05 Apr

Making difficult conversations less difficult

“Method is not less requisite in ordinary conversation than in  writing, provided a man would talk to make himself understood.” – Joseph Addison

Ever put off having an important conversation because it all seemed too hard? Most of us have.

Having a difficult conversation at work is challenging, yet sometimes the impact of not having that discussion can be greater than putting it off. So what will make this all a little simpler and less daunting?

Preparation!

Ok, so planning the discussion won’t necessarily mean that it will be a breeze, however with a little preparation it can be easier and more productive. Every situation is different, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ formula for the planning of a difficult conversation – here are some suggestions that might help get you started.

Back to basics

  • Write down what it is that is of concern to you – this means that you will be focussed on the issue to discuss; writing it down helps ensure clarity
  • Try to look mostly at the facts of the situation (yet still acknowledge feelings of all parties so you are prepared to manage emotions!)

Conversation considerations

  • Ensure you are clear on what your objective is in having the conversation – what are you trying to achieve? how will you know if you have achieved your objective?
  • What will be your approach to the conversation – how will you start it? what are the main points that you want to get across? how will you seek the other person’s input?
  • Consider the best time and place to have the conversation

Reviewing risks

  • Think about what might go wrong in the discussion – forewarned is forearmed!
  • Consider how you will remain calm if things go wrong and what you might do to save the situation

These conversations are hard. They are often necessary. Make it a little easier by being prepared.

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

10 Jan

Is planning really that important?

“A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.”Confucius

It is understood that at this time of year most management consultants, executives and CEOs are talking about the importance of planning. It can all get a bit much – what are we planning for and does it really help? And what does it mean to those of us who are not personally responsible for running the organisation?

Taking a step back, let’s look at this from a practical sense that relates to you. Think about the last meeting you ran that went really well – when you left the meeting feeling that you had achieved what you set out to achieve. It might have been a meeting giving feedback to an employee, a cross-functional meeting you were facilitating or a meeting where you had to challenge your boss on something important.How did you feel when you left that meeting? On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being very high) how satisfied were you with the way you conducted the meeting? What did you do well in the meeting that led to a good discussion or outcome?

Now let’s think about what you did before the meeting – did you by any chance plan how the meeting would flow, plan what you might say, or plan some possible objections that might be raised and how you might handle them? Did you plan what your objective was and what you hoped the outcome might be?

Chances are that the meeting you are thinking of was successful (even if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted) in large part due to the planning you did before hand. Whilst planning will not 100% guarantee success or cover every likely issue that might occur, it will definitely help you feel more prepared, confident and clear-minded. You will be more focussed. You will be more likely to listen to others than if you were planning in your head ‘on the spot’. You will be more in control than if you didn’t plan.

So we acknowledge that when we plan, we generally have more successful interactions with others, especially if there is an issue to discuss or a difficult conversation to be had. If we extrapolate this thinking to longer term business planning, we may start to see some benefits that relate to us. For example, if we are really clear on our objectives for the year, we are more able to map out the steps we need to achieve, more efficient in our use of resources (especially time!) and more likely to feel a sense of satisfaction when we hit our goal. We are less likely to be distracted by tasks that don’t fit with our objectives and less likely to procrastinate because we don’t know the reasons for what we are doing. We are likely to appear to others as being focussed, motivated and productive.

So now you might be saying “that’s all very well, but I have no time to plan!” It’s true, planning does take time – be it for a short-term meeting goal or for a longer term year plan. Yet if we plan in the first place, we are likely to save time later. How many times have you started a task or project, got part way in and then realised you weren’t really sure what the point was or how to actually do something related to the task? By the time you have had a few unsuccessful attempts at whatever it is, you realise that you need to go back to the start, to get more clarity from the boss, to map out timelines or to seek training in a particular area first. This all adds time to the project and may have been avoided if you had spent a few moments planning in advance.

Planning actually saves time compared to not planning! Planning may help you predict issues or find a simpler way, even before you start.

So whether it’s planning for the year, planning for a project, or planning for a meeting, it is worth the effort. You just have to commit to doing the plan in the first place – go on, it’s not that hard and will be worth it in the end!

A few things to think about when you plan at work:

  • What am I wanting to achieve with this year / project / meeting?
  • How does this relate to the company goals for the year?
  • What will be the most important outcomes or outputs?
  • What are the steps (and timeframes for each if applicable) needed to achieve the desired results?
  • What are the resources I may need to achieve results? (people, money, time, tools)
  • What are the possible obstacles I may face and how will I handle them?
  • How do I want myself and others to feel as a result of achieving the objectives of the year / project / meeting?

Once you get into the habit of asking yourself these questions, you will find planning gets easier and often quicker. And if you are not able to answer some of these questions, you will know that you need to ask for help or do some research.

So in the next month when your executive team are talking about planning, don’t switch off – see what they are doing and what they are planning for the business, reflect on how this will impact your job and start your own planning from there. Then keep planning – projects, meetings, discussions, presentations…

Happy new year and happy planning!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

24 Oct

3 questions to round off the year

“My future depends mostly upon myself.” – Paul Robeson

As we again start thinking about dusting off the plastic tree and try to remember if we even sent last year’s Christmas cards, it’s a great time to reflect on the year that was and the year that will be. This reflection is a springboard for considering our professional goals, strengths to build on and areas to develop. Yes, it is only October, however why wait until November or even December?

In the lead up to the year-end, we are usually so frantic finishing up work projects and planning family gatherings, that we often don’t feel we have time to breathe, let alone think about our professional goals and development. We might do a last-minute rush through of our end-year review documents, but do we really give our achievements and future plans the time they deserve?

Yes, it’s a busy time of year and yes you are just waiting for the Christmas break and will worry about it all next year… However, now is probably the best time to consider this often neglected part of our working lives. It is a time to reflect on achievements from the current year, set goals for the next year and plan how to make the most of future opportunities.

And really, it’s as simple as starting with these three questions:

  • What did I love most about my job this year?
  • Which of my achievements made the biggest difference (to me, my company, my customers)?
  • What do I look forward to achieving next year and how can I give myself the best chance of meeting these goals?

Of course, there are other aspects to consider for a full development plan, yet this is a positive starting point that won’t take a lot of time and is often more meaningful and interesting to complete than a ‘tick-the-box’ performance review document (especially one rushed through the night before you meet with your manager)!

