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Stuck in a rut? How to get the job you really wanted

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“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut.

You’ve been in your job for a while, you’ve climbed the initial learning curve and settled into your comfort zone, each week brings a relatively predictable routine. You’re now just phoning it in, being reactive to requests coming your way and you fill up a good deal of your time managing your email inbox.

Sounds familiar? It happens to many of us at some point in our career. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that its fine, that it’s just a job and things will improve eventually. Or maybe it’s worse than that, if you’ve started to dread Monday mornings then the chances are that you also work for a manager who is uninspiring and not supportive.

What are your alternatives, should you just put up with it? No, that’s going to adversely affect your well-being and you will be on a slippery career slope to becoming irrelevant and ultimately superfluous. Far better to go on the offensive, get on the front foot and make your own opportunities to secure your future.

It’s time to take control

Should you look for another job? If you are targeting career growth which you are sure cannot be achieved in your current organization then a move elsewhere would be a sensible decision. However, jumping ship just to escape your current situation may be a short-sighted approach.

Yes, starting again at a new company with new people is exciting but there are no guarantees that your new environment or new management will be any more motivating or enjoyable than the one you left. You will need to find both the organization and role that is right for you, then sustain the commitment to make it a success and build your reputation.

So, before you dust off your resumé and get started on a job search, it is worthwhile to consider how you might be able to regenerate your enthusiasm for your existing workplace.

After all, there was probably a time when you really wanted your current job. Doubtless you did some research before joining the organization and decided it was right for you. It may not have turned out to be exactly what you expected, nothing is perfect, but it may still be a place where you can be motivated to perform and where you can grow your career.

Take a fresh look at your current job

Leaving Comfort Zone sticker

You may not be failing in your job function, but if you can find a way to make a bigger impact you will become more engaged and motivated. At the very least, you will build your reputation which can only be positive for your future.

Try imagining that you have just been hired for your current job – think how would you approach it to make an impact quickly. One tactic is to review your job description objectively to make sure you are performing all the stated tasks and that you are contributing to the required business objectives and goals. This type of self-assessment is a positive habit to adopt on a routine basis.

If you have a performance bonus scheme, review your targets for the year and your progress towards them. You should also look to others for feedback on your performance and, if relevant, that of your team or department. Don’t limit this to a review from your direct manager, seek out informal opinions from peers and other managers in your organization.

The comments you get back might not be pretty, but your efforts to proactively improve your performance will be appreciated by your peers and management.

Don’t be isolated, make connections

meetingIf you’ve fallen into a rut, you may be feeling detached and therefore reluctant to put your head up out of the trenches to be noticed. Having a bad boss can make you seem even more isolated. Whether you stay or you leave for a new job, creating personal connections and building your professional network will be valuable and worth the effort in the long run.

Reconnect with your colleagues and reach out to make new contacts in your office, your field teams, suppliers and your customers. Making and reinforcing these personal relationships fosters teamwork and creates trust which will improve your performance and help build your reputation.

Perhaps you are feeling disengaged at work because of an uninspiring boss or perhaps as a result of a lack of communication from the executive team. To bridge this gap, you could seek out a supportive manager to act as your mentor. This doesn’t need to be formalized, you could start by just reaching out to someone who inspires you and ask for their advice.

Being curious will differentiate you

These days, with technology fueling rapid changes, it pays to be curious about your business and any wider issues affecting your industry. This curiosity will be good for your career growth and will help differentiate you in the job-seeker marketplace.

Pay attention to the focus areas and strategic vision that your management team talk about in employee forums and at customer events. Your executives and your competitors will often offer very interesting insights and perspectives on quarterly investor calls, it is usually easy to obtain transcripts online if the company is public.

This knowledge of the key issues and trends in your industry will enable you to more directly contribute to the growth strategy, while also helping you to position your career.

Social media is a valuable tool in your search for information. For example, on LinkedIn you can follow influencers and companies, and join groups where key issues relevant to your business are discussed. By contributing comments, posts and articles you are also increasing your visibility which will build your confidence and grow your profile.

You may feel you need to learn new competencies or sharpen your existing skills. Don’t wait for your organization to find the budget to put you on training courses, there are plenty of specialist training opportunities online that are free-of-charge or relatively inexpensive.

Reboot your routine

Routines area a good thing, they can keep us focused, disciplined and help us reach targets. The problem is that it’s too easy to slip into a safe, comfortable routine where the day passes us by without too many challenges. This behavior is destructive, and it is how we begin to sink into a rut.

The chances are your current weekly routine is dictated by meetings on your calendar, with the rest of the time loose for you to catch up with emails and other tasks. Changing up your routine means applying your own time-management and creating new habits that will stimulate your motivation.

A first step could be to write down your strategic goals and objectives, or review those already set by your management. Schedule periods in your weekly calendar where you will work on specific actions relevant to these targets. This doesn’t mean locking in each hour of the day into a rigid timetable, allow time for ad-hoc activities as well as periods where you can get together informally with colleagues or teams to discuss ideas or stimulate new thinking.

Allocate a certain time each day for emails and routine tasks. Get into the habit of closing down your email for at least an hour each day or half a day per week. This enables you to speak to people directly, by telephone or better still with face-to-face meetings. Also, you should experiment with taking some meetings offsite to take colleagues away from their own distractions, this will also help you to build better relationships.

Get into the habit of keeping your work-space uncluttered and organized, including the ergonomics of your chair, computer and telephone. Removing distractions will increase your productivity so get rid of all those old files, paperwork, books and magazines that you haven’t touched for months, you don’t need them.

 

It’s been said before; a rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out. If you’re stuck in one then you need to climb out quickly, and by putting your mind to it you can start today. Changing your mindset might be the start you need to motivate yourself at your current workplace.

