Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Strategy = Vision and Mission

Strategy is what people use when they apply common sense, valuable insight or proven methods to any given situation.  Strategy is a series of principles or guiding methods that enable an organisation to move from point A to point B.

(Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joriel/2845792224/)

At business school (MBA class) the strategy course was made up of three basic methodologies and actions:

  1. The mission statement.  Why do you exist?  And what do you exist for?

  2. The vision statement.  The values and guiding principles of the organisation. 

  3. Putting it into action.  This is where the rubber meets the road.
Strategy is a combination of knowing who you are and why you exist coupled with the ability to assess and understand the current environment

Strategy is about using your knowledge of who you are and why you exist and exploiting opportunities in the current environment to your advantage.

Strategy is about understanding what you see in front of you and having skills, knowledge and actions ready to implement at the drop of a hat.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Building Credibility - Growing Others

One of the keys to long term stability and sustainability is for an organisation to be growing leaders and future managers.  Where do those talented individuals come from?  Often times talented managers are in your department and are in your team already.  The key is being able to spot the talent, challenge them and ultimately release them to show their skill.  
  1. Identify talent.  Who in your team has more skills that can be developed?  Is your team members boredom a sign that need a bigger challenge?  Talented individuals are usually the ones who a) have the skill and ability to complete small tasks quickly and effectively, b) are able to get others on side and motivate them to complete their tasks as well and c) think they can do your job better than you can.
  2. Take a risk.  Allow your developing managers to lead projects and to stretch their wings.  This is risky for both the existing leader and the aspiring leader.  Both parties need to assess what size project is appropriate and then get to work.
  3. Praise and reward.  This is true of every employee but especially so for the aspiring manager.  If they make a mistake - so what?  If they do well - excellent.  One thing to be weary of is being hard or harsh towards someone who is giving it a go.  Review the final outcomes and then  give praise for the good things they have accomplished.  Then find another project or assignment and start the growing cycle again.
Let your up and coming stars stretch their wings, learn from their mistakes and ultimately replace you.

(Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dornveek-markkstyrn/4531874943/)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Quote of the Week - Ambition

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.”  Mark Twain.

(Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaronpics/161196543/)

Friday, August 27, 2010


Everybody needs either a hero or someone to look up to.  A hero is someone who you can learn from, imitate, copy or mimic.  None of these behaviors by itself is a bad thing.  Rather by modelling your behavior and approach on someone elses approach can actually be beneficial.

Here are a few of my heroes and the reasons why.
  • Richard Branson  The ability to never accept impossible as an option coupled with the ability to seize opportunities that other people just can't see.  Awesome.
  • H Norman Schwarzkopf.  the king of organisation.  No nonsense and no mucking around.  One of the truly great project managers of all time.
  • Hillary Clinton.  A combination of skill, personality and persuasive powers make Mrs Clinton a very respected and capable leader in my boooks.
Who are your heroes?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


"With the casino and the beds, our passengers will have at least two ways to get lucky on one of our flights."

Richard Branson .

There is a lot of truth in what Mr Branson has said here.  Having a single product that only does one thing or achieves one output just isn't doing enough.  You may have one product - but that product must have multiple benefits or outcomes if it is going to be successful.

Here is an idea based on research theory.  Every piece of research should have three outputs -
  1. The actual research.
  2. The peer review.
  3. The publication of the findings.
So from one base piece of research the researcher and the backing organisation actually record three separate outcomes from the one piece of work.

One of the great lessons I learned from my MBA lecturer Jens Mueller was to be able to "smell the money".  What may seem like a basic or simple business design fron the front may actually have many different value adding or revenue increasing opportunites that you just haven't seen yet.

