The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 3

communication and collaborationIn part 2 of this four part series of blogs, I covered the importance of PACE to improve organisational effectiveness and speed and specifically Alignment:

PACE = Planning + Alignment + Communication + Execution

The third part of The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation will focus on Communication of your plan, your organisational structure, your people and your rewards and performance management capability.

Communication

a) Senior management creating a sense of purpose

All of us are in search of a clear and driving purpose for our lives; we want to contribute to something bigger than ourselves.  The workplace offers a great opportunity for people to connect with a purpose, your One Magnificent Goal, your OMG!

The reality is that people care less about working for a company and much more about working for a ‘noble’ cause. Without a purpose, your employees are just putting in time. Their minds might be engaged, but their hearts will not be. A team without a purpose is a team without passion. Your team members may achieve short-term results, but they won’t have the heart to go the distance.

The first strategy to satisfy this basic need is to give employees a ‘noble’ purpose and then help them connect with it emotionally.

Take a close look at what your people are doing day in and day out. You might find that their hearts are much bigger than their jobs. Get team members inspired about your OMG, and their hearts will follow.

Implementing improvement requires constantly reviewing the dynamic forces that drive an organisation. Understanding these dynamics, anticipating their consequences, and acting to accelerate, or redirect them is a complex task. The complexity is further compounded when companies engage in improvement efforts without viewing them as part of their strategic thinking. Assumptions as to what’s involved in change often understate the difficulty and miscalculate the amount of energy, preparation, and time required. Without proper attention, diagnosis may be inadequate and off the mark, leading to ill-fated plans.

Improvement efforts with an OMG often not only require readjusting the way that organisation leaders and employees think, they also require substantially changing behaviour. They require business leaders to manage energy in new ways and make difficult choices. Because these are often needed in the areas of employee empowerment and involvement, they call for new forms of courage. Many within the organisation have to make higher-risk decisions, requiring greater levels of personal development. Improvement efforts mean that cross-functional teamwork, innovation, and personal initiative become part of the defining values of the organisation.

To be successful, it is crucial that your senior management team are 100% behind your OMG, that they actively engage with their teams on a regular basis about your OMG, and that they make the OMG real for the people in their function – tailoring the messages for their people’s specific roles and responsibilities, and tackling the ‘What’s In It For Me?’ questions. They need to be passionate, committed and demonstrate the behaviours underpinning your OMG for it to be taken seriously by their teams. Paying ‘Lip-Service’ to your OMG will work for a while, but destroyed on the 2nd or 3rd occasion that a senior manager strays from this path.

b) Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication is vital in driving pace in your organisation. Improved communication and collaboration across your organisation represents your best opportunity to tap the full range of talents of your people, move with greater speed and flexibility, and compete to win over the next decade.

Building a collaborative organisation requires a transformative approach to culture, processes and technology—along with an unwavering commitment from top to bottom. The working environment is changing; there is an increase in flexible working, home working and mobile working and a blurring of all three. A clear collaboration strategy will ensure that productivity is not lost and employees feel as much part of the organisation as their colleagues based in head office. Optimising team performance can be achieved by building trust and strengthening relationships across geography and cultures; encouraging participation and knowledge/expertise through the use of communities; locating experts within real-time and accelerating decision-making; and using availability and presence tools to help reduce budget by meeting virtually. If you foster a culture that encourages collaborative behaviours, put processes in place to help people work better together and adopt technologies that facilitate collaboration, your efforts will be rewarded with an energised organisation that can adapt quickly to changing markets and deliver results.

c) Communications Approach

To achieve real organisational buy-in to your One Magnificent Goal you must inform, inspire and involve employees so they will choose to go where you are attempting to lead them.

Inform

Informing is the first step in aligning employees and getting buy-in.  It starts with sharing the why, what and how of your OMG.  Then discuss and get clear on individual roles in meeting the goals necessary to achieve the plan.

To feel informed, today’s employees need clarity on:

  • Why you exist as a business
  • How you will behave
  • What you offer to key stakeholders
  • Where you are going in one to three years
  • Key areas of focus for the entire organisation

Although the need to communicate has not changed over the years, the tools we use to communicate have.  Thanks to the internet and other new technologies, today’s leaders can (and should) communicate in many different ways.

The old standbys — memos, meetings and newsletters — still have their place, only in most cases these have gone digital.  In addition to these tools, today’s leaders and managers use e-mail, intranets and online newsletters to communicate quickly and effectively with employees.  They also use blogs, webinars and video clips to educate and update employees about company goals and objectives.

Companies with geographically dispersed workforces use conference calls and video teleconferencing to simulate face-to-face interactions.  And the more tech-savvy companies, especially those with younger workforces, are using instant messaging tools like Microsoft LyncTwitter and corporate social media tools like Yammer or Chatter to stay connected.  Whatever technologies you employ, the key is to communicate often in many different ways to ensure that all employees are focused and aligned.

Inspire

Today’s employees want to believe that their work is making a difference in the world.  To inspire others:

  • Share a compelling vision of what tomorrow looks like.  How will that vision make the world a better place and improve their lives?
  • Constantly discuss the aspirational components of your OMG.  Why should employees aspire to achieve it?
  • Share why you believe the destination is compelling.  What is it about where the company is going that inspires you?
  • Communicate with enthusiasm and passion.  Become an evangelist for the organisational goals.
  • Ask employees what the OMG means to them.  Share their responses via e-mail, intranet and in company meetings.
  • Share positive customer feedback.  Give people reasons to feel good about what the company does.
  • Celebrate achievement of milestones.  We all want to be part of a winning team, so recognise the progress and success along the way to your goals.

The ultimate goal is to get employees talking about what the OMG mean to them individually.  The more they focus on these areas, the more likely you are to get buy-in and alignment.

Involve

When employees feel involved and engaged in the delivery of your OMG, they bring more than just their bodies to work.  They bring their hearts and souls as well as their best thinking.

  • Spend time with your team regularly to check on their progress.  Make sure all individual goals remain aligned with your OMG.
  • Share stories of how teams are aligned and achieving goals.  Highlight team accomplishments and link them to the strategy they support.
  • To measure employee understanding, commitment, inspiration and engagement, take quick surveys following team or company meetings.
  • Solicit questions via email or intranet and address them in open forums.  Publicly thank employees for raising the issues.

So, you’ve now got your people on board, they’re informed, inspired and involved. In the final part of The Need for Speed – Driving Pace in Your Organisation,  I will be look at the fourth, and arguably the most important element of PACE, Execution.

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The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 2

AlignmentIn part 1 of this four part series of blogs I covered the importance of PACE to improve organisational effectiveness and speed and specifically Planning:

PACE = Planning + Alignment + Communication + Execution

The second part of The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation will focus on Alignment of your organisational structure, your people and your rewards and performance management capability.

Alignment

a) Organise your teams around your One Magnificent Goal! – Your OMG!

The benefits of a well aligned team are no surprise to anyone. A great deal has been written about how to create better alignment within teams, through team building, incentives, and other management techniques. However, the first step in any effort to improve the alignment amongst a group must start with an honest evaluation of the current state, and a desire to improve and a clear view as to where you’re going.

Convene a group of key managers within your organisation to help you look at the impacts, both positive and negative, of your current organisation structure and how it might look when aligned to your OMG. When realigning, you want to ensure that you don’t lose any core competencies. You also want to ensure that any proposed changes will support the goals you have set as well as continue the things your business already does well. A group of managers who understand the detailed workings of your organisation will help you greatly.

Develop several alignment models from which to choose. Consider movements with your existing people, additions, subtractions and combinations of these things when devising different structures that might support your goals. Use organisational charts to help you express these models so they are clear and tangible.

Solicit input from other business leaders you know, respect and trust. Examine the financial, strategic and organisational culture impacts your various alignment ideas might create in order to help you to arrive at your decision. You also need to understand any Human Resources / Employment Law ramifications of your decisions before you begin to implement.

b) Align performance goals and rewards around your OMG

To ensure achievement of your OMG you must align all your teams’ performance goals and rewards to it. In so many organisations, individual departments have separate performance metrics that do not align to their OMG. More importantly people are often rewarded against Key Performance Indicators that are misaligned. Some common examples of this might be; Sales are paid on revenue and the OMG is to increase margin; Customer Services are rewarded against hitting call statistics when the OMG is around improving customer satisfaction. Neither is complete misalignment, but both can cause a big enough gap in behaviours for the OMG not to be achieved.

When metrics and rewards systems are not realigned with changes in structure and business processes, the impacts are predictable:

• Individual performance targets compete with the OMG.

