The Brand New, Brand You! ~ Part 5

Reinforce - Brand New Brand YouIn the fifth part in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the fourth step in the START process in Brand New, Brand You, Reinforce.

Now that you have started to establish the Brand New Brand You, it is important that you continually reinforce your personal brand. In this post I’ll focus on some key pointers that will keep Brand You fresh and at the front of people’s minds.

1. Deliver + 1%

This may seem obvious, but the best way to reinforce Brand You is to DELIVER. Whatever your role, if you consistently deliver to time, cost and quality expectations you’re reinforcing your personal brand. Delivering the extra 1% is how you will really differentiate Brand You. What do I mean by 1%? In short, exceed expectations. Going ‘the extra mile’ will get you noticed – by your managers, by your peers and by your customers.  That doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to put in long hours every day, although sometimes that might be the case. In my career, I have found that ‘Rising Stars’ have gone the extra mile by:

Demonstrating a ‘Can Do’ attitude – People that embrace change initiatives, find ways around problems, take ownership of tasks through to conclusion and are passionate about their job make a difference and are invaluable to high performing teams.

Being a self-starter – People that spot an opportunity to fix a problem, come up with the solution and implement it effectively drive continuous improvement helping their team be more effective and / or efficient.

Continuously looking at ways to improve themselves – People that consistently ask questions with a view to improving themselves, ask to be involved in key initiatives and drive their own personal development planning are often ‘stars’ of the future.

Always thinking of their customer’s needs – People that can think beyond the specific task and ask themselves about why they are doing it in a certain way and putting themselves in their customer’s shoes. By doing this they may change or enhance the delivery or even change a process for the better.

Helping others – People that continually support their colleagues in delivery not only help their teams achieve but build a strong reputation with their peers and help build strong professional relationships.

Putting themselves forward for new projects – People that work beyond their job descriptions and volunteer for those important projects that often come up and just need to be done.

2. Express yourself and your passions

Being confident in communicating with your peers, managers, customers or your network is a very important part of reinforcing Brand You. It’s not something that comes naturally for everyone, myself included, but is something you should practice at every opportunity. Try to put yourself into situations that require you to speak about your views and passions; whether that be key meetings internally or speaking at external meetings or events and with new people you bring into your network.

Remember to be consistent with your brand values and your vision statement. Plan in advance to ensure that you make the most of the opportunity and that you present yourself effectively.

3. Build influence with key stakeholders

Who are the key people who could influence your career for the better? Who could be an advocate for the Brand New Brand You?

Understanding the answers to these two questions will help you understand where you need to exert effort in reinforcing Brand You. As long as you have identified the right people, building strong relationships with these individuals will have a positive impact on your career. Below I’ve highlighted some areas that you may want to spend some time thinking about before you engage with stakeholders.

a) Be patient. Building strong relationships and influence takes time and could take months or longer.

b) Be respectful. It is highly likely that the stakeholders you have identified are more senior than you and are likely to be extremely busy people. Be respectful of their time and position when making any requests of them.

c) Be committed to the stakeholders’ success. By gaining an understanding of what is important to them professionally, you can then potentially support them in achievement of their objectives.

d) Be able to put yourself in their ‘Shoes’. Often, concerns will not be vocalised, particularly if there’s not yet a degree of trust in the relationship. Try and see the world from your stakeholders’ perspective and anticipate how a particular stakeholder may respond to what you have to say. By addressing concerns from their perspective before they raise them you will start to build trust and will help you progress your ideas or proposals.

e) DELIVER (No apologies for mentioning ‘Deliver’ twice in this post!). Whatever you agree to do for or with your stakeholders, make sure you deliver against your promises. Nothing will hurt brand you more than non-delivery.

4.  Join like-minded people

A key way of building your network and Brand You is to join professional organisations.  It is better to belong to fewer organisations and take an active role (board position or volunteer role)  than to belong to many with superficial connections to the membership.  Truly participating allows you to get to know people and build strong, enduring relationships.

If there isn’t a professional organisation that feels right to you, create one.  It can be a physical organization or a virtual one. Being the founder of the organisation gives you instant credibility with your entire membership and an opportunity to define and evolve it. And with the opportunity to build private social networking groups on the web, it’s as easy as it is valuable.

5.  Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to build professional relationships while contributing to the community. Take a volunteer position that allows you to use your strengths or develop new skills. Your network will grow along with your sense of fulfilment and accomplishment.

