One of my favourite films is ‘A Few Good Men’ set in the US military. Tom Cruise, a lawyer, asks a soldier, “How do you know where to go for meals; it’s not in the manual?” “Well," the soldier replies, “I guess I just follow the crowd at chow time.”
When you start out in business and recognise the need for a mentor it is so easy to just follow the crowd at chow time. With so much noise out there on social media it’s easy to be dazzled by someone’s success or lifestyle. This person’s really successful, they have loads of followers they must be the one. They also charge alot of money and you pay for what you get, right? Well, not always.
It took me a while to find the right mentor. Some of the people I came across I would describe as Peacocks, they seemed bright and shiny but over time there wasn’t a whole lot of substance or rapport. I soaked up everything they said, feeling inadequate at times and starting to judge myself in ways I wouldn’t have done normally. I realised I was judging myself by what was important to them, not me, so no wonder I never felt comfortable. I was trying to be someone I wasn’t, if that makes sense.
In time I realised that before I looked for a mentor I had to first understand myself:
So the gurus extolling the virtues of a 60 hour week, of putting relationships on hold or making me feel guilty that I wasn’t posting live at 4am and doing webinars at 8pm, that I hadn’t run a marathon before breakfast, were not for me. And that’s not to knock them; these things worked for them, their values, their lifestyle and aspirations. They just weren’t for me.
I knew I wanted a life supported by my business and a business I was passionate about. I wanted an enriched life but which didn’t entail a luxury yacht! I defined my values and my aspirations and the way I wanted to do business. Then I took a good look at my business; where I was and where I wanted to be and honed in on aspects of the business where I could do with another pair of eyes.
I decided I needed to look past the Peacocks and look for the Owls for their wisdom and the Eagles to inspire me to soar. People who had credibility and influence. People who’d had triumphs and disasters. People who would inspire me and challenge me, help me see things differently and give me a boot up the backside if needed. People who believed in me and wanted me to succeed and who weren’t on some ego trip or selling mission. Most importantly, people whose values aligned with mine.
And now having worked with some great mentors over the years I have learned it’s still important to process what’s said. To have a filter, not to follow blindly. To ask regularly, ‘Is this what I need right now. Does this fit with my values and aspirations?’ Know yourself and be true to yourself whilst seeking the wisdom of others.
Do one thing: If you have a mentor ask yourself these questions:
If you’re in business and haven’t yet got a mentor I would definitely recommend it. I hope this blog proves useful in your search.
Thanks for reading.
‘Do this and your people will fly!’
Feedback! The key to improving performance. And yet so many people feel awkward about giving it or shy away from it altogether. So why do people find it so difficult? Perhaps you’re one of them. You may be the person who makes a joke of everything or someone who says, ‘Well, they know what I think from my body language.’
We all approach feedback differently. To those of us who have a British upbringing, feedback can often be seen as awkward, negative & confrontational. We see giving feedback as daunting. For me, the only reason to give feedback is to inspire improved performance. ‘Inspire’ is the key word. You want people to be walking away thinking, ‘I know how I’m going to do it better next time now,’ and wanting to do just that.
So how do we deliver that? Let’s take a look at ways of giving feedback which will remove the angst. There are two methods. There’s informal feedback – the ongoing, day to day feedback, and then there is the formal performance management to back that up.
Find someone doing something good everyday!
Ongoing, day to day, when someone in your team is doing really well, you want to showcase and highlight that to the rest of the team. Have a philosophy of ‘trying to acknowledge someone doing something good, each day.’ Publicly acknowledge the event and explain why you’re pleased – perhaps it positively impacts a customer or the rest of the team and so forth. It’s all about positive reinforcement – you want more of this.
Spot learning opportunities everyday!
Don’t just walk past the bad stuff. Don’t allow it to happen without addressing it – nip it in the bud. Inaction does nothing to sort the problem and worse still, erodes the trust and respect of the other team members if they think you’ve let it slide. This, if you like, is ‘just in time’ coaching where you again, on a daily basis, seek out learning opportunities. In these circumstances just have a quiet word, there is no need for public humiliation. This time ask the person ‘why’,‘Why is this not acceptable?’ Give them the opportunity to work it out for themselves and see the effects of their behaviour. ‘When you said that to John, how do you think it made him feel?’ If they can work it out for themselves they will take it onboard more than if you simply lecture them. Make it a genuine learning experience.
The EEC Model
Here at MPL we talk about the EEC model:
What’s caused me to comment on the way you’re working? Maybe the way you answer the phone, maybe the way you spoke to a client, maybe the way you completed a piece of work. What is the reason I’m talking to you?
What effect has it had on me, on the client, on the business, the team? Is it a good effect or not so good? Did you forget to smile when you answered the phone, making your voice sound sombre and moody? Did you complete this piece of work, but it wasn’t absolutely spot on in terms of accuracy? Did you get a great customer review?
and then either Continue
‘Thanks so much. You did a great job. Loved the way you’ve got absolutely every detail correct, keep going with that. Customer x was thrilled with that.’ Do more; continue.
