Business … Simplified!

Business Process Improvement CourseHow can business actually be simplified? If we allow ourselves to apply a few concepts from disciplines other than business school training, we may find that the solutions to some of the most difficult issues that we face may simply boil down to human kindness.

If we define kindness as the absence of selfishness and self-centered concerns, we may be able to solve many issues between our suppliers and customers. Business is simply one activity that takes place in any society. I want to emphasize that we can’t abandon the fundamentals of running a business. Rather, I am suggesting slightly broader human considerations when we deal with the four (4) entities of most businesses. A business or organization that displays a modicum of humility and humanity will be rewarded by its four major stakeholders.

Here they are:

  1. EmployeesIf the practices of an employer are viewed as fair and humane toward customers, employees and associates have an accurate basis to believe that the employer is trustworthy in its dealings with them. This trust and respect allows employees and associates to enjoy their work and perform at their best. This means that they will treat the customers and each other well and with respect. It is generally accepted that a happy employee will remain with the organization for a longer period of time. Reduced turnover of excellent employees is a goal that is desired and pursued by virtually all organizations.
  2. CustomersCustomers that are treated kindly, fairly and honestly are more likely to give their repeat business, and recommend your business to others. And as we know, attracting a new customer through marketing and advertising is approximately five times more costly than obtaining a referred customer.
  3. Financial stakeholders – Your investors are more likely to be trusting, patient and supportive when they are presented objective and accurate financial reporting. Financial matters do require precision and accuracy, but the financials are prepared and presented by people. Every respected banker or investor will agree that the character of a business or owner affect their behavior and decisions at some level. A self-centered or “tricky” business owner, once discovered, will find it more difficult to deal with their bankers and investors when problems arise.
  4. SuppliersThey have their policies and terms. However, they are more likely to be supportive and motivated to provide the highest possible level of service to your business if term are honored and communications about issues are handled in advance of payment dates and other delivery agreements. They will be willing to offer some extra help if you have some extraordinary circumstances.

The bottom line is that, the humanistic attitudes and behaviors affect relationships and transactions between people. So, if we can eliminate obstacles to quality relationships, any organization that exhibits these humanistic attitudes and behaviors will increase their performance.

The Training Shelf Newsletter covers a wide variety of topics that relate to leadership, management and small business, so you can refresh your skills as needed. Don’t forget that you can search the archives depending on your interest.

Related Articles:   Handling Annoying Team Members   and   Dominant Personalities … of team members!

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Most of us need our jobs … but!

Work Life BalanceEach person’s job is different and requires different sacrifices and offers different rewards. The perfect job for one person could also be a nightmare for another. Some want a job that is predictable and regular, while other may want a job that has certain elements of excitement and surprises.

Most of us can agree that we need money to survive, but everyone has a different definition of how much of it is needed. We can also agree that the amount of work we must be committed to depends on our goals and aspirations. If those aspirations are lofty, be prepared for a lot of work and hopefully it is something you really enjoy and find personally rewarding. On the other hand, a huge number of professionals want a balanced career and life. In other words, we want to earn sufficient money to offer our desired standard of living, but also the time and psychological energy reserve so we can enjoy life and family.

So, what should you do? There are five (5) basic suggestions that can be adapted to your particular situation.

Here they are.

  1. Increase your level of expertise – Simply stated, the more expertise you have the more efficiently and effective you can do your job. If you can do a 2 hour job or project in 30 minutes, you have 90 minutes of discretionary time. Let’s be clear that I am not suggesting that we always use that extra time for personal business, but it can lead to more time to “enjoy” life.
  2. Prioritize your tasks and projectsYou must take a proactive approach to your schedule and time or you will always be under time and dead line pressure. I would say, never make a random list. Every list should be prioritized so that by the end of the day you have accomplished what is important and sometimes urgent. The other benefit is that you do not have to feel guilty about leaving the office on time to fulfill an item on your “life” or family list.
  3. Don’t leave vacation time on the booksUse your vacation. Don’t forget that vacation time is a real part of your compensation. Of course, there are some organizations that limit the amount of carry-over vacation or cash out excess amounts. The real value of vacation is the opportunity for you to decompress, and revitalize your energy level and stamina. Actually, vacations are offered so that you can be more effective and efficient while at work.
  4. Get a hobbyIf you don’t have a hobby, get one! If you have abandoned your hobby, or friends, revisit the hobby and revitalize the relationships with your friends. It is important to schedule time to visit with friends. Some may even enjoy the same hobby as you do. Earlier, I mentioned prioritizing you lists and this includes time for your hobbies, family and friends.
  5. Make a financial plan and follow itYou may have felt that financial planning is for the very wealthy. I think that the opposite is true. My theory is that everyone should plan to sustain at least six months of unemployment. In a globalized economy, entire industries can change or be “off-shored” overnight. Your financial plan may not resemble a wealthy person’s plan, but the needs are similar. You need to minimize debt, increase savings, increase equity and provide a financial cushion for difficult periods and unexpected events.

