Sunday, February 28, 2010

Frontline Managers

McKinsey have released yet another great piece of research on front line managers and their staffs views on them.

Head over to McKinsey to check it out here.

Here's what they found -
  • Most managers don't feel prepared for the role they are in.
  • Many managers don't receive training in leadership.
  • Most managers do receive training in technical work skills but not in people skills.
  • Many managers feel senior management don't understand what they do.

Where there any good points? You need to read between the lines to get to the points about "here's how you could do better". I largely agree with the survey results but I would be interested in thinking about - what are the solutions?

That is a question I will seek to answer over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned as I attempt to develop strategies to help you build your own "everyday managers Swiss army knife".

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Customer Service Lesson

I need to buy a present for my wife for her birthday. I have a pretty good idea of what she likes, so I went to the local jeweller's store.
At the time I was there, I found something I liked but I wasn't prepared to buy it at the time I was there. So what happened?
The salesperson took my details and offered to invite me back to a VIP sale they are having.
I wasn't fobbed off or left to go somewhere else. I was looked after and given an opportunity to return to the store to get a way better deal than the original offer.
Okay the note is basic. But - it is personal, hand written and it means a lot that some one took the time to write to me and followed up on their word. Had they have sent me a flash looking, obvious database letter - I would have ignored it.

Businesses and people in general could learn a lot from this young lady.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Time Management That Works

Not enough hours in the day to get everything done?

Try these tips -

  • Do all the little jobs first and get them out of the way.
  • After you have finished all the little jobs you will find you will have made progress on the medium sized jobs already.
  • Put your telephone onto voicemail and wait until you have at least 5 messages before actioning any of them.
  • Don't ignore the little box that pops up with new emails - get to any new emails straight away and deal to them!
  • Cancel or don't attend meetings that will waste your time.
  • Keep your email inbox down to a maximum of 20 emails at any one time.
  • Work hard on filing emails that are information only or completely not urgent.

Time management is all about reducing and eliminating the time wasters and focusing on and putting your efforts into the valuable stuff.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Education Business

How do you define success? Do you use quantitative or qualitative methods of measurement?

There are no definitive answers to this question. In the tertiary education sector this an area that we are constantly working towards understanding better.

In order to be successful education providers need to do the following -
  1. Be profitable.
  2. Have customers.
  3. Have outcomes.

Sound easy enough? It may sound easy but achieving each of these in a balanced way is very, very hard. Lets break it down some more.

  1. Be profitable. If we are not making more money than we spend then we will become unsustainable. Simple.

  2. Have customers. Who are our customers? Students and people wanting to learn stuff. Stuff that will make them better people and more employable.

  3. Have outcomes. When a person has finished learning stuff they want to either have a job or further learning opportunities available to them.

So what types of measure's can we apply to measure these? Quantitative or qualitative?

To be honest - there needs to be a solid mix of both. For those persons who are more sensical and logical they will likely err to the side of money. To the people who are more tuned in to the students then they will be looking for qualitative outcomes.

Neither is right and neither is wrong. It is all about balance. And if an educational organisation decides the qualitative is their priority they put at risk the quality of the experience of the customer. When customers can see quality outcomes - they will pay whatever it takes to be a part of your organisation.

Success - Defined

What is success and how can you measure it? This really short 3 and a half minute presentation will give you some fantastic ideas.

Watch the video - you'll experience the greatest impact within the shortest 3 and a half minutes of your life.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Micro Finance - making a real difference

There are plenty of people in the world who are searching for a breakthrough opportunity to change their lives. They need some funding, some support and some encouragement.

In most parts of the world you can - ask a bank for a loan or seek out an investor.

What about if you live in an under developed country? What then?

How about micro-loans and micro-finance. I personally am a member of Kiva. Kiva is a group of like minded people who lend small amounts of money to people across the globe to help them finance their businesses and to further their opportunities.

I highly recommend that you check it out -

Click here to see someone I have loaned to recently.

