Category Archives: Business

How to Drive Company Growth Part 2: Strategy

download (28)In the last article, we discussed situations that may result in a failure to move the company forward. Even if the business is currently thriving, if you lose sight of the long-term, it may end up causing more harm in the future. Burning through resources will not lead to successful company and a lost leader will not lead to a successful team.

The solution to this problem: small business management. First, let us quickly define small business management as the organization and direction of the different activities that occur within a company. The two aspects of small business management include: strategy and implementation. This article will focus on strategy- what it means and how to develop a successful one for your company. The next article will focus more on implementation.

What is strategy? Strategy is the big picture that your company has developed and is striving towards. As the leader of your company and as such, you want to create an effective strategy and also be able to see it through. A strong leader is able to take action and implement the plans.

The steps to developing a strong strategy are as follows:

1) Allocating time to focus on the strategy

2) Outlining the problems you are facing.

3) Writing down what you’d like to accomplish within a set timeframe

4) Identifying all the resources- and their strengths- that you have available to you

5) Partnering with a small business consulting firm and a business coach

Each of these steps is crucial to understanding the gaps between where you want to be and where you currently are. Without a strong strategy and management, your business may run out of steam, even if it looks like it is currently doing well. What you want, overall, is to be able to drive this company forward and see it grow. And thus, your strategy must honestly address all your strengths and weaknesses- and the plan above is a great way to start thinking about them.

So why do you need a business coach? To put it simply, if you could have solved the problem yourself, you already would have. A business coach is a great investment because s/he can help you become a great leader. S/he can help you see through a strategy that truly fits your company by identifying real causes that may have been holding you back. With the help of the right coach, the first four steps can result in drastic changes for your company and develop your potential as the leader and manager.

For more in-depth information about each of the steps listed above, visit our blog and the article, From Business Strategy to Implementation with Executive Coaching.

How to Become a Project Manager: Can You Learn by Watching?

download (27)Going on a formal project management course is a must for an aspiring project manager. However, there are a number of additional approaches you can use to develop your project management skills. Direct experience is often cited as the ultimate teacher and most would agree that this is undoubtedly true. The problem is though, that you may not always be in the ideal position to be gaining direct experience. In this case, a secondary approach can be taken. I call it the ‘watch, analyse and learn’ strategy.

For this approach to be effective, you need to be in a situation where you have the opportunity to observe a project or a number of projects. Typically, there are always projects going on in any business today. This is essentially due to the fast pace at which the business environment is changing. I find that the most ideal situation requires that you are sitting among or very close to where the project activity is occurring. Because of the modern trend of open plan offices, you get to hear some of the chatter between project team members. There is also the opportunity to have conversations over a cup of coffee.

There are a number of specific things you can look for while observing. Does the chatter sound as if things are going well or not? In each case, see if the success or failure can be attributed to specific ways of operating. Watch how the project team members work together. Are they co-operative or otherwise? If not, why do you think this is? Could anything be done to improve relationships? Are there issues external to the project team members that are affecting their ability to do their work? All of this information is valuable to you as you learn to become a project manager. However, it is only useful, if you are able to come up with alternative approaches that overcome any issues you may be seeing. Always ask yourself how you would do ‘it’ if you were the project manager. Think about what you’ve learned in your project management studies and how some of the theory may apply in practice.

There are some ‘DON’Ts’ that you need to pay attention to. Remember you’ve got your own job to do and you must not compromise this. Your reputation has to be intact if you are to get an opportunity to try out your own project management skills. Don’t get involved in ‘gossip’. Simply listen and observe and draw conclusions that are useful for your own learning experience.

What if you feel you can contribute an improvement? Tread very carefully. Remember, you are an outsider, not involved in the project at all. While you may have an interest, you have not been employed to contribute at all. If your suggestion relates directly to the work of someone you get on well with, then potentially broach the topic carefully. Otherwise, you might try talking with your own supervisor and getting some advice before diving in headlong. When looking for project team members, the ability to work well with others is always a requirement. Hence, be careful to always demonstrate that you are a team player.

In the final analysis, look for things you can learn even if you are not on a project. Some projects work well, some don’t and there is a lot of variation in between. Watching projects can therefore be an excellent way to see the different ways in which the theory behind project management can be implemented.

