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I learn therefore I am…

Some weeks pass fairly routinely. Some weeks are full of LEARNING. Learning can be painful. Literally. Last week was a week of learning for me. Here’s what I learnt –

On Monday I learnt that just because I’m up early and wanting to start my week productively, it does not automatically follow that the tween off-spring are similarly motivated. I also learnt that I probably do too much for them!

On Tuesday I re-learned the value of spending time with like-minded colleagues. I travelled between Hamilton and Auckland with Richard Francis from Bruntwood Consulting, a colleague I often conduct strategic thinking and planning seminars with. Great to expand ideas, and share concepts with someone on the same page!

On Wednesday I learnt how good it feels to achieve goals even if they are past your desired deadlines. I finally finished a project that has gone on for months longer than I had wanted it to. I also reached one of my personal 2013 goals- finally!

Thursday was a day of massive learning. On Thursday I learnt several things in the space of about 1 – 2 seconds. Firstly, I learnt that steam burns – really burns. Secondly I learnt not to reach over the top of a boiling kettle even if you are about to drop the lid of a canister. Thirdly I learnt that all the cold water in the world won’t stop blistered skin from hurting. And over the next few days I learnt how to dress and change bandages on burnt skin. Youch! Won’t do that again.

On Thursday I also remembered the value of networking and how business people are great company, when I attended the Waikato Networking Group monthly café meeting (that was before I burnt myself). I learnt at that meeting about two local businesses that will really help me and some of my clients. I hope some others learnt a bit more about what I do.

On Friday I re-learnt how important it is to have adaptable presentation styles when I spoke in quick succession to a group of blue collar workers, some of whom are illiterate, and then a group of professionals. Same topic, very different ways of communicating required.  I also learnt that when you have a painful injury, kids, mortgages and a business to run, Valentine’s Day can pass you by.  Luckily I also re-learnt how romantic my hubby is – a lovely red rose and ‘marriage joke book’.  I particularly like the joke that ‘A married woman spends most of her time dealing with problems she wouldn’t have had if she wasn’t married.’  I’m sure that wasn’t his favourite!

On Saturday, I learnt again that being in business is not a Monday – Friday 9 – 5 job. I also remembered how fortunate I am to be in a business where I can really help other businesses, and have the personal flexibility of working times that I enjoy!

On Sunday I remembered what a beautiful country New Zealand is when I arrived in Taupo to work for the next three days. The Lake looked gorgeous in the fading sun with three swans catching supper, right outside my hotel window.

Have a good week and hope you learn something!

Find out more about Jenni at http://www.strategies-direct.com

Categories: Coaching, Humour, Leadership

Your 12 Gifts for Christmas Here

It’s now less than a month to Christmas and I have decided that I have so much fantastic content in e-books, presentations and articles that help professionals and business people with strategic thinking, strategy and leadership – that I’ll give some of it away.  You get all 12 gifts.

The gifts you’ll receive  include:

  • How to have an awesome strategy
  • What to do if you think your organization’s strategy is wrong
  • Special book of quotes to inspire work and life
  • The 3 strategic thinking attitudes
  • How to lead by example
  • The problems with being strategic
  • Plus much more!

Reply by 8th December to ensure you receive all 12 gifts!  Go now to http://www.strategies-direct.com/12ChristmasGifts.html

(And if you like that I am giving away this content, please like my blog, or my facebook page, or my linkedin company page!)

What should you look for in a coach?

It seems to me that these days everyone is a coach – or being advised to have a coach. It’s one of those business ‘fads’ – or is it? It isn’t a fad in sports – people have been coached for decades and I suspect will continue to be for decades to come. The same in the arts – they tend to call them tutors or teachers, but it’s basically the same thing. Academia as well, they tend to call them professors. And that leads me to where, I suspect, the business world has gone wrong – or at least is being lead astray by the great mass of people wanting to make a living as coaches. You see, I think a coach should be a tutor, teacher, adviser of the best and most inspiring kind. The type who is an expert themselves, and is able to help their coachee develop expertise. Not by telling them what to do, but not by asking a few questions and leaving them to figure it out themselves either. The coach should know about up-to-date practices and research in all aspects of business, and be making sure the coachee has considered everything they should have considered, and has accessed the information they need to access. A great coach is a teacher, inspirer and supporter.

