Focus. A Fresh Set of Eyes

October 13, 2019 5:32 pm

A fresh set of eyes

I recently had an eye test completed and subsequently followed through on the specialist’s recommendation to purchase glasses. Little had I realised that over time, I had slowly become accustomed to blurred vision. Now, with a fresh set of “eyes,” things that were unclear and hazy have become sharp and distinct.

At different times in our personal worlds, our careers and business endeavours, the focus that was once crystal clear becomes a little muddied. We find ourselves so deep in the trenches that all we see are the trench walls, losing sight of what is beyond. We find ourselves going through passionless motions that once brought us life.

If you find yourself doing that daily trench trudge make a move to jump up on top. Some things that might be helpful are:

  • A change of routine;
  • Meet with some inspirational friends or colleagues;
  • Incorporating something fun into your life;
  • Pursuing something that you are curious about;
  • Taking a risk in something you’ve been delaying;
  • Hiring a coach or mentor. (I have just hired someone to coach me again from the US and 3 weeks in I can tell you it’s well worth the investment);
  • Schedule think time into your weekly schedule;
  • Get some fresh input which might include further training or reading.

A fresh set of “eyes” helps raise us from the footslog of the trench to the freedom of the mountain. And often, it is just the simple things that help gain that shift.

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Relational and Leadership Disconnects

September 24, 2019 7:00 am

I recall working with a client many years back who was the salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. He was heartfelt and easy-going, loved to personally connect with others, speaking gently and purposefully.

On my drive to his office, I would purposefully slooooooow down my brain and demeanour to more effectively connect with him, which worked perfectly. Instead of my running in and rattling off MY agenda for the next few hours, I would get into his space: listening, asking questions and genuinely connect with him prior to getting to the work side of things.

He was also a man who disliked conflict and hard conversations. While his natural disposition was to “keep the peace” at any cost, it came at a cost with his leadership effectiveness undermined by this one trait. His people walked all over him, did what they wanted when they wanted. The workforce was highly unproductive; reflected a bunch of self-centred individuals and job errors were everywhere. Yet, he feared to address the issues. Peacekeeping, in this environment, didn’t work.

This was one of my early, on-the-ground relational and leadership lessons.

Relational. In order to connect well and communicate in a way that he heard it, I had to reflect his behavioural style in our meetings. This way, we got on the same page and arrived there quickly.

Leadership. Each person in our organisation is at a different place and need to be led differently. If I lead from a singular style, my effectiveness is going to be severely limited.

I have come to firmly believe that the more self-aware we are, the more other-aware we become and it’s from this “other-awareness” and the adaption of our relational and leadership styles to who the person is and what they require, that our effectiveness is significantly enhanced.

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When Good People Leave

September 19, 2019 1:48 pm

When good people leave our organisations it can be a painful experience. In many cases we spent years of investment in them; training them coaching them, supporting them, providing opportunity, rewarding them and so on. We’ve become to rely heavily on them with them playing and important part in the fabric of now our business and to receive their resignation comes as a slap in the face and in many cases and arrow to the heart.

If I can provide any perspective of the many companies I’ve worked with over years, the majority if not all, six months down the track and often sooner have been grateful for the departure.

Often, the newcomer to fulfil their position has different skills than the previous role owner, provides higher levels of ability and breathe fresh air into the culture of the company.

A previous business partner of mine always had the attitude that as long as people were working with him they needed to perform and perform highly but they were always free to leave if they didn’t follow suit. He had an abundance mentality that allowed him to free people because he knew there was somebody else waiting just around the corner.

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The Nests of Spring

September 4, 2019 5:58 pm

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A bird flew onto the fence this morning with a beak full of straw, momentarily resting on its flight path to building a nest for a new family.

Nests represent a supportive structure for new life.

Many of the people and organisations I have consulted to have had the smarts to anticipate upcoming changes to their business and diligently prepared “the nest” for growth. Or, if they have been suddenly inundated with new work, the supportive structure gets built at a fast rate while growth is in progress.

This has often meant:

  • ensuring the right people are in the right places and all understanding exactly what they are to do and the outputs they are responsible for;
  • giving thought to, and creating the workplace culture they desire;
  • process flows are streamlined with waste eradicated and throughputs maximised;
  • procedural documentation is created or refined;
  • key performance indicators are thought through and established with regular reviews and accountability measures enacted;
  • financial budgets and cashflows are prepared;
  • marketing and sales opportunities are carefully inspected, planned and targeted;
  • leadership are more fully equipped; people are trained and coached.

These are but some of the areas that make up the supportive organisational nest structure and whilst growth can be an exhilarating experience, the lack of structure can see declines take place at a depressing rate.

If you are desiring to hatch the new growth of spring, or, are already experiencing the fruitful plenty of summer, take time to purposefully and strategically work on the nest. It will serve you, your people, your customers and stakeholders incredibly well if you do.

PS. You might like to review the points above and give yourself a score out of 10 for each. Then, review the lowest 3, and begin lifting these to a satisfactory level initially. Also ask yourself the question, “what one, of these three, that if worked on will have a peripheral effect on the others?” If you would like help with any of this, feel free to reach out. 

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The Minutes of Tomorrow

August 20, 2019 1:18 pm

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Sitting at my desk and watching the twilight hue gradually being absorbed by the night, it prompts me to reflect on the day.

I wonder if my time was just spent completing reactive administrative tasks or did I add significant value in my meetings and client work?

Was I focused and productive, accomplishing what I set out to do?

Was I happy and light-hearted, working with a sense of inner ease and peace?

I reflect on my relationships. Could I have engaged deeper, being more present in my interactions with those I love?

Did I listen well today? Did I ask more meaningful questions, demonstrating an interest in others rather than just enjoying the sound of my own voice?

Was I kind, patient and respectful to all I met?

Did I put myself first where appropriate to do so, in my work and my personal standing?

What have I learnt today that I didn’t know yesterday? And what of these new insights did I practice and speak of in order to more fully learn them?

I am reminded of my mentor, Dr Alan Weiss, and his sage advice, “You can always make another dollar, but you can’t make another minute.”

As I complete this piece, the day has grown dark and I am grateful that while we may not be able to make another minute, we do have the opportunity to use the minutes of tomorrow in ways that we might have done better with today.