Increasing your motivation and job satisfaction will translate into stronger performance which should inspire your colleagues, impress your managers and create new opportunities for you.

What have you got to lose?

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Get More Bang For Your Marketing Buck

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Budgets are a way of life for us all, controlling costs is essential to the success of any business. To grow requires investment, usually necessitating budget increases for front line functions like sales, operations or marketing. However, many B2B companies still view marketing as a back-office cost center and so its budget is allocated based only on an incremental increase or decrease from the previous year. In some companies, spend on marketing is even less strategic, more of a knee-jerk reaction to promote those products or services that are selling well.

Calculating return on investment for marketing activities is notoriously difficult, even for online marketing where data is more readily available. With such a vague value proposition, it is easy to understand then why many businesses do not know how to allocate marketing budgets.

Below are 5 guidelines to help marketing managers show real results by maximizing value for their marketing spend:

If its not in your business strategy it shouldn’t be in your marketing plan

When the marketing team is not strategic, budgets are often misdirected and wasted. Money can easily be squandered on advertising, creating unnecessary collateral and overspending on events or tradeshows that will have little return on investment.

Your company’s business strategy should be a carefully planned roadmap, designed to ensure that your competitive advantage sets you up for future success. It will envision and define what your company will do and what it will not do, into which industry segments and geographies it will grow and what tactics and resources will be employed to achieve success.

It should go without saying therefore that your marketing strategy and budget needs to be developed hand-in-glove with your business strategy, then executed with laser-focus alongside the sales team. Raising your marketing team’s profile and aligning objectives with business growth will also create a more motivated and productive group.

Maintaining concentration on your marketing plan is essential to avoid wasting resources. Knee-jerk reactions to competitors marketing activities and a focus on short-term initiatives usually have a limited shelf-life. It is far better to take a longer-term approach in order to build and sustain brand authority

Don’t spend all your marketing budget trying to acquire new customers

Did I really say that? Yes, many B2B marketers are obsessed with new customer acquisition, however according to research by Forrester, only 0.75 percent of leads generated become closed revenue.

It would be a wasted opportunity to overlook your current customer base and spend most of your marketing budget on new lead generation. Your existing customers should be more receptive to using your new technologies or increasing your scope of supply, and by doing so they are providing an effective endorsement to others in your industry. These case studies can provide testimonials which may be decisive for convincing new customers.

Audit your customer accounts to identify where you are missing prospects to up sell, cross-sell or increase utilization of your products and services. Develop marketing tactics that will reach your buyer personas by listening to your customers, understand their challenges, issues and specific needs. Recognize the role of influencers, decision-makers and end-users, some of whom may be outside the purchasing customers organization.

Targeting marketing at your existing customers will help to enhance the quality of their experience with your company, they will become advocates of your business which in turn will have a strong influence on their peers. This is likely to be a more effective strategy for increasing revenue than a blind devotion to generating new leads.

Spend as much as you can afford on your website

All too often company websites are instantly forgettable. Customers will have little interest in looking around if the value proposition is not clear or relevant to them, and information is not useful or intuitive to find. Why is this important? These days most customers research online early in the procurement process and may only engage with your people closer to the decision stage.

It’s hard to understand why so many companies assign such small budgets to the design and maintenance of their website. After all, this is potentially your busiest and best salesperson, and you know how expensive they can be! The website pitches to your customers worldwide, simultaneously 24-7, it never sleeps or takes a day off and maintains a relentless focus. Whatever the cost, the value it can provide is obvious.

For a company website, less is usually more – it doesn’t need to be a library. Cluttering it with obsolete or low-value content will just create frustration for the visitor. Audit, rationalize and streamline, avoiding rambling and ‘wordy’ pages. Grab your customers’ attention instantly by showcasing how your value proposition addresses their challenges, highlighting proof points such as case studies and customer testimonials.

Reviewing the site analytics routinely will show who is using your site and what pages are popular. This knowledge will guide the sales tactics and feed back into your marketing strategy, helping to pinpoint where content needs to be improved or better promoted.

Create great content cost effectively with your in-house experts

I’ve seen many times in tight races to win business that direct involvement of the Subject Matter Expert (SME) is the decisive factor in closing the sale. Their knowledge, experience and confidence can reassure the customer of your capabilities and convince them that your company is the best choice. Therefore, it makes sense to incorporate these personalities upfront in our marketing efforts which gives them exposure to all potential customers.

Short ‘talking-head’ videos by your SMEs are simple to produce and can be very effective for communicating key messages on websites or presentations. A blog on your website will create a source for your experts’ thought leadership ideas and provide you with content for your company’s social media feeds. Expert webinars can address key customer issues or industry challenges, while expanding your reach and building your brand’s influence.

The problem for marketers is usually to gain cooperation of the SMEs and then utilize them to best effect. They are likely to be busy and some may not be the best communicators. However, this can be overcome by using creative resources (external if necessary) to work alongside the SME, writing copy and designing content on their behalf.

It may also be valuable to recycle and re-purpose strong technical content that is already available, for example case studies, conference papers, presentation slides, etc.

PR is cheaper and has more value than advertising

Paid advertising is expensive. Creating noticeable content takes time and resources, and the costs for publishing add-up quickly as the advertisement must be repeated several times to be memorable.

A 2014 study by Nielsen, commissioned by inPowered, concluded that public relations is almost 90% more effective than advertising. PR involves influencing editors or reporters to create positive stories or articles about your company – this content will be perceived by your customers as more credible or significant than paid advertising.

