Preparing your 10 second sound bite

 

Are you like me?  Do you love words?  Love a clever turn of phrase?Apple Think Different

Do you have a favourite quote?  A favourite song lyric? A favourite movie line? 

What about a favourite brand tagline? Like Nike’s ‘Just do it’? Or Apple’s ‘Think Different’?

There is some paradox for the lover of words.  Because the volume of words is not nearly as valued as the meaning of those words.   

The real art and appreciation is in delivering the maximum meaning in the fewest words possible or as better described by Mark Twain as “a minimum of sound to a maximum of sense”.

Keeping your points succinct makes it easy for others to hear, to hold, to consider, to repeat, to remember, to action.   The longer it takes to communicate the point, the more likely your words will be lost – competing with other noise, activities, word associations and meanings that can be personally attributed.

Increasingly our communications are being compressed into bite sized chunks.  Whether it is TV, radio, video, voicemail, a quotation attributed, a headline or article referenced, a 140 character post on Twitter or 421 characters on Facebook , we are being asked to scale our communication into succinct points.  How do you turn those restrictions into opportunities?

It takes active discipline and focus to communicate something a in few words so that it is meaningful and powerful.  If you can also make those words memorable and repeatable, you have just unlocked one of the keys to success. 

With every opportunity to communicate, we need to take time and plan in advance how to better utilize the small chunks of space that we have.  Hence before you are under pressure, take the opportunity now to stop and think about your 10 second sound bite.

How can you pack the most punch into a few words? 

How would you answer the question of “What do you do?” or “What do you want to do?” in 10 seconds?  As a leader and manager you must also be able to clearly answer the question of “Why are we here?”, “What is my role?” and “How can I help?” in the same bite sized chunks. 

Consider today what other questions or opportunities you have to communicate something where the impact of those words matters to you or your business.

In business and most of our personal interactions, every question requiring a response should be considered as having been asked the question “Why should I care?”.  Treat the next 10 seconds as the most important in ensuring that they will.

By communicating what you want someone to understand and action in a 10 second sound bite, you may surprise yourself at just how effective you can be. 

Pythagoras, the Greek Philosopher and Mathematician said “Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few “. Just like maths required back in highschool, you need to practice Pythagoras theory – just this time as he applied it to words.  It is an essential skill if you are in leadership, marketing, sales or any role that requires communicating with others.

So perhaps I should finish this article with the message I have tried to convey using my own 10 second sound bite:

”When it comes to effective communication – keep your words simple, succinct and clear. Chunk them into 10 second sound bites. Only then can they be used and re-used to powerful effect”

The “If not, why not” diversity question your organization needs to be asking now

This article was first published in VALIDITY COACHING’S FORETHOUGHT newsletter:

The “If not, why not” diversity question your organization needs to be asking now

gender_equality_by_meppolThere has been considerable debate in recent media and boardrooms following the announcement in December 2009 by the ASX Corporate Governance Council of their proposal to expand the Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations to require each entity listed on the Australian Securities Exchange to adopt and disclose a diversity policy that includes measurable objectives relating to gender.

Within their suggested diversity policy, listed entities will be required, on an “if not, why not?” basis, to disclose in their annual report:

  • Their achievement against the gender objectives set by their board; and
  • The number of women employees in the whole organization, in senior management and on the board.

Alongside the new recommendations, changes will be made to the guidance commentary to:

  • Encourage nomination committees of listed entities to include within their charters a requirement to continuously review the proportion of women at all levels in the company. Commentary will be required to highlight the responsibility of the nomination committee to address strategies on board gender diversity and diversity in general.
  • Require that the performance review of the board include consideration of diversity criteria in addition to skills
  • To disclose what skills and diversity criteria they look for in any new board appointment.

There has been much lip service paid to the issue of gender balance in the past, and with the council expecting to provide an exposure draft of the proposed changes to the Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations for public consultation in early 2010, with an anticipated implementation date of 1 July 2010, soft-discussions will no longer suffice.