Would a sports player be happy with a coach that got to practice and said “Now what did we agree you would do last practice? How did that go? What did you learn? What would you like to do in the next month between our sessions?” I think they might be slightly miffed at how much they were paying to get that. And yet I have seen business coaching programs that are exactly that. Sports coaches are expected to be experts in their sport and managing practices, overseeing and consulting about player nutrition and fitness, and attending all the ‘matches’. What about college students? Would they be happy with a Professor who asked of their thesis “How do you think that went? Oh good, well all the best with that.” and then they fail because they haven’t followed correct research practices, and they haven’t found the right references for their topic etc etc. No, the fact of the matter is, sports people, artists and students expect far more from their ‘coaches’ than some business people have been lead to believe they should expect.

Now I know this view won’t make me all that popular with some coaches out there, but frankly that doesn’t bother me. I’m much more concerned about business people paying for coaching that won’t work, and will end them up not accessing the coaching they actually need. Because there are many fantastic coaches out there who can deliver what you need. So if you are thinking about getting a coach, or you already have one whom you would like to assess for value, what should you be looking for? Here’s a checklist to make sure you are getting a great coach –

  • Offers coaching in a specific industry or field in which they have considerable experience and expertise (beware generalist coaches who can supposedly coach anyone or whose only qualification is that of being a coach)
  • Has broad and in-depth experience in that industry or field rather than being a specialist in only one area (beware a coach aiming to secure your exec or CEOs as clients who has only ever worked in one type of role eg accounting)
  • Has significant business and life experience ie been around the block a few times and learnt from mistakes (beware the young, attractive and trendy coach straight from coaching school)
  • Offers a complimentary first session so you can assess whether this is a good fit for you (beware the coach sold by their superior or agent and whom you only meet at your first paid session)
  • Offers on-going contact between formal sessions so that you are never without support (beware the coaching programs that are simply a monthly session)
  • Is comfortable pushing you into taking action, and challenging your views (beware the ‘too nice’ coach who won’t really make you think, learn or grow)
  • Ensures you take responsibility for your decisions and actions (beware the coach who instructs you what to do)
  • Does not have ‘shelf’ products, systems or processes to sell (beware the coach who wants to provide you with other products and services related to issues that come up in coaching)

One of our coaching clients (a CEO) recently told me that she was renewing her coaching contract because “I can raise any topic, and you are able to understand, relate and ensure I get a good perspective on it.” That’s the type of feedback we expect from *Apex clients, but wouldn’t get if the coach had no significant relevant experience.

If you use the checklist you are much less likely to find a ‘lemon’ coach, and much more likely to find one of the many skilled, fantastic coaches out there who can really make a difference to your career and business.

Jenni is an Apex Coach providing coaching within the Professional and Services industries. *Apex is one of many excellent coaching programs available and is provided by Strategies Direct.  You can find out more at http://www.strategies-direct.com/apexcoaching.html

Categories: Coaching, Leadership

Royal Baby Arrival A Model for New Strategy

The whole world it seems is waiting to hear the news. What will it be? How will the details be announced? Wouldn’t it be great if your staff and customers paid the same attention to your new strategy announcement? So what can you take from this event and apply to your next strategy or marketing review and subsequent PR campaign?

  • Create a romantic, or at least really interesting, background story. The royal birth started with the royal romance, royal wedding and so forth. Try to create a story that will capture the interest of your stakeholders.
  • Set the trend. Do something new that others will want to follow. Much of the media anticipation around the royal birth is fuelled by the desire of a portion of the public to copy the royal name, pram, clothes and everything else they choose. If you have followers who want what you produce or want to copy what you do, then while the ‘dailies’ might not be interested, your database, facebook fans and twitter followers may well be.
  • Create anticipation. The late arrival of the royal baby has added to the media and public interest. If you can create anticipation about your announcements, you will get more attention and more interest.
  • Don’t be entirely predictable. There is much blogging and discussion about how the royal baby arrival, weight and name will be announced and when. Will there be the traditional posting of a notice on the gates of Buckingham Palace, or will it be announced via Twitter, or both? If you always use the same methods to announce your important news to staff or other stakeholders, they are likely to get bored and cynical. Keep them guessing and add an element of surprise!

