Change and Disruption: You’ve Got This Covered

 23rd May 2017 by gihan

I read with interest last week that the USA is considering extending its laptop ban to flights from Europe as well as the Middle East. And here in Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed the Australian government is “looking at it very closely” to determine whether to follow suit. This might not affect you in the near future, but it’s worth considering what happens if it does …

How will this change your work and life?

This might not make any difference for the many people who travel for pleasure, but it could have a big impact on business travellers. Many of them work on long flights, and even work much more productively because they don’t have the interruptions and distractions of an office. And some (like I) need their laptop for their work at the other end of the flight.

If business travellers can’t use laptops in flight, some of them might choose not to fly, which will force a change to the way they work – for example:

  • We might see a rise in online meetings, videoconferencing, webinars, and other online versions of in-person meetings.
  • Or fewer international conferences and meetings.
  • Or an increase in the cost of airfares for holiday travel (because the airlines rely on business travellers for their profits).
  • Or … ?

We don’t know exactly what would happen, but being fit for the future means it’s worth considering the possibilities.

For example, as a conference speaker, I travel a lot, and make use of some of the travel time to get work done – so a laptop ban would affect me directly. It would also affect my clients, who in extreme cases might decide not to hold a conference at all. Knowing this, I can prepare for the impact – for example:

  • Becoming better at online presentations
  • Creating online resources to complement and supplement live presentations
  • Teaching clients how to boost their new media literacy skills, so they can be ready to use these tools and resources
  • Learning about the use of virtual reality for meetings and events
  • Diversifying my income streams more, so I have more eggs in more baskets

What will YOU do?

Perhaps the in-flight laptop ban won’t affect you, but I bet you there’s something that could significantly disrupt your business – stricter government regulation, moving into the Australian market, GST charged on imports, a new President in South Korea, a change in the uranium price, whatever …

Don’t be caught off guard!

Ask yourself these two questions (hypothetically):

“How would my business change if [that significant event happened]?”

“How would my clients’ business change if [that significant event happened]?”

Of course, we will all adapt, but the most successful people will be prepared for the change when it happens.

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How Millennials Will Lead in the C-Suite

 18th May 2017 by gihan

The Knowledge@Wharton podcast, from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, features interviews with speakers, academics, researchers, consultants and other experts.

In this episode, former Aetna CEO Ron Williams and The Conference Board’s Rebecca Ray discuss some of the surprising and unexpected findings of their report into Millenials taking on senior leadership positions.

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Stretch Your Training to Extend the Learning

 16th May 2017 by gihan

Even with greater access to social, mobile and online education, in many organisations – and maybe even yours – the default tool for learning and development is still the traditional training course. Traditional training courses do still have their place, though, but you can improve them by enhancing the classroom experience with other activities. This approach is broadly known as “Flipping the Classroom”.

In the traditional teaching model in schools, students sit quietly in a classroom and get “lectured to”, and then leave with homework that includes interactive activities like group exercises, discussion, and case studies. “Flipping the Classroom” turns this on its head: The students get all the lecture material as pre-work (which is possible now because it can be provided online); and in the classroom, they do the interactive activities to embed the learning.

You can apply the same principle to your training programs, although you probably won’t go as far as “flipping” them entirely. Team members still attend traditional classroom-based training programs, and enhance their learning with additional resources before and after the course.

Depending on your authority, you can either ask the trainers to provide this additional material, or you can provide it yourself. In the latter case, even if you’re not an experienced trainer, there are so many resources available online now that you can easily find suitable material to complement a training course.

These additional resources give a new lease of life to the traditional training course. Instead of throwing it out altogether, you can “stretch” it with other features.

