I see dead people (at work)

December 5, 2017

Lack of motivation is one the key reasons businesses and other organisations fail. Productivity is low, output is low and just being in the office with unmotivated people can be really, really depressing. It isn’t their fault though, because this usually results from an organisation that doesn’t care, develop or respect their employees as living breathing people.

If you spot any of these people – beware – you have dead people at work.

1.   Zombies

Zombies died a long time ago. Their brains are dead, their bodies are falling to pieces, as is their work. They show up around 9am and leave around 5 pm, doing very little in between. They learn nothing and deliver very little, as they don’t think about what they are doing at all.

Zombies can be hard to re-animate. You’ll need to pump back all that interesting life blood and show you care about whether they are alive or dead. Then they’ll care too.

2.   On-line Games champions

This group will look very busy, staring intently at their computer screens and issuing an occasional gasp, shout or air punch. They’re not working for you; they’re doing something much more interesting (for them).

On the plus side, at least they are improving their problem solving skills and technical dexterity. Find something for them to do that takes advantage of these skills.

3.   Moaners and complainers

“Why can’t I have a pay rise?”

“It’s too warm/cold/drafty by my desk”

“Why am I always the one who has to clean the kettle?”

“No-one has cleaned the coffee machine today, and it’s run out of filters”

Etc.

The list is endless, and they will grind you down and grind down the rest of your team too. They just complain too. It never seems to occur to them that with a little effort, they could resolve the problem.

Ask them to identify the top 3 problems along with a solution for each. In other words, give them some responsibility, listen attentively then help them implement a solution.

4.   Social butterflies

They probably arrive late, due to a hangover or they missed the bus because they had the wrong footwear/headgear/tie on. They will be on the phone and social media all day. They look busy, working hard, and they are. Only not for you! They will often be found drinking coffee and chatting by the coffee machine.

They need deadlines for their work and a lot of appreciation. Frequent thankyous can wotjk well, and give you an excuse to keep a close eye on them.

5.   The lost

These poor souls will have a permanently perplexed expression on their faces, but never quite seem to get up the nerve to come and ask for help. They wander aimlessly around the office, muttering under their breath “I don’t understand what I’m supposed to be doing”, or “why am I doing this?” Maybe they missed a key briefing for their project.

They need someone to clarify their objectives and goals with them.

6.   The sick

The irony is, of course, that they aren’t actually in the workplace at all! I’m not talking about those people who have genuine illnesses. They deserve proper sympathy and support. NO, the people I mean are those who are always ill on Friday afternoons or who seem to be sick a whole lot more than everyone else.

The probability is that they haven’t realised how much sick leave they actually take. A quiet word about their work, along with the facts about the amount of sick leave they have. They may have an unrealised problem, or they just need to be appreciated a bit more.

7.   The lazy

Working in an unmotivated workplace, can make people think that hard work isn’t appreciated. It work itself isn’t very engaging either, then people can just get very lazy. They just do enough to get by, they never volunteer for anything.

They may never change, and you may need to lose them. This may not be a great loss to you.

5 tips to manage your Mentor

August 29, 2017

A good mentor can be invaluable in helping you to succeed – in business, in your career or to solve a particular problem. However, many people find themselves mentors who do not have training or experience in mentoring.

I was at a mentoring event this week (I was the expert on the panel), and two different people came to me and asked the same question ‘how can I get more value from my mentor?’ Having given them both the same advice, I thought other people would also find it useful.

1.   Not everyone can mentor

Just because someone is very senior or has been successful doesn’t mean they will be any good as a mentor. Mentoring requires a special blend of good coaching skills, empathy and relevant experience. A good mentoring relation requires mutual respect, good listening skills and the ability to gently challenge you. Without these, mentoring can be a discouraging experience.

Tip – if the rapport isn’t there, it probably won’t work well as a mentoring relationship. Don’t wait – find a new mentor quickly.

2.   Be prepared to mentor your mentor

The challenge is to find a way to help your mentor become a better mentor! This may sound perverse, but most mentors have no training or, indeed, any clear idea on how to be a good mentor. Many senior people are very good at giving you ‘advice’. While this may be helpful, it usually doesn’t help you to apply it you to your particular situation.

