Friday, October 17, 2008

On Being Your Word: A 45 Day Challenge

There’s a lot of books and courses out there on leadership and success filled with the how to’s of being successful, managing your career, climbing the ladder, being a great entrepreneur and leadership. A lot of them are good books with good advice and written by people have already achieved a certain stature. So what’s the catch? Why, with so many helpful hints and tips and pathways are not more businesses showing healthy growth, or more people living there dreams.
I think it’s because there isn’t enough attention paid to one key and very basic element: Being Your Word. With all the complexity that is delivered it seems like a too simple thing; so simple that most dismiss it with a waive, or one of those “don’t be so na├»ve” looks.
The thing is; it works and I can tell you it isn’t as simple or as easy as the words imply. God knows it’s becoming an overworked phrase that people hear but don’t listen to.

I’ve considered myself one of those people who honor my word and boasted about it. Yet I was caught short recently. I had decided to do a couple of courses offered by a U.S. Coaching company that I will be doing some business with. Part of the decision was to become familiar with their model and the other part was to get a better handle on their core values. The first course was becoming an accountability coach so you can imagine how often I heard the phrase “be your word”. Well, I completed the course and I, like other participants, achieved that goal about 50% of the time. It was good enough or so we thought. The second course was designed for real estate agents, and it was about building a successful business. Yup another magic potion. To my surprise the content was actually very good but there was that phrase again. I remember thinking to myself that it was easy for these guys to keep nattering about it but things happen don’t they. The kids are sick or the school is calling; a meeting ran late or the boss has you working so much over-time you can’t hear yourself think or for that matter see straight. Or there is so much going on that you just forgot. All good reasons, so, I just tuned the damned phrase out – that is until one afternoon as I was sitting in on the weekly tele-class. There I was, sitting in a parking lot on a hot summer afternoon, phone pressed to my ear – half listening as I was managing some other paper work when I actually got it. To this day I’m still not sure what exactly the moderator said differently but it hit me and I heard. My business was not a raging success and if truth be known I was about to throw in the towel and go back to the big corporate job once owned. So why wasn’t it more successful? I had to face it. I had not followed through on more than half the ideas I had told myself I would put into motion. So what would happen if I kept those promises to myself and actually did follow through? It wasn’t that the ideas were bad, or the intention was faulty. I was not my word with myself. It wasn’t even the big things as much as it was the little everyday things.
Being your word means being at the top of your game. It means never forgetting. It means never over-promising to impress. It means high standards of performance, focusing on the outcome and flawless execution. It means honesty and trust that is earned. It means never having to be worried about being transparent, or scrambling to make up the difference on something that has fallen short. It’s about turning up every moment of everyday full present and accounted for. It’s not about being taken advantage of as some people claim, or being trampled on because bad things happen to honest people. None of that can happen if you are fully conscious of what you are promising. If you can’t guarantee it then don’t offer it.
So, I set my own challenge and decided that for 45 days, I would be my word no matter what. And guess what? I started to see results. Am I still working to build a ragingly successful business? You bet! But I’m working smart and having a blast.

So, I challenge you. Take 45 days and be your word on everything including the promises you make yourself. If you find you are faltering, step back, review and re-organize so that what you are promising is manageable and doable. I already know that it will be tough because sometimes life and work are moving too fast with deadlines that are often not set by you. And that’s when you again step back and re-assess, re-group, re-assess again and come up with a solution that will work for all concerned. You absolutely do have the power to do this whether it’s by yourself or with a superb team that you can rally. See if you don’t find that you too are working smarter and coming up with solutions that lead to success.

Oh- and if you are wondering why 45 days. Well, it takes 30 days to break a habit and one second to fall back into the same old same old. If you can break a habit in 30 days than another 15 is the building of a new one.

Ellen Smith
Strategic Coach
En Course

Friday, October 10, 2008

Effective Leadership is Effective Listening

Did you know that 40 to 60 per cent of your workday is spent listening? Do you know that less than 2% of us are trained on how to do it effectively? And did you know that 75% of what is spoken is forgotten?
If you really want to get the most out of your client relationships as well as those of your staff and co-workers, try speaking less and listening more.

