibility on the agenda at team meetings;
  3. Understand the flex options and resources available;
  4. Raise flexibility as a key benefit; and
  5. Role-model flexibility.

The culmination of Westpac’s thinking is in their WorkSMART initiative. This permits employees to choose how, when and where they work. It’s a transformative program charged with overhauling Westpac’s corporate environment, technology, tools, systems and policies. They’re set on creating a culture where work is no longer a place you go, but something you do and achieve.

 

BENEFITS? WE THINK SO!

When you encourage employees to reach their full potential through flexible work practices, the capacity to generate a positive environment and boost employee advocacy and productivity is proven to follow.

It seems Westpac aren’t the only bank with the smarts on this. As Craig Meller, CEO of AMP points out, ‘normalising flexible work opens up new sources of talent and new ways of operating, and this is key to being an innovative and agile business.’

The small business sector has much to gain by following suit, and actively encouraging the uptake of flexible work practice arrangements. It’s well worth considering how we can make such practices work for our teams – and that includes the whole team, not just those with kids Others have family and other commitments of a different nature.

Be sure to underpin your new thinking with clear policies and practices.

If you lead a culture that’s supportive and respectful of flexibility, and make it the norm rather than the exception, only good things can come, both now, and later!

 

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Carla Schesser
Couldn't agree more Anna!
Thursday, 02 November 2017 11:48
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Endure and Enjoy! Surviving Small Biz – and the School Holidays

Working mother

What do small business ownership, parenthood and crowdfunding for finance have in common?

Well, many of us will do each of them over the course of our adult life. They all feel like endurance sports at times, requiring Olympian levels of vitality, versatility and inventiveness, grit and determination. And they’re all hugely enjoyable.

And what do you need when faced with vertical learning curves and constant juggling, when you’re looking over the rim of a glass of lunchtime Sauvignon and thinking back fondly to your corporate career? Survival strategies!

BE FAST AND CHOOSY

It’s a maxim that comes in handy when looking for husband or wife material in our twenties and it can still serve us well in working life. There’s not a lot of time to waste if you’re fitting your workload into the short hours while small people are at school. That’s a 30 hour working week and every minute has to count. If you’re driving and growing a small business, and if you’re a parent to boot, you are at the coal face when it comes to understanding the value of doing things fast. Doing them well, but crunching the important details, with no time for sweating the small stuff.

Work every day with a priorities list. Choose the things you really want to get done, which have an hourly rate or a fee attached to them, which push forward a useful connection, or drive a campaign. That way, the minute the school bus hits the gravel at the end of the driveway, you can take satisfaction in having achieved what you needed to from the day – and the rest of that day is all about the people you’re doing it for.

GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE – AND LIKE IT!

You learn to put your collywobbles aside when you’re in small business. It’s all about putting yourself and your ideas out there. The secret is simple: just take one small step at a time away from your comfort zone. Don’t let yourself get overcome by the ultimate goal. Break things down into small achievable chunks, and focus on one at a time. Make one phone call. Write one email to an angel investor. You never know what is going to reap rewards, so just keep going. Before you know it, your comfort zone has expanded to twice its original size without you even realising!

"It always seems impossible until it's done." - Nelson Mandela, South African anti-apartheid leader

BE A JACK OF ALL TRADES – BUT AIM TO OUTSOURCE

You’ve got to wear all the hats as an entrepreneur. Have your idea, grow your idea, realise it, market it, get it funded. You’ve got to know finance, marketing, the digital age and how to get on with people in real life and the virtual space. If you’re already transitioning daily between being a red hot innovator at work and a hot mummy or daddy at home, you’re used to switching roles and maybe you love it. But when there’s capacity and finances, outsource.

Whatever you’re a non-starter at in your business, bring the expertise in from elsewhere, whether it’s the accounts, marketing or business development. Form a partnership, do a small business exchange. Get a cleaner to keep your surfaces clear and your feng shui flowing at home. And if you’re crowdfunding or financing a product, look for help with the marketing strategy you’ll need for when you’re fully funded. Because 100% funded is where it all begins!

TAKE IT EASY!

Seriously. Don’t be hard on yourself. If you’re driving any sort of business, campaign or project forwards plus keeping house and home together as well, be sure to program in downtime. The human brain wasn’t manufactured in a Ferrari factory and it’s not designed to be driven at constant high speed. Take time out!

Need some reassurance that it’s not time wasted? Ever woken up with a great idea for that product you’re developing / recruit you’re making / newsletter you’re writing? That’s because your subconscious has been working on things while you were sleeping. Downtime and rest are not time wasted – they’re essential in looking after your mental health.

“Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive.” - Tim Ferris, author of ‘The Four Hour Work Week’

KEEP GOING!

The biggest and best philosophy of all? Don’t give up. Success comes in incremental steps – those same small steps you began taking out of your comfort zone earlier in the piece.

"Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat." - F. Scott Fitzgeral, American author


#HR editor, writer and small business owner Fiona Stocker runs a small farm, food and agri-tourism business with her husband, and is crowdfunding her first book Apple Island Wife: Escape to Tasmania with major international crowdfunding publisher Unbound, based in the UK. Read more and pledge your support on the Unbound campaign page.