 6.  Continue to create and grow your online content

In Part 4 of this series, I talked about contributing to industry forums, writing blogs or contributing to other blogs to create an online presence for the Brand New Brand You. Keep it up! Building an online following takes time and effort, but if you create strong content, it will start to build your credibility with your network and drive growth of your network.  

7. Keep Networking

To be truly successful building Brand You, you need to be continuously making new connections while at the same time nurturing the relationships you have. Remember, if you take the attitude that it is about you, you will be less successful in retaining your network.  But if you treat your network as a group of people you serve and support, your experience will be much more positive and you will attract what you need to be successful.

That concludes the fourth step in START. Good luck with Reinforcing Brand New, Brand You  – let me know you get on!

In the last post in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the fifth and final step in the START process, Test.

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

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The Coach ~ Leadership Styles – Part 2

Coaching TeamWelcome to Part 2 of Leadership Styles – The Coach

Author, educator, and motivational speaker, Dr. William Arthur Ward wrote a phrase that I try to remember. It gives me personal strength to do the right thing, rather than the easy thing – ‘The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.’ The effective Coach uses a combination of these, but at the right moment with the right individual.

There are key differences between the Terminator (see Part 1) way of managing people and that of the Coach. Whereas the Terminator tends to get things done by lecturing, directing and telling, the Coach asks thought-provoking questions, makes effective requests, listens well – especially for the unsaid, and offers constructive effective feedback to help someone learn and develop.

The Coach is excellent at helping others to advance their skills, building strength and providing career guidance. The best coaches are patient, perceptive, self aware, reflective, open, supportive and keen observers.  They are adept at giving valuable feedback that doesn’t generate defensiveness and are great communicators. They help their employees by uncovering their blind spots and challenging self-limiting beliefs. Most effective coaching takes place through observation, assessment, dialogue, inquiry and conversations.

A coaching leader balances meeting short-term targets with long-term goals towards achieving the vision of an organisation. The Coach pro-actively links development to organisational goals, holding conversations that reach beyond work, helping people find strengths and weaknesses and linking these to career progression and personal development plans. They are good at delegating challenging projects, demonstrating trust and which often leads to high levels of loyalty and personal development.

The Coach does not ‘wrap you in cotton wool’. They give insight from their own experience, they set high standards, they delegate, and they give tough projects to their team and they’ll give you feedback….a great deal. The Coach is an individual that is genuinely interested in helping others succeed.

The coaching leadership style is most effective when the employees working under the coach are receptive to this help. People that do not want development, that are happy to be in the office at 1 minute to 9 in the morning  and leave at 1 minute past 5 in the afternoon, whilst not always, but quite often, are threatened by this kind of management style.

The Coach often portrays the following characteristics:

  • Has high standards and continually raises the bar for their own learning and performance
  • Shares personal experience and learning, freely with others
  • Questions people around their thoughts and feelings  to inspire personal growth
  • Uses 360 degree feedback to help them continually grow
  • Is approachable and intuitive
  • Has a large network to pool information from and seek advice
  • Sees unrealised potential in others and helps them to see it for themselves
  • Can challenge others without making them feel criticised
  • Is passionate about the success of others
  • Is able to coach for both today (results) and tomorrow (progression)
Who wouldn’t want a Coach as their boss or even to be a coach themselves? Well, there are some downsides to this leadership style:

Coaching takes time

Not all businesses / teams have time for the Coach to do a great job. And it DOES take time to develop people. Every business / organisation has targets to meet of one sort or another. Even the best Coach has to weigh up the effort and time involved to develop someone into a role, versus the cost-benefit of  recruiting the right person into the right role, at the right time, at the right cost. Not everyone can be coached quickly enough to the level required, if at all, and sometimes tough commercial decisions will have to be made as to whether the person needs to find a better role that better suits their skills. A good Leader needs to make the choice at the right time, so as not to let the rest of the team down by carrying people who can’t develop their potential quickly enough.

Coaching takes energy

The Coach uses personal energy developing their people – physical, mental, emotional and sometime spiritual energy. The Coach needs to keep in touch with their energy levels, to ensure they stay fit and keep themselves well whilst doing the best for their people.

To summarise, the Coach leadership style can be a very powerful force in any organisation as long as they have a team of passionate people who are keen to progress their careers, the time to coach and the energy to make it happen!
Would love to hear your feedback!

Be sure to read part 3 of Leadership Styles – The Oracle

An Elephant in the Room Part 2 – Leadership Breakthroughs

Word Cloud - Elephant in the Room

I see two distinct types of ‘Elephant’ in my line of work…and two ways of tackling them. The Management Elephant and the Leadership Elephant. This blog focusses on the latter.