The downside is that PR takes more effort, it has to be earned instead of paid for.
Building strong relationships with the relevant press personnel is essential so they can be guided to represent your business accurately. More consideration may be given if you clearly show how your value proposition differentiates and is relevant for key issues in your industry.

PR is not just to showcase your latest product or service offering, there may be many PR opportunities relevant for your business. It can be valuable to showcase your expertise through SME interviews and published technical papers for example. It can also be used to highlight your participation at trade shows, new facility openings or to promote your community activities.

 

A lack of understanding of marketing value doesn’t mean you should just follow the same formula of budget spend year after year. By working closely with sales teams and business managers, the marketing strategy can be aligned to the overall corporate objectives. By careful planning and utilizing available resources, effective marketing tactics and tools can be developed to maximize the bang for your buck.

What are your experiences with managing marketing budgets or demonstrating marketing ROI?

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Bosses Be Warned. Most Of Your Employees Can’t Answer A Fundamental Question About Your Business

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Only 14% of employees understand their company’s business strategy and direction.

So what, you might say?

Companies with a strategic planning culture understand their competitive advantage, they build a clear business mission and execute a roadmap for growth. Communicating this business strategy effectively creates a powerful motivational environment. Employees feel a stronger sense of purpose and are invested in outcomes, giving them pride in how their roles and achievements contribute to the overall results. Managers also have clear guidance in how to set goals and measure performance.

Teamwork is strong in these organizations, trust is high and people are more empowered to work with less supervision which allows for agile decision making. This is a familiar environment in a startup where business strategies and plans are usually fresh in the mind. However, all too often in established companies, strategic planning is treated as an occasional one-off event and even then, not widely communicated nor successfully executed.

Here are 10 warning signs which could indicate that your business strategy is unclear, not being properly communicated or not implemented effectively:

1. You cannot easily describe why your business exists

Can you articulate concisely what makes your business different and why your customers buy from you? Can do this without mentioning your competitors? Will all your employees have a consistent answer?

You should design a mission statement that clearly states why you exist and what is the value you create. As Simon Sinek explains in this TED Talk, people can be inspired by why you exist, rather than what you do and how you do it.

2. Sales pitches and Marketing messages are not clear or consistent

Do all your sales team use a well-defined and consistent sales pitch to customers? Does your website and your marketing collateral reflect and reinforce these points?

You need your customers to clearly understand your value propositions or the pain points that you solve. The messages they receive from every interface with your company must be crafted to focus on your competitive advantage and should be convincing and memorable.

3. You chase every business opportunity, large and small

Are you tempted to respond positively to each opportunity that presents itself? Do you find yourself enhancing your current service offerings or product features even if it is not part of your core business?

By strategic planning, every company should be clear about what business it is in, what it will do and what it will not do. Otherwise, you risk over-stretching your resources, becoming distracted from your core strengths and confusing your employees and customers alike. By the 80/20 rule, 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers and you cannot jeopardize these relationships by losing focus.

4. You are following rather than leading your competitors

Do you tend to discount prices on all your products or services trying to win business? Do you feel pressured to copy your competition’s sales and marketing tactics?

It is vital to analyze and define your company’s competitive advantage or unique value proposition, as this is where you differentiate from your competitors and it is what will drive your profitability. Understanding your competitive advantage allows you to redirect your resources and efforts, ensuring you focus on the most important customers and target the best business opportunities.

5. Your customers do not know exactly what you do, or your range of capabilities

Has a customer ever said to you “We placed the order with your competitor because we didn’t know you supplied those products/services”?

If you are not completely clear with your business focus then neither your employees nor you customers can be expected to understand your company’s competencies and scope. Your customer-facing personnel need to be coached, and your marketing plan should be developed hand-in-glove with your strategic vision to effectively position your capability and capacity.

6. You have no clear idea what your customers are really thinking

Do you know your customers’ big issues, their opinion on industry trends and their long-term strategies? How do they view your capabilities and what objections might they have to using your company’s products or services?

There are many inputs to the strategic planning process, but none are more important than feedback from your key customers. It may take persistence and time to reach out to the various functions and levels of a customer’s organization, but the information gathered is critical to your decision-making. Involving key customers directly in your strategic planning process can also cement strong relationships and build trust in your company, positioning you as a resourceful partner.

7. You are not clear about important trends in your industry

Do you understand how regulations, technologies or other factors are affecting your industry? Do you know the total market size that you are competing for, and how fast it is growing, or shrinking?

Industry surveys and analysis reports can provide useful third-party inputs to your business planning process. Understanding your own customers’ outlook and their long-term strategy is also critical. The ‘Five Forces’ model created by Michael Porter is a useful framework to analyze the competitive forces that shape the strengths and weakness of an industry’s structure.

8. Your organizational structure is not setup to capitalize on growth opportunities

Are your teams operating as siloed functions that do not share information freely? Is bureaucracy slowing you down, making you inflexible or distracting you from growing your business?

Organizations build and develop to meet the necessary business needs at the time. A fresh look at the structure and the business processes may be required because of changing market conditions, different customer demands or new business strategy implementation. Teams with the appropriate skills and experience must be assembled and aligned to support all the elements of the growth strategy.

9. Employees are not fully engaged or performing to their highest capabilities

Are your employees demotivated and under-performing? Are their performance objectives confusing and not aligned to overall business goals? Is mediocre performance accepted?

Communicating your business strategy to employees is vital to give them a sense of purpose and pride in their roles. By helping to define goals and objectives in alignment with your plan and vision, employees will buy-in to the process and be more invested in achieving results. Key performance indicators and stretch targets are more relevant and better understood when the business outcomes are clear.