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Where Did The Day Go?

July 30, 2019 3:57 pm

where did the day go

My phone, for the first time, alerted me to the Screen Time analysis for the past week. I was astounded as I reviewed the data. Fortunately, most of the time was spent in productive activity however, it also helped me identify time waste, especially in how often I pick up the phone.  From this data, I now have the opportunity to make corrections to assist in concentrated focus and converting pick up time to more productive time.

Where Did The Day Go?

How often have we arrived home after a long, busy day and asked ourselves, “Where did the day go?” We were busy but achieved little.

Just as my phone gave me the Screen Time analysis, we can conduct our own Work Time analysis. From this, we can see both where our time went and then where we need to make corrections to increase concentration focus and productivity levels.

I conducted this analysis with a business leader, having him document, in 15-minute time increments, how he spent his time over the course of the week. One of the many insights was that his quoting preparation was happening all over the place due to incoming phone calls. From the data, we were able to ascertain when the peak levels for these calls were, allow for this in his schedule and then block a solid time for quoting on a daily basis. This enabled him to work with a singular focus, reduce the likelihood of errors on his quotes and overall increase his output. If we hadn’t completed the data analysis we could never have made such corrections.

Being busy is one thing. Being productive is quite another.

Analyse where the day went and then use the review-reflect-correct method to increase your outputs.

If you would like to look at where your day went, you can access a free Time Analysis template by clicking here.

Best,

Ray

PS. If you do this exercise, I’d love to know what your findings are from the analysis and the subsequent changes you are going to make. Feel free to email me at ray@rayhodge.com.au.

 

*Photo by Michelle Sexton

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Losing and Regaining the Edge of Expertise

July 23, 2019 6:30 pm

I have always been intrigued at how quickly we can lose our expertise edge. I have found over time that in some areas I have improved rapidly, gaining new levels of mastery. Then, instead of continuing to push further into new and higher levels of mastery, I became comfortable, lost my edge and plateaued. My development in dancing provides a good example.

A number of years ago, I wanted to dance confidently in a social setting. I embarked on six months of rigorous ballroom lessons with an instructor and improved immensely to the point where I could get on any dance floor and do a reasonable job of it (or at least that was my perception).  Once I had reached this level, I stopped taking lessons, entered a skill decline to a position I’ve termed the comfort plateau. I still have a blast dancing but not with the growing proficiency I had been developing previously. The following graphic demonstrates the learning curve and subsequent decline.

Losing the edge of expertise
Skills Decline and Plateau

Consider the following people, leadership and organisation examples. There’s…

  • David, who in the early years of learning his particular career-skills, grew in knowledge and expertise, yet did not notice how over the years his learning first slowed and then stopped entirely. Now, the world has moved on and he hasn’t kept pace with younger team members who are demonstrating more expertise after three years than after his thirty years of experience.
  • Smith and Co. Insurance Services, who sent their managers to the Understanding Personalities and Communications Course. Positive shifts were noticeable early on and the vibe in the office lifted; but, they didn’t continue to support their people to embed and expand their fledgling skills via ongoing development. So while some things are slightly better, infighting, conflict and communication issues are still too frequent.
  • Fiona, who learned how to sell, found success early and then never improved her conversion ratios. She stopped intentionally learning and practising.
  • Acme and Sons, who drove their quotation win rate to 25% through analysis and a series of deliberate changes. However, their new success made them feel secure, and so they stopped the change process; now their rates have dropped to 18%. They believed they’d done enough to at least maintain the 25% ongoing.
  • Alex, who intentionally worked on his negotiating skills. However, his improvement ceased this side of a fail point he has encountered many times with master negotiators. Why is Alex willing to keep on having repeated experiences of the same problem? Then…
  • When Sandra started her business, she learned the basics of management, finance and leadership and got on with doing business. Now, she finds her organisation has plateaued over the last five years and never gets past 50 personnel. She sometimes wonders why.

All of these scenarios demonstrate that initial learning and development brought positive change but once that learning ceased, erosion began to occur.  To get your edge back and avoid declines and plateaus consider ongoing deliberate practice as a strategy.

Getting The Edge Of Expertise Back

Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool in their exceptional book Peak: Secrets From The New Science of Expertise recommend deliberate practice as a way of focusing in on the elements of a skill—you could call these micro-skills. They suggest practising these micro-skills and using data and feedback to measure your progress towards mastery. Working in a step-by-step way, patiently analysing progress and making subtle improvements and then doing it all again will ultimately give you success. And most often, it’s impossible to do this on your own. Consider the Olympic ice skater, who just can’t figure out on their own, why they fall on a particular trick every time, but with the help of a coach can quickly identify and fix the problem.

Getting your edge back is about identifying where you have plateaued, and then deliberately engaging in intentional learning, coaching and practice. Or, as Ericsson and Pool so aptly elaborate, “Deliberate practise nearly always involves building or modifying previously acquired skills by focusing on particular aspects of those skills and working to improve them specifically; over time this step-by-step improvement will eventually lead to expert performance.”

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Sales is a Process, Not a Personality

July 23, 2019 6:11 pm

Once upon a time, two brothers and their father went into business together. Without them selling their services, there would be no business. One day, the younger brother said to the older one, “how will you ever be successful? You are way too quiet.” That older brother was me and at the time, I didn’t know that you were “supposed” to be an extrovert in order to sell effectively.

Fortunately, after his “motivational” speech, I recall hearing someone say they would rather employ an introverted salesperson than the extroverted for it was much easier to help the introvert open their mouth than help the extrovert shut their mouth. I’m still not convinced about that as I think anyone who wants to learn a skill can, despite their personality, but it gave me great encouragement at the time and has seen me involved in sales for almost 20 years, and successfully I must say, dear brother.

1. The Sales Foundation: An Interest in Others.
An interest in people and their well being is the foundation for a successful sales career. Yes, I can make a quick buck by not giving a damn but having a successful career with repeat customers is all about care for the person. Taking an interest in the well being of another has nothing to do with personality; it is simply part of our humanity. We choose to care, or we choose not to and that choice is ours.

2. Sales As a Process.
When I was a musician, I recall the importance of learning first the structure, then from that basis, to improvise. And when improvising, it was still centred around the structure.  Selling is no different. First, create the process, learn it and then the improvisation comes once that mental sequence is embedded.