Jenni offers a free report ‘How to think strategically’ at her website www.strategies-direct.com

When does competition matter?

Porter has a fairly strong focus on competitor analysis for strategy development. Some other writers and experts claim that competitors don’t matter – just get on with pleasing your customers. So do competitors matter and if so, when?

I’ve tended to hold the view that you should always keep a watching brief on your competitors, but not get obsessed. No need to stalk them, conduct industrial espionage or get similarly carried away in most situations. These days with social media and websites its pretty easy to know what they’re up to most of the time anyway. However I’ve recently had two experiences that have confirmed pretty strongly that watching and ‘outwitting’ your competitors, even when they are also ‘friends’ can be fairly important for survival.

The first was when I heard the owner of a well-known supermarket in Hamilton talking about the arrival of several competitors into his patch. One was a food specialty store run by a pretty savvy Auckland operator. However, the specialty store did not last long, despite being very successful in other cities. As soon as the supermarket owner heard of the plans to move into his patch, he had his staff check out the specialty stores products and pricing in a nearby city. He made sure he was offering the key products and brands that they stocked. By the time they opened, customers had already seen the ‘new’ products and mostly at better prices. I’m not suggesting this is the only reason the specialty store didn’t last as I don’t know, however, it does suggest that close competitor analysis in this case, may well have paid off. A savvy business owner or manager can certainly make the competitors road tougher than they had hoped.

The second situation is a client of mine who already operates with some key competitors, but each have their niche and operate quite nicely in the same space. However, due to some structural changes and financial commitments of one of the competitors, they have now moved into direct competition in terms of their offering. When I alerted my client to the development, they had not responded or thought about what was happening. Since then we have observed the competitor applying similar marketing tactics (not as successfully as yet!) and getting in front of our customer base. However, because we have analysed the probable reasons for the competitor move, the likelihood of it continuing, and their probable weaknesses and strengths, we have been to respond and plan to survive what we believe will be a short-term problem (we’re pretty keen to ensure it’s short-term!). However, had my client not developed a plan to manage their response to the competitor move, it could have had a major impact on their customer base and bottom line.

So do competitor’s matter? – well yes. When do they matter? – I guess anytime they have their eye on your niche, your customers or your competitive advantage!

The Great Gatsby and Strategy Launches

I just read a review of the new release movie ‘The Great Gatsby’ that said it’s extravagant and will basically blow your mind with the imagery and decadence, but afterwards you’ll wonder what the fuss was about. It made me think of many strategy launches I’ve endured over the years. Big launch, big fuss, then – not much. Which was a pity, because in many cases a lot of analysis, thinking and resurces had gone into it. Here’s 4 reasons why a ra-ra big-fuss launch of your strategy might be a bad idea –

1. People can get the impression that the work is done, the strategy is ‘achieved’, when in fact, the work is only just beginning. The work of implementation. Without it, all the resources that have gone into the strategy development are a complete waste of time.

2. Often staff treat big launches as BOHICA (for the uninitiated this stands somewhat un-charmingly for ‘bend over, here it comes again!). This tends to result in a fairly determined ignoring of the new strategy by many.

3. A big launch can tend to highlight who wasn’t involved, and even if different areas have had representation, this is often forgotten as time passes. It can feel to many like this is something top management are handing down, and that really doesn’t get much buy-in.

4. A big showy launch tends to highlight what you’re intending to change, rather than what you are keeping. A better way to get buy-in is often to start with what is working well, and what is staying the same.

Jenni offers a free report ‘How to think strategically’ at her website – http://www.strategies-direct.com

3 things I learnt

This week I spoke at the World Business Capability Congress. I had the opportunity to attend a number of other sessions, and I noticed some recurring themes. Here’s my observations:

  1. Despite the on-going contrary wish of many leaders, human DNA has not changed enough in recent years to force change successfully. People still need to be involved in creating and understanding change to make it stick.
  2. There are ample tools, models and processes out there for business improvement and success but people are still searching for the magic bullet.  Looks like plain old hard work of implementing properly is still the only way to make things happen.
  3. Even though on-line and social media are great ways to meet people outside your normal circles and to maintain contact, nothing beats face to face conversation for sharing, building relationships and renewing motivation. That’s why people continue to travel to events such as this despite the apparent ineffeciencies.
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