If you missed Part 1 – An Elephant in the Room: Management breakthroughs, and are wondering what on earth I’m talking about, please click here

The Leadership Elephant

The Leadership Elephant is an entirely different animal to the Management Elephant. These Elephants often appear in Senior Management or Leadership Teams and are more difficult to fix.
I’m a firm believer that if you have a strong team that is truly focussed on the same goals and vision, plus believing in and displaying the same values you can be successful in any market, anywhere.
Easier said than done! And the larger the business or team you lead, the harder it can become.
By virtue of their position (but not always), Senior Managers are competent in their own field – Marketing, Finance, IT, Engineering, Sales, Manufacturing, Product Development, Human Resources etc. However, many of these managers have had limited or no development  / experience in Leadership and certainly not in creating or being part of successful Leadership Teams. They also tend to operate day-to-day in isolation to the other senior managers as they have their own teams, challenges, and budgets to worry about and so many Leadership Teams are not teams at all, they are a collective of Senior Leaders with the same boss.
The ‘unsaid’ or Elephant in the Room, within a Leadership Team can have a profound impact on the rest of the organisation, if left uncecked.Leadership Elephants centre around a few key areas:
  1. Clarity of Vision
  2. Positive conflict
  3. Accountability
  4. Honesty
  5. Commitment to each other’s success
  6. Delivery of results

1. Clarity of Vision

As a team, what are you leading for? Not as Marketing Director or Sales Director or Head of Product Development….As a TEAM, what are you COLLECTIVELY leading for?
When Leaders are pulling in different directions, the results are a tug of war and wasted energy. When everybody is pulling in the same direction, that creates forward momentum.
Lack of an agreed, cohesive vision can result in poor orientation, competing agendas and misunderstandings. Teams function much more effectively when working with one vision and one set of goals within a strategic plan.
If you haven’t got a clear vision and goals as a team – this has to be your first job. Full Steam Ahead by Ken Blanchard and Jess Stoner is a great book to help you get started!

2. Positive Conflict

Conflict can be useful. When used correctly and depending on the attitudes and perspectives of those involved, conflict can:

  • Diffuse a more serious conflict.
  • Spark action to search for more facts or solutions.
  • Increase team performance and cohesion.
  • Find out where you and the rest of the team stand on a particular topic.

So how do you get to a point where conflict can influence and help facilitate positive outcomes?

  • Accept conflict as helpful
  • Stay focused on defeating the problem, not each other
  • Be prepared with facts to solve dilemmas
  • Consider the main issue, circumstances and relationships involved
  • Remain open about the other people’s position (remembering anger is often natural reaction of conflict)
  • Be respectful, professional and focus on outcomes

Don’t over simplify things and falsely resolve a situation by avoiding the source of conflict. Avoidance is often seen by withdrawing from a situation to save the fight for another day, or smoothing the situation saying “let’s not argue,” or “It’s not really that important.”

You’re more likely to succeed if you identify the real issue, the circumstances and relationships that factor in to the situation, and consequences of the resolution.

3. Accountability

When we fail to hold others accountable, we reap the consequences. While everyone is busy pointing fingers at each other, deadlines don’t get met, work remains below standard, or customers continue to be dissatisfied. Worse yet, things won’t get better until people stop trying to affix blame and start addressing the issue that caused the problem in the first place. This cycle will continue until people take accountability for their contribution to the problem and focus on seeking solutions.

In my view, the greatest impact of not holding others accountable is that it creates a negative perception of the leadership team. When other members of your teams see you letting someone get away with not producing the agreed output or keeping commitments, they begin to wonder why they are working so hard. They wonder why you don’t take action to address a poor performer who is creating problems for the rest of the team.

Failing to hold others accountable reflects on you as a leader. It raises questions about your willingness to hold everyone to the same standards and creates the perception that you don’t treat people fairly and equitably. Pretty soon others on the team get the message about “what it takes to succeed around here” and the extent to which they can count on you as a leader.

Lack of accountability creates and reinforces a culture of blame-which, in turn, generates other problems. You may notice increased evasion and avoidance as well as a pervasive “don’t get caught” attitude. Innovation plunges as people become less willing to be creative and think out of the box. Employees take fewer risks (or stop altogether) because no one wants to be blamed if something goes wrong. Finger-pointing sessions proliferate, creating a cycle of blame that ultimately shuts down communications.