From this article, you can see that studying a formal project management course is not the only activity that will support your desire to become a project manager.


How Simple Is Your Vision? Great! Now Make It Simpler!

download (24)The leader is frustrated. “I don’t know why I’m having such trouble getting the team to buy-in to the company vision! It couldn’t be simpler!”

Then he shows me the company vision. It’s five paragraphs long. It contains sentences like, “To enhance the long-term value of the investment dollars entrusted to us by our shareholders,” and “To consistently strive to improve efficiency and productivity through learning, sharing, and implementing best practices.” It reeks of having been written by a committee-a committee that probably included at least three lawyers.

He wonders why he’s not getting buy-in to the vision? It’s because, contrary to his assertion, it could be simpler. It should be simpler. In fact, it must be simpler. Much, much, much simpler.

I’m going to take you into the deep, dark past. I’m going to take you to the 1960s, and then to the 1980s.

In the 60s, there was a musical group known as the Beatles. You can look them up-they’re on Wikipedia. When they were first starting out, one of the things that drove them was a shared vision, and it was this:

They were going to be bigger than Elvis. (As in Elvis Presley. He’s also on Wikipedia.)

Bigger than Elvis! That’s not five paragraphs-it’s three words. It wasn’t written by lawyers. In fact, it wasn’t written at all. It didn’t have to be. The four Beatles didn’t have to read their vision-they lived it. It fired up their emotions, it excited them, it drove them. There was no “buy-in” problem with the Beatles.

In the 80s there was a software company known as Microsoft. When they were first starting out, one of the things that drove them was a shared vision, and it was this:

A computer on every desk.

Not five paragraphs; five words. And everyone at Microsoft knew it. Not because it was written on a document hanging in the break room. Because they lived it. It fired up their emotions, it excited them, it drove them. There was no “buy-in” problem with Microsoft.

If you’re having trouble getting your team to “buy in” to your vision, I’d like to suggest that you haven’t made it simple enough. You’re mired in the forest, in the “how to.” Take a step back. A big step back. What’s the big picture? The one that gets you excited? The one that’ll get them excited?

And here’s a tip: If it doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker, it’s too long.

A computer on every desk.

How simple is your vision? Great! Now make it simpler!


How to Become a Project Manager – Do You Really Need to Do Formal Training?

download (23)Looking around, I am sure that you have observed good managers and leaders who have little or no formal training. You may feel that you have an inherent ability and have seen others manage in a variety of ways and so are prepared for the job without having to go to project management school.

To some extent, you may be right. After all, isn’t project management or management of any kind just common sense? It’s about organising such that specific outcomes are achieved either operationally or for a specific project and then leading the troops to success. Surely, anyone can organise themselves so as to achieve outcomes. We do it all the time e.g. organise a dinner party, a family holiday or a house move. You know what budget you have for entertaining, holidaying or moving house. You also know what the deadlines are and are able to have the dinner party ready on time or get your family to the airport before the flight.

While there is an element of truth in the fact that some individuals may have an inherent ability, this alone is unlikely to give you much visibility when looking for your first (or even a later) job. There is an expectation in this day and age that you have some formal training. Looking at job advertisements, you will find that employers list project management training as a requirement for many project management positions. The specific requirement may vary e.g. some may want a formal tertiary qualification while others may be looking for training in a specific methodology. In any event, if you decide not to do formal training, you will be limiting your opportunities.

If this is not sufficient to persuade you to sign up for a course, then consider the value you personally will get from the study. We are most fortunate to live in an age with a vast amount of available training. If you are hoping for your first project management job, then it is likely you will find a course of study most beneficial. You will be able to analyse whatever it is you think you already know against the backdrop of the structure of the project management discipline. It will help you put things in perspective and perhaps begin to understand at a deeper level why some projects fail. The experience will allow you to develop your own ideas into a roadmap that you can take with you into your first job as a project manager.

Even if you have some experience, I find that formal study is useful. Studying a generic approach or researching specific approaches can provide a background against which beneficial reflection can take place. Projects are often hard work and intense. Taking time out to analyse and reflect on how you and your teams have operated can provide you with fresh ideas as to how you could do something differently next time. The activity can be likened to the formal process of assembling and analysing ‘lessons learned’ at the end of a project.

