Friday, July 31, 2009

Job Satisfaction - 10 Tips To Boost It

Frenetically busy, many executives find themselves feeling empty, depleted, and totally unfulfilled. Despite big salaries and prestigious titles, they wonder how they can enrich their daily experience of managing from the top.

Are YOU one of these who are disillusioned by the rat race, heavy burdens, and other people's off the charts expectations? If so, take a look at the following ten tips for increasing your job satisfaction:

1. Identify your personal values and those of your organization. Discover how well or how poorly they actually align.

Amazingly, some executives are unclear about what they truly value in life. Until you get clear about this, you can count on wading through meaningless days. If you are already in touch with your values, congratulations. Now you are in a place where you can live them. However, you may not be working for a company that honors your personal values.

Do you know what your organization values? How do those values mesh with your own? If there is a significant gap between your values and those of your workplace, watch out. You are on a slippery slope. Either you are compromising your personal values for the sake of the company, or you're trying to live your values in an environment that rejects them.

Whichever is the case, you probably feel unhappy. When a notable dichotomy exists between the two sets of values, it's best that you leave and find employment with an organization that mirrors what you hold most important. Ignoring this reality has both short term and long term consequences.

2. Clarify your personal and professional priorities.

You have to know what you value before you can establish priorities. Values drive priorities. For example, if developing people in the workplace is one of your professional values, you are going to make employee growth opportunities a priority on the job. The two go hand in hand.

If you value managing with integrity, then you communicate with others in a way that shows them you say what you mean and mean what you say. If parenting is a priority for you, then you most likely choose attending your son's baseball game on Tuesday over staying late at the office that day.

Valuing your marriage may manifest by honoring your wedding anniversary in a way that pleases your spouse. You cannot say you value your marriage but then ignore your anniversary. To do so would be a huge disconnect between what you SAY you value and how you decide to behave. When your priorities mesh with your values, you automatically increase your level of happiness.

3. Examine your use of time and make necessary changes.

Your values and priorities shape your calendar. Think about it. There is really no mystery about why your schedule looks like it does. Your schedule reflects what you are choosing to value most and what you have concluded are your priorities. If you don't like how your calendar looks, then you are allowing other things to usurp the places of what you honestly believe is most important.

Here's what usually happens: people say that x,y, and z are the most important things to them, but their schedules fail to indicate that. Most of us are running around from meeting to meeting, task to task, without giving a thought to how those items actually fit into our value system and stated priorities.

That is why so many folks are miserable too much of the time. Is this why YOU are miserable? Are you filling your days with a hundred obligations, few of which align with your values and priorities?

4. Focus on energy enhancing projects and tasks.

As you assess how you spend your days, can you say that most of what you do actually energizes you? Or is it true that most of what you do drains you? To stop playing the drain game, you have to know what does energize you.

What gets you excited? Motivated? Inspired? Juiced up? What would get you to jump out of bed when the alarm clock rings each morning? It may not be what you're doing now. It may very well be something else.

The point of this paragraph is not necessarily to nudge you toward quitting your current job. It could be, but more likely it's to push you toward gaining clarity of focus within the work you are doing now.

Get focused, and then arrange your days doing things that support that focus. Eliminate dull tasks and meetings that really serve no purpose for you or the organization. Try fresh approaches. Employ different strategies. Energy flows from engaging in things and methods that result in something worthwhile.

5. Know your strengths and then use them.

Too often people get hung up on what they don't do well. They spend enormous amounts of time agonizing over the skills they lack or have not mastered. Instead, zero in on all of your strengths, and you will feel great. Everybody has multiple skills that can truly make a difference in the lives of individuals and the lives of companies at large.

If you are an excellent listener, employees may forgive the fact that you can't design a computer program. If you successfully inspire others with whom you interact, people are likely to overlook the fact that you forget little details occasionally.

These few examples make the point. This does not mean that you shouldn't develop and expand your skill set. But minimizing or under using the skills you do have hardly serves others. Use them everywhere you can-all day-with folks who can benefit.

6. Deal with conflict as it unfolds.

Ignoring conflict-both real and perceived-guarantees trouble for both you and the company. Most people don't like dealing with conflict, but as an executive you absolutely have to do it.

Conflict is like cancer: it only grows bigger and uglier if intervention doesn't take place. If you lack the ability to handle conflict directly and swiftly, tap into resources that can enhance your skills in this area. Do not delay. Conflict brews every day with somebody somewhere. Convincing yourself that you can wait until you feel more ready is an illusion.

The truth is that you will never be ready. You cannot wait another day to alter your situation. Executives owe it to their employees, Boards, and stakeholders to develop strategies for facing conflict and then coping with it effectively. If you shy away from all or most conflict, perhaps you are not executive material. When you deal with conflicts as they arise, life seems cleaner.

7. Learn a new skill or acquire new knowledge.

One of the most rewarding ways to boost job satisfaction is to proactively seek ways to "grow" yourself. What skill or knowledge would make your job easier? Serve people better? What have you been putting off for a long time? What addition could hasten that promotion you've wanted? What skill may catch somebody's attention and make you stand out? What could help you feel better about YOU? Growing yourself has the same effect upon your life as spices and herbs have upon food.

Taking conscious steps to increase your professional attractiveness enhances your stature in your own eyes too. That is no small thing. When you feel good about YOU, you tend to exude greater confidence. As a result, others have more confidence in you. It's a big, beautiful snowball rolling downhill scenario.

8. Treat others as they want to be treated.

This is known as the platinum rule. Have you ever heard of it? It actually goes beyond the Golden Rule because it focuses more on the other person. Keep in mind that the way YOU want to be treated may not necessarily be how your employees or CEO want to be treated. Take time to find out how they want you to treat them.

Get to know them. Show that you care about them as human beings, not just as production agents. Never delude yourself by thinking that people don't notice how you interact with them. They do in fact notice, and often in detail. They tend to have elephant memories too. You cannot mistreat someone even once and get away with it.

You may believe you got away with it, but that is only a fantasy in your mind. How you treat others in the workplace carries more weight than a paycheck. Once last note: how you treat others is a direct reflection on YOU-even if you think they deserve your cold shoulder, your wrath, or your inappropriate words.

9. Add value to individuals' lives and the organization at large every single day.

As an executive and as a leader, your main job is to build people. When you invest in your people, they and you accomplish great things for the company. The organization cannot reach or exceed its potential if your people are stagnant, uninspired, and bored. Give your employees the opportunity to grow. Nurture them.

Talk with them. Ask them for their ideas. Use their ideas when you can and let everybody know about it. When you are building people, those folks feel it. And they respond to it. They get excited. They start believing they can do fantastic things. When that happens, they allow themselves to stretch.

When that happens, YOU succeed along with them. Your best asset in the workplace is your people. Never forget that. Pumping more and more value into them is ultimately what makes an organization shine. Along the way you get to smile.

10. Visualize your future both within the company and outside of it.

Most executives are so busy running from meeting to meeting, obligation to obligation, that they rarely if ever sit down in a quiet place to assess where they are and where they are going. They're just grateful to survive another day. Unfortunately, the days lack purpose and direction when you don't consider where you want to end up.

Do you want to stay with this particular company? If so, how long and for what reason? If not, why not? If not, where might you seek employment? Or maybe you're ready to retire. What can retirement be for you? An opportunity to do things you always dreamed of doing?

A chance to relax for the first time in thirty-five years? A time when you can rediscover your relationship with your spouse? Schedule some dreaming time each week to clarify what you truly want out of your work experience as well as your personal life. Set aside fifteen minutes and let your mind wander.

You have to give yourself permission to do this. This may challenge you in the beginning simply because you are not used to it. Keep doing it, and you'll find that you actually look forward to those brief "do nothing" periods that invite you to connect with the real you.

By Sylvia Hepler

Seven Reasons Why Many Small Businesses Fail

Starting your own business can be an amazing adventure. But today more than ever you need to be aware of why so many small business start ups fail to prevent you from making the same mistakes.

It is an uncomfortable fact of business life that four out of five start-ups end in failure, this can be for a multitude of reasons; however, the underlying issues are surprisingly common.

