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Small Business Revitalization Blog

Small Business Coaching: Revive Your Profits, Revitalise Your Perspectives, Reinvigorate Your People

Are You Leading Intuitively?

My business coaching clients often ask how they can be better leaders… of staff, suppliers, partners, in the community and with their family.   

There are many leadership theories that could keep you enthralled for at least a couple of minutes, until you realize that in these times of extraordinary change these models are incredibly challenging to use effectively and rarely create the visionary results you are looking for!

Look around.  There’s traditional command and control leaders, servant leaders, transformational leaders, charismatic leaders - the list goes on...   Traditional leadership styles mostly rely on various forms of force, exclusion, competition and separation - managing and shaping people in ways that inadvertently limit their contributions and stop the business from being extraordinary.

Traditional leaders almost always work from a paradigm where their experience gives them many past reference points, which leads to a habit of triangulating their beliefs, expectations, judgments, projections and obligations so that they can ‘make sense’ of their world.

This approach creates a set of decisions and conclusions which paint the leader into a fixed position where they become vested in a specific outcome and then they are faced with layer after layer of limitations instead of new possibilities, creativity and innovation!  Does this really sound like something you would like to have in leading your business?  What if there was another choice?

Conscious leadership allows maximum creativity, contribution, collaboration and flow.  Conscious leadership allows leaders to be expansive, to use their full capacities, to approach business with ease, joy and a sense of abundance.  

When you are leading consciously, you have the ability to perceive what’s possible, to know where change can create and generate more expansion and ease, to be the greatness of who you truly are, and to receive and actualize the unlimited possibilities that the universe offers up anew in every moment!  

Conscious leaders have insight, energy, vision, creativity, joy, caring, spontaneity and the ability to dissolve conflict with ease.  When you connect what is happening right now with the infinite possibilities the universe offers, you are leading consciously.

Conscious leaders create results through the power of their presence, their choices and their personal actions. They expand possibilities rather than contract them.  They BE the change they desire to see in the organization, first, whether anyone else follows or not!

Would you be willing to claim, own and acknowledge your infinite capacity to be a conscious leader?  We can all be conscious leaders – even children can lead consciously - it is just a choice!    You can start right now:  for every choice you need to make today, ask yourself:  “Will this expand or contract the possibilities for this business?”  The path has already opened for you!

Questions or comments on conscious leadership?  Please share below!

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Motivating Staff – (Empty) Words Are Not Enough!

Image Credit

In the course of my somewhat chequered career in marketing and sales, I worked for a range of small – medium businesses.  One of the oft quoted platitudes from business owners was “we’re family  here” – mostly said to entice employees to work enormous hours for no extra cash, to make unreasonable demands rather than requests and to create a general sense of guilt – as in: ‘we gave you a job…you owe us everything’ .  This approach is often coupled with vague promises of future rewards.

It makes you wonder what type of family these people had!! As an employee, working conditions like that generally bring the response: “ If that’s how you treat your family, I’d rather be an orphan!”

So let’s ask the multimillion dollar question that most business owners are really wanting to answer when they behave like this:  “What does it take to have employees do their best work and for everyone to profit?”

Well, integrity is a good start.  In western countries slave labour has been abolished for quite some time.  So if you truly intend to create a workplace that feels like home in the best possible sense then it’s time to get creative!

Carmen’s Fine Foods in Australia provides an inspiring example of what’s possible.  Ever had the pleasure of an office nanny… your car washed every fortnight… or a boss who actually asks ‘on a scale of one to ten, how stressed are you?’ each week and then does something about it?  Hmmm I didn’t think so!!  (And for the scrooges out there… Carmen’s has virtually NO staff turnover… ) wouldn’t you rather invest in keeping your team loving their work, than hating you and leaving as a result??

Just a thought… as someone who has sat on both sides of the fence… (maybe its time to dismantle the fence too!!).

If 'we're family here' is a value you hold in your business, what are you doing to uphold it?  Please share your creative ideas here...

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Are your employees holding you hostage?

Image: Flickr - SinDesign

Ever had an employee who made outrageous demands (for salary, promotions, time-off etc) and you gave it to them because you felt you ‘had no choice’?  As a leader, it’s important to manage your business strategically.  Here’s ten tips on managing those who try to make themselves indispensible…