So the question is - how many outcomes do you produce in your line of work?  Can you measure those outcomes?  And who do those outcomes affect?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Handling the Tough Conversations - Resignations

Having a staff member that you trust, admire and is a star tell you they think it's time to move on can be tough.  This is a person that you have invested time and money into and now they are ready to move on.  So what do you do?
  1. Be honest.  There is no point pretending that you aren't disappointed or are gutted.  Lying or trying to sugar coat your feelings is not going to achieve anything.  Let the person know how you feel without being fake.  If the persons role is going to be reviewed or let go of in the future say so.  Don't tell the person you are going to give them more money or more opportunities if you know you aren't or can't deliver.
  2. Be truthful.  Let the person know what you really think of their work.  If they are a star let them know that.  If they are not such a great employee let them know that too.  You aren't perfect, your organisation isn't perfect and probably neither is the remuneration or salary package. If those three things were perfect - then why are they leaving?
  3. Consider future development opportunities.  This is the part where you make them an offer that equates to a financial bonus or reason for staying.  I recommend enrolling the person into further studies or into some sort of professional development program.  That way both your organisation and the person will benefit from increased learning and understanding of the job. 
At the end of the day people have a life and a journey they are on.  Sometimes people want to stay with you because are going right.  Sometimes people want to leave.  The way you handle the leaving conversation is almost as important (if not more important) the induction conversation.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book Review - Peak Performance

In business, as in life, you evolve or die.  Interestingly one of the two big sources of evolution as far as marketing is concerned are - the rise of social media and the emphasis on sustainability.
In the book Sustainable Peak Performance by Mike Pratt and Helga Pratt companies that have embraced true change and real sustainability go under the spotlight.  companies such as The Body Shop, Dilmah Teas and Putamayo are all examined.

This book is about more than how to catch the fad wave of appearance sustainability  This book is about how do companies affect real change to the environment and their employees while remaining financially viable?  Is being sustainable and reasonable really possible?  And if so how?

With easy to read language, detailed research and a broad understanding of business practice this book certainly lays some excellent foundations for those interested in moving ahead.

In brief sustainability comes from the leaders and must be infused within company culture and practices if sustainability is going to be truly practised.

This book comes highly recommended and gets 4 stars from me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What is Leadership?

"What is Leadcership"? was a question raised in a meeting of professional like minded people who are committed to professional development.  This kind of question has no right and no real wrong answers.

However trying to define what leadership actually is can be really hard.  Here is my quicjk checklist for what constitutes leadership.
  1. Decisions.  The ultimate test of leadership is a persons ability to make a decision.  Whether that decision is made instantly or over a long time can determine a persons leadership.  If the question is able to be answered and if there is a successful outcome or not is a sign of leadership.
  2. Strategy.  Leaders have an uncanmny knack for being able to see ahead and to be able to devise answers and saolutions to various situations.  Managers deal with situations as they happen or after the fact.  Leaders think and plan ahead.
  3. People.  Leaders deal with people.  People follow leaders.  It is amusing how many people assume they are a leader because they hold a position.  Real leadership occurs when people listen to you and do what you ask, go where you go and just plain get on with it.
If this subject interests you try looking at this article as well.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Builing the Ideal Team

Teams don't just happen.  Teams are the sum total of a decision someone somewhere in an organisation has made.  The ideal team is one where you can start with a clean slate.  No rules, no history and no axes to grind.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to work as a part of a team of highly talented and motivated people.  So how does a team like that come about and what makes the team great?  Here are a few key points.
  1. Variation of skills and abilities.  Great teams have people who are skilled in different ways.  On our team we have key players in their various organisations who have the ability to create significant change within their local organisation.
  2. The ability to get along.  The team only comes together quarterly.  That means the team members never see each other at any other time or stage.  So when the team gets together there is limited time to spend mucking around.  Having people who get along on the team is vital.
  3. People who know people know people.  The team we have was formed through friendships first, shoulder taps second and recommendation of others third.  Getting the right mix of personalities and skills can be hard.  My recommendation is that rather then adding someone to the team just so they can do work can be more harmful than helpful in the long run for the overall health of the team.
One team that I always think was formed well and operated with excellence was the administration team put together by John F Kennedy.  That team dealt with The Bay of Pigs affair, the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as Cold War political pressures.  JFK's team was pulled together with people of various backgrounds and with different talents to deal with the biggest issues in the world at that time.

So - what do you need a team for?  And who will you pick?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Breeaking The Rules of Old Wisdom

If any one person or business has constantly set the bar far higher than anyone else - it's Richard Branson.  He is a man is willing to take a risk and throw caution to the wind to find success.

This great article - http://www.trendpov.com/node/384 -that sums up some of how Virgin works.

