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Why my time is more important than yours!

Stay on Time

Why is it that some people are always on time for a meeting and some people habitually are late? Why is it that I can always be sure that some people will leave me waiting, even though I confirmed and reconfirmed the meeting time?  What are they trying to tell me?  Is their time more valuable than mine?  Well of course it isn’t.

So much of this is about out-doing each other. To say “I’m busier than you are” means “I’m more important”, or that my time is more valuable.

Here’s the thing: it’s harming how we communicate and work together. Everyone is busy in different sorts of ways. Maybe you have lots of clients or are starting a new business or have many staff demands on you. The point is this: with limited time and unlimited demands on that time; it’s easy to fill your plate with activities constantly. But this doesn’t mean that you should.  If you want some tips on winning back time, download my whitepaper on this very topic.

To assume that being too “busy” is cool or brag-worthy is ridiculous. In fact when I start working with a new client, one thing I make very clear (and ask them to commit to) is to never use “I’m too busy” as a reason for not completing the (working on the business) tasks they agree to at a coaching session.  After all, if you are too busy to work on your business, then who has the time?

Imagine a business that everyone strives always to be on time and meetings always have a fixed length that is adhered to.  Imagine how much more productive that business is compared to the typical company that starts meetings late, and they always overrun. It’s not that hard to do and creates a much more focused, motivated and productive workforce. The alternative (which I am sure we have all experienced) is sitting at your desk until you see the person who called the meeting move and start to round everyone up.  I used to work for a company whose Sales Director would shut the door at 9am (for a 9am meeting that he called), and if someone walked in at 9.05, he would ask them to leave.  NO ONE WAS EVER LATE FOR HIS MEETINGS!  He treated everyone else’s time as importantly as his own.

So next time you are late for a meeting, consider what message you are sending  – intentionally or otherwise?

The importance of Values to Audeliss Ltd

Values

Have a read of this great blog post from my Client, Audeliss.

We have been working on their culture and values and recently completed a workshop with the whole team.  This is a 3 stage project:

  1. Define the values
  2. Define the behaviours that sit behind the values
  3. Create a strategy for embedding the values and keeping them alive

 

Telling stories

What is your Story

I am a visual person so its quite natural for me to use stories with clients when I coach.  There are a number of reasons why I believe the use of story telling is a good communications tool but I wanted to focus on 2:

Bring a scenario to life

Helping people understand an issue or behaviour that involves them can be a challenge but by using stories and examples you can easily explain the situation and help them understand.  Let me give you an example;  I use the concepts of transactional analysis when I work with clients.  This is all about appropriate behaviours at work, especially as a manager.  You can behave like an ADULT, a PARENT or a CHILD.  I explain the difference between the three, most people kind of get it.  However, when I use the story below, the client usually gains a better understanding and why being the ADULT is the right approach in 90% of situations.  So here’s my story:

Imagine you are driving a car and stopped at a traffic light in the middle lane.  The lane to your left is left turn only but the boy racer in that lane is revving his engine and you suspect he is going to under take you.

  • The PARENT in you races to over take him then slows down to 30mph to ‘teach him a lesson’
  • The CHILD in you wants to race him and beat him
  • The ADULT thinks ‘silly idiot’ and ‘lets him undertake you and zoom off whilst you maintain a safe speed

Which of those scenarios is the best?  This story example helps people understand the concepts much more easily then just explaining them.

The use of ‘3rd partying’

If you want to remove the emotion from a difficult conversation or piece of feedback then using 3rd party examples and language will do that for you.  One way is to tell a story (that isn’t directly about them) to help them see the situation from your perspective and to avoid  them becoming defensive.  So rather than saying “you are always late and your colleagues are fed up of picking up your slack” you might say “imagine someone who is always late for work, how do you think that person’s colleagues would feel towards that person?”  The second ‘story’ approach has completely removed the confrontation that would ultimately lead to a defensive response.

Stories are powerful tools in a work context and a useful management approach, so are they something that you frequently use?  Love to hear your experiences?