Peace of mind is very important and critical to your state of well-being. A part of work-life balance is the freedom from stress and misery. We could develop a longer list of suggestions, but the key point is to begin the process. If you don’t agree with all of the items on this list, feel free to make substitutions. The main thing is to GET STARTED on your plan.

The Training Shelf Newsletter covers a wide variety of topics that relate to leadership, management and small business, so you can refresh your skills as needed. Don’t forget that you can search the archives depending on your interest.

Related Articles:   Improve Your Results for FREE!    and   Poorly Worded Performance Goals … No, No, No!

FREE Digital Course PreviewsChange Management  Communication   SkillsPRIDE   System of Customer Service  Interviewing Skills  Performance Management  ROAR Model of Process Improvement  Superior Sales Strategies  Time Management

If you have an interesting story or different view-point, please share and follow The Training Shelf Blog. We show our appreciation for referrals through our Referral Program. Please click here for additional training resources.

Posted in Professional Skills

Situational Responses… here are three!

Customer Problem ResolvedIn any organization, you may be asked to change or transfer to a different team or department. Depending on the size of the organization, you may find yourself working with team members that are new to you and you are new to them. On that first day, I am sure that any of us would have a desire to fit in and become a productive member of the team. So, on that first day your desire is to be as helpful as possible and demonstrate that you are a great team member. You also suspected that you may have to take on some extra work when necessary.

OK, you are ready to go, but not so fast. There may also be occasions when someone tries to take advantage of your positive attitude and demeanor to pass on (or “stiff” you with) his or her work. Also, your team leader probably has some ambitious plans to “fill your plate.” There are probably many scenarios where this may occur, but in this article we will explore three (3) of them and suggest some simple responses that you can diplomatically use to fend of the onslaught.

  1. Could you help me with this?As a new team member, you could be put in a position where someone asks you to help out on a project and you agree. On the face of it, that is the right thing to do. But, on some occasions someone may have taken advantage of you. There are many cases where someone has “palmed” of some work on someone else while they were free to socialize, take long lunch breaks or leave the office on time. This is unfair, but it does happen. Here is a suggested response that can be reformatted or tailored to fit more closely with your situation.

The response – Respond to the request with a version of this template: “I would be delighted to assist you, however I have task A, B and C. I must discuss my progress with my team leader at 4:00 p.m. If those tasks are completely satisfactory and accepted, I will let you know how much time I can allocate to your request. This response emphasizes the fact that you have limited time and several important tasks or projects to complete.

  1. Over-delegationConsider a situation where a colleague has significant experience in project management, for example. One of the fundamental and first steps in setting up a project is to develop a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This colleague has significant experience managing projects, but sends you an email requesting that you create and setup a project to remodel the office space. You might actually be interested in developing this skill, but you may not have set up a large scale project from scratch before. The requester does not know this or does not care. Here is a suggested response that can be reformatted or adjusted to fit more closely with your situation.

The responseRespond to the request with a version of this template. If you are open to learning the process, you could respond in this manner: “This sounds like an excellent opportunity, but I would need your help because of your extensive experience and expertise in project management. When can we set a meeting for you to show me the basics and setting up the WBS in The project management software system? On the other hand, if you are not interested in this skill set, you could say something like: I would love to be able to help you, but I have no experience in setting up large projects, nor do I know how to use the project management system software. So, I am not sure if I am the best person to assist on such a large and important assignment.

  1. A favor pleaseAs a valued team member, there is usually at least one person who seems to become your mentor or “guru.” In due course, they begin to ask for your assistance on various tasks or assignments. Of course you feel the need to reciprocate because of the welcome and assistance that you have received. Actually, you feel obligated. Alternatively, there are team members that recognize your skill level. Cooperation is not limited to those we consider as friends, but we don’t like to be approached only because we have certain skills and someone’s deadline is imminent.