  1. Sometimes you ‘don’t know what you don’t know’ – if you have a sense of information being hidden but you can’t pinpoint what is happen, bring in an external expert to review your information flows and make recommendations.
  2. Use a function chart (like an organizational chart but for the specific functions within the business) and allocate a primary service provider and a backup person.  Ensure the backup person is well trained and when people leave, ensure you train another for whichever role has become vacant. (This strategy can also work effectively for internal fraud control).
  3. Be aware of how your ‘reward’ systems encourage or discourage withholding of information and power plays.  Rewards need to be both team and individually based if you want cooperation and high performance across your entire team.
  4. Be aware of ulterior motives… if an employee is constantly criticized by others as ‘not a team player’ investigate early:  What’s really going on here?  What is required to change this situation?
  5. Be willing to move people out of the company quickly if they are engaging in game-playing around information or customer relationships – it will be a lot cheaper now than when they really have you over a barrel!  
  6. What is the culture of your business?  If it is openness and support for each other the ‘indispensables’ will have a hard time thriving due to peer pressure!  
  7. Create a culture of belonging – if people do not feel alienated or unimportant, they will be much less likely to behave inappropriately!  Avoid having people see as the  ‘manager’s pet’!
  8. Hire carefully: for key positions, always ask about the person’s approach to information sharing / hoarding when you check their references.
  9. Have weekly meetings with key staff – ensure there is a current action list, with deliverables, resources, deadlines and a progress statement on the list that they give you (spreadsheets are great for this)
  10. Use all of your human resource systems to create a comprehensive approach that works for your business – job descriptions, induction processes, setting targets and performance management, reward and recognition programs…
Look for common characteristics which signal potential issues with people becoming ‘indispensable’:  e.g. the drama queen (or king!), the office gossip, the person who doesn’t want anything to change, the ‘go-to’ for everything person, the bottleneck, the overconfident non-performer, the subtle sabotager the cowboys and the superstars… implement changes that allow you to recognize risks, share the load and minimize your reliance on any one person.

A business held hostage is a business at risk.  It’s your business and risk management is essential, especially with the new Fair Work laws in Australia.   What are you going to change?  Tell us below!

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Managing the ‘indispensable’ high performing employee.

The recent global financial crisis has seen an increase in advice to employees to ‘make yourself indispensable’.  A useful strategy for the employee maybe, but not always ideal for a smart small businesses! 

Those same high performers have the capacity to hold your business hostage to their demands!  So how do you have high performing team members without making them indispensable?

  1. Create a culture of high performance so that the ‘average’ level of performance is higher than expected in most businesses.
  2. Create an environment and a culture that offers your people incentive to stay and to perform at their best, without them feeling like they need to instigate the ‘power crazy’ aspects of being indispensable.
  3. Work with your team’s strengths – the person being ‘everything to everybody’ needs direction and support in working towards specific targets that benefit the business.  Just because someone can, doesn’t mean they should!!
  4. Have awareness of people who are implementing the ‘indispensable strategy’ – they may not always be the ones you want to keep should the going get tough…  (look for strong performance in their core job role, or move them to a more suitable role if you start to see previously undiscovered talents!!)
  5. Don’t be tempted to rely on the people making themselves indispensable – you are compounding the problem and teaching them to become a bottleneck.  Encourage good delegation practices (starting with you!!) and ensure that those not performing at the higher levels know they need to step up – allow the bar to be raised!!
What do you think?  Have you ever been held hostage by an employee who thought they were indispensable?  What did you do to alleviate the risk to your business?  How did you harness their enthusiasm and commitment to the business without creating other problems?  Share your ideas here!

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Is brand more powerful than strategy in creating competitive advantage?

“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” - Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie knew that the secret to understanding what people really value is to observe their behaviour. Often the visible brand and culture encapsulated by the all too common ‘handy eye candy’ wall poster turns out to be lip service only.  How often have you stood in a foyer or store and seen the blurb about ‘we care for our customers…’ only to be ignored or given poor service?
Strategy generally defines the ‘hard’ profit-making elements of your business. Brand and culture define the ‘soft’ people and customer focused elements of your business. Strategy is often easy to copy; brand and culture are notoriously difficult. 

If long term competitive advantage comes from the elements which are difficult to copy, why is so much time spent on strategy and so little time spent on brand?  

A brand can be defined as “a personal promise delivered via an extraordinary experience”.  It is so much more than your logo, signage and advertising campaigns!  Ultimately it is the intangibles that differentiate you from your competitors. In business, it is rare to see values that are authentically held and delivered! How much untapped and untouched potential is waiting to be unlocked in your business brand?  

The answer to unlocking this potential starts with the culture of your business.  In simple terms this is the core values and behaviours that define “who we are and how we do things” within a business.

To start developing your brand and culture as an inimitable competitive advantage, you need to get really clear about who you are, what you stand for, what promises you are making and how they will be delivered. Here’s five quick questions to get you started…

  • What are the first impressions people encounter in your business?
  • How do your people treat each other?  
  • How would you like them to treat each other?
  • What are the promises you make to your customers?  
  • How can the customer experience more accurately reflect your brand promises?
Sounds simple… not always easy! What has your experience been with brand and culture?  We welcome your comments!

P.S.  One of our brand values is JOY - we help you discover how joyful business can be... want to experience it for yourself?  Discover how your leadership can set your brand and culture apart from your competitors... join us at the REVIVE Business Coaching Playshop on Monday 26 October.  Bookings are essential!  (Yes, we do playshops, not workshops... so much more joyful and productive for all!!)

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The Value of Your Personal Brand

                    Source: Flickr: teamstickergiant

When Barack Obama recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, he proved that your own personal brand can deliver results beyond measure.  Whether or not he actually deserved the accolade has been well debated elsewhere. The bottom line is, when it comes to brand, ‘perception is reality’.