Start with these questions, celebrate, and here’s to a successful 2013!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

14 Aug

New to management? 3 traps to avoid…

“If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here. But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever.” — G.K. Chesterton

So you’ve finally been made a manager – congratulations! This no doubt is an exciting and perhaps slightly daunting time for you; and it’s time to figure out the type of manager you will be. Management is wonderful, but it’s not always easy. There are several traps that you can fall into when new (or even when experienced!) – here are just three to think about in those early days, to help you get the best start.

“Because I’m the boss…”

Some new managers think that to gain respect or to get results, that they need to be directive, assertive or even aggressive. Whilst it is important to be clear on the desired results and to give direction when required, you can go about it without ruffling too many feathers. Remember that in many cases the people you now manage have been doing their jobs for some time. Coming in and throwing your weight around may not be the most productive approach in the long-term. Just because you are the ‘boss’ doesn’t mean that you have all the answers or that you automatically receive respect. Find out as much about your team’s role and responsibilities as you can, along with individual’s strengths and capabilities. Ask for their input on pressing matters, seek their thoughts on how the team is tracking. And if there is urgency requiring you to be very directive, quickly – explain the situation to them and be ready to answer questions or listen to alternative viewpoints. You can still make the final decision, however it will go a long way if you encourage some collaboration with your staff.

“We can be friends…”

Many managers – especially those promoted to manage former peers – believe that they can be friends with their team members. Whilst to an extent this is true, the trap comes when ‘being friends’ impedes being a manager. Sharing a joke, having lunch together and even socialising can create a great team atmosphere – it’s simply about getting the balance right. Be prepared to say no or even discipline your team, watch for inappropriate or prolonged joking and story telling in meetings, be mindful of perceived inequalities within the group, never share professional confidences or related gossip with the team and be cautious about talking love-lives and personal dramas. You can have friendships with team members, just be aware of the need for professional boundaries.

“I’ll just wait and see…”

As a new manager there will be issues within the team that become apparent relatively quickly. There may be a personality conflict between two team members, someone may be falling short on their responsibilities or it may be that you have a major performance issue to deal with. These situations are hard and they can be daunting for a new manager. Sometimes a manager will wonder if they have misread the situation, some may even think it is their issue (“Maybe my directions weren’t clear enough?”) and many will choose the ‘wait and see’ option. This may be where a manager thinks that they are too new to deal with an issue or they lack the confidence to address it. Rest assured, ignoring issues and hoping they will resolve themselves rarely works. A more productive approach is to gather your facts – write them down – and ask yourself if there is indeed an issue. If there is an issue, consider the consequences of not dealing with it (for you, the team, the individual concerned and for business results). Explore the options for resolution and discuss these with a coach, mentor or your manager. Be familiar with any HR or legal policies that may apply. Now, prepare your approach, know what you want to say / do and even role-play difficult conversations. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it!

Happy managing!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

10 May

What to do when a cross-functional team gets cross

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success.  You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” – Babe Ruth

Cross functional teams can be fabulous – a way to productively collaborate across a business or even across businesses. However they are not always a happy team in motion. For various reasons a cross functional team can derail – conflict, confusion and crisis can result.

So what do you do if the team isn’t working so well? No perfect answer, however it must be addressed.

Call it

Someone has to identify that there is an issue. It must be raised with the group – not in small sub groups, not behind other team members’ backs. Call it in the team environment.

  • Explain that you think there might be an issue stopping the team from working effectively
  • Identify the major issue – do not make it personal – make it behaviour based and without laying blame
  • Outline how you see the consequence of the issue – e.g. what is it preventing the team from doing?
  • Ask the group what they think (not everyone has to agree there is an issue; everyone must respect others’ views)

Be solutions oriented

Once the group have acknowledged there is an issue – focus on looking for a solution. Unless it is a complicated issue, you may not even need to identify the exact cause – it could just be, for example, ‘ we have issues making decisions’.

  • Brainstorm – how could we make this better?
  • Prioritise – what are the three main actions we should take from this brainstorm list (have the team vote if there is not agreement on the priorities for action)
  • Action plan – what will we do by when? how will we hold ourselves accountable to this? when should we regroup to see how things are going?

Regroup and assess

It’s a good idea to check in again – whether a week or a month later – to see how things are tracking.

  • Ask the group if the actions agreed were implemented
  • Discuss whether these actions have addressed the issue
  • If there are still issues, decide how to move forward – sometimes this might require external facilitation to assess the problem further, to decide on team norms or to help the group understand principles of effective teamwork; other times it might just involve re-looking at the possible actions together

Happy teaming!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

08 Mar

Why create a cross functional team?

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”Helen Keller

Cross-functional teams seem to be very popular at the moment. If you are new to the concept, you might be wondering ‘Why do I want to create a cross-functional team?’ A few reasons for you to ponder below.

Input and Ideas

When working on a project, you might find that it would be beneficial to gather others’ insights. Sure, you might have your own ideas, however a collective ‘think-tank’ is bound to expand thinking. If your project is about finding new ways, improving processes or coming up with new ideas, then it makes sense to gather a diverse group from which to seek ideas. Invite people who you know will have a different perspective, invite people from departments that are different to yours, invite people who may have a vested interest in the project outcomes. Whilst you don’t want the group to be too large (depending on the situation, generally no more than 8 – 10) you do want to have some diverse opinions from which innovation or inspiration is likely to come.

Politics and Policy

Some projects are going to have significant impact on others in your department or organisation. There may also be impacts on external customers or stakeholders. Especially when the project will lead to change, it is important to seek input from those who the change will affect. Allowing people to have their say or provide their ideas will go a long way towards effective change management – they and their team will feel ‘heard’ and you may also prevent problems you hadn’t anticipated. Even if the changes are not ones that people agree with, giving them a say in the process often helps to alleviate issues later. A cross-functional team is a relatively easy way to start to deal with the politics of a project.

Many projects also may be limited by, or involve change to policy . It’s very important to involve the policy makers / holders / governors during the process. Whether they are part of the cross-functional team from the beginning, or whether they are brought in at the relevant stages, their involvement could save serious headaches later!

Involve and Invigorate

As humans, we are innately designed to participate in a community. Whether an extrovert or introvert, we all generally have a need to feel involved. A cross-functional team is a great way to harness this need and to invigorate action and acceptance. Invite those who are passionate about your project to contribute and act as advocates within the wider organisation. Invite those who may be skeptical and have them involved in understanding the issues and solving problems – turning a skeptic into an advocate is a huge win and often results from cross-functional discussion.