Leave your baggage at the door

Keeping everything Organised

I used to run a marketing company which I sold to a big US firm.  I had the opportunity of going to their annual conference in Minneapolis and (like any Brit would be) was surprised to read a sign above reception saying “Please leave any hand guns at reception and pick up when leaving”.  I often think about this sign and how it applies to staff members leaving their personal issues and baggage at the front door and knowing it will still be there, for them to pick up, when they leave the office!

When we go to work we all have a duty to be consistent in our behaviours – regardless of what is going on in our personal lives – indeed in some cases, work becomes the safe santary when issues are occuring outside of work.

To be honest, I’m pretty blunt with my view on this – if you have a serious issue then you shouldn’t be in work, otherwise, park it and be consistent (as I say ‘be the best version of yourself you can be every day’) because sure as anything the issue will be the same, regardless of how you behave at work!

I had a recent conversation with a client who has an emotional member of staff and this member of staff likes to share her emotion around.  Of course there are 100 reasons why she does this but if we become the ‘rescuer’ to this kind of behaviour then we are only adding fuel to their fire.  What a great manager does is support their staff not rescue them.  So they need to consider their language and approach carefully.

This issue starts (or stops) with a company’s culture: What is acceptable in the work place? What isn’t?  Any new members of staff will quickly get a feel for this and understand what the parameters and boundaries are for acceptable behaviour.  And not everything needs a company policy (e.g. personal phone calls) but a clearly defined culture and set of values (which define acceptable behaviours).

So if this issue effects your company consider carefully what is acceptable and of course, make sure you lead by example.

Get your social media presence sorted (part 2)

Social Media contacts - Da Costa Coaching

I wrote on this topic a while back and since it was really popular, I thought I would add some further thoughts.

In the 21st century, a crucial part of attracting and retaining the best staff is to ensure you have a strong, clear and up to date online presence. The Z Generation (those born after the millennium) sees social media at the centre of their communities. A report by Sparks & Honey, a US advertising agency describes this generation as the “first tribe of true digital natives” or “screenagers”. But unlike the older Gen Y, they are smarter, safer, more mature and want to change the world. This is also why CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policies are more than just good for positive PR but crucial for attracting and retaining the younger, Z generation who want to “make a difference in the world”.

Glassdoor Research shows that when candidates have access to information about a job and company—before deciding whether to apply or accept a job offer—employers have seen an average of 22 percent reduction in turnover. The tide is already shifting with employees having more voice with the social channels. Review portals like Glassdoor and independent surveys that rank companies in terms of employee satisfaction have become important tools for potential employees checking out employers.

Of course your social media presence isn’t just about staff, it has to engage with all your stakeholders, including current and potential customers. The importance of social media is not just because of the Z-Gens but also due to the prominence of mobile devices and the X gens/baby boomers also using social media more frequently.

The success gap is widening between businesses that are using social media in an informal, ad hoc manner and those taking a more planned, strategic approach.

This has significant implications:

  • Businesses that use social media strategically are more satisfied with the results than ad hoc users, who are more skeptical about the value of social media.
  • Businesses that use social media as part of a planned corporate approach are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to anticipate revenue growth than ad hoc users.

So how does your social media strategy fit in with your marketing plan – and how strategic v adhoc is it? And how are you measuring and adapting your online presence? Want to find out more then get in touch.

Are you running a business or a charity?

Increase your funds with a Business Coach

I have a number of phrases that I find myself regularly saying to my clients and “Are you a business or a charity” is one of them.

Many owner-managed small businesses tend to not have the structures in place to effectively monitor and manage their staff nor assess the levels of service they give their customers (more can be found on that subject here).  So when this happens they start ‘giving away’ their money or product for free – hence my expression “Are you a business or a charity?”

Whilst a little tongue in cheek, there is a lot of merit to this question. Any small business aspiring to grow will need to ensure they are profitable and can only achieve this by putting systems & processes in place to monitor and measure the effectiveness and efficiency of all staff as well as delivery to customers (this is like putting the foundations down to build a bigger house).