Give your new business venture a fighting chance by taking care to avoid these fatal errors:

Reason 1 - Cash Will Always Be King:

When money is tight and business may not be as abundant as it once was, conserving your cash resources is critical. Keep an eye on expenditure and watch credit control carefully. Make sure money owing to you is paid promptly.

When I send out an estimate, I always have our terms stating 'All work MUST be paid on day of completion'. When we know we are about to finish a job, I give our invoice to the customer on that day. We don't allow 30 days credit. Thankfully, up to now, it has worked.

Reason 2- Location, Location, Location:

Location is critical to the success of your businesses survival. A decent location can cost more but it can make the difference between just getting by and turning a decent profit. Don't let a cheap lease tempt you into opening your doors in the wrong neighbourhood if your gut is telling you it's not right.

Things to consider when choosing a location:

• Where are your customers based?
• Traffic, accessibility, parking and lighting
• Location of competitors
• Condition and safety of building

Reason 3- Keep Purchase Prices Low:

You need to know how to get the least expensive price on everything you purchase. This can make a huge difference. Use the internet to check prices, and then negotiate prices down with suppliers. Do not just accept the first price they give you.

Reason 4 - Never Stand Still:

An old mentor of mine once told me - if you never change anything, everything will remain the same. It is business insanity to do the same thing this year as you did last year and expect a different result.
Successful businesses innovate and change all the time - those that don't are simply left behind.

Reason 5 - Don't Give Up Too Quickly:

Any new business will be lucky to break even in their first year. Many people new to business often assume that they are going to make a fortune within 12 months. In reality less than 80% of new start-ups make a profit in their first year. Do NOT give up too easily.

Reason 6 - You Need A Website:

Simply put, if you have a business today, you need a website. Period.

At the very least, every business should have a professional looking and well-designed website that enables users to easily find out about their business, their products and services? Later, additional ways to generate revenue on the website can be added; for example selling ad space on your website.

Remember, if you don't have a website, you' will probably be losing business to your competitors that do. Make sure that your website makes your business look good; -- you want to increase revenues, not decrease them.

Reason 7- You Need To Get Your Name Out There:

You need to advertise, customers can not walk through your front door if they don't know you're there. Learn how to cost-effectively advertise and promote your business through such tried-and-true methods as ads in local newspapers, Web sites, blogs, even by sponsoring a local little league team. The number of advertising and promotional ideas that exist is only limited by your own creativity.

By Mike Zane

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Top 7 Tips - Volunteer Engagement

Tip 1 Attracting People to your Organisation
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So many charities, so little time! Ensure that your charity is at the top of the list. Volunteers will tell their friends and contacts about their work with your charity. Help them to recruit new volunteers for you. Provide them with up-to-date information about the work of the charity.

Give them newsletters, flyers, promotional goodies and gifts that are useful. This will help spread the word about the charity and provide the volunteer with something tangible to help them tell the potential new recruits about the organisation.

Tip 2 Recruiting Volunteers

Preparation is key to the successful recruitment of volunteers. It is worth taking the time to draw up a brief outline of the role you want the volunteer to perform, the types of skills that will be required, the ideal number of hours to be worked and an overview of the environment the volunteer will be working in.

Consider how you will advertise the role (remember that volunteers currently working with you could be your best marketing channel, so make sure they are aware that you are recruiting!).

Other methods could include online recruitment via dedicated volunteering sites to appeal to those who regularly use the internet, adverts on internal notice boards or maybe as an advertorial in the local newspaper. Always remember to monitor your success rate with each method used.

Tip 3 Induction is Key

Your new volunteer has arrived and is eager to start putting energy into the role. People who volunteer are giving up their discretionary time and want to make a difference, feel valued and happy in the knowledge that they have done a great job.

A formal induction from day one of their time with you provides a welcome and introduction as well an understanding of the basic rules of the workplace.

Written policies and procedures demonstrate professionalism and an outline of how volunteers are expected to work within your organisation. Providing a formal induction programme for your volunteers will give them knowledge to start the role with confidence.

Tip 4 Train and Develop

Ensure that your volunteers continue to be trained and developed once the initial induction has been completed. Ongoing learning and development for your volunteers is vital to ensure that they carry out the duties they are required to undertake in a professional and knowledgeable manner.

It is an investment that will bring short and longer term rewards. Consider the different ways in which you provide learning for your volunteers. Make use of structured on-job training, coaching, mentoring and other skills development learning activities.

Always ensure that you keep records of the learning and training you provide for your volunteers. Remember to relate the new skills, knowledge and behaviour back into the work environment.

Tip 5 Leadership

How clear is your mission? What are your organisation's values? How does your leadership team communicate the strategy? Your volunteers need to be motivated by the cause and the work that you want them to do.

The engagement of your volunteers will be influenced by the degree to which the organsiation's core values are communicated, understood and demonstrated by your senior management.

The work of your volunteers should be directly linked to the organisation's overall strategic objectives and measured on a regular basis. Volunteers can then recognise how the work they do has a positive impact.

Tip 6 Innovate to Retain Your Volunteers

Your pool of volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Many will be in full time employment and have little spare time so you need to consider how to keep in touch with them, how to provide meaningful short term project work, how to make use of their skills from a distance.

Create oportunities that can be done online, or provide flexible hours or specific projects that can be managed around the volunteer's other commitments. Consider the impact of the rising retirement age and how this will affect the reducing volunteering hours available to you.

Tip 7 Communicate

How do you keep your volunteers informed and involved with the organisation's activities? What channels of two way communication do you use? Is it easy for volunteers to have their say? In order to encourage feedback, involvement and commitment, use as many different communication channels as you can.

As well as formal surveys, consider forums, focus groups and intranet-based options. Make use of the internet and social networking sites. Appeal to a wide audience and remember to keep up-to-date with the information being communicated.

By Jane Child

10 Tips to Avoid a Disaster in Buying a Wall Map

Buying a wall map that shows street-level detail can be one of the trickiest tasks a small business faces, especially if the buyer is geographically challenged.

For some businesses, a good local wall map may make the difference between a flat bottom line and one that bulges upward a little.

Few buyers know it, but the task of buying a map for the wall is loaded with possibilities of making a mistake that the purchaser later will regret. The job is not as simple as reaching for a can of beans on a shelf at your local supermarket.

Here are 10 tips to help the buyer avoid a disaster:

1. Know what job you want the map to do.

· Does it cover the territory you need covered?
· What features do you want the map to show?
· Do you want a pretty map or a useful map? Color? Black/white?
· What size do you seek? Will it fit your wall?
· Is the method of hanging important? (rails? rollers? eyelets? nothing?)
· Is lamination necessary, or would you accept paper if available? (Most maps for the wall are not available in paper, because the publisher can't make enough money to support its business by selling paper maps.)

2. Be willing to compromise.'

There is no such thing as a perfect map. Be aware that the business of publishing a map - any map - is extremely complex. Partly because of this, as an example, every map sold to businesses is out of date on the day it comes off the press. And the longer it sits unsold on a shelf, the less current its information is.

The key questions the buyer needs to ask: Does this map do the job for me? Or are there better alternatives?

3. Know your publisher.

Publishers come in all kinds of stripes. No two are alike. Each publisher has its own methods, its own goals, its own priorities. And different publishers focus on different markets, serving different clientele. Make sure the publisher you choose focuses on your needs as a customer.

Don't buy a map just because the publisher is a household name. That publisher may not serve the market you're in, and the map offered by that publisher likely won't serve your needs. Example: If you're not part of the market that includes tourists, you don't want to choose a street-level-detail product for your wall produced by a publisher whose primary market is tourists.

While you may want to avoid a publisher that is a household name, it's not wise to choose a publisher you've never heard of. Ask another small business that has bought a map for the wall. Would it buy another one from the publisher you're considering?

Where does the information on the map come from? A map publisher's standard answer is that it comes from local government sources. What that publisher doesn't want you to know is that it may be buying that information from a third party which may have gotten it from a local government source, maybe via the Internet.

Which is okay, if it's accurate information. But how can the buyer know for sure? Is the publisher telling the truth? Yes, and no. Unfortunately, the economics of map publishing are forcing the largest publishers to buy the information from third parties.

