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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

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Categories: Coaching, Humour, Leadership

Are we having fun yet?

While ‘beliebers’ fret over the fate of their idol, the rest of us have more strategic matters to consider as we head to the last week of the first month of 2014.  Things like:

  • It’s election year (in New Zealand).  How active is your business in relevant associations that could influence legislation?  And should you be, or not?  (This actually applies even if it’s not election year where you are).
  • How do you think the economy is going to trend this year in countries that impact your business?  Here in New Zealand commentators are saying we have a ‘Rockstar’ economy, but what does that mean for you?  And why is unemployment remaining high, with more layoffs still occurring?  How could that affect you if you need to recruit?
  • Now that the holidays are pretty much over, have you clarified your goals for this year, or have you fallen into the New Year resolution trap, and already lost your way on your key priorities? (It’s not too late – get to and set them now, with actionable steps).
  • What are your clients’ priorities this year?  Do you know?  How can you help them achieve their goals?

Finally, arTurn new year resolutions into actionable stepse we having fun yet???  If you’re not loving your business or career, and we are only in January, it’s time to review.  Make 2014 the year you can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and keep making a difference!

Jenni Murphy-Scanlon is the owner of Strategies Direct, and loves helping her clients find fame, fortune and future-fit in their chosen markets.  She offers you a free report ‘How to think strategically’ at http://www.strategies-direct.com

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

How to make your business strategy easy to implement

How to make your business strategy easy to implement

Heard about not putting your eggs in one basket? That might work for investments, but if you want to make it easy to implement your strategy, put your business in one basket ie niche! Once you stop selling to everyone, and define your market, it becomes easy to target your marketing and achieve success. Calico the Strategy Cat recommends you get your free report “How to think strategically” to find out more….click on Calico to access the report

Categories: Business and Strategy

Do I Pay or Do I Read the Ads?

A few years ago now I remember reading a prediction that companies would begin to offer two types of services to clients.  One would be a paid service, and the other free or low-cost in return for accepting advertising.  For instance, you could get a rental car at normal rates, or get one at low rates that is covered in advertising for a company, who are paying for the car rental instead of you, in return for their message being driven around.  Another example would be a paid drink at a vending machine immediately, or a reduced price one after watching 2 minutes of advertising on the screen.  The assumption at the time, as I recall, was that it was likely to be the younger generations happy to take the advertising and the older consumers more willing to pay for speed, discretion etc.  Sadly I cannot remember where I read it, but whoever wrote it was certainly on the right track because this has become common with some products and services.

I am facing a dilemma of exactly that kind right now.  I am about to source some new webinar software.  I do not currently run many webinars and certainly at this stage cannot justify the high monthly rate of some providers, however excellent their product might be.  I need to start somewhere and the product I am looking at has two options – one with a monthly fee, and one free – but the free version includes the webinar attenders have advertising displayed on their screens during the webinar.  So I find myself endeavouring to answer these questions:

If I opt for the free version, will my clients mind the advertising?  Who will, who won’t?

If I opt for the paid version, can I sell enough products and services from the webinars to cover this and more?

Will my clients have a different view about seeing advertising if the webinar is free, versus part of a paid subscription product?

Does the appearance of advertising during the webinar affect in a negative way, my own and my company brand?

If you have a view on this I would love you to share it.  In the meantime I will deliberate further and let you know in a later post what I’ve decided to do!

Categories: Business and Strategy

When being operational is more comfortable..

Sometimes people are not strategic in their thinking because they choose not to be. It’s much more comfortable to do what’s familiar and that is often operational, short-term tasks.

I often think back to a good example of this. I had not long been in business when a friend kindly introduced me to a friend of his who was an HR Manager responsible for a considerable geographic region of a large organisation. When I met with him he explained to me that his role involved a lot of disciplinary issues. These were particularly prevalent he had noticed in winter and just prior to Christmas.

Immediately interested in this trend, I enquired why that was. He said he didn’t know but these were his busiest periods and could be the time of year he might need a consultant to help out. I came back to the question again. Why was this trend occurring? And then the critical question, what preventative action could be taken to reduce it?

It became apparent that this HR Manager was not in any way interested in identifying the causes of the trend, and certainly not interested in preventing it. I could only conclude that he was very comfortable with reactive work and while he was busy being needed for this work, he did not have to tackle the more strategic proactive aspects of the role.

On the other hand, perhaps he just didn’t know where to start with identifying causes. Either way, I imagine that 2 years on he still has those busy periods dealing with disciplinaries!!

The problem is that while we are busy fighting fires, we are actually irresponsibly wasting resources. Only by taking the time and energy to identify trends and respond in a pro-active way, are we actually doing our jobs well. No matter whether the job is strategic or operational in nature.

Categories: Uncategorized

Do you employ a nanny, cleaner, lawnmowing contractor?

I’ve just read an article in our local paper about how you can have it all – if you are a celebrity! Why? Because celebrities can afford nannies, cooks, gardeners etc. It then goes on to comment about how reluctant even celebreties are to admit how much home help they have. Don’t you think this is quite bizarre?

Decades ago when the norm was for the father in a family to work and the mother to look after the house and kids, did those men try to cover up the fact they had a wife at home doing these chores? Presumably not. In fact, my understanding is that having a wife was better in the social stakes than not having one.

So now the norm is dual working couples, it seems common sense that with two people out of the home, someone has to be there to do all those myrial of chores and look after the kids. There’s no robot help yet, so logically it has to be humans, in one form or another. So why are we all so reluctant to accept that?

I for one am tired of reading about amazing women who appear to do everything – multitasking while watching the kids sport, home baking while designing the next new product for their business. Yick! Who really wants to live like that. They’ll die of heart attacks before they retire! And then it usually turns out they actually have nannies and home help hidden away that they don’t admit to.

So let’s get real and get honest. I’ll start by letting you know about my help. I buy takeout food about once a week, and pre-prepared food, as healthy as possible, almost every week. We pay for car servicing and sometimes I pay for carwashes. I almost never clean my car myself. We have a guy come once a week to mow the lawn. Every few months when the small amount of garden we have gets too much, we get in contractors to prune, weed and clear away. I have a couple of fantastic babysitters. I used to have domestic help four hours a week when the kids were pre-school, now I don’t, but I sure plan on getting it back sometime soon! And I have fantstic friends and extended family who look after the kids when I have business commitments.

I’d really love to have a full-time cook to do the food, dishes and all kitchen tasks. It’s on the list!!

What about you?

Categories: Uncategorized
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