Many organizations who have promoted an equal opportunity and pro-women position, still have considerably fewer numbers of women in senior executive level positions or at the board than their male counterparts.  When they do, they tend to skew towards what is perceived to be the “soft skilled” roles of Human Resources, Customer Services and Marketing.  Evidence has proved that a more balanced gender representation across organizations has not necessarily followed the talk.

It is expected that by placing this issue firmly at the boardroom table, the question of “if not, why not” will be applied.  However every manager at all levels of an organization should be looking at the answers to the question of “why are we at this point at all?”

What are the barriers to building greater gender diversity?

One of the biggest barriers to gender diversity is an organization’s (and broader profession’s) cultures built around people’s historically-based and inherent beliefs, behaviours and biases. Generally these are around the previously designed and seen to be successful roles of the “perfect worker” and that of the “perfect mother”, which can also be culturally and socially reinforced.

It is unlikely that organization’s today would have an overtly discriminatory or conscious block to women progressing with equal opportunity into senior ranks. In the majority of cases the barriers are more likely to be delivered through indirect organizational messaging and policies, poor role-modelling, inconsistent behaviours, little formalized support, too little flexibility and too few examples.

In a Catalyst research paper of 2007 that collected responses of 1231 male and female participants across US & EMEA titled “The Double-Bind Dilemma for Women in Leadership: Dammed if You Do, Doomed if You Don’t”, found that women faced clear predicaments in the workplace that their male counterparts didn’t.  Some of these were around stereotyped expectations and behaviours. The Predicaments found for women in the research included:

  1. Extreme Perceptions – Too soft, too tough, and never just right. When women acted in ways that are consistent with gender stereotypes, they were viewed as less competent leaders and when women acted in ways that are inconsistent with such stereotypes, they were considered unfeminine.
  2. The High Competence Threshold – Women leaders face higher standards and lower rewards than male leaders. Respondents’ comments revealed that women leaders are subjected to higher competency standards. On top of doing their job, women have to prove that they can lead, over and over again and manage stereotypical expectations constantly.
  3. Competent but Disliked – Women leaders are perceived as competent or liked, but rarely both. Respondents’ comments revealed that when women behave in ways that are traditionally valued for men leaders (e.g. assertively), they are viewed as more competent, but also not as effective interpersonally as women who adopt a more stereotypically feminine style.

In summary, gender stereotypes misrepresent the true talents of women leaders and can potentially undermine women’s contributions to organizations as well as their own advancement options.

The consequences of not dealing with culture can be dire to organizational strength.  Here in Australia, Melbourne Business School associate professor Isabel Metz (as reported in The Australian Financial Review), managed to survey 44 senior women who left the banking and finance sector to verify their reasons for departure.

Although the sample was small, the findings speak volumes.  Almost half (45 per cent) of the interviewees who left their jobs after returning from maternity leave, abandoned plans to continue working for their organisation because of unfriendly work-family rather practices that didn’t give them a fair opportunity to return or to continue to work, such as a lack of part-time positions or expectations of very long work hours.

And Twenty-seven per cent of the women cited broken employment promises and legal obligations upon their return from maternity leave as a primary reason for their departure.

The reason we don’t hear much about these soft-discriminatory practices in organizations is the negative stereotyping or consequences in future employment for women who are seen to be “taking up the torch” or “mounting campaigns” that promote the rights, opportunities and equal numbers of women in the organization.  Women can also feel the consequences of resentment amongst her peers and her seniors from those who see the argument as one-sided and that the issues of unfriendly work-family practices impact both male and female workers equally. 

Some women who have made it to the top and have children and who are seen to be making themselves available 24/7 can also face negative stereotyping by others who believe they are not meeting their family responsibilities or are not setting the right example of balance to others.  This issue of stereotyping is unlikely to be applied in the same way to their male counterparts working in the same way.

Needless to say the question from most should be “what type of organization puts pressure on female and male employees to be available to work 24/7 or excessive hours over long periods of time”.   The burning and churning of talented and professional people, whilst maybe fuelling innovative SME start-ups, eventually takes its toll on larger organizations. 