4. Buy directly from the publisher if possible, not from a distributor.

This may be more easily said than done, but here's why it's important: The publisher controls the quality of the product. The distributor makes sure it gets to a place where you can buy it, and most often the distributor is the end seller. The distributor has no control over quality. A distributor sells the products that are available. (Most maps available on the web are sold by distributors, not publishers.)

Like many industries, the map business is going through a period of consolidation and change. What was true as little as five years ago may not be true today. Regional publishers are vanishing like the 10-cent movie theater, so it may be hard to find one in your area.

But a regional publisher is much more likely to serve your street-level-detail needs than a national publisher, who is more likely, for example, to serve a different market. It makes sense that a publisher in Chicago who serves the national tourist market can't keep up with the street changes in your area - especially the streets that a local business needs.

Example: If a street is missing on a tourist's map, few tourists are likely to notice it. But the omission will stick out like a palm tree in Alaska to a local business -- and tell volumes to a potential buyer. Be aware that this difference affects cost, and thus price.

5. Don't buy sight unseen.

You don't buy shoes sight unseen. Why would you buy a map sight unseen? Like shoes, one size doesn't fit allBuying sight unseen is the biggest mistake a map buyer can make.

One change in the map industry has been that many regional map stores have closed, robbing the customer of the chance to see various map products on the wall. That's too bad, because the chances of making the wrong decision are greatly increased for the buyer.

In many cases, the choices for the buyer today are the web, the web or the web. You can buy a wall map on the web, but you have to be very careful. Know this: What a map website doesn't say may be more important to you than what it does say.

Beware the publisher or website that is unable - or unwilling - to show and tell. And - if the publisher does show its wares - it's likely to leave the prospective buyer feeling cheated in his quest for information that can be used for a purchase decision. Click away from the website that doesn't show you what you want to see.

6. Make sure the map shows information current enough to serve your needs.

A map may be considered up to date by one buyer, but the next buyer may have a far different opinion.
The currency test is this: Check an area you're familiar with -- make that two or three areas. Ifyou think the map is up to date, then it's up to date. The next buyer doesn't matter. Above all, be aware of this: If a publisher touts his map as being up to date, he may be just telling the buyer what he wants to hear.

7. Try to learn when the map was published, if that is important to you.

Resist the temptation to look at the date on the map (almost all maps show the 'date it was published').

This may surprise you: More often than not, the date on the map is meaningless.

Little known by most map buyers, here's what that date means: This is the publisher's edition for that year. The date on the map often has absolutely nothing to do with the up-to-dateness of the map's information.

8. Comparison shop - not only for price but also for quality.

The web is chock-full of publishers offering wall maps. Google wall maps and you'll find almost a hundred million pages containing that phrase. That makes comparison shopping mind-boggling. It's a maze. But it's research that every map buyer should do.

Remember this: The least expensive map may not be the best to fill your needs, and the most expensive may not be the best, either. Never forget the job you want your map to do.

9. Be prepared to weigh price vs. quality.

On this issue, you'll have to compromise something. Is price more important to you, or is quality more important to you?

Bottom line: Does the map do the job?

10. Take your time deciding. Don't make a snap decision.

If you decide at 9 a.m. that you need a map on the wall by 2 p.m., you're going to make a horrible mistake. Buying a map for the wall - one that does the job - just doesn't happen that fast.

Yes, buying a map for your wall is tricky business, and your business probably is tricky enough. What you don't need is more tricks. Like most other purchases, in buying a wall map you need to do your homework. Use these tips. Ask a lot of questions. If you don't like the answers, don't buy.

By Gene Ingle

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Top Seven Tips on Finding a Supplier For Your Retail Business

Anyone running or planning to run a succesful and profitable business needs to have good suppliers. Everything you need to run your operation efficiently, from the till rolls for your cash machines to the goods you will sell, needs to be supplied by people who you can trust, provide a reliable service and charge a reasonable price which will not put a dent in your budget.

In order to help you find the right supplier for you, here are our Top Seven Tips

* Be sure of just what you need for your business. Identify the items you need for your company to run successfully. There is no sense in spending more cash than you really need to. So it is absolutely vital you only buy the kind of items needed for your retail business to run efficiently and successfully.

* Having identified what you need for your retail business to run successfully, you then need to do your homework to identify who your suppliers should be. Crucially they should be suppliers who you can trust and will not let you and your retail business down. Speak to other people you know in the retail business about who they might recommend as suppliers for your retail business. Also check on the internet to find about companies who could supply your business.

* After having picked likely suppliers for your retail business the next step is to contact them personally, either by visiting them or over the phone. If you are to enjoy success it is crucial that you check out how quickly they can supply you and the prices that will be charged. It is vital to the success of your business that you confirm the time it takes from order to delivery and price.

* Be prepared to haggle. Do not accept the first price you are quoted. If you are ordering in bulk and especially if you plan to order from the supplier on a regular basis then push for them to offer even further discounts.

* Don't be too proud to accept freebies. By doing this you will save yourself precious cash. They will leave more of your money in your pocket and put less of strain on your budget.

* Once your business is up and running it is good practice to keep faith with with a trusted supplier, even if another one can offer you cheaper goods and supplies. Other suppliers may be cheaper but they may not be as trustworthy. Using a good supplier could make all the difference between success and failure for your retail business.

* Should a previously trustworthy supplier let you down without good reason then be prepared to drop him. You can always find another good supplier and your profits will depend on regularly delivered supplies at an affordable price.

If you take the trouble to find a supplier who can be trusted, but who can supply his wares at a price your profit margin can stand, then you are on the road to success.

By Craig Ellyard

Increase Productivity With Morale - Top 7 Ways to Boost Morale For Free

1. Praise a Job well done.

As small business owners we pride ourselves on fixing problems and putting out fires left and right. Be as quick to notice a step in the right direction as you are a brewing problem -- whether someone doubles their productivity or it's a baby step toward your goal, celebrate it.

2. Ask Questions.

A staff meeting, a conference, or at the water cooler is a great opportunity to gain insight to what your people are thinking. If you don't know what their concerns are, you can't help them.

3. Get involved.

Sometimes the only motivation a person needs is an example of what a good job looks like. Show them.

4. Be Specific.

A team should be working towards the same goal or outcome. Does everyone know what that end result should look like?

5. What's in it for me?

If you are great at setting clear goals and expectations for your people, have you addresses their number one question - What's in it for me?

6. Explain why.

Always check to see if your people have the knowledge to complete a task, but if you find they have the skills just lack the enthusiasm, make sure to explain why it's important to the company then revert to point number 5.

7. Listen.

No, I mean really listen. If you take the time to have a genuine conversation with your people and actually listen to their answers (meaning don't look at your watch, cell phone, a person walking by, or think about the 30 other tasks you need to do) they will feel genuinely appreciated.

By Andrea Atkinson

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How Do You Keep Your Employees Motivated?

Well motivated employees lead to high business productivity, minimal staff turnover and greater profitability for your business. However, how do you keep your employees motivated?

Motivating your employees is not just about paying a competitive salary or offering perks and bonuses. To ensure your employees are well motivated you need to consider all aspects of your business.

Here are some hints and tips to help you:

1. Make your employees feel valued. Thank them, give them praise, recognise them for their contribution to the business, encourage them to feel that their work makes a difference to the business and give feedback constructively.

2. Communicate with your employees in an open and honest way, including regular staff meetings in groups and on a one-to-one basis and staff updates on how the business is performing and management decisions that have been made.

3. Review performance on a regular basis through staff appraisals and individual update meetings, ensuring individual objectives are realistic and align with the overall business objectives. Ensure your approach is consistent and fair between employees.

4. Consult with your employees before making decisions that will affect them and encourage your employees to make suggestions for improvements in the business. Ensure you listen to your employees and acknowledge their opinions.

5. Develop trust and teamwork among your employees and encourage them to ask for help when problems arise.

6. Give your employees a reasonable amount of autonomy and control and try and ensure each employee has a variety of interesting and satisfying work.

7. Support your employees through times of change in the business, in achieving work/life balance and managing stress.

8. Provide employees with development and career opportunities, through training, work placements and encouragement.

9. Create an atmosphere where employees enjoy working alongside their colleagues, where there is time for humour and fun and take the time to be interested in their life outside work. Provide a good working environment, together with the right training and equipment to do the job.