If you still don’t think a study activity is worthwhile, then think about the value of meeting other project managers and discussing various challenges with them. Project management can be a lonely occupation; it can be that you are the only individual in an organisation who has a full picture of what is involved, how to get to the end and where you are up to right now. Meeting others and developing a network of like-minded people can be a valuable exercise.

In the final analysis, consider the value of taking a formal course of study, whether you are starting out or have already done some project management work. Use the time to reflect and strengthen your own approach to project management. Consider some specific things that you would like to get out of a course and aim to achieve this through class discussion or coffee break chatting.

Can You Control?

download (25)Seems like everyone I know, myself included, wants to control something- and for many of us, control everything. We all know that is impossible (it rains when I don’t want it to… ), but yet persist in trying. Is it all hopeless?

I was in an amazing conference this past week on Being A Leader which included work on neuroscience. I am also in an intensive study program on neuroscience and affecting change in the conversations we have utilizing neuroscience. It is fascinating and I want to share a few things I have discovered.

I had something happen where someone got verbally aggressive toward me (completely unprovoked). I had a physical reaction. I thought to myself “this is not about you” and “there is no real threat, we are in public and he is not going to hurt you”. I noticed as time went on, I was physically holding myself still so as to not ‘get hurt’ or ‘attacked’ again. I had to really work on talking to myself to do this. Then, it happened again and was more aggressive than before. I sat still and asked him to stop doing it- and he got more aggressive (louder, cussing at me, and physically leaning toward me). I got up, said ” I am done” and left while he continued his verbal tirade. Physically, I was shaking.

I left the room and sat down with someone I trust and talked it through. Here is what I discovered through my conversation and the work I am studying in neuroscience. My brain reacted to a threat and I was moving without thinking. (Thank you, brain!). Once I talked it through and got the level of threat my brain perceived was inconsistent with the real threat (words were the only REAL threat, there was no real physical danger), I could downregulate my brain’s response and physically be calm. That was triumphant, personally. The conversation was the key.

I talked with the author of Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glaser, and the group that I study with about this. I got our brains are reacting to threats, which then have a physical reaction. How we can control it is simply by having a conversation to get what is really happening. Conversations actually then impact the brain’s chemistry and alter our physical state. The key, as I mentioned, is the conversation with another person to get what is really happening.

The point is, you and I try to control things over which we have little to no control. The things we can impact only can be impacted when we talk it out with others. I do mean talk it out from being committed to get past it, and not from wanting to get someone to agree with us about how bad or wrong someone or something is. The kind of conversation where we just find someone to validate our viewpoint, makes no difference, really. What I am speaking about is the kind of conversation where you talk about what happened to purposefully get past something that happened and be curious to discover what happened. It is an amazing process that when you have that kind of conversation, you are actually impacting your brain chemistry, and can shift your state of mind. I did it, and I know you can, too.

Next time, something happens that gets you upset or unhappy and you want to control it, try out having a conversation with someone. See if you can discover what happened, really, and if you can learn to calm your brain and alter your reaction. Let me know how it goes!

Is Your Company Stuck in a Circle of Frustration

images (8)The business alignment process starts with taking three steps. The first step is recognizing when a company is misaligned and not making progress on fixing the problem. Those companies and their unhappy owners are stuck in the Circle of Frustration. Escape is difficult because the owner’s behaviors and decisions keep repeating themselves.

From my experience there are at least three signs of the Circle of Frustration:

1) Repeatedly asking versions of “Why is it so difficult?”

2) Grasping at clichés

3) Circular logic – “When things get better then we can start dealing with the problems.”

Let’s take a closer look at each sign.

Lyrics from ” Why is everything so difficult?”

Every frustrated business owner I have ever worked with has their version of the song, “Why is it so difficult?” Like country music, the different versions of the song have a pattern. Instead of references to lost love, broken pickup trucks, rodeos and beer, the misaligned company song usually references horrible meetings, lost talent, reply all email battles and fighting fires all day every day. Most business owners have asked versions of these questions:

“Why is it so difficult to…

•… make a hiring decision?