Listening is one of those skills that we tend not to develop. Rather when we are with someone, we are often thinking about what we’re going to say next or what is going to happen at our next appointment. If we’re not thinking about something else, we’re over-talking or jumping in and offering our opinions before someone else has finished talking. If that’s going on, I can guaranteed you that you are missing something important that your client or co-worker is telling you. Often it’s not obvious- it’s under the words or in the non- verbal clues. Catching these things can make the difference between solid relationship and one that is hit or miss. When you don’t listen, there is lack of clarity and people don’t feel respected or motivated to meet you half way.

It use to be that leaders created the vision and expected people to follow along. In fact there are many of today's leaders that still hold to that practice. However, leadership is changing. Today good leadership by any definition is more inclusive and that involves effective listening. An effective listener builds trust so that ideas can be heard, vision can be established and agendas can be understood. Effective listening is one of the most important tools you will have in building your business relationships. So, next time you are with someone or your team try the following:

Stop talking: Button your lips and give someone else the floor

Get rid of distractions: If you find your mind wandering, pull it back and give your attention to the person talking

Keep an open mind: The minute you let assumptions or judgments enter your head, you have stopped listening and you will miss a possible critical piece of information

Show Interest: Turn off your cell phone, your Blackberry and actually make eye contact.

Pay Attention to non-verbal clues: A person’s facial expressions, tone of voice and body language are clues that tell more than the words.

Don’t interrupt unless the building is on fire

Acknowledge what’s being said without comment or criticism. Try open ended questions like: How does that work or what did you do then?

Use paraphrasing to make sure you understand the key points being communicated

Give and receive feedback: See it as positive and encourage others to speak up and share their ideas

Take notes: Write down what you heard with as much detail as you can. The more you remember the better you listened.

These are simple things that we all know but don't do. Try them in at least one converstation today and see what you find out. See if what you find out makes a difference in how you move forward. See if how you move forward gives you better results.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tips for Effective Management

Tips to Effective Management

We’ve all been there at some point – facing those times when professionally we can fall into a slump. We are working harder than ever but seeming to go no-where. It’s a human condition and one that we honestly don’t want our superiors, peers and staff to know about – but it happens. The causes can be many but the why of it is not our focus. Our focus is to look at how the slump can manifest and then explore ways to change perspective, stay on top of your game, and work smarter.

How can you tell if you’re in a slump?
Do you feel like you are constantly running and getting no-where?
Do you find yourself getting anxious on Sunday evening?
Are you snapping, snarling at or ignoring people you actually like and care about?
Are your performance reviews not what they should be?
Is your team under-performing?
Do you feel like no-one is hearing you?
Do you feel like email is waging war on you?
Do you secretly want to through your blackberry down a really big hole?
Do you find that your decisions are sluggish or hesitant or by rote?
Do you find yourself not moving forward in the face of rapid change?
Do you feel frustrated?

I ask you these questions because if you are in slump or find yourself stuck, it’s time to look within – not without. In order to get the shift you need to be honest with yourself and aware of your triggers. This isn’t about judgment. This is about learning what you need to learn to shift things into a different gear. As we move through these tips, I also ask you to stay open to something different. As soon as you say no to something before you’ve even explored the possibility- you’ve shut yourself down to opportunity. So, stay open. Finally, realize that it’s never too late for a new attitude.


Tips To Effective Management - Tip One

Are You A Manager Or A Leader?

This is an important question and I think you will find some interesting answers. Sometimes it can be a blurry line. Sometimes a manager is also called upon to lead. If you are a manager of a department, or company you are likely managing product/service, process and people in terms of performance and deliverables. You may have some approval authority – most likely you have the authority to say no – but- you are answerable and accountable for you and your team. As a manager you are also responsible, a role model, and an ambassador for company values and policies. Many of you are leaders in the making. For those of you who lead, recognize the importance of your own ability to manage situations and people who are an integral part of your power team.

As someone in the driver’s seat, own that responsibility. Until you do you will find that accomplishing your goals may be a game of chase. As someone who is in-charge- you cannot afford distractions, or be “one of the guys/girls.” There needs to be a differentiation in order for you to make informed and unbiased decisions.

So now you’ve made the distinction and the decision to accept the responsibility of your role. The following are some tips to keep you on –course and working smarter.