10. Pay your employees a competitive salary and appropriate bonuses and perks.

By Liz Makin

Managing Across - 10 Points For Collaborative Success

Many people use a competitive mindset at work, focusing their interactions on WIIFM - "What's In It For Me". This approach can bring short-term success for the side with the sharpest mind and toughest resolve.

But when we approach work as a battle that has winners and losers, rather then as an opportunity to collaborate with others to build a bigger better joint solutions, the company suffers. This is a classic case of winning the battle but loosing the war.

The solution? Get rid of the competitive mindset and adopt a collaborative approach.

Here are ten steps that you can take to build effective collaborative relationships:

1. Plan Your Approach.

Before you meet with a potential collaborator gather as much information as possible to identify potential common goals and think through the benefits that achieving these goals could bring each side.

2. Don't assume that everyone sees things the same way you do.

People have different needs, styles, desires and goals. Before you can effectively collaborate with someone you need to understand them. People make decisions for their reasons not yours - so make sure you recognize what they value and know how they operate.

3. Think big and focus on enlarging the pie rather then dividing it up.

You will be able to achieve more by working together. Take on big and exciting goals that will inspire others to also join you and make a difference.

4. Be observant and listen.

One way to understand someone's goals and personal preferences is of course to ask directly; this only works if you listen very carefully to the answer. Listen for unspoken needs. Notice the topics that they get passionate about. Listen for the whole message. The better your understanding, the more flexibility and creativity you'll have as you work together.

5. Openly exchange information.

To understand the total opportunity, everyone needs to exchange information. People will not share much with someone who is holding back. Lead the way by sharing your perspective and asking others to do the same.

6. Build trusting relationships.

Collaboration is not an event. Collaboration is an ongoing investment in people. When you do decide to collaborate with someone on a common goal or task, make sure that you also invest time in building the relationship.

7. Clarify roles and responsibilities.

Once you have defined what you are going to do, you need to agree to a consistent understanding of how is it going to be done and who is going to do it. Be specific and clarify agreements at the end of your meetings.

8. Keep your commitments.

f you say you are going to do something - do it. Don't make commitments lightly. Failing to meet a commitment is inconsiderate of others and can kill trust.

9. Appreciate others.

Notice and acknowledge the contributions of others as you work together. Credit and recognition becomes a sticky issue when you work across organizational lines. Be aware that people are sensitive in this area and sincere recognition of the contributions of individuals and teams is always welcomed.

10. Watch out for individuals that just want to win.

Collaboration while powerful is not always the answer. Some peers may not want to or need to collaborate with you. In these situations you need to use a more measured approach.

By Doris Kovic

Monday, July 27, 2009

Top 10 Tips For Startup Businesses

1. Affordable office space

There are many affordable places to start a business. If you chose an up and coming place to base your business at then your overheads will be less. Many technology business for instance can work from anywhere because the majority of their services can be provided over the internet.

2. Gain expertise from experts

Business mentoring is absolutely key to the success of the entrepreneur. You don't know everything and so need experts around you to aid you. A common mistake that young businesses make is trying to do everything. They secret is to kind other people to compliment your own weaknesses.

3. Networking events

Network events allow you to find work and other businesses to compliment your work. Valuable leads can be found at both the free business networking events and the more specialized fee based business events.

4. Cashflow is key

You've heard about profitable businesses going under right. This is because they ran out of cash. They had got enough leads and business but could do the job because their cashflow can dry. This is because they didn't plan properly.

5. Planning

You've heard of a business plan. Well, you need one. The business plan isn't a static document either. It changes throughout a businesses life cycle. If you fail to plan you plan to fail.

6. Pricing

Your price must reflect your experience. As your experience grows so will your earnings. At first work may be scarce but try not to deviate from the specialization. It is ok to do the odd job which is not par of your specialization but stay focused on your business plan.

7. Marketing

You must get word out that your product or service exists. But more importantly you must use your available resources informing the right people that your product or service exists. This is where market research comes into it.

8. Sales

So you've started to get interest in your services but you're having difficulty closing that sale. Are you asking the right questions? Don't push too hard. Make friends with them. Ask them about there business. Find out what they want.

9. Quality

Do a good job and deliver your product to a high standard and your customers will refer their associates to you. Do a bad job of inferior quality and your ex-customers will tell their associates not to use you.

10. Get paid

If you don't get paid then your Cashflow will suffer (see 4), if should be part of your business plan (see 5) to maintain your cashflow. If you don't get paid then you will fail.

By Michael J Greenwood

Top 10 Best Reasons to Have a Mesh Back Office Chair

Unless you are aiming for a virtual office, the first thing you have to be sure of in making your office as comfortable as it should be is the office chair. This tool is relative to the interior design you have for your office.

When you have an offline business, you can't throw in a bubble chair graphic to a prospective investor; you have to give him a chair. You might even want to give him a La-Z-Boy if only to make sure that he is sitting comfortably and he would sign off the deal sooner.

There is in fact a much conventional way to offer him great comfort without literally handing a hammock to him. That is by giving him a mesh back office chair.

So why would any executive assistant want extra mesh back office chairs in his downtown United Kingdom office?

Find out more about it here as you read on:

• The leather back chair has been there for so long but it has not been giving fair breathability on whoever sits on it. More often it may give a rancid odor and may be that difficult to clean or replace when torn for years of use. That is not a problem with a mesh back office chair. This type of chair has fabric that gives you absolute breathability and easy to wash or replace.

• Most of these chairs have advance features and one of them is the pneumatic seat height adjustment. This will ensure that the torso and the back of anyone who sits on it will be given optimum support.

• It also has the tension back support which means that even if you stayed all night on your desk there will be less back pains the morning after.

• Its polished aluminum base will ensure that it sits right in a well-designed executive office. It can go with your office's dignified look.

• You can choose among different varieties of mesh back office chairs. There are those that have casters in them to ensure mobility. If you want to exude an executive aura, you can have an executive office chair with mesh back. Even the big boss has to be relaxed. Don't you think?

• You can get a mesh back office chair that has adjustable arm rests. This will accommodate anyone no matter how long his upper extremities are.

• Besides all these features and many more add-ons like headrest and foot caps to ensure weight support, the mesh back office chair is also not that hard to find. You can just browse online and order for this chair type with the specific features you are looking for. No sweat and it can be delivered right on your doorstep.

• You can look for great bargains on this type of chair. All you have to do is look for a reliable site that deals with this kind of chairs. From time to time they give great discounts.

• Most of these chairs have good warranty coverage, allowing you to have free service and replacement when necessary.

• Lastly, the best reason why you should have a mesh back office chair right there on your desk is that you don't want to look ordinary or very traditional, right?

By Jim Oneil

Sunday, July 26, 2009

He's or She's Leaving? Now What?

Teams are a wonderful thing - when everyone is linked together and plays off of each other's strengths an IT department can virtually hum just like a smooth flowing machine.

However, when a team member decides to leave the team, whether it's to go to another internal team or to go to a new company, it can cause the whole department engine to start to sputter and misfire.

For those who are left on the team, the loss of a team member who has chosen to leave the team, can be difficult to deal with.

A good IT manager has to recognize that envy will immediately show up: we all are jealous of others who appear to be heading for green pastures/better challenges/more money.

The most effective way to deal with this is to let it happen, wait for the person to actually physically leave, and then reveal / discuss new exciting challenges for the remaining team.

The envy is a short term emotion and can be quickly buried if you can get the team excited about another project task.

The next big question is how does the loss of the team member impact the team. Specifically, who will be picking up the work that the leaving team member was working on? Additionally, does this loss of a team member open the door for any promotions? Answers to both of these issues need to be determined as quickly as possible and communicated to the whole team early on.

There is a lot more to do, but these are two good places to start.

By Dr. Jim Anderson

Want to Build Better Teams? Study Organizational Management

The research and studies done on organizational capital and management are truly one of the most interesting psychological topics surrounding business.

And if you really want to build strong teams in your business units, it's time to get past all the clich├ęs and start considering what makes people tick and what motivates groups and teams to top performance.