These are just a few reasons why creating a cross-functional team can be a productive and positive influence on your project. While we can overdo meetings and involving others, if we do things the right way, the benefits can be wide-spread.

Happy teaming!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

24 Jan

Delegating is not really about you…

“The great leaders are like the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.”  –Blaine Lee

Many managers and supervisors find delegating difficult. This can be for many reasons – they like to be in control, they want all the glory, they don’t trust their staff. Sometimes it is because they feel like they are doing something bad to the person receiving the task.

Particularly for managers in this last group, it might be time to think about this a little differently. Delegating is not about you. Although you may change your workload through the act of delegating, this is not the real reason you should be delegating. You should be delegating to help develop your employees and to build stronger teams. You should be delegating to motivate and inspire confidence. You should be delegating to help with succession planning. Done well, delegating is actually more about the employee than the manager.

So how to you delegate without making it about you?

  • Understand your team and individuals within the team – what are the needs and desires of the group; what motivates individuals, what are their career aspirations, what are their strengths
  • Identify tasks or projects that will play to an individual’s strengths or will enable them to develop skills whilst working on something they enjoy
  • Explain the task / project clearly: objectives, timeframes, their role and why you think they are the right person for the job. Try to make this last aspect as motivational and positive as possible e.g. “I want you involved as you are excellent at developing strong relationships across departments. That is critical to this project as there is a lot of cross-functional work needed. The project will also expose you to senior leaders and raise your profile with them.”
  • Check in with the employee – do they understand the project and their role; do they think it sounds like a good opportunity to be involved in; do the timeframes sound reasonable. Discuss further as required
  • Ask what support they might need from you and outline any progress checks you expect

Of course, there may be some tasks that you struggle to make motivational. In this instance, re-challenge yourself to identify an opportunity for the specific person you have in mind – remember, it’s not about your interests or development! If the task truly is unlikely to be interesting, yet still requires delegation, then be as honest and positive as possible e.g. “I’m asking you to do this because I know that you will do a good job with this and it’s an important part of our team’s role.” Try not to use the reason of “I’m too swamped to do this” as employees are often left feeling ‘dumped on’. Obviously every situation is different so use your judgement on outlining the reasons.

More often than not, if you know your team well, delegating for development will inspire and engage employees. If you think about delegating as a way to develop and motivate, rather than as a way to clear your own desk, you might just be surprised with the subsequent results!

 

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

21 Dec

Holiday reading 2011

“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary.” – Steve Jobs (as cited in Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson)

The holiday reading list this year is very short . If you want a great book to read while you relax, my suggestion is:

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (the one currently in all book stores, with Steve’s face on the front)

This is a well written book and a fascinating insight into the mind of someone who many consider to be a business genius. The book is a ‘warts and all’ look at the man who helped make Apple one of the world’s most innovative and successful companies. Steve was not an angel, but he was smart.

Here’s what I’ve learnt about business from this book:

  • Think Different
  • Make sure your teams collaborate, rather than compete
  • Connect the dots – provide end to end solutions
  • Technology and art are a powerful combination
  • Love what you do

Happy holidays and happy reading!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

01 Dec

Creating a high performance team – the building of trust

“The essence of trust is not in its bind, but in its bond” – Unknown

Perhaps one of the most fundamental factors for a successful cross functional team is the building of trust across the group. Many such teams are made up of people from varied roles, departments, and often cultures – it is no surprise that there will be different perspectives, working styles, goals and personalities, all of which can fuel the obvious question – “Who are you and what do you offer the team?”

In any team different styles and perspectives can create tensions and it is often exaggerated in cross functional teams where there are different reporting lines and core responsibilities at play. It is critical that the team leader encourages and allows time for exercises that build understanding and trust. The popular Forrester/Drexler Team Performance™ Indicator identifies mutual regard, forthrightness and reliability as being the keys to success for trust building; without these you may have caution, mistrust and facade.

So how do you build trust in a cross functional team? Below are some ideas for team leaders to consider.

  • Putting people at ease – At the first meeting, allow time up front for the group to chat in a relaxed environment. You might organise coffee half an hour before, meet in a coffee shop the day prior, have a casual dinner the night before. The environment should be as relaxed as possible and the team leader should introduce, mingle and facilitate a sense of inclusion. Whatever works for your situation, it is important that there is time to get to know each other outside of the meeting – small talk is a first step to feeling at ease with someone. Even if the team has worked together before, each project can benefit from this connection or reconnection before the work begins.
  • Understanding backgrounds – Even if everyone on the team knows each other, there is enormous benefit in introducing what team members individually bring to the table. Sometimes we might think we know someone at work, yet we have no awareness of the skills they have or the experience they bring. Such an introduction can be done by simply going around the group at the first meeting and having them describe their working background. If more structure is needed (so one person doesn’t take up all the time!) write 3 questions on the whiteboard for people to answer. For example: Who are you representing on this team? What past experience can you bring to the discussions? What expertise should we be calling on you for? You can have the discussions around the table, break into pairs and have the pairs introduce each other when you regroup, ask for the information before hand and conduct a ‘who am I quiz’ during the meeting…however you do it, make time for valuing individual backgrounds.
  • Developing team ‘norms’ – Right up front, it is ideal to agree as a team on certain operating principles. This can be done using an external facilitator (helps the team leader be part of the discussion) or the team leader can coordinate. Discuss what team norms are (e.g. how we operate, what’s important to us to make sure we are effective) and how they will be used (e.g. as our guiding principles that we will hold each other accountable to at each meeting). Show some heading prompts – meetings, problem solving, resolving tough issues, values, decision-making, communicating – and ask the team to think about what’s important to them when working in a group – either around these headings, or in other areas. A good question to ask is “What helps you contribute effectively and feel productive in a team?” Have each person write on post-it / sticky notes (one comment per sticky note) and put them on a whiteboard or flip chart. Group similar ideas and encourage discussion and expansion where required. Consolidate key points and capture for distribution – “We agree to… We will…” Common norms are: be on time for meetings, one person talking at a time, respond to emails within 48 hours, putting tough issues and disagreements on the table, be open and honest at all times, phones off in meetings! Because cross functional teams are diverse, the norms must reflect all views.
  • Addressing difficult issues before they happen – Some teams will be working on projects where it is likely discussions will get heated or differences of opinion will occur. Identifying what the issues might be even before they arise is a good way to encourage honesty, understanding and appropriate conversation. This doesn’t mean that you will avoid conflict or tough discussions, but by acknowledging that they might occur it helps people be prepared. It also shows that the leader understands the project. A team leader might highlight that there are likely to be differences of opinion and encourage team members to share openly and honestly while respecting others may not agree; you could ask the team how they propose handling difficult issues or decision-making when there is a disconnect.

