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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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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What You Don’t Know WILL Hurt You – Disruption in the Mortgage Broking Industry

 21st April 2017 by gihan

The release this week of the Sedgwick Report brings yet another major change to this fast-changing industry. If you’re a broker, you might despair because it places even tighter controls over your business, while at the same time you’re facing competition from other outside forces (such as online broking offers like uno).

If you think things are changing faster than ever before, you’re right! As one indication, the Financial Services Disruption Index, which measures changes in the small business lending sector, shows a jump in disruptive forces, led by increasing client awareness of alternatives to the traditional borrowing channels.

It’s easy to say your business – and the industry – is facing disruption, but what does that really mean? More importantly, what can you do about it?

Broadly, there are six kinds of disruptive forces that could turn your business upside down:

They don’t all affect you equally, but it pays to be aware of all of them, so you can adapt to them, embrace them, and perhaps even lead the change in the industry.

Let’s take a quick look at these disruptive forces – and examine how they might affect your business.

1. Competitors

Who are you currently fighting head to head for market share? These are the traditional “disruptors”– the existing competitors in your industry.

It’s easy to get distracted by the big changes from regulators and fintech startups, but don’t overlook your direct competitors. As the MFAA warned recently, a growing number of brokers and a slowdown in new loans mean it’s a crowded marketplace for brokers, and the broker market might be reaching saturation point.

2. Dominators

What happens to a corner store when Coles and Woolies move in? These are the dominators – the big businesses with the big budgets and deep pockets. When they move in to a market, they don’t just threaten you – they threaten all your competitors as well.

For example, in the USA, Google is moving in to the mortgage broking market, teaming up with online real estate database Zillow to sell home loans. Google is using one of its key strategic assets – the ability to store, sort and search vast amounts of information – to help borrowers compare home loans, and then connect with lenders.

Closer to home, the dominators in the industry are the regulators and other government forces. They don’t compete directly with you, but they change the way you run your business – in ways that are generally outside your control.

As noted earlier, the Sedgwick Report recommends changes to the way financial products are sold and offered – for example, replacing value-related commissions with a fee-for-service model. Already, the Big Four banks have promised to implement this recommendation (and all others).

It’s not the first – and won’t be the last – change of its kind. For example, last year, as part of the Financial System Inquiry (FSI), ASIC’s Review of Mortgage Broker Remuneration proposed other changes to the way brokers are remunerated – all in the name of increasing competition and improving consumer outcomes.

3. Start-ups

At the other end of the scale are the start-ups – the new players in your industry. They don’t have your experience, resources, and existing market share, but they also don’t have your baggage and sunk costs, so they can operate with a lean, nimble, and agile approach.

Accenture reports that one-quarter of Australian executives expect the greatest risk of disruption from this kind of competition.

Mortgage brokers – like any businesses with the words “agent” or “broker” in their name – are particularly vulnerable. Many have relied in the past on being gatekeepers to valuable information about lenders, but that information is now more readily available, so it’s easy for borrowers – and lenders – to bypass the broker.

That’s why startup platforms like uno – which bypasses the traditional mortgage broker to connect borrowers to lenders – can disrupt the industry. It’s also why big banks are so willing to invest in them (Westpac alone has invested $16.5 million in uno).

Keep in mind that your customers and clients are rapidly adopting new technology and business practices – which leads to higher expectations. When people can book a flight, call up an Uber, order restaurant food delivery, and more – all from a few clicks on their smartphone – why should they have to wait 29 hours for a lender to process a loan?

It’s not always easy to predict the start-ups in your industry, because you don’t know from where they will spring up. However, you can prepare by acting more like a start-up yourself, always asking the question, “If we were starting from scratch, is this the way we would do it?”

4. Upstarts

What if a competitor doesn’t play by the rules? These are the upstarts – competitors from outside your current space who aren’t bound by the same rules and regulations as everybody else.

Globally, KPMG reports that two-thirds of CEOs are concerned by new entrants disrupting their business models.

Upstarts can make a dent in even highly-regulated industries (as Uber and Airbnb have shown). In fact, in mortgage broking, it doesn’t even mean breaking the rules. ASIC’s Review of Mortgage Broker Remuneration report points out that mortgage referrers such as real estate agents and developers earn almost as much in commission as brokers, despite doing much less work.

5. Randoms

As difficult as it can be to compete against an upstart, it’s even more difficult when you’re blindsided by a random – somebody from outside your industry who disrupts your business without even trying to compete.

For example, the Turnbull Government’s recent announcement to abolish the 457 skilled worker visa will affect some in the mortgage broker industry. It creates barriers for bringing expertise and skills into Australia, but is powerless to block the passport-less, visa-less, connected online world. That gives you an advantage if you’re already outsourcing, offshoring, crowdsourcing, or using other similar ways to engage talent from everywhere. If you’re not, there’s a danger you will fall even further behind.

6. Terminators

Finally, how will you cope with the terminators – the businesses that don’t directly compete with you, but make your industry obsolete?

The mortgage broking industry relies on home loans, which in turn piggyback on the need for property purchases. But what if this need changes?