• Roles and accountabilities are confused or continue to be aligned around the old organisation design.

• Decisions are made to optimise performance in one unit contrary to the needs of the larger organisation.

• The organisation is slow to act and burdened with internal conflicts.

• Leaders resist change (because it is rational to do so when incentives encourage old behaviours).

• Individuals begin to question the impact of the organisation design changes on their personal economic well-being, distracting them from winning in the new formation.

Again, sound out your leadership team to ensure that cross-organisation goals and rewards are not in conflict with each other before you implement. Talk to leaders and managers in other companies to get some broader context of what works and doesn’t work elsewhere.

It’s really important that the reward structures align from top to bottom within your organisation and there is an OMG specific payment when you achieve it – A Long Term Incentive. That encourages everyone from Executive to Admin Assistant to shoot for the OMG. Obviously the levels of reward might be different, but everyone wins when you achieve your goal!

c) Push decision-making authority as far down the organisation as possible

In the era of organisational flattening, there are less and less layers of management. We are happy about getting rid of hierarchies, but we are less good at understanding the associated challenges. If a layer of management disappears, decision-making should go to the lower level and not to the higher one. A reorganisation where layers go down from 6 to 3, but where senior management absorbs most of the decision rights that became available tends not to work effectively.

A consequence of decision-making being pushed down is that there are many new ‘decision homes’ where empowered people could make a decision on the spot. One of the big problems associated with decision rights flowing upstream, to a higher level, is that these decision rights tend to go or be deferred to the management bodies that only meet from time to time.

So, pushing the decision rights down to a lower level also means that many decisions could be taken ‘in real time’. Provided that people are empowered to do so, there is no reason why they should delay the decision-making process. Pushing decisions downstream and making decisions ‘in real time’ as much as you can are two simple disruptive rules. They won’t cost much but they have the power to transform your company on a big scale.

Some principles you should consider:

  • Implement decision-making at lower levels across the business, not just in one or two departments
  • If something can be decided at a lower level, it should. And you should make it lower and lower all the time.
  • If nothing can be decided at a lower level, you are the problem.
  • Your management goal is to decide less and less every day.

‘Closure’ and decisions made in meetings and committees may be efficient, but not necessarily effective if it could have been done at a lower level.

The amount of ‘deferred decisions’ (as opposed to real-time ones) in your organisation is a good indicator of your agility and empowerment. How many organisation even measure this I wonder?

d) Clearly defined roles & responsibilities

In order to effectively manage your people, it is important to provide them with a clear definition and understanding of their role, function, and responsibilities in the workplace. This will provide them with a good understanding of the job and tasks they are to perform as an individual and within any teams they are a part of. It also provides information on where they fit within the organisation and who they report to, helping to avoid disputes and misunderstandings over authority.

Failing to define workplace roles and responsibilities can create tension, miscommunication and inefficiency within your business. People may be unsure as to what jobs are their own and who they are required to report to. Mistakes and omissions can also occur where people are unsure of what is required of them, therefore creating inefficiencies which cost time and money.

e) Stopping projects / activities that don’t support the plan

Tighter goal alignment and goal visibility allows for quicker execution of organisation strategy by enabling your management team to more effectively allocate resources across various projects. By exposing business initiatives not aligned with your OMG, it also increases overall efficiency by ensuring employees are not duplicating the efforts of others. Plus, goal alignment strengthens the leadership at your company by allowing managers to:

  • Understand more clearly all responsibilities associated with specific goals
  • Eliminate redundancies across job titles
  • Focus their staffs on your company’s most pertinent goals

So, you’ve now got the right people, organisational structure and performance culture to deliver your plan. In Part 3 of The Need for Speed – Driving Pace in Your Organisation,  I will be look at the third element of PACE, Communication.

The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 1

Driving PACE in your organisationSucceeding in today’s competitive business environment requires that your organisation be agile enough to respond quickly to internal and external change. To stay ahead, you have to explore new ways to grow your business – for example, by launching a new product or service or targeting a different marketplace. Speed and focus could become your biggest competitive advantages.

For this to succeed, you will need to rapidly align resources and people so as to drive speed, efficiency, and profitability. But how do you achieve this level of organisational agility – and ensure focused execution across your business?

The key is driving organisational alignment – an elusive goal for many companies. This requires strong executive alignment, an organisational mind-set that values performance management, and the ability to perform effectively. Once these elements are in place, you need baseline information to devise the right strategies, a clear understanding of interdependencies, and insight into where to deploy personnel and budgets. To drive adoption, you must communicate strategies to employees in ways that they understand and embrace and that are within the context of their roles. You must provide the right tools and incentives to help them execute on a daily basis and in alignment with corporate strategies.

However, if your organisation is like most, there is a significant gap between strategy and execution because of breakdowns in one or more of these areas.

You need to consider how to implement PACE in your organisation: Planning, Alignment, Communication and Execution

This first post, in a 4 part series, will focus on:

Planning

Why is planning so important and why must it be done in parallel with strategy? From a macro perspective, business today gets done in a global marketplace. Change is occurring at an unprecedented pace. Time and distance continue to become less and less relevant thanks in great part to the explosive growth and convergence of technology and the internet.

There was a time when strategic planning was done by only the biggest companies, and those who lead change. Now it is a requirement just to survive. Leaders of business must be looking ahead, anticipating change, and developing a strategy to proactively and successfully navigate through the turbulence created by change.

a) Clarity of Strategic Goals and Markets

How are you going to get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going? Everyone in an organisation needs to know what you sell or do, who your target customers are, how you compete and in which markets you operate. A good strategy will balance revenue and margin generation with productivity initiatives. Without strategic planning, businesses simply drift, and are always reacting to the pressure of the day. Companies that don’t plan have exponentially higher rates of failure than those that plan and implement well.

For many business owners and leaders, creating a vision, company values, and a strategic plan can be a daunting task for reasons like time, energy, commitment and lack of experience. It requires business leaders to accept that yesterday’s success does not ensure success in the future. It requires challenging the status quo, potentially changing behaviours, implementing new procedures, hiring different people, and putting new systems in place in order to deliver on the strategy.

Make no mistake; the best plans and ideas without great execution are just plans or ideas, they don’t result in much of anything. Regardless of the size of a company, a strategic plan is the foundation on which all business activities can be connected and “aligned”.

b) OMG! – One Magnificent Goal!

The idea for One Magnificent Goal is derived from the fantastic book by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras; Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies – They termed it ‘BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal’

OMG is THE goal that really stretches you to think differently about how you do business. It’s THE goal that is going to help you transform your business, rather than being satisfied with incremental change. It’s THE goal that’s going to inspire you to do your best work and outshine your competition.

What is THE ONE BIG aspirational idea that your people can really get behind; that will really make them deliver +1%?

  • It could be Target Driven –  JFK’s – ‘this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
  • It could be Competitor Driven – Crush Adidas! (Nike, 1960s)
  • It could be Role-model Driven – Audi’s OMG in 2005: To match the exclusive image of mighty Benz and BMW
  • It could be a Business Transformation – Amazon.com: Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds

When you consider OMGs for your organisation here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • It should be so clear and compelling that it requires little or no explanation
  • It should fall well outside your comfort zone
  • It should be so bold and exciting in its own right that it will stimulate progress even if the leaders disappear
  • It should be consistent with the company’s core ideology

If your OMG doesn’t meet these criteria you should really think again!

c) The Plan Itself

If you are serious about reaching your OMG, you have to develop a plan that  clearly takes you through milestones or even better,  ‘Inch Pebbles’ to meet that OMG. If you don’t, you can’t even  expect to get close. You have to do more than you have ever done. You also have to look for  new and creative ways, to get to the result.

I’m not, in this post, going to be prescriptive about how you build a plan, but I would ask you to consider the following questions:

How do I bridge the gap? – How can you most effectively get from where you are now to where you want to go? And in what time-frame? What strategic initiatives are needed to bridge the gap?

What are the controls I need to put in place? What monitoring, project management, reporting, and performance management do I need to put in place to achieve these initiatives?

What people do I need to ensure I reach my OMG? Will the team you have today be enough to deliver your OMG? Do you need more people or different people? Do you need to change the people (training & development) or change the people (restructure & recruit)?

Can I afford to do this? What costs will be incurred in delivering the initiatives that will help you reach your OMG? Over what time frame? What would be the cost of not doing them? What contingencies do you need to put in place along the way if some of your initiatives fail?

Answering these questions will help you formulate your plan.

