Five Strategic Tips for a Profitable Future

Future Profit

A recently published book, Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential guide to competition and strategy (Magretta, 2012), compiles and applies the work of management guru, Michael Porter.   Full of useful insights, here are five pearls of wisdom that can if applied, create a more robust, more profitable and sustainable business.

Tip 1: “Strategy explains how an organization, faced with competition, will achieve superior performance. The definition is deceptively simple”

Performance is not about your competition, it is about achieving superior performance, every day, regardless of what is happening with your competitors or markets.

Tip 2: “Competitive advantage is not about beating rivals; it’s about creating unique value for customers. If you have a competitive advantage, it will show up on your P & L”

To create unique value is not about you beating your competitors, it is about you delivering (through superior performance) the unique value by focusing on your customers’ needs.

Tip 3: “Strategic competition means choosing a path different from that of others”

If you accept that the competitive goal is superior performance, then it makes sense to achieve that performance using methods different to the competitors. You have to be able to differentiate yourself not only in the customer’s eyes but in how you achieve that differentiation – in how you deliver value to the customer.

Tip 4: “The value proposition is the element of strategy that looks outward at customers, at the demand side of the business. The value chain focuses internally on operations. Strategy is fundamentally integrative, bringing the demand and supply sides together”

A strategy is about achieving a position.  Here it is to achieve superior performance whilst delivering superior value to the customer.  You need to be able to focus on how you will drive that superior performance, and what this means in terms of superior customer value.  In this, you need to continuously improve the efficiency of your internal operations.

Tip 5: “There is no honor in size or growth if those are profitless. Competition is about profit, not market share”

This tip serves as a reminder that we need to be the most profitable, not the biggest in top-line revenue or headcount.

Consider these five tips in a context of your own organization. What should you do to meet the requirements of all five? Is your current strategy going to work for you in the coming next few years?

What has worked or not worked for you? Share your knowledge, share the wealth!

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Five Strategies for Growing Successfully

Not all growth is good growth, five tips to help you ensure that growth is good

Do you want to grow your business?  If so, do you know how you are going to grow the business?  And are you aware of the difference between good growth and bad growth?

People often want to grow for growth’s own sake.  This is more about taking on risk than taking on growth.

Strategy 1: Control Your Growth

You need to manage growth, not have it manage you.  I suspect more companies have failed through poorly managed and unplanned growth than any other reason.  At times you will also want to slow growth to allow you to “catch up” with yourself.  Fast and successful growth is rare.  You need to be able to absorb the lessons you learn as you grow and incorporate them into your next steps.  In doing this you also need to consider some of the risks that are associated with poorly controlled growth, these include:

  • Cash flow risks – growth consumes cash, and rapid growth consumes cash rapidly. If you are not careful you can find yourself with insufficient cash to cover your operating costs; you also run the risk of trading whilst insolvent.  It only requires one unexpected cost or one delayed customer payment to push you over the edge.
  • Operational crunch – to produce the volume required to support your growth can be difficult.  Equipment and/or people have to operate beyond what is practical, and things start to come apart at the seams with increasing inefficiencies and attendant risks.
  • Poor customer service – you have more customers to look after and not always the available people or resources to do so.
  • Rapid expenditure – with more orders coming in you may be tempted to spend more on people, infrastructure, and resources.  You want to invest, but not over-invest or leave yourself exposed.
  • People risks – existing people will be worried about the rapid changes, stressed by an increasing workload, exhausted by an expanded role for which they may not be suitable or experienced, and worried if you will be able to pay them each month.  St the time you need them most you may find your best people, who are the most marketable, may leave.
  • Decision-making changeswith rapid growth people need to step back from an operational focus to a leadership role.  There is a risk that leaders can become disconnected from what is happening at the front-line and make decisions based on the incomplete or inaccurate information.
  • Leadership shortfalls – people who may be operationally adept may lack the necessary leadership skills, business acumen or interpersonal skills to lead effectively.  This can cause problems and compound existing risks.