Tip – be prepared to lead them through the process

3.   Communicate your objectives

Mentoring works best if you agree goals with your mentor at the start. You can help them help you, by identifying what you want to achieve, and how you think they might be able to help you achieve them. For example, do you want them to help you?

  • Build your confidence
  • Gain a new skill
  • Move up the career ladder
  • Think through your career/business options
  • Get an outside/different perspective on a difficult  business problem
  • Get help to grow or consolidate your business
  • Get some different business/career options

Tip – tell them what you would like to achieve from your mentoring relationship

4.   Set expectations

If they are not trained mentors, they may have a different expectation on how they can work with you. This may seem daunting, but will save misunderstandings later.

Agree:

  • How often, how long and where you will meet
  • Everything you discuss is strictly confidential on both sides, unless otherwise agreed by you both
  • What they can and can’t help you with
  • How to communicate between mentoring sessions

Tip – agree expectations at your first meeting. The longer you wait, the harder it gets to do.

5.   Find out about them

This may seem obvious, but is often forgotten. Don’t be afraid of looking them up on LinkedIn or their company website, or ask about their experience as a mentor. They will respect you for asking, and it shows you are serious.

Tip – look them up first, and then ask them about something relevant that interests you about their experience at your first meeting.

For more help with mentoring: email Jacqui@cocreative.co.uk or text Jacqui Hogan on 07739488060.

6 Tips for creating a brilliant management team

November 8, 2016

moon-and-spaceship

What would happen if you could increase your management team’s effectiveness by 20%?

An effective management team will make a great difference to the success of your organisation. If learning to work together is good for junior teams, imagine how much you would gain from a senior team that worked together more effectively?

However, it isn’t just about building a team. You also need a foundation of skills and experience to share; you need the ability to step outside your functional responsibilities and think strategically about the whole organisation. For newly promoted senior management teams this can present a challenge. It can be quite a challenge to move from being an effective functional manager, with day-to-day operational responsibility, to thinking about long-term strategy and having the future of your whole organisation in your hands

Few teams operate as well as they should. The more senior the team – the greater the stakes and the greater the impact of mistakes. Any dysfunction will impact on the speed and quality of decision making, derail progress or even paralyze your organisation.

Here are some tips to help you make that improvement.

1.   Senior management is not functional management

Many years ago, I was a respected IT manager. Now I‘d always thought I was a natural manager and leader, and to some extent I was. After all, I’d been involved in many voluntary committees, worked in collaboration with other people and had delivered a number of projects involving other people.

As I moved into more senior positions, I found I had to delegate more of the day-to-day operational activities, taking on a role as mentor. I learned that in order to function effectively at those senior levels, I also had to collaborate on creating a vision of the organisation in which IT was just a part. I was not alone. Other functional heads had similar difficulties too. We spent a lot of time arguing about how ‘our’ function was the driving force behind the future of the organisation, before realising that we had to think of the organisation as a whole, not a collection of functions. It is a fundamentally different way of thinking from that that gaining you promotion to functional head.

2.   Thinking strategically isn’t always easy

Maybe you’ve agreed the common goals. But you can sure that while Fran in Marketing thinks strategy means a whole set of fancy presentations showing sales projections, Jag in IT thinks it means adopting the latest technology.

People often get confused between strategy and planning. Essentially, your strategy is your high-level plan of what you are going to do to achieve your goals. Strategy defines how you will bring your organisational resources, skills and competencies together to achieve success. It determines the medium to long term and scope of your business. For example, your strategy might be to focus just on one key niche, because you have limited resources and do not want to spread them too thin. Your plan is how you will determine what that niche is and how you will exploit it. Your strategy guides your plan.

How detailed your strategy is will depend on your industry and how fast it is changing.

Tips for setting your strategic direction.

3.   A well-formed team makes better decisions

When the top team is not working together well, the whole organisation suffers.

There are thousands of articles written about the importance of leadership, and how the CEO needs to have superlative leadership skills. In my view, there is not enough emphasis on the importance of having a well integrated top team as well. In almost every success organisation you will find BOTH a strong leader and an effective management team. There are also many examples where flying in a heroic leader has little impact. It makes sense, if you think about it.