So, you understand the market place and your strategic ambition within it, your OMG. You have a plan to achieve it. Have you got the right people, organisational structure and culture to deliver it? In Part 2 of The Need for Speed – Driving Pace in Your Organisation,  I will be look at the second element of PACE, Alignment.

Playing Politics without the Politics

Politics without the Politics

Office politics is a fact of company life. Wherever there are two or more people working together, there will be politics and there will be opportunity for conflict. However, destructive office politics can demoralise people in an organisation, hamper productivity, and increase turnover of good staff,.

Much as you might like to avoid them, the best way to deal with political environments is to engage them, to turn toward them. To turn away is to abdicate your responsibilities as a leader and manager. It is to let down yourself, your team, and even the organisation as a whole.

Unless you reach out, engage others, and create active, on-going relationships — relationships you sustain even when there’s no immediate problem — you will lack the ability to exercise influence beyond your group. And even in your own world, your influence will be limited. If you’ve ever worked for a boss who lacked any organizational clout or credibility, you know how frustrating that is.

I’m not saying you have to play ‘politics’, but it’s important that you can see when it’s happening, build the right relationships and communicate effectively with key stakeholders in your organisation on an ongoing basis.

So how do you play politics without the politics? Be P.O.L.I.T.I.C.A.L.L.Y S.A.V.V.Y

1. Perform!

First and foremost, be a top performer. Do your job, plus 1%. Be known as a “Star”  — someone people want on their team. Volunteer for projects and new initiatives.

2. Observe behaviours

Observing your peers and managers act in certain situations can teach you a great deal about peoples’ inter-relationships, their allegiances and their battles. An understanding of these relationships and power struggles may help you in building the right relationships and avoiding unnecessary conflict in the future.

3. Lead by example

People in an organisation look to leadership to see how to act. Do you want your team to refrain from negative politics? Do you want to see collaboration and teamwork instead of petty rivalries, jealousy, and back-stabbing? Act the way you want your people to act, and they will follow you.

Stand for the right things. Reputations are hard to build and easy to destroy. Be known as a person who is trustworthy, reliable, honest and fair. Do what you say you will do. Speak up when you hear false rumours, unfair criticism or slurs. Even if you are not liked by everyone, you will be respected by most.

4. Invest in others’ success

We all have responsibilities and objectives, and those things should receive priority. Nonetheless, if it doesn’t take too much time, being helpful to others can reap benefits for you. Be willing to share your expertise, experience and insights with others. You’ll gain greater confidence as people develop and, as they advance, you’ll broaden your network and access to information, resources, etc. One way to convert your ‘competitors’ to allies: help them succeed.

5. Think Win – Win

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him or her. Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agree resolution and not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice, but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace. Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long-term.

6. Identify key players

To survive office politics, know who the key players are. Obviously, you can pick out the senior management team. There will be other people in the organisation who are looked to for answers and opinions, even by the boss. They may or may not be the most senior or experienced. You can pick them out because they will usually voice an opinion or provide input on most subjects. You will observe people going to them for counsel, advice and insight. Knowing who’s who in your organisation is important, as you need to learn from these people and understand what is being prized and rewarded.

7. Cast the right shadow

The best way to keep out of trouble politically is to be seen as someone who doesn’t play office politics. Do what you say you’re going to do, alert people to problems, and admit your mistakes. Others will respect you, even if they don’t always agree with you. More important, you have a lower chance of being a victim of politics.

8. Avoid Gossip

Gossiping is the fuel for workplace politics. Gossiping means that things are not dealt with directly and can be very damaging. Whatever has been said is usually distorted as it is passed around, whether intentionally or not. Be direct and deal with things professionally. Try not to gossip — and if someone tells you something, don’t pass it on. You can let your co-workers know (verbally or by your actions) that you don’t want to engage in gossip. This can be hard initially but once people see that you mean what you say, they will respect you for it. Take a step back and try and be objective — it will help you to keep a professional distance and avoid being pulled into politics yourself.

Resist the temptation to publicly blame and criticize those above you — they may not be
perfect but they’re probably doing what they believe is best. Work to see the whole picture of a situation but realise that you’re rarely privy to every piece of the puzzle.

9. Learn lessons fast

Be willing to own up to your mistakes and failures; people will respect (and, hopefully, forgive) you for your courage. Always look for the lessons learned so you don’t repeat them. If the company’s culture and politics are making you miserable, move on. Decide it’s time to go before you are asked to leave or before you have lost your self-esteem. When you leave, don’t burn your bridges. Use your lessons to find a role or company where you start with a clean slate and thrive.

10. Live and work by your values

It’s an unfortunate truth that there are those who’ll do anything to “win,” but character and credibility count. You don’t need to play underhanded games to rise through the ranks. According to research by the Political Skill at Work authors, the four competencies that demonstrate organisational political skill are: sincerity, networking, interpersonal influence and social astuteness.  These are all highly ethical and respectable behaviours, not the underhanded or unsavoury ones often associated with office politics.

11. Your inner voice is normally right

Learn to trust your instincts. They’re normally right.

12. Strengthen your Network

Few of us succeed without help. Cherish friends and supporters. Cultivate mentors and confidantes who will offer good counsel and share important information. Seek advice from people you can learn from, people who can influence your career. Ask for candid feedback regularly.

13. Anticipate

To get things done, you have to see the world through the eyes of others. Too many leaders spend too little time anticipating. They over-focus on what they’re trying to do and don’t think about the roadblocks others may put in their way. Before you say or do anything you have to understand the agendas of those around you. Anticipating the arguments they’ll make is the first of the skills you need.

14. Value your people

Imagine the success your business could achieve if you truly engaged and motivated your employees by developing a climate that provided them with absolute clarity about where the business was going and their contribution to the journey; a climate that inspired only standards of excellence where employees strived to offer nothing but their best and were free to innovate and create; a climate that recognised and rewarded individuals based not only upon their contribution to success but also tailored to satisfy their personal needs and values.

This type of climate cannot be achieved using a Terminator leadership style, which inadvertently kills employees enthusiasm and passion for the job that they do and the company they work for.

Business success today demands a different inspirational leadership style that understands the importance of finding out what makes employees tick.  A style that enables employees to understand why what they do is worthwhile and feel valued for doing it.  A style that develops employees who look forward to coming to work and who are willing to go to extreme lengths to deliver excellence in a job and company they are proud of.

15. Visibility with the Boss

Unless you have unique and irreplaceable knowledge or skills (or are related to the CEO), your boss has more power than you do.  Your manager also has greater access to key decision-makers.  So it’s better to have your boss as an advocate than an adversary.  Politically savvy people know how to “manage up”.

16. You have a choice!

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognise that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react.

Thanks for taking time out to read ‘Playing Politics without the Politics’ – Hopefully you’re now a little more POLITICALLY SAVVY.

Would love to hear how you’ve dealt with Office Politics!

Communicate or Fail ~ Part 2

Personal CommunicationCommunicate or Fail is a two-part post focussing on communications at an organisational level and on a personal level. Part 2 will focus on personal communication. Click here if you missed part 1.

Effective communication remains at the heart of business. It is a crucial skill that must be mastered in order to be successful, even in today’s twitter-based world. While literacy levels continue to fall and good expression seems irrelevant to many, the ability to convey your message effectively will help you and your organisation stand out from the crowd.

From short emails, to mission statements, to large business proposals, effective communication is a skill you cannot afford to be without. If you can make your point or present a case clearly, you have a better chance of influencing people, gaining their support and motivating them. If you can give people clear instructions and information, they are better equipped for the tasks asked of them.  It could be the thing that helps you win that big client or a promotion!

Each person has a unique communication style. By getting to know your style, you can achieve greater self-awareness and learn how to develop more effective interpersonal relations with colleagues, customers and even at home.  Accurate self-knowledge is truly the starting point for effectiveness at work. Understanding other people’s communication styles improves working relationships by increasing our acceptance of other people and their way of doing things.

I personally find the DISC model and Myers Briggs the most useful tools to help you understand communication styles. Once you have established your natural communication style you can start to think about how you can adapt your style to drive the right outcomes with others. Adapting your communication style is not about changing who you are nor is it about changing your intended message. Adapting your communication style choice is only about conveying your intended message in the manner that the other person is going to be best able to receive and understand it.

The diagram below, based upon the DISC model, shows the four basic communicator styles: They tend to be called different names depending on the methodology used, but they’re all pretty similar.