Strategy 2: Go for Good Growth, Avoid Bad Growth

Good growth is aligned with your purpose and what you are trying to achieve.  Bad growth is not aligned.  Often the problem of bad growth is that you are prepared to take a short-term gain but sacrifice the long-term future.  For example, taking on a big client who has a poor reputation for paying on time leads to serious cash flow issues later and takes a disproportionate amount of your precious time in managing the relationship and fire-fighting. This can also impact your team, lower morale and create stress and pressure.

Make sure that what you do, who you partner with, and who you sell to are aligned.  Good growth is about servicing the need of selected and targeted clients – not any client with a checkbook.  For good growth, you need to say no to opportunities to keep focused and aligned.

Strategy 3: Growth Means Letting Go

If you want to grow you need to prune back.  As the demands and needs of your business change so I remember, as a child, playing on the monkey bars.  The only way you can forward on the monkey bars is to let go with one hand, swing forward, and grasp the next rung. So you need to repeat it to get to the other end. Business is just the same. Let go to grow.

Strategy 4: Lead Your Growth

Growth is about change, and change is about leadership, not management. You need to lead your people and share with them the answers to three questions:

  • What are we changing from and why?
  • What are we changing to and why?
  • How are we going to do this?

Doing this remove any vagueness or information vacuums which can cause stress and rumors and stories (often inaccurate) in an attempt to fill the gap.

Strategy 5: Go Slowly

Business is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Paradoxically, by going slower you will get there faster – and with your risks better managed, and you be better prepared for them.

To grow, and to grow profitably, control your growth, go for good growth, let go to move forward, lead your people to growth and to grow well grow slow.

Please feel free to re-tweet, re-blog, email and share this article with others who may find it of use or interest.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Physics & Productivity

How to use Newton’s three laws of motion to become more productive

In our physic classes as children, we all learned Sir Isaac Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. Universal in their application they can also be used as an interesting analogy for increasing your productivity, simplifying your work, and improving your life.

Newton’s First Law of Productivity

First Law of Motion: An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity unless acted upon by an external force. (i.e. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.)

Underpinning this is the basic fact that if you want to be productive you need to take action; you never achieve anything by doing nothing! This law has two key aspects when it comes to getting things going or getting started”

Firstly, objects at rest tend to stay at rest.  If you do nothing, then nothing will happen.

Secondly, objects in motion tend to stay motion.  Once you get things started it is much easier to keep going.

So what are the learnings from this?

Firstly, don’t procrastinate – find a way by which to get started.  Just start it! (With apologies to Nike).  You don’t have to do much, just begin it. By beginning, you start moving, and by moving you start to gain momentum, and in gaining momentum you become more motivated, and as you become more motivated so it becomes easier to do the work and your speed picks up.

This brings us to the second law.

Newton’s Second Law of Productivity

Second Law of Motion: F=ma. The vector sum of the forces on an object is equal to the mass (m) of that object multiplied by the acceleration (a) vector of the object. (i.e. Force equals mass times acceleration.)

Let’s break down this equation, F=ma, and how it can apply to productivity.

The important thing is that F (force) is a vector that involves both magnitude (how much work you are putting in) and direction (where that work is focused). In other words, if you want to get an object accelerating in a particular direction, then the size of the force you apply and the direction of that force will both make a difference.

It’s the same process for getting things done in your life.

If you want to be productive, it’s not merely about how hard you work (magnitude); it’s also about where that work is applied (direction). This is true of big life decisions and small daily decisions.

Fig. 1 Example of How You Could Use Your Skills

For example, you could apply the same skill set in different directions and get very different results. As you can see in the example below you could use the skills, insights, and expertise you gain from completing a business degree in several different ways. You can only do so much, so make where and how you focus time, effort and attention count!

Newton’s Third Law of Productivity

Third Law of Motion: When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body. (i.e. equal and opposite forces.)

We all work at an average speed of our life. And our average is, well, just average.  There are times when your levels of productivity and efficiency are at a peak, and there are times when your levels are low. When we are productive and efficient we use productive forces such as focus, positivity, and motivation.  When we are unproductive we experience unproductive forces like stress, lack of sleep or multi-tasking (trying to balance too many tasks at once).

