How to Review Your People Plan

By | Blogpost, Leadership, management

Have you reviewed your people plan lately?

I was fortunate enough to present at the Australian Small Business Champion Conference on “Leading and Building High Performance Teams.” What I realized when we were going through the presentation was that the biggest thing that attendees took away was the lack of reviewing their people plan.

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Curiosity: The Hidden Secret of Great Leadership

By | Attitude, Blogpost, Leadership, mindset

“Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.” ~ Arnold Edinborough

Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs has been the subject of much interest among those who study leadership. He was known to be a perfectionist with nearly impossible standards, he never shied away from telling someone what he thought, he thrived on problem solving, and was an insatiably curious man.

Have you considered the importance of curiosity as a leadership trait? Jobs’ interests were incredibly varied and included calligraphy, an interest that lead to the development of the iconic Apple fonts). Jobs said, “If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.”

Jobs became successful because he was curious about everything. He was not a specialist, but a generalist.

As a leader, you can’t be a specialist and expect to thoroughly understand your organisation. You need to be a generalist so you can spot connections between seemingly random things, and let your creative juices flow without inhibition. Curiosity, not the status quo, produces the greatest creative business insights.

Life is a jigsaw puzzle of experiences, knowledge and ideas, and each person’s puzzle is completely unique. You may not always think there’s a relationship between certain pieces, until one day it suddenly hits you… and you discover a practical application. I’m not talking about just product innovation – this also applies to working smarter, not harder, in any industry.

On some level, everything is related to everything. The more knowledge you can acquire, the more connections you can see, and you open your mind to previously unheard-of solutions.

A leader who is stuck in doing things the tried-and-true way is only limiting his or her organisation’s success. Yes, tried-and-true works, but does it adapt? Does it keep up with a rapidly changing world? Is it still relevant?

I encourage you to be exuberantly curious, like you were as a child. Don’t worry if curiosity has been schooled out of you. Some psychologists believe that only 2% of adults can think outside their box, meaning they have given up curiosity in favour of conformity. Give curiosity a chance to come back and you will be shocked at how quickly you will spark creativity.

Here is how curiosity will completely change the way you do business:

  • Curiosity helps you seize the initiative – if only to answer, “I wonder what would happen if…?”
  • Curiosity makes you coachable. Nothing is more career- and revenue-limiting than a know-it-all attitude!
  • Curiosity helps you create jobs or niches to attend to new problems that aren’t within the scope of traditional positions.
  • Curiosity helps you anticipate needs, challenges and solutions, and stay one step ahead of your competition, and even one step ahead of your customers.

The world is your playground. Explore it, in real life and virtually, and let your amazing brain create associations that bring about those powerful life-changing “aha” moments in your personal life and in business.

Accountability: The Uncomfortable Spotlight

By | Blogpost, Leadership

If there is one thing that managers cringe at, it’s holding their employees accountable without looking like a dictator. There may be a “CYOA” (cover your own ass) culture in place; or, there’s backstabbing on the scramble up the corporate ladder; or finger pointing and a “not my job” attitude, and all these contribute to the difficulty of holding people accountable.

However, there is a way to hold people (including management) accountable for their own decisions, work, and results, and still keep an upbeat, positive and supportive atmosphere.

AutonomyStartup Stock Photos

How much control do people actually possess in their work? Are they made to feel like nameless cogs in a machine, or as valuable team members?

Many managers micro-manage and deprive people of the chance to get things done in a way that works with their unique talents, skills and attributes. The most effective organisations make everyone feel that they have influence. When people feel heard and appreciated, they increase their investment in their work.

But if they’re told what to do and HOW to do it, they feel dis-empowered and even if they have a brilliant idea that could significantly increase productivity… they won’t share it.

So as a manager, it’s in your best interests to engage your team, share your vision, appreciate their input, and let them put their own spin on “how” a goal will be achieved.

Clearly define the results you need from each team member, and let them have a fair amount of control on how they deliver those results.