Many senior management teams are made of strong individuals who have are used to being the king-pin within their own functional sphere. It may have been some time since they were required to act in concert with other people in a team, so it is not surprising that they find this difficult. Team building at this leve, if it exists at all, is often focussed on a quick fix or some sort of simplistic activity. The best way to create a team is to choose team builiding activities that focus on joint decision making, preferably on real and relevant issues.

(And remember everytime you add a new manager to your team, the dynamics will change. Team dynamics matter. Being a senior manager is stressful and hard work. Being undermined because you don’t work well with the rest of the team can be disastrous.)

4.   Check for knowledge gaps

It is easy to assume that because you have assembled a team of function experts, that you now have all the skills you need to carry your organistion forward to success. It is worth considering that some will have a broader understanding of the business than others. Some may have a very narrow but deep understanding. Perhaps you have gaps in everyone’s understanding if you organisation or team is newly formed. It is worth spending time to consider where you may have gaps. Working with an external expert to review this can be very helpful in ensuring that you don’t make the wrong assumptions.

5.   Great communications is essential

Good communication skills are a key element of doing business today. You need to engage well with your colleagues, communicate well with your team, listen to your customers and stakeholders to get your message across – whether proposals, plans, budgets, recovery actions, self-defence or purely dissemination of information. If you have good communication skills then you are able to influence people effectively, motivate them towards their goals and inspire the confidence that you can achieve them. These are all skills that an effective senior manager needs.

Many people struggle with business communication and avoid developing their presentation skills in particular. According to a poll in the US, public speaking is a greater fear even than death! But presentation skills are just like any other skill – which means that anyone can learn to overcome their fear and present well.

There is a difference between communication within your own function and communiating acoross the business at senior level. Withing your function, people will understand and even expect, you to use that function’s jargon. Once you are at senior management level, you will be expected to communicate in more general, business terms.

Tips for better communication

6.   Think about training

Most managers have had no management training. It is almost as if we don’t even recognise management as a skill. Yet one of the most complained about aspects of working by employees is poor management!  Strategic management is not a skill that appears spontainiously when we promote people into senior management positions. You wouldn’t let an engineer loose in a shed full of power tools and metal without training, so why do it with managers?

If your managers are good enough to be in senior management positions, they are valuable enough to ensure they have the right training

If you would like a free half an hour with me to discuss how you could improve how your senior managers work together:

email Jacqui@cocreative.co.uk or call me,  Jacqui Hogan on 07739 488060.

Speaker Tips (from Dareen le Croix & ED Tate)

March 24, 2014

I was fortunate enough to hear these two world class Toastmasters and Speakers twice this month. Once at a Toastmasters workshop evening and, the following day, at the London Professional Speakers Association. Both are past International Speech winners. Here are some of their tips:

  • Don’t set yourself up for failure e.g by saying I’ll be short, funny or  serious.
  • Focus on the takeaway – what do you want the audience to do, think or feel.
  • Practice! Darren practiced his winning speech 22 times.
  • Have energy
  • Storytellers can take too long to set up their story. 15secs is enough. Include Visual, auditor, Kinesthetics, smell (most powerful).
  • Talk to the individuals in the audience
  • If you want people to raise their hand, raise yours high
  • Be what you want the audience to feel
  • Pause when you want the audience to reflect
  • Watch yourself on video : Listen first, don’t watch. Then Watch yourself with no sound. Then watch fast forward.Then watch altogether
  • Own the stage 
Must have:
  • Dialog. Not I joined TM, but I said, ‘I want to become a better speaker’
  • Specifics e.g. Results will be 10% improvement, or the man’s name was Joe.
  • Characters in stories stick in people’s mind and will be connected to wherever you are on stage. Keep them to different parts of the stage or the audience will get confused
  • Transition phrase directs you to right part of stage
  • Say ‘You’ , not ‘Anyone’
  • A pause between applause and when you start.
Must avoids
  • Saying ‘I’d like to start with …’
  • Too much preamble
  • Too much narration – use dialog instead and keep it brief
  • Abstractions e.g society, people, teenagers. Say You.
  • Moving without purpose
  • Trite expressions

Ten Top Tips for Time Management

March 19, 2014

We allImage want to use our time more effectively but, in these frantic times, this is often very hard to achieve. Here are ten tips for busy business managers:

1.     Write things down

Always take notes. No-one’s memory is perfect. Everyone forgets stuff, especially when stressed.