In making progress and becoming more productive and effective there are two things we can do – we can look to double our productive forces (e.g. work harder and longer, watch a motivational video, have a cup of coffee) and/or have the unproductive forces we experience (e.g. simplify what you are doing, learn to say no or change your environment (for example, tidy up your office).

Fig. 2 How To Make Progress

If you reduce the unproductive forces in your life, your productivity will improve naturally.

Summary of Newton’s Laws of Productivity

1. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Don’t procrastinate, look to start on what needs to be done as possible – this will create forward momentum.

2.It’s not just about working hard, it’s also about working on the right things. You have a limited amount of energy, time and resources to bring to bear, so where you apply it matters.

3. Your productivity is a balance of opposing forces. If you want to be more productive, you can either power through the barriers or remove the opposing forces. The second option seems to be less stressful.

Finally, the power of these laws is even greater if you leverage them and use them in conjunction with each other.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Ways to Improve How You Work

improve2

We are often so busy doing the work that we forget to take a step back and give ourselves the time to focus and re-energize ourselves.  Here are 3 tips for improving your personal effectiveness, no matter what you do.

1. Boost your personal efficiency
When looking at profit improvement potential (or waste) in a business it is often said it is easy to identify 30% of your current overheads as ‘waste’. The same can be said if you audited yourself for your levels of efficiency. 30% of what you do on a day-to-day basis is a waste. Outside the box ways to boost your efficiency are required. Some key tips are:

  • Hire a Virtual Assistant to prevent you performing tasks you don’t have to
  • Stop doing many of the things that are not in the 20% of things you do which create 80% of the benefit
  • Build processes and document all aspects of your business you currently do ‘naturally’ so you can delegate more of what you do
  • Use the latest technology platforms such as Ipads, Livescribe pens, and various apps to better collect your notes, ideas, strategies and increase your speed in finding them at a later date

2. Protect your energy levels
Think of the networks of people in business and personally you associate with on a regular basis.  Are these people providing you a boost in your energy levels when you connect with them or are they taking away your valuable energy levels (acting as what we call ‘Energy Vampires’)?  If you have the balance wrong and have a large portion acting as ‘Energy Vampires’ it can have a detrimental effect on your ability to implement change and deliver the outcomes you are seeking.  Perform a quick audit on your circle of business and personal contacts; what do you have to change?

3. What is your ‘theme’ for the next 12 months?
Having a theme for your plans for the next 12 months can help focus more acutely your team, customers and importantly yourself on what’s important when driving strategies/actions. Themes could include: “Innovation”, “Growth”, “Efficiency”, “Profit”, “Downsize”, “Consolidate” or “Improve Life Balance”.

What has worked or not worked for you? Share your knowledge, share the wealth!

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Empowering Your Employees to Empower Themselves

How to create an environment that empowers people.

As a manager or leader, do you let your people assume more responsibility when they are able? Do you know when that is, or do you keep telling yourself that they aren’t ready yet?In my travels from organization to organization, I talk with thousands of people every year who want to be treated as “partners” rather than as employees. They want information to flow up as well as down. But, oftentimes, leaders do not want to give up control.

Marshall Goldsmith, the world’s leading CEO, tells a story of a CEO he knew who was the leader of one of the world’s largest global organizations. This CEO received feedback that he was too stubborn and opinionated. He learned that he needed to do a better job of letting others to make decisions and to focus less on being right himself. He practiced this simple technique for one year: before speaking, he would take a breath and ask himself, “Is it worth it?” He learned that 50% of the time his comments may have been right on, but they weren’t worth it. He quickly began focusing more on empowering others and letting them take ownership and commitment for decisions, and less on his own need to add value.

Your employees understand their jobs. They know their tasks, roles, and functions within the organization, and it’s time for you to let them do what they need to do to get the job done. But there is a critical point that is often missed: It isn’t possible for a leader to “empower” someone to be accountable and make good decisions. People have to empower themselves. Your role is to encourage and support the decision-making environment and to give employees the tools and knowledge they need to make and act upon their own decisions. By doing this, you help your employees reach an empowered state.

The process does take longer — employees will only believe they are empowered when they are left alone to accomplish results over a period of time — but it’s effective and worth the time. If a company has a history of shutting down or letting go of initiators, for instance, the leader can’t just tell employees, “You are empowered to make decisions.”

