I love Vera. I love her complex character played by the great Brenda Blethyn, the people in her CID team and of course gorgeous Durham and Northumberland. And the storylines are just perfect Sunday night viewing, for me anyway.
Whereas she has got some great qualities as a leader (more of that later), when it comes to her management style, I have to take issue with a few things.
First of all I frequently find myself saying ‘please’ out loud as she gives another directive to the team. Now I don’t know if this is how the police operate since it is a command and control structure. I have no experience of working in an environment where people have to call me ‘ma’am’ but even if you do give out orders, I still think you could add a ‘please’.
I know in the police, the armed forces and the operating theatre there will be times that you need to snap an order in the quickest possible time because of the urgency of the situation. By the time a surgeon has asked, "Would you mind awfully passing me a scalpel please", the patient might have died. So ‘scalpel’ has to be barked out, and that seems reasonable.
The thoughts of the army shouting, "Fire! please," wouldn't be quite right either. But I just wonder then, if someone is used to operating like this, say in the NHS (no pun intended!), how easy it is to revert to a more collaborative or even merely polite style in everyday situations. If anyone has worked in this type of environment I’d love to know what your experience is.
When my dad ran his coal business I don’t think he would ever have got his lads together to ask how they should do something. His was very much ‘do this or that’ and that style was very much of it’s time. But my experience at McDonald’s and with clients since, has shown me how much more people buy in and take ownership when they’re treated like adults and are involved in establishing and developing the ‘one right way’ for an exceptional customer journey.
The other thing I wonder about with Vera is how she treats her team individually. The long-suffering Kenny receives a fair bit of rib-pulling and mockery which a less robust individual could wilt under. And then I’m never sure about how fairly she treats them. Which would I rather do, get driven round the countryside in a gorgeous old Defender, meeting potential suspects or look through six hours worth of CCTV footage? Mmm tough one that. So maybe Aiden her sidekick is a higher rank than the others but if not, the others could feel hard done by.
And there’s the dilemma for business owners or managers. How to keep people sweet when you probably do prefer some of your team members to others or when someone is great at a role but which they find maybe boring or unsatisfying. Do you change roles round to keep people happy and potentially lose effectiveness or productivity? How do you ensure you’re not playing favourites even subconsciously?
If you have a ‘one right way’ of doing tasks in your business, it is much easier to train people up, to multi-skill. That is one of the ways where people can develop and have variety in their work. You may also uncover a diamond, and people over time have a chance to develop niche roles if that’s what you’re looking for. As for playing favourites, I think you just have to ‘police’ yourself :)
So that’s two things I don’t like, but there are a couple of things about Vera as a manager that I absolutely love. Firstly she really really cares about the victim whoever they are and secondly she perseveres until she succeeds.
So despite some of her management short-comings, I will continue to be a huge fan of Vera and tune in every Sunday night.
Do one thing: watch Vera and see what you think about how she manages her team and then think about your own style. Are there any similarities or things you’d like to improve?
Thanks for reading.
Image property of the Radio Times
Much as I love the words ‘please', ‘thankyou’ and ‘sorry’, there’s another word out there that can make a big difference.
It’s a principle of human behaviour that if you’re asking for a favour, you’ll be more successful if you give the reason why. If you’re asking people to do something they like to know why they should.
A psychologist Ellen Langer carried out a simple experiment on the power of ‘because’, back in the day. She asked if she could go ahead of a large queue of students waiting to use the xerox machine (before the digital age) to make 5 copies. When she offered no reason, 60% let her cut in. When she explained, “because I’m in a rush” people letting her cut in significantly increased to 94%
Now you could think that people had done her the favour since “being in a rush” was a valid reason but she tried a third time using ‘because’ but with a feeble reason: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” Once again 93% complied.
The researchers surmised it was not the reason as a whole, but the word ‘because’ that made the difference. This was true even when the reason was not very compelling. They theorised that people go on automatic behaviour as a form of short-cut, and that hearing the word “because” followed by a reason, no matter how feeble, increased the likelihood of compliance.