I encourage you to read it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Ability To Make Great Decisions

Sometimes things happen in business that will come as a surprise.  Some surprises are good and others are not so good.  Being able to see the road ahead and know what action to take is a vital skill for both a leader and a manager.
Seeing ahead is made up of a few different components -
  1. Access to information.  Who you talk to and what you are listening to makes a big difference.  Listening is also a lesser practised skill that can get you ahead if you are able to listen to what is being said and then figure out a way to use that knowledge for your benefit.
  2. Sheer Instinct.  Making a decision based on gut feel isn't always a bad thing.  You won't always get it right but you need to make a hard call sometime.  The way to make better gut calls is to make them more often and then reassess what happened and what the effects were after the fact. 
  3. Women's intuition.  Ladies have a third instinct.  There's no two ways about it.  If somethings up - a female will know.  Ask their opinion before you proceed.
 Nothing in life is ever really clear cut but the more decisions you make, and the more you reflect on your past choices will help you define and refine your skills.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Inside vs Outside Work Concerns

People have a life that exists outside of work.  Yes, it's true.

And sometimes when things aren't going well outside of work - those cares and concerns flow over into the workspace.

Taking the time to enquire about how someone is really getting on can mean a lot to that person.  It could be just the energiser they need to get their day off to a great start.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Keeping The Pulse

Understanding and knowing what is happening within a business and an organisation requires more than a report a month.  A single sided A4 piece of paper with some bullet points is not the best way to measure the life force of your business.  Here are a few better ways (in no particular order) -
  1. Talk to people - daily.  Keyboards and KPI's are great but I prefer to speak to the person on the floor.  The people on the floor usually will tell it to you straight and while they may not be able to join all the dots and create a full picture they will tell what is and isn't working very quickly.
  2. Tell others what you know.  One improvement I have instituted is the weekly newsletter.  It is a one page pdf that summarises what everyone is up to for the week.  This is as much a tool for me to know what is happening and much as it is a tool for everyone else to understand what is happening in on a much larger scale.
  3. Read the reports.  Written reports will always be the backbone of a management system.  However I think written reports should be short, sharp, to the point and engage in further action.  Written words should create a sense of urgency or the need for action.
  4. Keep it real.  If people and employees know they are being listened to, the more forthcoming they will be with their honest opinions in the future.  Those opinions can be the key markers of the health of the organisation at any given time.
"All lasting business is built on friendship. "  Alfred A. Montapert

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Best practices for social media marketing

I'm taking the day off to keep working on my CV and job application. In the meantime this is a great powerpoint and says a lot.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Knowing Your Human Rights

We had a great workshop this morning with a lady from the Human Rights Commission.  The main area of discussion focused on discrimination, bullying in the workplace and the ways both positive and negative through which people treat each other.

There are 13 grounds/areas that people cannot be discriminated on according to New Zealand law.  They are-
  • Age (from age 16 years)
  • Colour
  • Disability
  • Employment Status
  • Ethical Belief (lack of religious belief)
  • Ethnic or National Origins (includes nationality and citizenship)
  • Family Status
  • Marital Status
  • Political Opinion (including having no political opinion)
  • Race & Racial Harassment
  • Religious Belief
  • Sex & Sexual Harassment
  • Sexual Orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual)  Source: Human Rights Commission.
The reason I am posting this today is because it is easy for people to be unaware or even become blase about what is and what isn't covered in both domestic and international law.  Have another look over the list above and consider - have you discriminated or been voical to another person due to any of those areas?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Building Credibility

As a manager one of the primary tasks is to create and maintain credibility.  Credibility is defined as the following -

1 : the quality or power of inspiring belief
2 : capacity for belief

So what does credibility mean in the workplace?  What does it mean for a manager?  Here are three visible ways that a lot of people use to asses credibility.
  1. How you look.  First impressions last and the way you look is what people notice first.  Dress for the occasion and always be one step above of those you employ or teach.
  2. What you say.  When you are a manager people take notice of what comes out of your mouth and they generally tend not to forget as readily either. 
  3. What you do.  Actions speak louder than words.  Creating small wins and stringing them together into big wins gives you credibility.  Start small and work your way up. 
In order to have credibility it is important to ensure that how you look and what you say match with what you do and ultimately express who you are.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Crucial Skill for Tomorrow's Leaders

The Crucial Skill for Tomorrow's Leaders

By clicking on the link above you will be transported to the HBR website where you can watch an interesting little video on what being a leader in the future will look like (according to some of todays leaders).

