The Current Market Conditions – Opportunity Or Problem?

Does the current economic turbulence create problems or opportunities? Both depend on your circumstances and your point of view. How can you affect both to your advantage?
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Circumstance Management
The key here is to have flexibility and options, being able to act on an opportunity when you see one. That means businesses that have as much available cash and the least amount of debt as possible are positioned very well. Also, review your current investment plans, they were right for a market at a particular time, are they still right for this or future markets? Change them accordingly.

Developing A Point Of View
Businesses that haven’t thought about ‘what ifs’ and new approaches to the market, struggle to apply good judgement when an opportunity arises. This means they often get is completely wrong when quick decisions are required. Businesses that are constantly thinking about what they could do and what might happen are much more likely to spot an opening and exploit it effectively. This thinking about the market creates what we call a point of view, a particular perspective that takes a stance on what the change drivers and customer pain points are, and how developing new value propositions could answer those (as yet) unarticulated needs.

Taken together, Circumstance Management and Developing A Point Of View are the two criteria that distinguish management teams that seize opportunities rather than become victims of a difficult market-place. And these ways of thinking should be embedded in your management practice as a normal mode of behaving, rather than just dusted off when a recession looms.

Are You In The Zone?

We are all familiar with being in our Comfort Zone, but what about the other performance/behaviour zones that can help you focus on being more effective and understand why you feel like you do when performing at certain levels.

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Working from the bottom up:

  • If you are below the black line you are in the boredom zone, having too little to think about is just as big an issue as having to much. The V signifies Value. Here you are creating less value than you are capable of.
  • In your comfort zone you are treading water.
  • In the stretch zone you are creating additional value; working and behaving in ways that require new thinking and possibly new skills.
  • The highest is the panic zone where you feel you can’t cope; you are at the limits of what you are capable of.
The key is not to stay in the stretch or panic zones too long, but to ‘visit’ them for short periods of time where you test yourself. The wave form shows this happening over time. As you can see your capacity for sustaining working at higher levels increases, the straight red lie showing how your natural resting point increases.

By focusing on your capacity for learning in this way you can increase your potential, making it both easier to cope with increasing work demands and making yourself more employable.

A Look Into The Current Workplace – How First Impressions Still Count For Older Workers

Last month we looked at how younger people can get it right or wrong in the workplace through their appearance and (non) verbal dexterity. This month we swing the tractor beam onto the older worker. I guess we should define our terms first. We’re classifying the older worker as anybody over the age of 50, older only in the literal sense of having had more birthdays than people in their 20s. And that’s the point, the cliché holds true as all good ones do, that age is a state of mind, not a classification index of qualities or abilities. The problem is older people are there own worst enemy.
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With hair the die is usually cast, with people living with hair decisions made years previously. Women usually do dye their hair these days which is not even noticed, and those that don’t are seen as OK too. Men have to be more careful with their hair strategy. Comb-overs are seen as a joke, but a hard core still persist and dyeing is seen as dodgy at best. Usually the less hair, the shorter the better and wigs shouldn’t even be mentioned.

Clothes choices should fit the purpose, older people can get away with more idiosyncratic styles in the name of individuality, but the reality is often the opposite, with the majority going for more a regulation ‘conservative’ look.

Everyone should avoid anything that shows off ‘beach flesh’;  avoiding anything that draws attention to any bulges, weight related or otherwise.

Women should not increase the amount of make-up in proportion to their years and men should never wear a bow tie unless involved in end of the pier shows, neck ties always reaching the top of the trousers otherwise they look like Laurel or Hardy

Older people have the advantage over younger people through the ability of being able to speak properly; they mustn’t waste this asset though by drawing attention to their age by constantly referring to it, or using the dreadful phrase ‘I’m having a senior moment’. Only use ‘in my day’ examples in a self deprecating way, never in a ‘good old days’ way.
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Talk shouldn’t be about how much experience they have, but about how they can make a positive, relevant contribution today. Experience is only valuable if it can be effectively applied.

In summary, older people who dress and behave as themselves and don’t wear the label of being ‘older’ have got it right, making their workplace credibility higher in the process.

Building Teams With Spirit

Last weekend presented plenty of opportunities to study team dynamics with both positive and negative outcomes. The FA Cup quarter finals provided a string of shock results with underdogs claiming wins in three out of the four games.
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Sports teams do allow us to see real team dynamics in action in a concentrated and public format which isn’t so easy to observe in the workplace. For a football team to succeed each player must be individually talented and both Manchester United and Chelsea fielded some of the most talented players in the world, with some individual players earning more than the whole opposing team. Yet there’s more to team success than individual talent.