Organizations are looking to see how they can address the issues of work/life balance and flexible work practices to ensure talent growth and energy-sustainability and to secure a continuous tap into the much wider and more experienced talent pool. It is about having the courage to allow talent to spawn in organizations – without trying to camouflage it with gender biases.  The financial benefits will follow.

Organizations of the future will see the question of gender diversity not being about the issue of developing women as a “special needs” program – it will instead focus on creating contexts in our eco-systems that provide women and all employees with opportunities to deliver value.

Organizations will focus much more around the greater opportunity of individual talent management and contribution.  If you have a star performer or developing talent with loads of potential, irrespective of gender, the organization will work to provide a custom program of development to help them realize their success in all aspects that are important to them – in their careers, personal, health, spiritual and social lives. The real job of managing will be to remove barriers, provide employees with the right resources, step out of the way and allow them to shine.

The way employees work, where they work, when they work will be inconsequential to how they successfully deliver the desired results and work with others in the organization.  No single rule, no single mould nor “one rule to suit the majority” will prevail. 

This type of flexible work environment will require some overhaul and change of existing systems, but these usually follow the change first in expectations and determinations of an organization’s working culture.

Supporting Gender Diversity through an organizations culture:

In addition to setting quota targets, there are some practical considerations you and your organization can consider today in answering the question of “if not, why not”:

  • Include in management agendas and communications messaging and discussions designed to bring desired cultural and behavioural changes to address gender diversity
  • Look at the requirements of the positions and determine if there are any gender bias and overhaul the specifications focusing on what business outcomes are looking to be delivered.(Research has shown that traditional managerial roles are set-typed as masculine, meaning that characteristics deemed necessary to be a successful manager are stereotypically associated with men).
  • Expose career paths & all aspects of business to your talented people.  The more visible the paths are to the top, the more choices provided to get there, the more experiences made possible and clearly made available to all talented employees irrespective of gender across the organization, the more likely the balanced take up from both sexes.
  • Identify & name your top talent – equally looking for talented female and male candidates who may be at different stages of their careers and develop custom programs to help them realize their career potential and aspirations.
  • Introduce a strong mentoring & coaching program – engaging both external and internal coaches to help executive women plan, prepare and realize their career aspirations
  • Identify where corrective coaching and changes are required to remove perception, stereotyping, behaviours and other barriers or current limitations across the senior leadership and management team
  • Encourage, introduce and financially support official networking engagements (professional & social), cross-function teamwork & leadership groupings.  Encourage these networks to be built both within and external to the organization to ensure exposure to strong role models, mentors, and key decision makers  
  • Develop and suggest strategies for promoting flexible working environments, removing barriers that allow people to deliver in diverse and flexibile environments and time frames
  • Invite, encourage, promote and champion advocates and change-drivers for gender diversity (& diversity in general) in your organization.
  • Encourage female senior executives to take an active role at mentoring, coaching & championing what is possible and identifying the key ingredients for their success.  

The old adage of “what gets measured gets done” is one of the implied principles of the ASX Corporate Governance Council’s recommendations.  One step short of enforced quotas, it relies more on the position of “naming & shaming”.  The more visibility bought to specific numeric gender targets, strategies and progress, the more likely they will be achieved. 

It is a shame that it will take legislation to put this issue and opportunity for business growth on the table.  There is much evidence to prove that diversity in the workforce is something an organization can capitalize upon.   

Our roles and responsibilities as leaders, as investors, as employees, as industry representatives – will be to hold organizations accountable for gender diversity.  Action is required and the clock is ticking. 

VALIDITY COACHING is a key sponsor of the HR Summit 2010.

Preventing the corrective mindset

jugglingWe are all under enormous time pressures.  We juggle our competing interests, responsibilities and deadlines.  We rely on others to help us get to the finish line. We want their input to equal a standard that allows us to juggle uninterrupted, taking pleasure from keeping everything successfully in the air.  There is no room for errors.  Just juggle, juggle, juggle.