Over the years the topic has indeed intrigued me, unfortunately, it wasn't until after I had retired that I really learned all I wished I would have known while I was actually in the heat of battle and immersed in that reality.

Are the academics correct when it comes to the concept of team building and organizational management and capital? Well, yes and no.

Yes, they are correct in their assessment of its importance, and no they are wrong when it comes to all the "touchy feely" aspects to go about it.

Sure, some of this stuff works and keeps everyone happy and pleasant, but in mission critical situations, frankness, honesty amongst the players, and a reality check is far more important.

Thus, if you want to build a serious high powered team, concentrate on the need for organizational capital and leave the psychologists and academics along with all their proposed methods on the porch with the little doggies.

Leadership and team building done with real winners, and the big dogs doesn't require all the over blown kudos, everyone is a winner motif, or the notion that self-esteem is the key to having happy and content team members.

Look, if you want to win, pay attention to the details, and organizational capital is real, and it does matters, but let's not get carried away on making sure everyone gets a certificate for participation!

By Lance Winslow

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Connection - From Chaos to Community

Connection is to humans what water is to fish; a key to our existence and a cornerstone for our behavior. We are social beings and from infancy we make decisions and set goals in response to our social framework.

In community, we make interpretations, then decisions about ourselves, about men, women, life and more, and we adopt beliefs and strategies based on these decisions. Our connections with others shape our private logic and our external and internal worldviews.

In M. Scott Peck's book A Different Drum, he identifies the following four stages that lead to real community: pseudo-community, chaos, empty and true community.

Pseudo-Community is a way of presenting oneself that is taught by well-meaning parents through comments like: "Say you're sorry" (when we're not), "Don't ask, that's selfish" (when we have desires), and "You mustn't say that, you'll hurt feelings" (when we have valid and self-respecting opinions).

Teaching people to be respectful, civilized and caring is necessary. The difference in pseudo-community is that the top priority is maintaining peace at all costs and avoiding conflict. People are required to hide feelings of anger, hatred, jealousy, desire, hurt, fear, inadequacy; anything disruptive and unpleasant.

As chaos begins to surface (and it will), we generally assume that we are the "weak link". We worry we are inadequate and not up to the important life task of cooperation. This impression is usually supported by others and our discomfort increases.

In reaction, we work even harder to present a pseudo-face to the world, perpetuating acomplex system of managing our relationships and ourselves that is not holistic, realistic or effective.

When I betray me, I betray you

Over time, we waste precious energy thinking thoughts of attack and self-defense (to counterself-attack), blame (to relieve self-blame) and do everything possible (addictions) to repress feelings that don't fit into our pseudo-community picture.

In an attempt to survive internal disconnects and self-betrayal, we are driven to inflate our own virtues, deflate those of others and act superior to cover our insecurities. As harmful as all this is to our relationships, the greatest cost is disconnection within our selves.

Chaos

Most people do not realize that moving from pseudo-community into chaos is a huge step forward. If we did, more of us would open to chaos and we'd stop avoiding discomfort.

This would actually reduce the epidemic anxiety, breakdowns and addictions within our society. Our avoidance of chaos keeps us stuck.

What does it look like to consciously open to chaos? One example from my own life is a program I created on dismantling bullying systems. I open the workshop by introducing myself as a bully.

It's interesting to notice the chaos in myself and on the faces of the participants; we are all amused, relieved and also uncomfortable.

Next, I describe in detail how I am a victim, then a passive bystander, and lastly, a peacemaker. Intuitively, I know that if I am to have an impact on bullying I must first model willingness to move through chaos.

Chaos is always first experienced and avoided or faced within. I recently had a client who described her husband as depressed.

She shared how she had been trying to get him to read self-help books, look for solutions, and get counseling. I instructed her to cease everything except to open to the chaotic feelings within her whenever she was with him or thought about his depression.

She felt relief at this idea, appreciating the permission and encouragement to enter chaos; her own fear, helplessness and despair. Doing this helped re-center her, and as a result, her husband quickly began to face his own internal chaos more directly and productively as well.

Empty

Once we get comfortable facing and allowing chaos, our next step is to empty ourselves of almost all thoughts and practices that served us so well in pseudo-community. This letting go often feels like a death.

In empty we let go of our judgments, expectations, goals, even our hopes and dreams. We let go of many life-long practices, especially living in the past and the future.

In empty, we step into un-charted territory and it's as if our known world is turned upside-down. We get out of our own way, stop trying to prove ourselves and we make room for others.

True community is what happens when we have moved completely out of protection, fear and judgment. True community is unconditional loving connection, first with ourselves and then with others.

From this new relaxed state of being, the magic of authentic connection is made and solutions and trust come forth naturally and creatively.

The following story comes from a journal describing a South African tribe and is just one great example of true community:

"In the Babemba tribe, when a person acts irresponsible or unjustly, he or she is placed in the center of the village. All work ceases. The entire village gathers around and each person of every age begins, one at a time, to tell ALL THE GOOD THINGS the one in the center ever did in his or her lifetime.

Every incident, every experience is recounted. All positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and acts of kindness are recited carefully and at length. No one is permitted to fabricate, exaggerate or be facetious.

The tribal ceremony often lasts several days, not ceasing until everyone is drained of every positive comment. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically welcomed back into the tribe. Necessity for such ceremonies is rare."

By Judy Ryan

Employers and Employees - Partners Or Enemies?

"I have long been convinced that...employers and employees are partners, not enemies: that their interests are common, not opposed: that in the long run the success of each is dependent upon the success of the other."
~ John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

This is so right on, John. I totally agree. Wake up folks! This is the Information Age. The days of treating employees as less than partners is OVER! Plus the time of leading by intimidation is FINISHED! The more you enroll your employees in your visions, the more support and success you create.

The workplace has changed and no longer will employees stay in a position for 30 years just for the sake of security. This is one of the reasons that so many corporate employees are jumping ship and becoming entrepreneurs.

Employees become tired of being told what to do, how to do it, and being chastised if the directions they've been given to follow from their employers fall short and a project fails. Guess who usually gets the blame? That's right! The employee.

Even though water usually runs downhill, when it comes to pointing the finger and assigning guilt, often it's the employee who ends up being the scapegoat for dismal results.

Today's new breed of employees wants to know two things: they want to know they matter to you, their employer, and they want to make a worthwhile contribution to the bottom line of the company they're working for.

Statistics also show that the average professional will change jobs at least 7 times in their working life. Can your company survive constant turnovers? Believe me - it takes longer to retrain a new hire than to show your current employees that you value their worth.

Your success as an employer will be tied to your ability to meet their needs, create long term relationships, and ultimately reduce your turnover rate. So how can you do that?

1. Set clear guidelines and expectations from the get go.

Implement job descriptions so your employees will know what key functions they are responsible for.

2. Utilize their talents.

Let them do the things they are good at, and don't force them to do things that they're not capable of doing and expect miracles.

3. Implement strategies that support teamwork instead of creating 'lone rangers.'

As the old saying goes, "Two heads are better than one," so listen to the input you get from your employees. There just might be some nuggets of gold in their words.

4. Communication is the key to success.

Always be open and honest with your team, and above all, don't be afraid to ask them for help when you need it.

By Cookie Tuminello

Friday, July 24, 2009

Turn Team Sabotage Into Team Strength

Without exception, among the teams with which I've worked, communication is cited as one of the major challenges.

And it's particularly problematic when multiple teams from across the organization are required to work together.

We've all seen reality shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race in which one team pits itself against the others to win the ultimate prize. Everyone is out for themselves.

Sadly, this trend also occurs among business teams-even when they all are supposed to be working for the collective good of the organization.

For a variety of reasons-whether it be fear, territorialism or arrogance-communication suffers because people perceive they have something to lose by sharing too much.

As a result, many businesses never experience the powerful results that true collaboration can bring.

I will never forget during one of my Recipe for Results team-building programs, one team member asking me, "Are we allowed to help another team?" Just the fact that the question had to be asked speaks volumes.

A cooperative approach must begin at the top. The corporate culture should foster and reward collaboration, not segregation. This requires more than lip service-it requires modeling the behavior.

In the end, people must walk their talk. Like it or not, in today's corporate environment, trust is not something that can be assumed. It must be earned and proven. That's where collaboration begins.