When it’s something that you want to correct, then you’re talking about how you want somebody to change their performance. What can they do differently? What do they need to do to be up to standard? Give people the chance to get things right next time.
When it comes to formal feedback, remember that nothing should ever be a surprise. All of the informal feedback that you’ve given feeds into your formal, sit down performance review. We recommend that you do formal performance reviews at the end of each quarter. That you make it routine. It’s a chance to sit down with your team member to talk to them about the great things they’re doing, and to inspire them to do even better.
Many people shy away from that whole idea of sitting down with each team member. Either that, or they only sit down with them when something bad has happened and they want to tell them off. No wonder their team members dread the call, it’s like when I was little, our dogs hated the car because the only time they got in it was to go to the vets! When you make delivering feedback routine, it becomes a more positive interaction between you and your team. It becomes a conversation, a discussion. ‘How can I do this better? How can I improve? I really want to improve, how can I do it?’
Encourage your people to keep their own development journals
This will become a useful tool for development because it will help to highlight where each team member would like to go, how they want to improve, and what they need from you in order to achieve this.
Encourage them to jot down the things they did really well, their ‘Proud Page’.
To note when things didn’t go to plan; what were their learning points. If they had some training or coaching, what three things would they do differently next time as a result, their ‘Learning Page’.
Their ‘Aspirations Page’; what challenges would they like, what training/development would help them get there.
The formal appraisal should be their story; you just need to listen. Then ask these question:
That is how to build trust.
People are more likely to ask for support if you’ve made this whole performance management system part of ‘the way we do things around here’. The way we do things round here is we give honest and open feedback, whether something is good, or needs to be improved. We are always honest and open; though honest doesn’t mean brutal! Make that part of your culture, and you have a real picture of continuous improvement. Everybody always looking to do that little bit better to make that marginal gain.
Do this and your people will fly. Do this and your business will fly.
Do two things:
Thanks for reading
Photography credit: Owen Kemp on Unsplash
A while ago, we mapped out a customer journey for one of our clients. (We map it out on a roll of brown paper, looking at all of the touch-points that the customer has with the team, and who is involved at each point.) Their journey was about twenty-five feet of brown paper long, and so confusing that my head hurt when we’d finished.
The sales team were involved from start to finish of this journey; I’m surprised they ever had time to sell! The customer had to speak to four different people in order to do business with the team. Supporting the journey there were four teams, all over-lapping in terms of the roles they were performing, and all doing things in a very different way.
What had happened was what happens a lot in successful small businesses. Maybe it’s happening to you. They had started small; the owner and three trusted team members all of whom were very clear about their role and very focused on it. Communication was tight, everyone knew what everyone else was doing and the larger business picture. They quickly became successful and with the success came a bigger team, and an even bigger team, until very soon they were a team of thirty.
With such rapid growth ‘the way we do things around here’ had become confused, as each of the four original team members gave new people their version of what the operating processes were. Then those people trained others their way and so on until chaos reigned. As a consequence, their service and delivery times were poor, they’d lost consistency and they were losing staff almost as quickly as they could hire them.
Our job was to work with the team to unravel the Customer Journey (always easier when you’re not in the thick of it), to look for the simplest route for the customer, and the most logical way to support their journey. And then with them, to develop the ‘one right way’ to do everything. To regain consistency from the chaos and to restore the company as ‘easy to do business with’ and a great place to work.
It’s easy over time particularly when you’re growing quickly to lose the one right way and that tight system of communication. Having those things in place at the beginning of your business, having the one right way, the ‘How To’ for each task and solid lines of communication embedded in your business gives you reliable foundations for growth. And the one right way isn’t stagnant. If someone comes up with a better way of doing things or technology allows an improvement then that becomes the new one right way and gets trained in using a new How To.
Regularly reviewing your Customer Journey will ensure you’ve not added hoops for your customer to jump through as your business has evolved.
Do two things:
1. Think about your Customer Journey; view it through your Customers’ eyes through each tiny step right from:
- How many feet of brown paper will you need?
2. Take your daily routines and start to develop ‘the one right way’ (your How Tos) with your team. Start laying those solid foundations for consistency and growth.
Thanks for reading :)
One of the questions I always ask my clients is ‘How many of your current team would you re-hire tomorrow if you were given the chance?’ So…how many would you re-hire?
If you say all of them I’ll be delighted for you; that’s only happened to me once since I started asking the question! Most people have at least one person in their business who was never right. You've put up with them for years rather than removing them from the team; knowing that they should never have been hired in the first place - they were never a good fit for you, your team or the business.
So how to avoid this?
I have two golden rules for hiring:
Golden rule No. 1 - Never, hire in a hurry.
Why? Because anything you do in a hurry tends to be botched. You’re rushing to plug a gap; hiring somebody to make up the numbers.
You hire in a hurry, you make mistakes.
Golden rule No. 2 - Always hire to your values; this is key to successful hiring.
Think about why you’re hiring. You're not just hiring a body. You're not looking for someone who's going to clock on, park their brain at the door, and then clock off at the end of the day. You want somebody who is engaged. You want somebody who cares about what you care about - who buys into that goose bump-giving inspiring vision of yours; who has the same values as you.