The reality here is that the pure strength of the brand values Obama promoted throughout his extensive campaign into the presidential office and beyond, have generated so much energy, enthusiasm and respect that he won this award before he actually delivered on the promises!

Can you imagine having a business or personal brand that is so strong and so respected that people will award and reward you even before you deliver?  Sounds impossible, but Obama has just proven that anything is possible… So here’s my top 10 tips from Obama’s phenomenal brand strategy:

  1. Be appealing, be audacious, be iconic.
  2. Something not working? Define the game differently. Shift paradigms and perspectives to create a new reality.
  3. Create credible and consistent ways to engage brand advocates.
  4. Infuse action from the bottom-up. Grassroots efforts create groundswell.
  5. Be a flexible and adaptable leader, not a boss.
  6. Be authentic. What you do sends clear messages: BE the values you stand for.
  7. Connect with people. Talk to human beings, talk to everyone. Know who you are talking to.
  8. Be honest and transparent. People love Obama because they feel they know him.
  9. Know what makes you unique, and leverage this.
  10. Invite and welcome feedback. Cherish the opportunity to make improvements.

Ready to build a brilliant brand and contagious culture?  Are you ready to realise the potency of you? Give yourself permission to BE unique… rather than just talking about it!  Create your phenomenal brand at the REVIVE Business Coaching October 2009 Playshop!

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Ordinary or Extraordinary? Which Is Riskier?

Quirky brand inspiration via Giant Ideas

Think about the businesses you interact with.  Can you name more than five that offer you an outstanding experience every time?  Can you even name one?

Being ordinary in business is easy. You don’t have to think much. You don’t need to do anything different or unusual. You don’t need to be brave.  You don’t need to stand for something. You don’t need to get out of your comfort zone.

The outcome? You don’t stand out from your competitors. You don’t attract raving fans.  And you certainly don’t get extraordinary results!  Being ordinary doesn’t cost much…. Or does it?

Is your business joyful and fun or is it all pain, suffering and gory?  Your answer will depend on your brand and culture… If your brand is more beige than magenta, and your culture is more ‘slit your wrists’ than celebration, it may be time to rethink the risks of being ordinary! When you develop an extraordinary brand and a supportive culture you open up possibilities for magic to occur…  

Talented and amazing people will want to work for you because the way you do things is enticing and engaging.  Customers will become raving fans because you offer something rare and exciting.  Suppliers will want to partner with you because your business is growing.  

Three steps to generating a phenomenal brand:
  1. Identify the personal promises your brand makes publicly.
  2. Create extraordinary experiences around these promises.
  3. Weave the delivery of these experiences through your company culture.
Ready to take the risk of building a brilliant brand and a contagious culture?  Give yourself permission to BE unique… rather than just talking about it!  Create a phenomenal brand at the REVIVE Business Coaching October 2009 Playshop!

Do you have a brand vision that helps you outperform your competitors?  What have you done with your brand or culture that has created phenomenal results? Share your experiences in the comments below...

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Culture Creates Your Brand's First Impressions

Antique shop doorknocker... a perfect match for first impressions?
(Flickr: Dominic's Pics)

Your impact on potential clients, customers and team members starts with their first impressions.  Those first few moments of communication are driven by your culture and your brand... how does your business meet expectations?

I like to think of culture as the internal representation of your brand.  It's the intangible stuff that people actually feel when they deal with your business.  Many business owners spend little time thinking about culture... they think they are too busy making money! 

Here's a little food for thought... Zappos is a US based retailer that has built a business from zero to $1billion!  And they think culture is really really really important.  They even have a culture book - it's a huge 450 insightful, fascinating pages long!  If you are wondering whether you need to think more deeply about culture in your business here's a few questions you might want to ask...

  1. Did I start my business because I hated who/where I worked for before?  (If so, then culture is important to you... what sort of culture are you building? What sort of leader are you choosing to be?)
  2. Do I wake up in the morning and get really excited about going to work?  (If not then your business culture isn't working for you!)
  3. Do I have a long line of people wanting to work for me, even though I haven't got any job vacancies right now?  (If not then no-one knows how amazing your culture or your company is... you might need to build your brand!)
  4. Do I look at other companies and wish I could work for them instead?  (If so you need to develop your culture and your brand to be more appealing to yourself right now!)
  5. Do I keep wondering how to have my team take more ownership in their roles? (If so, you may want to consider the role the right culture could play in developing productivity!)
Culture permeates every area of your business.  How your customers are treated.  How your team treat each other.  How productive your business is.  How much happiness there is in your daily working environment.  How much money you make.... You can't afford to forget about culture!

Is it time to reconsider your culture and your brand and how they can enhance each other in making your business even more phenomenal?  Book your place at the REVIVE Coaching October Playshop "Use Your Creativity to Build A Remarkable Brand"  We're going to explore new perspectives on culture and branding!

I hope to see you there!

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