Before the course

Here are some of the things participants can do to prepare for the course, and the tools they can use:

  • Assess their ability: online surveys, diagnostic tools, personality profiling
  • Identify specific goals: workbooks, guided e-learning
  • Do pre-work: videos, reading material, audio
  • Meet other participants: videoconference or teleconference call, webinar
  • Meet the trainer: webinar, individual Skype or phone call to discuss individual needs

This sort of pre-work helps each participant get more value from the course and helps the course presenter tailor the material so it’s more relevant and appropriate.

After the course

Even if you’re providing training courses for the right reasons (and not just to “tick a box” for compliance purposes), it’s not easy for participants to use the new skills when they return to their desks. Again, there are a variety of techniques and tools participants can now use to embed the learning:

  • Re-assess their ability: online assessments (ideally compared with their pre-course assessment)
  • Access to the trainer: individual access (Skype, phone, e-mail) and group access (follow-up webinar, online forum, group videoconference)
  • Access to resources: additional material that supplements the course
  • Drip-feeding reinforcement: material sent automatically at set intervals

How will you stretch the training for your team?

From a technology and cost viewpoint, these are all easy to provide and can provide huge value to participants. Some trainers will suggest these options to you, but many won’t. Take more responsibility for your team’s ongoing development, and build these sort of activities into every training program they attend.

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Authority Selling with Magnetic Messages

 11th May 2017 by gihan

Authority Selling with Magnetic Messages

In a crowded marketplace where sales meetings are getting shorter and buying cycles are getting longer, it’s becoming more difficult to cut through the clutter and sell with impact. In this webinar, I’ll show you how to use the power of magnetic messages to cut through the clutter and deliver a clear value message to prospective clients.

You can watch the recording here:

After the webinar, I asked participants “What was the most useful thing you learned today?” Here are some of their answers:

“How to use simple diagrams. I’ve used them before but didn’t realize their value.”

“The ‘How much’ box. I can use it to show people I’m not adding more to an already-full life, we are altering the balance, lessening undesirables, making room for desirables.”

“Got me thinking i should prepare some of these in my head to be able to quickly draw on (pardon the pun) when engaging with a client.”

“Hand drawn is OK, lots of uses!”

“It was fascinating – last night I spent several fruitless hours trying to make EzyDraw work – and very relevant. I feel that one thing lacking in what I am trying to present is appropriate diagrams. it also suggested to me a variety of ways I could sell my content.”

“The different possibilities for a model”

“That I have so much more to learn and help I need developing my marketing message.”

“Learning different ways to make presentations, pre visual”

“Communicating through drawing”

“A methodology of selling using pictures”

I also asked participants to create their own hand-drawn sales models and invited them to upload them during the webinar. Here are some of the sample models (click picture for a full-size version):

The Future Proof Webinar Series

The Future Proof webinar series will keep you in touch with our future - what's ahead, what it means for us, and how to stay ahead of the game.

In each webinar, I'll cover an important topic about the future - for example, the shift of power to Asia, the changing workplace, healthcare technology, the shift to customer-centric business, big data, and more. This is not just theory; I'll also give you practical examples and ideas for you to future-proof your organisation, teams, and career.

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Open the Door To Greater Experience

 9th May 2017 by gihan

Good leaders give their team members more information and knowledge than they need just to do their job. They know what’s happening in the rest of the team, the rest of the organisation, and even the outside world. But it’s not enough to just sit on the sidelines and watch. Great leaders know real judgement comes from experience, not just from observation alone – so they look for opportunities to give their team members more experience that matters.

As Theodore Roosevelt said:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.”

I’m not suggesting you throw your team members into an arena with lions and a baying crowd! But if you really want them to learn, give them the chance to do things, even with the risk they will make mistakes. You’ve minimised the risk by giving them the chance to observe and learn, so now give them the chance to shine.

Ask them for advice

You’ve given your team members the chance to see how other parts of the organisation work, so now ask for their comments, suggestions, and advice. They are looking at things with new eyes and a fresh outlook, so they might be able to suggest improvements and enhancements.