Ooops!  A ball is dropped and something is broken.  

Invariably with all the things we need to focus upon, it is not unusual to find something will drop or break.  As we juggle the remaining elements, we know we can only afford to make a quick stop to correct the fallen or broken element.  And get back to juggling.

Following this path is only going to lead to more balls being dropped and more items to be juggled.  Sometimes we drop things for the same reason.  Deep down it doesn’t feel good knowing we or others are making the same mistake, but to stop and do anything differently, puts pressure on all the balls and the decision to stop and rethink the situation can feel bigger than it needs to.

To break this pattern we need to think about the corrective mindset vs. the preventive mindset.  This is a well known concept in manufacturing and Quality Management Systems where the focus may be on continuous improvement and customer satisfaction.  However the concepts can equally apply to our own professional and personal lives.   

When operating in a corrective mindset, you will focus on fixing the immediate problem, and maybe even be able to stop the next occurrence.   But it may not solve the bigger issue of being more effective, getting the best out of your time, based on focusing on the right priorities and the best strategies for achieving the outcomes you are looking for.

Another way to look at this is Past vs. Future.  One is looking backwards to the past and trying to fix what didn’t work.  But this often means we assume the way things are being done today is the right way, so we only fix what we have in place.

The other way is to look to the future to try to work out what is likely to happen and what are the likely influences and inputs that you will or can be working with.  Time can be spent then determining what you are really looking  to achieve, what is required to get there, the best way of getting there and what may be required to prevent any likely roadblocks or the undesirable from happening. 

We know we can’t accurately predict the future so we need to build a flexible approach to deal with all the possibilities. Flexibility is far more important to develop as a mindset rather than as a well constructed disaster recovery plan covering every conceivable problem. 

By taking time out to reflect and reconsider the corrective measure of past and the preventive measures you may choose to take in the future, you may find a much more powerful approach to the things you wish to achieve.  Edward de Bono once said “It is well known that “problem avoidance” is an important part of problem solving.  Instead of solving the problem you go upstream and alter the system so that the problem does not occur in the first place”.

By looking to the future you can ensure you are investing your time on what is most important to you and what is likely to bring the best and most preferred outcomes in the bigger scheme of life. 

Whether as a boss or a parent, the best outcome may no longer involve you.  A far more powerful approach may require you to stop and develop people (your team or children) or to devise a better system, one that no longer involves you or the thing you think you need to do because you have always done it that way.

One of the things that always stopped me in my tracks opening my mind to future possibilities was the challenge to ask myself “does this need to be done at all” and “what are the real consequence if this was no longer being done”.

By taking time out, deliberately stopping the juggling process and allowing time to move out of the corrective mindset, you now have the chance to strategize around your priorities and plan for the future resulting in greater creativity, enjoyment, satisfaction and rewards.

Keynote Speaker at Sydney Professional Development Forum

Emma will be the keynote speaker at the Sydney Professional Development Forum on:

Wednesday 24 February 7pm

Telstra Building, 320 Pitt Street, Sydney

The Personal Development Forum (PDF) is for executives who are looking to grow and expand their knowledge, learning and networks in order to help them fast track their careers and professional success. 

In addition to building a powerful and engaged network of like-minded executives, PDF provides access to well-known senior leaders across a wide range of industries who share their experience and journeys in order to open their member’s views to the different possibilities and considerations in achieving career success.

To find out more about Sydney Personal Development Forum visit About PDF.

Committing to your commitments

Pinky Swear PromiseHonesty in a Pinkie promise by Fiona Macfarlane of fishakaiHonesty in a Pinkie promise by Fiona Macfarlane of fishakaiWe have all made them.  We have all accepted them.  We have good intent when it comes to making or accepting commitments.

However we also know the feeling of disappointment when someone does not deliver something that they have committed to.  Sometimes delivered late or not as expected, sometimes with an excuse (including those quite plausible), sometimes without an excuse.  Just an expectation you would know that the best was done on the day. 