These are a few ideas to help build trust within a cross functional team. These types of activities will need to occur throughout the time working together – creating and then sustaining trust. If trust can be built early on, you will start the project in a productive way – it’s definitely worth spending the time on trust building.

 

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

31 Oct

A quick and cheap team assessment!

“Gettin’ good players is easy.  Gettin’ ’em to play together is the hard part. “ ~Casey Stengel

For those of us who lead or participate in any type of team, we all have moments of wondering if the team could somehow operate better. Sometimes we know how to improve it and sometimes we are not really sure what the issues are. To really assess a team’s performance, we should use a diagnostic tool. There are many of these on the market and in the ideal world you would use a diagnostic tool AND a facilitator to work through your team strengths and areas for development.

But what if you don’t have the time, money or inclination to engage a diagnostic tool and a facilitator? You could try running a ‘quick and cheap’ assessment yourself. While this may not give the rigor a more formal process can bring, it is a starting point and at the very least it will get the team talking.

Step 1: Draw and label

Divide a flip chart sheet into 4 segments (by drawing a line across the middle horizontally and an intersecting line down the middle vertically)

The 4 labels for each segment are:

  • Well
  • Not so well
  • Should
  • Shouldn’t

Step 2: Gather team input

Ask the team to write down their thoughts on post-it / sticky notes with one comment per post-it

  • what are we doing well as a team?
  • what are we doing not so well as a team?
  • what should we be doing?
  • what shouldn’t we be doing?

It’s up to you if you ask for input regarding the team as a bigger picture, or if you want to delve into the detail of team goals, operating principles or specific projects.  Your terminology can also be adapted to suit e.g. instead of ‘doing’ you might say ‘achieving’ or ‘focussing on’.

Ask the team to put their comments onto the flip chart in the relevant segment.

Step 3: Discuss

Lead the team in a discussion about the comments, starting with what’s been done well and then what’s not being done so well. Then move on to the next two areas.  Sometimes the ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ reflect the first two and sometimes new ideas will arise – double-up is fine and extra points are fine – the whole purpose is to get the team talking about team dynamics and performance.

Summarise for the group what the main findings are; ask for expansion if necessary; ask for examples if required.

Step 4: Action plan

On a separate flip chart, ask the team to agree on their top 4 – 5 actions to improve team function. This might include starting things we should be doing, stopping things we shouldn’t be doing, continuing things we do well or improving things we don’t do so well.

Confirm agreement and decide when the team will next check-in about the actions agreed.

There you have it – a ‘quick and cheap’ team assessment! While it might not be perfect, it is simple and easy to conduct and often generates some great insights.

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

19 Sep

What’s a good approach for developing strategy?

“Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy.” – Rudy Giuliani

What’s a good approach for developing strategy? This may seem like an impossible question to answer – the s-word often causes a sense of being overwhelmed and confused. Where to start, what is the process, how do we know that we are done? Sometimes it all seems a bit hard.

Developing a strategy – be it for your departmental team or your wider company team – is essential in providing a framework for direction and ultimately success. So whether you run a team or a company; a big business or a small one; a for-profit or a not-for-profit, you should be thinking about your strategy.

So, what is a good approach? Well, there are many factors that will impact how you best do this for your situation. To help get your thinking started, here is an outline of what you could do. (Engaging Potential uses the materials and resources of The Grove Consultants International, so some of the descriptions are adapted from their Visual Planning Systems.)

1. Organisational history

In order to determine where an organisation is heading, it is often beneficial to review where it has been – its history. This process helps bring the team together, gather lessons from the past, orients new team members, and identifies values and capabilities.

2. Context mapping

To commence a future-focussed discussion, the group needs to understand the factors, trends and forces at work in its marketplace. This may also involve mapping where the business / team fits into the larger industry / company, and the links to key players.

3. SWOT Matrix

Where there is a need to do additional work assessing a business’ / team’s current situation, a SWOT matrix is an ideal framework: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

4. Stakeholder map

The next step is to review the current network of business stakeholders and to determine the desired future network. This provides a context for deciding which groups should be the focus of marketing or other communication attention.

5. Visioning

It is essential that a strategy planning team reflects on aspirations for the future and determines initiatives that will move it towards its goals. These plans should be aligned, where appropriate, to developments within the larger industry.

 6. Game plan / roadmap

To achieve a vision, the business  must clarify goals to take them towards their desired future state. This is where the road map is essential
for developing a dynamic action plan – this can be as top-level or as detailed as required for the initial strategy session.

And it’s that easy! Well, we all know it’s not, but planning how you will approach this important task is crucial.

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

25 Aug

Seek understanding for great customer service

“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.”  – Peter Drucker

The first step to great customer service is to truly understand the customer’s perspective and needs (this is important whether the customer is internal or external to your business). But how easy is it to assume that we know what the customer needs? How often do we take one look at someone and make a judgement about what they are looking for? How often do we see an internal customer and think “I know what they’ll be asking me for!” Making assumptions and judgements is not effective customer service. At best you make a lucky guess; at worst you risk under servicing, annoying  or losing the customer.

[You might argue “isn’t it good service to anticipate needs?” We could debate this for days, however one opinion is that anticipation of needs is different to making assumptions about needs. In this case, effective anticipation comes when we have already sought to understand the customer and generally are adding value to services already suggested or provided. For example, “Given you said you were busy this week – would it help if I sent these reports directly to your clients?” or “As you liked this newsletter so much, would you like me to send it to you regularly?”]

Integral to our customer understanding is effective questioning. Questions can be used to help understand and then manage customer expectations, to clarify and calm a tense discussion or to confirm mutual understanding of information delivered. Using questions, we can avoid making assumptions, reduce the need for multiple checking of facts, improve our understanding of an issue or concern and enable us to deliver the most appropriate solution. We can then match our services to these needs and communicate them with relevance to the customer. If the product, message or service is tailored to the end-user, it will have more meaning and therefore be better understood, accepted and remembered.

But how do you ask the right questions? This takes practice of course, and is dependent on the industry, the customer and your relationship with them. A general rule is to make sure your questions are aimed at finding out more about the customer and their situation. The questions should lead you to know exactly how your product or service might help the customer and what they are expecting of you. In a tense or difficult situation, the questions should aim to understand the customer’s perspective or experience.

