Managing Conflict in Distributed Teams

 1st March 2017 by gihan

Conflicts are inevitable in any workplace, but can be particularly challenging in distributed teams, where team members don’t work in the same office. As a leader, it’s important to understand these differences, so you can prevent conflicts before they occur if possible, and address them promptly when they do occur.

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The Fit for the Future Podcast brings you regular ideas, interviews and insights about how you, your teams and your organisation can become fit for the future.

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How to Build a TED-Style Online Presentation in One Hour or Less – Free Webinar Tomorrow

 27th February 2017 by gihan

The world-famous “TED Talks” have set a new standard in presentation skills, and many audiences expect far more now from presenters. This can be a challenge for online presentations, because some of the techniques that work for a TED Talk don’t work in online presentations. But you can still learn from the best TED Talks, and use or adapt these techniques to make your next online presentation zing!

Join me in this webinar, hosted by Logmein (the people behind GoToWebinar, GoToTraining and GoToMeeting), as I share the secrets of the best TED speakers, and show you how to use them in your online presentations.

In this live, interactive webinar, you will learn how to:

  • Build rapport with a remote audience
  • Design attractive slides (fast!) to enhance your message
  • Selectively use your webcam to provide a more personal connection
  • Shift the energy regularly with interactive engagement techniques

All of these techniques apply just as well to in-person presentations. So if you make any presentations at all, come along to this webinar and learn how to take your presentations to another level.

When: Tuesday 28th February 2017, 11am BST (U.K.), 7pm Perth, 10pm Sydney/Melbourne

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Is Storytelling Really As Powerful As We Think?

 23rd February 2017 by gihan

Storytelling is a very important part of modern communication, especially with the availability of tools and technology that make it easier to design, tell and share stories.

You will often hear communication experts talk about the power of stories to touch the heart and change the world, but storytelling expert Sisonke Msimang – from the Centre for Stories – offers a different perspective. In her TED Talk, “If a story moves you, act on it”, she warns us that stories aren’t always as powerful as we might think.

She says:

“It’s not uncommon to hear people say that stories make the world a better place. Increasingly, though, I worry that even the most poignant stories … can often get in the way of action towards social justice.”

She presents three reasons:

  • Stories can create an illusion of solidarity, but just listening to a story doesn’t accomplish anything.
  • We are drawn towards characters and protagonists who are likable – but that also means we’re less attracted to characters we don’t like, and they are often the people with the most important messages.
  • We can get so invested in the personal narratives that we forget to look at the bigger picture.

Watch the full humorous and thought-provoking TED Talk here:

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Light the Fire of Innovation

 21st February 2017 by gihan

A fire needs three elements (sometimes called “the fire triangle”): fuel, heat, and oxygen. The fuel burns, the heat starts the fire, and oxygen provides energy for it to keep burning.

Lighting the fire of innovation under your team members uses these same three components (metaphorically):

  1. Create the space (fuel): Create an environment that allows and encourages innovation.
  2. Ignite a spark (heat): Don’t just leave idea-generation to chance; prompt it by asking interesting questions that encourage thinking in different ways.
  3. Fan the flames (oxygen): Recognise and reward the ideas, and then act on them.

These three stages work together to foster innovation in your team. You first create a supportive environment for new ideas, prompt team members to share those ideas, and then act on them. That demonstrates your commitment, which in turn encourages them to suggest even more ideas.

This is a simple concept, but with a lot of depth. When you consider what action to take now, consider all three areas.

In particular, if you think your team doesn’t have a safe and constructive environment that encourages innovation, start by creating that environment for them in small ways. It’s not enough to just tell them to be more innovative. Look for ways to give them permission, focus and time. For example, set aside ten minutes in your regular staff meeting for sharing innovative ideas.

