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Showing posts from February, 2011

How To Prepare For The Next Recession

Even though the business environment is improving for some companies, don't close the book on the recent recession until you've set a game plan for how you will lead your business between now and the next recession. And, for how you will lead during the next recession.

Write down the lessons you learned over the past couple years and determine how you'll apply each going forward.

You can also take note of the suggestions from savvy business leaders that offer this advice:

•  You have to build trust with your colleagues before a crisis comes or no one will follow you when it does.
•  There is no substitute for preparation. Access your company's strengths and weaknesses at all times.
•  Conduct an annual risk review that encompasses both financial and non-financial risks.
•  When removing employees from your business, be courageous, quick and fair.
•  Pay attention to those who leave and those who stay. And, for those who stay, remove work so the employees left behind d…

Are You Connecting With Your Customers?

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Here are some key questions to ask yourself about how to connect with your customers in today's digital age:
Are we making it easy for customers to find us in their digital lives?Do we offer services and content to customers on their schedule, not ours?Do our Web services run well on any browser, smartphone, or digital interface?Can our customers use their phones and mobile devices to find us, learn about us and pay us?Are we responding to customers online in a timely manner?Are we giving our biggest supporters the opportunity to connect with us and champion our business online?Has the conversation among our customers become a vital part of our business?Depending on how you answer these questions, you may need to also ask yourself these questions as well:
What assumptions about our business do we need to reconsider?How does our culture need to change?What new skills and capacities do we need to foster?
According to author David L. Rogers, "to thrive in our digital age, businesse…

How To Be A Better Listener

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Here are some ways to sharpen your listening skills to help you derive the fullest meaning from what is being communicated:
Listen for potentialListen for what's not saidListen for inconsistencyIdentify nonverbal signalsListen for perspective Listen for energyListen for themes and threadsListen for what's behind the wordsListen through the silenceListen for positive changeAcknowledge you're listeningKnow when to interrupt The last tip, about interrupting, kind of surprised me when I read this list in the book, What Could Happen If You Do Nothing.  But, there are times when interrupting makes sense.  Strategic interrupting can be both clarifying and productive for both parties.  For example, it makes sense to interrupt when:
You feel that you or the other person has lost the threadYou need clarification to fully get what's going onThere's an opportunity to offer a suggestionIt might be helpful to reframe or offer another way to look at a situation And, if you are ha…

Avoid These 10 Common Sales Manager Mistakes

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You'll find this list of the ten most common mistakes made by sales managers toward the very end of Kevin Davis' latest book about how to sync your sales approach with your customer's buying process:

Failing to shift from "super salesperson" mode to managerial mindset.Fighting fires continually.Leaving your staff to sink or swim on their own.Ignoring the importance of performance standards/getting blind-sided by poor performance.Failing to leverage the strengths and resources of your team's top producers.Spending too much time working with the bottom 20 percent.Allowing senior salespeople to get stuck in an unmotivated rut.Being inconsistent in your recruiting and hiring process.Assuming your sales reps will figure things out the same way you did.Hanging on to low-producing salespeople for far too long. The chapter on coaching for sales success is well worth the price of the book by itself, but fortunately, the rest of the 250-pages provide helpful lessons on…

The Reasons To Interview Candidates In Three Different Places

One of the reasons you want to interview people in three different places is that candidates will usually be at their very best in the first interview (likely in your office).  After that, if they are pretending, the veneer will come off in subsequent meetings in out-of-the office locations.

Also, because most employees can only be successful in their jobs in different locations as well, it makes sense to witness your candidates in different settings.  So, consider interviewing the candidate over a lunch at a nearby restaurant. 

And, finally, consider interviewing them in a group setting where you invite a variety of your employees to be part of the group.  If you do this, be sure to let each employee voice their "vote" regarding the candidate after the meeting.

There are lots more great tips like this one in Thompson's and Tracy's new book, Now...Build a Great Business!

3 Things To Avoid When You Give Your Next Speech

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If you don't want to get your speech off to a bad start, the communications experts at Speechworks suggest you:
Don't apologize (particularly about your anxiety or lack of preparation.  Apologies put your audience on the defensive.Don't start by telling a joke (which may not be all that funny, or is irrelevant, or that may even be offensive to someone in your audience).Don't beat around the bush (including, don't list off a lot of people you want to thank.  Don't waste your audience's valuable time) Instead:
If you need to deal with your anxiety, practice like crazy.  Rehearse particularly your first line over and over.Start your presentation by laying out for your audience a key issue that they are facing in their business.If you must thank someone, do it at the end, or thank your introducer briefly, pause, and then start right into the meat of your message.

How To Avoid 8 Performance Evaluation Pitfalls

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You'll learn how to avoid eight performance evaluation pitfalls in what I think is the best chapter of the book, The Essential HR Handbook, written by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell.