Part of building an empowering environment is dependent on the leader’s ability to run interference on behalf of the team. The leader needs to make sure people are safe doing their jobs. To make sure this happens, an ongoing discussion of the needs, opportunities, tasks, obstacles, projects, what is working and what is not working is absolutely critical to the development and maintenance of a “safe” working environment. You are likely to spend a lot of time in dialogue with other leaders, employees, team members, and peers.

Following are a few things leaders can do to build an environment that empowers people.

1. Give power to those who have demonstrated the capacity to handle the responsibility.

2. Create a favorable environment in which people are encouraged to grow their skills.

3. Don’t second-guess others’ decisions and ideas unless it’s absolutely necessary. This only undermines their confidence and keeps them from sharing future ideas with you.

4. Give people discretion and autonomy over their tasks and resources.

Successful leaders and managers today are willing to exercise their leadership in such a way that their people are empowered to make decisions, share information, and try new things. Most employees (future leaders) see the value in finding empowerment and are willing to take on the responsibilities that come with it. If future leaders have the wisdom to learn from the experience of present leaders, and if present leaders have the wisdom to build an environment that empowers people, both will share in the benefits.

There are much more things that leaders can do to build and environment that empowers people. Please send any ideas you have. I would love to hear them!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Five Strategies for Growing Successfully

Not all growth is good growth, five tips to help you ensure that growth is good

Do you want to grow your business?  If so, do you know how you are going to grow the business?  And are you aware of the difference between good growth and bad growth?

People often want to grow for growth’s own sake.  This is more about taking on risk than taking on growth.

Strategy 1: Control Your Growth

You need to manage growth, not have it manage you.  I suspect more companies have failed through poorly managed and unplanned growth than any other reason.  At times you will also want to slow growth to allow you to “catch up” with yourself.  Fast and successful growth is rare.  You need to be able to absorb the lessons you learn as you grow and incorporate them into your next steps.  In doing this you also need to consider some of the risks that are associated with poorly controlled growth, these include:

  • Cash flow risks – growth consumes cash, and rapid growth consumes cash rapidly. If you are not careful you can find yourself with insufficient cash to cover your operating costs; you also run the risk of trading whilst insolvent.  It only requires one unexpected cost or one delayed customer payment to push you over the edge.
  • Operational crunch – to produce the volume required to support your growth can be difficult.  Equipment and/or people have to operate beyond what is practical, and things start to come apart at the seams with increasing inefficiencies and attendant risks.
  • Poor customer service – you have more customers to look after and not always the available people or resources to do so.
  • Rapid expenditure – with more orders coming in you may be tempted to spend more on people, infrastructure, and resources.  You want to invest, but not over-invest or leave yourself exposed.
  • People risks – existing people will be worried about the rapid changes, stressed by an increasing workload, exhausted by an expanded role for which they may not be suitable or experienced, and worried if you will be able to pay them each month.  St the time you need them most you may find your best people, who are the most marketable, may leave.
  • Decision-making changeswith rapid growth people need to step back from an operational focus to a leadership role.  There is a risk that leaders can become disconnected from what is happening at the front-line and make decisions based on the incomplete or inaccurate information.
  • Leadership shortfalls – people who may be operationally adept may lack the necessary leadership skills, business acumen or interpersonal skills to lead effectively.  This can cause problems and compound existing risks.

Strategy 2: Go for Good Growth, Avoid Bad Growth

Good growth is aligned with your purpose and what you are trying to achieve.  Bad growth is not aligned.  Often the problem of bad growth is that you are prepared to take a short-term gain but sacrifice the long-term future.  For example, taking on a big client who has a poor reputation for paying on time leads to serious cash flow issues later and takes a disproportionate amount of your precious time in managing the relationship and fire-fighting. This can also impact your team, lower morale and create stress and pressure.

Make sure that what you do, who you partner with, and who you sell to are aligned.  Good growth is about servicing the need of selected and targeted clients – not any client with a checkbook.  For good growth, you need to say no to opportunities to keep focused and aligned.