They repeated the experiment for a request to copy 20 pages rather than 5. In that case, only the “because I’m in a rush” reason resulted in a heightened figure.
So they summarised: “When the stakes are low people will engage in automatic behaviour. If your request is small, follow your request with the word "because" and give a reason - any reason. If the stakes are high, then there could be more resistance, but still not too much.”
This has got application for management, sales, trying to get your kids off their phones or trying to queue jump when you’re in a rush. (I wonder if “Now wash your hands” followed with “because x y z..” would work!)
This is the reason why we advocate developing ‘how to’s’ which not only explain or demonstrate the ‘one right way’ to do the task but also explain the reasons behind that process. So useful too when you're training new people in that task that they understand the 'because'. People respond much better knowing the reasons and benefits rather than just being told what to do. (And of course being involved in establishing the ‘one right way’ increases buy in even more.)
Now the question is, "Is ‘because’ still as powerful today; after all, the research was from 1978?"
Do one thing: Try the power of ‘because’ and see if it works either in a ‘safe’ environment or, if you’re feeling brave, try it next time you’re in the queue at a coffee shop….
I would love to hear how you get on. I’m going to experiment too just not sure how brave I’ll be!
Thanks for reading.
As featured here in HRD Connect
2020 will be a big year for new beginnings. How can leaders ensure their best people stay put?
A new decade can be a catalyst to kick-start your own journey to accomplish your life goals.
Members of your team who dream to be somewhere else and start their own business, move to the seaside or whatever they aspire to may well be more likely to up sticks this year, however those that do were never fully invested in your business anyway.
So, my question to you is, is the culture of your business a nurturing and positive culture, or is it stagnant and negative?
Do your team have a clear career progression plan, or do they drift along in the day-to-day seemingly ‘stuck’ in their job for life or until they leave? If it’s the later then worrying about the high turnover of your workforce increasing dramatically this year may be valid. If you have a low staff turnover and a happy team, you’re probably on the right track in terms of your business culture.
The real question here is: How do you improve your business culture?
If you want a culture of ownership and accountability, a positive and engaged workforce and lower staff turnover, ask yourself:
Hiring the right people
The ‘right’ people are those who share your values; who get what you are trying to achieve with your business; who see your vision and are inspired by it.
It’s important to immerse every new team member in your culture from day one. Tell them stories that demonstrate how people take ownership in your business, and how you empower and encourage everyone to make decisions and be accountable.
Show what your culture is through your actions: arriving on time, everyone greeting the new starter warmly, explaining your ‘rules of the game’ to them, and demonstrating your personal values through everything you say and do.
Engaging your people
A strong business culture relies on the whole team buying into it. If you’ve taken your time in hiring the right people you will have no problem in engaging them in your vision and goals for the business, and in your culture.
You have the right people, so involve them in finding solutions to problems, planning for the future, setting their own targets. If your current team is far from engaged, call a meeting and share your vision, help them to understand what they’re a part of and why they’re each so important. This isn’t an overnight thing, so keep sharing wins and positivity. Say thank you.
Develop simple, logical and repeatable systems, and train your team to follow them.
Help them to understand why consistency is so important. Make sure that they understand not only what is expected of them, but the high standard you expect them to perform to. Give them all of the information they need to do the job on their own, and then get out of their way and let them get on with it!
Monitoring and measuring performance
Engaging with great people is easy. But on occasion, you will get your hiring all wrong, and you’ll take on someone who just doesn’t fit your culture, your values or the ethos of your business and they will have to go. It may be that 2020 will be the catalyst for this anyway.
It’s always good to give people a second chance, and I’m personally very big on forgiveness, but when a second chance has been wasted, make sure that you have the performance management system in place to manage them out of the business if needs be.
The negative impact of someone who doesn’t fit is simply too great and, in a growing business with a small team, you simply can’t afford the consequences for your customers, your team and ultimately lost revenue and profit.
Have quarterly performance reviews, but at your annual performance review, build the following questions in:
With the members of your team who are the right fit and who are invested in your business and who can see themselves progressing, their answers to these questions will be detailed and show a will to progress up the ladder. They will ask for things from you.