Communication Styles

How to interact with each style:

Relators

Relators like to work with groups and build relationships. Security is important to them and they like consistency and focusing on areas of specialisation. You should:

  • Be sincere and personable
  • Take an interest in him or her as a person
  • Be patient in drawing them out
  • Use open-ended questions
  • Present new ideas in a non-threatening manner
  • Give plenty of time to adjust
  • Clearly define individual goals and roles
  • Offer and provide personal support
  • Focus on the benefit of his or her contribution to the group

Socialisers

Socialisers like recognition and pride themselves on being popular. They like freedom of speech and freedom from control and detail. They work best in an open environment. You should:

  • Create a positive, friendly environment
  • Give them plenty of opportunities to speak about ideas, people, and their intuition
  • Engage them with stimulating and fun activities
  • Reinforce conversations with written documentation
  • Foster a democratic relationship
  • Incorporate incentives for taking risks
  • Encourage him or her in thinking outside of the box

Thinkers

Thinkers know there’s a place for everything and everything should be in its place. Correctness and exactness are highly valued. You should:

  • Take time to prepare your case in advance
  • Make an appointment
  • Provide both the pros and cons of your plan
  • Support your ideas with volumes of data
  • Assure that you’ve eliminated all surprises
  • Provide a detailed plan with a precise explanation of how it fits in the big picture
  • Stay focused on the issue when disagreeing
  • Be prepared to provide many explanations with patience and persistence

Directors

Directors must be in charge. They pride themselves on achievement and focus on results. The bigger the challenge, the better they feel. You should:

  • Provide direct answers
  • Get to the point
  • Be brief
  • Stick to business
  • Show how your plan will get results, solve problems, and allow this individual to be in charge
  • Identify ways in which your idea will benefit the Director
  • Ask questions that focus on “what,” not “how”
  • Avoid direct disagreement

Communication Basics

There are 3 skills you need to hone to be an effective communicator, namely listening, speaking and writing. You won’t be astonished to read that, I hope! However, you would be surprised at how little effort people invest in them.

Listening

Listening is really where all good communication begins. Misunderstanding what another person is saying is one of the biggest obstacles to communication. Each of us sees the world in a unique way, and we usually assume that everyone sees it the same way we do.

Below are some barriers to effective listening. You’ll probably recognise that most of them apply to you at one time or another.

  • We can think faster than a speaker can talk, and jump to conclusions
  • We are distracted and allow our minds to wander
  • We lose patience, and decide we are not interested
  • We overreact to what’s said and react emotionally
  • We interrupt

So how do you become a generous listener?

1. Don’t talk. Listen. People want a chance to get their own ideas and opinions across. A good listener lets them do it. If you interrupt the speaker or put limitations on your listening time, the speaker will get the impression that you’re not interested in what he is saying — even if you are. So be courteous and give the speaker your full attention.

2. Don’t jump to conclusions. Many people tune out a speaker when they think they have the gist of their conversation or know what they’re going to say next. Assumptions can be dangerous. Maybe the speaker is not following the same train of thought that you are, or is not planning to make the point you think they are. If you don’t listen, you may miss the real point the speaker is trying to get across.

3. Listen for the ‘unsaid’. Concentrate on what is not being said as well as what is being said. Remember, a lot of clues to meaning come from the speaker’s tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures. People don’t always say what they mean, but their body language is usually an accurate indication of their attitude and emotional state.

4. Ask questions.  If you are not sure of what the speaker is saying, ask. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “Do you mean . . . ?”or “Did I understand you to say . . . ?” It’s also a good idea to repeat what the speaker has said in your own words to confirm that you have understood him correctly.

5. Don’t get distracted. Don’t let yourself be distracted by the environment or by the speaker’s appearance, accent, mannerisms, or word use. Paying too much attention to these districations can break your concentration and make you miss the point of the conversation.

6. Be open-minded. Don’t just listen for statements that back up your own opinions and support your beliefs, or for certain parts that interest you. The point of listening, after all, is to gain new information. Be willing to listen to someone else’s point of view and ideas. A subject that may seem boring or trivial at first can turn out to be fascinating, if you listen with an open mind.

7. Provide feedback. Make eye contact with the speaker. Show him you understand his talk by nodding your head, maintaining an upright posture, and, if appropriate, interjecting an occasional comment such as ”I see” or “that’s interesting” or “really.” The speaker will appreciate your interest and feel that you are really listening.

Hearing is natural. Generous listening is a skill that we learn.

Speaking

We’re not all born with a natural talent for public speaking or getting our message across effectively. Many people lack confidence in their ability to express themselves verbally – not necessarily all the time, but perhaps in certain situations or circumstances. However, talking to one another does tend to make things happen! It is not always what is said, but how it is said that can make the difference between good and poor speaking skills.

A good speaker:

  • Relates to the listener
  • Is respectful of others
  • Encourages trust
  • Shows empathy
  • Is purposeful and clear
  • Uses appropriate vocabulary
  • Speaks with fluency
  • Is confident and credible
  • Is approachable and responsive
  • Uses body language well
  • Involves listeners
  • Enables participation
  • Knows what to leave out
  • Generates interest
  • Uses silence well
  • Varies pitch/pace/tone according to the situation
  • Is passionate about their topic

By far the best way to improve your verbal communication skills is to practice, particularly in areas where you are least confident. Put yourself in situations that require you to communicate effectively, be that one to one, or to a group. Speak at work. Speak at your child’s school. Speak at a town hall meeting. Speak in your car. Speak in front of the mirror.

You won’t ever achieve perfection. But you will improve. Little by little, your practice will result in improvement. Feedback is crucial to improving your speaking skills, so take the good and the not so good on board and work on those areas for improvement

Writing

The first step to writing clearly is choosing the appropriate format. Do you need to send an informal email? Write a detailed report? Create an advert? Or write a formal letter?

The format, as well as your audience, will define your “writing voice” – that is, how formal or relaxed the tone should be. For instance, if you write an email to a prospective client it should have a different tone to that of an email to a friend.

Start by identifying who will read your message. Is it targeted at senior managers, your team, or to customers? With everything you write, your readers, or recipients, should define your tone as well as aspects of the content.

Composition and Style

Once you know what you’re writing, and for whom you’re writing, you actually have to start writing.

Start with your audience – Remember, your readers may know nothing about what you’re telling them. What do they need to know first?

Create an outline – This is especially helpful if you’re writing a longer document such as a report, presentation, or speech. Outlines help you identify which steps to take in which order, and they help you break the task up into manageable pieces of information.

• What’s in it for the audience? – For instance, if you’re writing a sales letter for prospective clients, why should they care about your product or sales pitch? What’s the benefit for them? Remember your audience’s needs at all times.

Identify your main theme – If you’re having trouble defining the main theme of your message, pretend that you have 15 seconds to explain your position. What do you say? This is likely to be your main theme.

Use simple language – Unless you’re writing a technical guide,  it’s usually best to use simple, direct language. Don’t use long words just to impress people.

Structure

Your document should be as “reader friendly” as possible. Use headings, subheadings, bullet points, and numbering whenever possible to break up the text.

After all, what’s easier to read – a page full of long paragraphs, or a page that’s broken up into short paragraphs, with section headings and bullet points? A document that’s easy to scan will get read more often than a document with long, dense paragraphs of text.

Headers should grab the reader’s attention. Using questions is often a good idea, especially in advertising copy or reports, because questions help keep the reader engaged and curious.

In emails and proposals, use short, factual headings and subheadings, like the ones in this article.

Adding pictures is also a smart way to break up your text. These visual aids not only keep the reader’s eye engaged, but they can communicate important information much more quickly than text.

Good luck with improving your Personal Communication!

Communicate or Fail ~ Part 1

Communicate or Fail!

Communicate or Fail may sound a little extreme. It’s not. Organisations and individuals can succeed or fail on the effectiveness of their communications. Communicate or Fail is a two-part post focussing on communications at an organisational level and on a personal level. Part 1 will focus on organisational communication.

Good organisational communication can help an organisation increase market share and competitiveness, improve customer service and satisfaction, and keep employees motivated and engaged. Poor or no communication, on the other hand, can be extremely destructive.

The communication landscape is more complex than ever before. We have a myriad of different channels at our disposal; audiences are more selective in how they use and react to these channels, and it is almost impossible to quantify the number of messages that compete for the attention of those audiences.

People learn and process information in many different ways. Research tells us that we retain 10% of what we read; 20% of what we hear; 30% of what we see; 50% of what we see and hear; 70% of what we discuss; 80% of what we experience; and 95% of what we share and communicate to others. On this basis, sending an email to engage an audience is probably not going to set the world on fire in its own right!