I enjoyed it - thats why I have linked this post to it.  You  enjoy it too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Making Meetings Count

There is nothing I abhor more than a meeting with no point or no conclusion by way of future action points.  Often times "meetings" use up valuable time that could be better spent elsewhere.

Here are a few of my ideas about how to have a better quality meeting -
  1. Agendas - are for guidance only.  A meeting should not be held to ransom by the agenda.  Ticking boxes or agenda items off for the sake of process is a waste of time.
  2. So - try starting with a blank agenda.  Canvas the ideas and issues that are fresh in peoples minds first and deal with those.  5 to 10 minutes per issue. No more than that.  At the end of 10 minutes there should be clear points of responsibility and actions to be taken.
  3. Brainstorm with post it notes and blank paper.  Write up the big points of the meeting onto blank sheets of paper and hang them on the wall.  Then meeting attendees can note down their thoughts on any of the points and put their post it on the wall.  This then adds their thoughts and voice to the discussion.  This is particularly helpful for quieter people or if someone misses their chance to speak.
What strategies do you use to improve your meetings?  Here are a few links with some further great ideas for
you to use -

http://www.43folders.com/2006/02/21/meetings, http://www.delalbright.com/Facilitation/meetings.htm, and my personal favorite - http://www.bnet.com/article/how-to-run-an-effective-meeting/61211

Monday, August 9, 2010

Making real change happen

Here is a quick overview of three areas that I think are the cornerstones of a healthy and sustainable community.  Here they are -

  1. Female empowerment.  There can never be enough females empowered to make decisions for themselves.  This is especially true in countries where there is repression and lack of opportunities for advancement.  Respect rules.
  2. Education.  There is no substitute or ceiling that can be enforced when a person is educated.  Education sets the mind free to explore the possibilities of life and self achievement. 
  3. Micro finance.  Lending $25US to a person who lives in a country where the average GDP is less than $1,000US per year doesn't make much difference to my bank account but it can make a radical change in someone else's life.
This leads me to the question - what are your key drivers in life?  What are the three big ideals that drive you forward and excite you.  What is it in life that makes you feel that you are making a contribution and are fulfilling your life's mission?

Check out this website - http://www.worlded.org/WEIInternet/gwe/index.cfm which tells you more.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Quote of the Week - JFK

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

"Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth."

"Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names."

John F. Kennedy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Being Remembered

If you want to remembered as being a great manager, here are a few pointers -
  1. Lead by example.  Arrive early and leave late.  If you expect your employees to go the extra mile you need to set the example first.
  2. Give credit where its due.  Your employees did the assignment, filled the order on time and  achieved the result.  Let them take the rewards and the thanks for a job well done.  You won't regret it.
  3. Be flexible.  Similar to lead by example - be flexible with the time you give to your employees.  Whether it is arriving late or leaving early be flexible.  If you lead by example and people are aware of what is required of them then there should be no issues with this one.
The easiest way to remember this is by living out the golden rule -

'do to others as you would have them do to you'.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Female Vision

It is my opinion that in business the ladies do not get as much credit as they deserve.  I know many women who are strong and courageous yet never seem to reach the same heights as the gents.  Well not nearly as quickly anyway.

Today I was notified that a manifesto entitled "The Female Vision: Defining Womens Strategic Strengths" published on the changethis.com website.  Written by Sally Helgesen & Julie Johnson the manifesto assess the strengths that ladies bring and acknowledges the differences that these strengths bring and how they need to be embraced within the modern organisation.

So here are a few of my observations about ladies in organisations 0

1.  In my experience women tend to be a bit more hesitant than the men to make a decision.  Is this a bad thing?  Absolutely not.  The problem is that because business is dominated by men who want quick actions, responses and answers - there is little time to contemplate or to be viewed as being hesitant.

2.  Also in my experience ladies tend to not work to talk about or impress others with their skills and results.  I think women assume someone is going to notice their good work and reward them accordingly.  I think there is still a great deal of sexism that needs to be overcome on this point.  Men (generally) notice other men's work before they notice the results being produced by a lady.