10. You don’t know how you will grow

Do you have a clear idea what your business will look like in a year, in 3 years or in 5 years’ time? Is your growth plan just to keep doing what you’re doing but work harder? Should you expand your current operation, diversify product lines, enter new markets, partner with others, or identify M&A targets?

A comprehensive business strategy is your company’s growth playbook and roadmap. If well executed and maintained, the strategy will focus your resources and develop your competitive advantage to ensure your business is aligned to your customers’ needs and is adaptable to industry changes when they happen.

In short, Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance, every time.

 

What are your experiences? How well is Business Strategy communicated and executed in your organization? Does your business have a Strategic Planning culture?

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Building High Performance Teams – 6 Lessons Inspired By Successful Leaders

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If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Henry Ford

What makes great teams tick? How do leaders align individuals and build motivational environments that create successful teams? What are the ingredients in the ‘secret sauce’ that makes these high-performance organizations greater than the sum of their parts?

Here are 6 lessons inspired by leaders who know a thing or two about teams that outperform expectations:

1. Get the team mix right

There are superb designers working today, but the basic idea, the working out of that idea, the construction of the machine, the finishing of a new idea, is always the work of a team. It is a compendium. A collaborative effort.” Enzo Ferrari

Rugby has always been a game for all shapes and sizes. You have the superstars and the fast guys who score the tries, but you also need the workhorses and the people who play all the other roles. Unless they all work together as a team then it’s really going to affect the performance. Everyone’s got to rely on everyone else.” Warren Gatland

You may not have the luxury of being able to pick and choose exactly who is on your team, but take inspiration from the words of Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’: “Start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats”.

You need your team members to have the appropriate skills and experience, but you also need collaborators and communicators in the right roles. By definition, a team is a social unit and the personality mix in the group is important. You want to include A Players, but you must be careful that they can be controlled to prevent them wanting to do everything and hijacking the team.

The leader should take time to understand people’s strengths and what they are passionate about, if you can harness this energy the team will quickly acquire momentum. You must ensure that your multi-disciplined team operates cohesively and doesn’t split into factions, you don’t want cliques forming nor do you want individuals to feel isolated.

2. Create a shared vision and align your objectives

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Andrew Carnegie

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Vince Lombardi

As the leader, you need to focus the team and then keep it focused so you need to clarify your vision, objectives and targets. You may find a high-level vision statement useful for this purpose as a reminder of what success looks like for the team.

Define the goals and objectives together, by working collaboratively the group will buy-in to the process and be more committed to achieving results. Stretch expectations, the team will be more motivated by targets that are challenging rather than those seen as readily attainable.

Ensure that objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) and detailed as key performance indicators (KPIs) for each team member. These will feed into your scorecard to track progress towards the shared goals. If business conditions change, goals may need to adapt also, so be prepared for flexibility to modify your targets together as a team.

3. Assign responsibilities and empower your team

I believe that you control change by accepting it. That also means having confidence in the people you hire. The minute staff members are employed, you have to trust that they are doing their jobs. If you micromanage and tell people what to do, there is no point in hiring them.” Sir Alex Ferguson

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Steve Jobs

In a high-performance team, everyone is working together in alignment towards a shared goal. This doesn’t happen by accident, roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined by the leader from the outset to prevent conflicts and inefficiencies developing. Empowering individuals with responsibility gives them a sense of ownership and accountability which is an effective motivator when the outcome has a shared effect on the team’s performance.

The temptation is to allow people to work on their strengths, but a team environment also provides the opportunity to build new skills and expertise with support from colleagues. By understanding each team member’s career development aspirations, the leader can align their roles accordingly and thus build a powerful motivational environment.

Pushing people beyond their comfort zone can yield great results, however not everyone will respond positively to this approach. The leader needs to be mindful of signs of stress and be prepared to provide guidance, support and mentoring where it is required.

4. Create an open and collaborative communication environment

Some people have better ideas than others; some are smarter or more experienced or more creative. But everyone should be heard and respected” Jack Welch

You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” Lee Iacocca

One of the biggest challenges for any team leader is to maintain the group dynamics to ensure everyone is motivated and collaborating positively. Even if roles and responsibilities are well defined and the objectives are clear, disruptive individuals can upset team spirit and cooperation.

The leader must be alert to any negativity arising in the group dynamics, and it is critical to deal with problems and resolve conflicts quickly. Open lines of communication are vital and technology can help with this, but it should not replace traditional direct human interaction. Online collaboration software and instant messaging can assist in promoting team interaction with a free flow of information and ideas.

Try to get the team together for face-to-face meetings as often as possible, non-verbal signals and body language are an important part of how we communicate and interpret other people’s behavior. Team building exercises and events are also useful to break down any communication barriers while strengthening relationships and trust.

5. Build a culture of shared learning

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing” Henry Ford

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” Bill Gates

Despite all the well-meaning encouragement about mistakes being an opportunity to learn, our instinct is to be defensive and hide our errors. Mistakes can be financially costly and we seek to avoid the implications that go with shouldering the blame. However, unchecked errors can multiply and even lead to wider impacts for the organization from potential reputation damage.

While not encouraging mistakes, leaders should allow them to be made and create a culture of trust and shared responsibility among the team, continuously seeking to improve best practices. There can be no blame culture, only dialogue on lessons learned.

Building this trust may take time but the leader needs to be the first to open up and admit to any mistakes or lapses. It is good practice to allocate time before each team meeting for the team to share their errors, the causes, the effects and the corrective actions.

6. Celebrate success

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” Sam Walton

Never think that success is down to your own performance alone. If you start listening only to yourself you take the first step back towards the bottom. The flowers of victory belong in many vases.” Michael Schumacher

By making the effort to recognize individual and group achievements, leaders are not only developing a motivational environment, they are also strengthening the team spirit and cohesion. Of course, financial compensation is usually awarded for achieving objectives, but equally inspiring can be the act of giving visibility among peers and managers to acknowledge outstanding performances.