3. An example of a Sales Process.

Enquiry Stage – Sales Assistant

  1. What does the customer want?
  2. Ascertain who the decision-maker is.
  3. Ask, “when do you want to do this?”
  4. Ask, “is there a budget you have in mind?”
  5. If qualified, arrange a time for the customer (decision maker) to meet with the salesperson.

Meeting Stage – Salesperson

  1. Document requirements on the quote form.
  2. Uncover emotional drivers.
  3. Reconfirm budget.
  4. Ask “are there any areas that we haven’t discussed that could prevent this project from moving forward?”
  5. Confirm when quote will be sent.
  6. Arrange a time to follow up quote via phone.

Quote follow up stage – Salesperson

Ask:
a) “was the quotation a reflection of what you wanted?”
b) “which option would you like to proceed with?”
c) “which day will suit you best for us to arrive onsite?”
d) “would you like to transfer the deposit or make it now over the phone?”

Your business will have its own sequence according to what you provide and what the customer requires but the documenting and memorisation of the process transforms sales volumes dramatically.

4. Objections and Rebuttals.

Here again, the process comes into play. List all the major objections you receive from prospective customers and create rebuttals to them. Having these embedded into the memory so you can respond in the moment is essential in making it easy for the customer.

5. Please make it easy.

When I purchase something, I want the salesperson to make it easy for me. It’s not their personality that interests me but it’s their interest in me that is most important.  I want them to guide me through the process so I end up with what I want (or what is best for me according to the salesperson’s expertise and suggestions). I want them to be confident and to answer my questions and objections adequately. I want them to stay focused on me and my needs, nothing else.

Whether introvert, ambivert or extrovert, all of us can sell if: (1) We want to; (2) Desire the best for our customers; (3) Have a pre-designed sales process to follow (4) Make it easy for people to do business with us.

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A Fresh Start

July 3, 2019 9:20 am

A new year is a wonderful time to put to bed the old and focus on the new; and for many, contains an optimistic momentum. We see, as if from a freshly scaled summit, the possibilities that lie before us. While January 1 tends to be the highest of mountains, the start of a new financial year has a similarity about it for business owners and for those who have financial responsibility.

Daniel Pink, in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing references the first day of the year as what social scientists refer to as “temporal landmarks” and how certain dates operate in a manner to help us navigate through time, just as physical landmarks assist us in getting from one location to another. About certain dates he says, “They stand out from the ceaseless march of other days, and their prominence helps us find our way.”

I suggest taking some time out in this next week—if you haven’t done so already—to lift your eyes to the possibilities of what can be achieved in the coming 12 -months, not just at a financial level but in all of life’s realms. And then, when you have the various destinations (goals), set up some landmarks (milestones) with regular review dates, all of which will assist in keeping you focused and not getting lost along the way.

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George. When a Customer Feels The Love

June 25, 2019 6:07 pm

Feeling the love

My partner Michelle and I celebrated our anniversary this past Friday evening. Staying at a city hotel I purposefully mentioned to four front of house staff the reason for our visit, to see how responsive they were on special occasions. Zero effect.

We later went to dinner at a wonderful restaurant called Georges on Waymouth and again, I mentioned the special reason for our dining out. George, the owner, thanked us warmly for choosing his restaurant and toward the end of the evening had a freshly decorated “happy anniversary” sweets plate delivered to our table.

When we add a meaningful wow factor—no matter how small it is—in the mix of our customer’s experience with us, it goes a long way to retaining them over the years as a repeat customer and creating another person who does free advertising for us.

And George, he is getting both.

 

 

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For Employees Only

June 12, 2019 4:12 pm

Dear Employee.

I coach and consult to Business Owners, Executive Directors and Managers across the country and here are 7 areas they take notice of and respond positively to.

When you, the employee, act and think in these ways, you are often promoted faster, earn more, are the last on the line when redundancies are enacted and so forth. Overall you become highly valuable within the organisation.

Here are the top 7 areas I’ve observed that leaders love to see in their people.

  1. You move fast.
    In terms of your overall pace in your work and behaviour, you’re always on the go.
  2. You start a little earlier and finish a little later.
    Business owners grumble about clock watchers but they LOVE people who go the extra mile.
  3. You demonstrate initiative.
    Rather than waiting for instructions, you go about your day with your brain in gear, thinking ahead, and deriving plans for the benefit of the business and your department.
  4. You’re willing to learn.
    When the business owner or manager addresses a situation, you’re humble enough to listen, you’re brave enough to ask questions about how you could do better and then you apply yourself.
  5. You’re enthusiastic.
    Your colleagues might drag their feet but you, you’re different. You have a spark when you arrive at work and even if you’re feeling the Monday blues on a Wednesday, you get into your work with vigour.
  6. You are more valuable than your pay rate.
    Many of your colleagues fall into the trap of asking for extra money without having applied ‘prior’ extra effort. But you’re not like this. You know that if you take the time to up-skill yourself, work harder and faster and become more valuable in your work contribution, you’ll be worth a whole lot more.
  7. You take responsibility.
    When you make a mistake you own up to it, learn from it and move on. You don’t pass the blame but take full ownership for your errors.

As a final suggestion, give yourself a rating out of 10 (10 being the highest, 1 being the lowest) as to your current level and commitment in each area. List the two areas that you scored the lowest on and then get to work on improving these.

If you do this, you are likely to become a highly favoured and relied upon employee who will go far within the organisation.

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A Lesson in Not Giving Up

June 3, 2019 2:59 pm

This past Saturday night, the Brisbane Lions played Hawthorn in what is the greatest of football codes, the AFL. 😊

At the end of the first quarter, Lions were 6 while Hawthorn was 31. The Lions went on to win the game.

If the Lions had got disheartened, turned against each other, stopped believing and given up early, they would never have won. Their early “failures” played a part in their win as did their self-belief and consistent application and exertion.

All of us face periods of effort with little, if any reward, but if we give up too soon we may have been just one kick away from the game turning in our favour.

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Replicating Best Practice

May 29, 2019 12:25 pm

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Often we look outside our organisations for best practices and seek to implement them internally, but sometimes, best practices are already happening within, without our even knowing it.