It’s not always easy for them to offer advice. They might be reluctant to criticise, inexperienced in making succinct suggestions, or worried about overstepping their authority. Rather than just asking for suggestions, ask specific questions instead – like these:

  1. What could we stop doing?
  2. What could we start doing?
  3. What should we keep doing?

Don’t just ask for their advice; be willing to act on it. In fact, adopt the attitude that you will act on their advice unless there are really strong reasons against it. Even if it means extra time, effort, or money, do it anyway. After all, you’re not always the best judge of the outcome, and you might be surprised at the results.

More importantly, though, acting on the advice shows them you value and appreciate it, which will encourage them to speak up more often in the future.

Send them to networking events

Send your team members to relevant networking events. Start by finding (or asking them to find) events of their peers, and then gradually move them up to events with more senior people.

This is one area where you should beware of pushing them too far too soon. People at a networking event expect to be among peers, and many of them won’t make a more junior person feel welcome (and some will actively make them feel unwelcome). Attend the first such event with them, so you can make the introductions and position them with the other people there.

Put them on the front line

Give them a chance to not just observe customers, but interact with them – in the retail shop, at the incoming call centre, on social media, at the reception desk, or wherever else your organisation interacts with customers.

You can’t do this with every customer-facing role, but just giving people exposure to customers in some way is better than none at all. For example, if you work for an airline, you can’t ask your team members to pilot the plane! But they might be able to work in social media, in a call centre, or at the airport.

Organisations like Zappos and JetBlue are famous for giving their staff flexibility in dealing with customers. Even if your organisation doesn’t have this culture, don’t hold onto the reins too tightly. Give them a bit of freedom and you might be surprised at the results.

Give them a voice

Invite them to contribute to your organisation’s internal newsletter, the external quarterly magazine, the internal blog on the intranet, or the external blog on your Web site.

Some of these publications might be tightly controlled, so you might have to work hard to persuade their managers to accept other contributions, let alone contributions from “junior” people. But it’s worth the effort, not only for your team members, but also for the organisation as a whole.

Don’t limit your thinking to the written word. They could present (or co-present) at meetings, deliver training courses, publish videos, and present webinars.

Build their authority

Some team members will be so keen about speaking up that they want to become an authority in their own right. Give them a platform of their own, beyond just being a contributor to a shared platform. The focus shifts from “This month’s newsletter has an article by Shamini about our supply chain process” to “Shamini is an authority on supply chain management, and we’re proud to host her blog on our Web site”.

This might take even more effort to get approved, but again it’s worth it. Having a reputation as an organisation that fosters thought leadership is good for everybody.

Support their existing platforms

Some team members will already have a strong online presence. If that is aligned with your team or organisation, help them develop it further.

For example, Gillian might be passionate about women in leadership, and already has a blog, Facebook page, and YouTube channel about that topic. Any leader in any organisation can support this, especially if you work in a male-dominated industry.

Look for ways to support her – for example, giving her time to work on this passion, finding conferences and events for her to attend (or present at), showcasing some of her work in your internal publications, and so on.

Be careful not to “take over” her platform. You can invite her to contribute to internal publications, but don’t force her to bring everything under the organisation’s umbrella. If she’s passionate enough to have built a following, she’s passionate about it being hers. Support her in continuing to build her expertise and authority, and you will benefit anyway.

Make them a mentor

They might have a mentor, but invite them to be a mentor as well. This doesn’t have to be mentoring somebody junior, as traditional mentoring would suggest. It could also be mentoring somebody more senior in the organisation, in an area where your team member has expertise – for example, social media, consumer behaviour, technology trends, or consumer electronics.

Tap into their networks

Your team members operate in completely different social circles than you, so you might think their networks are not valuable to you. However, the exact opposite might be true. This difference might be useful because they connect you to completely new people. Mark Granovetter called this “The Strength of Weak Ties”, in his paper of the same name, which has become one of the most widely-cited papers in the social sciences.