Some general suggestions are listed below – you will need to adapt for your situation. (notice that questions about cost are not listed – this is not a recommended starting point as despite what people may say,  it is not always the most important factor in decision-making).

  • What (or how) will you use the product / service for?
  • What has been your past experience with a similar product / service?
  • What are the expectations you have for the product / service?
  • Which criteria about the product / service are most important to you?
  • What would help you make the decision?
  • How do you see the product / service helping you?
  • What do you need from me in this situation?
  • What are the specific challenges you have faced using the product / service? (used for understanding complaints)
  • How can we help rectify the situation? (complaints)

These are just a few ideas, but what is most effective is if you develop some questions that work for you. Try to keep the questions mainly ‘open’ (i.e. questions that require more than ‘yes ‘, ‘no’ or a one word answer) for creating initial discussion, and ‘closed’ (i.e. they do require a short answer or ‘yes’ or ‘no’) only when you need to clarify or confirm something.

Why not start by thinking of three general questions you could ask your customers or clients to better understand their needs? Having a few questions ‘up your sleeve’ will definitely help you get started.

So, no more assumptions and happy customer understanding!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

19 Jul

Promoting your team to internal customers

“The way you think your customers feel about your product is not always the same as what your customers really think about your product. ” – Bo Bennett

For those of us who work in or lead a team that supports internal customers, often the last thing we have time to do is to promote or market the team’s work. And why should we? Surely ‘they’ see the great things we do?! Actually, our internal customers are often so busy themselves that they may rarely notice or think about those who support them. So perhaps take a moment to think about how to promote the team and get the message out there about the work we do.

Before we go any further – what do we mean by ‘promoting’? In this sense it is about raising internal awareness of what the team does to support the business, what elements will help it operate more successfully and what achievements are being made.

So why should we promote the team to our internal customers? Well, wouldn’t it be great if we created business partnerships with our customers – relationships that enable optimal efficiency and effectiveness through working together? And to help create that business partnership, our internal customers need to see us as more than just the team that responds to their reactive needs.

Engaging customers in a business partnership is not just about handling an issue or delivering a solution. For a productive relationship, we should be finding ways to: anticipate customer needs, provide relevant services to support their work and highlight the benefits of working together.

If we start to do this well, ultimately this will help us to: reduce duplication, minimise customer complaints, maximise resources and reinforce our success in the business.

Promoting the team starts with effective communication regarding services –  making it meaningful and relevant to the customer.  It’s also about demonstrating exceptional customer service, even during stressful situations. And it is about marketing the team internally, through value-add services, promotional activities and celebration of success.

Effective communication regarding services

Often we assume that internal customers know what we do to support the business. However, if you took a survey today, would all your customers know all of the areas you cover? Would they understand the value you add across the business? It’s likely that your internal customers only see the work you do for them and they might forget even that after a few weeks.

If you can paint a ‘big picture’ of how your team supports the business overall, then you may find that customers are impressed with the scope of work and it could even highlight efficiency areas e.g. perhaps another team duplicate parts of your work, perhaps knowing that you do more strategic work for other teams will reduce the demand for lesser value work. Often our customers ‘don’t know what they don’t know’!

  • Think about getting the team to brainstorm the key areas they work in and group similar work under major headings. Then get them to identify the value of that work to the business. (Tip: if they can’t identify the value, then why are you doing that work?)
  • Do you have a team vision? You could communicate that to your customers as well.
  • Do you have areas that you work in that could be more efficient if customers would only cooperate? Think about mapping out “help us to support you” guidelines to discuss.
  • Have you had some great successes recently? Consider how you will highlight that meaningfully to others.

Whatever you do want to showcase with customers, think about the relevance of the information and how you can structure it simply, yet with impact. Make sure all team members are equipped to discuss the key points as promotion is a group effort.

Once you know what you want to communicate, think about how best to get the message out there. You could schedule meetings with key customers to review recent work and update them on the team’s focus areas; you might want to meet with a number of customers to identify areas to ensure better business support; or you could host a morning tea break for new employees to showcase your service areas. These are just a few suggestions, however ensure that the team is communicating consistently and in an ongoing fashion!

Demonstrating exceptional customer service

Exceptional customer service is not just about delivering everything a customer asks for. It is about anticipating customer needs, understanding those needs and delivering valuable solutions and services to meet the needs. To be effective here, you need to consider how actively you try to anticipate needs or truly understand your internal customer’s daily challenges and opportunities. If you can do this well and deliver appropriate support, then you will raise awareness and respect for the team and probably end up doing more satisfying work.

To anticipate and understand needs, you will obviously at some point have to ask your customers some questions! You will be surprised at how much most customers will appreciate being asked. This in itself is team promotion!

Exceptional customer service is also about handling stressful situations. Make sure you and your team are equipped to approach these difficult scenarios with professionalism, calmness and a focus on results. This is a complex area and one that requires much support, preparation and coaching. But if you can win over a customer in a stressful interaction, then you are truly promoting the team.

Marketing the team

Marketing the team internally has already started if you have addressed the previous two areas! Now think about what else you can do. Whilst you don’t want to overload internal customers with too much information, consider how you can remind them you are there, highlight your work and perhaps even make them smile.

If you give presentations, perhaps you can showcase ‘how we have helped the business this month’. Maybe you can ask for customer feedback through an online survey with a prize for the first five participants. Sometimes even a laminated desktop card can be useful for some teams. Or think about relevant value add services – what about an online ‘tips’ section; a short training session; a monthly newsletter?

.

There is value in promoting your team to internal customers. Not only will it help build awareness of your achievements, it should also help build effective business partnerships with your customers. Promoting is not just about highlighting what you do, it’s about identifying how you help the business, demonstrating exceptional customer service and marketing your team in different ways.

Happy promoting!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

21 Jun

Cross-functional teams – roles and responsibilities

“O, Puchan, may we meet with a wise man who will guide us at once, saying: “Behold your way!” – Rig Veda

Have you ever sat on a cross-functional team and wondered “why am I here?” How long were you left wondering this – a few minutes then it all became clear? Or were you wondering for the entire project?

Not many of us love wasting time in our busy working days. So when we are involved with something like a cross-functional team, we want to know why we are there and what we are expected to contribute. Otherwise, wouldn’t we be better off working on something else? Yet it is a common issue for people working on cross-functional teams. This uncertainty can be exacerbated by managers who tell us we are involved, rather than asking or explaining the reasons.