You will also have your loyal ‘steady stayers’ who love their role and don’t wish to progress. This is ok too of course, some people aren’t naturally ambitious. However, still try to work out some sort of target and reward system for these team members and make them feel part of the journey.
Communicate Communicate Communicate
While your business is still growing, you are your business, you are the leader, and people will want to contact you personally – both your customers and the individuals in your team.
How you handle this will say a great deal about you and your business culture.
Communication is vital in any relationship. Your business simply can’t do without open and honest communication through channels that are clear and easy to use. If you want to build a culture of ownership and accountability it’s absolutely essential.
I don’t know about you but I love posts you see on social media about businesses going the extra mile for their customers. Delighting the Customer, going the extra mile, or as I heard it referred to as, Sprinkling the Pixie Dust, costs businesses very little but the repercussions, the return for just naturally putting their heart into service can be huge.
So I thought I’d share what happened to my sister recently. She was gutted to lose her prescription sunglasses and wanted an up-to-date prescription for their replacement. She opted for Specsavers (in Loughborough - to give them a plug) who had a free eye test, (being a true northerner :) ). They also do retinal checks for £25 so she thought she would check out white flashes she’d had in her eye. The optician could not have been more thorough and told her she had a retinal detachment and to get straight to eye casualty before they shut. My sister grabbed the referral letter and flew out in a state of anxiety to get there on time. Only later that night she remembered she had not paid.
The eye casualty confirmed the retinal detachment and next day lazered her eye. She got home that evening to find a message from her optician and she thought it would be just to remind her she’d forgotten to pay. But no; no mention of money, just her optician personally ringing to ask how she’d got on and hoping that she was okay. This for a first time customer who hadn’t paid her bill! On ringing to thank her and pay her bill, she was told that the bill had been voided. Guess who my sister will be going to from now on? And talk about fate; if she hadn’t lost her sunglasses….
As if that wasn’t enough, she was having a Tesco delivery that day and was saying to the taxi driver on the way home from hospital that she thought she’d be back just in time. The next minute her taxi driver is talking to his mate who delivers for Tesco to check if he was delivering to her, with a view to saying they were nearly there! As it was he was on a different route but again just such a thoughtful thing to do.
Great stories… great customer experience.
Do one thing: Sprinkle a little Pixie Dust for your customers.
Oh and if you happen to get white flashes in your eye when you switch the light off at night, may be worth getting them checked out!
I want to share an interesting conversation I had recently with a control freak. (I use that phrase because I used to be one too!)
Business Owners come to us for help to escape the day-to-day operation of their business, but the truth is that so many find it hard to let go of their role, even the small tasks.
Some believe that they are the only ones that can do a certain task to their exacting standards, and we come across this so often that a large part of our work is changing the mindset of the business owner to let them know that they can trust their team with the right systems in place. They can take a step back to work on growing their business, while it runs smoothly without them, or with only a little input from them.
A particular ‘control freak’ was telling me how he hates to delegate - doesn't trust his employees to do anything without some sort of supervision, because they cock things up, make mistakes, take longer to do the job than he would.
"I check EVERYTHING' he said, 'I don't want my customers to have anything but a perfect service’.
It's the perfect excuse for the control freak - “I’m not doing it for me, I'm doing it for my customers.”
Here's the thing, for those of you who recognise that you may be borderline, if not full-blown freaks, you’re keeping yourself stuck in a rut.
Just like the bindweed in your garden - you know the one with the pretty flower that pretends its trying to make your garden look lovely, while its tentacles set about destroying it? You too are strangling the growth of your people and your business.
You've forgotten that:
You've forgotten that all of the successful people you look up to have built their success on a bucketload of failures, and much bigger failures and mistakes than any of your people might make if you gave them their head.
You want to limit mistakes?
People want to learn and develop, they want to grow - it's much more of a motivator than money. Give them ownership of their job, help them to feel like they belong to something, that you're relying on them to help you build something that you can all be proud of.
I saw this quote on Facebook, and it is oh so true - 'A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust one another.'