Tips To Effective Management - Tip Two

Know Your Leadership Style

There are several leadership styles and understanding which is yours will help you understand whether you have the checks in balances in place to have a motivated team. Know thyself as the saying goes. Are you a dominate and control person, a leader who has vision and co-ops their team? Are you detailed? Are you cautious? There is no right or wrong, however, there are prevalent traits in every successful leader and it is the ability to bring people together to accomplish any task. This is done by: · Involving employees in decision making· Encouraging two-way communication· Sharing power (knowing your voice is not the only one in the room)· Being flexible· Valuing their expertise · Providing community

Tips To Effective Management - Tip Three

Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing

I wish I could claim this little gem as my own but I can’t. It has been taken from two other people and I have adopted it as a mantra.
If you aren’t clear then how can the others who work with you and for you be clear? Make sure that your team fully understands the purpose of what is being asked for. No matter what it is, it should support the company’s main thing or things are likely to be (and not necessarily in this order):
Provide great service
Make sure employees are equipped with the capabilities and tools to be successful
Make a profit.

If the project is to – for example- create first class data base system- the above three things should be kept in mind. The project may be the priority within a certain time frame but it absolutely must support the above.
One of the best ways to find out if your team is clear is to ask them. Get the feedback. You may be interested to see how many interpretations can come up.
Also take the time to understand what the main things are for the members of your team? Are the aligned with the company values? What do they need to feel they are successful, recognized and contributing? This is important and it speaks to being a strong coach (to be discussed later). Remember, people don’t quite companies – they quit the people they work with and for.

Tips to Effective Mangement - Tip Four

Know Your People

Assessments: Building and managing a team is an ongoing process and ideally it begins with the hire. But let’s assume that you have a team in place. It’s functioning OK but if you take a closer look you see that some are constantly busy and achieving, some are coasting and some just aren’t delivering. Before you take action, step back. When was the last time you did a thorough assessment on each individual of your team (including yourself)? There are a myriad of tools out there- Myers Briggs, DISC, Birkman, 360’s and many more. I strongly recommend you use them for you current team and for your hiring process. The second thing I recommend is that you use the information constructively and as the basis for an action plan. I see too many managers or leaders review these assessments and then do nothing. These assessments not only tell you about someone’s strengths, but they also detail – and fairly well, predisposition, values, behaviors and recommended actions. The second thing is that some of these assessments will allow you to map your team which allows you to see if you have a good mix of people and skills. Sometimes you have the right people doing the wrong job. Sometimes the person isn’t a good fit for the company. Sometimes they are well suited and looking for a strong career path. You owe it to the company, yourself, and your team to find out. One other thing, take the time to say hello and to take interest. Its recognition and it goes a long

Tips To Effective Management - Tip Five

Coach your team: Coaching effectiveness is now becoming known, understood and embraced. It works because it is ongoing, strength based, change making and sustainable. It requires you to listen well, question, acknowledge, provide relevant feedback and challenge, but it confirms to the employee that he or she is doing well and gives him or her confidence to continue the behavior. Some people are inherently good at this, but more and more, we see organizations hiring trained and experienced coaches to work with their managers and executive in the development of coaching skills. Does your company include coaching in their training programs? If not, why not see if they will start with you.

Tips To Effective Management - Tip Six


Successful communication is a complex and difficult process. A broad development of awareness, understanding and hard won new habits is required in order to gradually improve your skills of effective communication. A good communicator always:·

  • Exchanges ideas, feelings and values·
  • Uses appropriate language, tone, pitch and volume·
  • Gives relevant information·
  • Uses non-verbal signals to emphasize and support messages·
  • Solicits feedback·
  • Conveys understanding

Effective communication means getting through to the other person what you mean in a way that they understand. The end result is to get things done with minimal or no problems so that you, the organization and the employee will all be satisfied.

