How Can I Help You?

There are people who come from “Takington” & there are those who come from “Givington”. It’s a beautiful analogy I learned from my wife.. who learned it from her best friend back in OZ.

How can I help you? That simple phrase has become the greatest symbolism of generosity I’ve heard in quite some time. The people who’ve uttered it lately are definitely born, raised.. and probably the mayors of “Givington”.

Strangely enough, towns like “Givington” seem to be much more prevalent in the Bay Area (West Coast of California) of the United States than anywhere else on the planet.

Extended Network

Recently my network has predominantly grown in the San Francisco & Silicon Valley area of the United States due to a recent business trip my wife made for her company. She likes to regularly connect me to like-minded individuals to share the most amazing experiences.

As a business coach & mentor, I often donate a percentage of time to people who come across my path, all in the spirit of “giving-back” and or “paying-it-forward”. However, having had an intense two week period of back-to-back phone calls with highly sought after professionals themselves, I was absolutely blown away by how many conversations started & ended with “how can I help you”. These guys were really insistent, and to be honest, I’m so not used to it that it actually felt awkward!

Are you giving or taking?

If you’re thinking of your response whilst listening to someone share their perspective on something.. you’re not really “listening”! When was the last time you stood in front of someone and just gave of yourself without expecting or wanting anything in return? Whether it’s being absolutely absorbed and giving someone your full attention, or just authentically asking the question “how can I help you” at the end of their sharing. When was the last time that you just gave?

Cynics will state that there’s always a form of “taking” because even when you don’t expect anything in return, the fact is we at the very least walk away with a sense of fulfillment for having been of service. But does that really count against you? I say NO!

The Boomerang Effect

I don’t give because I expect anything in return, unless it’s a professional engagement where fees are obviously expected in exchange for my services. But I will guarantee you that in one form or another “the reward” will come!

Last year someone came across my radar through a blog post & I ended up volunteering a few mentoring sessions based on the journey they were on. Soon after, a few months to be precise, I got an inquiry from a Fortune 100 firm asking me for a quote on the exact type of empowering services I love to work on. If that wasn’t enough, even though they had negotiated my rate down based on volume, at the time of payment I found myself getting a healthy BONUS. When I inquired as to why, my client simply said I had worked harder than anyone they had hired before & that based on the results they were witnessing.. I deserved it 🙂

I later found out that my services had been referred from that original individual.

Staying Top-of-Mind

In each of the cases where my recent conversations started off with “how can I help you”, you’d better believe that I’ve still got them top-of-mind and that I’m looking for ways to reward their generosity. I’ve been pretty much all over the world in my lifetime, and other than Sydney Australia where people just seem to be naturally high on happiness & good life, I’ve never encountered such a “how can I help you” culture as in the Bay Area.

How can I help you?

If you post a question in the comment section below, I promise to respond within 24h with practical solutions as long as I have the experience. If I don’t have the relevant experience.. I’ll at least try to point you in the right direction.

So tell me.. How Can I Help You?

Leadership Quick-Tip; Motivation comes from Inspiration

To inspire is to be “the cause” of something. The Archaic meaning of inspire is “to breathe life into”, and without inspiration, motivation loses some of its “mojo.”

Inspiration is lasting.. motivation is fading.. Zig Ziglar once said; “people often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing… that’s why we recommend it daily.”

If we’re to keep our teams motivated, we have to inspire them on an almost daily basis. What are your daily inspiration points?

Motivation vs inspiration

It’s a long running debate.. Motivation vs Inspiration..  motivation comes from within, it drives discipline.. which at times can save your job, company or life. As leaders, all we can do is to hope to inspire someone, in turn fueling their motivation to action.

What makes you “tick”?

Ever hear that term? That’s exactly when someone is trying to figure out what it’s going to take in order to motivate someone else to do something. Threats, tricks & pressure.. external pain-points bring about temporary change. Inspiration driven motivation brings about transformational change because it addresses internal pain-points.

It’s been proven time & time again that people will either run away-from pain & fear.. or toward “the light”. That is an intrinsic driver behind change. People will also do something, including changing their behavior, if only it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own core values. How are you tapping into your teams’ core values? How are you linking their passions to your success? Find a way for an individual to flourish and feed their self-esteem, and you will have found the holy grail of how to inspire increased productivity.

Different Paths

One person is on the journey of believing again, whilst another is on the journey of self-discovery. It is rare to find any two people on the same path through life. However, many people are indeed on similar journeys. This is to say that if you’re wanting to address a team of individuals, you won’t require multiple distinct solutions for each, but rather discover what is common amongst their individual journeys. Why did they join your company? Even if it was just for money.. what did they intend to do with that money? Where is it that they are headed in life? What does success look like? How can your company help them realize that success?

You will inspire by identifying that someone is about to embark on a journey of self-discovery, and you can exchange valuable lessons through day-to-day work experiences. You will inspire through being the conduit of change that will accelerate that journey.. and or provide further clarity. These is not hocus-pocus magic tricks.. these facts are backed by scientific data & the phycological study behind Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.