Take Department A. They have few customer complaints, minimal lead times for jobs, above budget sales, invoicing is always up to date, and they are extremely profitable.

Then you have the dreaded Department B: the direct opposite of Department A and you spend an excessive amount of time putting out fires and propping it up from the profits of Department A.

If I were consulting to this company, I would look at what the people within Department A are doing well; what their work habits and personal efficiencies are; what processes they are using; what meetings (or lack thereof) they are having and so on. Once I had this documented, I would then seek to duplicate this in Department A. Part of the duplication process (where people are concerned) would be having the high performers, coaching the lower performers and providing feedback along the way.

One such example was a company I consulted to who had losses of $380,000 in one department, yet the other was significantly profitable. Using the replication of internal best practices, we brought the department back to breakeven within six months.

Whether it is between departments, individual personnel or an organisation against another, best practice implementation and integration can be a relatively simple process. Find out what the best are doing and seek to replicate it.

Photo by Dietmar Becker 

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I Can’t Find My Shoe…

May 7, 2019 3:48 pm

I can't find my shoe

“Life is so hard” cried my 6-year-old daughter.
When asked why, she exclaimed, “I can’t find my shoe.”

Small things have a way of becoming big things; taking our eye off the important things.

If your attention is being drawn in on one particular shoe at the moment, consider:

  1. How important is this in the whole scheme of things?
  2. Is it worth worrying about?
  3. Is this within my control or outside of it?
  4. How much time will it take to resolve and for what outcome?
  5. Is there a downside if I give it no attention?
  6. If it needs attention, what is the quickest way to get resolution in order to move on?
  7. What will focus on the lost shoe cost me financially, emotionally and in productivity?
  8. Am I merely reacting to the situation?
  9. Is worrying about it going to change anything?

Sometimes, going after a lost shoe might be important, but most often, it’s simply easier to go buy another pair.

 

*Photo by Mark de Jong

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Keep Moving

February 19, 2019 1:53 pm

I met with an impressive guy this week who I would guess was in his early twenties. He was: a thinker and a doer; very self-aware for his age; knew what he was interested in from a career perspective; understood his strengths and weaknesses and exhibited a keen desire to learn. Toward the end of our meeting, he asked me, “What do you suggest I do?”. My response was to just keep moving. To follow his interests and to note what his successes were in his career journey, which he was already doing.

Sometimes, we can overthink and under-do. We have a general sense of direction but because of wanting to get it right, we sit at the intersection viewing the multiple paths we could take and end up paralysed in our movement forward.

You can’t steer a car to get to your destination if you are not moving.

So, if you find yourself: stationary at the crossroads; if you’re overthinking; fearful; wanting things perfect before you get going…just make a start using your best judgement at the time. You will always be able to re-route along the journey.

 

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Task Congestion Alleviation

February 4, 2019 3:02 pm

Congestion

Ever felt like all roads lead to you?

Task congestion is not a pleasant experience and often leads to a sense of complete overwhelm and burnout if left unchecked. For a while, we keep going: working faster, working longer, but at some point, what were the bright sunny days of summer gradually turn into a winter gloom of weariness and despondency. We find sleep fitful or never enough and we dread facing another day; like the business owner who told me he would often park down the street from his office in the early morning and cry his pain out before he could manage walking through the front doors.

I call this the all roads syndrome. A congestion condition brought on from excessive task traffic going through one person.

Speaking to an executive this week who was explaining this syndromes effect on his life, while in his current state of exhaustion he had managed to identify a road re-route. He needed another person to fulfil part of his role and he was a quest to find them. Smart. He had recognised the issue and was taking measures to alleviate the congestion.

The All Roads Syndrome looks like this:

All Roads Syndrome v2

 

If you are feeling overwhelmed, take some time out in the coming days to:

  • List all the various tasks that come your way. What is helpful here is to keep a blank page beside you and list every individually unique job that you touch over the coming week.
  • Beside each entry, list it as essential or non-essential—essential for what you HAVE to be responsible for and non-essential for what another could do.
  • For every non-essential task or responsibility, think through who else could perform the duty—whether internal to the organisation, if it can be outsourced or even systemised/automated in some way.

Be aware of the trap many fall into at this point which is where others can easily relieve us of specific tasks, but because of our penchant for control and perfection, we keep the roads coming to us. This is a severe congestion trap and letting go at this point is essential. If the people you identify in the process are not yet at the required performance level to fully take-over the re-assigned tasks, determine what training and support are needed to plan your way better forward. If it is simply matter of trust, let it go and monitor their progression.

This process can, like my executive friend achieved, assist in identifying the future lanes and roads that can carry tasks that by-pass us, thus alleviating the current congestion. One or two changes made immediately can have a dramatic impact on your work effectiveness and personal well being.

 

You might also like…
BLOG.  Streamlining Repetitious Tasks
BLOG. Rest – Refreshment Tips for the weekend. Read it here
ARTICLE. Efficient Workflow and the Happiness Factor. Read it here 

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Streamlining Repetitious Tasks

January 30, 2019 2:32 pm

agriculture-bench-environment-730923

I helped a friend layout an irrigation system on his mother’s property. As we were arranging the pipework, he mentioned that our efforts would potentially save her one hour per day. That equates to a time saving of just over two weeks per annum or 5 months over the next ten years—not a bad return when you consider a 10-hour initial investment with a hard cost of $300.00.

When we reflect on our daily and weekly routines—whether at work or home—much of what we do is repetitious, and with a bit of forethought and planning, we can: free up time for more meaningful or pleasurable pursuits; create additional time capacities and overhead savings within our organisations and do a whole lot more with less.

 

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Bright Lights and The Dimmer Switch

January 16, 2019 5:29 pm

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There are people in our organisations who display brightness. They exhibit energy, life, thoughtfulness and productivity. Introvert or extrovert we could describe them as being a joy to be around.

Then there are those that upon entry to the workplace seem to lower the bright vibe throughout the day. Often without knowing it, they control the cultural dimmer switch, always turning it anti-clockwise.

As leaders, we have this responsibility of culture brightness. I’ve come across those who fear to address the dimmer controllers, and often, over time, the bright lights that once were, lose their brilliance with the brightest of them being snuffed out completely, in that they leave the organisation.

Within our hands, we have ultimate control of the workplace lighting mood and it’s our influence, conversations had, actions and overall leadership that assist in both creating and maintaining that brightness.