4. Honesty

If you want to receive honest feedback, start by giving it. As the people on your team observe your honesty, this will make them feel more comfortable being honest themselves. On the other hand, if you don’t practice what you preach, it’s much tougher to influence others to practice that same thing.

Where I find that most leaders have the biggest problem related to honesty, is in saying those things no one wants to hear: the bad news, the opposing opinion, the refusal, the negative feedback. This is why I think the trick to becoming more honest is becoming more courageous and talking about these kinds of things. When you can honestly talk about the sensitive stuff, being honest about anything else is easy.

People often get defensive when they hear something they don’t like. They start to deny, blame, explain and criticise others. This may lead to other team members restraining themselves from saying all they intended to say simply because they don’t like the reaction they’re getting. If you want your leadership team to speak freely and honestly, it’s essential that every time one of them starts saying something difficult, instead of getting defensive, you do something much more constructive: you get curious and ask questions. This way, you prove that you are not afraid of the truth and that your main interest is to understand facts and opinions, not save your own skin.

5. Commitment to each other’s success

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t you want to commit to your other Leadership Team members’ success? Well you would be surprised…or maybe you wouldn’t.

Great business people are naturally competitive. They want to win in business. Some are quite happy to win at the expense of others in their team and even the success of the business.

To build a truly great business, I’m a firm believer that if each of you is truly committed to one another’s success you can achieve so much more, especially through the tough times.

I’m sometimes amazed at the tricks, lies, back-stabbing and U-turns that people perform to try to get themselves ahead in business. Maybe I’m naive, but I think this can only lead to longer term issues – lack of respect from your peers, your teams and no doubt your customers will suffer too.

If you want to take your business into significant growth, you need to support your team and they need to support you. You don’t need to be best friends with everyone, but you do need to watch everyone’s back, be there for each other when they need support and focus on your collective goals and vision.

6. Delivery of results

A team that is not focussed on COLLECTIVE results fails to grow, loses it’s best people, is easily distracted and focuses people on their own careers or internal quarrelling.

Every Leader has an obligation to deliver – for their stakeholders, their people and their customers and not just in financial terms.

To avoid distractions, leadership teams need to prioritise the results of the leadership team over their individual or department results.

All sounds straight forward and easy doesn’t it? Well there are a few things that tend to get in the way – Self-promotion, Career Progression and Money to name three. The ironic thing is that all three of things are likely to happen anyway if you are in a high performing leadership team, all working towards one vision, one set of values and collective results.

Most senior managers naturally focus on the results of the teams they manage, not the teams they’re members of. They spend more time with their own people, they probably get bonused on the performance of the teams they manage and they probably don’t invest as much time in building relationships with their peers. Imagine the possibilities of having really powerful relationships with your peers, where the team is accountable for the whole and not the part and when you collectively focus on your customers and positive outcomes in your marketplace….

None of the above can be fixed overnight, and needs a huge amount of collective energy to get results. But when the results come, your competitors better watch out!

Thanks for reading!

Mark Conway

An Elephant in the Room Part 1 – Management Breakthroughs

Listening for the unsaid!To paraphrase Wikipedia – An “Elephant in the room” has become a management saying meaning an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. It applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss and based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have chosen to concern themselves with tangential or small and irrelevant issues rather than deal with the looming big one.

I don’t know whether it’s because elephants are now protected by law or not, but I’m coming across many more of them than I used to!

Tackling the difficult topics in business life is hard, really hard, especially if you’re not used to having these sorts of conversations. You can choose to ignore difficult conversations and still survive in business and many do! If you’re thinking, yep that’s me, then I’d advise you to think again. If you want to be the best you can be, then you absolutely need to read on. If not, this post is not for you.

The breadth of difficult conversations is huge, so I’m not going to be prescriptive. There are so many examples, but I’ll name a few, so that we’re on the same page:

  • Poor performance or capability
  • Discrimination
  • Bullying
  • Indirect aggression
  • Actual aggression
  • Sabotage
  • Poor relationship
I see two distinct types of Elephant in my line of work…and two ways of tackling them. The Management Elephant and the Leadership Elephant. This blog will focus on the former.
The Management Elephant
The Management Elephant tends to be when you have a member of your team that is exhibiting behaviours that are not what they need to be. I was going to write ‘behaviours that are not acceptable’, but therein lies the fundamental problem. Because these behaviours are often ignored, because the conversations that need to happen to change the behaviours are hard, and therefore don’t happen, makes the behaviours acceptable….that bit is your fault!
You owe it to your company, yourself and, if you want to be a good manager, your employee to have these conversations.
Below are some steps that I have found will help you to get the most from these often tough conversations:
1. Prepare
Whatever the conversation, don’t just turn up to the meeting without preparing, especially if you are angry about the situation. NEVER lose your temper. Believe me, YOU will feel worse about it afterwards, not them. Think about as many of the potential reactions and outcomes as you possibly think of and prepare your response.
2. Privacy
These sorts of conversations can often lead to the recipient being upset. Respect their privacy and ensure that the meetings are conducted in private and that they can exit the meeting into a safe environment.
3. Be direct
Get to the point, but talk about behaviours and impact. Be direct AND sensitive
Example:
Direct and Insensitive – You’re passing the buck. You have to change
Indirect and Sensitive – Have you thought at all how you interact with others?
Direct and Sensitive – Working with other departments is key to our success. I received feedback that others are having difficulty working with you and we need to explore how to improve these relationships.
4. Discuss consequences / impact
Depending on the issue being addressed, there could be a whole range of consequences from mild to serious. The fact you are trying to tackle the issue means that this is at least important to you and your relationship.
Many larger businesses have policies for capability / competence / performance etc and obviously there are potential legal ramifications for other more serious offences such as harassment or bullying.
Obviously if you are having the conversation early enough and in the right way, you can hopefully sort the problem before any of these consequences are invoked.
The key here is for you to convey the seriousness of the issue and what may happen if the behaviours are not altered.
5. Discuss action
Ensure that you work with your employee on an action plan  to rectify the behaviour and ensure this is time-bound and you have one or more follow-up conversations to ensure the issue is resolved. If it isn’t in a timely manner then you start to apply the consequences outlined above.
6. Be supportive
For some people, unacceptable behaviours may have been tolerated by previous management or they may be completely unaware on the impact their behaviour is having on others or the organisation. As a good manager you have an obligation to help them through the process and if you don’t feel equipped to deal with the situation, take advice from peers or a Human Resources expert (internally or externally).
Obviously if someone is breaking the law or in serious breach of their employment contract, then serious consequences must be considered and invoked immediately.
Be sure to read part 2 – Leadership Breakthroughs

Feedback: A teaspoonful of criticism, and a bucketful of praise!

BullyingA very wise lady, the late Blanche Eldon, told me something when I was about 15 years old, that has stayed with me ever since. I was in my first management role – a Patrol Leader in a local Boy Scout Troop.

We were mid-way through our ten-day summer camp and one of my patrol, Dan, had consistently not been carrying out his jobs around camp, and his behaviour was making my patrol, and me, angry. I was giving him a telling off – shouting, giving him punishments and generally being a bully, because he wasn’t doing what I needed him to do. In the midst of my shouting, Blanche politely called me over and said:

‘I’ve always found that a teaspoonful of criticism and a bucketful of praise is the best way to develop people rather than getting angry and shouting. Why don’t you try it?’

I did, with a bit of coaching…and it worked! Having different kinds of conversations turned around not only Dan’s behaviour, but our relationship improved too.

Feedback to your team and peers is hugely important if you want to develop powerful relationships, but in order to get the best out of those conversations, screaming, shouting, finger-pointing and aggression is NOT the best way to get the most out of people. Worse still, this type of behaviour can not only lead to poor relationships, it can have a serious long-term impact on the person you are targeting. Believe me, I’ve seen it a few times in my career. Framing feedback in a constructive, supportive way, pointing out  positive contribution and behaviours, as well as focussed time discussing where behaviours could be better, will do wonders when giving feedback to improve your relationships.

Below are a few tips on how you might handle giving negative feedback:

1. Don’t always wait for formal occasions to give feedback

Feedback works best in the moment. Performance reviews and monthly or quarterly 121’s are often too few and far between. Far better to offer feedback in a casual, non-confrontational conversation as soon after the ‘event’ as possible.

2. Ask permission to give a person feedback , especially if it’s to a peer

3. Always give negative feedback in private

4. Describe the behaviour and the impact that it had / is having, and be specific.

Feedback is much easier to accept when the person receiving it does not feel their personal worth is being criticised. It is much better to state feedback positively, rather than negatively, when possible. People generally respond better to specific, positive direction. Avoid saying things like, “You need to be more talkative in meetings.” It’s too ambiguous and can be interpreted in a lot of personal ways. Say something specific and positive pointed at the task you want accomplished, such as, “You have some good ideas. I want to hear at least one opinion from you in every meeting we’re in together going forward.”