Years back when the first Quality Assurance certifications were being sought and I had to lead a business through the process of earning certification, the pursuit of quality was less about everything being the highest quality it could be.  It was more about setting a standard of quality and then always delivering to it.  Consistently, confidently and reliably. 

From a branding perspective, it was proven to be much better to choose a standard that could always be delivered, than to pursue the greatest and then only sometimes reach that.  Any form of inconsistency in the delivery of quality (goods or services) would plant a seed of doubt into the recipient.  No longer could they rely or have confidence in the standard you would deliver.  If there was doubt in the recipient, then your brand would immediately be impacted by feelings of distrust and uncertainty.

Lately I have been working with some executives on personal branding.  Thinking about what they aspire to represent and then considering how well they deliver it.  Identifying the behavioural gaps between what we hope to project, to what we are projecting.  Identifying the gaps between what we say we are and will do and what we really are and what we really deliver.

While the subject of personal branding is much broader than any one aspect, it is interesting to observe how often people fail to see the connection between the meeting or failure to meet a commitment they have made on their personal brand.  Many will make promises, or agree to deadlines, then fail to deliver or even worse, fail to reset expectations.  Not every time, not even often, just sometimes.  You only need to not deliver or not reset expectations once and an element of doubt automatically creeps in to the minds of those you are working or interacting with. 

The good news is, this is an easy personal quality to manage once you first value your word and your commitments.

Be clear about what it is that you will deliver, when you will deliver it, identify what risks may be associated with delivering it and mentally map how and what is required to deliver to your commitment.  

If anything changes in your ability to deliver what has been promised, then make sure you reset expectations.   Whilst it is always safer to underpromise and overdeliver, it is much better to be honest about what is the most likely scenario and then make sure that is what you deliver.  Associate reliable with trust and confidence.

If you want to be someone people trust, someone people rely upon, someone that people value and have confidence in , then really value and commit to the commitments you make.

Visible Vision

After just returning from a great adventure holiday throughout North and Western Australia which included 31 locations (and lots of driving in between), it struck me just how visible a vision could be.

From the first instance of driving into a town you could see whether the town shared a great vision – from the way it branded and projected itself, to deeper issues of what was keeping the town viable and commercial.  You could palpably see and feel the vision in distinct features like the architecture, engineering, environmental planning and the overall coherency of an area.

It could also be tangibly felt through a town’s people who would proudly communicate what their town was about – its history, its future and what made it in their eyes “world’s best”. Ord River, Lake Argyle, Kununnurra by Jim Hawthorne Photography

One of the best examples of this was Kununurra, a town near the border of Western Australia and Northern Territory.  Its leaders oversaw the engineering of one of Australia’s largest man-made lakes to take advantage of the huge rainfalls of the wet season. They created Lake Argyle by tapping the Ord River, resulting in the deliberate flooding out of some of the homesteads and properties of the area, and is now so huge that it’s classified as an inland sea.

Lake Argyle normally has a surface area of about 1,000 square kilometres and its capacity exceeds 18 times the volume of water of Sydney Harbour (a vision in itself), feeding some 150 square kilometres of farmland which provides the majority of fruit and vegetables to West Australia, supports cattle farming and a number of timber forests which provide good export earnings. The local economy is also helped by customs ordering you to dump all fruit, vegetables and honey at the border requiring you to re-stock with local produce as soon as you arrive in town.

For those who have been out in this country you will understand the great vastness and harshness of the area and why I marvel at the vision of the local people, including those farmers, who gave up their land to ensure long term economic viability of the town for its inhabitants and future generations.

On the flipside there were plenty of towns we visited that were devoid of vision.  The lack of vision ultimately tied to the lack of commercial viability of the town and an empty and unproductive feeling and sense of hopelessness one took away of its people. 

Seeing these differences along the way certainly reinforced the importance of having a strong vision. This is as important to the long-term economic viability of a business as it is to the long-term economic viability of a town.

Having a strong vision that everyone is working towards, planning to ensure long term viability and relevance, ensuring today’s activities are in harmony with the long-term view, engaging people to own the vision with everyone creatively fulfilling it in their daily business and decisions, can only propel an organization forward. 