3.  Women require closer social links and relationships than men.  The higher one gets in an organisation the less and less opportunities there are to relate to and interact with other females at the same level.  There is an old adage that "It's lonely at the top".  This is true for men and even more true for women.  In my view I think ladies find being at the top an incredibly place to be at without having the emotional support and interaction with others.

The CE f my organisation recognises that ladies bring different skills and attributes to the job.  And we have almost a 50/50 split at the very top level.  If only other organisations could work in the same way...

(Images: http://www.flickr.com/photos/saad/2203516616/)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Think First

Have you ever acted on a whim, instinct or emotion and found out later that you got it wrong?  That very thing has happened to me repeatedly during the last week.  So here are a few situations where you should think first and act second (based on personal experience) -
  1. When booking travel. Just because you can save a few dollars travelling from a close airport but not your home one - is it worth it?  Where will you park your car?  How much extra travel is involved?Spend the extra money and go local.  The benefits outweigh the costs.
  2. When you're angry.  This is the ideal time to say nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zero.  Saying nothing means you won't have anything to retract later.
  3. When a opportunity to good to be true comes your way.  Just as the old adage says - 'if it's too good to be true, it probably is'.

"We need to determine what activities best utilize our time in order to achieve the results we desire in all areas of our life!"

Catherine Pulsifer, from We Never Seem to Have Enough Time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Juggler

What is management?  And what makes a good manager?

Honestly - I think it comes down to a persons ability to juggle.  I'm not thinking of clowning around but rather the ability to handle multiple tasks and jobs all at once.

So how does juggling work?  Well you have two hands that at any one time are either catching or releasing an object.  By having only two hands you can ever deal with two things at once.  What usually happens is one hand receives a 'ball' coming downwards, while the other hand is getting ready to toss a 'ball' up into the air again.

Whats the secret to great juggling?  Knowing when to catch a 'ball' and when to throw one up in the air.  Getting the balance right between receiving and throwing a task back into space.

Now when the ball is in the air you don't have to worry about it.  The juggler needs to keep an eye on the ball and understand where it is in relation to their body movement and other balls but the jugglers energy is turned towards dealing with what is 'at hand' at that very point in time.

If there are too many balls in the air one of three things will most likely happen -
  1. The juggler loses track of where things are at and all the balls fall to the floor (crisis);
  2. The juggler could stop and put the new ball down somewhere and try and pick it up again later (procrastination); or
  3. The juggler can get someone else (delegation) to deal with that ball in the meantime.
So how are your juggling skills?  Are you able to cope with you are required to do?  Do you have too many tasks on all at once?

Try this piece of advice - "Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air.  You name them – Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the Air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four Balls – Family, Health, Friends and Spirit – are made of glass.  If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered.  They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it."  Bryan Dyson, Coca Cola (care of: Startupceo.co.za)

Interseting.  Question - what are you juggling at the moment?  How well are you doing?  How could you do it better?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Signs of the Times

Weather forecasting is a vital science that can determine success or failure for so many different businesses.  For example farmers need to know when to harvest the hay.  Fishermen need to know when a good time is to set out to harvest the fish.

The same goes for all businesses and organisation.  Every business and organisation has it's own peculiar patterns and rhythms.  The key is being unable to understand when the various patterns occur, what causes the patterns to take place and when the pattern can be expected to change.

Here are a few thoughts that will hopefully assist you to forecast what is happening with the "weather" -
  • Sales/income.  Everything hinges on the amount of income being generated.  A subset of this is customers.  Start measuring - new customers vs returning customers.
  • Time.  The more data you have the more power you have.  Creating long term trend lines and charts will help you to see the big picture and understand anomalies such as timing differences that may be seasonal.
  • Relevant data.  You need to measure and understand the industry which you work within.  Understanding an industry or business that is unrelated = a nice hobby but nit much else.
Here are a few indicators we use in education -
  • New students.
  • Existing and returning students.
  • Number of students passing vs number of students failing.
  • Capital investment.
  • Finances.
Measuring and keeping data on the important statistics for your business or organisation is vital to maintain health and vitality.  And if you can;t stay healthy - you can at least dianose where the issues are.

I found this great article written by Gary Collier which also has some brilliant ideas and thoughts in it.

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