Ask your team members to reach out to their networks when you need help with recruitment, product recommendations, product testing, and so on.

Let them do more meaningful work

If they express an interest – or even passion – in something non-work-related but which you can support, do your best to offer resources to support them.

Some organisations actively support employees who want to make a community contribution. For example, mining giant Rio Tinto runs a “Dollars for Doers” program, which rewards employees who volunteer significant amounts of personal time to a not-for-profit organisation by providing $5,000 to that organisation, on behalf of the employee . Other organisations even make community work an integral part of each employee’s role, and tie it to their salary package.

Even if you don’t have this authority, you can still support them by giving them time and other resources within your control.

Whatever method you choose, consider it an investment rather than a cost. Your team members will be more motivated to do their regular work, and might also find creative ways to link their regular work with their community work.

Empower the connectors

Finally, don’t assume that only you can help your team members. Find the natural connectors in your team (perhaps they are the ones who are always on Facebook!) and ask for their suggestions. They might host social events with other teams, start a monthly mastermind group, or tap into their social media network to find a guest speaker for a team meeting.

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Talent Everywhere: Four Ways To Build a Stronger Team

 2nd May 2017 by gihan

For most of the past 200 years, the workplace of the knowledge worker has been an office. It was the only practical option: That’s where teams could meet, that’s where the files were stored, that’s where the typing pool was located, and that’s where co-workers put memos in your In tray.

You used the phone to reach people remotely, but that was either quick (for getting a quick answer), temporary (a colleague away from the office), or to schedule a meeting. No question: The office was the best option. For most people, it’s still the place where work gets done.

However, that’s not the only option available now. Workplaces have changed: in location, in time, and even in the people who do the work. If you’re a leader, you already have a distributed team, with four groups of people, each with different needs and abilities.

In the past, everybody on your team was a full-time staff member working in the same office. Now, your team might include full-timers, part-timers, contractors, interns, telecommuters, and job sharers. We also have extended work teams, using outsourcing, crowdsourcing, and other similar work practices.

All these people are part of your team, and have many things in common. There are also some key differences between them, and you can allow for them and take advantage of these differences.

We can group people broadly into four categories, based on whether they are permanent or temporary, and whether they are in your office (physical) or not (virtual):

They each have different needs, and they each have different skills and experience.

1. Accommodate in-office staff

These team members have a traditional work style, working regular hours in a regular place. They are the traditional kind of office worker, and many of them like the clear boundaries around their work. They like working with the same people, in the same office, and with the opportunity to “switch off” when they close the office door behind them every evening.

But many of them would also like more flexibility, especially if they see some of their other colleagues who enjoy that flexibility. So accommodate their needs as they arise.

2. Integrate contractors

These team members join for a fixed time, depending on your needs, and then leave. Some work with you on long-term contracts, and act just like your in-office staff in day-to-day operations.

After their initial onboarding, they often fit in like everybody else. But the onboarding process itself takes time, as they learn the formal and informal rules of your team and the way you work. So integrate them into the team quickly and effectively.

3. Communicate with telecommuters

These team members work from home, and are often more productive because they have more control over their environment, and don’t suffer as many distractions and interruptions as people working in an office. They have enough self-discipline to work effectively without supervision, and find other ways to make up for the cameraderie and rapport of an office.

Unfortunately, because telecommuting is still relatively new, these team members are sometimes neglected or overlooked. Communicate better with them and help them communicate better with the rest of the team.

4. Invite freelancers to participate

These people are often seen as short-term, incidental resources you use only for small tasks. They have specific skills and experience, which you engage on a task-by-task basis. They are efficient, focussed, highly productive, and don’t need much onboarding.

Because they have worked for many clients, and often in different industries, they often have great depth and breadth of experience. But most leaders don’t take full advantage of these team members, and simply hire them for small, well-defined tasks only. If you want to get more value from them, invite them to participate more in the team.

How are YOU leading your distributed team?