•… hire people that deliver results?

•… finish a meeting on time?

•… keep the ‘A’ players?

•… get through all the long emails arguing about the same things over and over?

•… put out all the fires and have time to work on the business?”

If you often sing the song, you may be stuck in the Circle of Frustration.

In Case of Emergency, Grasp for Clichés

As things get worse thoughts of whether the company or you will survive fill your head each night. You wake up in the middle of the night and reach for the first reassuring cliché that comes to mind. You might latch onto thoughts like the following:

• “If I could just get one great sales person, then things would turn around.”

• “If we win this account, then the cash would start coming in and we could hire ‘A’ players.”

• “I need ‘A’ players. If we had l ‘A’ players, things would be different.”

• “I just need to fire myself and hire a real CEO, I am an entrepreneur not a manager.”

If these are your comforting thoughts, you are sleeping in the Circle of Frustration, and dreaming how to escape.

When Things Get Better…

I know what you are thinking, “alright, alright I am probably stuck in the Circle of Frustration, but I don’t have time to change. I can barely keep the daily fires from burning this company down. Once things get better (insert favorite cliché) then we can sit down and start to change things.” But things won’t get better on their own and the daily emergencies will continue to keep you from doing something different.

Albert Einstein understood the key to escaping the Circle of Frustration and expressed it like this:

“You can’t solve current problems with current thinking. Current problems are the result of current thinking.”

Albert’s assessment of the situation makes it clear that your current thinking is what keeps you trapped in the Circle.

Okay, we want to get unstuck. Now what?

Once the leaders of a business recognize they are caught in the Circle of Frustration then they can turn their attention to steps to escape it. In the next installment, you will learn more about the three methods of escaping the Circle of Frustration: death, luck and choice.


What Can a Business Coaching Company Do for You?

download (21)Should you consider hiring a business coach to help you further your business, career or even personal life?

People sometimes are weary before hiring a coaching company because they do not know if it is worth the investment. Now this can stem from the uncertainty of future results or the initial investment of crucial time and money. When you are running a company, you do not want to waste your resources. And no business coaching company wants you to. Rather, they want to help you develop skills that are essential to your progression and future business success. Read the information below to better gauge if this seems like the right fit for you.

What exactly can working with a business coaching company do for you?

They can help change the effectiveness and overall work ethic of your employees and teams. The most important part of coaching is that it is about cultivating a true relationship between the individuals, NOT a simple transaction. Interesting data shows how, although coaches are not specifically hired to help with people’s private life, often times, the line between personal and professional lives merges, as s/he helps you grow as an individual. Research from the International Coach Federation has shown how their methods can help a company’s employees, employers and even their families. The reason for this is because business coaching focuses on teaching problems solving skills, individual leadership skills, and organizational skills. These payoffs result in a high ROI that more than justify the money and time spent.

One thing to note here is that satisfaction is often a relative term, where no one experience will be the same. Because the problems within each company and the goals that a client wants to reach vary, the experiences and results that one individual will see will be different from someone else’s. You must go into the process with an open mind and be willing to work with the coach for the partnership to be successful. However, 99% of companies and individuals that have moved forward have said that they been between ‘somewhat’ to ‘very satisfied’ with the experience. As long as the client is happy with the partnership, most of them carry on with the coaching in order to see continued results and positive changes.

Contact a local business consulting company and set up a meeting to see how they can you and your company achieve the results you want.

For more information, including data about ROI as well as personal and organization impacts from coaching, check out our blog and the article, “How Effective Are Business Coaching Companies”.


Creating a FIRST IMPRESSION That Becomes the LASTing One!

download (20)For any product or a brand to get established and become popular, much depends on the first impression it gives to people. Businesses allocate huge budgets towards making their brand/product more and more popular and heartily accepted by the end-users. However, a ‘First Impression’ is the first step towards building a Brand Image – be it a product, service, an organization, or even an individual.

According to many ‘Leadership Skills‘ development experts, a ‘First Impression’ is a notion that is felt when an individual comes into a direct or indirect contact with either another individual, object, place or a situation. The event of a meeting between two sides for matrimonial purposes is the perfect example to be imagined to explain best a ‘First Impression’. No doubt, both sides put up their best foot to the fore!