In considering organisational communication it is important to distinguish between formal and informal communication.  The most common form of formal communication within an organisation is communication downward (vertically) through the hierarchical structure of the organisation arising from top management level.

Many organisations attempt to facilitate upward communication within organisations through measures such as staff surveys and suggestion schemes.  Staff surveys are often used to help the organisation identify actions that will improve performance. But this in itself often presents its own potential problems and leads to misleading information being supplied to management.

By managing the proper integration across this mix of activities, a communicating organisation ensures that information not only flows up and down within the organisation but also flows across functional teams and between itself and external stakeholders, including its customers and suppliers.

So what forms of communication should you be thinking about for your internal communications?

Key Themes for Effective Internal Communication

1. A Shared Vision

“If you don’t care where you’re going, then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

—Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

If your people don’t understand where they’re going, why they’re going there and what happens for them on the journey and more importantly when they get there – guess what, you don’t have motivated, engaged and passionate employees. If they don’t care where they’re going, you’ve got a much bigger problem!

Communicating the vision of an organisation, a team or a new direction is an opportunity to invigorate the work force, explain the challenges ahead, and tell your story. It is an opportunity lost if it does not enroll the workforce in a call to action and stir people’s passions. So many times in my career, have I seen company vision statements that have been developed by senior managers or an agency and delivered via posters and mouse mats, and then management wonder why their people don’t immediately change their behaviours and get behind it?

Ideally you should work with your people to shape your vision. If your organisation is small enough, use everyone and get their input. If you work in a larger business use a good cross-section of people from all levels and departments. Where possible use your ‘rising stars’ that are passionate about, not only the organisation, but also driving change and influencing others.

I can thoroughly recommend Full Steam Ahead by Ken Blanchard and Jesse Lyn Stoner if you want to learn more around creating a shared vision for your business.

2. Senior Leadership Involvement

Visible buy‐in and engagement at the top is essential. Ensure that the head of your organisation is fully briefed on internal communications, has an opportunity to shape the strategy and is fully involved in key internal communications.  This is important not only as the CEO is a key communications channel, but also because his or her behaviour will help set expectations for transparency and authenticity. Consider opportunities to demonstrate a real commitment to information sharing, in order to illustrate that information hoarding is not acceptable within your organisation’s performance or culture.

It’s also important that the wider senior leadership team are bought into whatever you are communicating. At best they won’t be reinforcing the messages you are trying to get across. At worst, they could be sabotaging your efforts.

3. Understand Your Audience

Understanding your audience is crucial to building a successful communications plan; the bigger the message and impact on the organisation, the more important the analysis.

Before you communicate with your people, there is some basic information you need to discover about them. Ask them how they feel about the current level of internal communication. Discern whether they feel informed about changes, if they feel comfortable sharing their opinions, and how they would like to see communication improve.

Ask the hard questions. See if they would be willing to share specific examples of when they felt out of the loop or ignored. Try not to be defensive when they share; listen with an open mind.

Identify how employees like to receive information: email, newsletter, face-to-face, or other options. Ask if the method depends on what information is shared. For example, a weekly announcement can be communicated via email, but a major staff change needs to be shared in person.

4. Employee Engagement

There is nothing worse than being preached to or what I call communicating ‘at’. Your people will not get behind this kind of communication. Make sure that communication is two-way and you build in mechanisms to capture feedback, tweak your messages to your audience and keep reinforcing your message. Marketers often get bored if they have to do a ‘campaign’ more than once or twice.  The rule of 7 is a traditional marketing practice that suggests people must see a marketing message 7 times before they take action.  When communicating messages, whether to internal or external customers, the concepts remain the same.  Think of on-going communication with your teams; communicate it often and through various delivery methods.

What’s In It for Me? Employees will internalise any message communicated. How will this affect me?  What does this mean to me?  Will it make my job harder?  These questions are natural. The more relevant our messaging, the more our employee will be comfortable with the message.

Paint a picture of what this may look like: use examples representative of your audience. This kind of communication engages and excites employees, promotes teamwork and aligns everyone toward achieving company goals.

5. Line Manager Reinforcement

It’s no secret that the relationship between a line manager/team leader and their team has the most direct impact on engagement. Focus on the behaviour change and require managers to report results on actions they’ve taken to impact engagement in their teams. This should be weighted as an indication of performance when someone manages others directly.

Regular team briefings with managers can improve relationships and help your people feel involved and informed about developments that affect them. Cascade team briefings can quickly disseminate key messages throughout the organisation. This method is also very effective at quashing grapevine rumours.

The team environment means that no one is overlooked and it reinforces group motivation. Team briefings should not replace regular team meetings with the staff’s line manager – which is the most popular form of communication – but the brief can be given at the start of the team meeting.

A system for feeding back and responding to questions from staff should also be built in to the process. You need to monitor the system regularly to ensure that it is operating effectively across the organisation.

6. Multi-channel Communication Tools

  • Face to Face Communication – Wherever possible and practical, employee communication should take place face‐to‐face. In‐person exchanges are the most effective and trusted forms of internal communication. What’s more, that direct conversation can also unravel otherwise effective communications activities such as newsletters and intranet content if the spokesperson fails to establish trust or authenticity. Design communication strategies and tactics around meaningful opportunities for face‐to‐face exchange. If distance is a challenge, explore the use of web conferences as a means of bridging that geographical gap rather than relying on the passive and cold medium of email.
  • ‘Live Meetings’ – with the advent of applications like Microsoft Lync you can reach large numbers of people quickly, effectively and across the globe with multimedia interactive broadcasts to get your message across. These meetings can be extremely interactive if planned well and more personal than email or a conference call.
  • Enterprise Social Media – It’s no secret that social media is transforming the way people communicate in the workplace. As more and more companies are realising the value of engaging their employees online, social media is quickly becoming a preferred way of increasing knowledge sharing, encouraging teamwork and collaboration and adding value to the employee experience. To this effect, many businesses and organisations are using social media tools, like forums, blogs and social networks, to enable their staff and stakeholders to converse, collaborate and connect – Chatter via Salesforce.com and Yammer being two fast-growing enterprise-wide examples.Using social media as part of your internal communications plan has a number of benefits. For one, companies are able to have real-time, authentic conversations with employees. Plus the very nature of social media means that anyone can participate in discussions, allowing communication to flow from the top down, bottom up, and even from side to side. If you are part of a national or global company it also means you can connect with people all over the world on a more involved level than just email and phone.
  • Blogging – Blogs are a better communication tool when you want to get information out to people, and want to enable feedback, but keep the original text intact. Internal blogging is frequently used to communicate  activities like product development, support issues, product releases, planning events and conferences, providing informal updates on miscellaneous issues. Blogs usually encourage readers to comment, provide feedback open dialogue and exchange ideas in an informal context.
  • Intranet – Unless heavily adopted and promoted in your organisation, intranets are not the best place to ‘engage’ employees. They’re great to store information, get someone’s mobile number, read policies, log a fault on your PC and catch up on things when you have time. They’re not great by themselves to enrol your people in your message!
  • Email – Email is a good system for keeping track of conversations and saves on time and energy. You can email large groups of people and ensure that they were aware of the discussion because there is a common expectation of reading emails regularly. However emails are impersonal if used to large groups, prone to all types of mistakes and often ignored if used regularly.

7. Continuously Measure Effectiveness

Measurement is always an important part of any form of communication strategy, but it is especially relevant in the case of employee communication. Setting up clear indicators of performance will be vital in calibrating the strategy and tactics with appropriate precision. Internal communication may be deployed to track against outcomes such as morale, retention, recruitment, productivity, job satisfaction and/or employee safety. Being clear about “what success looks like,” and establishing internal alignment around that end state is instrumental to having high impact employee communication programs that deliver results.

Would love to get your feedback on this post. I know I’m only scratching the surface of this topic. Part two of Communicate or Fail coming soon!

Destiny or Design ~ Choose to Succeed

Choose to SucceedLife is not something that just happens to you, something you are powerless to do anything about. You have choices. You can make the choice to succeed. It is never too late to improve your life and implement the changes that are going to lead you to your ambitions.

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but below I’ve highlighted a few areas to focus on that will help you be more successful in whatever you choose to do.

1.        Have a Plan

‘Fail to plan and you plan to fail’ as the saying goes.

