February 2010

February 28, 2010

Seeking Win-Win – The Relationship Buy In

The core of all business relationships is parity. They are about the negotiation between an employer for output, in exchange for reward, the basis of which is usually a financial transaction.

So this is a fair deal then.

The best relationships serve everyone well. The term win-win comes from the need to ensure that both sides are served adequately from the interactions they have together, such that there is an appropriate return for all.

And a return that is seen to be for the benefit of all too.

There are challenges in trying to secure relationships that balance outcomes that are felt fair on every side. When we manage others we usually find that – as managers – our financial rewards and benefits are greater, so when we want interactions that are effective, we need to do the best by our people as well.

In fact, to get past the traditional differences between managers and employees, we have to be doubly sure that we look towards meeting their needs as far as we can – or better.

Win-win is not, you see, measured on financial reward alone, even though it is often the headline. That said, there clearly needs to be a sense of reality to ensure that people are appropriately rewarded, of course.

Managers can make a huge difference to the relationships they have with employees, to create benefits other than simple material reward.

Good managers acknowledge this and make savvy interactions that count in their favor. By making the time to enhance the workplace experience for all their people, there is much to offer when the possibilities are carefully considered and a little time invested.

By taking the time to be aware of (and always acknowledge) contribution; to develop and coach; to provide career opportunities and to simply provide time for people, as well as the regular interplay that goes on in typical informal conversation-making, managers have all the cards in their hands to make the relationships work so that everyone is a winner.

Take care to note, however, that the onus is on the manager to make the running when it comes to relationship-building, because many employees find it difficult to be confident enough with managers to be equal in the relationship to start with, so they need your help.

With focus and consideration, together with practice and feedback, any manager has a hundred ways to start off good relationships, so there will always be a key to open up an understanding with any and everyone in your team. Sometimes it will take a while to find it, so perseverance will be needed.

Once you get the buy-in with your people – one-by-one – there will be huge benefits for everyone, ensuring that win-wins, through the interactions you have with each of your team members, is the full fruition of the efforts made – on both sides.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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February 27, 2010

Summarizing As a Communication Tool

As managers, we need to create the best interactions with our employees as we can. Understanding each other needs to be the goal, after which, everything else follows…

When we speak to each other, it’s inevitable that what is said, sometimes, maybe even often, is misunderstood, so when a message needs to be very clear, steps need to be taken to clarify it.

One excellent tactic to use is to get the person you are talking to summarize what they have heard back to you and then refine their understanding if it doesn’t match yours.

Nothing upsets employees more than when they take a course of action they believe is expected of them and they then find it wasn’t right.

By ensuring that you get them to summarize, you give them the opportunity to tell you exactly what their interpretation of the situation is. It’s how their brain has perceived the agreement and their words make that clear.

You can then tell if they have ‘got it’ as you expected, or explain the differences if needed.

Now, even then there might be a little difference in your interpretation of their words, but it’s a lot closer than it was without them summarizing.

There’s another point here too. Believe it or not, however great a manager you are, often your people will be intimidated by you, as the ‘boss’, so they will go along with what you say, meekly nodding in agreement.

If you don’t have them tell you what it is they are agreeing to, they might well leave the conversation with hardly a clue about what you really want.

Engaging in a ‘summarizing’ conversation helps them recognize that you are going to want feedback on their understanding so if they aren’t clear, they are much more likely to ask questions to help them ‘get it’ as the relationship progresses in the future.

Whilst it might sound a little cumbersome as a process, when you try it out a few times, you will find that summarizing simply becomes another part of the conversation you have. The sign that it’s working well comes when they summarize back for you without you needing to ask at all!

You have made a clear instruction; they have summarized what they have heard; you sign that off and just keep a distant, watchful eye to help them make it happen how you want it too.

It’s all part of pulling together and making the workplace much more effective and efficient.

With this comes the genuine interactions that develop a team which really is able to be much more productive overall.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Managing Me by Martin

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February 26, 2010

Management Development Tips – Learning Opportunities Are Everywhere

As most managers will tell you, learning our trade is a life-long experience that never stops.