Trust your people and build a high performing team, that runs your high performing business.
Get control of your freak. Pull out the bindweed that's stifling your business.
Do one thing: Want to see where you’re at right now? Complete our business effiency test:
Thanks for reading.
Your daily routine is the key to your personal productivity and effectiveness. It should be crammed full of habits that will maximise your focus and efficiency, and move you closer to achieving your big vision. If you’ve already sorted your to do list into, ‘ditch delegate or do’ then you’ll be focussing on those tasks which only you can do as a business owner. Now it’s a case of maximising your time.
I like the habit of planning my day the evening before (and my week on a Sunday evening). At the end of the day you’re usually very clear about what still needs to done, what the priorities are, what tomorrow’s priority will be. Advanced planning like this makes sure that you hit the ground running. It can also make for a better night’s sleep as you put tasks to bed!
Chunk your tasks
I recommend chunking your work into ninety-minute segments. This is a good timeframe for focus, and focus is the key word; don’t multi-task – if you’re going to work on a sales letter, work on it for the full ninety minutes, or until it’s done, if you can do it quicker.
Work out which part of the day you’re at your peak; for me it’s first thing in the morning, and use that ninety minutes to ‘eat your frog’ – i.e. do the thing that you don’t necessarily want to do, but that’s weighing you down mentally, because you know you really need to get it done. Just get focused and eat the damn frog….gulp! It’s a really good success habit to get into.
Set yourself mini deadlines, always good for those of us who like a bit of ‘last minute pressure’; make them ‘drop-dead’ lines too! Absolute must delivers!
Breaks are always a good deadline. Holidays are also excellent. Ever noticed how much more you get done in the days leading up to a holiday, or the minutes leading up to any deadline. Both breaks and holidays are essential for your long-term productivity too – refreshing and re-energising your mind and body. The most successful businessmen and women really get this and have made breaks, long and short, a habit they will always keep.
Other daily routines and success habits that are good for your mind and body include taking at least thirty minutes exercise a day even if it’s just a walk down the road and back and drinking plenty of water – two litres is the recommended amount, isn’t it? I’m no scientist, but I can testify to the power of a lunchtime walk for clearing your head and re-charging you up for a productive afternoon.
Do one thing: take a look at your existing routines and decide if they need a tweak.
Thanks for reading :)
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four-hour days.” Zig Ziglar
In a recent blog I asked you to look at your to do list and sieve it into Ditch Delegate or Do. So now you have a new to do list which reflects those tasks which as a business owner you need to do yourself. Now to maximise your productivity, Focus is the key!
Even with a clear vision, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the mountain of ideas, tactics and goals that might lead us towards its achievement. So we need a way to chunk the mountain down into smaller more manageable hills. I call these smaller hills my Focus Areas!
The corporates may look on them as strategies, some may think of them simply as priorities. The name doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you have them – that you take your mountain, look at what it’s made up of, and group similar goals, ideas and tactics together.
Remember though, this is all about focus, so you can’t have a dozen focus areas, it kind of defeats the object of the exercise. Four or five, maximum six, will keep you properly focused and make your planning and delivery a whole lot easier. For example, McDonald’s focus on People, Place, Promotion, Price, Product.
So, what will be yours? When you are clear what your focus areas are, and what you want each focus area to deliver for you, your aim or intention, you can then begin to develop fully focused goals and plans.
The Urgency and Importance Matrix
Another strategy which really works for me is this simple 4 box matrix which enables you to prioritise:
Box 1 Urgent but not important - these may be urgent for someone else but not important to you, they may be small things you can quickly get done and out of the way or allocate small bites of time at the end of the day.
Box 2 Important but not urgent - these are tasks which are really important for which you need to allocate quality time. You have a deadline but it’s not today or tomorrow.
Box 3 Urgent and important - these are the tasks you need to prioritise. You need to get them done today or tomorrow and you need quiet time to concentrate on getting them right.
Box 4 Not important not urgent - this should be empty! If you find yourself allocating tasks to this box ask yourself ‘why’. Re-visit your original to do list, is this something that should have been ditched then?