The next step is to direct the innovation (ignite a spark) by asking questions that generate different ways of thinking – for example:

  • “How could we make this (faster/cheaper/obsolete)?”
  • “What are other industries doing?”
  • “How could we involve our customers more?”
  • “What if [this important thing we’re doing now] was made illegal tomorrow?”

Innovative ideas can come from anywhere, so don’t think too much about asking specific questions in a particular order. Choose them at random, share them with the team, and see where they lead.

Then, be proactive in putting the ideas into action. Even a small action that creates a small change is better than none at all, especially if you’re creating an innovative space for the first time. If an idea creates a big change, opt for that idea first, because it will help build momentum.

Innovation is an ongoing process, not an event. It’s better to start small with a process you can repeat rather than a grand one-off event that quickly loses momentum.

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The Idea-Driven Organization

 16th February 2017 by gihan

Every business needs to innovate, and innovation is everybody’s business now. You can’t rely anymore on leaving innovation to an R&D team – you must involve everybody.

That’s the big idea behind the book “The Idea-Driven Organization: Unlocking the Power in Bottom-Up Ideas”, by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder.

It’s a simple and compelling idea. After all, your front-line employees interact most with customers, and see your products and services in action – so they are often the best-placed people to innovate. They are also smarter, savvier, and more talented than ever before, so they want to contribute – and will, if you encourage them.

The authors first developed this idea in their book “Ideas Are Free”, and now expand on that to show you how to build this into your organisation. Even if you haven’t read the first book, you will still get value from the second.

This book tackles the big challenges of turning your entire organisation into an innovation-centric and idea-driven organisation. It addresses this at a strategic level, looking at issues such as:

  • Understanding why managers and leaders are blind to ideas
  • Aligning strategy, structure and goals to innovation
  • Avoiding simplistic solutions (such as electronic suggestion boxes)
  • Implementing this throughout your entire organisation

This book is pitched at a high enough level to suit senior leaders in larger businesses. However, the ideas and principles apply to organisations of any size.

Want More? Watch My Webinar “Light Up – Innovate Now”

Register for the webinar series here.

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The Future of Innovation

 14th February 2017 by gihan

Innovation is everybody’s business now, and doesn’t only come from off-site retreats or an R&D department. It starts with you as a leader, extends to every member of your team, and then expands beyond your team to your customers and clients. Discover how to embrace innovation as a leader, spark ideas in your team, and encourage trusted involvement and engaged interaction.

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The Fit for the Future Podcast brings you regular ideas, interviews and insights about how you, your teams and your organisation can become fit for the future.

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Test Your Future-Proof IQ: You’d Be Surprised What Most Leaders Get Wrong

 9th February 2017 by gihan

When it comes to iPads, video production, and Apple technology, my technology consultant is my eleven-year-old niece Abbey. And yet, when Abbey was born, there was no YouTube, no social media, no smartphones, we didn’t have a street directory in our pockets, we only took cameras on holiday, and we couldn’t carry an entire library with us.

If the world has changed so much in the last decade, just imagine how much more it will change in the next. As leaders, we’re expected to prepare our teams and organisations for that unknown future.

The skills you need for the future aren’t technical, task-oriented skills – because those skills will become obsolete through automation and artificial intelligence. Instead, the most future-proof skills will be higher-order thinking skills.

As a leader, it’s also not enough to just consider whether you have that skill. If you want your team to be fit for the future, you must take responsibility for developing these skills in your team members as well.

So what ARE the skills for the future?

When presenting at conferences, I ask my audiences to identify these skills, and of course we get the usual suspects – things like communication, innovation, creativity, productivity, emotional intelligence, and so on.

The Institute for the Future, based at the University of Phoenix in the USA , has identified ten such skills. They identified these skills by examining six global megatrends and drivers of change, and assessing the skills most valuable for coping with (and leading) these trends.

I wrote about these ten skills in an article for “Consumer Directions”, the industry magazine for SOCAP, the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals. If you would like to see the full list, you can download and read the article.