The learning will come from many different sources, when you care to look…

From the first day we take on the responsibility of management, to the day we finally step back, there are always improvements we can add in.

We will develop our skills in the workplace through the experiences we will have.

We will enjoy learning through training programs we are fortunate enough to undertake – where we take the learnings back to implement in our own way, back in the workplace.

Yet there are many opportunities that can be very creative indeed, often outside the workplace, which are all around us, if only we look.

Here are three examples, which might sound a little wacky, yet are stimulating and intriguing possibilities that can excite a manager’s development, when prepared to take a risk or two in thinking outside that box.

Time to give it a go!

Nature

Sometimes just a walk in the park is enough to trigger some thinking that will develop the way you manage.

Have you seen the flight path of a green woodpecker? It’s flap-flap-flap/rest. Effort made till the right speed is achieved and then take a break. Efficient management is more effective with breaks in the energy devoted.

Why do some tree shoots make it when others don’t? What’s the link to your management?

Metaphors

Metaphors from nature, are perfect for giving a totally different perspective to issues that you face and as such are huge assets for the future.

Metaphors are where a descriptor can be applied in a number of situations where they find some sort of relevance.

If you look for them, they are around.

How can the release of 1,000 white balloons be related to what you do? What is the relevance of traffic light sequencing? Why are snowflakes so symmetrical?

Sound weird? Maybe. But then again, if you create one more tool in the box from watching hang-gliders on a thermal-rich afternoon on the scarp side of a hill or how dolphins school together their prey on National Geographic, it’s worth it.

What stories can you apply to the management you offer?

Off The Wall

Whilst there are ideas that are a bit wacky like those mentioned about, there can be much to gain from speculating yourself as you go.

In these cases, it would be easy to deny relevance and move on past. Slow down though – wait. The inkling you felt came for a reason. Where you feel there is a draw for you to linger and be curious, try going with your flow for a while and see just where you are led.

Developing your skills as you progress as a manager is valuable for you. How you go about it will be different for everyone.

We all learn differently, so it’s often good to see things in as many different ways as you can and be brave; take risks, see from the world around you what might work in the team you lead.

Big – and small – ideas may come from well, anything really!

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Management Development Tips, Managing Me by Martin

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Customer Service Excellence – Cultivating Your Raving Fans

Customers are an asset. Yet how many managers have the insights to make much more of these people that simply completing today’s transaction.

They are much more valuable than that.

It’s easy to appreciate the challenges that providing great customer service can pose. You see it’s not simply a case of giving them what they want, when they want it, at a price that they are happy to pay. No, there’s a lot more value that we can squeeze from them in the relationships we build.

And the good thing is that they will be the beneficiaries as well. Because the way we generate ‘Raving Fans’ is purely by being great with the customers we already have and being clear about what we want from them too. It’s as simple as that.

You see, what we want from our customers, are people who like us so much they want to:-

•    Support us as a gesture
•    Help us along the way
•    Become a resource to their family, friends and acquaintances too
•    Come along and trade with us more often

We want to create people who love us so much that they will tell our story for free to anyone who will listen.

For many small businesses, this is all they do.

They are great to their customers; they go an extra mile even/especially when things go wrong and they are loved for it.

So much so that their customers become their marketing tool.

When you have complaints, you have the opportunity to interact fully with your customers – which, ironically, you miss when things actually go right!

A complaint is a little door to create a relationship that is open, honest and mutual. Over a little time, you will be able to move that relationship into a partnership too.

These people are a vast asset whether you are in a small local business or a huge mega-corporation, by creating one-to-one relationships like they’ve never had before with a service or goods providers.

And they tell others about how great you are.

If you are smart, you even start to ask them to collaborate in the development of your business or service, by asking them for their input beforehand.

Whether you are a store; a call-center or an online business you can move into the sport of open-sourcing.

And that will enable you to draw on the insights of your most important asset (along with your people, of course) – your customers and clients!