Where do you want to be in 5 years? What steps do you need to take in order to get there?

a)      Work out a goal

b)      Plan how to achieve it

c)       Break it into small tasks

d)      Introduce a time frame and make a timeline that works for you

e)      Work out what the key barriers are

f)       Stick to the timeline as much as possible

g)      Measure your progress

2.       Learn Lessons….Fast

It’s never easy to admit you’ve made a mistake, but it’s a crucial step in learning, growing, and improving yourself. Admission of a mistake, even if only to yourself, makes learning possible by moving the focus away from blame and towards understanding. Wise people admit their mistakes easily. They know that they can only make personal progress when they do.

Success in learning from mistakes often requires involvement from other people, either for advice, training or simply to keep you honest and give you feedback. A supportive friend’s or mentor’s perspective on your behaviour will be more objective than your own and help you identify when you’re in denial!

Consider your actions from other people’s perspectives. Think about what you did and whether you made a good decision given the information you had at the time. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, analyse your approach, and be honest with yourself about whether you had the capabilities to avoid mistakes. This ruthlessness will allow you to see more clearly and understand what you should have done instead.

No amount of analysis can replace confidence in yourself. When you’ve made a mistake, especially a visible one that impacts other people, it’s natural to question your ability to perform next time. But you must get past your doubts. The best you can do is study the past, practice for the situations you expect, and get back in the game. Your studying of the past should help broaden your perspective.

3.       Never Give Up

Winston Churchill gave a speech in 1941 to a group of school children, that still holds true over 70 years later:

“The pessimist sees the problems in every opportunity. Whereas the optimist sees the opportunity in every problem. Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense”

There is no way around it: sometimes life gets hard. Obstacles can seem insurmountable. But success is often the result of pushing through these problems. People who find success rarely have an easy path but their willingness to persevere helped them to eventually meet their goals.

There are few things that will drive you toward success as quickly as a strong work ethic. People notice when others work hard. While working hard isn’t a guarantee that you’ll become a Chief Executive or a top sports person, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Few successful people got to where they are by sitting back and doing nothing, as it’s often a hard road to the top.

4.       Learn to Communicate

Good communication is not an easy process and it can take a lot of practice. However, if you are able to develop self-awareness and work towards clearly expressing your feelings and develop your listening skills you will be on your way to becoming an effective communicator which will undoubtedly have a positive and long-lasting impact on all your personal and professional relationships.

Look out for the upcoming post dedicated to Communication – Communicate or Fail

5.       Set Challenging Personal Goals

Goals need to stir your emotions in order to motivate you to do whatever it takes to accomplish them thus the importance of setting challenging goals. By increasing the level of challenge you set yourself, you can also increase your motivation to accomplish the given aim, particularly when you know that the achievement of this goal will result in a positive outcome for you and your financial security. Every time you set a new goal try to make it a challenge that is not that easy to accomplish, but still reachable and realistic.

6.       Believe in Yourself

If you believe it, you have a better than average chance of achieving it. Few successful people got where they are by having a low opinion of their abilities. Before anyone else can believe in you, you have to believe in yourself and your ability to achieve what it is you want to achieve. Those who are confident are often more successful as leaders, regardless of the field, and chances are you can’t name too many leaders in business, politics, or any other field who don’t have this quality.

7.       Choose your Role Models

I’ve been really fortunate in my life to have known a number of very bright people, from different industries, backgrounds, cultures and time zones. I’ve not really formalised too many of these relationships as ‘mentors’ or consciously as ‘role models’, but I have worked hard with these relationships to learn more and more about business, people and success.

The people you choose to adopt as your role models or mentors throughout your life can be virtually anyone whom you respect and from whom you believe you can learn something towards your goals. It could be a co-worker, your manager, a friend, a customer….anyone who you believe you can learn from. As you select a person, you’re looking to obtain new knowledge or emulate some aspect of that person’s success – you’re not trying to actually become that person. Throughout your personal and professional life, you will evolve and your mentoring needs will change.

8.       Be Positive

Many people believe that success will make them happy.  They work long hours, sacrificing time with family and friends, because they are convinced that they will find happiness when they finally achieve success.  But according to research in positive psychology it is the other way around.  Being positive makes it more likely that you will be successful.

Positive attitude is not only about choosing to have a good outlook through good times and bad, but also about learning to love what you do. I have observed that outstanding business people are successful because they deeply love their work. The achievers of this world know that if you can learn to love your job, you’ll be more productive, more creative, and more content. Think of most successful people you know, and you may agree that most are passionate about what they do, are rarely affected by negativity, and tend to enjoy their work. I know for certain that the better your attitude the better your work and your life will be for you.

9.       Recharge the Batteries

While there are many people who are financially successful, there are many that don’t really have much balance in their lives. Balance really is an essential component to a happy life. After all, what does money mean if you’re lonely or miserable? Giving the mind time to relax, step away from work and responsibilities, and just enjoy life can actually lead to greater success as a rested mind is better able to think quickly and be creative.

Easier said than done. Believe me, I know. But in a 24-7 world, a work-life balance is no longer a nicety but a necessity, for organisations and individuals. The reality is that humans don’t have Intel inside and unlimited energy, only caffeine. Without proactively managing your downtime the result will be stress, burnout, illness and increased anxiety —all of which reduces chances of success at home and at work.

Everyone has different ways that they replenish their energies, be that through exercise, art, religion, reading and so on. Make sure you find yours and make time for yourself.

10.   Build and Nurture Your Network

You never know when you’ll need to tap into your network of contacts on your path to success. You may find a previous post (Business Networking – It’s not ‘what’ you know…) useful.

Choose to Succeed11.   Take a leap of faith

If someone invited you to go sky-diving, would you go?  If you were offered a top job in an industry that was unfamiliar to you, would you accept the position?  Whether it’s a fear of heights, a fear of the dark, or a fear of public speaking, we have all experienced fear. Perhaps the biggest fear for many of us, is a fear of failure.

But if we never try, how will we know the outcome?  So many people worry about what will happen if they fail, that they lose sight of what could happen if they succeed. Fear can keep us from moving forward. Consider the missed opportunities in your life. Think about the relationships you didn’t pursue, or end. Think about the career opportunities you allowed to pass you by because you were more comfortable with the status quo. Think about the dreams and goals you once had, but are now stuffed down into a seemingly unreachable place in your memory. Imagine if you had taken a leap of faith.

A leap of faith is just that – a leap from what you know and trust and to the unknown. Frequently, personal growth lives on the other side of the leap – try it!

12.   Be Open to New Experiences

An old proverb says, “If you always think the way you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve already got.”

You may conclude that the converse of this is therefore: If you want something that you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something that you’ve never done.

To achieve continued success, you must open yourself up to new learning experiences that may make you feel uncertain at best and incompetent at worst. Remember that those feelings are temporary and a prelude to greater future.

13.   Be Accountable

If you do what you say when you say you’re going to do it, people will trust you because your word will mean something. This can be a big deal when it comes to getting promotions, managing others, or even negotiating business deals. Honesty, integrity, and fairness are all aspects of personal accountability worth working on and will help others view you as more responsible and dependable.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Would love to hear any comments or feedback.

THE Key Performance Indicator – Keep People Inspired

Keep People InspiredBusiness is all about measurement. Peter Drucker was an influential writer, management consultant, and self-described “social ecologist” and his quote – “What gets measured gets managed” is never more true than in today’s tough economic climate. The use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are at the heart of most high performing businesses. However, there is often one important KPI missing,  and that is Keeping People Inspired.

That might sound trite, but without measuring the motivation of your teams in your business on a regular basis, understanding and addressing the root cause of any areas of low morale, you could be setting yourself and your teams up to fail.

An easy and cheap way to measure the motivation of your employees is through observation of how enthusiastic they are about arriving at work, interacting with colleagues and engaging in tasks they are given. In addition, the level of motivation among the work force can also be measured by the improvements in performance appraisals, and the quality of work performed. For those people new to the work force, the motivated employees will likely be the ones who demonstrate initiative by asking for additional work or more challenging assignments. For seasoned employees, their motivation is obvious in the ways they offer assistance to new employees, and seek ways to improve company processes and procedures for better efficiency and effectiveness.

A more formal and effective way to measure how your team is feeling is to survey them in some way on a regular basis. This could take the form of an online or paper survey. There are numerous examples online to help you shape your survey and ask your managers and team members to input into questions. Alternatively you can use survey agencies to help you create, compile, collate and analyse the results. Surveys should be anonymous and the questions unambiguous to get the best results. It’s important that you understand the results fully and take note of even the smallest shift backwards in team motivation. Play back the results to your team and ask them for feedback on how areas can be improved. The most important element here is to ACT on agreed changes and ACT quickly. Not acting to improve areas for improvement will decrease morale and motivation further in your team.