Honesty, Integrity and Transparency

When you ask your team, “How is that project coming along?” what is their reply? Do they sugar-coat problems, amplify problems, give an honest assessment of progress and challenges, or just say, “pretty good?”

As a manager, you must offer a non-threatening environment for people to tell the truth: no blame, no shame, just an empowering question such as, “how can WE move past this challenge and what do YOU think we can do about this?”

There should never be a “need to know basis” about a company’s struggles. If employees know what the organisation is up against, and they are engaged and share your vision… they will rally and likely come up with innovative ideas and solutions.

Trust and Support

While you have certain expectations of your employees, they likewise have expectations from you:

  • That they will be rewarded for their efforts
  • That they are treated with respect
  • That they are adequately trained (you would be surprised at how overlooked this is – but expecting results from people who don’t know how to achieve the results, is not only unfair but a huge waste of time and effort; up-front training is essential!)
  • That their input is valued
  • That they are given a chance to produce results in the way they do things best
  • That they are supported in their decisions (in those instances where a decision has to be made in the heat of the moment, without the guidance of a manager)
  • And that they feel like a part of a team with a shared vision

When your team trusts you, they will follow you to the ends of the Earth.

Communication

People need to know exactly what is expected of them and what they are accountable for. As a leader, you must be clear, concise, and open to feedback and questions.

You must effectively communicate the company’s vision and direction – and when there are multiple goals that may contradict each other or require unsustainable stretching of resources, you must communicate priority so that your team knows exactly what is truly on fire, and what can be done once everyone can catch their breath again.

The essence of easy accountability is making people feel like they matter, and that their efforts matter – and when there is a problem and something slips through the cracks, focusing on a way forward rather than on whose fault it was.

DEVELOPING A WINNING TEAM

By | Blogpost, Leadership

Effective teamwork is the key to success. A strong, motivated team will make it through hard times together, share in each other’s successes, and share the load utilising their unique strengths and talents.

Building a strong team takes leadership. You have to be able to make the hard decisions, change strategies when they’re not working, establish and uphold performance standards and maintain motivation and engagement within the team. You have to manage egos and personalities, be a solid communicator, and know how to lead by example.

It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, and yet many small business owners never really step into the leadership role: they delegate, but not effectively, simply because they don’t know the “art of people.”

Here are some tips to help you develop your leadership skills and build an effective team within your organisation:

  1. Know yourself. What’s your leadership style? Psychologist Kurt Lewin argued
    that there are three major styles of leadership:

bossAutocratic: you make decisions without consulting team members. This works if you need to make immediate decisions when there’s no time or need for team input. However, this style can also make people feel unappreciated and undervalued. This leadership style often results in high absenteeism and turnover.

Democratic: you have the final say, but you include team members in the decision-making process. This is not an effective style when quick decisions need to be made, but in general it fosters creativity, engagement, and employee satisfaction

Laissez-faire: you give your team a lot of freedom and autonomy. You provide support and guidance if needed, but generally let them run things their own way. This can backfire with team members who aren’t confident in making decisions, need external motivation, or are ineffective with their time. In the right situation, it can lead to high job satisfaction and exceptional performance.

  1. Engage with the team. Get to know them. When your team knows you care about them (on a personal level) and have their best interests at heart, they will follow you to the ends of the earth! This approach also helps you get to know each member’s unique talents and strengths so you can divide up responsibilities in the most effective manner. It also helps you know which buttons to push in your team… and when. Investing the time to truly connect with your team, and get to know how each one is wired, will help you motivate them and encourage them to excel far beyond expectations.
  1. Set clear expectations. Here, it’s important to keep the “team” in mind as you assign responsibilities and expectations. Your team’s efforts are interconnected and interdependent – salespeople must be supported by top admins, admins and salespeople need guidance from their fearless leader (you), and you need feedback from everyone as to what is working and where their productivity is being slowed down. Ideally, you assign tasks to people that match their talents, interests and passions; but when that’s not practical or possible, you can encourage them to branch out, upskill themselves and grow. Done right, this will make them feel valued, and they may even blossom in roles that aren’t “obviously” suited to them.
  1. communicateCommunicate. Feedback needs to be constant, and proactive. Don’t wait until there’s a big problem, when you
    could have communicated concern when the problem was small.
  1. Set the foundation. The building blocks for a successful team include:
  • Clear objectives – share your vision with the team to foster engagement and cooperation
  • Clear expectations
  • Effective and efficient processes
  • Individual development – encourage education, even outside of their job description
  • Communication and feedback
  • A service culture – hire people whose main emphasis is on “what can I do for the customer” versus “what can the customer do for me”? Success is all about relationships, both within the team and with the customers.