There is some danger in today’s environment that by operating or continuously sending signals you are in a survival mode, that the future of your business can be put at risk.  Particularly in cases where your employees may have lost sight of the vision and can not articulate or see where the business is heading beyond a “make the buck today” mindset which can lead to lots of compromise.

It may well be timely to step back and really check what your business is projecting externally. 

From the first instance someone is in contact with your business, do they receive a strong sense of your vision – from the way you are branded to the way your business projects itself in all touch points, communications and interactions?

Do people understand what is keeping your business viable and commercial and what it is that you offer them?

Do your people communicate what you stand for, what they are representing, and how they can help the customer, the business and themselves be successful?

By ensuring your business vision is tangible and visible, it can turn it from being something you desire to something that you realize.

Returning that special gift you have been given…

As we progress through our careers we gain the benefit of experience.

The situations we find ourselves in become more and more familiar.  We meet the same type of personality profiles, we see the hidden opportunities in adversity, and the kind of traps or dangers in the decisions we need to make or in situations that we can create or avoid. 

Gift box by passitonplates photostreamWe also benefit from having a much stronger understanding of our own powers and limitations, having already navigated what it takes to progress, communicate, motivate or manage others.  Mostly we have the benefit of having a number of wins and failures on the board and knowing why and what results in success, and why and what lead us to experience failure.

This experience and knowledge is a gift.  Something we should cherish and relish.  It is also something we should share.

As the saying goes, it is much better to give than to receive.  And although it is not kosher to return the gift you have been given, there is something wonderful about returning the sentiment.  Adding your stamp of personalization, consideration, love and attention can create a lasting impression. 

The positive impact and empowerment you can generate by giving someone the time to help them with their particular concerns, queries or quest for knowledge, through sharing your experience can not be underestimated.

Looking back I can name a number of great people who “gifted” me their experience or who helped guide me along my way.  Some of my greatest mentors and guides were my managers, but more often than not the greatest counsel and sage advice I received (and continue to benefit from), was from wise and experienced colleagues, associates, contemporaries and friends.

It was from them that I learned how to navigate tricky waters, what to look for and what to avoid.  That mistakes and failures are to be considered great learning experiences, challenges to be explored and gained from. 
Some of the best lessons I learned early on was that mistakes don’t need to be fatal. That you’ll never know how far you can go and how much you can achieve if you don’t push yourself to the very edge.  That the biggest opportunities also come with the biggest risks and a fear of failure is really being cognizant of that fact. That it is silly to try to avoid mistakes which may result in having a risk profile so low that we don’t really move forward leaving the brave decisions to be made by others.

You also gain strength from others encouragement.  When may already know what the right thing to do is, but to have it reinforced and supported by an appropriate anecdote or example from someone else’s experience provides the much needed impetus to move forward.  It can help to have your strengths and talents reinforced to be applied in new situations. 

As our experience grows, so we should “gift” this to others.

There are many opportunities to positively impact.  To help those who are starting out, still green, still learning, who would benefit from a great dose of your encouragement and knowledge.

With each promotion or progression in our careers, can we dedicate time to give back and grow others?  To make time to mentor someone (or a greater number of people) that we identify as talented?

 To stop and help them find the answers they are seeking and to help them develop and perform to their potential.
From my experience, gifting others time and experience bring numerous benefits.  And not just the feel-good emotion it will surely generate. 

It provides an enforced discipline for us to synthesize our experience into insightful clarity.  Moments to mine the wealth by revisiting our working lives and review what really worked for us and why.  To turn the many grains of experience into valuable pearls of wisdom.

It also helps us to reflect and recognize where we still have room to learn or develop.

So I ask this question, how can you share more of your experience with others?  If you are already doing this consciously or unconsciously, can you do more of it? 

Whether you offer this through formal mentoring or coaching or through informal mentoring and genuine sharing, listening, advising others, there is nothing more rewarding than giving to others and to see them grow greater from the collective experiences. 