Such a ‘First’ impression may or may not produce the desired experience of pleasant emotions, may or may not be a lasting one or simply may change over a period of time. Consider a bright business prospect being contacted either in person, on by phone or through an e-Mail. A well-articulated, crisp, concise and to-the-point written e-mail will enable the customer to derive positivity through it. The following phone call, again crisp, concise and full of professional mannerisms will somewhat ADD ON to the positivity generated by the previous e-mail. Thereafter, an in-person meeting with the prospect will give a better insight of an individual’s personality and the organization he/she represents. Upon the prospect’s visit to the business premises, a well-decorated office and well-groomed employees will emboss a permanent stamp of an IMPRESSION that the prospect will carry for the lifetime.

Hence, it is very necessary to create a positive ‘First Impression’ that provides a ‘feel good’ factor and thus, reaping profits for the business enterprise! Let’s give a brief look at the fundamentals of creating a good ‘First Impression’.

What are the most elementary and basic fundamentals that make a good ‘FIRST IMPRESSION’?

˜ Customer’s Moments of truth – One should look forward to delivering some moments of truth that every prospective customer may expect. One must consider such moments of truth as a set of opportunities to impress the customer and convert the interaction into eventual sales.

With a clear focus, one can manage these moments of truth for a positive outcome!

  • Recognize and prioritize the ‘Contact’ points that created positivity for the customer,
  • Develop better responses to be presented to the customer,
  • Make out and opt for the best ‘Customer Delighting’ responses,
  • Create a quality ‘benchmark’ of products and services offered,
  • Measure the ‘Happiness’ and ‘fulfillment’ levels regularly.

Most management experts and sales trainers preach that a regular improvement in the quality of moments of truth experienced by the customer enhances their loyalty factor.

˜ Reality versus Perception – The way two different individuals look at a situation may or may not vary. The basic reason lies in the ‘awareness’ about the subject matter and its innate facts and the same gives rise to either a ground reality or a mere perception of an unaware insight of the individual. Most management ‘Gurus’ who are instructors of “Professional Skills” development, duly acknowledge that many and most individuals perceive their workplace as no less than a theatre of ‘WAR’ existing inside the workplace framework. Scary enough! Many crew members feel hastened or overcome at work due to the ‘perception’ they have in their minds about their ‘workloads’. This perception differs to a substantial extent, from the thought processes of their superiors. The superiors, however, must regularly apprise their peers with the ‘reality’ that might be lying in-between. This can bring in some concrete benefits in terms of perceptions being absorbed as a far better reality!

If you want to understand more about how such ‘Moments of Truth’ can really benefit you, kindly visit the Global ACT website and fill up the customer contact form therein. On the second thought, you can also send an e-mail the details of which are mentioned on the Global ACT website.

How Effective Will a Business Coaching Company Be?

download (22)In a previous post regarding business coaching companies, we discussed what such companies can do to help your business. They will work with your business to establish a partnership that will help you reach your goals.

We have established that working with a coach truly does produce results. The next question is: just how effective will it be? Will the results in the future truly offset the current investment?

We understand that only a marginal impact may not be enough to justify hiring a business coach but the International Coaching Federation has research that shows that there are clear benefits that arise for the individual and the company as a whole.

Each individual is unique in terms of skills s/he possesses and how s/he naturally is. Some people are very confident, others great public speakers. Here enters a business coach to present new perspectives and develop these skills.

Individuals that have gone through different programs have commented saying that it presented them with a better understanding of who they are as a person- where they feel confident and what they need to work on. Just to point out a few the developments that have been reported, data from a study shows that:

  • 80% of participants saw improved self-confidence.
  • 67% saw improved work/life balance.

Business coaching companies work with a company and its employees to help pull out their potential. Along with these personal improvements, coaching also translated to better work performance, in terms of management and team work.

Why do companies invest in hiring business coaching companies? BECAUSE THEY WORK.