Practice the four C's of collaboration to experience the full power of teamwork:

1. Check egos at the door to foster open, honest dialogue.

2. Curb blame and defensiveness by encouraging and accepting constructive feedback.

3. Create common goals so everyone is aware of the desired outcome.

4. Consider the greater good of your organization.

By Kim Fabian

Top 5 Barriers to Effective Teamwork

For teams to work together successful they often need to overcome a number of barriers. The basic benefit of team is many minds and bodies working together to accomplish a common goal.

Truly successful teams take advantage of the unique strengths and perspectives of the individuals that make up the group.

However, often the differences themselves preclude effective communication and connection to get to the very advantage that is sought.

The following is a quick list of barriers that teams must overcome to function together successful and some notes how to overcome the barrier:

1. Can't take in what others are saying because they say it differently.

· Have team members practice actively listening, where they repeat back what they heard. The individual who is communicating the original idea can correct the understanding and both members and those observing can see where the differences originate and have a deeper understanding of how to communicate more effectively.

2. Individuals approach things differently so they don't know where their team mates are coming from so they don't develop trust.

· Have team members work through a simple problem and document the steps they would take to solve the problem. Then have each member review with the group how and why the approached it in their unique way. The group should see there are many ways to work through things and gain an appreciation for different approaches.

3. The process by which they make decisions is different so they can't make consensus decision.

· Decisions shouldn't always be made through consensus but there are times when all team members need to have a say to buy in and carry the decision through. So if the team is having trouble making decisions look into why that is, challenge the team to identify why they are having trouble and brain storm on suggestions on how to improve.

4. The group is highly interdependent but they don't understand what the rest of the teams roles are, they just know they need something from them to do their role.

· If time and skills permits , allowing the group to swap roles for a day or an hour. Often we think we know what someone else does until we are actually challenged with doing it ourselves. If time or skills don't permit, take time out of each team meeting to have individuals give a little review of their role and how they go about it.

5. The common goal is not clearly defined or bought into by all team members.

. Some people enjoy the social interaction of team so naturally adjust well to working in a team, others however would prefer to be individual contributors. If individuals do not understand the common goal they are less likely to stretch themselves to work together as a team to accomplish. Ensure the group understand the goal they are trying to achieve as a team and the benefits of working together as a team.

So to summarize the barriers that teams need to overcome are :

1. Unclear or unproductive communication

2. Different approaches result in individual being untrusting of others

3. The team can't make consensus decisions when required

4. Team doesn't understand their other team members roles

5. Team is not clear and bought into the common goal

Evaluate your teams effectiveness and see if one or multiple of these barriers are holding your team back from being a truly high functioning team. Take steps to correct, one at a time, too much change will just through the group into chaos.

By Lynn Ferguson

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Visualize Your Goals and Dreams When Building a Team

Before you can really build a team you have to get the entire group on the same page. The best way to do this is to help them "together" visualize all the goals, and allow them to do a little dreaming on their own.

They need to be able to see themselves at that future point in time, having accomplished all they set out to do. It's not easy to visualize your goals and dreams when you're building a team but it is quite necessary. And it can be done in a number of ways.

Many "Team Building Captains" use whiteboards and everyone sits around discussing their goals and the mission of the group along with their own wish lists. It is important to let the members of the team allowed their imagination to flow.

Once the team sees themselves as victorious in the market place, or on the sports field, you are halfway there. There is a book that is fairly old, but I'd like you to pick up a copy if you would, the book is called; "Psycho Cybernetics" by Maltz (read it).

In this book he explains how powerful the imagination is and why visualizing your dreams and goals is so important. The top Olympic athletes have been trained to do this in their individual sports.

But if you get a whole group of people visualizing their success in advance, it's almost as if they can "will the events to occur" and make victory happen. I hope you will consider all this when you're building your teams, and understands the power of visualization. Please think on this.

By Lance Winslow

8 Top Tips For Leading Teams

As a leader you will have the role of leading what may well be a very large team of people. With more organisations now operating across the globe, you may well find that you are also having to lead a virtual team located hundreds or potentially thousands of miles from where you are based. So what are my 8 top tips for leading teams?

Tip 1: Set clear goals or outcomes

If your team or teams are to achieve anything they need to have absolute clarity on what you expect them to deliver in terms of goals or outcomes. While in theory this might seem simple, too often leaders fall into the trap of setting very vague or ambiguous goals. To overcome this start by getting clear about what you want to be different 1, 3 or even 5 years from now and then narrow it down to a very clear purpose.

Tip 2: Facilitate more and direct less

As the leader of the team, think of yourself as the conductor of the orchestra rather than the person playing an instrument. Your role is to bring out the best from everyone in the team so that you get optimal performance and results.

Tip 3: Learn to listen

We were all given two ears and one mouth. Yet often you would think that it was the other way round. Don't fall into the trap as the leader of the team of spending all of your time talking and little or none getting the contributions of others.

Tip 4: Reward team rather than individual performance

If someone is going to be rewarded just for what they do individually, what incentive is there to contribute to team performance? Aim to create reward structures that mean that if the team wins, everyone wins rather than being narrowly focused on individuals.

Tip 5: Be consistent

All leaders have their own style which is to be expected. At the same time it is important as a team member to have some sort of consistency in leadership style. There is nothing worse in having to guess what leader has turned up on a particular day so try to be as consistent as possible.

Tip 6: Be a role model

As the team leader you set the tone for the rest of the team. How you behave, how you interact, how you deal with difficulties and conflict will all impact on the team. Decide on the tone you want to set then model that for others.

Tip 7: Provide opportunity

One of the big attractions of being on a team is that you often get the chance to work with different people or to take on new challenges. Use this as an opportunity to grow and develop people.

Tip 8: Take responsibility and praise others

When things don't go according to plan, take responsibility and don't seek to apportion blame. When things go well don't grab the glory and make appoint of praising others.

By Duncan Brodie

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

5 Steps to Improving Performance

Lack of performance in a member of your staff can be attributed to one of two things. Either they have a competence problem, a commitment problem or both.

Competence is relatively easy to deal with. Once you have identified the issue, you can set about producing a training programme to help develop their skills, spend some time supervising them until they become competent, allow them to observe others, there are any number of ways that you can develop your staff with direction and support. Competence is learned over time as people develop their skills through experience.

Commitment, however, is a little bit more difficult to deal with as this is down to a combination of a person's confidence and motivation. When a job is new to us and we are in learning mode, we have little or no competence but oodles of commitment. We are enthusiastic and eager to learn and determined to perform at our best.

As we start to learn the job, our competence increases but out commitment diminishes as we realise that maybe the job is more difficult than we thought, or maybe not as challenging or as interesting as we thought, or maybe we are just not being recognised for our efforts. Human nature is such that we start to think "well why bother?"

Keep your people's commitment by:-

1. Developing a learning and action plan that is right for them. Find out what their preferred learning styles are.

2. Be aware of how quickly they learn and adapt. Don't allow them to become overwhelmed but just as importantly, keep their interest if they are a fast learner and they thrive by having responsibility.

3. Focus on the positive by catching them doing something right and acknowledge them for it.

4. If they do do something wrong while they are still inexperienced or they have a new task, then apologise for not making it clear to them. Yes, I do mean apologise! It is not their responsibility to understand you; it is your responsibility to be understood.

5. Keep them in the loop. People like to know what is going on and are more likely to be
committed if they understand the bigger picture.

By Yvonne Bleakley

Manage a Know-It-All

How do you handle a new person who seems to know everything? This is such a common problem. The team members who have worked long and hard feel like the new person does not understand or appreciate their experience (and this is probably true). The new person feels like the existing members are set in their ways and not open to new ideas (there is probably some truth to this as well).

Both sides become frustrated and upset and act in ways that perpetuate the misunderstandings. While there will always be some growing pains, they can be managed using a few simple strategies.

* New member equals new team. When someone new joins the group, it will be tempting to expect the new person to fit into the existing team culture. The problem is that every time membership changes it results in a new team. The best approach is to open up all team processes and rules for reconsideration by everyone.