Individual Experiences & Success

I have found through one-on-one dialogue that you can identify one-to-many solutions. Inspire one person to action.. and watch a string of people fall into line behind them. Find ways to give greater meaning to people’s day-to-day activities, linking these to the success of your department, organization or company.. and people will be motivated to go out of their way to guarantee results.

Recently I engaged a team that was totally dejected! It was typical to find them packing up 15 minutes or more before the end of a work-day. They didn’t communicate outside of small tight circles of trust, and even then.. the topic was typically centered around their distrust, dislike & distain for management and the organization.

With four weeks of listening and acting to address ineffective communication, including the installation of a large screen reflecting their daily contribution toward the company’s over-all results & success metrics.. the very same team was now staying on 1-2 hours more (without additional compensation) to address critical issues concerning their area of expertise. They had identified the pride in their work that they were missing.. they had identified varying sources of how what they did mattered!

4 Innovative Steps to Improve Sales

How effective is your sales team these days? Last week I was speaking with a prospective client facing challenges with motivation between his “hunters & farmers”. As synchonicty would have it, the very next day McKinsey Quarterly popped into my “inbox” with the most relevant article entitled “Using your sales force to jump-start growth“.

Here’s the highlights of four innovative steps companies can use their sales reps to drive growth;

Step 1; Look over the horizon

Create a team of “speculative market analysts” to better identify the emergence of disruptive technologies and to predict their business implications. The team helps the company to position itself as a supplier that’s ahead of the curve and to enjoy superior sales growth while competitors scramble to catch up.

The full-time team cuts across all business units and draws on a variety of internal and external sources: the sales force provides insights into the technology initiatives of the company’s customers while continually pressing them for feedback about its shortcomings and the efforts of competitors.

Step 2; Hunt and farm

Designating one day a month as a “hunting day,” when all reps exclusively chase new prospects. The rest of the time they focus largely on existing customers. The result is astounding: in a single day, a company can sign up as many new customers as it normally does in two months. Setting aside one day a month for hunting new business is now an ingrained part of many company’s sales practices.

Step 3; Motivate with more than money

The basic remuneration model for sales reps is simple: a base salary offers security; commissions and bonuses provide incentives to perform. Most companies work endlessly to optimize the balance. Yet what if money isn’t the thing that actually matters most?

The most successful sales teams often speak passionately about the sense of fulfillment that comes from helping clients realize their dreams, goals & objectives. Look for the fundamental reason people have joined your company and make sure that it’s coherent with your Core Ideology.

Money will always remain critical to a sales team, but you must  recognize the benefits of identifying other, deeper motivations. When done, attrition rates fall sharply, and sales teams not only become more successful at winning business, but also have found that clients are entrusting more of their needs to the respective companies. These goals are also met with no increase in compensation.

Step 4; Boost sales without slashing prices

Companies experiencing flat or declining sales often elect to cut prices to spur demand. If price guidelines are set without taking into account the competitive dynamics of each specific market segment, only a fragment of your sales force will recoup the cost of the price cuts with higher volumes. When this happens, your overall competitive position deteriorates.

Set new price and volume targets based on each segment’s characteristics. These targets should incorporate metrics such as the economic growth rate in geographies where particular industries were heavy users of your company’s services, the strength of your company’s operational assets relative to those of its competitors, and whether your company is losing or gaining customers at accelerating or decelerating rates.

This granular view of each sales territory leads to new sales approaches. This market-by-market roadmap allowed a case-study company not only to reverse several years of declining market share but also to secure an overall average price increase of 3 percent.

Are You Using Your “People Analytics” to Create Value?

Human-resources executives have aspired to be strategic advisers to business leaders for at least a generation. But it’s been a struggle for many because it’s so difficult to measure the business value of HR approaches. Questions such as “What is the ROI of training?” and “Which screening techniques yield the best performing recruits?” or “What target-setting approach will best motivate performance?” have been met with imprecise answers.

By analyzing the links between people practices and productivity, some companies are improving their bottom line.

That’s how the McKinsey Quarterly blog article that inspired this post started out.

If you haven’t started yet..

What new tools and methods are you using to analyze data linking “people practices” and performance more effectively? CEOs are hunting for value anywhere they can find it, so if you and or your head of HR haven’t begun searching for ideas for using data to generate a talent strategy that’s more closely linked to business results, you’re already behind the pack.

Where’s your analytics?

The widespread adoption of enterprise resource planning and HR information systems has made data on business operations, performance, and personnel more accessible and standardized. Furthermore, the rise of HR information systems has generated a community of software and technology intermediaries that can help HR and business executives use data to find links between talent management and labor productivity. So my question to you is what data are you using, and how objective is it in the analysis that’s it reporting back to you?

There has always been a universal imperative to get more for less, and this has led many companies to seek new ways of using “People Analytics” to create greater value, and linking this value back to traditional company bottom line results.

The specific people-related practices that add value will differ by company / industry dynamics, talent scarcity, growth rates, and corporate cultures. However, a vast majority of organizations getting the most value from investing in People Analytics all use some variation of these four steps.