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Reflections on Goals and Time

January 8, 2019 10:57 am

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This time of year seems to contain a natural rhythm within it related to reflecting on the year past along with focusing on the year to come.

Here are some of my thoughts on goals and time that I have been entertaining these past weeks.

Goals

Goals set solely from the mind can indeed be achieved, but their longevity and the resulting satisfaction may be temporary—I have learned this point the hard way. However, goals that are aligned with our highest values—or those things that reflect our interests, passions and purpose—contain within them a power: both for accomplishment and maintaining of such. We are likely to achieve them faster and be more content upon their arrival.

The values-goal alignment is a powerful force that most don’t recognise in the goal-setting process but is well worth paying attention to. This applies to both the personal and corporate goal-setting process.

To read more on this topic see:
3 Reasons Why Goals Are Not Achieved – A Personal Perspective – BLOG
The Substance of Desire – Goal Achievement – BLOG

Time

The Catholic scholar G.K. Chesterton states that “When you choose anything, you reject everything else…Every act is an irrevocable selection and exclusion.” *

When we choose to work on a quotation, for example, we are excluding everything else in the moment. Given this selection and exclusion process, it pays to be mindful of the extreme importance to be working on the highest priority task at any given time.

This is why re-active work is so detrimental to progress. When our days are those of putting out fires and bouncing from the urgent to the urgent, advancement is stymied.

As you plan the year and establish goals for yourself and your organisation— and even if you have already completed the exercise—I would suggest the following:

  • Ensure highest priority tasks relate directly to goal fulfilment and are scheduled into your diary.
  • Create a stop doing list and beside each item, list how you are going to cease from this activity.
  • Plan tomorrow today; next week this week. This method creates a higher success/fulfilment rate of top priority tasks.

I was watching the ocean waves last week and realised that each wave as it broke, would never happen again. The moment was gone. And so it is with each tick of the clock.

For more on this topic see:
Not Another Bloody Phone Call. BLOG
I’m Too Busy – BLOG
Lifestyle. Getting Your Life Back. BLOG

*G.K. Chesterton, “Orthodoxy” in The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton Vol:1, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986

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Two Magical Words

December 20, 2018 5:53 pm

Two Magical Words As tears filled her eyes, a long-term employee said: “even a small thank-you from management wouldn’t go astray.”

Two Magical Words

The two words thank you contain magic within them. They have the power to bring the best out in people; to open closed doors; to make a cold person warm; to generate more business; to generate loyalty in our team members; promote happiness in our homes and our workplaces.

If we come from a place of entitlement—in that life and people owe us—then just saying the words thank you do not have the same power as when propelled out of a heart of gratitude. The more deeply grateful we are, the more meaningful thank you becomes.

As you wrap this year up with those people you work, live and play with, take some time to reflect on what they contribute to your life and express a heartfelt thank you by way of written or spoken words.

And lastly, I would like to say thank-you to all of you here who read and comment on my writing; the wonderful business owners and managers I have had the privilege of working with this year by way of consulting and speaking; the editors who have published my writing; and the association directors who have promoted my work.

I trust you have a wonderful Christmas and a New Year that is blessed beyond measure. May you see unimagined new doors open for you in 2019.

Thank you…
Ray

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Leadership Bravery

December 13, 2018 4:09 pm

Bravery
Leadership Bravery

I woke up Sunday morning with a very sore neck and significant pain in my shoulder and arm. I subsequently visited a physiotherapist who located and addressed the issues that were contributing to the pain.

My physiotherapist:

  • Exercised bravery. She was not backward in addressing the situation head-on;
  • went straight to the root cause and created pain so that I might be pain-free;
  • didn’t skirt around or minimise the issue;
  • didn’t fear to hurt me;
  • almost made a big boy cry.

What if we as leaders were:

  • brave like my physiotherapist;
  • seeking to locate the cause of problems;
  • not trying to appease everyone nor sugar coat situations;
  • dealing with difficult situations rapidly;
  • not afraid of tears.

Just as one small area in my shoulder affected the rest of my body, so too it happens in organisations — one toxic, lazy or out-of-place employee; one inefficient process; one manager’s errant behaviour; one long-term customer’s appalling treatment of our staff; one incompetent supplier.

I wasn’t prepared to live with my pain and nor should you, but the first step is bravery.

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Planning for Play

December 6, 2018 5:36 pm

Planning For Play

Planning for Play

Most of my readers are busy and productive people and given that the Christmas season is at hand, many are on tight deadlines, in pressured situations, persevering until they can take the foot off the pedal for a well-deserved rest.

One of the issues that confront the busy person when they eventually do stop for an extended break is that often, they hit the metaphorical wall. Going from a 100 m p/h to a dead stop can create all manner of personal havoc, affecting us physically, emotionally and mentally; along with relational impacts on those we are close to.

If you are verging on, or wholly in manic mode, given that we have a couple of weeks left till Christmas, I would suggest taking the foot off the pedal slightly; do what you have to do but do it walking a touch slower, both in mind and body. It doesn’t mean we do less, we just shift our mindset to doing it a little easier.

The other thing that can be useful at this time of year is planning for play while you are away—from the office.

Often we arrive at our holiday destination leaving the days to their random spontaneity. While this can be a form of its own curative therapy, inserting some meaningful activities into the time— events that we know breath life into us—can change a break from merely physical rest for our bodies to regenerative refreshment for our minds and souls.

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It Doesn’t Take Much

November 29, 2018 12:10 pm

Walking through a manufacturing workshop with a business owner last week, apart from the layout, product quality and efficiencies the business exemplified, the thing that struck me was the people.

As we walked past each team member, the business owner greeted them by name, with energy and with a smile; even when they weren’t aware of his presence, he would poke his head through the various office doors and windows and say good morning, expressing a genuine interest in each.

His team members demonstrated openness, enthusiasm, receptivity, energy and engagement.

It doesn’t take much.

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Slowing Down To Go Fast

November 22, 2018 7:21 pm

Speed Performance

When a business grows, that which once flowed easily can become congested over time—when systems don’t keep up with increased work volumes.

I experienced this first-hand today but in a different setting.