Assuming you’ve got measurements in place and are acting upon the results, how do you personally Keep People Inspired (assuming they were inspired at all in the first place!)?

  1. Lead by example – Practice what you preach or don’t preach at all. Be the change you want to see in your business or organisation.  If you really want to inspire others to do something, then this should be a big part of your life.  You don’t necessarily need to be an expert, but you do need to be passionately involved.
  2. Be authentic – Find the courage to keep being yourself. It won’t always be easy.
  3. Be passionate – Passion is something you must be willing to express if you want to inspire others.  You can gain a lot of influence just by publicly expressing that you are excited and passionate about a topic.  Expressive passion is contagious because of the curiosity it stirs in others.  You’ll get people wondering why you love what you love so much.  Naturally, some of them will take the time necessary to understand what it is about the topic that moves you.
  4. Be great at what you do – People watch what you do more than they listen to what you say.  Be someone worth emulating.  Most people are inspired by GREAT musicians, writers, painters, speakers, entrepreneurs, engineers, mothers, fathers, athletes, etc.  There’s only one thing they all have in common: They excel at what they do.
  5. Genuinely care about people – Most people can see through a colleague, manager or leader that doesn’t genuinely care about them as individuals. Spend time talking to your team and be genuinely interested in who they are as people.
  6. Challenge people to be the best they can be – If people know we expect great things from them, they will often go to great lengths to live up to our expectations. You are letting your people down if you do not try to develop them and help them to meet their potential.
  7. Speak up for your people – We are very connected to each other in various ways, the most important of which is our thoughts.  Out of fear, or shyness, lots of people hesitate to articulate their thoughts.  If you take the risk and say the things others are holding back, you become the glue that brings people together.
  8. Make people feel good about themselves – People will rarely remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.  Start noticing what you like about others and tell them.  Go out of your way to personally acknowledge and complement the people who have gone out of their way to excel.
  9. Share your Lessons Learned – When you can, be a resource to those around you. Mine the experiences of your life and share the lessons you have learned in your career.  Be vulnerable.  Be willing to share your failures as well as your successes.
  10. Keep your promises – If you say you’re going to do something, DO IT!
  11. Listen intently to what others say (and also to what they don’t say) – Make people feel important, and inspire them by showing them that they are.
  12. Communicate, communicate, and communicate clearly – Keeping things to yourself does not inspire.  Share your vision and ideas often with those around you.

I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve been inspired and what motivates you?

High Energy – High Performance

In my last post, I talked about the importance of Focus. In this post I will be talking about the importance of energy and how you manage yours to ensure you achieve your goals. While both focus and energy are important, neither by itself is sufficient to produce the kind of decisive action organisations need most from their leaders. Focus without energy leads to poor execution or burnout. Energy without focus leads to ‘busy fools’, or worst case to a series of wasteful failures and lost opportunities.

It is widely acknowledged that personal energy comes from 4 different energy sources:Energy

Personal Energy = Physical Energy + Mental Energy + Emotional Energy + Spiritual Energy

Few people in business comprehend the importance of managing all four energies to perform at their peak. Should one or more energies be running at a deficit you will not perform to your best.

Physical Energy

Physical Energy is the primary energy and the foundation of personal energy. Physical energy is regulated by diet, exercise and sleep. This energy is tapped regardless of whether the task is physical. Most of us do not do particularly physically demanding jobs, but physical energy is still incredibly important. There are tens of thousands of blogs, books and articles about how to improve your physical energy so I won’t dwell on it in this post. Suffice to say that it is fundamentally important to manage your Physical Energy and to be aware when you are running on empty. With low physical energy, you tend to draw more heavily on your other energy sources leading to ill-health or burn-out.

Emotional Energy

Emotional Energy is our ability to tap into a full range of emotions, i.e. feel happy when something joyful happens, feel sad when something bad happens.

People with a high amount of emotional energy will be positive, enthusiastic and happy. Low amounts of this energy are the manifestations of anger, despair and frustration. Emotional energy can be heavily influenced by others either positively or negatively. I’ve highlighted some areas for you to think about to maintain and strengthen your Emotional Energy.

1. Avoid ‘Energy Vampires’ – We all know at least one Energy Vampire; someone who nags, complains or always involves you in their problems and never has anything positive to say. Energy Vampires suck the life (your Emotional Energy) right out of you. Ideally, you need to surround yourself with positive people. Spending more time with those who make you feel good about yourself or inspire you in some way will revive you.

2. Stop living to please other people. Trying to be someone who you are not is a drain on your emotional energy. We all have important relationships that we need to foster and nurture, but many of us try to be someone who we’re not just to please them. This expends significant energy and actually is counterproductive to building strong honest relationships.

3. Always have something to look forward to. Plan your next holiday or get a date in the diary to meet that friend you have been too busy to see. Looking forward to milestones and events stimulates people. It gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and that increases your desire to work toward your goals. Actually putting the wheels in motion (for example, calling the travel agent, sending a some dates to your friend to meet up) will also make you feel better .

4. Don’t live in the past. Learn from the past, by all means, but focus on the here and now and what you need to do to move forward. Although you can’t predict everything that will happen to you, you can make a flexible plan to accomplish your goals. Things like your career path, relationships in which you’d like to invest and how you would like to spend your free time are all under your control.

Mental Energy

Mental Energy is our ability to intensely focus and perform complex mental tasks when needed but to also be able to let our mind rest and do nothing.

As many of us now work in knowledge based roles, we use a lot of this type of energy on a daily basis. This is the energy of creativity, decision-making, writing, reading, learning new information and much more. Most of us now rely on our mental energy to survive.

How effectively we use our mental energy will ultimately decide how successful we are in our lives. It is our mental energy, through our thought processes, that determines our values and goals and the actions we take, which ultimately determine what we make of our lives.

How well we maximise the use of our mental energy and powers will be a major factor determining how successful and happy our lives turn out.

Like our bodies, our minds need exercise, feeding and rest to get the most from it.

  1. Read – The simple act of reading can help to improve mental sharpness and energy. Reading is like brain exercise and it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you read regularly. You may even learn something! With the advent of smartphones, kindles and tablets, it’s easy to read almost anywhere and you can make the most of ‘dead’ time in your day.
  2. Write – Writing is good for your mind in a number of ways. It is a way to tell your memory what is important, so you’ll recall things more easily in the future. It is a way to clarify your thinking. It is a way to exercise your creativity and analytical ability. Diaries, idea-journals, blogging, note-taking and story-writing are all ways to use writing to boost your mental energy.
  3. Take Time to Reflect – Often our lives get so hectic that we become overwhelmed without even realising it. It becomes difficult to concentrate because nagging thoughts keep interrupting. Spending some time alone in reflection gives you a chance organise your thoughts and prioritise your actions. You’ll have a better understanding of what’s important and what isn’t.

Spiritual Energy

Spiritual Energy reflects our values, our meaning and our purpose for living the way we live. When we tap into our values and truly know our purpose in life we unleash our spiritual energy. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, purpose is a necessary ingredient to live successfully. Purpose fuels your spiritual energy, which, in my view, is the most important and most powerful form of energy. Purpose is a key to success and happiness and is often the key that will unlock all your possibilities.

Improving and replenishing your Spiritual Energy will be very personal to you, but here are some techniques that I use to help me keep my spiritual energy high:

  1. Identify your “Spiritual” activities — those that give you feelings of effectiveness, effortless absorption, and fulfilment. Find ways to do more of these. For me it’s walking in the mountains and connecting with nature.
  2.  Allocate time and energy to what you consider most important. For example, spend the last 20 minutes of your evening commute relaxing, so you can connect with your family once you’re home.
  3. Live your core values. Nothing saps spiritual energy more than you doing things that are not in line with your core values.

I hope you found this post useful and would love to hear from you on how you manage your energies.

The Brand New, Brand You! ~ Part 6

Measuring SuccessIn the sixth and final part in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the last step in the START process in Brand New, Brand You, Test.

So you’ve got to grips with Brand New, Brand You. You’ve developed your Brand – Your values and your Vision. You’ve started to build up your network of contacts and your personal brand with a wider audience. But what are people saying about your brand? Chances are, if you’ve been working with the STAR elements of START, people are talking about you and your brand already. How do you monitor these conversations both online and offline?

Online

Getting Started: How do people talk about you?

A good place to find how people know and speak about your brand is to look at the keywords and phrases they use to find your website.