If you are setting up or leading a cross-functional team, you will be a step ahead if you are able to provide participants with a clear understanding of their role and expected responsibilities right from the start. You are then more likely to have willing and effective team members ready for the first meeting.

Some tips to help you do this:

Choose representation carefully

Having the right representation on a cross-functional team is important. But don’t just think you need to choose ‘1 person from each department’. Challenge this commonly held belief. (NB: we are talking here about cross-functional project teams, not focus groups providing input) Ask yourself: “To achieve the project objectives, what representation is critical vs. nice to have?”; “Who is essential to the discussion and decision-making that will be required?” Too many people on a project team can be dangerous – a good number to work with is somewhere between 7 and 10, but this varies depending on the type of project. If you do believe you need a large group, consider having a ‘core team’ with major decision makers and a couple of sub-teams working on certain elements or piloting suggestions.

Choose roles, not people

When making decisions about representation on the team, it is tempting to consider the dynamics created by combining different personality styles within the one room. Although there will be cases when this is appropriate, generally a more successful approach is to consider job roles required first. In this way, it will be clearer to explain why someone has or hasn’t been asked to join the group. And, it will prevent your own assumptions and likes / dislikes from entering into a professional decision.

Be clear on responsibilities

When you are choosing roles to be on the team, consider what you expect them to be responsible for. Of course, as the team establishes itself, these responsibilities may change, but having an idea up front will help you communicate with the people involved and obtain mutual understanding from the start. Three questions to help you here: “What are the reasons that this role / person needs to be involved in the project?”; “What contributions might be reasonably expected of them during the project?” and “What would they potentially be responsible for  as part of the project work?”

Communicate the key points

Once you have determined your team make-up and they have been informed / asked to be involved, ensure that you have effective communication channels from the beginning. Although not always possible, it is ideal to meet one-on-one with team members in person. If this is not feasible, then a phone conversation is the next preference.  There are a number of items to cover with the team member to ‘get them on board’ – here is a suggested flow for the conversation:

  • Thank you for being involved in this project – your input will be very important to our success
  • You have been asked to be on this team because of <reasons for being chosen>
  • The objective of this project is to <cross-functional team’s reason for being>
  • It is likely that your responsibilities would be <expected responsibilities> and we will discuss this further as a group
  • Our time frame for the project is <timeframe and any relevant milestones initially known>
  • I would expect that your weekly / monthly time committment will be <time> which includes a regular meeting and follow-up work
  • What questions do you have for me before the project begins?
  • Thanks again for being involved. I look forward to working with you!

These tips may sound like common sense, however in a busy working day, it is often the little things that are rushed through or missed when cross-functional teams can feel like ‘something extra to do’. It is, though, the little things that will help you and the team you are leading to get off to a good start.

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

16 May

We’ve set up our cross-functional team – now what?

“Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.”  ~Henry Ford

So you understand the objectives and have chosen the members for your cross-functional team. Your first meeting is tomorrow. Now what? The next stage may seem like it should be ‘just get the job done’, but how do you do that effectively?

Your first meeting with the team will help set the scene for your ongoing work together. If you are the team leader, you should be able to answer these questions:

  • How will we build trust and mutual regard in the group?
  • What steps will we take to get the group from “why am I here?” to “how will we do it?”
  • What will we do if there is a disagreement or barrier to action?

If you are unable to answer these questions, you could use an external facilitator, seek support from a mentor or get advice from a project management expert. Or, you may find the following tips help you get started.

Prepare for the meeting

Make sure you have thought about how you would like the meeting to run. (Please note – this does not mean that the meeting will run this way, but having a plan certainly helps!) If you are prepared, you raise your own credibility with the group and should get off to a better start as a team overall. To plan the first meeting, consider:

  1. What should we achieve at this meeting?
  2. What roles will each of us play?
  3. What process will we follow to achieve our meeting objectives? (NB: here ‘meeting objectives’ are distinct from ‘project objectives’)
  4. What are some important interpersonal / housekeeping points?

This 4-step planning will help you map out some important considerations, as well as giving you a great structure to open the meeting. For example: “Thanks to all for coming today. As you know, this group is to work on <Project X>. To start us off, our objective for today’s meeting is to <ensure we all have a clear idea about the project and to map out our team charter>. Each of you has been invited to be involved because <you are integral to the project and as such, we hope you will freely contribute your thoughts today>. We’ll start with <an introduction from our sponsor>, then we’ll <introduce ourselves and provide others with an idea of any relevant experience>. We’ll finish the meeting by <discussing what’s important to us when operating in this type of team>. So we can be focussed today <it would be great if we can agree to turn off all mobiles and laptops before we begin.>”

Be clear on team purpose

In any team, people want to know why they are there (the purpose of the group and their role in it) and who they will be working with. Discussing these areas at the first meeting is recommended.

Establishing a clear understanding of the project objectives is vital for the success of the work. Many people in cross-functional teams are short on time and love to solve problems quickly – being action oriented is often why they keep getting asked to work in teams! Whilst getting things done is important, sometimes team members jump to action before they truly understand what they are actually acting on. Many hours can be wasted working on a solution before the problem or objective has been defined – often leading to more work later when the action is off the mark.

To get your team off to a great start, define the purpose of the team. This does not have to be the actual detailed goals – it can be a broad objective that is worked through as the group proceeds. For example, the purpose might be to ‘improve the operational efficiency of  the customer services department’ and working out the more detailed goals (e.g.‘to measure  ROI of the current ordering process in the next two months’) may happen at a subsequent meeting .

Help the team build trust

As mentioned, people on the team also want to know who they are working with. Inherently, people form their initial opinions on the project partially based on who is associated with it. If they have trust with those involved, they generally feel more positive about its likely success than if they are suspicious or uncertain about anyone on the team.

Early on in the first meeting, you should give people the opportunity to introduce themselves and interact with others. There are many ways to do this. A very simple way to start this is to ask each person to tell the group their name, current role, relevant experience they have for the project and their favourite holiday destination. Facilitate the discussion by prompting where they offer little information (e.g. “John, I believe that you also worked on a similar project at your last company” or “Sally, what do you like about Spain as a holiday destination?”). After the introductions, organise a short coffee break and allow time for people to mingle – you’ll find they will generally relax and find connections based on the introductions.

There is more that can be done to sustain trust in the group over time, but highlighting experience and connecting personally is a first step.