The responseBefore we offer the template, it is important to consider the kind of relationship we desire with that person in the future. If you determine that you do not desire or need a relationship with this person, you could formulate a response similar to this: “I would be delighted to assist you, however I have task A, B C. I must discuss my progress with my team leader at 4:00 p.m. If those tasks are completely satisfactory and accepted, I will let you know how much time I can allocate to your request.” However, if you would like to build a relationship with this person, invite them to lunch or a coffee break. You can determine if you want a relationship with this person for business or personal reasons. You can then make a better determination of whether or not the person is just “palming” off work, or you may actually want to assist them.

Generally, all of us want to help people, but none of us want to be “used” just because we are open to helping others. Remember to be an advocate for yourself and do what is in your own best interest.

The Training Shelf Newsletter covers a wide variety of topics that relate to leadership, management and small business, so you can refresh your skills as needed. Don’t forget that you can search the archives depending on your interest.

Related Articles:   Brainstorming … for more solutions!   and   Hubris … don’t catch this disease!

FREE Digital Course PreviewsChange Management  Communication Skills  PRIDE System of Customer Service  Interviewing Skills  Performance Management  ROAR Model of Process Improvement  Superior Sales Strategies  Time Management

If you have an interesting story or different view point, please share and follow The Training Shelf Blog. We show our appreciation for referrals through our Referral Program. Please click here for additional training resources.

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Posted in Team Building

Project Problems … 5 reasons!

Close Your ProjectAs a team leader, you have a full plate. Among other tasks, you must ensure that your projects are completed on time and on budget. Even with excellent delegating skills, it is still difficult to complete projects on time. Even more potential problems await you if you have multiple project underway simultaneously.

As you have discovered, most of the project management issues that you face tend to manifest in a few areas. My theory is that if you can solve any one major issue, you will improve your success rate. So, in this article, let’s examine five areas that create problems for everyone who leads a project. Even experienced project leaders should review some of the issues that can throw a “monkey wrench” into the project plan.

Let’s examine these five (5) issues.

  1. Poor PlanningSome of the most common results of poor planning are missing milestones and insufficient resources. One solution is to outline or map the entire cycle of the project so you can readjust schedules, update milestones, and adjust budgets to match timelines. An updated flowchart of the project also demonstrates to the leadership that the project is on a path to a successful completion.
  2. Manual ProcessMaintaining a manual project plan is likely to fail in all but the simplest projects. Valuable time will be spent updating schedules and emailing changes to team members. One of the simplest ways to manage this process is to use a spreadsheet such as Excel, Google Sheets or Libre Offices’ Sheets to schedule the project. This “project” can be updated and emailed or placed on the team’s network so that everyone is aware of the changes. Depending on your organizational situation, there are special project management software packages that allow each team member to log in and see the status of every aspect of the project that concerns them.
  3. Insufficient ToolsAs stated in the previous recommendation, the most counterproductive thing you can do is to try to manage a project with inadequate tools. There is an abundance of free and moderately priced project management software that provides connectivity with email, internet, spreadsheets, smartphone apps, and cloud-based programs. These software packages eliminate mixing different methods. Therefore, it is best to choose one project management system that will work with all of them. This could likely be a cloud-based, standardized platform that can handle all of your project management needs.
  4. Monitoring, follow-up and correctionFailure to conduct project reviews is a serious error. Monitoring and correcting the project progress along the way is essential. These reviews can be scaled to the size and duration of the project. This is also an opportunity for the project leader to evaluate the effectiveness of previous decisions. To prevent misunderstandings or complications, review meetings provide an opportunity to reevaluate goals and milestones. By evaluating the project progress in small increments, you’ll be able to quickly make adjustments to budgets, tasks, allocation of resources and many other elements.
  5. Authoritarian controlEven the most experienced project leader, with the most powerful management software solution is in trouble if the entire team does not buy in to the same goals and a similar way of thinking. One solution is to encourage every team member to think and act like a project leader. Let them know that you expect all team members to communicate effectively and openly, collaborate with each other, delegate tasks, ask for help as needed, proofread documents, report progress, and problems on a timely basis.

The Training Shelf Newsletter covers a wide variety of topics that relate to leadership, management and small business, so you can refresh your skills as needed. Don’t forget that you can search the archives depending on your interest.

Related Articles:   Keep Track of Your Next Project   and   My Project Failed … 5 reasons why!