Strategy 3: Growth Means Letting Go

If you want to grow you need to prune back.  As the demands and needs of your business change so I remember, as a child, playing on the monkey bars.  The only way you can forward on the monkey bars is to let go with one hand, swing forward, and grasp the next rung. So you need to repeat it to get to the other end. Business is just the same. Let go to grow.

Strategy 4: Lead Your Growth

Growth is about change, and change is about leadership, not management. You need to lead your people and share with them the answers to three questions:

  • What are we changing from and why?
  • What are we changing to and why?
  • How are we going to do this?

Doing this remove any vagueness or information vacuums which can cause stress and rumors and stories (often inaccurate) in an attempt to fill the gap.

Strategy 5: Go Slowly

Business is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Paradoxically, by going slower you will get there faster – and with your risks better managed, and you be better prepared for them.

To grow, and to grow profitably, control your growth, go for good growth, let go to move forward, lead your people to growth and to grow well grow slow.

Please feel free to re-tweet, re-blog, email and share this article with others who may find it of use or interest.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Requirements for High Employee Engagement

Sustainable Engagement

Are your people really engaged in their work or not?  What does current research tell us? What are the implications of the results?

Falling levels of engagement are leading indicators that your business is likely to experience a fall in productivity, a decline in customer service, and increasing rates of absenteeism and employee turnover.

Disengagement, in all its forms, is a real risk to the organization’s productivity and performance. This is especially important in increasing competitive and volatile times, especially as organizations downsize with reduced workforces having to do more with less.

The 3 Elements of Sustainable Engagement

Tower Watson describes sustainable engagement describes the intensity of employees’ connection to their organization, based on three core elements:

  • The extent of employees’ discretionary effort committed to achieving work goals (being engaged)
  • An environment that supports productivity in multiple ways (being enabled)
  • A work experience that promotes well-being (feeling energized)

Traditional engagement

  • Belief in company goals and objectives
  • Emotional connection (pride, would recommend employer)
  • Willingness to give extra effort to support success

Enablement

  • Freedom from obstacles to success at work
  • Availability of resources to perform well
  • Ability to meet work challenges effectively

Energy

  • Ability to maintain energy at work
  • Supportive social environment
  • Feelings of enthusiasm/accomplishment at work

How Engaged are You & Your Team?

A study by Towers Watson in 2012 shows that only one in three employees are highly engaged – the rest are unsupported, detached or disengaged.  These types of engagement and whether people in each category are engaged, enabled or energized is shown below.

Types of Engagement & Attributes Mix

Types of Engagement & Attributes Mix

Global Levels of Engagement (Tower Watson, 2012)

2012 Global Levels of Engagement On average, only one in three of your employees are engaged – the rest are not sustainably engaged.

About one in five is engaged but lack the necessary support to perform and/or a feeling of achievement and support at work.

Nearly one in five is detached – they have the support they need to perform, and the feeling of achievement and energy, but they are not aligned and engaged with their work.

One in four is disengaged – they are not engaged, energized or enabled in their work.  As such they are unhappy in their work, and use your business as the means by which to share their unhappiness to other employees, clients and others.

What Does This Mean for Organisations?

Organisations need to take the time and make the effort to understand their people and where the engagement gaps are that need to be addressed.  To help engage people, and to create performance and the realization of the right outcomes and productivity you need to ensure:

  1. You have the right people
  2. Who are using the right tools, who have
  3. Access to the development of the skills and behaviours they need

So what are you going to do, and where can you work first to have the greatest impact?  Your people are your biggest asset not on your balance sheet – so invest in them!

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Ways to Meet the Faster Pace of Business

It.is not how fast business goes that matters, it is how and if you can keep up!

The pace of doing business is speeding up not slowing down.

Each year the pressure grows on all areas of a business including its people, cash-flow, leadership, innovation, business models, technologies and ability to implementation strategies successfully. This pressure can lead to issues arising across the business that ultimately impact its overall growth and profit potential.

Standing back from all the specific issues stemming from this ‘high pace’ of doing business most can quickly be related back to the in-ability to implement ‘change’ successfully.

So what does a business leader or owner do? What are the strategies that should be implemented to ‘adjust’ the business and its people to this NEW normal environment for doing business?