You want to nurture winners, and winners want to be on winning teams, so leaders need to find opportunities to regularly praise achievements. No one wants to fail, but even just putting in the sheer effort without succeeding can be worth celebrating.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the value of sharing success and team-building outside the work environment – teams that work hard should play hard!

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Bad Bosses Contaminate The Workplace, Leaders Must Make Them Accountable

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I’ve worked with many inspiring leaders, but I’ve also had my fair share of poor managers who just seem to lack the basic people skills that the position demands. I used to believe as my career progressed that these bad bosses would be consigned to history, but it still amazes me that they appear at all levels of even the best organizations.

I can characterize some of these management misfits from my own experience as follows (no inference in using the male gender!)

The “Headmaster”—instills fear, doesn’t seek consensus or buy-in, just issues orders and is always ready to criticize.
The “Prima Donna”—seeks adulation, always wants to be correct and makes everything about him and not his team.
The “Eagle”—rarely wants to associate with those lower down the food chain, but is always looking to ruthlessly swoop in and steal the credit for any success.
The “Scientist”—quick to show how smart he is but gets lost in the details, not concerned with building morale and doesn’t engage with a wider group.
The “Grafter”—has got where he is by working hard, wants to do everything himself, doesn’t seek cooperation and doesn’t delegate well.

There are many more, of course, but the common problem with these management styles is not necessarily their hard skills, rather it’s their soft skills. In any organization, it is not difficult to see how these stereotypes will de-motivate their teams and create disengaged employees. The old saying of “people leave managers, not companies” holds true.

So why do bad bosses get hired?

An internal managerial promotion often comes about as the obvious next step-up for an employee who has performed well. However, understanding the business, the customers, the technologies or the financials are not relevant factors in being a good manager of people.

Even prior success supervising small teams may not be transferable to a new situation with a larger number of direct reports. Including remote workers in this new group can further complicate the task.
In the external recruitment process, more attention is usually paid to the technical skills, industry experience or qualifications of a candidate. However, it must make more sense to pay equally close attention to the people-management skills of these wannabe leaders.

We could perhaps expect small to medium companies to get their hiring wrong, after all they may not have a robust HR process and often don’t have access to a large talent pool. However, we see bad managers all the time in multinational blue-chip organizations with extensive resources and substantial HR functions.

Whether with a brand-new team or supervising former peers, one of the primary challenges of a new managerial role is to build an environment where morale is high and people are motivated to outperform. Vital attributes for this new manager are communication and interpersonal skills as well as emotional intelligence.

For some managers, this is an easy transition. Others may need to adopt positive habits by setting up new communication tactics and techniques. However, it’s questionable whether poor interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence are so deeply-rooted that training and practice will only have a limited effect.

Why Don’t Bad Bosses Get Fired?

In the sporting world, if the morale of the team is poor and results are disappointing, then the coach or manager usually gets fired. Not only are the employees powerful, any dressing-room discontent is quickly communicated to the fans and stakeholders, meaning that decisive action can be taken, for better or worse. In the business world, this uncompromising approach is rare.

Of course, there are many reasons for this. There could be a desire to avoid conflict or even legal action with the manager. There may be temporary external factors which need to be considered. Bad bosses may in turn have managers who prefer the status quo and instead just keep up the pressure to deliver results quickly at any cost.

Perhaps the manager is well-respected by customers and there is a fear of losing business if they are removed or demoted.

One problem is with how managers’ performance is measured. Management scorecards are typically geared around financial performance indicators. Clearly, these results are vital to the health of the business and are rightly the priority. However, employee satisfaction and engagement are critically important factors if a manager is to build a team which outperforms expectations.

The trouble is that these metrics are not usually seen as objective and are not easily measurable.

How to make bad bosses accountable

Using a one-off survey to measure employee satisfaction is of limited value as it will only reveal a snapshot of the sentiment within the organization. Negative feedback may not be an unprejudiced review of managers’ performance as people can be easily effected by various short-term impacts such as industry downturns, business restructuring, layoffs, etc.

Far more valuable is a long-term program to measure and track employee engagement through surveys, reporting and follow-up action plans. This will baseline and trend levels of employee satisfaction and commitment across the organization, ultimately revealing those managers who are responsible for a poor work environment.

This subjective feedback allows a constructive dialogue to develop and corrective actions to be implemented such as training, mentoring and even re-positioning the manager elsewhere in the organization. Ultimately it also supports the justification for the removal of any managers with inherently poor people management skills.

 

Employees don’t normally make unrealistic demands of the companies where they work. They want to be paid reasonably and they want to work in a harmonious, collaborative environment where they can feel included and recognized. Ideally, they want to be inspired and empowered.

Bad bosses contaminate the workplace with their toxic culture. Employees in this environment suffer from low morale and poor job satisfaction, which leaves them disengaged. Staff turnover is higher, productivity and performance is lower, thereby affecting both top-line and bottom-line performance.

Quick action is essential to protect the business. A robust program of measuring and analyzing employee engagement will help to reveal the worst offenders. Leaders need to recognize that no one is too valuable to be removed for the greater good of the organization. As Samir Desai nicely puts it:

“It’s better to have a hole in your team than an asshole in your team!”

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Getting Results With B2B Online Marketing. These 5 Essential Steps Will Help You Plan For Success

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Is your company just dabbling with social media? Are you ready to dive deeper into online marketing but not sure how to go about it or how to develop a strategy?