Although it may be an investment, the return on investment (ROI), based on the overall results and improvements of the employees and teams, is much higher. While there is a broad spectrum of ROI figures, a reliable range of can be anywhere from 500%-700% (Anderson, 2008). With numbers like this, it is clear to see why so many businesses are looking to work with companies that provide these services.

So is hiring a business coach worth it in the long run? In a word – YES. You will see your employees experience personal benefits as well as organizations growth, resulting in better-functioning company.

Because of significant results that business coaching produces, it is no surprise that it is a growing industry. If you think you could benefit from these services, reach out to such companies in your area to see how they can work with you to improve your business.

For more information, including data points about personal and organization impacts from a study, check out our blog and the article, “How Effective Are Business Coaching Companies?”.

What To Do When Your Boss Is Younger Than You Are

download (19)What have you always pictured your boss looking like? If you are anything like me, you’ve always pictured them as a grumpy old man. Or a grumpy old woman if you want to get all modern. However, there is one thing that I’ve never really pictured my boss as being – younger than I am! However, this is starting to happen. Firms are starting to put Gen-X folks into senior management positions. What should you do if this happens to when you are in the CIO position?

What’s Going On?

So just exactly how did you end up having the CIO job, but working for someone who is younger than you are? It turns out that one of those natural generational shifts is currently underway. The baby boomers who have been running things are now starting to reach retirement age. What this means for firms is that they are starting to replace their leaving senior management with members of the next generation: Gen-X. The Gen-X’ers were born between 1965 and 1980. This switch is happening at a lot of firms that you may recognize: McDonalds, Harley Davison, Cisco, and Microsoft.

One of the reasons that firms are moving to put a younger generation of managers in charge of (you and) the company is because they are highly aware of what is coming their way. The next-next generation of workers has already entered the workplace: the millennials. This new batch of workers are looking for different things from their employers. What matters the most to them is flexibility. In order for them to remain at a job for any length of time, they are going to have to feel engaged in their job – they need to feel as though their actions count.

Another reason that firms are moving younger workers into senior management positions is because they are losing market share and they feel as though they need new thinking in order to turn things around. Both Harley Davison and McDonalds are currently dealing with declining market shares as their traditional customers become older. The firms are going to have to start to create products and services that appeal to younger customers and the firms appear to believe that they need younger management in order to make this happen.

What Will These New Leaders Be Doing?

As a CIO who is in charge of an IT department, any time there is a change in your management, it may have an impact on your department’s ability to get work done. What this means for you is that you are going to have to understand what your new, younger, management is going to focusing on. If you can determine what they want to accomplish, then you can position your department to help them to be successful and hopefully you’ll get the support that you need.

One of the things that is going to distinguish this new crop of senior managers from the one that they are replacing is that they are willing to take more risks. They’ve all been raised around computers and so they are generally more tech savvy and they understand the importance of information technology. What all of this means is that they tend to make decisions faster than the managers that they are replacing. What this means for you is that your department’s requests for resources and funding should get an answer quicker; however, I’m not saying that you’ll always get the answer that you want!

Finally, in order to work closely with your new younger boss, you need to understand what is going to be on their minds. One of the most important things is going to be the hiring process. Expect them to spend a great deal more time working with HR trying to find out ways to attract the best talent to join the company. It won’t stop there. Also expect your boss to be very focused on trying to figure out what the company is going to have to do in order to retain the talent that it has. As a CIO, this is good news for you!

What All Of This Means For You

The times they are a changing. As CIOs we may soon find ourselves in a position in which the boss that we’re working for is younger than us. At a number of firms, Gen-X staff are starting to be moved into senior management positions. Is this going to be a problem?

As CIOs we need to understand what is going on here. The markets that many firms are competing in are rapidly changing. This means that they feel that they need to have leaders who can more quickly change with the markets. Gen-X staff are starting to be placed in senior leadership roles. What you are going to discover is that what they focus on is going to be different from the management that they are replacing. Specifically, what is important to them will be staffing and keeping the staffing that they have. You should also notice that they react to market changes quicker and make decisions faster.

No, it may not be easy working for someone who is younger that you are – “that should be my job!” However, you will need to adapt to this new generation of management. It can be a very good thing for you because things will happen faster and you should be given a freer hand to focus on the needs of your department and keeping them together.