And here are some great reads that got me started -

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Communication Lessons

Here is a fantastic post by Seth Godin on communication -

"No More Big Events. Here are some things you can now avoid:
  • The annual report
  • The annual sales conference
  • The big product launch
  • The grand opening of a new branch
  • Drop dead one-shot negotiation events

The reasons why?"

Head over to Seth's Blog to find out!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Relationship Management

One area that I work on as much as I can when I meet people is trying to leave them with a memory or impression of me that will last.

While I would prefer that the impression would be positive that isn't always the case.

Here are a few things I do -
  1. Ask questions about them. What do they like? Where do they live? What work do they do?

  2. Find common ground or interests. It is always easier to speak to someone about a subject you know than a subject you don't.

  3. Talk about the interest and how it relates to them. People love talking about themselves and more importantly knowing that someone else is taking an interest in them.

  4. Treat everyone the same - whether boss or groundsman.

Now this may not appear on the surface to be a great business strategy. And maybe it isn't - but it is an excellent people strategy. Business comes and goes but good relationships last forever.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dress For Success

Guys - you've got to get your dress style right.

Have a look here at for some tips on how to get the right suit for you. Some trends and styles just don't change.

Yes - I do still have a suit jacket that I bought 12 years ago. Yes - it is old.
BUT - it still looks great because (accidentally) I bought a style of jacket that does not age.

That is one rule to go by for staple items for your wardrobe - get solid staples that will not age and add the funky trendy clothes around those.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mental Agility

One important aspect of every persons career is retaining the ability to adapt and to learn new skills as quickly as they can.

Here are a few ideas to keep you mentally agile and flexible -

  1. Study another language. This will really test you at any stage of life! Learning another language will cover more areas of your brain than traditional brain teasers as it requires both creativity and memory work.

  2. Exercise with cardio. Doing intense exercise gets the lungs working harder and the blood flowing faster. More oxygen in the lungs being transported around your body can only have a positive effect on your brain.

  3. Eat and drink smarter - Omega 3's power the brain. The best places to find these are in fish particularly salmon. Otherwise take a supplement.

  4. Relax your brain. When the pressure is off and your not at work, learn to take it easy. his applies both to your brain fitness as well as your physical fitness. You need to do the training but you also need to rest to reap the full benefits.

(See also - Australian Mens Health, February 2010.)

"Learn to adjust yourself to the conditions you have to endure, but make a point of trying to alter or correct conditions so that they are most favorable to you." William Frederick Book.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Communication Lessons

Once again Change This have managed to locate a great writer who has posted an A grade manifesto.

Here a few key points that are applicable to everyone -
  • Authentic communication can become as natural as breathing when you pay attention to a few essential aspects of what connects people.

  • The first thing you have to do to communicate better is name what happens to you under stress.

  • You have to name what happens what to you, because if you don't, you can't take responsibility for your tendencies in any conversation.

  • You have to read your listener if you want your relationship to get stronger.

  • The words you choose will either strengthen a connection or construct great pyramid sized roadblocks between you.

  • You want a closer relationship: you'll get it when you keep trying.

You can view the full manifesto by heading over here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Customers Needs - Listening

Have you ever encountered a potential client who hasn't been straight up with you?

Sometimes people will ask you a question without actually asking the question.

Case in point - a young lady came in today with some paperwork and asked about a specific line of study. Did she want to know about that line of study? Yes, she did. But what she didn't mention was that she also had a fallback position for another course that she was interested in.

What did I do? I looked at her paperwork and instantly decided that we did not have anything on offer that was suitable for her based on her past learning's. I basically dismissed her and sent her on her way.

It didn't take long for me to realise my error and fortunately for me (and her) she hadn't left the car park yet so I was able to have a proper chat with her about her options. It turned out that she had a fallback position and was really interested in other courses we have available.

The moral of the story -

  1. Don't assume you know what a customer wants, how much knowledge they have or what their motivations are.

  2. Be open. Listen to the customer and let them speak.

  3. Don't dismiss people without knowing what is really going on and what they want to know.

  4. If you are wrong - go and find the person and put it right.

It's easy to - assume someone elses motivations and thoughts and lose a potential client without actually exploring the possibilities and other available options.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stay in Touch - Relevance

I work in the education sector and one of the biggest ongoing challenges we have is ensuring that what the students learn is applicable when they have finished their studies.