Ten years ago, Kingsford Smith Drive in Brisbane used to be a fast flowing thoroughfare. As the city has grown and the traffic volume has increased so has the congestion. Today, I find the speed reduced to 40 km/h and it’s painfully slow and frustrating at times. Construction crews are now creating new lanes to re-establish speed and flow.

It’s a case of slowing down to speed up.

In business, sometimes it’s critically important to intentionally slow things down temporarily, minimally lowering performance outcomes if required in order to focus our efforts on constructing a new road.

These new roads can represent the employment of new staff; the reorganisation of divisions, management, roles and responsibilities; the documenting of processes and procedures; implementation of a new job management software platform; culture change and so forth.

This kind of decision, to intentionally take a hit on performance and speed, takes courage, but in the long run, congestion will ease, flow will resume, speed and outcomes will rapidly increase and your employees and customers will be significantly better off for it.

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Change Will Never Happen When…

November 8, 2018 10:00 am

black-and-white-blur-boy-765217 (1)

Some time back I met with a client’s team member who was responsible for sales in a specific territory. Part of the meeting was to gain an explanation for their low sales—50% under budget—over the past twelve months. Every reason they gave me was external to them. “It’s the market; it’s the product; it’s the lack of support; it’s the competition,” —and so the discussion went.

Whenever we, or our employees, provide  ONLY external reasons for poor performance and fail to look at the image staring back in the mirror, change will never happen.

 

 

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Promoting Growth

October 22, 2018 11:05 am

Organisational Lawn

Over the years of caring for lawns, I have come to understand that one cannot make them grow by standing over them—harassing, badgering, pressuring, urging, nor barking incessantly. The grass is deaf to my clamant appeals.

I have realised that I have to work with a lawn—providing the best nutrients and conditions required in order to promote natural growth and literally, from the ground up.

The people in our organisations are similar.

Some individuals and teams display abundant growth while others are more sparse — a bit of green here, a bit of growth there but overall, lack cohesion and progression against their verdant colleagues.

Just as a lawn needs watering, weeding, soil conditioning, fertilising and suitable climatic conditions to grow, so too, our people and departments need to be nourished and provided with the right conditions and environment to promote and support their growth.

Sometimes after working with existing lawns, I have decided to replace them—or parts of them; and so it goes for some personnel also.

To create a thriving lawn takes effort and care; working with our people is no different.

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning From The Masters

October 12, 2018 10:46 am

Learning

Some years ago I realised that the Masters all had one thing in common; they were learners. They didn’t get to mastery level overnight, but through constant learning and practice, they became experts of their craft.

Many people stopped learning years ago and simply now, go about their days and work relying on this prior knowledge whereas others are constantly engaged in the learning process. They’re expanding their minds, their intuition and skills on a continual basis, causing them to progress faster and higher and making them objects of interest—those to be admired and followed.

Here are some thoughts that I have found useful in my own learning journey.

1. What to learn

Many studies have indicated that successful people build on their strengths and employ or outsource their weaknesses. Skills development around our natural talents and strengths is essential for mastery in any area. It is vital to look at where we want to be, where we are now, which then highlights the learning gap clarifying the what in our development journey.

2. How to learn

There is no right or wrong way to learn, but I think there is a best way for each of us. For some, it is the informal just in time learning. You might face an issue in your work but are unsure how to approach it. Locating the relevant resources, immersing yourself in them and then practising your learning insights is a great way of making your knowledge stick.

Others prefer formal education and this is particularly useful both from the perspective of connecting the dots around your prior learning and providing a broader framework to operate from within; also from the standpoint of gaining qualifications to provide future options. Formal education for some, can be useful where the discipline to self-learn is lacking.

3. Learning Integration

Knowing the theory is one thing; having the ability to integrate this into your daily life and career is quite another. Having an education plan along with an accountability partner helps fast-track this integration and then it’s a case of practice, practice, practice with the cyclical learning process being: Learn, Practice, Succeed/Fail, Rinse and repeat.

While not everyone hits elite mastery levels, all of us can become proficient in certain areas and enjoy the rich personal sense of accomplishment that comes with the learning process.

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A Life’s Work

October 2, 2018 1:37 pm

A Life’s Work

Robert McFarlane

This past weekend, I had the privilege of visiting Robert McFarlane’s Still Point photographic exhibition in McLaren Vale, South Australia—a remarkable showcase of his life’s work for over 50 years. Robert, who I have now met twice imbues humility, alertness and genuine warmth.

The exhibition notes read: “This exhibition will show just how he captures the extraordinary in his images, from the famous and well known to the everyday moments. The images encourage you to look deeper, finding your way through the layers and exploring the many points of stillness within.”

I wander reflectively through the exhibit, finding myself at times apprehended by gratitude. Here is a man whose work was that of capturing life through the lens of which I now, am the recipient of—making my life all the richer from his passion and activity.

It caused me to reflect on two things.

The first was the importance of work. The combination of following our interests and curiosities; having a sense of purpose in what we do; building on our natural talents and developing skill sets, and then the corresponding follow through activity—all compound over time into a life’s work. The second reflection was simply, ‘what am I building?’ Does my work and my life contribute to the betterment of others or is it purely a self-centred existence?

This intimate and timeless showcase of Robert’s work indeed brought me to a point of stillness. Similarly, for us, a life’s work with intent will have its own effect on others as it compounds over time.

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Engagement Lift Through Appreciation

September 5, 2018 3:28 pm

Sometimes, we overcomplicate things, and employee engagement I would suggest is one of those areas. Sometimes, it’s the simple things, the basics that get completely overlooked in our quest for perfection.

I recently read an article about Duolingo’s chief, Luis von Ahn on businessinsider.com entitled “The CEO of a $960 million company uses one sentence to motivate lazy employees.”

That one sentence was “What you’re doing is really important.”

Not sexy; not profound; not complicated.

He also said that “You can turn somebody from being a lazy person to being the most committed person if they honestly believe that the company and you, as a leader, think what they’re doing is important.”

When interviewing the managers of a national company I asked them about their boss, the owner. Each said a similar thing which can be summed up as: “I know that he values my contribution and that he will do anything he can to help me in my role.” Because of this belief—that they were important to the success of the company—they were firmly engaged and highly productive.