You can find these metrics in the analytics package you’re using with your website. If you’re not using an analytics package like Google Analytics, Webtrends or Clicky, then brainstorm keywords and phrases that you may have heard clients/customers use in discussions you have had with them.

There are a large number of tools to choose from for monitoring Brand You and many are free to use. Here are a few free brand-monitoring tools that you may wish to try out.

Monitoring Tools

1: Google Email Alert System

You can sign up for Google Alerts quickly and easily. Using those keywords and phrases from your preliminary research, you can elect to have any instance of those keywords and phrases in combination with Brand You as Google finds them online sent straight to your inbox.

Enter the topic you wish to monitor, then click Preview to see the type of results you’ll receive.

Anytime Google indexes any mention in search results of the alerts you’re signed up for, you receive an email notification into your inbox. The notification is a direct hyperlink to the article, website, blog, product review, etc., wherein the keyword or phrase appeared. 

2: SocialMention

SocialMention allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. SocialMention monitors 100+ social media properties directly, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Google, and many more.

It’s straightforward and easy to use. You simply type the brand, product, service name or keywords/phrase into the search field, select where you would like to search the social sphere for the search term(s) you have entered and click the Search button. I recommend searching all of the categories, but if you’re limited on time and resources, narrowing your search breadth and depth may be a good place to start.

SocialMention also provides the ability to narrow or broaden your brand monitoring as you like.

Based on your search criteria, SocialMention will return all of the mentions of your brand or keyword/phrase across the web.

Within the results, you’ll be provided a number of statistics, not just the instances of brand/keyword mentions. Based on SocialMention’s search metrics, they’ll provide you sentiment ratings, top keywords used in conjunction with your brand, top users of your brand name (those mentioning it the most), strength, passion, reach and more.

You’re able to click on the links where your brand is mentioned which facilitates a direct response to the person or party mentioning your brand or keyword/phrase.

While these provided metrics are not completely scientific, they’re a good reference point for understanding the nature of the types of conversations and comments surrounding your brand.

3: TweetDeck

To narrow down where you monitor your brand, TweetDeck offers you a simple way to view multiple conversations and searches from one location. You can use the dashboard in multiple locations such as laptop, desktop, smartphone and tablet.

TweetDeck is your personal real-time browser, connecting you with your contacts across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and more.

You can monitor your brand mentions as they happen and respond just as quickly!

The power of TweetDeck and other similar dashboards like HootSuite is the ability to see tweets (conversations, comments, feedback) regarding your brand and keyword/phrases in real-time.

4: Technorati

To monitor the blogosphere for what bloggers are posting about your brand, I recommend Technorati. It’s an online tool that searches a blog directory of nearly 1.3 million blogs for all mentions of the brand or keyword/phrases that you enter in the search field.

Technorati is the world’s largest blog search engine and robust community blogging platform.

When the search results are compiled, you have a listing of posts for perusal to again determine what kinds of product and service reviews, comments, feedback, stories and more are being shared regarding your brand.

Using Technorati for monitoring your brand via blogs allows you to post comments and feedback on the blog posts. Yet another tool that permits you to join in the conversation about your brand.

The search results Technorati blog searches return can be a powerful tool in finding and building a network of blogger brand ambassadors. When you find your brand mentioned in a blog post, take the time to read it, and comment. If questions are raised about your brand on a blog post, feel free to answer the questions. Many bloggers who take the time to write about your brand will welcome your participation in the comments/conversation. Use these opportunities for involvement to build your network of brand ambassadors, as often these folks are some of your biggest fans and advocates!

5: Klout

Klout is tool used to measure and leverage your online influence based on your use of social media communication tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and Google+. Wherever you have an online presence, you have the opportunity to influence people by creating or sharing content that inspires actions such as likes, retweets, shares, comments and more. The more engagement your posts receive, the more influential you are. Tracking this influence overtime, allows you to understand your brand resonance further, and basically, highlights what you should continue you doing, and what you should refrain from exploring.

6: Bit.ly

Bit.ly is a URL shortener that tracks clicks to a URL you shorten, regardless of where you shorten it, and lets you see how many clicks that link received. It’s also a good way for determine the engagement of your network, as well as the best times to post an article. For example, tweet a blog post at 8 a.m. with one bit.ly URL, then tweet it again with a different bit.ly URL at 1 p.m., and see which time gets you the most clicks. Do this a few times, and see if you can figure out what time of day is the best time to regularly publish your blog posts.

When deciding which online monitoring tools are best for your brand’s needs, take into account all of these considerations: what, where, how and why you are monitoring. This will help you plan for and hopefully succeed in brand monitoring and give you a roadmap for how and where to participate in the conversations about your brand online.

Offline

In short, ask for feedback; from your manager, their manager, your peers and your customers. Seek feedback on a regular basis, especially after you have identified Brand You improvements or areas of focus. Exchanging information and perceptions is an iterative process, not a single event. You can do this relatively informally by just asking for feedback face to face outside of any structured one-to-ones with your manager, or you can use more formal mechanisms such as 360 degree feedback questionnaires and personality testing.

Receiving feedback is a gift that provides you with honest information about people’s’ perception of your behaviours and performance – Be open to what you will hear!

1: Face to Face Feedback

A Face to face meeting is a great way to get quick feedback about the Brand New, Brand You. I’ve listed below a few Do’s and Don’ts for these types of feedback session.

Do’s

1. Set-out to the person giving the feedback your reasons for wanting feedback and areas of Brand You that you would like feedback on, e.g. personal impact, quality of work, areas for improvement etc.

2. Encourage honest, straight talking and reassure the person that they don’t need to hold back.

3. Let the person finish what he or she is saying. Really listen to what is being said, and often more importantly, not said.

4. Try to summarise the feedback at key points in the conversation, to ensure that you have listened effectively

5. Ask clarifying questions, if you’re not sure what’s being said and ask for specifics, if not provided.

6. Take the time after the feedback session to evaluate the information and consider specific actions for improvements.

7. Teach yourself to recognise situations in which a certain behaviour needs to be altered. Feedback can help you self-monitor your behavior at times when you are less than optimally effective.

8. Use feedback to clarify goals, track progress toward those goals, and to improve the effectiveness of your behaviors over a period of time.

Don’ts:

1. Become defensive or explain your behavior. (You can either spend your time defending your actions or you can spend your time listening)

2. Interrupt the other person, unless you need clarification.

3. Be afraid to allow pauses and periods of silence when you receive feedback. This gives you time to understand what is being said and it gives the other person time to think about what they say.

 2: 360 Degree Feedback

360 Degree Feedback is a more formal system or process in which employees receive confidential, anonymous feedback from the people who work around them. This typically includes the employee’s manager, peers, and direct reports. Typically a mixture of about eight to twelve people fill out an anonymous online feedback form that asks questions covering a broad range of workplace competencies. The feedback forms include questions that are measured on a rating scale and also ask raters to provide written comments. The person receiving feedback also fills out a self-rating survey that includes the same survey questions that others receive in their forms.

Generally,  360 feedback systems automatically tabulates the results and present them in a format that helps the feedback recipient create a development plan. Individual responses are always combined with responses from other people in the same rater category (e.g. peer, direct report) in order to preserve anonymity and to give the employee a clear picture of his/her greatest overall strengths and weaknesses.

360 Feedback can also be a useful development tool for people who are not in a management role. Strictly speaking, a “non-manager” 360 assessment is not measuring feedback from 360 degrees since there are no direct reports, but the same principles still apply. 360 Feedback for non-managers is useful to help people be more effective in their current roles, and also to help them understand what areas they should focus on if they want to move into a management role.

360 Feedback methods tend to measure the following areas of Brand You:

  • Behaviours and competencies
  • How others perceive an employee
  • Skills such as listening, planning, and goal-setting
  • Subjective areas such as teamwork, character, and leadership effectiveness

Most company HR Departments will be able to help you perform a 360 assessment, but there are tools such as Appraisal 360 available for you to purchase online, but these can be relatively expensive.

3: Personality Tests

There are numerous personality and psychometric tests available which measure a skills such as verbal, numerical, abstract or mechanical reasoning (these are often called aptitude tests) and questionnaires used to find out about your personality type, learning style or career choices, which can help you and / or an employer make informed choices. Tests are often used by employers to give an objective assessment of a people’s abilities. They can also be used throughout your career to gauge areas for development.

There are plenty of management tools out there concerning personality types that you may wish to explore– Myers Briggs, DISC Strategy being the better ones in my experience.


That concludes the final step in START and the Brand New, Brand You series. Let me know you get on!

If you missed the first  five posts of The Brand New, Brand You please click Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5

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