Here are three strategies that can assist businesses and teams cope with the high pace of doing business:

Strategy 1 – Focus on Micro tasks
Think back to the last planning session you had or project team you were involved in. What was the nature of the strategies / actions that were set? Were they quite broad or were they very specific outlining the steps that need to be taken. Too often planning sessions lead to broad statements such as: ‘Do a marketing plan’, ‘Refine our sales process’ or ‘Fix that problem’ but rarely outline HOW to achieve those outcomes or the micro steps / tasks required. This leads to teams either heading down the wrong paths or not starting to change at all.

The simple solution when you see this occurring is to keep breaking down the broad task into micro tasks that highlight the HOW and the steps required to reach the desired outcome. Try this simple strategy in your next planning session and you instantly see the benefits.

Strategy 2 – Provide just-in-time learning
Sending teams to two day residential training sessions to learn new skills are slowly becoming a thing of the past. There is certainly still a need to hold those types of events in specific situation but 5-7 years ago every training event was a two day off-site with little accountability to the new learning acquired or how it would be implemented. The retention of new learning was thus very low and too often forgotten (until a need arose and the learning had to be acquired again!).

To obtain the skills to address specific issues in this fast paced business world you need to shift the thinking of your people to ‘just-in-time’ learning. This means that as a need arises to address a specific issue (such as understanding the strengths / weakness’ of your competitors as part of a marketing strategy) the focus should be on putting time in your schedule to learn that skill in 30-60 minutes via an online learning platform or quick internal training session and then applying it in the field quickly. The retained learning is much higher with this approach as there is immediately application of the learning. Best of all a solution to the issue is provided straight away to allow momentum to continue with the desired ‘change’ or ‘new strategy’.

Strategy 3 – Capture and track your strategies / actions using innovative technologies
How often have you gone to reflect on a strategy you development months ago and then had to spend hours searching through your emails, journals, files or go and follow-up a team member to get yourself up to speed again with the discussions that occurred and actions that were confirmed. Even if you have a good discipline of having ‘One Page Plans’ operating in your business (and even pasted to your office wall) it can still waste many hours in your day searching for the detailed plans you have developed or putting yourself back in the same ‘head-space’ you were in to reflect on the next steps you should take.

To assist this process and speed up your pace of implementing strategies it’s critical in any modern business to be using the latest cloud technologies / applications to help you track projects and tasks. What are you currently using in your business? Nothing? There are a lot of great, cost-effective options available. The time savings and productivity gains will be felt immediately and free you up to be focusing on the growth and profit of your business.

While these three strategies are not a magic bullet they do help you adapt both you and your teams approach to allow you to implement change much more effectively in this fast-paced business environment.

To assist this process we provide all our clients’ access to GPS-Mindshop Online. GPS-Mindshop Online allows you to capture and track in one location all your strategies, actions and professional development which are only visible by you and your advisor. Your advisor can then provide confidential support and solutions drawn from hundreds of tools, courses and resources within GPS-Mindshop Online.

GPS-Mindshop Online is a fantastic way to help leaders speed up their pace of implementation to give them back valuable time to focus on the growth and profit of their business.

If you would like to discuss how we can assist you implement change more effectively in your business please email us to arrange a call or meeting. In the meantime, check out the overview videos for GPS-Mindshop Online at http://www.business-gps.com.au/gps_videos.

 

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How to Change Challenges into Questions to Find Solutions

The power of changing your challenges into questions

Tell me:  “What challenges do you face currently?”

Challenges AheadThis is not a rhetorical question, think about it and spend 5-10 minutes writing them down.  Do this with your colleagues.  As a group defines what your top 3 challenges. Only then read on. It will be worth it.

You now have a list of key challenges.  Look at them.  My money is on that most, if not all, of your challenges, are “out there” and not “in here”.  For example, we have challenges to do with the market, with senior management, our reports, our suppliers, our customer’s etcetera.