For us in the Business-to-Business (B2B) world it’s easy to see that there is value in online marketing and of course we don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. At first sight, it seems inexpensive and easy to get started but all too often companies jump onto social media with whatever information or digital content they have available and hope for a successful outcome.

Unfortunately, these short-term and unfocused initiatives usually yield disappointing results.

More and more B2B customers are researching their information online early in the procurement process and may only engage with sales staff in person closer to the decision stage. So, the more effective your online marketing is, the more influence you can exert at an earlier stage.

In the following 5 steps, I explain the basics of B2B online marketing, why you need to align your organization and how to do plan a strategy that will get results for your business:

1. Understand the difference between online marketing and traditional marketing

marketing planTraditional or ‘offline’ marketing has typically been used to drive awareness, for example with print advertisements, commercials, flyers, newsletters, billboards.

Compared to these passive traditional methods, online marketing is ‘active’ and encourages ‘inbound’ communication to your website or sales team. Techniques include social media, email marketing, webinars, blogging, search engine optimization (SEO) and Adwords.

A key tactic is to capture the attention of your target audience by delivering informative and useful content that your customers are eager to obtain. Typically, this information will speak to the pain-points or challenges that your customers are facing. By taking this more indirect approach your customers will not feel like they are being sold to, and they will feel more comfortable reaching out to engage with your company.

Examples of this engagement could be an online comment on a social media post, a visit to your website, responding to a webinar Q&A session, or even a direct communication to your sales team. Once this engagement starts you can nurture the prospect both online and offline towards a purchase decision.

2. Don’t copy B2C companies, B2B online marketing methods are different

The Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketer is typically trying to create stylish content that will engage and entertain a large customer base of end-users. These end-users are also the decision-makers, they often make their evaluation quickly and their trigger to purchase is typically an emotional one.

On the other hand, B2B marketers have to reach out to influencers, decision-makers and end-users, some of whom may be outside the purchasing customers organization. These stakeholders tend to understand their industry well and have a good idea what you are selling. They usually want details of features and benefits, but they are looking for value and seek out proof-points through case studies and testimonials.

The B2B marketer must create suitable content and target the relevant stakeholder typically over a longer purchasing cycle. It is therefore important to strive to build a long-term relationship between the audience and your brand.

3. Align your Online Marketing with your business strategy

Your marketing strategy should be aligned to the company’s overall business goals as it can play a vital role in delivering the growth strategy. This should be obvious, but all too often marketing teams are viewed as a back-office function, there just to create collateral for the latest widget or to organize the booth at industry tradeshows.

A robust online marketing strategy can spearhead business development initiatives by targeting existing customers as well as reaching out to new customers in new geographies and even into new industries.

So, your marketing strategy needs to be developed hand-in-glove with your business strategy. It is important also to think of the big picture; a good marketing strategy will not just focus on short-term campaigns or initiatives, instead it will be geared towards building and sustaining brand authority to achieve the company’s long-term business mission and vision.

‘Vanity’ or ‘awareness’ promotions, and copying your competitors’ activities are not robust marketing strategies, and they tend to have a short shelf-life.

4. Collaborate closely with your Sales team to define your strategy

For an online marketing campaign to be successful, both sales and marketing teams need to work closely together.

In the B2B world, the sales representatives will know their customers better than anyone and are up to date with the issues and challenges they face. Importantly, it is the sales team who can discover how supplier information is gathered and how purchasing decisions are made.

Marketing needs this continuous flow of input from sales to ensure that relevant content is developed and then promoted accurately to reach the appropriate stakeholder persona. B2B marketers often make the mistake of focusing on features and benefits which may be interesting only to the end-user. Engaging with the influencers and decision-makers should yield better results but may need a different marketing approach.

Understandably, sales teams guard their customer relationships carefully and so are likely to be apprehensive about online marketing. The reality is that by working closely together, both sales and marketing can be more valuable in the goal to generate business growth. The customer will be more engaged by the marketing collateral which will build trust in your brand. The sales team will benefit from having a customer who is already ‘warmed-up’.

As the online marketing efforts start to bring prospects into the sales funnel, marketers need to continue the close cooperation with sales to ensure that leads are first qualified and then nurtured as appropriate. Ideally your company will be using an integrated CRM system, but I won’t go into further details of that or the additional topic of marketing automation in this post.

5. Get creative with your in-house expert teams

There are always some key issues at the top of your customers’ agendas, or hot topics your industry is facing. It’s likely that your in-house experts have some great ideas for solutions to these issues, or smart opinions that they want to communicate. You can exploit this expertise and build your brand influence through thought leadership marketing techniques.

In my opinion, a thought leadership blog on your website is an essential tool to build your brand’s authority. Sharing these blog posts via your social media account will expand your reach and drive visitors back to your website, which has the welcome side-effect of improving your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

A webinar is another great tool to showcasing your thought leadership and expertise. Webinars require attendees to register which will be effective in growing your customer email list quickly. However, the webinar title and content needs to be crafted carefully to ensure that your target customers will be interested or intrigued to register and attend. Do not use webinars to sell! Webinars need to be marketed well, social media is ideal for this, and highlighting your renown experts as speakers will help drive interest.

Growing your email list through webinar registrations and subscriptions to your website will allow you to segment and focus your email marketing at a targeted audience. These are your ‘warm’ prospects and again your in-house experts will be crucial in helping to provide relevant content that will lead the customer towards a purchase.

As you may have gathered by now, the quality of your content is crucial. However, don’t let a lack of resources deter you from starting. You may be able to inexpensively recycle and re-purpose great content that is already available, for example case studies, conference papers, video, animations, presentation slides, etc.