FREE Digital Course PreviewsChange Management  Communication Skills  PRIDE System of Customer Service  Interviewing Skills  Performance Management  ROAR Model of Process Improvement  Superior Sales Strategies  Time Management

If you have an interesting story or different view-point, please share and follow The Training Shelf Blog. We show our appreciation for referrals through our Referral Program. Please click here for additional training resources.

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Posted in Professional Skills, Project Management

Why Are We Still Doing IT … That Way?

Business Process Improvement CourseBut, wait! We spent millions of dollars last year on the new systems and now they are doing things the same way they did a year age. This could be your worst nightmare.

As a team leader, you monitor the activities of your team and the business processes they use. No doubt, you look for opportunities to improve these processes when necessary. Most probably you observe their step by step activities to determine if those elements of the process continue to add value. One of the results of your review may be that a particular step may no longer be required. You should also observe the way your team actually works.

Irrespective of the new technologies that may have been installed, people are the key to making any process work as desired. Just looking at the numbers is probably not enough. You must be careful to consider people and factor them into the analysis and evaluation of your processes. One of the key reasons to include these factors is that you must be able to help the team set realistic goals.

Here are three (3) suggestions.

  1. Efficiency – As a team leader, you want an efficient operation. A consideration that you must include in the analysis is the little things that create interruptions and loss of concentration for your team members. For example, newer team members often ask more experienced team members for instructions and advice throughout the day. These requests, although reasonable, can break or interrupt concentration. Efficiency is a worthwhile objective, but must be moderated by a number of human factors. If not, quality will suffer and continued efficiency will be sacrificed.
  2. Human factors – There are business processes that do not acknowledge such factors as fatigue and the ability to concentrate or focus for extended periods of time. A significant amount of research has been conducted on the factors of fatigue and concentration. This fact is documented by simply tracking the organizations who continuously hire for the same position. Every organization should try to operate in a manner that allows it to retain quality team members. These established team members help to ensure the maintenance of quality standards.
  3. Effectiveness – Since people are not machines, they need an environment that helps their concentration and focus. This is a required factor that must be included in any change in processes.  If you decide to make changes to your processes, you must consider people and not simply workflow or streamlining. Morale and loyalty issues are valid considerations as well.

The overarching consideration for changing a process is to find a way to more clearly focus on the work or activities that add value to the processes. If you can eliminate or at least minimize the amount of work that does not add value to your efforts, effectiveness and efficiency will increase.

The Training Shelf Newsletter covers a wide variety of topics that relate to leadership, management and small business, so you can refresh your skills as needed. Don’t forget that you can search the archives depending on your interest.

Related Articles:   Handling Annoying Team Members   and   Dominant Personalities … of team members!

FREE Digital Course PreviewsChange Management  Communication Skills  PRIDE System of Customer Service  Interviewing Skills  Performance Management  ROAR Model of Process Improvement  Superior Sales Strategies  Time Management

If you have an interesting story or different view point, please share and follow The Training Shelf Blog. We show our appreciation for referrals through our Referral Program. Please click here for additional training resources.

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Why Don’t I Believe Them?

Presentation ElementsHere is the scenario! A speaker’s voice has made a presentation to obtain your agreement to a proposal. The proposal could be business or personal. A business proposal could involve any number of matters such as vendor selection, lease agreements, purchase decisions or many other possibilities. But here is the problem. The speaker or presenter has made an excellent presentation that competently explained the pros and cons of the proposal. You are convinced that the presentation was professionally delivered, but you are not persuaded.

Why is that? One possible reason is the speaker’s body language or non-verbal communication. The speaker’s voice contains nonverbal elements known as para-language, including voice quality, rate, pitch, volume and style. Nonverbal communication involves the conscious and unconscious processes of facial expressions, gestures, and postures. As human beings, we attempt to decode and interpret this information based on our previous experience.

Let’s examine some of these non-verbal clues. Here are four (4) possibilities.

  1. Face and eyesPerceptive presenters make frequent eye contact. This tends to convey the feeling or attitude that one is interested in relating to each person with whom the eye contact is made. The lack of eye contact tends to indicate less interest in relating to the person(s) with whom eye contact is made.
  2. Arms and hands – Behavioral experts have concluded that speakers and presenters who spread their arms and use the open hand position tend to be more relaxed and perceptive. Conversely, arms and hands that are clenched, crossed, positioned in front of their mouth, or rubbing the back of their neck tend to connote less receptivity or, in some cases, honesty.
  3. Legs and feetPerceptive speakers and presenters tend to sit with legs together or one leg slightly in front of the other. When standing, they distribute weight evenly and place hands on their hips with their body tilted toward the speaker. Less perceptive or insincere speakers or presenters tend to stand with legs alternating between being crosses and uncrossed.
  4. TorsoReceptive and open speakers or presenters tend to sit on the edge of their chair in a relaxed manner and with their body tilted toward the audience or group. Alternatively, the less perceptive or less than honest speaker or presenter may lean back in their chair and maintain a closed position.