The ‘Raving Fan’ is the most cost-effective customer or client you can create. They are worth more than their weight in gold and are out there, right now, waiting for you.

Filed under Blog by Martin

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February 25, 2010

Refining Employee Relationships – Getting To The Bottom Line

When we are managers, supervisors and leaders, we build workplace relationships – and we do it for a reason. We want to achieve successes and we need to do this through our people.

This is the bottom line for the interactions we take our part in.

The purpose of relationship building in the workplace is pretty simple really. There is value for all sides of the equation and within that, it’s important to acknowledge that there is a bottom line.

As employees; indeed as business owners, managers and team leaders, we are all in it for something, because the most of us need the work we do.

When we attend work, we do so for some pretty basic reasons. We want shelter to keep us from the elements. We want to be fed and kept healthy. In modern societies we are very fortunate that these are pretty much covered off for most of us.

So we need more. The basics – the core rewards that work provides us with – are sufficient to provide the minimum we need. If that was all we went to work for, well, we that’s pretty much sorted.

The more we need is the cerebral value that work provides for us. The stimulation of the work we do provides a healthiness that is not measured by outward disease. Our mental well-being is provided for by finding stimulating challenges that we enjoy and get personal satisfaction from.

Work is not about material reward alone.

When we manage others, we take that on as a stimulating challenge that gets our juices flowing, so we too are satisfied from the fulfillment that we get from the achievements we make.

Both sides achieving successes in their own personal challenges, are leveraged by organizations to ensure that results from the whole, go to meet and exceed the results that need to drop out for the financial bottom line.

If managers and their employees have personal goals they want to achieve and these are aligned with the needs of the bigger organization, then we are all in business pulling together.

The glue that binds us is the way we communicate together. And we communicate most effectively by having close working relationships that enable us to make the best outcomes possible, where everyone is a winner.

That bottom line for the relationships we build is the pleasure – the joy even – we get from achieving what we want from the work we do.

It isn’t just about financial reward. It isn’t about getting a company car that’s a bit bigger. It’s not about the pension pot we build.

Relationships enable us to work together towards a common goal. The purpose of the relationships we co-create, is the bottom line for all of us, which is very personal, yet always contributes to the outcome our employers expect of us too.

So we are all winners together.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Management Basics by Martin

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February 24, 2010

The True Value of More Than Satisfied Employees

Many organizations strive to have satisfied employees – they even create surveys to ensure that their people are feeling OK at work.

Today, in the business environments we now have around us, that’s simply not good enough.

Having employees who are satisfied with working with you is a good thing. In fact, when you see the numbers, many people simply do not enjoy work at all.

It’s no way to live your life, through just existing during your working hours – probably the biggest proportion of hours you spend awake.

Having highly motivated employees is one of the ‘holy grails’ of business. It’s great for the work they do. It’s even great for them as people too – so it’s a great way to have in the workplace you lead.

The great news is that as a manager of your team of people, you can satisfy and motivate them all pretty much on your own. Every action you need to take is within your control, with perhaps the small exception of the pay level they receive, which in larger organizations can be trickier.

Employees who are incredibly focused on delivering the results – and beyond – that you want from your team, are the aspiration of every manager.

Yet even with this knowledge, it’s amazingly challenging to achieve by all but the few managers who have unlocked the door to success.

One reason for this is that many managers simply fail to appreciate the value of turbo-charged employees and the vital difference they can make.

A difference not only to the performance of the business, but also to the pressures and stresses on the manager, as well as the culture that exists within the workplace overall.

‘Satisfied’ people in your workplace has that cozy feel to it. It’s a term used to measure how people feel about their workplace and, to be frank, is an absolute minimum.

However, having a well-motivated team is an energizing, challenging and truly remarkable experience, which everyone who leads others and achieves, will always remember fondly.

Highly motivated employees are a much bigger, brighter way of being, than simply satisfied, so it’s time to raise the bar and ensure we’re working on having a bunch of really switched-on employees, rather than settling for merely ‘satisfied’!

Simply by taking the time to appreciate the ways that you yourself feel motivated and replicating that is a great place to start.