This is the same issue that confronts all businesses and companies. How do we stay relevant and suitable to what our customers want and need?

Try these tips -

  1. Ask. Ask questions to your customers and stakeholders. Move out of your safe zone and go and see your customers and industry at their place of business. Try a questionnaire, go into the social networking domain and ask. After you have asked, be quiet long enough to listen and collate the answers into a workable solution and strategy.

  2. Seek. Look for changing trends and opinions. Carry out professional development. Find others in the field who are working towards the same end that you are and get their professional opinion.

  3. Knock. Go and and find knowledge experts. Find people whom you may have never met but come with big reputations and solid wins.

"Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends" Walt Disney.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Leading from the front lines

One important thing that all managers must remember is to stay in touch with the employees and the troops on the ground.

It is very easy to be busy doing 'manager' type jobs and roles. Through becoming so busy it is easy to lose touch with the heart and soul of the organisation.

The challenge is finding ways to stay in touch and in the trenches. It is easier to lead using the organisational structure to carry out your commands, however the troops will have far more respect and trust in a leader that can be seen and not just heard.

Here a few ideas -
  1. Calendar specific time to do tasks and jobs that may be menial to you but are important to the organisation as a whole.

  2. Delegate tasks. Prioritise your tasks for the day and delegate the tasks that are not really going to be adding value to the organisation.

  3. Help. Lend a hand to your employees and understand what it is that they actually do in their jobs.

  4. Be available more often.

  5. Make time to talk your employees daily or if you have a bigger job - at least fortnightly. The less visible you are - the visible is the vision of the organisation.

  6. Lead by example - not by mission statements, posters or pod casts. People follow people.

Why am I blogging about this?

Once a year we have the biggest event of the year - graduation. Where were the leaders when the employees were doing the hard yards? Such as - setting out chairs, ordering regalia, parking cars etc etc etc.

They were nowhere to be seen. On such an auspicious occasion that would be expected.

But what about f the leadership did the unexpected? What about if the leadership turned out early and help put the chairs out? What if the leadership were in the car park doing traffic duty?

What message would that carry to the organisation? It would say - graduation is important, and as the leader I value these little jobs that make the whole day a success.

Actions speak far louder than words.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Art of the Apology

Saying sorry and being able to say it well are vital to the personal integrity of a manager.

Lets face it - we all stuff up. However the way in which we handle ourselves after the stuff up can either make or break the way others see you.

Here a few tips for making a great (workplace) apology -

  1. Be sincere (or at least pretend as hard as you can to be). If you can be honest in your sincerity you have already distanced the distance between you and the other person.
  2. Don't restate what happened. When you apologise very briefly summarise what may have caused the offence then say sorry. If you try to reason why you did it, you run the risk of restarting the argument again.
  3. Move on. You offended someone, you said sorry. Unless you have caused physical damage or harm there isn't really any way of putting things right.
  4. Don't do it again. If you spend time observing your behavior you will pick up on patterns of behavior. By realising these patterns you Will know when you are getting tired and possible ready to cause offence.

Saying sorry is never easy - but it can do a whole lot of good when said sincerely and properly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Negotiation Skills

You can argue all you like with some people - but you will never change their mind.

Tip - give up and walk away. It just isn't worth the effort.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Project Planning and Management

If you have a project coming up try these pointers to help you along the way -

  1. Define. What is it you are trying to achieve with your project. What will it look like when it is finished? What do you need to be aware of? Is the landscape changing? How long will the project take to complete?
  2. Plan, Seriously plan. I like this quote I heard "Poor Planning leads to a Pretty Poor Performance". In the cartoon above Dilbert missed the opportunity - his competitors didn't. What was the difference - the competitors cut through the beauracratic traps and slowdowns to make the project fast and efficent. Even if you aren't first to market you can learn from others mistakes who were first to market.
  3. Proceed - make haste, not speed.
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