Are you taking full advantage of all your team members? You don’t need to make big changes to your leadership style – just recognise these four types of team members and give them more opportunities. You might be surprised to realise just how much they want to contribute – if only you let them.

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Managing Disruption Means Doing Two Things At the Same Time

 27th April 2017 by gihan

Disruption – by definition – hits existing businesses the hardest, so you would expect boards and senior leaders to create effective plans for managing disruptive forces in their industry. Yet, time and time again, we hear about established players – even the biggest in an industry – seemingly caught unawares when disruption hits.

One reason is that established businesses are too busy focussed on their current work, so they get blinkered and narrow-minded. But this isn’t the full story. Scott D. Anthony, Innosight managing partner, has a different idea: He suggests that established businesses know they could be disrupted, and think they are planning for it, but create unintentional barriers that could thwart their efforts. He argues that leaders must take a different approach to balancing the competing demands of existing business and new business, and outlines this idea in an episode of the Harvard Business Review podcast, Ideacast.

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Subscribe to the Podcast

Each episode of this podcast from Harvard Business Review features an interview with a Harvard academic, the author of a new book, or some other authority on some aspect of business. As you would expect from the Harvard Business Review, the interview guests are leading authorities in their field, and the topics are covered in depth and with appropriate levels of evidence and academic support.

That said, the interviews are presented in an engaging and accessible way. As with the HBR magazine, many of the topics are most relevant in larger organisations. Even so, many of the topics covered in this podcast apply equally to leaders and managers in smaller businesses as well.

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Your Surprise Secret Weapon for Success: Work Your Week

 25th April 2017 by gihan

It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking there’s never enough time to get things done – especially the most important things in your life. But the most successful people and teams do find the time. They do something that most other people don’t: They know how to work their week.

Block your time

Set aside blocks of time in your calendar to work on your goal. This could be a set time every day, fixed times during each week, or times that vary each week.

This applies to your team goals and individual goals as well, so encourage team members to block time in their calendars as well. Work together to choose times that suit everybody, and respect those times.

This means you no longer have permission to wander over and interrupt people whenever you feel like it. You wouldn’t interrupt them in a meeting, so give them the same respect when they are working on their goals. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. If something is urgent, very important, or really needs their input, of course you might need to interrupt them. But make that the exception, not the rule.

Know your energy platform

Some people are early birds; others are night owls. Know what works best for you, and dedicate your best working time to your goals.

Be careful not to schedule important work when your energy is low – especially at the end of your day. Despite your best intentions, you probably won’t be as effective. Research has shown, for example, that hospital workers became more careless about hand hygiene near the end of their shift , and we might even be more inclined to make unethical decisions later in the day!

Another reason for doing the work early is to ensure it gets done. For example, when I was a member of the public speaking group Toastmasters, our club was full of busy professionals. Our meetings were early in the morning, which meant more people attended because they fit it into their day before everything else.

Work in sprints

If you set aside large blocks of uninterrupted time, it’s difficult to be completely productive during that time. In our world of constant interruptions and distractions, we find it hard to sit still – let alone work productively – for any decent amount of time.

Instead of fighting this, allow for it by working in “sprints”. You work intensively for a burst of time and then take a break. Then you work again for a burst and take another break. And so on.

This is the principle behind the Pomodoro Technique, which suggests bursts of 25 minutes followed by 5-minute breaks. It means you only get 50 productive minutes out of every hour, but those 5-minute breaks refresh you for the next burst.

This 25-5 split isn’t necessarily the best option for everybody. Other research suggests it’s better to work for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break . You might find something else that works better for you (I find that 40-minute sprints with 8-minute breaks work best for me).

Encourage your team members to use this technique as well, and create a culture that promotes it (don’t let them interrupt others who are working, and don’t get stressed when you see them “goofing off” during their breaks). This not only helps their focus and attention; some research says employees feel more valued when their managers encourage them to take breaks .

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