When you have a solid team, you know they have your back because you have theirs. They may be the ones out there interacting with the public more than you are, and if they’re passionate and engaged, they will do what it takes to make the company prosper.

 

Leading through Effective Communication

By | Attitude, Blogpost, Leadership, management

One of the biggest issues leaders face is lack of communication.

Let me give you an example.

scream-1485377Susanne was the principal in a travel company. She was brilliant at designing tours  but terrible at managing her team. She gave orders and expected her team to produce results without telling them how to go about it.

Susanne was unapproachable. She would snap at people for asking questions and  would blow up when someone’s system wasn’t to her liking (even if it was effective). She never asked how projects were going and she berated her staff for not meeting deadlines.

She constantly changed her mind (often halfway through a project) thus causing delays and confusion. She was highly resistant to change; stubbornly holding on to old technology that was useful for managing 10 tours a year but was not suitable for handling 200 tours a year. Susanne experienced an incredibly high rate of turnover among her management and staff.

Her business faltered because she did not communicate well with her team. Her staff was overwhelmed – they didn’t feel that they could trust her leadership and many simply resorted to doing as little as possible – just enough to keep from getting yelled at. It was an unhealthy work environment that caused her to fall behind her competition and eventually close her doors.

Don’t be like Susanne.

Effective communication is key to a healthy workplace – which leads to increased employee engagement, happiness and productivity.

“Leadership is not about the crown you wear. It’s about the person you are.”  Simon Sinek

Here’s how you can improve communication with your team:

communicate

  1. Be trustworthy. Create trust with your words and actions so that if your team members have a problem they feel like they can approach you. By being trustworthy, you encourage your team to be honest with you about any problem instead of giving you the sanitised version (telling you what they think you want to hear).
  1. Be specific, concise and clear.
  1. Keep an open mind. Don’t convince others to change their minds – instead allow yourself to learn something new.
  1. Put others first. Make people feel valued – that their opinions and ideas count – and they will give you their best!
  1. Shut up and listen. Don’t just broadcast your message, but learn. Absorb the wisdom of the people around you. Yes, even those who rank below you can teach you something.
  1. Be empathetic when you criticise. Learn how to offer criticism in a way that is growth-oriented and not a personal attack about someone’s abilities or performance.
  1. Ask better questions – specific questions, delivered with empathy and a genuine desire for a win-win situation, are far more effective than “Why wasn’t this done?” or “Why didn’t someone tell me this was a problem?”
  1. Create a culture of respect. Respect what each individual in your team brings to the table. Find out what individual strengths and encourage individuals to play to those strengths through open communication about their passions, talents, ideas and goals.
  1. Shift your focus from you to them. Effective communication is not about you, your opinions, or your problems – it’s about helping others: not just your customers, but each individual in your team as well.

Using these tips, you can become a much more effective and respected leader. When you get the best out of your team, it’s a win for everyone!

 

 

8 Practices to Productive Leadership

By | Blogpost, Leadership

Great leadership is an art. The art revolves around adaptability, using your experience and judgment wisely, and communication.