* Build empathy. Both new and old team members could benefit by trying to understand the opposite perspective. When people are new, they want to be noticed, accepted, and valued. When people have been on a team for a long time, they want the new people to recognize and appreciate the problems they have already solved and the work they have put in getting things to where they currently are.

* Provide coaching. If the new person is really ruffling feathers, it can be easy to sit back and watch the person self-destruct. Don't let that happen. Talk to the person off line and give him a heads up. This could mean letting him know how his actions are being taken by the group, and suggesting ways to ease in more smoothly.

By Tom LaForce

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Employee Motivation and Training on the Cheap

It doesn't take a Nobel laureate economist to recognize the fact that we're dealing with some very tough times right now. This recession is wide and deep and there's very little reason to think that the economy will suddenly undergo an overnight recovery. Times are tough. There isn't as much money to toss around as there was a few years ago.

When one looks at expenses, a few things tend to pop out at them. These are the line items that aren't absolutely critical to company functioning. You can't get by without paying the light bill.

You can, however, stay open without underwriting a company wellness program. You can't stop paying your vendors. You can cut back on training costs. It's not hard to guess which items get circled in red ink as the search for cash pushes forward.

At the same time, however, any sane business person recognizes that those cuts are going to have an impact on employee engagement, performance and motivation. Nonetheless, it might be a necessary aspect of the austerity measures necessary to keep things afloat.

That's why everyone should be looking for cheaper alternatives. If you can handle employee training and motivation less expensively but with relatively little, if any, quality loss, everyone wins.

Here are a few ideas for handling employee training and motivation on the cheap.

Employee Mentoring

This is a great opportunity. You can increase the role of existing employees in mentoring new hires. Not only does this fulfill training needs splendidly, it also has a pro-engagement element. The employee designated as the mentor feels recognized for the quality of his or her work and is given a new, yet manageable, challenge which can have an impact on how they feel about one's job and the company's perspective on his or her value.

Top Level Honesty

It doesn't cost a dime to tell the truth and employees repeatedly tell researchers that's what they want from their corporate leadership team. Frank and direct answers to questions and a commitment to keeping employees well-informed increases their engagement and motivation levels. They appreciate the straight talk and are more inspired when they know they're working for someone who values them enough to tell them the truth, even when it's not always pretty.

Employee Recognition

Employees thrive on recognition. That's because all of us want to know that what we do matters and is appreciated. Taking the time to point out successes and to offer a sincere congratulations on a job well done can improve morale levels substantially.

There's nothing costly about saying "thank you", but those two words may be all it takes to keep a quality employee from beginning the precipitous slide toward becoming a disengaged "clock watcher".

These are just three of many examples. If you put your mind to it, it's possible to manage high-quality employee motivation and training while simultaneously trimming your budget.

By Debbie Norris

Three Ways Employee Mentoring Pays Off

Traditional new employee training is probably inevitable in many settings, but companies who have the opportunity to supplement or to even replace those programs in favor of employee mentoring solutions can capture significant advantages. Having existing top performers actively mentor new hires can produce amazing outcomes. Let's look at three of the many reasons to consider this approach.

First, employee mentoring spurs greater levels of engagement among the "mentor" employees. It's an opportunity to provide appreciated recognition and to give the individual in question an additional, yet manageable, responsibility. It also forces those employees to consider their role in the operation and the best possible ways to perform job duties.

Second, it creates a more cooperative work environment. Workers get to know one another and to appreciate their roles and abilities. Instead of having individuals whose only connection is a line/arrow combo on the flowchart, you begin to forge real relationships that make workplaces run more smoothly and efficiently. The morale boost certainly doesn't hurt the bottom line, either.

Third, employee mentoring provides an opportunity to provide a more in-depth form of training. It can help new additions to your staff avoid "reinventing the wheel" and can prevent common errors that may occur otherwise. It gives your new staffers a chance to see how things really get done instead of exposing them only to the more theoretical or hypothetical education that's a frequent hallmark of regular training.

Would you rather have your employees learn their jobs on paper or in the trenches? Would you rather have a series of individuals occupying cubicles or a vibrant office filled with people rallying around a common purpose? Which sounds better: Challenged and rewarded employees who redouble their commitment to the company or maintenance of the status quo?

All of those questions are easy to answer. And all of those answers point toward on unmistakable conclusion. If it's possible to utilize a strong employee mentoring program within your business, you should do so. There's very little downside to a well-managed program and significant potential for improvements to your business and its bottom line performance.

By Debbie Norris

Monday, July 20, 2009

Teamwork - The Last Great Business Urban Myth

Pick up almost any Business book on Sales Management, Leadership or Strategy and you will doubtless find many references to the importance of teamwork and team-building.

Laudable though these are in exhorting managers and leaders to develop, nurture and encourage a 'team culture' or 'shared ethos' within a group, many of them simply do not work.

It is a sad fact that many 'teams' are not teams at all, many do not actually exist outside of the imagination (or, more often, wishful thinking) of the leader.

We have seen so many examples where a leader has asked for support for the 'team' only to find we were dealing with a collection of disparate individuals whose only common bond was that they were compelled to share the same physical space for 35 hours per week. In any other regard, and by any other metric, these were not teams, except for the fact that the leader hoped and wished they were.

So what steps can one take in order to actually develop teams? If taking disparate groups of individuals and welding them into cohesive units is such a desirable state of affairs (and it is), what can be done to develop teams and grow a shared, common ethos? In short, if all the textbooks tell us to develop teamwork, what, on a practical basis can we actually do about it? Below is a an absolutely non-definitive list of things leaders need to consider to get the job done.

1. Identity - Does the aspirant team have a clear, unambiguous and compelling raison d'etre? Do they know what their purpose is, why it is important and why it is, in it's own way, worthy?

2. Roles - Does each member of the team understand and 'get' their own role? Remember that wonderful (and quite possibly entirely fabricated) story about the guy who was the toilet cleaner at NASA who, when asked what he did for a living replied "I'm helping to put a man on the moon".

Do your team know why they are there? Do they know why the others are there? Do they know why they are necessary? Why their colleagues are necessary? Without a shared and compelling sense of purpose there is no team there is just a group (and groups are easy).

3. Politics - If people lack any kind of clarity then they will tend to try and grab power. In Roman times this would involve discrete plotting, the spreading of rumours, the canvassing of support and then the (often bloody) toppling of the leader.

Despite all our 21st century sophistication, our Apple Mac Powerbooks and Cafe-Latte culture, we have not moved so far from this ethos today.

If People are gainfully employed in the pursuit of noble and/or worthy goals they have neither the time nor inclination to plot and stab one another in the back. Corporate Politics, by its very presence, is the acid-test of teamwork, if you have politics, you do not have a team.

4. Purpose - Does your team have a clearly defined, single, noble, large purpose? The old idea of the 'Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal' applies here. Do not waste your time in forming 'Teams' for tiny or insignificant tasks - it cheapens the entire process.

Have a dream, 'sell' it to others and when (and only when) you have a collection of people with overlapping but largely non-repeated skills and experiences, united behind this common, worthy cause, only then do you truly have a team.

By Fred Mills

Credit Crunch Team Building

There has never been a better or more rewarding time to motivation staff, build strong teams and offer staff Incentives.

With the credit crunch hitting an all time high, along with redundancy and unemployment, corporate teams are being restructured and employees are moving department, city and in some cases even country to keep their jobs.

Motivation is at an all time low as people watch their friends and colleagues relocated or worse still, be made redundant; it is a very stressful time.

The work force is the lifeblood of any company and during these tricky times is fundamental these people are well looked after and encouraged to build a future for themselves and the company.

Team building days, team training days and staff incentives can help to build strong teams and restore enthusiasm during the downturn.

During a recession it is essential for companies to become more productive and efficient using less to produce more as productivity is the essence of what makes a business competitive.

The best way to do this is by having a well oiled machine i.e. a good team! Team building can cost less than you think and during these very stressful times it is vital and could save money in the long run.

Employee incentive programme are also important as they give the workforce the opportunity to work towards unforgettable experiences, which they would not be able to buy for themselves.

Incentive programmes also create the opportunity for a team to really bond, away from the workplace. Away days improve a team's cohesiveness, giving team members something to laugh, enthuse and reminisce about for a long time to come.