 5. Discuss what is going to happen next.

How is the person going to change their behaviour? Ask if he or she understands everything you expect and that you’re there to help him or her succeed. As the saying goes: “People have a habit of becoming what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be.”

Giving feedback is first of all an attitude and can only be made a habit by constant practice. “The worst harm you can do,” Jack Welch, says in his book, Winning, “is not to be candid with someone else.”

Business Networking – It’s not ‘what’ you know…

Business NetworkingYou would be amazed at the number of people who still don’t understand the importance of networking. Building relationships is crucial – there are many smart, talented people who don’t progress as much as they would hope in their career because they are not visible to the “right” people. Use every opportunity to build relationships with a diverse group of people at different levels in organisations pertinent to your business or your career. When you meet people, one introduction isn’t enough – maintain contact with them – that’s how relationships are formed – over time – not just by one meeting.

Six degrees of separation works – the people you know, know people, who know people. Everyone you encounter has someone in their network with the potential to help you. The best relationships are formed by way of “introductions” or “referrals.” Everyone you meet has someone in their network who may be a potential client, supplier, employee, or employer of yours sometime in the future.

Online vs Offline networking – Which should you do?

In today’s world you need to do both! In my line of business, there is no substitute for good regular face to face contact with your key clients, suppliers and colleagues. I can really build powerful relationships much more quickly in this way. That being said, I’m a big user of LinkedIn and more recently Twitter  (see below) – both of which help me keep in touch with key contacts and influencers wherever they are in the world. I also use them to keep on top of what my contacts are doing, help them spread the word on important technology or business news and help target new markets and customers.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedInOnline – There are many business networking sites out there, but those below are, by far (in my view), the easiest to help you get started:

1. LinkedIn – With over 100 million users worldwide and 5+ million in the UK, LinkedIn is one of the easiest, and arguably best, ways for career-minded professionals to connect. But it’s far more powerful than just an online CV. Use LinkedIn effectively and you can reap the rewards for your career – from being head hunted to closing business deals and establishing yourself as an expert in your field using Q&A and Groups. By upgrading your subscription you can also use LinkedIn to target customers or new contacts. I’ve found that once you get over a couple of hundred contacts, it has really come into its own and has helped me to connect with numerous new suppliers and potential business partners.

2. Twitter – I personally have found Twitter to be more effective than LinkedIn in growing my professional network. This is mainly because on LinkedIn, I generally only add colleagues and business contacts I have already worked with in the past or know personally. You are free to follow anyone on Twitter you want to connect with that may have similar or common interests. Therefore, Twitter will help you find and network with new people worldwide. When you are using Twitter For Business Networking it is important to remember to use it consistently to share your expertise, build your credibility, and take an interest in others. Many people make the mistake of immediately pushing products and services which results in alienating their followers.

3. Facebook – Whilst Facebook is primarily seen as a consumer social networking site, over the last year or so more and more businesses are setting up pages for people to ‘Like’. Thousands of well-known brands are interacting with their customers for service queries and publishing breaking news on product or services.

4. Plaxo – Whilst not really a ‘networking’ site, Plaxo provides automatic updating of contact information. Users and their contacts store their information on Plaxo’s servers. When this information is edited by the user, the changes appear in the address books of all those who listed the account changer in their own books.

Business NetworkingOffline – In the UK, there are many organisations that you can join that will help you build your business network – BNI, British Chambers of Commerce, Institute of Directors. All of these organisations have regional networking events.

Regionally in Yorkshire and Humber, UK We are extremely lucky to have a number of great networking organisations in addition to those mentioned above:

1. Yorkshire Mafia – Is an online and offline organisation that offer regular face to face informal meet-ups around the region – It brings together executives and stakeholders from the Yorkshire Business Community to meet, network, share experience, learn, build relationships and ultimately trade.

2. Techmesh – IT & Telecoms business to business (B2B) networking events, receive business development support, professional skills development and professional services provision. Business networking events feature global IT & Telecom keynote speakers and are held in Leeds, Sheffield, York and Hull on a monthly rotation.

3. Hull Bondholders – The Bondholder scheme in Hull is fundamentally about bringing businesses together to raise Hull’s profile and change its image, providing a positive context in which Hull’s businesses can operate. It’s also a fantastic networking opportunity for business people from businesses of all sizes to meet and explore business opportunities.

Some tips on Face to Face Networking:

1. Have a plan – Do you know who will be at the event? Find out if you can. Who do you really want to meet? Do a bit of online research about the people / companies you wish to engage with or ask around your own network as to key people you should meet.