Lastly, take the time to clean-up and upgrade your website as it will be central to your online marketing activities.

 

Online marketing should be an important component of any business’ marketing plan.

Understanding online marketing techniques and tactics will help you to reach out to a wider audience and engage with specific customer profiles, helping to build authority in your brand over the long-term.

Being strategic in your approach will align your marketing activities with your business plan to deliver the growth targets. Continuous cooperation among your internal teams is essential in the preparation of a strong online marketing strategy that will get results.

So, it’s time to stop dabbling and instead start building a plan for success!

I’d be interested to hear if you have any tips or tactics to help develop your online B2B marketing strategy.

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How Switching-Off Can Switch Your Productivity Back On

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It’s 9am, just a routine day in the office. Then I hear it. Something isn’t right, the office is usually so quiet apart from the hum of the air-conditioning. But all I hear are voices, lots of them. Poking my head out of my office I see people in the hallway. Some wandering aimlessly, some in groups talking, others searching for colleagues in their offices.

What’s gone wrong?

I need to find out. The kitchen area is crowded with people around the coffee machine talking animatedly. “What’s happening?” I ask. And then the answer comes, and the penny drops “The email server is down.”

Ok, so I added some dramatic license, but I’ve seen this happen a couple of times in the last few years. Is email just a useful tool or has it now taken over our working day? Clearly, the positive side-effect of not having email is that it forces people into the old-fashioned communication methods.

Email is not your job!

It should be a wake-up call if your email system is down and you find yourself not knowing how to fill your time. After all, your company does not pay you to manage an email inbox; I’ve certainly never seen that requirement in any job description. Yet that is the downward spiral many of us can fall into and it needs a pro-active approach to escape it.

Email is no longer an effective way to engage in meaningful collaboration and conversation. Our inboxes are constantly overloaded with irrelevant and unnecessary communications, not to mention all the spam. It’s easy to get distracted dealing with trivial issues and we can often overlook the need to connect with the people who are of foremost importance for us to be productive in our jobs.

Sure, there are technology tools like instant messaging and collaboration software which are becoming more popular, but email will remain as the communication workhorse for the foreseeable future. We have to be more efficient. Training courses to implement email management best practices will likely reveal cost savings by improved productivity. But there is more fundamental remedy that could yield immediate results.

Try being more radical…

Why not have your office’s email switched-off for a half day each week and mandate that personnel use the telephone instead, or arrange face-to-face meetings? If you deal with external customers, call them up, or better still, arrange to visit. Otherwise use the time to talk to or meet your internal teams, your field representatives or even your suppliers. You will gather valuable insights, reinforce personal relationships and build trust which will improve your efficiency and productivity.

I believe the value that can be gained from an informal meeting far outweighs the cost of losing a few hours processing emails.

I don’t think I’ve ever come away from a customer visit without at least one piece of useful or unexpected information, such as strategic insight, project status, industry trends or personnel changes. Reinforcing relationships with existing customers also shouldn’t be underestimated. In the B2B world 80% of our revenue is typically from just 20% of our customers, but for some reason we tend to spend more effort and cost on new customer acquisition.

Whether it’s meetings with customers, suppliers or internal teams, these are great opportunities to hear about the pain-points, the challenges and the issues that keep them up at night. The feedback can form valuable input to your action plans and strategy.

Making it happen, keeping it going

So, how do you implement the switch-off? You could embrace the idea on an individual level and just step away from your PC for a few hours. Routinely switching off the email on your cellphone may give you the same effect, and may also improve your social life!

A manager should have the confidence to try applying the switch-off for a half-day and make it a weekly routine for their team, of course making exception for anyone currently involved in a critical business function that requires email connectivity.

As always with any new initiative you may need to work hard to get full buy-in. Bring the team together to share their experiences and work on suggested best practices. Look for any data points that you can measure for trends associated with increased internal and external engagement. Hopefully positive trends will be revealed, which will send a powerful message (but not by email!).

 

A temporary email switch-off is a simple idea to force a step-change in the quality of relationships and trust between personnel inside and outside your organization. It may also have the side-effect of improving the efficiency with which people manage their email.

At the very least, you may go back to your office after a “switch-off’ refreshed with some new ideas on how to do your job better and therefore positively affect the company’s performance.

You’ll probably also go back to a full inbox…

Are you ready to switch off? Do you think it can work for you? Do you have any implementation ideas or tips?

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Working From Home: What I Learned and How it Taught Me To Effectively Manage Remote Teams

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“You lucky *%@#!” was the less than polite response I regularly received from friends and colleagues when they discovered I was working from home. Admittedly this was when they found out where my ‘home’ was; at the time, we were living near Geneva, Switzerland, with a spectacular view of the mountains from my home office.

Of course, not everything is as ideal as it seems at first. I was employed by a multinational company in the oil and gas industry, so my ‘working at home’ were really the periods spent in between frequent overseas trips. The only upside of the jetlag was that I could be available for the inevitable conference calls at all hours of the day and night!

As you would expect, communication is everything when working remotely. Capable managers should be able to adapt their style to managing remote teams confidently, but if you struggle with supervising people in your office environment then those drawbacks will likely have even greater negative outcomes if you are managing remote employees.

Being part of a remote team and subsequently managing other remote teams has taught me some valuable lessons for maintaining morale and performance. Here are my 6 guidelines:


1. Build the culture

TeamThe culture of a company is normally well understood by the office-based workers. Policies, ethics and vision statements are often displayed and even the office layout and environment help communicate the personality of the organization. A culture that is consistent with the values and needs of an employee can be a powerful motivator helping to create a happier and more productive workplace.

Not being embedded within the organizational culture can leave the remote employees directionless and disengaged, which can be disastrous for your business if they are in customer-facing roles.