Learning the language of non-verbal communications is equivalent to learning a foreign language. Being able to read the non-verbal communication of another person can significantly aid in the communication process. Being aware of inconsistencies between a person’s verbal and non-verbal communication will also help you to make better decisions.

The Training Shelf Newsletter covers a wide variety of topics that relate to leadership, management and small business, so you can refresh your skills as needed. Don’t forget that you can search the archives depending on your interest.

Related Articles:   When Presenting … pause here, here and here! and   Engage Your Audience … compel them to listen!

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If you have an interesting story or different view-point, please share and follow The Training Shelf Blog. We show our appreciation for referrals through our Referral Program. Please click here for additional training resources.

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Posted in Presentation Skills, Professional Skills

A Few Productivity Tips

Performance ManagementAt times, we ask ourselves, what can we do to be more productive at work? As you journey closer to being a more effective team leader, the next step may not be a monumental new management or leadership theory. It could be as simple as finding ways for your team to be more creative and effective at work. Creative team members are tremendously valuable to any organization.

So, let’s examine a few easy and low stress ideas that could increase your team’s productivity.

  1.  Professional Priorities – Have you asked your team members what their professional priorities are? It is obvious that we must execute our assignments, but beyond that each team member has or should have some personal and professional goals. If you know what your team members’ personal or professional priorities are, you may be able to suggest or provide an opportunity for that person to get some exposure in the area of their choice. Again, we must get the work done. However, most team members could possibly feel more motivated if they know that to the extent possible, their team leader has their personal and professional priorities in mind.
  2. Generate new ideasConsider developing a “brain storming” session where team members are encouraged to share their ideas. If some team members are shy about openly sharing their ideas, perhaps you can try to anonymize the process by encouraging written submissions to be discussed by the entire team. This helps the team members to feel a deeper connection with the organization as well as the team. You could also ask team members to email or send a note when they have an idea and let them know that you are willing to listen. This type of open communication tends to promote a risk free flow of ideas within your team.
  3. Seating arrangementsSeating arrangements are another way in which you can facilitate the free flow of ideas within your team. It could also be worth the effort to ask the team to brainstorm seating or work station arrangements. Of course, there may be some physical factors that must be considered along with any suggestions. Team leaders that want to take their teams to the next must constantly seek ways to draw out the creativity of each team member. Often, some of the ideas you implement do not add cost or bureaucratic effort to the organization. You never know when a simple idea could morph into the next new product or service that could lead to more productivity and job satisfaction.
  4. EmailEmail is so important that most of us are logged in all day. However, one suggestion that could allow your team members to be more focused is to allow, where possible, the silencing of audible notifications. The reason is that an audible notification interrupts concentration and initiates a “Pavlovian” response that requires checking your email every few minutes. If possible, it could be helpful to let others know that you check email at certain times and will respond within a certain time limit but if the issue is urgent to call you. The nature of each organization’s business will dictate the extent that you can implement this suggestion.
  5. MeetingsAll of us have been invited to attend various meetings. Some of these are necessary but others are not. Check to determine if you are simply on a distribution list from other completed projects. Depending on your organization policy, you may be able to as a team members to attend in your absence or to request a copy of the official minutes and action assignments. If the meeting notification is merely an update meeting, ask if you can provide your update in writing so you can keep your current project moving.

    The Training Shelf Newsletter covers a wide variety of topics that relate to leadership, management and small business, so you can refresh your skills as needed. Don’t forget that you can search the archives depending on your interest.

    Related Articles:   Habits and Skills… that will help you 5 years from now!   and   Get… Things Done W/o Authority

    FREE Digital Course PreviewsChange Management  Communication Skills  PRIDE System of Customer Service  Interviewing Skills  Performance Management  ROAR Model of Process Improvement  Superior Sales Strategies  Time Management

    If you have an interesting story or different view-point, please share and follow The Training Shelf Blog. We show our appreciation for referrals through our Referral Program. Please click here for additional training resources.

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Posted in Performance Management, Professional Skills

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