I love this little matrix, once you’ve honed in on what you really need to be doing it’s a great way of prioritising and planning. It certainly changed my life for the better and I’m so much more productive.
Do two or three things:
I hope this works for you and I’d love to hear how you get on if you give these a try.
Good luck and thanks for reading.
So, you have a Big Vision that gives you goosebumps and it’s plastered on your wall in huge letters. You’ve started to plan with your team about how together you’ll make that Vision a reality. And you’re all buzzing about the future and cracking on. Great stuff! I can feel the energy from here.
Now, all that’s missing is an effective Personal Management System. Not the sexiest title I’ve come across but even the most inspiring vision, and the smartest of plans will be wasted if you don't have the means to keep yourself on track.
A Personal Management System
Your daily routine is the cornerstone of your personal management system, and should be crammedfull of habits that will maximise your productivity, and move you closer to your Vision.
1. Get into the habit of planning your day the evening before (and your week on a Sunday evening). At the end of the day, you’re usually very clear about what still needs to done, what the priorities are, what tomorrow’s frog* will be. Advanced planning like this makes sure that you hit the ground running.
2. Chunk your work into 90 minute segments. This is a good timeframe for focus, and FOCUS is the key word - don’t multi-task - if you’re going to work on a sales letter, work on it for the full 90 minutes, or until it’s done, if you can do it within the 90.
3. Peak Practice - Work out which part of the day you’re at your peak - for me it’s first thing in the morning - and use that 90 minutes to ‘eat your frog’ - *do the thing that you don't necessarily want to do, but that’s weighing you down mentally, because you know you really need to get it done. Just get focused and eat the damn frog! It’s a really good success habit to get into.
4. Set yourself mini deadlines - always good for those of us who like a bit of last minute pressure - make them ‘drop-dead’-lines too! Absolute must delivers! Breaks are always a good deadline. Holidays are also excellent. Ever noticed how much more you get done in the days leading up to a holiday, or the minutes leading up to any deadline.
5. Switch Off. Both breaks and holidays are essential for your long-term productivity too - refreshing and re-energising your mind and body. The most successful businessmen and women really get this, and have made breaks long and short, a habit they will always keep. Learn to have switch-off time every day - practice is the key.
6. Daily Exercise. Other daily routines and success habits that are good for your mind and body, include taking at least 30 minutes exercise a day - even if it’s just a walk down the road and back - and drinking plenty of water - two litres is the recommended amount isn’t it? I’m no scientist, but I can testify to the power of a lunchtime walk for clearing your head and setting you up for a productive afternoon.
For budding entrepreneurs, there are three other personal management essentials:
A Personal Management System takes discipline and time to develop, but when you learn to manage yourself, the business will be a piece of cake!
Do one thing: look back over today/yesterday. Did your work take you towards your Vision? Did you have frog for breakfast? If not, look to adopt these good habits and improve your routines.
Thanks for reading :)
Over the past few years I’ve talked to a lot of business owners who are struggling with how much they have to get done, and let’s face it, us business owners have a lot of ‘stuff’ to do. So much stuff and all of it urgent. A bulging inbox controlling our day, forcing us to react, impossible to prioritise.
Of course, everyone has days like this, where you can’t see the wood for the trees, where your to-do list for the day is so long it will take you to the middle of next week just to get through half of it. Those days when you don’t feel like your life is your own; when you’re working to other people’s priorities and everyone wants a piece of you; when you feel completely chaotic and out of control.
As one-offs, these days are manageable, there are simple tools and techniques to get you through them, to deal with them, and still get stuff done. But it’s when these days start to merge, when as a new client said to me, ‘Overwhelm becomes the norm’, when you forget where the hell you’re going, let alone how you’re going to get there.
That’s when overwhelm has become a real issue. That’s when you lose focus on your vision; when what’s really important to you seems a million miles away. So what do you do? You go chasing off down rabbit holes looking for the answers, in time-management programmes and apps.