Funny that – have you noticed that we are never part of the problem?  If this is not ringing alarm bells for you then it should.  If we see our challenges as external to us then we are admitting two things:

  1. We lack ownership of the challenge and we are prepared to abrogate our responsibility in taking on the challenge, and secondly,
  2. We are adopting a fixed mindset in that it is the external factor that needs to be changed, not us.  As such, it reduces our opportunity to learn and develop from the situation, and to realize the associated benefits.

So how can we turn this around?

Using Questions

Take your top three challenge statements and change them into questions.  This has two powerful and helpful effects:

  1. Asking questions elicits answers – and within those answers are strategies for actually carrying out the work.
  2. Questions inspire thoughts about our intrinsic motivations for successfully meeting the challenge.  As such, intrinsic motivation is more powerful than extrinsic incentives in moving people and driving results or outcomes.

To do this is not as easy as it sounds, and it often takes longer to do than expected as there is a much sharper focus on the issue at hand. It also makes us responsible for the challenge and to identify, develop and implement the solution.

Question-Goals – Identifying Solutions, Not the Problems

Challenge Statement Challenge Question
Difficulty in retaining key skilled staff How can we use the skills of our key people so that they are engaged, challenged and contribute to our business goals?
We have too much to do, and too little to do it with What are our customers’ key needs and how does that affect our priorities?
Difficult to plan in such an uncertain business environment What are our core skills and competencies and how can we employ them effectively in a variety of alternative scenarios?

So, start the year, and continue to review during the year, by looking at your challenges and turning them into questions.  Cascade this approach throughout the business and you may be surprised at the impact!

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The Coaching Matrix – How to Manage Delegated Work

How to Manage Those Delegated To

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

This looks at how to assess what are the best ways to manage those doing delegated work.

delegate effectivelyThis follows on from a previous article – The Art of Effective Delegation – which provides a 5-step process for effectively delegating work.

Now you have delegated the work, how can you best manage those to whom you have delegated the work? Different people have different requirements and need to be managed in different ways.

Although the content of the work will vary, there are two key factors which can be assessed for each individual – their enthusiasm to do the work, and their level of skills.  This can be seen in the Coaching Matrix below.

Coaching Matrix for Delegated Work

Coaching Matrix

Assessing each individual for each delegated piece of work allows you to do two things: firstly, to identify the coaching method that will work best for each individual in doing the delegated work and; secondly, to identify what needs to be developed with each individual in order to move them to a position of trust.

The 4 Coaching Methods                               

1.      Supervise – Low Enthusiasm/Low Skill.

Here the individual has low levels of enthusiasm and skills in doing the delegated work.  Here you need to regularly review the work they are done and whether it is up to standard, and find out what motivates them.

2.      Motivate – Low Enthusiasm/High Skill.

The individual has low levels of enthusiasm and a high level of skills in doing the delegated work.  They are able to do the work, but are rather complacent or lazy about doing this.  You need to help them motivate themselves by enabling them to understand how they can benefit from doing so, or by creating peer pressure (e.g. ‘everyone at your level does this’), or having a suitable blend of carrot and stick.

3.      Instruct – High Enthusiasm/Low Skill.

Here the individual has high levels of enthusiasm and low skills in doing the delegated work.  They need to be instructed on how to do the work, this may include pairing them with someone who is skilled in doing this, or taking them through the task into separate stages and reviewing the work with them at each stage and checking their understanding.

4.      Trust – High Enthusiasm/High Skill.

Here the individual has high levels of enthusiasm and high skills in doing the delegated work.  This is the ideal place for a person to do the delegated work to be.  You can leave them to do the job and review once it has been completed, or just have them tell you when the work is done.

The Coaching Matrix for Delegated Work allows you to assess how you can best assist those to whom you have delegated the work, based on their levels of enthusiasm and skills for the work.  People, dependent on the work, will often be in different quadrants – so this helps you customise your approach to help them develop as necessary to get the work done effectively.

Use the worksheet below to help you determine what is needed for whom.

Delegated Work Worksheet

Delegation Worksheet

Remember, delegating effectively allows managers and leaders to free up time; ensure the work is down to the right person at the right level and on-time; helps to develop people and their capabilities, and allows the managers and leaders to focus on what is important – not just what is urgent.

So what are you going to delegate, to whom and how will you coach them to do the work effectively and to grow personally?

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