Not only can you help someone progress you may find in turn, you have gifted yourself another valuable experience.

Sharpen your focus

Life is busy.  We run from meeting to meeting adding additional items of things to do on our ever increasing list of items to be done.  In between meetings we check our email, facebook, twitter or LinkedIn accounts.  On the phone we multi-task by responding to the many instant “urgent” messages that are flashing via MSN or Skype. We race home to begin the juggle with family – cooking dinner, supervising homework, meanwhile respondiTarget! by hb19ng to emails, phone texts, writing reports and making new notes of the additional things we need to do the next day.

Target! by hb19We chase the sweet feeling of satisfaction as we tick each item off our list as “done” or as we extend our network, proving tangibly to ourselves that we are making progress. 

Yet at the end of the week we find the business development proposal, recommended organization structural change, the new marketing plan or policy [you can insert any key project you should be completing], has not really progressed in the way we wanted or in the way our business really needs. 

Our sense of satisfaction wanes as we see many items achieved but not together representing a milestone measure of true value, progress and success.  We know we need to do better…if only we had the time to plan?  Or more people to help?

Does this sound like you?  Or at least like you some of the time?  I know I have fallen into the trap of “busyness” before, spreading myself too thin, and have needed to consciously take steps to pull myself out, take ownership of my time again and reset my focus.

It certainly is a common problem and one that many of us face or fall into the trap of doing from time to time. This type of high pressured chaos may be felt like an unreasonable workload thrown upon us, but more than likely this will be a problem of focus, a problem of prioritization and a problem of learning to say “no” without feeling guilty.   

The person who owns and is responsible for managing your time and achieving the best outcomes with your time and your team is you.  And only you can change the way you approach your day and week to sharpen your focus and thus maximize your effectiveness. 

Here are some simple steps to sharpen your focus and start making greater progress:

  1. Revisit your business vision, strategy and goals. The more concise your business proposition is and who it is likely to help, the more likely your actions and those of others will help it stay on course.  Once this proposition and your business goals are clear and easy to articulate, it becomes easier to sharpen your focus on the most important elements and targets to ensure you get there.  If it is not clear to you or those who are leading, then it certainly will not be clear to those that are following.
  2. What do you need to do to ensure your business achieves what it is looking to do?  Be clear about your key responsibilities and the key things you should be doing to ensure you and your business achieve this. At any one time you should be focusing on no more than three major projects.  Build in time to reflect on your progress and that of your team’s against your business goals and revisit anything you know is not really working. 
  3. What is the overall plan project outline and what needs to be done by when? Make a conscious list of priorities and develop a weekly plan to give you the right amount of time to spend on each item. The more tangible your goals and timeframes are, the easier it is to know how to approach your priorities, resources, workload and keep everything on track.
  4. Identify how much can be delegated. What can be handed over and to whom?  Plan how many items can be handed over.  Spend the time with your team to help them also prioritize and see where they can make a major impact on the business.  The more focus they have, the greater the results you will see being delivered.  You also are creating an achievement culture where success motivates everyone and you will find even more can be achieved.
  5. Weigh up those list items you can say no to. If you see too many competing priorities within projects, pick the top three things you should be focusing and begin the process of weighing up each item further down the list with the question “what would happen if I did not do this?”.  If the answer is not fatal, then find the discipline to say “No” and make sure you reset expectations in your organization.  Saying yes to everything on your list is an easy thing to do but much harder to deliver. Practicing the art of saying no, remembering to help your manager and team identify what they too can say no to helps sharpen focus within your organization.  Focusing on the key things you should be doing will have a major impact on your business and will give everyone a chance to do those things well.
  6. Plan each day and approach it with discipline.  Set aside specific times to review and plan your day (first thing in the morning before heading to the office is a good time).  Set aside specific times to review and respond to emails, phone calls and messages as well as time to write your plan or proposal – making sure you are writing any plans or proposals at the freshest point in the day.  Identify who you need to speak to and allocate an appropriate time.  Don’t overschedule your diary.  It is easy to book every 15 minutes and there may be many times you need to, however it takes enormous discipline to keep to schedule. 