Appreciating contributions that employees make is one way; making time to spend with them one-to-one is another.

Just by noticing a job well done and saying a personal ‘Thank-you’ is another. By treating them as actual human beings with feelings in your team is another.

These might sound like simple tactics to adopt, yet so many managers fail to show these small civilities. By taking just that fraction out of your day, you will start to develop employees who are one or more steps beyond feeling merely satisfied.

And everyone will be a real beneficiary of that.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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February 23, 2010

How Workplace Relationship Building Solves Problems Best

Problems are a part of any manager’s day. They come at us thick and fast, providing challenges on many levels. With your team, many of these can be fixed.

With the full involvement and collaboration of your team – even better – many can be solved for good…

They say ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, because two minds working together will be able to create a better solution – one that is generally much more effective.

One of the purposes of creating active relationships with our people, is to ensure that we have every opportunity to make the most of thinking together.

Partnerships will generate more and better ideas that can be instrumental in delivering successes much more effectively.

Where – as managers – we spend the time with our people, both one-on-one as well as with our teams, we create the environment that is effectively a safe place to become much more creative.

As we listen carefully to our people – making the effort to hold back with our own ideas to let them come forward with their own – they begin to show their strengths. Often hidden from us, as their confidence develops, we see them demonstrate their full capabilities.

By developing a level of trust and respect that lets them open up willingly, our people take up the challenges we set before them, creating a sense of purpose that will drive them on – with their colleagues – to much more effective solutions.

As managers we are able to spend our days fire-fighting and coming up with sticking-plaster solutions that work for us in the short-term. This makes problems go away for a while, but these are intrepid critters and have a habit of keeping coming back.

When we create strong relationships with our people, they get involved too, sharing their own wisdom which you have nurtured when you are with them. And this enables far better, deep-reaching solutions – not fixes – that make problems go away for good.

We use the relationships we encourage, to make the differences we need, to make our management both much more effective, as well as easier for the best solutions we seek.

The time we invest in our people creates the returns that we seek, above and beyond like-for-like. Using the leverage of many minds on the problems we together face, we maximize the value we create.

Relationship building is two-way, with your people enjoying value from it as well. The returns you appreciate by making this effort are unlimited, because you just don’t know what abilities your people will come up with.

Finding purpose to building relationships is not hard and what can be delivered using you and your interpersonal skills probably cannot be overestimated – after all, you have amazing people around you.

Your job is to get their potential out in the open and exposed, helping you provide lasting solutions to the problems and issues that you have before you.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Management Basics by Martin

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February 22, 2010

Using Visioning Activities to Lead to Future Success

It’s easy to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of your existence as a manager from day to day. Surviving even in the short-term can become a challenge – and that’s on a good day!

But what about making it better into the future? What can you see?

The future is the way forward. Good managers understand that their day job – whilst important – is not just about overcoming the crises and fire-fighting that fills their days.

It’s vital to see the current as a stepping-stone to a future which is more relaxed, creative and stabilized. So many times, it’s easy to say ‘There’s got to be a better way’. The good managers do something about this.

Whilst having a sense of what the future might need to be, there’s nothing like experiencing it, as close to first hand as you can get. This might require a bit of imagination and letting go of current challenges, but it is a refreshing way to understand that things can change.

Grasping, as openly as you can, the possibilities that the future holds for your team is all about experiencing ‘What good looks like’.

In fact, with an element of trust and belief, there are ways that the best managers help their people practically live the dream of their workplace being how they want it to be, to be the very best themselves too.

Visioning is the activity of appreciating fully what you want to achieve, in very sensory ways. It’s about helping your people put themselves in a position where they experience in their mind’s eye, the experiences they would have when they achieve the dream of perfection in their working day.

Being able to ‘see’ where you are aiming for builds a real appreciation of what it is that you expect from your workplace, if it is exactly how you would like it to be.

Now, timescales for achieving this will always vary, depending on the circumstances that you decide to use visioning for – that’s for you to decide.