Consider 2 equally important areas for ensuring you run a profitable business:

Commercial

Commercially you need to implement systems & processes that can be physical systems (e.g. IT, software tools) as well as documented processes (e.g. monthly reporting, expense claims).  Some of these systems staff will love (e.g. a well run appraisal) and some they will not like (e.g. time sheets) but using all the tools appropriately is part of someone’s job (consider this, if one of your staff only does 80% of their role well, are they willing to only accept 80% of their pay?).

A sales team that isn’t hitting targets needs to understand what their targets are and how to achieve them so the pressure can be fairly put on them.  A project manager needs to know how much time and resource to allocate to a project, and that the resource is adequately trained. They then need to be able to monitor time usage.  All this requires systems.

Cultural

“But we don’t want a bunch of work to rule robots” I hear you say, and of course I agree! This is where overlaying your values ensures everyone understands and embraces the systems & processes and uses them in the spirit of your culture.  They should be willing to go the extra mile for clients (maybe +10% but not much more or you start to move into the ‘charity’ status!) but also understand the need for profitability.

So next time you find yourself giving away too much of your value or time for free ask yourself “Am I a business or a charity?”

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Keep track of your client relationships

If like me, you are a one-man band or small business, then it’s an ongoing juggling act to deliver the business, find new business and do all the admin to keep the business running.  How do we achieve this?  Well you might be super organised and get all that done within reasonable working hours or more likely, you squeeze in the admin in evenings or weekends, or when you absolutely have to get it done (how many people “don’t have time” to do their invoicing then wonder why they have cash flow issues!).

Even if you are super organised, is it best use of your time to be doing all your own admin?  After all wouldn’t you be better placed using your time to focus on delivering your work and finding new work?  Michael Gerber makes this very point in his book, The E-myth, which explain why it’s crucial for people who run their own business to have processes in place so that they can outsource those tasks that they don’t have the skills, time (or inclination) to do.

I finally figured this out for myself last year and decided to look for some business admin assistance.  After a few conversations with some virtual assistants, I enlisted the services of manfriday. James from manfriday, manages my diary (booking, confirming, rescheduling meetings), books my train tickets, types up my client notes and generally gets me more organised.  After 6 months support I feel that there are 2 key benefits from outsourcing this work:

  1. I delegate the things I really don’t enjoy doing
  2. It frees me up to work on developing my business and potentially taking on more clients (at a much higher value than the cost of the admin)

The great thing about this is that you can spend as little as £50 a month up to £1,000 a month – depending on the level of support needed and your budget.

I don’t want this post to sound like an ad for manfriday or the use of virtual assistants, it’s just that after I started using one, it was a no brainer and I wondered why it had taken me so long to start!  Also for those one-man bands or small businesses who aspire to grow, this is a vital step – otherwise you easily can get stuck in the cycle of having too much to do but not having enough fee earning time to grow the business.

So instead of sweating the small stuff and working long hours (have a read of my whitepaper on winning back time) doing tedious tasks you don’t enjoy doing, why not break the cycle and find the support from elsewhere.

The over-servicing epidemic!

Over-servicing

Many companies believe the only way to keep a client is by over-servicing them, and because the client gets used to this level of service, it becomes a vicious circle.  This is especially true in the service sector – the area I predominantly work in.

During a recession, over-servicing becomes standard practice (the customer knows they can demand more) and as we came out of recession it is hard to pull back from this.  Over-servicing occurs on 2 occasions:

Firstly, in order to win a new piece of business, the supplier ‘promises the earth’ without calculating how long it will really take you to deliver it.  They win the project but have already set service level expectations high so over-servicing begins from day 1. Those delivering the service either do a bad job, work through the weekends, or gain reputations as slow workers. The client’s expectations are rarely met.

The second type of over-servicing is where clients put pressure on the executives delivering their project to put in more time, and where those executives agree to do so and are not stopped by their employers. Partly this is a problem of management information systems. After all, it is usually the most conscientious and ambitious executives who are so keen to keep their clients happy. It is up to their managers to keep a close eye on their activities and to rein in any over-servicing.