 

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Lightbulb Moments and Why We Should Act on Them

lightbulb-moment

‘When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, remember this - you haven’t.’ Fine words from Thomas A. Edison, father of the light bulb and one of the world’s most prolific inventors.

Edison was a busy man, creating devices that influenced life around the world, including the phonograph and the motion picture camera. He did it with very limited resources, and often in seemingly simple ways. He wasn’t guided by forums or comment sections, from impressive analytic software or world-wide searches for specialised talent. He invented deftly and creatively - and made lots of mistakes, using his failures to achieve greater understanding and bring him closer to his eventual success.

For us, perhaps it’s not so simple. We’re in information overload, deluged with an abundance of knowhow and opinion. Information is at our finger tips – an endless supply of tools, tips, tricks, and hacks we can access in our pursuit of knowledge and results.

The possibility that we can exhaust every avenue of enquiry is just not feasible. Edison himself would be baffled by the scope of the Internet. So the greatest challenge for us lies in finding the sweet spot – the exact moment when we should stop searching - and start doing. Often it’s much earlier than we think.

Too much choice makes any process exhausting. It leads to uncertainty and a kind of decision-making paralysis. And when you’re in business or leading a team, grinding to a halt is dangerous.

 

IT’S IN THE JAM

Researcher Barry Schwartz says, “As the number of options increases, the costs, in time and effort, of gathering the information needed to make a good choice also increase.” We presume, Schwartz says, that if some choice is a good thing, then more choice will be better. He calls this the ‘paradox of choice’ and cites one particular study that makes it all clear.

In a corner store one Thursday, six types of jam were placed on sale in an attractive display. On Friday, the numbers were increased to twenty-four different flavours. How’s a person to choose? Well might you ask!

Researchers found that Friday’s jam-fest attracted more customers than the modest display on Thursday, but when it came time to buy, shoppers who had seen Friday’s multitude of flavours were one-tenth as likely to buy as those who had seen the more manageable display on Thursday!

 

LESS IS MORE

Too much choice, then, or the endless pursuit for more choice, is not necessarily a good thing, and that goes for our business practices as well.

It certainly makes sense to shop around in the quest for reduced stationary costs or when purchasing specialist safety equipment. But when making decisions involving people or productivity, trying to exhaust all possibilities can end up putting limits on the final decision – or thwarting it altogether.

Making the best choice should be less about algorithmic equations and star ratings, and more about using our creative thinking and intuition.

Allowing ourselves fewer options to choose from and get confused by can also help steer us away from making conventional choices, and encourage us to delve into the world of more creative possibilities.

 

STICK TO YOUR SIX PACK

Recruitment is a prime example of where we often feel obliged to amass an overwhelming level of information before making choices or appointing candidates. Seeking the ideal becomes all about nailing a specific skillset to the ‘nth’ degree, when it should be the hunt for a diverse thinker and a creative mind.

If you’re in an interview and getting the feeling that the best candidate is sitting there right in front of you, trust your instinct. And be careful. Are you conducting a thorough interview – or making them jump through pointless hoops? An excessive checklist of questions can quickly turn a good candidate’s interest into utter disinterest. And for the would-be employer, wanting to exhaust all possibilities in the recruitment and interview process can lose you the best candidate – maybe one who could bring greatness to the team.

When Edison thought he’d try ‘just one more thing’, he wasn’t confronted with a list of multiple thousand search results. The world is different today and it’s important to know when to stop. We all know when we’re having a light bulb moment. Connect with your instincts and act on it!

 

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5 Traits of an Impossible Leader

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Leaders want and sometimes expect to be liked, listened to and respected. So when you hear through the grapevine that your leadership style is on the nose and perhaps you’re not as cool as you thought, it can be pretty devastating.

But count yourself lucky.

Nobody wants to work for someone who is ineffective or even impossible to work with. But very few employees will give feedback when it’s happening. It’s not unusual to find yourself the last man or woman standing – and then find out it’s because nobody liked your style. That’s painful.

Most employees avoid giving feedback upwards and simply find greener pastures. So, if you’re savvy enough to sense that things are turning sour before they completely unravel, take advantage. Get to work on your leadership style.

That means digging deep and doing some self-analysis. A great place to start is with these top five ‘impossible leader’ behaviours. How does your style compare?


1. EXPECTING THEM TO READ YOUR MIND


As a species we’re not able to read minds and yet some managers appear to expect their team to have psychic powers. Whatever it is you’re communicating – direction, praise, information, or a thumbs up emoji – it needs to be made explicit. Say things out loud, send a detailed email, deliver a project brief. If your team isn’t crystal clear about what you expect of them, when they’re on the right track, or when you want a change of direction or focus, confusion, mistakes and frustration will be the result. The reason? The key specifics, deliverables and expectations were not delivered - by you. Big mistake!