Caring about the outcome has a major impact on the individual inputs from each team member, and whilst “There’s no ‘I’ in team”, you can’t spell team without “M E”. Each team member needs to be very clear about their role and take personal ownership for their performance, whilst trusting their colleagues to do the same. The manager needs to provide clear direction, along with a goal that all team members share. Having a captain on the field that can reinforce that goal and keep the whole team focused on it increases the chance of success.

We have worked with organisations across functions, industries and national borders to create highly effective, cohesive, performing teams that make a real difference. To talk about how your organisation can develop its team effectiveness contact us.

What We’re Reading – Aesop’s Fables

Business books come and go with favourites such as Drucker, Peters and Blanchard all having had a big following only to be replaced by some new author with a new approach for a modern age.
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With attention spans shortening books like Fish! and Who Moved My Cheese became popular as their simple points could be quickly translated into posters and soft toys to publicise their message in office environments.

These books owe more than a little to the early business writing of Aesop. Hardly a media friendly character in life, Aesop’s Fables were ‘published’ 250 years after his execution for sacrilege. There’s plenty of good learning material in there still, and though people may know quite a few of the fables by heart, some of the less popular ones ring true for managers today.

Here’s one for over-promoted, bullying managers:

Standing securely on a high rock, a kid (that’s a young goat, not a child!) noticed a wolf passing below and began to taunt him and shower him with abuse. The wolf merely stopped to reply, “Coward! Don’t think that you can annoy me. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not you who’s taunting me, but the place on which you’re standing”

Making Learning Work

Organisations spend a lot of money on learning and development, most of it going on training and the purchase learning resources. Often the investment is a good one in that well designed, practical and effective learning interventions are chosen. However we’re increasingly talking to organisations that find themselves with more learning resources than they know what to do with, and a workforce that’s struggling to find the learning resources they need.

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Great, well written, professionally designed training programmes languish in binders, e-learning packages developed at great expense remain un-accessed, internal experts carry vital insights around in their heads, failing to share them with anyone and carefully developed best practice templates are used only in small pockets of the business.

Managers, Learning and  Development Specialists, Process Consultants, Managers and individual learners each have differing perspectives on the learning inputs needed, or whether any are needed at all. This can lead to learning initiatives simply not happening, or good programmes quickly atrophying as learning is not reinforced in the workplace.  Plenty of people feel like learning can only be successfully completed if it’s accompanied by a hotel stay, a nice meal and perhaps a round of golf.

Through our work on Learning Academies we have helped organisations to make the most of tensions within the business to provide effective learning, which is quickly absorbed and applied throughout the business.  Helping people in the business access the learning that’s right for them at the time they need it, whether they know it or not.

We build on existing learning, training and best practice collateral, applying our principles of Technology Enabling People Engagement™ to ensure the right learning is it available to people just-in-time, in the way they want to access it increasing effectiveness and employee satisfaction, whilst reducing the spend on unloved training collateral.

Motivation – Getting Results From The Team

It is rare for a newly appointed manager to be able to select an entirely new team. In the majority of cases, the manager will take control of an existing group of people recruited by his/her predecessors.

The implications are important:

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WHEN THE NEW MANAGER IS ALSO NEW TO THE COMPANY – The initial task is to achieve targets and profit through a group of people with only a superficial knowledge of their individual needs and motivations.

WHEN PROMOTED FROM WITHIN THE TEAM – The new manager will know individual members of the team as ex-colleagues, possibly as rivals, and maybe one or two as friends. It is unlikely that much thought has been given to their individual needs and motives in life.

IN EITHER CASE the new manager will have his/her OWN needs and motivations, together with personal tolerances and prejudices about those in the team.

The new manager will prefer to work (at least at the outset) with a team:

  • in which there are no immediate threats to his/her own job security;
  • with those who have similar moral, ethical, and socio-economic backgrounds;
  • and with individuals who are similar (or at least not superior) in terms of technical competence, character, education and general intelligence.

So the new manager will tend to classify team members as:

  • Those who are compatible with him/her, who are therefore capable of being motivated to be productive and to perform satisfactorily – and who are in consequence likely to stay.
  • Those not bad enough to be dismissed, but not really good enough to keep and who will remain as unco-operative potential troublemakers – and candidates for frequent counselling.
  • Those who are totally incompatible, for whom the only solution is their early departure, whether voluntarily or by request.

The future success of these team members is often therefore less a function of their COMPETENCE than of the PURE CHANCE of whether their faces fit and please their new manager.

Such management by ‘pure chance’ is by no means uncommon, yet leads to long-serving, loyal people being lost to the company – often replaced by less competent people who conform more closely to the standards and aspirations of the new manager (sometimes the new people are recruited from the manager’s old company, offering the comfort, security and support of friendly faces while he/she becomes established):

SUCH HUMAN UPHEAVALS LOWER MORALE, AND REDUCE EFFICIENCY AND PRODUCTIVITY

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Managers need to identify patterns of individual and group motivation which will help them to build and maintain an effective, compatible, motivated and successful salesforce.