So how do you stop over-servicing?

There is no one easy answer however, the most important thing is to sell on value not on time (have a read of my whitepaper on this very subject). When negotiating with your customer you have to be super confident on the quality of your work, and therefore expect your client to pay a fair price for it and not be willing to discount (bear in mind that the minute you discount your client starts to devalue the work you do).  Put the issue in the language your customer will understand “if you went to a buy a glass of wine, would you expect them to give you the bottle for the same price”?

Implement good time recording systems – OK no one likes this but you have to do it!  It helps you get your quoting right.  It helps you manage capacity.  It helps you identify if there is an internal training issue (i.e. if someone takes too long doing a task) and when push comes to shove, it helps you justify yourself to your client (not that I recommend sharing time-sheets with a client).

Get super clear at the outset of what you are delivering (and what you are not) and finally, if you do make a strategic decision to over-service, make sure the client is aware of it and alert them to how much it would normally cost to do this (and therefore how much it will cost them next time they ask for it).

Most businesses would be staggered to realise how much money they lose due to over-servicing.  If your business could reign this back in to reasonable levels (+/- 10%), how much more profitable would they be?

This is one of the most common conversations and areas I work on with my clients.  If it’s an issue for you let’s talk!

It takes 21 days to change a behaviour

Changing Behaviours - mental strength

If i got £1 for every time I heard someone say “Oh that’s just how they are”, my pockets would be weighed down.

We choose what behaviours we exhibit (we are not born with them) and therefore we can choose different behaviours……..if we wish.

Of course some people want to stay where they are  and remain in their comfort zones, so use the excuse “it’s just the way I am” as a reason to not change.  Fortunately many of us don’t feel this way and want to keep developing and evolving as people.

Practise makes perfect
If you want to change a behaviour then by being disciplined and practising the new behaviour, it will soon become part of ‘just who you are”.  Research shows that it takes 21 days of practising the new behaviour before it becomes ‘second nature’ to you. That is pretty powerful stuff…..so if for example, you want to have more positive thoughts, then refuse to engage with that negative voice in your head. Do this for 21 days and soon the negative voice will get bored and disappear and be replaced by something more positive and supportive. Think of it like a well trodden path in the forest: its easy to walk down the well known and frequented path (think neural pathways in your brain) but much harder to walk down a different path that is overgrown and unused. If you focus and work hard to walk down the new pathway, then after 21 days that becomes the well trodden pathway and the old one becomes overgrown and lost. Before you know it, you have created a new more positive behaviour.

It’s not always easy to achieve (so get in touch if you want some help) but it is possible with discipline and determination.  So next time you hear someone say “that’s just the way they are” you know that is just an excuse, it’s their choice and therefore they could chose something different.

Do you follow business development tasks to their natural conclusion?

Completing tasks

I am a great believer in not starting something unless I plan to finish it.  Yet how many people start tasks or projects and never get around to finishing them – what a waste of time and energy!

Never is this truer than with a marketing or business development campaign.  Lots of effort goes into planning and delivering a campaign, some great content is produced and then leads start to come in but people are busy doing their ‘day job’ and don’t follow the leads up in a timely manner or at all, and very quickly these leads go ‘cold’.  Think how much each of these leads cost you or your business?  A great example of this was a company that spent £20k attending an exhibition and designing/building an eye catching stand.  They were at the show for 3 days (think about the time that cost from being away from the office), generated about 100 leads from the show but when they all got back from the event they all got busy catching up with work and failed to follow the leads up in a timely manner.  Considering the direct and indirect costs of this, each lead cost the business around £300 so to not follow up immediately after the event was a huge and expensive mistake.  I am sure this is a familiar story to many of us.

So I always tell my clients – don’t start something you don’t think you will be able to finish.  It’s better to do fewer things well and thoroughly than do lots of things badly!

If you want some support around this or with your business development, then please get in touch.

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