You start subscribing to lots of ‘successful people’ – you know, those people who seem to have it all, looking for the magic pill that’s going to bring you their success. And of course, that’s exactly what it is – their success. You start to believe that success only comes through long hours and even harder work. You lose sight of what’s really important to you; what success means to you; what your ideal future looks like.
So, what can you do about it?
Well, you can start by asking yourself this one killer question:
What am I trying to achieve, and why?
I’m a pretty organised person these days, and this one question (ok, technically two) still has a massive impact on how focused I am, and how much I get done on a day-to-day and month-to-month basis.
It’s a powerful question, whether you’re thinking about the next year, or the next hour.
To find your answer, go back to what I’ve talked about in previous blogs when I asked you to look at your personal ‘why’ you’re in business, what you really want for yourself, your Big Vision.
Are you really clear about what you’re trying to achieve, and why? Because when you are, you’re ready for the simple exercise that will get rid of overwhelm every time it raises its ugly head.
And here it is:
Step 1: Decide on the timeframe that’s overwhelming you. Is it what you have on today, tomorrow, the coming week, the coming month?
Step 2: Next, get yourself a big sheet of paper and a pen.
Step 3: Write down everything — and I mean everything you believe you have to get done in the coming week: personal, business, everything...
Step 4: Once you’ve done that–once you’ve exhausted everything – and you’re sure you have it all on that sheet of paper, grab a big, black marker pen.
Step 5: Go through your list and cross off everything that doesn’t move you towards what you’re trying to achieve; everything that doesn’t move you towards your big vision.
Be ruthless here, look for other people’s priorities on this list and get them crossed off. Look for things that are easy to do, or that feed your inner procrastinator, like setting up a to-do list app, or reading through all those emails you’ve subscribed to, and get those crossed off too.
Cross off anything that doesn’t move you to where you now know that you want to be. Ruthless is the key word.
Step 6: There will be things on your list that do have to be done, but most of them should not be done by you; things like book-keeping, expenses, managing your database.
These things can stay, but they get moved onto a second list, called ‘Delegate’. Add all the things that need to be done, but not by you, to this list.
Recognise those things that you may be busying yourself with because they’re maybe in your comfort zone or you’re good at them but are really a waste of your time and could be done much cheaper elsewhere. This will free up your time to prioritise what only you can and should be doing.
What you are left with after this exercise are three lists:
Your Do list – the things you’re going to do because they move you towards your vision
Your Ditch list – full of other people’s stuff, and things that you’ve just got into the bad habit of adding to your list every day
Your Delegate list – things that you’re going to get other people to do
Give this a go and see what it does for your overwhelm. I promise you, it works like magic.
You have to be ruthless though, and you have to get over your guilt about ditching other people’s priorities. Just remember that’s exactly what they are – other people’s priorities, not yours! You have plenty of your own to be getting on with.
Do One thing: Your DO, DITCH OR DELEGATE exercise!
Thanks for reading.
"If you want to be wealthy and happy, learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” - Earl Shoaff
You’ve prepared your business plan and now you’re identifying skills you’ll need to deliver it. You’re deciding whether to hire, outsource or give opportunities to your existing team members.
But sometimes the question you don’t ask is “What do I need to be able to deliver it?” For some people personal development is a never-ending journey, they can’t get enough business books, podcasts - you name it they’re doing it. Others have to accrue credits for ‘Continuing professional development,' to show that they’re keeping up with the times and committed to personal growth. Many have a coach or mentor to give them that helicopter vision of what’s missing.
I read an interesting article the other day where the writer posed themselves the question
"What am I becoming?" rather than just, "What am I getting out of this?"
That really got me thinking.
As business owners our development and personal growth is like a pebble in the pond. It’s not just about us. We impact the lives of our team members and their families, our outsourcers, suppliers, etc. The more we can improve and grow the more we have to offer to others; the more we can enable our team to grow and encourage them in their journey of personal improvement, to be their own pebbles in their ponds and so on.
Do one thing: think about the person you’re becoming - is it the best version of you? How will your pebble impact the wider pond?
Thanks for reading. :)
Photo by Fabio Comparelli on Unsplash
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)