Analysing Individual And Group Motivations
Managers need to identify patterns of individual and group motivation to help build and maintain an effective, compatible, motivated and successful team.

But it is not enough to ask each of your staff: ‘WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?’ – many individuals may not know (or be willing to tell you) the answer.

The most common answer given to the question will probably be ‘money’.

Yet most people who want more money want it to achieve other objectives:

  • to some people money bring STATUS;
  • to some it offers POWER;
  • to others it means SECURITY.

The new recruitment and selection of new team members offers an ideal time to determine which factors motivate individuals, by preparing and asking the relevant questions during the job interviews.

With members of an existing team, gentle and subtle probing during appraisal interviews can offer guidance.
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Recognising The Signs Of Demotivation
The symptoms of negative motivation or dissatisfaction are progressively:
AGGRESSION – against individual people or perhaps against the company
REGRESSION – childish or petty or spiteful behaviour
OBSESSION – often (but not always) with the cause of dissatisfaction
RESIGNATION – becoming resigned to the situation with apparent disinterest.

Thus the first sign may be the appearance of aggression in someone who is not normally aggressive. If the cause of dissatisfaction is not removed, then the next stage of petty or childish behaviour will start to appear.

Obviously, the condition will become increasingly difficult to rectify as it develops, and it is vital to recognise and act on the early signs.

Establishing The Cause Of Demotivation
It must be emphasised that these are SYMPTOMS – not CAUSES of demotivation.

Since it is mostly the HYGIENE factors which cause dissatisfaction, it is highly likely that the underlying problem is among Herzberg’s Hygiene list.

So the manager must be prepared for the causes to lie not only in the job situation, but possibly within external; personal or domestic factors. This emphasises the need to know staff well, and treat them as individuals.

If you are not sure what has caused the demotivation, you must find out.

It is frequently difficult to establish the real reasons why an individual is demotivated at work, and the direct question: ‘What’s upsetting you?’ is rarely effective – often making the situation worse.

A professionally handled, well-timed Counselling Meeting is the best method.

Correction Of The Demotivation
If, as is likely, the problem lies among the Hygiene Factors, it is not always possible (or advisable) for the manager to change these factors.

You will not, for example, alter Company Policy to satisfy one individual.

In each individual situation, the manager must first try to rectify the problem, but if not practical, then to persuade the employee to accept it.

But remember that a corrected Hygiene Factor does not in itself motivate, but will merely take the employee into a ‘neutral’ situation. Having resolved the problem, you must then apply positive motivation.

Persuasion – Why Do People Buy?

People buy when there is a gap between their current situation and their ideal situation.

It is essential at the pre-presentation (sales investigation) stage that we find out the gaps or needs and wants of the customer.
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People do not buy products/services they buy what the product or service will do for them. In other words, they buy products or services that plug the metaphorical gap between where they are now (current situation) and where they would like to be (ideal situation).

Another way of looking at this is through features and benefits.
A feature is a property, or part of a product or service, e.g.:
  • fuel injection on a car
  • electric aerial on a car
  • half load on a washing machine.
All of the above features are not the reason why people buy. They buy only if the feature does something for them ie a benefit.
A benefit is what the feature does, e.g.:
  • fuel injection fives smoother acceleration and better economy
  • electric aerial saves you having to get out of the car to push the antenna down
  • half-load on a washing machine means when you want to wash a small load you do not have to use a full load of water and the accompanying washing powder and electricity.
Benefit statements often use words like save …, reduce …, gain …, improve … etc.
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As a sales person, you will be responsible for uncovering client needs and the delivering tailored presentations highlighting the features and benefits of your product or service. To help you get the best results from your presentations, we offer a 2 day course, Improving Your Presentation Skills which is for individuals at all levels who wish to assess and improve their ability to give confident, professional and effective presentations.

The Power Of Telephone Behaviour

Dealing with people on the telephone requires a different set of interpersonal skills than if talking face-to-face. If compensations and allowances are not made, the caller can be made to feel unwanted and a nuisance.

The telephone does however have certain powers. The key to harnessing these powers is TELEPHONE BEHAVIOUR.  If you handle the call correctly and reflect the correct attitude to your customers on the you will be practising Professional Telephone Behaviour.
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What is Professional Telephone Behaviour (PTB)?

It falls into three sections:

1. The Verbal Handshake
a) Introduce yourself – get the caller’s name as well
b) Establish whether it is convenient for each of you to deal with the call

2. Getting The Message
a) Control and guide the call
b) Use open questions – who, what, where, when, how and why?
c) Record and report your understanding of the call

3. Offering Help
a) Volunteer useful information
b) Say what you are going to do
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Follow these three steps and you will be practising Professional Telephone Behaviour.