Tips To Effective Management - Tip Seven

Time Management Are you overwhelmed by insurmountable projects, endless paperwork andconstant interruptions? Instead of thinking about how you can manage, create and save time, think more about ways to utilize it. Once you have accomplished this, you may invest in time what you value. To help you do this, keep in mind some of the principles of time management:·
  • Time management needs to be simple, organized and efficient so that it is effective
  • Understand what you are doing and create a plan
  • Ask SMART questions (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time based)
  • As a manager, you will soon realize that you can not accomplish all of your tasks by yourself

Tips To Effective Management - Tip Eight

Who’s on track? On any team there are those that are fast trackers (about 30%), the steady as she goes types (50%) and the ones who just aren’t cutting it. The tendency is to keep piling the fast trackers with more responsibility and work – often without support. What happens? At first they may appreciate the recognition but after a while they get over-worked and burned out. In the middle section are those that are likely performing to standard or slightly above. They keep things moving along and are the support team. Then there are those who just aren’t cutting it. There are a variety of performance issues that can be observed such as being chronically late, lack of team support, no attention to details, inaccuracy, gossip etc. Whatever, they need to be de-hired. However, often what happens is that they are reviewed, told what they need to correct and then kept on. There is no accountability. What ends up happening is that by continuing with non-performers you end up managing to the lowest common denominator and that costs time, money and often some very valuable people. Discipline is hard but necessary.

Tips to Effective Managment - Tip Nine

Have Your action Plan In place Before It Hits The Fan

There’s nothing worse than being caught in a situation without a well thought out strategy. It puts you in reactive mode and that is not healthy to you or the team. Take the time to think things through. I’m not suggesting that you be the eternal pessimist but it never hurts to look at what happens if, we loose this account, sales slide, the system crashes or we have to let this person go. Be prepared.

Tips to Effective Management - Tip Ten

Stay In Integrity No Matter What
Everything counts when you are in a management or leadership position. Those above are looking at you and those you lead or manage are also looking at you and all of them want to know you will do the right thing. If you lose your integrity you lose will not be able to maintain trust. Be your word. Don’t ignore things- they really won’t go away. Model your values and those of

Tips to Effective Management - Tip Eleven

Take control of your time

By being present, striving for awareness of yourself as a manager, your environment and your staff, you will succeed in being a successful manager and leader.
There are several leadership styles and understanding which is yours will help you understand whether you have the checks in balances in place to have a motivated team. Know thyself as the saying goes. Are you a dominate and control person, a leader who has vision and co-ops their team? Are you detailed? Are you cautious? There is no right or wrong, however, there are prevalent traits in every successful leader and it is the ability to bring people together to accomplish any task. This is done by: ·
  • Involving employees in decision making
  • Encouraging two-way communication
  • Sharing power (knowing your voice is not the only one in the room)
  • Being flexible
  • Valuing their expertise
  • Providing community
  • Above all - learn to delegate both task and responsibility

Tips To Effective Management - Tip Twelve

Be An Effective Delegator Delegation is a challenging skill for all managers to master because it involves effective communication, motivation, goal setting and leadership. To often I hear “it’s faster to do it myself” or “it will take longer to explain how to do it then to just do it”. The thing is it isn’t faster in the long run and it helps no-one not to mention the cost associated with a high-end manager doing down the line work. Three essential components to successful delegation are: ·
  • Proper assignment of duties·
  • Granting authority to perform·
  • Creating a climate of responsibility
Unless all three are achieved, the delegation process will not be effective. To make your decision easier, clarify the parameters of the delegation for yourself by considering these three questions:·
  • What is the purpose of this delegation? Knowing if it is to decrease my workload or to develop an employee helps in determining whether or not to delegate a task.·
  • Should I delegate this task? Knowing the purpose of the assignment assists in determining whether or not to delegate a task.·
  • What exactly do I want done? Specify the scope of the assignment Effective delegation can save you hundreds of hours of unnecessary work, increase productivity and provide invaluable training to your associates and employees.

Tips to Effective Management- Tip Thirteen

Keep Learning It’s interesting to see how many people put learning on the back-burner. They forget that to stay in tune with the world and to play their best game means learning constantly whether that means reading a book or actually listening to what someone is saying. Some of the main reasons executives fail are arrogance, out- of control egos, and insensitivity, Don’t’ fall into that management trap. Listen at more than a cursory level. And yes, that means putting down your blackberry or not answering email when someone is talking to you. And finally put your learning to good and productive use. Teach people. Help them set goals and learn how to achieve them with commitment and accountability. Successful leaders and managers build high performing and profitable organizations through the use of three key elements: knowledge, experience and insight. By understanding your leadership style and developing your leadership/management skills you will realize enormous benefits organizational cultural, performance, increased productivity, decreased stress and increased confidence. Your staff and employees will also receive and feel these same benefits, and you may find employee grievances churn decrease. Training is the key.