Sharpening your focus brings you much closer to achieving your business targets. 

As your targets change over time, you may need to also revisit the resources that are available to you.  As a manager, you need to ensure you are equipped to do your job and that of your team’s well.  To do this you will also need to set aside time to work on recruitment and your people development.  Remember that your people are your greatest asset.  By helping coach them to sharpen their focus, it will bring an enormous return on the power of what you as a team can achieve.

Defining Leadership Webinar Presentation

You can view the presentation delivered by Emma on “Defining Leadership – Leading your way to greater success” as delivered to the Australian Businesswomen’s Network.

Here is the link to the ABN webinar presentation dated 29 July 2009: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/579292194

Please note: You will need to provide an email address to unlock the presentation file, however this will only take a few seconds.

This presentation covers:

  • The basics of good leadership
  • The differences between being a good manager and being a great leader
  • How to unlock the potential of your people under a common vision
  • How to deliver something greater (with your team) than what you could ever have achieved by yourself
  • How, by investing in yourself as a leader, you can lead your way to greater success.
  • Those that want to move from being managers to being leaders

To find out more about the Australian Businesswomen’s Network, visit www.abn.org.au

Leading your business to success

Written by Emma Lo Russo and as published in the July 2009 “Australian Businesswomen’s Network” newsletter:

Leading your business to success

Leadership.  Picture by Denis ColletteYou have the title, a team that reports to you and a defined business purpose and responsibility. The business environment and competition is tough and you are looking at new ways to ensure continued growth and success. You spend night and day wondering what else you can do, what extra advantage you can create…

It is likely you already hold that advantage. And the answer is your own employees. You can easily move from managing them to do their job (even if you do this aspect very well), to leading them to achieve something far greater – for themselves and for your business.

Understanding the difference between management and leadership

Management is about getting the best out of resources, mostly through defining responsibilities and processes, to further the goals of the company. ‘Leadership’ on the other hand is painting a common view of the future and inspiring and galvanising your team towards achieving it.

There are some key leadership characteristics and qualities to embody if you hope to achieve a powerful business advantage through your people. A key aspect is understanding that your people are entirely your business. They provide the moment of truth every time they interact with your customers, partners, suppliers, each other etc. It is important that they share and believe in the aspirations for your company. That they can see how to align their communications and activities they do every day to the greater picture you have of success, and how that can in turn help them enjoy and benefit from that success.

Acknowledging, encouraging, empowering your people to act in harmony with your vision and values is far more powerful than prescribing what you want and outlining precisely how they should be doing it.

Empowering your people

Regularly sharing your vision and plans for the future and encouraging your team to help visualise success will help stimulate growth. Looking to your people to help identify the best growth opportunities and providing regular forums for your employees to present their ideas can help grow your business. Acknowledge all good ideas, empower your people to own those ideas and reward them when they help you get to where you want to go faster. The more you can celebrate success with your employees, the greater the performance culture you are creating.

Tips to help you lead your organisation to success:

  • Paint a common view of the future and translate your vision and strategy into workable goals for your employees
  • Share your vision regularly, applying short and long-term frame of references for all projects and activities
  • Live and promote your desired culture and values
  • Model integrity in decisions, communication and treatment of people – always lead by example
  • Recognise others’ strengths and limitations – focus on building teams around individual employees'(and your own) strengths
  • Coach, mentor and develop your team – help your team members develop self-awareness and strive for personal development, helping them align their career aspirations with your business goals
  • Inspire, encourage and acknowledge action and commitment from your employees

When thinking about leadership, it is good to reflect on the line “follow me, I am right behind you”.

If you lead through inspiration, suggestion and example then your team will follow, encourage others and deliver you greater success.

To read the article in context and others on leadership go to:

http://www.abn.org.au/womeninbusiness/newsletterissue79/Leadership-Strategies-for-Women/index_landing.html

To follow Emma on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EmmaLoRusso