Archive for January, 2016

How to be more influential…

Monday, January 25th, 2016

The Entrepreneur had an article about Influencers.  If you want to become more influential, then here are a few things that you might want to do more of:-

  1. Think for yourself.  Don’t just follow the herd, think it through, do some research, listen to your own instincts, intuition & experience. 
  2. Don’t just accept the Status Quo.  I remember my very first job as an auditor fresh out of school, my job was to ask all sorts of people questions (which at least was something I was good at!)  I’d often ask “Why do you do that?”  only to get the response “Oh we have always done it that way…” Even as an 18yr old, I knew this wasn’t good enough.  You have to think, is there a better way?  Do we really need to do this?  Do we need to do it now?  In other words, question, question,
  3. Engage others in conversation.  Discuss things, see what others think, test your ideas and see if they have support.
  4. Use & build your network. This applies to your internal connections as much as your external ones.  You need to invest in these relationships which means helping them with their issues and building goodwill ahead of the times you need support or input. 
  5. Focus on the important things.  You can’t do everything or win every battle but as long as you do things that really matter and win the wars, then you will succeed.
  6. Embrace disagreement.  Seek out the input of people who come things from a different perspective.  I once worked with a colleague who initially annoyed me with is ‘silly’ questions.  However, over time I came to appreciate them and him.  These questions which seemed obvious to me always developed my thinking and plans and I always got a better results because of his input.  If they are just right, then acknowledge it graciously and thank them… You win a friend and avoid a mistake.
  7. Be proactive.  Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen when you need them to.  Think ahead and look for solutions before you have problems.
  8. Take your time.  It is human nature to react to stimuli, but what helps us rise above things is to breathe, take a moment, consider if this is wise, right or appropriate?  Maybe they are right?  Maybe you missed something?  We all make mistakes, how you respond to them is what sets you apart; don’t try to disguise them, learn from them and correct them.  Yu will have more respect as a result.

How NOT to decide…

Monday, January 18th, 2016

I recently encountered a business that is  to be about to make an easy, even classic mistake.  They need to change their structure and get clarity on the the key roles & responsibilities and rather than starting with “What are we as a business trying to achieve?”  and then asking “What is the best best way to achieve this?”  They are trying to carve up their ‘empire’ based on who is there, who wants to do what and who will get upset etc.  This a typical and easily understood fudge.  “George is good at this and weak at that… lets give him this bit, then Daphne can handle ….”  The trouble is this almost certain to fail.

What they need to do is work out how the business needs to be controlled, what skills and experience that takes and then see who is up to the task and if the answer is “No one” then they need to coach or recruit appropriately.

They are also trying to make another key business decision based on personalities (or rather their assessment thereof).  It is politically explosive and possibly commercially important.  What they need to do is avoid the minefield of the ‘your face doesn’t fit’ by setting clear criteria and having a robust process for assessing these so that everyone feels they had a fair crack of the whip, and they ensure that only people who are truly capable pass through their filter.

It is human nature to avoid conflict and work, but successful businesses know when they need to ‘bite the bullet’ and take tough decisions.

How much does a bad meeting cost you?

Friday, January 15th, 2016

We all know that loads of time (and therefore money) is wasted in meetings that are either pointless or poorly run, but those very clever people over at the Harvard Business Review and come up wit a little tool to shock us into realising that time actually costs money. If you click on the image to the left, you will go to their ‘tool’ to do so.

In itself, it isn’t very clever, but it does make you a little more aware of the fact that we are wasting money in these meetings.  So what is it that tends to lead people to have bad meetings?  They usually spring from good intentions… “We need to communicate..” 

But before you bring a number of valuable assets together, you need to be clear:-

  1. What do you want to or need to achieve?
  2. Is the purpose of this meeting to make a decision, or review progress?
  3. Who actually needs to be there?  (The more people present, the harder it is to run, the less effective it tends to be and it certainly is more expensive!)
  4. What preparation do they (and you!) need to do for it?
  5. What tools / technology do require to be available to you?
  6. What is the right environment for this meeting?  On site, or off?

These are just a few of the questions you need to answer.  If the meeting is important and there are serious consequences to it not delivering well, then I would suggest you consider getting some expert support from a trained facilitator.  This will do a number of things for you:-

  1. Release you to fully participate in the actual meeting rather than splitting you attention between being a contributor and chairperson.
  2. It will signal to everyone that this meeting is important
  3. They will be able to notice things that might escape your attention, such as people not participating or holding back
  4. They will be able to challenge ‘group think’ and ask ‘dumb’ questions that can often be very powerful
  5. They will ensure your meeting is properly designed and prepared for
  6. And they should ensure that you don’t waste time and do get your required result

Listening–some trade secrets

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

We are all great lovers, drivers and listeners aren’t we… or rather we like to think we are!  In case you have room to improve here are a few tips to help:-

  • Ask good questions:   Questions show you are interested, which encourages them to open up, it helps them focus and perhaps helps expose things they haven’t thought of
  • Use reflective listening:  This means repeating some of the meaning of what they are saying, not parroting their words, but a paraphrase that either shows that you have got it or shows you might have misunderstood, but that you are interested in really understanding
  • Positive body language:  They are more likely to feel that you are interested and genuinely engaged if your body language demonstrates this.  Look at them, don’t fiddle or do anything to suggest your attention is elsewhere.  Lean in, show appropriate reactions to their story.
  • Withhold Judgement:  You may or may not condone their actions, but you need to fully understand what has happened before you jump to judgement
  • Silence is golden:  If you aren’t asking questions or using reflective listening, then you should keep quiet, apart from little noises like “Arh ha” etc.  Nodding is good.

All of the above takes quite some effort, and if you are going to invest this wisely, then you need to ensure that your schedule is clear, and the place is appropriate.  Good listening builds strong relationships and is at the foundation of good communication.