Which brings me to the main purpose of this week’s blog. If you recognise how important it is to hire to your values but you’ve never really considered what they are….
’Keeping in touch with your values is a lifelong exercise.’
If your vision is your goose-bump-giving, inspiring picture of your future, and your plans are the route map to take you there, then what are your values?
The Dictionary defines values as… ‘principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life’.
For me, they are the compass that guides every decision, every action, and the way you behave every single day.
We all have values whether we recognise them as such, or not, and our life is much easier when we understand what they are and align our plans, decisions and behaviours with them.
For example, if you value family, but you work 70-hour weeks, you’ll feel internal stress and conflict. If you don't value financial risk, you’re unlikely to start your own business.
Being clear about your values, helps you to make decisions and take actions that are fully aligned with them. When you’re in tune with your values, your gut will reflect them. Go against your gut and you might well be going against your values.
When thinking about what your values are, ask yourself:
Decide what’s important to you and how you’ll demonstrate it in your business, because what you do is a megaphone for what you believe in. You may genuinely believe and therefore say, one thing, but your actions and behaviours may well be saying another.
When writing your values don’t go for catchy slogans, cliches or phrases you got from a book. Think meaningfully about what really matters to you, your core values and then write them as you’d speak them. Surround yourself with people whose values match your own whether recruiting, outsourcing or choosing a supplier.
To grow a successful team, first hire to your core values. I'm not saying hire clones; look for people with diverse perspectives who will add value and have the courage to challenge you. But they must share your fundamental values at heart.
Do one thing: if you haven’t already, establish what your values are (if you have already, re-visit them) and then stand back and look at your business. Does it reflect those values?
Thanks for reading.
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times!’
Geoff had been with Martin from the start, and had worked hard to help him grow the business. As a result, he’d been promoted to manager, reward for all his efforts. Well, financially he was so much better off, great! But the day-to-day reality felt more like a punishment.
Plucked from a job that he excelled in, and where he felt completely comfortable, even when the pressure was on, he now found himself managing a team of fifteen, actually no, not even a team, a group of people who came together every day to work under the same roof. Their work standards certainly didn’t match his; ‘sloppy’ and ‘slow’ were the two words that summed them up for him.
When I met him he was exhausted, frustrated and disbelieving that this group of people would ever do their job right without him watching over them, let alone take ownership. He was checking every piece of work that went out to clients, working longer and longer hours to do so, and the team, knowing their work would always be checked by him, didn’t bother to check it themselves. Why bother if he didn’t trust them?
Together we set to work on reviewing the customer journey with the team, I introduced them to the concept of simple, logical, repeatable, and we streamlined their flow of work, removing all of the hoops that they and their clients had been jumping through. We developed How-To guides for the most routine tasks, to achieve consistency and raise the basic standards, and we introduced regular meetings to improve communication, daily fifteen-minute huddles to set the expectations for the day, weekly meetings to review what had been achieved and set priorities for the coming week. Once a month I got them to meet as a full team, and to have one of the team do a twenty-minute presentation on something that would be of interest and/or benefit to the whole team. After that meeting, I encouraged them to go out for a team drink, or maybe even a meal, to build team spirit.
With Geoff, I focused first on his mindset, and the notion he had that everyone but him was lazy, useless and not to be trusted. I asked him to focus on training and feedback; to show individuals exactly what he wanted, by using How-Tos, and then to let them get on and do their job, without his interference. I encouraged him to trust that if he trained his people properly, and gave them feedback that encouraged them to improve, then they would, and that mistakes were not the end of the world, but a learning opportunity.
Geoff wasn’t convinced at first, but to his credit, he did listen, and he did change both his mindset and his actions. The daily, weekly and monthly meetings became the norm, and as the team began to blossom, I watched Geoff relax into his role as their manager. Twelve months later, with three further managers grown from the team, Geoff was promoted to Director within the business! Proud or what?
When I started working with Amit, it was clear that he had a problem with the team. For a start they didn’t work as a team, and they were all way too focused on the clock; never a good sign. Turnover was high too; for a business that was five years old, 90% of the people that I met had been there for less than twelve months.
There was one employee though who was driving Amit mad; always turning up late, questioning every decision, doing sloppy work; Amit was at his wits’ end and wanted to know what I would do about it, in his place.
‘Well, tell me one thing first’, I said, ‘Do her values match yours?’
‘Good god, no!’ was the reply, ‘But she had an excellent CV’.
That is so often the problem, and one that you’ll have difficulty overcoming. Hiring to a CV, focusing on the experience that an individual has had, rather than their values, their attitude, their fit for you, and your team, is a big, and a very common mistake.
So, Amit sat her down and had a conversation about his vision and his values, and what he was looking for in the people he worked with. He inspired the woman in question with his passion and drive, and she is now a real advocate of the business and a highly valued member of his team.
Focus on values; find those whose values match yours, you can always train for skill.
Do one thing: have you shared your vision and values with your team? If not, it’s never too late to start or reinforce.
Thanks for reading.
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)