2. Arrive early – people are more likely to approach you if there are fewer people in the room and you can get better visibility of who is arriving.

3. Don’t be shy – Introduce yourself simply by saying something like – ‘Do you mind if I join you?’

4. Be interested – in what the other person has to say. Ask lots of questions about them and their business.

5. Don’t sell – Networking should not be about the hard sell, although opportunities often present themselves and that’s ok. Networking is all about building relationships.

6. Business Cards – Ensure you have enough! Ensure you exchange business cards during interactions (or ‘bump’ your iPhones!)

7. Follow-up – a quick email or a personalised LinkedIn request following the event is key to keeping the relationship going.

8. Follow-up some more – If you feel that you made a good first impression with someone and you got on well, keep in touch.

9. Keep it up – you’ll be amazed after attending a few events the number of people who will start to recognise you and actively engage, especially if you’ve kept in touch.

Good luck with your networking…..Let me know how you get on!

10 ways to build powerful relationships

Strong Business RelationshipsIn my experience, over performance in business can’t happen consistently without great relationships. Similarly, if you look at underperformance in your team, you will often find that it is the lack of relationships or broken relationships that are the cause.

There is no quick fix….sorry. BUT, if you invest time, honesty, passion and energy into relationships, you will gradually see a shift, and with perseverance you can achieve great things.

 Below, I’ve outlined 10 actions that you can take that will make a difference!

1. Be interested in others….genuinely.

Dale Carnegie (How to win friends and influence people) says that “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Invest time in getting to know your peers and your colleagues. WARNING – If you can’t do this genuinely – DON’T DO IT – you’ll be found out very quickly and will have the reverse effect.

2. Listen generously

Generous listening requires a commitment to learn about the person you want to build a powerful relationship with. In order to effectively practice generous listening, you must first be aware of your normal listening patterns. It is not all that easy to pay attention. Humans just aren’t wired that way. We get distracted. We are wired with connections – anything we hear can remind us of some other connection – and then we are distracted. So, you must be sensitive to your place of mind, and monitor and re-focus continuously. You must consciously choose to suspend your judgments, opinions and history with the person speaking. To do this, try listening with your whole body. Use all of your senses to listen, connect and be open to what the other person is communicating. You will be surprised at what you discover, but it does take practice.

3. Commit to a person’s success

Once you have made the decision to build a powerful relationship with someone, you should ask yourself the question – Do I want to commit to the success of this person? That’s a big ask, if you truly commit.  But, if the answer is yes, you will find yourself interacting differently with that person, asking different questions of them and opening up new possibilities with and for that person. In business, especially in larger businesses, it is very easy just to look after number one and point the finger elsewhere when things go wrong. If you are committed to a person’s success, you won’t point fingers – you’ll talk, you’ll coach, you’ll support and get to a resolution. It can be very very powerful, with practice.

 4. Try to understand what makes others tick

Everyone has different motivations and passions in life, and most people don’t leave their personal lives at the door when they come into their place of work. Spend time with your people to understand what motivates them and what their values, ways of working and ambitions are. By gaining an understanding of these it may help you formulate a new way of working that helps you both get the most from your relationship. This is the informal and best way, in my view, to get the best out of people. There are plenty of management tools out there concerning personality types that may supplement this – Myers Briggs, DISC Strategy being the better ones in my experience.

5. 121’s – It’s really important to invest time in your relationships One on One.  

Whether the people you are trying build powerful relationships with work for you or not, 121’s are an essential time for you to invest in your relationships. Ideally take time out of your diary for at least once per month if not every two weeks to work on your powerful relationship. If you can do these away from the office environment, even better. Try and structure these sessions in such a way that you both get something out of it. One session may be for you to focus on a task that you both may have an interest in, another might be for you to give each other feedback on where things may not be going quite so well, another maybe around an issue that one of you would like some advice on. Don’t cancel them if at all possible – these should be important to both of you!

Ask Questions, Don't Tell

6. Ask questions, don’t tell

As a business leader, you will often know the solution to a problem brought to you…How would you respond? If you are committed to someone’s success and want to build a powerful relationship, maybe the right way is to coach a solution from that person. The easy way out is to “tell people” rather than asking them. When you give out too many solutions, then people never learn to think for themselves and stretch their capabilities.

The purpose of asking questions is to stimulate dialogue and exchange of ideas. Such activity prompts the other person to think and learn and increases his or her commitment to what is being discussed. Even if you can answer the question as well or better than they can, ask it anyway. By actively involving them, it adds to their buy-in and performance quality and helps your relationship develop.