The key to using visioning techniques is to remember that you will be using all of your senses to describe the future in as detailed a way possible. It’s not just what you ‘see’, it’s what you hear, feel, smell and even taste along the way!

You want to know what ‘perfection’ is and what you will fully experience when you get there.

This is a bit like goal setting with the twist of having a fun experiential playtime too!

You can appreciate why this can be so exceptionally powerful to draw out the most fascinating expectation you – and your people – can have together.

You can work on a vision on your own; together and, if you want really smart, you can use both together!

Visioning is a powerful tool to draw the best expectations from your people for the future that you can build for your team, together.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People by Martin

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February 21, 2010

Meeting Your People’s Expectations

We humans are easily satisfied.

When we are given clues about what we will receive, we naturally will expect it to be delivered.

We have a natural tendency to trust others, until life and its experiences knocks the naivety out of us (oops, does that sound cynical?).

Your employees experience this every day, where they have expectations of you and your organization that might well be pretty minimal.

And you, as their manager, have an obligation to deliver at least that minimum.

In fact, you personally have an obligation to meet their experiences of their employment with you – even if you don’t know what they are!

How so? You might ask. How can I know if they don’t tell me what their expectations are?

Here’s a clue that’s as blunt as I can make it.

You ask them.

See, that wasn’t hard now was it. Once you’ve researched, then you know – and then you make sure you deliver.

That’s if you want to create a motivated team of people who will give their all.

It’s your choice – make it easy for yourself or make it hard.

Have a think and if you need to – see the light!

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Managing Me by Martin

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Managing Others – 9 Positive Behaviors

When we manage others, they take their lead from us. There is an onus on us therefore, to make sure that the lead we offer has every opportunity for success. And using positive behaviors is a great start…

In the teams we lead, we find that they mimic the way we are. On a bad day, they sense that things aren’t going to plan and, where they can, perhaps they keep out of our way!

Where we show the positive side of ourselves, in the behaviors we demonstrate, they are more likely to be upbeat about it – and then, as a team, we have the opportunity to be much more successful.

Here are some key behaviors you can focus on becoming positive in. These are just the chosen few – there are many more of them – and when you are beginning along this path of positive change, these will give you a great start!

•    Respond instead of React – by taking the time to make a considered response and practicing this aspect of your management style, you are going to be more likely to give a positive response than a negative one, which may come from frustration or exasperation when initially presented with a situation.

•    Show appreciation – it’s easy to notice opportunities to show appreciation when an individual delivers what’s expected of them (or more), so building this into your style is a positive response that your people will love!

•    Remember peoples’ names accurately – whilst this might seem like a small thing, employees can feel like they are ‘just a number’ – especially in big organizations – so when you individualize and personalize them, it’s a big plus.

•    Follow things through – showing that you value people is a massive positive, so by ensuring that you always do what you say you will; follow through with your promises and report back where it’s needed, you will make a difference to their feelings about their work too.

•    Drop criticism – it’s of little value when it isn’t supported by learning, so it’s best avoided. This is a ‘stop doing’ to avoid negativity perhaps rather than a positive change in behavior. Thus it has a positive impact!

•    Speak positively of others – when you even speak negatively about people, even when they aren’t present, it’s surprising just what effect that can have on everyone. By finding positive things to say about people – even when they aren’t present – you will be surprised about how quickly others pick up on this and start doing it too.

•    Encourage – amazingly positive, your personal intervention to encourage and support your people will go a long way to help build their confidence and self-belief.

•    Remind people of what they do well – It’s sometimes difficult to appreciate the gifts we all have, so we need reminding. When you tell your people about the value they bring to the team, it may well be the first time they’ve heard it, so how positive is that!

•    Manage expectations – it’s much more positive to be able to do more than expected and over-deliver than it is to over-promise and not be able to do what’s expected of you, so it’s of great value to keep expectations minimal and then do more, where you can.

Small changes in the way you work with your people can bring huge benefits to their behaviors and attitudes. You have every opportunity to choose the way you are with them and then reap the value it can create.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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