Your job as a leader is to take on big challenges and build a strong team that can drive a project from idea to reality. To be a great leader, consider these proven practices of productive leadership:

1.   Know your “Why” and communicate it with your team.

Ask yourself: “Why do I do what I do?” and look at it in terms of the contribution you are making. Being in business means you’re not in it just for personal gain. That’s a nice side-effect but what motivates you to make people’s lives better? What is it about serving others that lights you up? When you and your team are on the same page about your “Why”, you will infuse your work with passion, dedication, and positive energy. Sharing your “Why” with others is contagious and when people are working for the same “Why”… when they have their fingerprints on the vision… magic happens!

crisis-1718474_6402.   Know your problem, but keep your eye on the ideal situation.

Know what your target is, and know your challenges – but don’t get stuck on the challenges. This might sound obvious but it’s easy to lose sight of the goal when you’re neck-deep in the problem. It’s easy to get stuck on the problem and spiral into becoming reactive or paralysed. By keeping your eye on the ideal situation and enlisting your team to do the same, your collective wisdom will come up with a workable solution.

3.    Prioritise

Many leaders get sidetracked by ‘urgent’ things that are in the long run, not important – but they sure are effective time-wasters! Just because a wheel is squeaky doesn’t mean you have to attend to it right away. Hold your ground and focus the bulk of your energies and resources on tasks that are urgent AND important, but not on urgent / unimportant.

4.   Get rhythm.shoes

You can adapt this to your unique needs but I love the concept of Monday Vision, Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday Momentum, and Friday Reflection. On Mondays, you set the tone for the week – identifying the goals (vision) and prioritising them. Mid-week, you and your team are focused on momentum or keeping positive movement toward your goals. On Fridays, you reflect on what worked, what didn’t work, and the various challenges everyone faced. This rhythm allows for creating a positive feedback loop where nothing falls through the cracks and no problems remain uncommunicated.

5.   Focus on effectiveness, not just efficiency.

When you focus on outcomes – and your team is united in a common goal – then you can focus your energy in more effective ways. Don’t get me wrong – processes and systems are vital, but you want to be sure that your processes and systems are actually effective, not just efficient. When you focus on the goal, you might recognise that some of your systems are ineffective, even if they are wonderfully efficient! One way to avoid analysis paralysis is to focus on “good enough for now” – finding the simplest solution to a problem so you can keep momentum. The real art to “good enough for now” means that you don’t settle, but constantly improve. What can be done better next time?

6.   Ask better questions.

Vague questions like, “How is everything?” may or may not get an employee to open-up. But questions like, “What are your biggest challenges this week?” or “What were your biggest wins today?” can spark powerful discussions! The art of asking better questions means you and your team have open lines of communication that prevent small issues from becoming huge problems.

7.   Set boundaries.

While some people believe that working overtime is the way to get more done, it’s actually counterproductive because it leads to exhaustion and burnout. In Real Estate you have to work with the schedules of your customers but it’s vital that you set clear expectations – both of yourself and your team – about the importance of personal time and creating a work / life balance.. Ruthlessly prioritise, delegate, and maximise your time at work by focusing your and your team’s energies on the things that have the greatest impact.

8.   Play to your strengths; and have each individual on the team play to their strengths.

If you want more out of your team, put them in positions where they do what they love so they love what they do. That goes for you too. Do more of what you are good at and delegate the rest. One of the biggest productivity killers is to have people work on things they aren’t good at or they hate.

These are powerful leadership tools that help you bring out the best in your team and in yourself!

The secrets to effective leadership

By | Blogpost, Leadership

The secrets to effective leadership are simple in theory but not always easy to implement. At the core, great leaders possess five distinct traits that help them get the most out of their team. If you’re willing to step up to the challenge of leadership, here are some skills and attributes you’ll need to develop to increase the level commitment, engagement, and satisfaction of your employees.