Encourage the team to determine operating principles

Another area to explore up front is expectations of each other, which contributes to a team charter or operating principles. For each group this will look very different, but starting with the question “What’s important to ensure we work effectively together?” should get the ball rolling. Encourage the group to be open with each other to ensure expectations are clear from the beginning. If there is hesitation, you can always ask people to write their thoughts on sticky notes and then gather them up, group into similar concepts, and discuss.

Likely areas that will be covered in this session include:

  • Decision making processes
  • Handling disagreements
  • General courtesy e.g. punctuality, listening, limiting distractions such as mobile phones
  • Meeting logistics e.g. frequency, minute taking

With your operating principles in hand, you will be ready to begin the process of discussing the detailed goals and steps to achieving your objectives. It may seem like a lot of time to spend getting to this point, however it will help you have an effective transition to the ‘meaty’ parts of the project. And it needn’t take a long time if facilitated well.

Kicking off a cross-functional team requires planning, purpose and participation. It’s not always easy, but with the right approach you will be on your way to creating a successful cross-functional team.

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

27 Apr

Creating an effective cross-functional team – the initial considerations.

“Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.”  ~Henry Ford

Most businesses – small and large – use cross-functional teams at some point. Whether or not they actually call it a cross-functional team is irrelevant – if there is a group of people from different parts of the business working on a project, process review or planning – it’s a cross-functional team. Cross-functional teams have many advantages over a single department focus – sharing of ideas across the company, gaining valuable input from stakeholders, compiling a strong business case for change – just to name a few.

Whether the cross-functional team is undertaking a one-off meeting or involved in a year-long committment, it’s important that we maximise the resources (people and time) assigned. So how do we get the most out of these often diverse teams?

There are many factors to be considered to help ensure and effective cross-functional team: ranging from budget to office politics to communication skills. At the very basic level, there are some core elements to address in the initial stages of creating a cross- functional group. These elements may be handled differently depending on the business and the scope of work, however they should all be considered.

These core elements can be divided into three areas:

  1. What
  2. Who
  3. How

The above order is deliberate. Deciding the ‘what’ helps determine the ‘who’, which in turn will help shape the’ how’.

What

  • SMART  objectives (specific-measurable-realistic-timebound): what is the team to achieve?
  • Business impact: how might the team’s objectives help the business? are there any predetermined risks in either not achieving or achieving the objectives?

Who

  • Relevant representation: what roles / people are essential to be involved to achieve the objectives? what roles / people might be required for occasional input beyond the essential membership?
  • Team leader: who will lead the team and what will be their responsibilities? (having a leader is actually quite important!)
  • Team sponsor: is an executive management sponsor required and if so, what will be their responsibilities?

How

  • Operating guidelines: what are the different team members’ roles and responsibilities; (and once formed) what is fundamental to ensure we are working well together? )
  • Milestones: to achieve the objectives, what are the key steps involved?

Beyond these initial key elements, there are other factors that should be considered to sustain an effective cross-functional team -these will be discussed in a later post. In the initial set up of such teams, if the WHAT, the WHO and the HOW are at least covered, then you will be off to a good start in maximising your team’s efforts.

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

21 Mar

High performance teams – just another fad?

“Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole clear, glorious life lies before you. Achieve! Achieve!” – Andrew Carnegie

The term ‘High Performance Team’ has been around for a while now, but is it just another corporate phrase or organisational fad?

Actually, if you peel back the ‘High Performance Team’ (HPT) label by changing the very important looking title case (i.e. getting rid of the capital letters for each word) you have something that has been around since caveman times!

In the early ages of man, teams formed into what we might call family groups, or tribes. These groups were formed out of the necessity associated with survival. A team that had a common purpose, shared their strengths and tolerated differences would be more likely to obtain food, ward off attackers and raise healthy offspring. High performing teams were born!

In the corporate world, there is indeed still ‘survival of the fittest’ at play. A team that operates effectively, collaborates well with  stakeholders and delivers results is likely to be a team that achieves reward, combats competitive threats and develops competent team members. This type of team will generally have what we have referred to in previous posts as team SPARK. The team will have positive energy and satisfied members. The benefits of such a team are many – lower disgruntled turnover, fewer sick days, higher career progression rates, stronger company wide interaction, increased efficiency and ultimately greater business returns.

So what’s important in creating a high performance team? Firstly, there must be consistent help from the team leader or coach. At the micro level, teams that are  performing will generally have a manager or team leader with excellent leadership qualities (never fear, many of these can be learnt!). At the macro level, organisations with a large set of high performing teams will have a strong leadership team and company head.

Leaders of high performance teams (whether departmental or cross-functional) coach their team members individually and collectively to engage their passions, leverage their strengths and inspire outcomes. They communicate effectively with their team and deliver and seek feedback. These leaders are clear on objectives and facilitate achievement.

The second important factor in creating a high performance team is to have a process to follow. Now this is not “a process for the sake of it”.  A process is simply a structure or model that breaks down the key milestones a team must go through towards high performance. You have to start somewhere to get the team to that ‘wow’ phase of super achievement. And even when you get there, you will have to revisit the milestones if there is an impacting challenge or if new members join the team. A process provides the framework and language around which the team can develop.

There are many HPT models out there and all have their merits. One very good model is the Drexler-Sibbert Team Performance™ Model. This is a well structured and supported model that can be used alone or with team diagnostics. The model moves through time from creating to sustaining. There are 7 milestones or phases – Orientation, Trust Building, Goal Clarification, Committment, Implementation, High Performance and Renewal (Team Performance Model Overview, The Grove Consultants International)

Whatever framework you use to help the development of your team, the third important element is to recognise time. This is an evolving process and one that will change its focus as new challenges and opportunities emerge. The team must know what they are aiming towards (their shared purpose) and that it will take time, patience and willingness to achieve high performance team status. As a manager, coach or external facilitator you must ensure the team is supported and encouraged towards their ultimate goal.

So, to create a high performance team, there are three key factors to help you get started:

  • Leadership
  • Recognised milestones
  • Time

Developing and working with a High Performance Team is rewarding and motivating. From cavemen to corporates, the benefits are worth the time and energy to get there.

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

21 Feb

Ban the bullet point!

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Steve Jobs

When you present, do you feel pressured to capture as much information on power point as possible? Do you fill up every slide with thousands of words so that your audience doesn’t miss a thing?

A few months ago we looked at preparing engaging presentations. One key aspect was to make sure that your visuals (e.g. power point) supported, but did not distract from the message you were trying to get across. There are many things you can do to ensure that they support your message in the best possible way.