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Next month, I’m also running two workshops for SOCAP – in Sydney and Melbourne – to help leaders develop these skills in their team members, so they can future-proof their career, their teams, and their business. These workshops are open to everybody (not just SOCAP members). So if you’re a business leader and you’re interested in attending, there are still places available.

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Want Them to Be More Innovative? 3 Magic Ways to Bring Out More Ideas

 8th February 2017 by gihan

There’s a lot of talk about business innovation – and it’s almost become so much of a cliche that it has lost its effect. But innovation is one of your most powerful tools to be fit for the future, so don’t ignore it!

Innovation is everybody’s business now – not just something you can hand off to an R&D department. Everybody in every team needs to innovate, because that’s the only way to stay ahead of the game.

But innovation doesn’t always mean huge advances. You don’t have to invent a new iPhone, solve the problems of cultural diversity in the workplace, or build an app that transforms your entire industry. Most innovation happens with much smaller changes – but they are still important.

In fact, think of innovation at three levels:

  • A-B, or bit by bit thinking: These are incremental step changes, making things a little bit better – also known as continuous improvement.
  • A-G, or goal-oriented thinking: This innovation is more of a leap than a step, and involves specific innovation projects to make significant improvements.
  • A-X, or long-term thinking: This innovation is more strategic and long-term. Think of it as going on a quest, where you don’t necessarily know the answer, but you embark on a journey to find it.

The quests get all the attention and publicity, and that’s not surprising because they are exciting and groundbreaking. But the two other types of innovation are just as important in your workplace.

Let’s look at each of them in turn – and I’ll show you how to encourage them in your team.

A-B (incremental) thinking

This kind of innovation happens at the individual level. It doesn’t always need an entire team, and it can occur “in the moment” on regular day-to-day tasks.

Encourage your team members to find improvements in their regular work.

You can do your part by fostering an innovation culture. For example, in each of your staff meetings, perhaps you spend five minutes going around the room and asking everybody to share something interesting or innovative they noticed in their world (Thanks to my friend and innovation expert, Nils Vesk, for this idea).

Also, act fast to implement their ideas. Because we’re talking about small ideas here, you can do them quickly and cheaply. This improves their workplace, but the real value is that it encourages more innovation.

A-G (goal-oriented) thinking

Goal-oriented thinking happens with a project and your entire team. Unlike the individual innovation of A-B thinking, make this a team effort.

Treat it like any other project, with goals, milestones, resources, check-ins, celebrations and so on.

As with other projects, be willing to dedicate time and resources to this innovation. For example, Google allowed their engineers to use 20% of their time to work on private projects (and that led to things like Google Maps, Google News, and Gmail). Even if you don’t make this a formal rule, give people time to work on your innovation project.

A-X (long-term) thinking

For the third kind of innovation, consider breaking up your team into smaller teams, who all work on this long-term innovation project.

Nobody knows where this will lead, so the best you can do is diversify your teams and give them all resources to help them succeed.

In his book “The Luck Factor”, Richard Wiseman points out that extraverts tend to be “luckier” simply because they spend more time with other people, so they are more likely to create useful connections just by chance. The same applies to innovative thinking – give all team members more opportunities and in different environments.

Be willing to kill some sacred cows – long-established rules and norms that are still in place because “we have always done it that way”. Imagine what would happen if you did them differently – and perhaps even do them differently and see what happens! This can make waves, but be willing to stand by your teams.

You might also create friendly competition between teams (but always in a light-hearted way, because you don’t want them sabotaging each other). For example, Instant Offices challenges its employees to work in teams to develop and present their ideas in a format like the reality TV show Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank.

What are YOU doing to build an innovation culture in your workplace?

As a leader, you play a large role in your team’s innovation culture. What are you doing to foster incremental thinking, goal-oriented thinking, and long-term thinking in your team, business, or organisation?

For more, you can watch the recording of my recent webinar, “Bright Sparks – The Future of Innovation”:

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