Deep inside all of us, we like to know that our contributions are valued. To express a thank you at days end or to express a heartfelt “what you do is valuable” takes little effort yet, in its simplicity, strikes at the heart of our people and potentially yields high returns.

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Words

August 27, 2018 5:03 pm

Words

Words have the power to: teach, direct, heal, instruct, enlighten and inspire. They also have the ability to: dispirit, damage, mislead, bore and fatigue.

Many words spilling from a loose mouth achieve little; a few words emerging from attentiveness can positively change perspectives, situations and worlds in a moment.

It seems for most, listening is more the challenge than speaking—I know for me—this is true. To sit quietly with a friend; listen to a child; engage with a prospective customer or to help an employee—to attend to their thoughts and feelings and to access their world through meaningful questions and active listening; to interact without judgement nor prejudice and provide timely words only when and if necessary—leaves a person feeling heard, validated and empowered.

Just as a writer winnows their written words prior to publication, so too, a person can cull the spoken words prior to them exiting the mouth.

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Fijian Life Reminders

August 7, 2018 9:18 am

Fijian

I returned last week from a conference in Fiji and while the sessions were inspirational and thought-provoking, most impacting were the Fijian people.

Out of the fourteen countries, I have visited, I have never experienced such a collective warm embrace. From the trio singing to us as we embarked the plane; the constant happy greeting of “Bula”; the staff at customs making me feel like I was coming home—not an intruder; a people who always wanted to serve along with my favourite bartender who came and gave me a big hug upon my departure— all of these and more made me feel very much at home in a foreign place.

Timely Reminders
  1. Happiness is an internal attitude and is based not on external things. Someone mentioned that in discussion with one of the locals, they said that the Fijian people exude this happiness because they treat each day as if it is their last thus seeking to live the current day fully.
  2. People matter. For the Fijian, relationships and connection seem to be more important than anything else.
  3. Walking with an ease in our step helps us live more in the moment.

While the martinis took longer to arrive than I am used to, the big bartender’s bear hug showed me that the man’s work was much more about human connection than drink perfection. 

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Margin

July 24, 2018 6:29 pm

Margin

The English word margin comes from the Latin word margo which means edge.  Its current usage is also used in the context of the provision of space or room. If there is no margin for error, we are on the edge.

Margin provides us with:
  • breathing room
  • allowances for error
  • calmness
  • greater levels of creative thinking
  • contentment
  • energy
  • physical refreshment
  • the personal effectiveness with others
  • increased work quality

When writing the couple of books that I have I have completed, one of the tasks at the outset was to establish the margins according to the publishers preferred parameters.

I think we were designed in a way as to have preferred margins,  breathing room that is according to who we are and our individual capacities.

And just as I had to manually make the margin adjustments in my writing, so it is in our lives. If we don’t set the limits, the default is often that the words will run to the sides of the page.

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Turning Chaos Into Order

July 5, 2018 6:12 am

The one thing that I have come to understand about turning chaos into order
is to find that one thing.

Fires v3

When you notice spot fires appear in your organisation or when fires have been burning out of control for some time ask yourself (or have your managers ask it), “what is the one thing that if corrected would cause the fires to be extinguished?” This is called locating the cause. Sometimes it is one thing, sometimes more but there is always an underlying cause.

The process goes something like this:

  • List the issues;
  • Validate them. It’s not good enough to go by gut feel;
  • Locate the cause of the matter;
  • Bring correction;
  • Monitor the outcomes;
  • Manage the ongoing changes, inputs and outputs;
  • Rinse and repeat.

At a macro level, chaos can be the result of significant and fast growth thus putting downward pressure on people, systems, cash flow and so forth. Chaos can also be the result of mismanagement.

In any case, too much chaos can be the end of successful seasons, see good people walk out the door and make for a miserable work existence.

And remember my maxim: the one thing is to find that one thing and correct it.

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Lifting Your Head

June 18, 2018 7:26 am

Rainy Night

Walking home on a dismal, cold, rainy night I was focused on getting to my destination as quick as possible. At one point I realised that I was missing out on what the night had to offer. I slowed my walk, becoming present in the moment.

While the awful conditions didn’t change, I did.

I took my eyes off the circumstances and discovered things in the night that helped carry me home.

All of us, at one time or another, go through tough times. The winds and rains seem to come up from nowhere ushering us into the long night of testing and trial.

If you happen to be enduring this long walk of the night, take some time to lift your eyes and you, like me, might discover a richness in the moment that will help you walk the current journey a little easier.

The circumstances won’t necessarily change overnight but you just might.

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Don’t Lose Sight Of The Customer

June 13, 2018 7:01 am

Increasing quality and doing more with less is good business.

Quicker turn-around times; fewer people; less floor space; lighter inventory; pushing processing back onto the customer, e.g. self- checkouts; self-ordering; self-check-ins are part of today’s business world. This positively works on many fronts, but the area that it has the most significant potential for adverse impact is customer interaction.

I ate at a local hotel in Sydney last night and upon my order was given one of the buzzers that would alert me when my meal was ready – self-pickup. While I was ordering wine, the waitress engaged with me. She was real. She was friendly (despite her admission that she feels socially awkward which made the interaction even more significant). And even though there was an electronic process pushing back responsibility onto me the customer, there was a person there who was real and engaging.

And I think this is incredibly important for all organisations. Practice operational efficiency by all means.  Reduce overheads wherever possible but never, lose sight of engaging with the customer.

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The Tough and Tender Of Leadership

June 6, 2018 8:57 am

The Tough and Tender Of Leadership

I have always found that improving a business process is relatively easy i.e. find the waste or the input issues, make the necessary changes and you can with some certainty predict the outputs. When it comes to improving our people, the equation, unfortunately, isn’t quite that simple.

In this past weekend’s Herald Sun, Matthew Lloyd (previous AFL Essendon footballer) wrote a piece about new Hall of Fame legend Kevin Sheedy titled “How Kevin Sheedy Influenced My Career From Day One – Tough and Tender.”

Here are a few insights into Sheeds, that are pertinent to anyone involved in the leadership of people.

“It would take a lot for him to give up on someone, much to the frustration of those around him.

When others’ patience had been tested once too often, Sheeds would always look deeper than just the problem that had surfaced at the time. It was his greatest strength but also a weakness, because it did test relationships…

Building genuine relationships with players and gaining their trust and respect is the greatest challenge of any coach. Sheeds had this amazing ability to hit you between the eyes with what you needed to be told, but still have you believing you could be best on the ground the following week.