Use every opportunity to communicate values, policies and goals to ensure that your employees understand how their behavior needs to reflect your company culture. Videos and slideshows are simple tools to incorporate as part of every conference call. Your intranet site, desktop images and screensavers can continuously reinforce your messaging. Also, don’t underestimate the power of company merchandise to communicate your culture as well as your brand with your employees and customers.

For us in the oil and gas industry our primary focus is always on safety and we reinforce this element of our culture at every opportunity. Each meeting or teleconference features a ‘safety moment’ to share a case study, an incident or an initiative that reflects our absolute focus on keeping our employees safe in and out of the workplace.

 

2. Get to know each other better

Easy to say, not so easy to execute effectively. Especially if you have the added challenge of team members spread across several time zones and with potential cultural differences to overcome.

Face-to-face meetings are always going to be easier and video-conferencing can never fully compensate. Non-verbal signals and body language are an important part of how we communicate and interpret other people’s behavior, without these cues misunderstanding is common.

It is important to meet your team face-to-face as soon as you can to build relationships and understand what makes them tick. Getting the whole group together routinely is ideal but failing that you must make the effort to meet individually.

Getting to know each other in person will enable you to communicate more clearly and effectively together, strengthening the relationships and trust between your team members, which will go a long way to building motivation and productivity.

 

interconnected team

3. Don’t let anyone feel isolated

Everyone benefits when morale is high and employees are motivated. However, it is easy for remote workers to feel insecure when they are ‘out of sight, out of mind’. As a manager, you need to adopt proactive communication to build team spirit and maintain the engagement of your employees.

You need to gauge how often to touch base informally with your people; some may need more mentoring and support than others.

At the very least, use routine (quarterly, as a minimum) performance reviews to assess your employees’ well-being and motivation. Take time to coach your people if you feel they need some extra attention. Also, make sure that they feel they have the same opportunities for self-improvement and career-development as their office-based colleagues.

Everyone likes to feel involved in appropriate decision-making discussions, so don’t forget to invite your team as virtual attendees for employee forums or announcement meetings.

We all enjoy a pat on the back as appreciation for work well done, so remember to always recognize your remote employees and ensure they receive attention for their efforts.

 

4. Use, but don’t overuse, technology

Technology has given us the ability to communicate effectively, but it needs to be used appropriately to avoid becoming a curse.

It’s a no-brainer to use technology for teleconferencing, videoconferencing, quick messaging, calendar sharing and intranet collaboration. Most businesses now benefit from using a CRM platform, and if implemented properly it will allow your remote sales team to stay connected. I have also at times found it invaluable to use cloud-based software for managing project tasks and for group preparation of large documents such as tenders. There are plenty of resources online to compare the features of these products, so I won’t mention them further here.

The invention of email has allowed more and more people to work remotely, so it has to be a good thing, right? Paradoxically, because it is over-used and abused, email is no longer an effective way to engage in meaningful collaboration and conversation. Use it sparingly and always consider if a quick telephone conversation wouldn’t be a better approach, thereby also giving you the opportunity to reinforce the personal relationship with your people.

 

The loneliness of working at home

5. Establish a call routine and stick to it

One of the challenges of remote working is the self-discipline to keep a routine. As a manager, you can help with this by setting up your regular catch-up calls at fixed times. Whether your routine calls are one-on-one or you make use of team conference calls, the routine will help to anchor your employees’ schedules and help them with planning.

One of the biggest frustrations in my experience with remote working is the background noise, interference and echoes you have to deal with on teleconferences. So be prepared to experiment with the various tools and technologies to get the most from your communications. For example, you may find a conference-call suits your routine team updates, while webinars enhance information-sharing meetings among a larger group, or video-conferencing may work better for you with one-on-one discussions.

A useful technique I have found to aid regular verbal communication is to set aside time periods each week on your calendar and make it clear that these are just for calls from your employees should they need to discuss anything with you. This makes you easily accessible without any clumsy back-and-forth on ‘when is the best time to call’.

 

6. Assign clear roles and responsibilities, then track and share results

I find that individuals are more motivated and productive when they are given accountability for a task, a project or an initiative. By assigning responsibility you give a sense of ownership, and this can be an especially effective motivator if the outcome has a shared effect on the team’s performance.

Where appropriate, do not always assign tasks that suit the individual’s obvious strengths, challenge them to work on activities that will improve their skills and competencies. But ensure that the workload is realistic and spread evenly across the team.

Giving a group shared visibility to all the team members’ responsibilities, progress and achievements will encourage collaboration and create peer pressure to improve productivity. Find a simple way to track performance, perhaps a scorecard or dashboard shared on your intranet.

There is a temptation to micromanage the work of a remote team, but this only leads to a lack of trust and damages morale. Micromanaging is not necessary if roles and responsibilities are thoroughly defined and agreed upon, with key performance indicators clearly specified, documented and routinely tracked.

Lastly, make sure you measure and evaluate the performance of any remote employees with the same methods and metrics as those of your office based workers.

 

Remote working is now easier than ever and it can greatly benefit your business. By utilizing remote employees, you can reduce your cost base and gain access to high caliber people who may not be prepared to move location.

It should not be a daunting prospect. In the first place you need to ensure your team members are self-starters with the right mindset and organization skills (and are good communicators of course!). The manager has to be confident, well-organized and above all a clear communicator in order to create a motivated and productive team.

What are your experiences with working remotely or managing a remote team? Any tips or tactics? Please leave me a comment below.

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Modern Office

on October 6, 2016
in Blog

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Elegant Living Room

on October 6, 2016
in Blog

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Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum, consectetur adipiscing elit.

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