1. Focus HR on business priorities

Most HR teams view, organize, and measure their activities through the traditional employee life cycle: starting with recruiting, hiring, and “on-boarding” and proceeding to evaluation, training, and development. However, for People Analytics efforts to work, the function’s leaders must view problems, and value creation opportunities, as business leaders do. Their efforts have to drive business outcomes & bottom-line results.

Learn to spot the pain points in your organization and then establish the metrics that are going to relieve these. I’ve found the use of a One Page Strategic Plan is an ideal way to tie individual actions directly back to business results, whilst increasing over-all engagement of the team as a whole.

2. Start and finish with objective data

Engage business leaders in efforts to identify issues and structure problems in a way that data gathering and statistical analysis is objective. Instead of turning a leadership team into data analysts, use tools such as WorkMeter to empower your employees to take responsibility for their own performance and productivity standards.

3. Go beyond traditional HR solutions

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying; “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. The very definition of Insanity is insistence on doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

New insights require additional problem solving to go from theoretical solutions to practical ones. People Analytics succeeds only when human-resources and business leaders work together to address the root causes of problems, pilot new ways of solving them, and focus on transforming learning into new more productive habits.

4. Make it sticky

Build a lasting source of value creation by integrating analytics practices into day-to-day business rhythms. A Great best-practice I used just last week was integrating “operational people” into strategic business reviews to identify priorities for analysis. This practice helps senior line executives conduct problem-solving discussions around issues sometimes yet to emerge. ** “Word of caution, don’t try this at home without parental supervision.” At the beginning, this is best done with the help of a Strategic Facilitator in order to extract the most value & guarantee a “safe environment” for success.

In our case, we identified a problem 30 days before it would have had a significant negative impact on the business bottom-line, and therefore were proactive in addressing the short-term impact, as well as the long-term process change requirement.

Commit yourself to the habit of measuring and reporting regularly, for this rhythm helps business leaders understand that progress is happening even when traditional results may take weeks or months to appear. More importantly, it also provides a clearer understanding, in both directions, of changing priorities and emerging findings from the work.

Fire Someone Today

That’s a dramatic title, and inspired by the blog post “Thank You for firing my Co-Worker” by the Entrepreneurs’ Network newsletter Overdrive.

The story of being thanked by the co-worker of a terminated employee is not something new.. it actually happens more often than you might think. However, I will mention a word of caution.. if you don’t dismiss a problematic employee in an appropriate & respectful way, the whole situation can actually back-fire on you! But more on that later…

Do you have certain employees who you just hope would resign?

Whilst you’re waiting for this person to resign, your star performers are getting less attention than they deserve because of your focus on the “problem child”! If you don’t act quickly, you risk that the wrong people will end-up resigning!

Are you trying to fix an unfixable employee?

After exhausting all means, as a final stage I often refer them to a voluntary performance improvement program such as Landmark Forum. In +40% of the cases, the result of this type of intervention is immediate and requires minimal continued pulse-check from your Human Resources professionals.

Now that you’ve made up your mind..

Indeed, to effectively safeguard your company, you MUST consider the following questions before terminating an employee:

1. Have you documented the failure to perform sufficiently to contest unemployment?

This will not only ensure that you are legally protected, but as well gives them a fair chance at recognizing their short-comings, and at the same time sends out a clear message to the remaining team that you have been fair and have taken a respectful & appropriately necessary action.

2. Do you or others have sufficient knowledge of the employee’s job to make a smooth transition after the exit?

This is another great way to piss your people off & turn what should have been a good firing into yet another problem for you to solve. Don’t be in such a hurry to fire someone that you leave yourself, your company, and worst yet.. your loyal & committed employees exposed!

3. Have you protected the organization from potential employee sabotage (computer backups, cancelled credit cards, confidentiality agreements, etc.) before the termination?

A checklist is the simplest & safest.. make sure someone accompanies the employee after dismissal so that they don’t have an opportunity to “rant & rave”, creating even bigger discomfort for the remaining team who are just trying to get-on with their work. What other manager can be present for the termination as a witness to protect you from false claims?

4. How will you communicate the termination to your employees and/or customers?

The secret sauce which should be well thought-out well in advance. Don’t mess around.. don’t embarrass  the departing employee but be as open and candid as possible with your staff. They’re not stupid.. they’ve seen that this person should have gone a long time ago. With your customers, be “neutral”.. after all.. it was your company (maybe even you) who hired this person.. and or allowed too much time to go by before finally acting.

Recap..

These aren’t pleasant events, and to be honest with you, I’ve actually had more people simply quit when they realized that a change in culture was on the horizon and that processes were being put into place to ensure that everyone was accountable for outstanding contribution. By simply making a plan that (1) favors your organization, (2) wipes the slate clean to give everyone an equal opportunity to “shape-up or ship-out”, (3) putting into effect solid measurable performance criteria and (4) following this up with a routine performance measurement plan.. you’ll be surprised how many people voluntarily raise their hand to depart your organization.

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