 7. Give feedback

Giving feedback is the cornerstone of powerful relationships. Very few people come to work to do a bad job and very few people go out of their way to upset people intentionally. Sometimes people are not aware of the impact they have on others either through their behaviours or actions. I’ve given a few ideas below on how you might approach giving feedback:

a) Give feedback in private and face to face if at all possible – never in a text message, IM or email. 

b) Be timely – give feedback as quickly as possible after the action / behaviour

c)  Be specific with the feedback and try to give a positive reinforcement of how they might have done ‘it’ differently

d) Don’t make it personal – talk about the action / behaviour rather than the individual

e) Ensure you give positive feedback when you notice the change of behaviour

8. Offer to help

Sometimes we all need some support, someone to bounce an idea around with or someone to sound off at. Offering to work with someone on an issue can often really help develop your relationship to a different level and may help take some of the weight off their shoulders at the same time.

9. ‘Wear their Glasses’ – Put yourself in their position

Looking at a challenge or situation from another person’s perspective is a really useful way of getting to the root of issues in the workplace and relationships. You’d be amazed at how differently people perceive the same issue, especially if you work in multi-disciplinary teams. This is another one to practice, as it’s not always easy – it may be one to try out as a team if you can.

10. Don’t put off difficult conversations

It’s often easier in the short-term to avoid confrontation, but the fact is, not having tough conversations costs your business money and is not helping deliver powerful relationships. If left unsaid, issues can create rifts in your relationships and those of your team, leading to further problems downstream.

Keys to the Corporate Kingdom - Book

Acknowledgements: Charles E Smith & Tony and Maggie Turnbull (The Merlin Factor) for their inspiration, energy and friendship.

There’s no ‘I’ in Team…but there is an ‘M’ and ‘E’

Building Strong TeamsI’m not sure who came up with the phrase – ‘There’s no ‘I’ in team’, and I’m sure it was meant with good intentions – focussing everyone on team work and collective goals and not individual egos. I’ve always used the hugely clever and witty repost whenever anyone has said the phrase in my presence…’Ah yes, but there is an M and E’ – Hilarious!

But, and I’ve been thinking about this a bit recently, I still think there is significant value in focussing on the individuals in a team – their individual strengths, skills, experiences and accountability as well as the interactions between team members. This is especially true of senior teams or teams where individuals within it have ownership of their own teams.

In larger businesses, teams come in all shapes and sizes, from an Executive Board, Senior Management Team, Divisional Team, Sales Teams, Customer Service Teams, Cross-functional Project Teams and so on. Teams are created for both long-term and short-term interaction. A product management team, an executive leadership team, and a departmental team are more often long-lasting planning and operational groups. Short term teams might include a team to plan the annual company event, or a team to respond to a specific customer problem or complaint. Not all teams can be treated or thought about in the same way.

When teams are getting results – all is good. People celebrate together, don’t really need to worry about improvement and feel they are at the top of their game.

What happens when things aren’t so great?

I’ve found that there are 4 key reasons that prevent teams from being optimal – ‘The best that they can be’

1. Goals and Objectives are not clear

In short, not everyone  on the team gets it! What’s the vision? What are the team striving to achieve? What metrics are used to measure team performance? What milestones are to be achieved by when….and crucially, why is what the team is doing important.  AND where do ‘I’ fit in?

2. Roles and Responsibilities not clear

How many times have you heard the phrase – ‘Oh no, that’s not my job, that’s ….’ or ‘Well I can’t do anything about that until Dave’s done his bit’ or ‘We were waiting for someone to make a decision’? Heard any of those recently? Symptoms of lack of clear ownership and accountability!

When building a team, it’s hugely important for everyone to know the boundaries they have to work within, what their key responsibilities are and what decisions are required of them in their roles.

3. Relationships – Non-existent or not strong enough for a successful team

Without powerful relationships, no team can truly achieve their potential. Fact. This requires work, honesty, straight talking, generous listening and a commitment from every team member to support each others’ success. At worst, you’ll have saboteurs in your team, actively striving for the downfall of others. With the best relationships, people will coach and support each other, represent each other with projects and play to win!

4. No Leadership

I’ve worked with some fantastic managers in my time, but few leaders. Great leaders inspire teams to be greater than the sum of their parts. Great leaders anticipate potential futures and plan from there, not from today. Great Leaders cheer the progress and not just the results. Leaders do think about the ‘Me’ in team. If they didn’t, I’m not sure they would get the best out of every individual…and certainly not the team.

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