Of course, housing affordability is a hot topic now, but that’s just one pressure point on the property market. Other emerging technologies and trends could also affect it – for example:

  • Gen Y’s (Millennials) and Gen Z’s don’t necessarily want to be saddled with 25-30 year home loans.
  • Companies like Kasita in the USA and Heijmans ONE in The Netherlands sell movable homes, which let owners move across the country without having to buy and sell property.
  • Driverless cars will make travel faster and easier, reducing the need for people to move house as often.

Some of these trends will take time to take hold, let alone become mainstream. But they should still figure in the strategic planning for your future.

What will YOU do differently?

The first three forces – competitors, dominators, and even start-ups – might already factor in to your strategic planning, because they are more visible and “in your face”. But it’s the other three – upstarts, randoms, and terminators – that could cause more damage, because they are hidden and have greater potential impact.

Don’t ignore any of them! Smart leaders and business owners use all six in their strategic planning.

It’s tempting to put this aside because you’re too busy coping with the deluge of changes right now. But that’s risky, because you’ll never have the luxury of time. Address them now – and plan for them in your future.

To quote Ernest Hemingway from his novel The Sun Also Rises:

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

Don’t wait for sudden death! Act now.

Future Proof Your Strategy

For more about aligning your business strategy with future trends, download my free white paper Future Proof.

Discover how to identify the six disruptive forces that could turn your business upside down, align your business strategy with them, and find opportunities to leverage them for greater success.

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How to Use the Secrets of Great TED Presenters in Your Online Meetings

 20th April 2017 by gihan

The world-famous “TED Talks” have set a new standard in presentation skills. Many of the techniques of TED presenters can be adapted for online use, even in shorter presentations as part of online meetings. Learn from the best TED Talks, and adapt these techniques to make your next online meeting 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 meetings.

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

  • Build rapport with a remote audience
  • Use your webcam effectively to provide a more personal connection
  • Shift the energy regularly with interactive engagement techniques
  • Design attractive slides (fast!) when presenting data, facts and other detailed material

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 presentation skills to another level.

When: Tuesday 25th April, 11am BST (U.K.), 7pm Perth, 9pm Sydney/Melbourne

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Property Managers: How Smart Are You, Really?

 18th April 2017 by gihan

Experience is useful, but it can also get in the way – especially in a fast-changing world where the old solutions don’t necessarily work anymore.

Think about situations in your business where you might be acting on auto-pilot because you’re just responding to familiar patterns. For example:

  • When you make a management listing presentation to a new client, do you just make a standard presentation every time, or do you really listen to what this specific owner needs for their property and the way they deal with you?
  • If a tenant causes a minor problem, do you automatically react based on other tenants you have known, or do you take the time to discover their unique situation before you respond?
  • If your most junior team member suggests an idea in a team meeting, do you reject it because “We tried that before and it didn’t work”, or treat it (and her!) with respect and consider it seriously?
  • When somebody posts a negative comment about you on your Facebook page, do you hit back immediately because it raises long-held personal beliefs and emotions, or do you stop and take the time to push those patterns aside so you can respond more appropriately?
  • Do you lump all your agency’s salespeople into the same group because “They are in Sales, and don’t understand Property Management”, or do you treat each of them as skilled, talented, and motivated individuals who can help you build your business as well?
  • Do your processes, systems, policies, and procedures force everybody (tenants, owners, and your team) to fit into one way of doing things, or are they flexible enough to accommodate individual needs?

I wrote about this in an article “Is your own brain your number one threat?” for Elite Property Manager magazine. If you would like to read more about the dangers of operating on auto-pilot, you can download and read the full article here.

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Future Proof – Align Your Business Strategy with Future Trends

 13th April 2017 by gihan

Disruption has become a bit of a buzzword now – and it’s become so hyped up it’s lost a lot of its meaning. You hear that you’re being disrupted, you know you need to do something about it, but you don’t exactly know WHAT disruption means, and then you don’t know HOW to manage it. In this podcast, we look at global megatrends affecting us all, the six biggest disruptive forces that could turn your business upside down, and how to do your strategic planning so it’s aligned with future trends.

Listen To the Episode

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.

More ways to engage with me:

Published, Not Polished – The Four-Step Secret to New Media Success

 6th April 2017 by gihan

Published, Not Polished - The Four-Step Secret to New Media Success

Social media and other new media channels are an important part of business and the workplace. Younger generations are “digital natives” and take them for granted, but many others – including many leaders, managers and business owners – struggle to master them. Understand the key differences between old and new media, and learn how to use them effectively for communication and collaboration.

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:

“Your line “When was the last time you did something for the first time” struck a chord. Also, concept of reverse mentoring – very interesting.”

“Reminder about moving away from text”

“4 principles of new media”

“That I’m probably more familiar with new media than I imagined.”

“Loved the 3 action steps & the question…when was the last time you learnt something completely new.? We all need to enrich ourselves in order to grow & develop regardless of our stage in life.”

“That new media is visual, not just print”

“The concept of conversation rather than commercial.”

“The reverse mentoring – I talk to my daughter about things, but now I can see our discussions in new light.”

“New media principles and key actions”

“Get a reverse mentor”

“Quantity not quality”

“I learned there is so much I didn’t know that I didn’t know! So hard to keep abreast of all the latest technology – thanks for sharing so generously Gihan”

“How quickly the technology gets old!!!!!”

“A talented young lady has appeared as a consultant to our wilderness and nature tours, really enthusiastic about our products and would be a great reverse mentor”

“”The distinction between new and old media.”

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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