Rewards like this re-enforce the fact that your organisation is excellent to work for. These are some fantastic benefits from a reward for which the employees had to increase performance to win.

By Lianne Campbell

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rethinking Teams and Teamwork - Getting Over the Guilt Complex

Teams, teams, teams! This has become the refrain since the early nineties when the literature on teams and teamwork exploded. Everyone needed to be part of a team, however small the organization. To most people working in organizations, private and public, the reflex is to refer to one's 'team' when discussing co-workers and work issues.

What has happened over time is that the use of the word 'team' has greatly diluted what teams and teamwork are really about. And along the way, the cult of teamwork has created scepticism and mistrust - and even guilt - among employees.

Before one concludes that I am anti-teamwork, I should point out that in addition to having spent many years being part of a variety of teams that I have also designed and delivered dozens of teambuilding workshops. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to rock the teamwork boat a little and challenge the conventional wisdom that has emerged during the past two decades.

My ultimate aim is to widen the perspective on what constitutes teamwork, that it is okay to enjoy working independently, and that 'teamwork' in reality encompasses a broad range of ways in which people come together to accomplish specific objectives.

My own experiences in being a part of teams and various assortments of work groups extend back 30 years when I first entered the labour market. When teams became the method of choice for how work should be organized in the early nineties, it was nothing particularly new to me since that was how I had been working for several years in a service branch.

But I recall quite clearly the stress that some of my co-workers in other parts of my office underwent. Ostensibly they were all for teams, the message they wished to be heard saying publicly. But one-on-one, their true feelings were candidly expressed.

These were people who preferred working independently, and whose jobs really did not demand the rigours of a team setting. And I confess, too, that as much as I enjoy working with others, especially initiating projects and bringing people together, I also like working on my own when the right circumstances prevail.

So what am I talking about - working independently in the face of the omnipresent need for teamwork? It's essential that one understand what teamwork entails before defaulting to the mantra of teams, teams, teams! As much as a long list of writers has enunciated the characteristics and traits of what constitutes teamwork, at its core are two necessary conditions:

1. Shared common purpose for the team

2. Interdependency of work among the members

Unless both these conditions are present, one cannot have a team.

Yes, there are a number of important features of teamwork, including:

• Size of the team,
• Effective communication,
• Performance goals,
• Respect for one another,
• Mutual accountability,
• Socializing and having fun.

As organizations continue to evolve as a consequence of socio-economic changes, technology, demographics, markets, etc., so too must their internal structures change. Work still needs to get done, regardless of external and internal changes, and sometimes this is by using formal (intact) teams or some other forms of bringing people together.

Most of us have probably been part of working groups at some point in our careers. I've spent a significant amount of time working in this manner. They can be very effective at addressing specific problems and issues with prescribed time durations.

But it's important to remember that working groups exist to share information, delegate tasks and make decisions. The members of the working group take responsibility for their own results. The focus, therefore, is on individual performance.

Consequently, the output of the working group is the sum of the individual members' contributions. The so-called synergistic effect of teamwork doesn't take hold in this setting.

When it is necessary to form a team because the conditions call for this type of work arrangement, the challenge to create effective teamwork can be quite daunting. It's important, therefore, to understand that teams typically go through four main stages:

1. Forming

This occurs when people are first brought together to form a team. They begin to get to know one another and set out to establish the appropriate rules and behaviors that will govern the team. The members look to the team leader for direction. Interactions among the members are somewhat formal and polite during this phase.

2. Storming

The members are getting comfortable with one another. They start disagreeing and challenging each other. If this stage is missed, the team won't be as strong because it hasn't yet learned how to deal with conflict.

3. Norming

The members know each other and have developed rules of conduct. They want the team to be successful. Trust is being established, and the members are having fun.

4. Performing

In this final stage, the team has a clear, common purpose and direction. The members appreciate their diversity and are building on it. Synergy is taking hold.

The lengths to which a team remains at a certain stage vary, depending on the ability of the members to address and resolve issues and to move forward.

But the members must work on developing a clear purpose, goals and common approach. They must also agree on mutual accountability.

Given the amount of time, effort and nurturing that the creation of a truly effective team requires, it is not surprising when one hears cynical comments about teams. Publicly in organizations employees will say what management wants to hear.

But with co-workers in private, another conversation is being held. One expert on teams who rocks the boat is J. Richard Hackman, who has been consulted by numerous organizations over the years on work design, leadership development, and team and group performance.

His research runs counter to the popular press, finding that work teams are found clustered at both ends of the organizational effectiveness continuum.

While some teams succeed well, others flounder. Underlying this is how management approaches work group design. Here are some key points to retain for consideration when thinking about forming teams.

First, management should not push teamwork when certain tasks can be done more effectively by individuals. One good example is preparing reports, which Hackman suggests is better done by one person on behalf of the group.

My experience in report writing is aligned with this view. Trying to employ a team to write a report is both inefficient and frustrating, with the result being an inferior product. A second example, but in the area of executive leadership, is the creation of mission and vision statements.

While a democratic approach may appear appropriate, creating a vision statement with a team of managers can be hugely time consuming. I've been there, done that, and finally learned that having the CEO, president or the principal leader of the organization write a draft of a vision is much preferred.

Second, when a group of employees needs to be brought together to address an organizational issue, it's important to define it for what it is (e.g., working group, planning committee) and manage it accordingly.

If teamwork is required (remember the two features of interdependency and shared purpose), then management needs to ensure that the necessary resources are available to help the team develop.

Third, when teamwork is determined as the appropriate route the level of authority for the team must be decided. And tied tightly to this are participative management and clearly defined objectives and timeframes.

During my career, I've seen teams flounder or go off the rails because management did not clearly express its expectations at the outset. In the face of uncertainty and weak managerial oversight teams run the risk of going renegade, producing unnecessary grief for everyone.

Fourth, depending on the maturity of the team and its members (i.e., past experience) the structure supporting it will need varying attention. For example, what should be the size of the team? What are the training needs? Are special physical resources required, as well as budgets? How is leadership within the team to be shared? And how should team learning and knowledge generation be managed?

Fifth, few writers on teamwork address the interdependency among teams. This is a critical aspect of using teams within organizations, but one that is often overlooked. And the issue gains even more significance when self-directed teams are used.

Some of my past work in delivering teambuilding workshops included self-directed teams. Without adequate managerial oversight, the danger exists of teams forming their own exclusive walls around themselves, driven by such motives as unique identity and controlling information.

When this occurs teamwork at the organizational level begins to break down. Product and service may suffer as the guiding light of organizational mission and vision becomes dimmer in the eyes of employees.

The relationship between managerial leadership and the leadership practiced by individuals and within teams, as well as with other assortments of employee groupings, is constantly in flux and being challenged. In effect, there is a necessary tension between the two.

This keeps organizations in the state of constantly learning and evolving. In the absence of this creativity and innovation will suffer, with the consequence being the onset of organizational sclerosis.

In a globalized economy characterized by market turbulence and rapidly changing technology, compounded by the entrance of emerging economies, organizations have increasingly narrow windows within which to make corrections.

As organizations in the public and private sectors adapt to the pressures and dynamics of globalization and technological change, one key aspect will be how they approach work design.

When teams are determined to be the most effective way to accomplish certain objectives, they will increasingly be virtual in nature. The use of telework, while being applied currently with varied success in the workforce, will add new challenges for managers.

And of particular significance is the growing use of contingent workers who have no specific affinity for organizations: they move in and out based on organizational needs.

Finally, a rapidly emerging issue that is beginning to shake organizations is Generation Y (also referred to as Millennials). Gen Y is especially technologically savvy and possesses a high level of self-confidence.

Their approach to work is more fluid, much less hierarchical and virtual-oriented through the use of technology. A major challenge for those in senior managerial positions will be how to organize work efficiently.

Teamwork will undoubtedly continue to be an integral part of how organizations function, but the conventional mental model of what constitutes teamwork will increasingly be challenged.

My suggestion to those who are feeling stressed or threatened as a result of the turbulence we're witnessing in organizations is to follow these simple words : "Be open to outcome, not attached to it."

Maintaining an open mind will enable people to see the opportunities that are resident in change and to adapt much faster and more easily.

By James Taggart