Archive - January 2015

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Communication – Part #172
5 Steps to a Happier and More Productive Workplace
How to Prepare a USEFUL Strategic Plan
Why Teams Fail
When is “Admin” really Admin?

Communication – Part #172

I talk about communication a lot, which is why this is probably part 172!

However joking aside communication is probably one of the most critical skills anyone in business, or working in a customer-facing role must master.

It is communication that allows you to convey your vision to your team and to your customers. It is communication that leads people, communication that melds a team into a productive group of people working as one, rather than a group of individuals working “together”. It is communication that builds trust in you, and it is communication that tells your customer you are on his side.

In “Communication – Part 172″ (and I am being facetious) I’d like to deal with how professionals communicate with their clients. I have already written elsewhere about how you should avoid jargon, but this time let me talk about how communicating your skill needs more than knowledge about your skill, it needs experience about how your skill is used to help.

Let me set the scene.
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5 Steps to a Happier and More Productive Workplace

These are lean times. Many businesses are letting go of staff and expecting greater productivity from those left. Businesses that have resisted the temptation of cutting costs by cutting the salaries bill also need to make sure the team is more effective than ever.

A productive and effective business is comprised of team members that are both happy and productive.

So, how do you create such a workplace?

Indeed, there are “happy” places, but not all are also productive. The trick is to ensure that workplace satisfaction, or “happiness” is linked to the creation of an effective and productive workplace.

While there are studies that list 6 or 10 or 12 factors, I believe the following 5 are the key factors to create a workplace that attracts and retains the most effective and productive staff.

1. A workplace with a strong Vision and Mission, and which values reinforce pride in membership.
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How to Prepare a USEFUL Strategic Plan

Does this sound familiar?:-

It is about 5 years since your company did its last strategic plan, and you, or your Board have been reminded that it is good governance to renew it. You can’t actually see a reason to do it in practical terms – the economy has been what it is and the business has been doing what it can. After all, was your last prediction of the future any good?

Nevertheless you decide to do it. You hire a facilitator and ask for a quote. When the facilitator (if they are worth the money) asks for preparation time that may include research into your industry and company, along with interviews with stakeholders, and prices her quote accordingly. You receive the quote and negotiate it downwards, removing these “extraneous” tasks and leaving the task of facilitating a day’s workshop and writing it up.

You organise a day’s retreat for the Board and senior staff. You hold the meeting, everyone has a good time away from the office, you all contribute to discussion and feel satisfied that you have thrashed the issues. The facilitator writes up the plan, you review it and “implement” it.

In a few months, the exercise is forgotten.

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Why Teams Fail

Many articles have been written about how high performing teams are formed.

My personal favourite is the “PERFORM” model, which is about:-
PURPOSE – high-performing teams share a strong sense of purpose
EMPOWERMENT – members collectively have a sense of power and feel that they have the necessary skills and resources to get things done
RELATIONSHIP – members have strong relationships, open and honest communication, and accept leaders’ moderation of conflicts
FLEXIBILITY – Individuals in the team share responsibility for leadership in a given situation and can fulfill different tasks that the team need to move forward
OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE – there is evidence that tasks are accomplished quickly and effectively through use of problem-solving skills and the use of each others’ differences in perspective
RECOGNITION – members respect and appreciate the membership of others and individual and collective accomplishments are frequently recognised by each other and by the leaders
MORALE – members feel pride and excitement about membership and confidence is strong.
On the other hand, less is written about why teams fail. Indeed, you can say that teams fail because they do not possess all of the above 7 characteristics, and you would be right. However team failures are often caused, not by lacking in positive traits but more by possessing negative behaviours.
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When is “Admin” really Admin?

There was a survey done recently where 61% of those surveyed said that if “admin” was halved, they would use the time saved to focus on their “core job”.

I’m sure you’ll agree from the gut, with or without survey, that “admin” is unpleasant, unproductive, and not very satisfying and if possible you would halve it.

However, I think an important point is how you actually define “admin”. Unsatisfying does not always mean unproductive.

Note that those surveyed agreed they would better spend their time in their “core job”. However what does their “core job” entail? For example if you spent a great deal of your time filing correspondance that will hardly ever get pulled out again, I’d suggest that is true “admin” and is probably not your “core job” unless you are a filing clerk. However what if say, your sales job is all about filling the sales funnel, assisting the whole sales team to sell better, and ensuring customer satisfaction. In such a job, is completing CRM details part of your core job or just “admin”? Without accurate information about the customer in the CRM system you and the rest of the sales team may not be able to sell effectively – that sounds like part of your core job to me.
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