  1. “Do as I do, not as I say.” – lead by example.
  • Set a standard for excellence not through your directives, but through your actions.
  • Whenever a challenge arises, don’t panic and become reactive – but calmly model a proactive, solutions-oriented approach that mobilises the team’s creativity.
  • Avoid causing overwhelm by constantly emphasising the grand vision – for example, instead of saying, “We are going to achieve $(x) in sales this year” (which is a huge and utterly overwhelming number) break it down into monthly goals that people see as reasonable and achievable.
  • Whenever the rules cause a ‘traffic jam’ in productivity, challenge or break the rules.
  • Set standards of communication and client relationships.
  • Don’t micromanage: create opportunities for personal victories by giving people autonomy – tell them what you need, not how to achieve it.
  1. Share your vision. When you passionately believe you can make a difference (in the case of real estate, getting people into the right space for them, and getting vendors the best price on a sale) – and you can share that vision, you will ignite passion in your team. Envision the future and what your organisation can become and get people excited about the possibilities.
  1. Challenge the status quo. Many agencies get stuck in the traditional way of doing things. Don’t be afraid to innovate, if you have a great idea! Yes, experimenting involves risk, but if you inspire your team and get them on the same page – then amazing things can happen. And, if the outcome isn’t what you envisioned, treat the “failure” as a welcome learning opportunity.
  1. Encourage the individual. Everyone brings something unique to the table: a skillset, knowledge, experience, values and talents – and to keep your team engaged, play to their strengths and make them feel valued, capable and powerful. In every winning organisation, team members share in the process and in the reward, and when contributions are recognised, people feel like heroes and will go the extra mile for the agency.
  1. communicateCommunicate. Don’t be one of those leaders who only speaks to the “higher-ups” and barely gives entry-level employees a second glance. You never know what you can learn from the new guy, and if you are approachable and open to receiving constructive feedback from your team, you will stay abreast of what’s really going on every day. Communication is not a one-way street where you give orders and get only answers to your questions. It involves having superb listening skills that allow you to read between the lines of what is said, in a way that is non-judgmental, proactive, and respectful.

Anyone can learn to be a great leader. If you want your agency to grow and thrive, and you’re feeling unsure about your skills in one of these five key areas, then develop them in yourself so you can inspire your team to peak performance, and enjoy stellar results.

 

Self-Leadership and Your Goals

By | Blogpost, Leadership

We love the message of the Olympics: “never give up, believe in yourself, follow your heart, live your dreams…”

But most of us also feel a bit (or a lot) skeptical about the realism of that message – only because our own dreams haven’t been achieved and our thoughts center on “I can’t.”

A lot goes into making a dream come true: self-belief, persistence, ACTION… and the demons of low self-confidence, fear and doubt are very quick to make their presence felt – causing us to lose that self-belief, slow our momentum and ultimately quit. The reality is, we have to LEAD ourselves until we believe wholeheartedly in our dreams. Only then will our thoughts, speech and actions match up seamlessly. Only when we BELIEVE, will we SEE.

02 GROW model

How can you self-lead? One method is to set goals, and stick to them. Action creates forward progress; forward progress leads to motivation and overcoming fears. Create a workable plan of small, manageable and persistent actions and DO NOT allow yourself to not take action. Being your own leader means being a strict disciplinarian at times. When you encounter uncomfortable actions, you must take them. Anything less will cause you to self-sabotage.

In the business world, your real focus is on the customer. It’s a “we” mentality (as opposed to the “I” mentality of athletics). You have to be sure that your dream and the needs of your audience are aligned; meaning that your offering meets their needs and solves their problems. So get to know your audience, and then take that information and use it as a point of focus.

You build self-belief and confidence when you wholeheartedly approach your dream from the perspective of helping others. In other words, take the focus off yourself and put it on your audience. This immediately takes away your self-centered emotions of fear and doubt. Think about the last time you helped a friend through a crisis. Did you once think for a second that you couldn’t help him or her? Of course not. You were 100% focused on your friend’s need, and you simply did your best to meet that need.

Not giving up is easier when you remain focused on helping others because it’s not all about YOU anymore. It’s about US. That is powerful!

You’ve just learnt two components of self-leadership: setting goals (and holding yourself accountable); and focusing on your audience. Challenge yourself: take the leadership role and make sure these two are aligned – and make your dreams happen!

Inspired by a blog on www.integrallife.com