Have you ever seen a presentation given where the presenter simply read through a list of bullet points on a slide? What did you think of the presentation? What do you recall it being about? What key points do you remember?

Chances are, with a presentation read off slide bullet points, you found the presentation somewhat dull and it is highly likely that you recall very little about the presentation message.

So, why should we ban the bullet point?

Bullet points form the foundation of most power point templates. These templates encourage us to list information as text in points and subpoints. Often businesses encourage us to use this format through in-house templates as well. This format usually means that many of us fill a slide with lots of words and few, if any, pictures or diagrams. 

Research into the cognitive theory of multimedia learning points out that following a presentation in which information is presented only in text, there is a significantly lower recall and application of knowledge than when the information is presented as both illustrations and words. (“A cognitive theory of multimedia learning: implications for design principles.” R Mayer and R Moreno

In the worse case scenario, this means that if your presentation is constructed with only text in bullet points, then your audience will recall very little of the information you are trying to impart. Now, supposing that you have spent hours preparing and practicing and also supposing that there is a hoped for benefit from doing the work, you have potentially wasted yours and your audience’s time.

What can you do to improve your slides without bullet points?

  • Stop using bullet points (OK, I know that there are bullet points in this blog…but  this is not a presentation)
  • Summarise your message in as few words as possible on the slide (even one word !) and provide the detail verbally
  • Use a relevant visual to accompany the word/s

This might seem too simplistic and you may argue that your presentations contain highly technical information or that the slides act as a handout for the audience to take away. Following on from the ‘words with picture’ benefits mentioned above, research has also shown that words are more effective when presented auditorily rather than visually. In a study of students learning about the formation of lightning, those who viewed an animation whilst listening to a narration generated 50% more effective test results than those who viewed the same animation with only corresponding on-screen text. (Mayer and Moreno, in press)

So you can support even technical learning without bullet points and lots of text. It may mean that you just have to think about it a little harder. Just remember – YOU are the expert presenter, not the slides. People have come to see YOU present, not just to read slides! So help them get something out of it, through cognitive principles. (Remember, people can take notes, or you can provide handouts and resources afterwards.)

When you start to prepare your next presentation, think about these principles and banish the bullet point!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

19 Jan

2011 – the year of success (with a positive attitude)!

 ” Two men looked out from prison through the bars – one saw mud, the other saw stars” – Unknown

Happy New Year!

What does 2011 hold in store for you personally and professionally? A brand new year, a fresh start perhaps? A new job? Renewed enthusiasm for work? Building on 2010 for even greater success?

No matter what you hope for in 2011, to make it ‘the year of success’, you must have the right attitude. A positive attitude doesn’t guarantee success, but a negative attitude will be a big barrier to achieving (have you ever noticed how a negative thought or comment can lead to another and build on itself?)

The great thing is that you have the ultimate control over your own attitude. So for all of us who are high achieving control freaks, this is a good thing! We are in control of our attitude. Granted, it’s not always easy when we come back to work after holidays to find 5,000 urgent emails, but we do still own our attitude towards those emails!

There are three things to try at the start of this year to help with choosing a positive attitude:

  • Be clear on what you want to achieve – having goals or visions for success will help you stay focused on the positive outcomes you are looking for
  • Know what motivates you – understanding what you love about your work and life will help you seek out those positive opportunities
  • Have a strategy for when the negative attitude seems like the easiest option – using simple techniques can help reduce negative emotions and thoughts

This final point is critical. Right now the year might seem like a clean sheet of paper that you will fill with new year’s resolutions and positive experiences. If we are honest, we all know that there will be times this year when we feel a little negative – a structure change at work, a busy day, unresolved issues, conflict with colleagues – all examples of when we may give way to negative emotions and thus impact our mindset for success.

There are thousands of books and experts to consult about coping with frustrations and situations where negativity can take hold. A simple Google search will give you plentyof options for resources. In the interim, here are some steps that might help on the precipice of negativity.

  •  Breathe! When we feel stressed, frustrated or disheartened, we have an immediate and sometimes powerful emotional reflex, which triggers many physiological responses – heart rate, sweating, headaches. The emotion can also lead us to act in a ‘flight or fight’ mode without always thinking through the consequences. Or, it can lead to a spiral of negative thoughts that lead us to build an issue into a catastrophe. So, in the heat of the moment or even during a long period of stress, we can help ourselves immensely if we just BREATHE. With that breath, we have the opportunity to calm the mind and the body before we deal with the issue.
  • Smile! This is not always easy to do (and on rare occasions may be inappropriate) yet it can help us refocus on our positive attitude. A smile is an action that will release stress. Even if it is a determined, gritty smile to say – “I can deal with this and be positive”. Exercise those facial muscles and get the endorphins flowing!
  • Choose! Tell yourself that you choose to be positive about the situation, no matter how hard that is. This might mean that you decide on positive action – “What are our options to solve this problem?” Or that you make an effort to think more constructively – “I can overcome obstacles and achieve my goals!” Or you may choose to try to empathise with a ‘difficult’ colleague – “They are only trying to do their job, just like me.” Or you might even remove yourself from a negative discussion “It’s hard, but I want to take a positive approach, so I don’t want to spend the day talking about all the bad aspects to this.”

Whatever  your technique for ensuring a positive attitude, if it truly works then it will put you on the path of success. So here’s to 2011 – the year of success!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

08 Dec

2011 almost here…

 “Good plans shape good decisions. That’s why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true.” – Unknown

It’s hard to believe, although somewhat necessary to notice – 2011 is almost upon us!

At the end of a long, hard year it’s good to take stock of the year that was and also plan for the next 365 days. So, in this last blog post of 2010, here are some questions for you to ponder as we wind down towards the festive season…

The year that was!

  • What were your achievements in 2010?
  • What did you do well to make these achievements possible?
  • Was there anything you learnt about yourself and your business over the year?
  • What could you have done better?

 

The year that will be!

  • What do you want to achieve in 2011?
  • Which of your awesome strengths will help you get there?
  • What challenges do you predict and how will you overcome them?
  • Who will help and support you in 2011?

These are just a few questions to help you celebrate your 2010 successes and start the planning for 2011.

Wishing you all a very successful year end and a happy holiday season! Thanks for reading and we’ll be back blogging in 2011.

(engagingPOTENTIAL will still be working with clients throughout December –  just no blogging until January.)

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