Write random ‘stuff’ down too. It will distract you otherwise. Use a notebook, post it notes or a tool like Evernote.

2.     It’s normal to have days when you just can’t work and to have days when you want to work for 12 hours

Work more when you are in the zone, and relax when you are not. We all have both kinds of days, so do not beat yourself up about it.

3.     Respect your time and make it respected

Delegate everything you can. But remember, delegation means finding the right person, briefing them thoroughly and then (most importantly) letting them get on with the task.

Do not forget to take a break occasionally.

Do not always say yes.

4.     Not all tasks are created equal

Prioritise the important over the merely urgent. Do not let anyone change the urgent into important without a fight.

5.     Stop trying to multitask

It kills your focus, and you will end up doing those multiple things less well. Great ‘multi-taskers’ actually do this:

6.     Break your work into smaller chunks

An hour is a good length for a chunk. Chunks are easier to do than longer tasks that are more nebulous.

Interspace stressful chunks with easier chunks.

7.     Give yourself short deadlines

You will be more focussed and productive with limited time.

More hours is not necessarily better.

Do not let tasks drag on and on.

8.     Best way to start work is to start work

Doing something is better than doing nothing (not checking your email!). This will create work momentum, often enough to get cracking on something more important.

9.     Hold your meetings early in the day.

Time leading up to an event is often wasted.

How many times have you attended a late meeting, only to have people chit-chat because they are going home afterwards?

Early meetings usually have more momentum, as attendees are keen to get back to work.

10.  Choose one thing to achieve each day

This should be whatever will have the most impact. Achieving it will motivate you to achieve more on the less important tasks as well.

More information

Email Jacqui Hogan or call 01494 680997

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17 Tops Tips for Innovation

October 5, 2009

1. Exploit your image/brand. Ask your customers what is unique and special about what you do, then put this at the core of your strategy and branding.

2. Make time to play. Give yourself and your staff some free time to play with ideas. Perhaps have a regular workshop to look for new ideas.

3. Have a process that gives support for ideas. Put some budget aside to do one or two projects that may succeed, but it won’t kill the business if they don’t.

4. Encourage and reward continuous improvement. Make it part of your business strategy, your reward structure and your ethos.

5. Give your people some Innovation training. You could get them training in Idea Generation or the process of Innovation as it relates to your company.

6. Be a fast follower. Keep a close eye on your market and competitors with a view to quickly identifying what new ideas they have that you could do better.

7. Empower your people. Not only give them permission to take initiative, but make sure they know your business well enough to take it wisely.

8. Collaborate. Talk with other SMEs with complimentary skills, products or services and see where you could create something together.

9. Get really, really close to your customers. Involve them in identifying and developing new products or services. Make them part of your development process. Know everything that motivates them.

10. Introduce matrix/network working. This doesn’t work for everyone, but done right it can be very effective.

11. Do intensive research. Especially if your industry is high tech.

12. Challenge the Status Quo. Don’t assume that because it has always been done ‘that way’ that it can’t be improved on. One way to do this is to look at something you assume can’t be changed, and explore what the impact would be if it did.

13. Change your business model. Businesses all work the same way don’t they? No!

14. Take risks. Innovation is inherently risky as you are venturing into the somewhat unknown. But make them managed risks and don’t be put off.

15. Reinvent your business. Sometimes going back to basics and rethinking your business goals and strategy can reinvigorate your business.

16. Challenge Stereotypes. Don’t assume that the customers who buy your and your competitors products/services are your only markt. With a few changes and some smart marketing, your products/services could appeal to a whole new group of customers.

17. Persistence. As my father used to say, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. So many companies just give up too soon. After cash flow failure, this is the main reason innovation fails.