His ability to understand, accept and relate to the different personalities of his players was brilliant. Tactics will always be secondary to relationships when it comes to separating the great coaches from the rest. “

Tough and tender

Believing in our people; understanding how long we endure with someone; looking beyond surface problems; being tough when we need to, tender when required; relating to, and coaching the myriad of different personalities in our workplaces on a daily basis…while it can be tough, it can be incredibly rewarding.

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Operations and Strategy: The Two Hats Of Management

May 25, 2018 7:42 am

From Operations To Strategy

I have just completed speaking at a two-day workshop this week with a very astute group of national managers. From delivering approximately 7 hours of content, it gave me a fresh appreciation of just how much we as managers and leaders have to deal with at an operational level on a daily basis. Below is some of the content from one of the sessions that relate to the importance of taking time to lift our eyes to think ‘future’; to disengage our brains from the operational tasks at hand and turn our focus to strategy.

Strategy Operations

The Switch Of Hats

Taking the daily operational hat off to focus on the future can be a challenge for the most adept business owner or manager. The day to day running of our businesses and organisations often demand our all, leaving little energy and focus for anything else.

We tend to get caught up at ground level, fighting fires, dealing with staff issues and meeting budgetary shortfalls. Our minds are on making today happen, often neglecting the future planning and strategic progress that is so essential for success. When this is our ‘normal’, the ideal future gets delayed.

The switch of hats, from operations to strategy needs to be a planned activity as more often than not, does not occur on its own. A study in recent years concerning the disciplines of Australia’s leading CEO’s revealed that of the top three practices, the scheduling of time out for weekly review and reflection along with planning the future were paramount to their success. A further study by the Centre for Management and Organizational Effectiveness (CMOE) that surveyed a wide range of influential US executives indicated that on average 25 minutes per day were spent on strategising.

We would do well to practice the same. Being able to jump off at regular intervals the business or organisational boat we are sailing on; to sit on the sand and stare out at the horizon – thinking, planning, reflecting, will help us when jumping back onto the boat in operational mode. Timeout spent in this manner will enable us to take the ship more directly to its destination.

These are some areas to centre on when practising this:
• Review of progress and results in recent days and weeks – the good, the bad, the ugly
• Key issues requiring immediate attention
• Activities that are irrelevant to the current journey and need to be stopped
• What were the successes and how can we further build on them?
• What is our destination?
• Are we on track as far as the milestones previously established?

Taking time out to Review, Reflect and Plan is essential for managers and owners if they are to effectively lead and manage a growing organisation.

Review
Is about looking back at the past week, month, year or years to see what has ACTUALLY happened in terms of numbers, key indicators, growth or decline, staff, inefficiencies, successes etc.
Reflect
What is the review process and actual data communicating? Taking time to reflect on the meaning of this is essential for the next stage.
Plan
Based on what HAS taken place and in light of your key goals, how do we continue progressing from here to there? From actual to ideal. What do we need to do, change and enact in order to drive this ship forward? Planning is also about scheduling the key activities identified from the above process into your calendar. It assists in taking it from your mind to the page, to the actual operational (action) stage.

If you are similar to me, spending too much time at the coal face of operations can make one a little weary over time. Taking time out in order to think future; while advantageous for our organisations, it can also return significant benefits to our personal lives and can be its own source of inspiration and freshness.

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Brilliant at the Basics

May 9, 2018 6:54 am

Not The Best Referral

If we invest in front-end marketing but neglect the basics of quality and quick turn-around times, we effectively shoot ourselves in the foot. Even the most basic form of respect in acknowledging someone’s call or email quickly is largely neglected these days.

The basics will always be with us so it’s worth becoming brilliant at them.

 

 

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Anniversaries. Celebrating Life In Death

April 27, 2018 10:14 am

Celebrating Life In Death

Today (April 27) is the anniversary of my brother’s death (pictured left). He was killed in a car accident ten years ago.

Anniversaries like these have a way of making us pause – to reflect, to remember, to take stock of the good in life that we experience. It makes us realise that life, like a candle’s flame, can be snuffed out with one fatal blow.

My brother and I were close and regularly worked on each other’s projects. After the initial shock wore off from the news of his death, grief set in. I learned that grief has her own agenda. There are no time frames, no right or wrong ways to grieve. I also learned to allow grief to flow and not to suppress it. Grief over a period of time cleansed and healed me.

One of the significant realisations through this grief period was that I was better off celebrating his life rather than remaining in the mourning of his death for, after all, we had shared 38 years together. That was a change point. Grief took me through the loss and then pointed me to his life – the rich life we had shared together, particularly in the years prior to his departure.

I never forgot this lesson and since that time, with various other losses I have experienced, I have remembered to celebrate life in death.

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Not Another Bloody Phone Call

April 26, 2018 11:51 am

Value Of The Next Call

How many times have you been meeting with someone, their phone rings, they grumble or swear, then answer it?

Customers detect overload.

All of us want to feel like we are the most important person at that time, particularly when we are buying a product or service. When we are treated in a rushed and gruff manner, we think twice about doing business with that person or company again.

If you find yourself on overload, overwhelmed and wishing you could throw your phone against a brick wall, try the following.

  • Give your phone to your receptionist or another relevant staff person for 30-60 minutes at a time so you can concentrate on important work. THEN, return any calls that require you to do so. If the calls that come through are urgent they can always advise you to call them immediately.
  • If you work on your own you can always employ the services of a Virtual Assistant to re-route your calls to.
  • Analyse your calls. I recall working with a General Manager who averaged 80-100 calls per day. A large percentage of those were able to be re-routed to others who were the more appropriate personnel to deal with such.
  • Train your clients. When I was working in finance many years ago, I created a business card for one of my key staff members and introduced her to all my clients as the best person to call, given that she knew what was happening with their files. I also said they I was always available to my key clients. Over a period of time, my calls reduced significantly.
  • Batch your calls. Most calls are not urgent and can be batch to be completed in scheduled blocks of time.

Treating people like they are the most important person in the world at the time of engagement goes a long way to fostering employee buy-in and increased customer sales and repeat business.

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