2. TUNING OUT, NOT IN


Employees want to be able to talk to their leaders. More importantly, they want to be heard. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a question about new software, project feedback, or job frustrations. Tuning out? Well you potentially leave them high and dry with little opportunity for moving forward. When an employee gets stuck, a small situation can become an insurmountable one – without your guidance. An open door policy needs to mean just that. Open your door, and your ears – and really listen.


3. PURVEYOR OF EMPTY PROMISES


Promises, promises. If you don’t follow through on them, it’s #yawn. Employees are like children in that they remember what you’ve committed to, and what you’ve followed through with. When your list of follow-through deliverables is too long and it becomes clear you have no real interest in closing it off, you’re sending a clear message to the workforce – that you can’t be trusted, and nor can your word.


4. ALWAYS RIGHT


There’s no polite way of saying this. People who insist on being right are impossible to deal with in any situation. They’re particularly damaging in the workplace. If this is your style as a manager, it promises to squash any prospect of those around you feeling empowered in your presence. Are you the type who looks something up on Google mid-conversation to prove your point? Classic. Time to step back, humble up and get your team around you for more of a mutual exchange.


5. CHANGE RESISTANT

Without change, innovation is impossible, and yet leaders can find themselves resisting it. Change brings risk, and responsibility. But if your team or employee presents you with an idea and you reject it out of hand, even if it promises real growth, then there’s a problem. It’s normal to harbor some fear and trepidation, but when this translates to anxiety or worse, if your negative outlook starts to catastrophise things, moving forward becomes impossible - and extremely frustrating for those around you. Find a way of managing change - and even embracing it.


TIME TO WANT IT!


Marshall Goldsmith is an expert of epic proportions on the subject of leadership. He’s been rated #1 Leadership Thinker and one of the Top Ten Most Influential Business Thinkers in the World, a top-ranked Executive Coach at the 2013 biennial Thinkers50 ceremony, and twice a New York Times best-seller.

Goldsmith famously says the clients he spends the least time with are the ones who improve the most, 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. This gives you the drive and self-awareness to create change in yourself.

Self-awareness and an ability to dig deep are at the centre of our ability to learn and lead. It’s all down to us, because it’s rare that someone whose salary you authorise will be courageous enough to tell you what they really think. So, if you scored marks on this list of impossible behaviours - it’s time to challenge your leadership style.

We’ll give Goldsmith the final say. ’The less we focus on ourselves the more we benefit. It’s an interesting equation: Less me. More them. Equals success. Try it.’

 

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Let Your Characters Speak of Character – Elegant Communication in a Digital World

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In 1905 Mark Twain, American writer, humorist and entrepreneur, received a small package and handwritten letter from a gentleman claiming to be a medical doctor. The package contained a snake oil — a cure-all called ‘The Elixir of Life’ — which purported to ‘cure all ailments of the human, animal, and fowl.’ 

Twain was in ill health at the time. His wife had died suddenly the previous year. Moreover meningitis and diphtheria, which the elixir proudly claimed to cure, had taken the lives of both his daughter and 19-month-old son. With these memories still very fresh, Twain communicated his deep dissatisfaction to Mr. J.H Todd - the ‘doctor’ who sent him the package. 


 

Dear Sir,

Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link. It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me; and always, for a moment, they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the person who has puzzled me. A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake, and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain


 

In the eloquent and elegant language of his time, and with an initial lightness of touch followed by but a devastating directness that goes straight to the heart of the matter, Twain elucidates his feelings with precision and purpose. 

But how might he have expressed his same dissatisfaction in contemporary times? Would one of our modern, digital methods of appraisal have conveyed his disdain so ably? 

Perhaps he may have reviewed J.H Todd with a zero-star rating or possibly a 120-character tweet with a few choice acronyms thrown in. Would he have agonized over an emoji? Or chosen to go grammatically correct and emoji-free, rising above the hoy polloi in unadulterated prose? And would he have blocked, reported and unfriended Mr Todd, if they were ever ‘friends’ at all?

Joking aside, the strength of Twain’s letter isn’t his clever use of language but the absolute clarity with which he expresses himself. There’s no misunderstanding his message.  

In these progressive times when communicating with others, including your employees, is something to be ‘optimised’ and abbreviated, it’s vital to remain mindful that good communication practices are still at the heart of every successful business, and every business relationship – internal, external, with employees and suppliers, including snake oil vendors.

Communication has the ability to build, and destroy, a relationship very quickly. As a business owners, you can set yourself apart by developing the right communication style for your workplace.  

Thinking the small things through can be particularly helpful. How would you like social media comments to be handled? When to pick up the phone and have a real-time in-person discussion – rather than yet another email. How to hit the right note in email communication – not too formal, but not too personal either. When it’s okay to send a text message, and when a hand written thank-you card is called for – rather than virtual flowers.  

The communication methods you choose to implement now will set the tone for future business.  It’s free marketing, speaks of your own style and your business, and can leave a lasting impression. 

So choose your words carefully. Few of us will achieve the literary prowess of Mark Twain, but adopting a business style that’s meaningful, authentic and perhaps even a little elegant is generally best practice and will be remembered. Would Twain’s letter still be circulating a century later if he had replied with a ‘middle finger’ emoji?  We think not!

 

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