If you are a leader and it's time to conduct an employee evaluation, Armstrong and Mitchell caution you to watch for these pitfalls when making your evaluation:

1.  Clustering everyone in the middle performance-rating categories
2.  Overlooking flaws or exaggerating the achievements of favored employees
3.  Excusing substandard performance or behavior because it is widespread
4.  Letting one characteristic - positive or negative - affect your overall assessment
5.  Rating someone based on the company he or she keeps
6.  Rating someone based on a grudge you are holding
7.  Rating someone based on a short time period instead of the entire evaluation period
8.  Rating everyone high, to make you look good

There's other great information in this 250-page book that is valuable for any manager…

8 Tips For Leaders New To Blogging

Here are eight tips for leaders new to blogging or for leaders who want to ensure their company's Blog is the most effective it can be:
Use keywords for your business in your Blog posting headlines.Write about the pain points of your target reader.Be sure your Blog covers topics where you or your company is truly an expert.Keep your Blog postings short.  Keep paragraphs and sentences short.  Use bullets.Include a call to action.  Perhaps you ask a question or offer a downloadable white paper.  Or, ask readers to sign up for your company's e-newsletter.Publish a list that is likely to be shared by your Blog's readers.  Include and quote industry experts in your Blog postings.Use free metrics and analytical tools to measure which of your postings are best read and shared.  Use the tool to track the sources that drive the most traffic to your Blog.

5 Things Every Leader Should Remember

A relatively small Kansas City-area newspaper for readers over 50 years in age published an article by C.W. Hanson recently where he offered these keen observations about leadership:
The longer the contact with those you offer leadership to, the more scrutiny you will receive and the more self-disciplined you must be.People will pay attention to what you do as well as what you say.Your contingent may be one or many.  You may not even know you are being watched, but that does not preclude you from being a role model for someone.  Your word and your behavior are still important.Your contact with those you lead may last a lifetime or be just a passing moment.The preparation for leadership is necessarily more complex when you are responsible for many than for one. Source:  Kansas City 50 & Better

Don't Hire Jerks, No Matter How Talented

"Don't Hire Jerks, No Matter How Talented," said Michael Lebowitz in a recent interview for The New York Times

Lebowitz is the CEO of Big Spaceship, a marketing and communications agency.  He claims, and I agree, that no matter how talented the person may be, if he/she can't fit into the company culture and work effectively with co-workers, it doesn't matter how talented he/she is.

The other advice Lebowitz gives is:
If you are the CEO, be the FIRST person to interview a candidate.  Don't be last, as is typically the case. "I completely step back from trying to assess their skills. I leave that to the people they're going to be working with really closely," said Lebowitz.  "And, so I spend as much time as an hour, sometimes 90 minutes, just trying to figure out who they are and if they're going to be a good fit for the culture."

In his interviews, Lebowitz asks these open-ended questions:
So, what do you do?What do you like to do?…

The Three Things That Create Great Customer Service

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United's Vice President for HR-Employee Relations, Donna Towle, says that if co-workers relate to one another within a company culture that fosters:
TrustPrideCamaraderie...then great customer service falls into place.

Equally important for United is listening to its frontline employees.  Towle, in an interview featured in the airline's in-flight magazine, says there can't be a disconnect between management and the frontlines.

To ensure two-communication is taking place, United:
Dispatches teams to act as impartial liaisons between leadership and frontline co-workers to ensure that employees have someone in management they can speak to who is neutral and unbiased.Towle also works with United's leadership team to help ensure that:
Management delivers on promisesShows appreciation for good work and for extra effortSeeks and responds to suggestions and ideasShows interest in employees as human beings

Book Offers Tips For Listening, Asking And Suggesting

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If you have a manager who isn't the best communicator, you can suggest he/she read Jane Murphy's and Khatun Huber's book, What Could Happen If You Do Nothing?

Actually, it's more of a handbook than a book, and it is best read by finding the section most applicable at the moment versus reading it start to finish. 

It's filled with mini-dialogues that demonstrate the impact of engaged listening, deliberative questioning, and animating suggestions to facilitate change and action.

To me, the most useful section is the list of a dozen or so questions (for each conversation category below) to ask an employee to:
Start a conversation with an employeeConduct a meaningful follow-up conversationClarify inconsistencies in what you are hearing from an employeeBuild and further a conversation on what's being said to move the conversation aheadWind down a conversationSolicit feedbackEqually enlightening are these questions from which a manager can select to ensure all partie…

Watch Super Bowl XLV For Its Advertisers' Social Media Plays

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As you watch Super Bowl XLV today, watch particularly for how advertisers integrate their social media with their TV commercials.

Mixing traditional media with new media will be unprecedented this year.
One reason is that nearly two-thirds of 18- to 34-year-olds planning to watch the Super Bowl have smartphones and intend to use them while watching the game, according to Lightspeed Research.Of those, 59% will be sending emails or text messages about the game while 18% will be checking out the ads online from their phones.Some advertisers have already started their pre-game, social media play to build brand buzz and attract viewers to watch their Super Bowl commercials.
Watch for advertisers that will:
ask viewers to post pictures on special advertiser websites and then share them via Facebook and Twitterpost outtakes and/or exclusive content after the game on their websites and social media pagesinvite (or already have invited) people to submit consumer-made-ads about the advertisers&#…

Six No-Cost Ways To Be An Effective Leader

Author and consultant Leigh Branham says the good news is that the most effective things a leader can do don’t cost money; they just cost time and effort.

Branham says a leader should:
1.  Make the commitment to create a great place to work.
2.  Inspire employee confidence in decisions and clear business direction.
3.  Work to build trust based on honesty and integrity.
4.  Practice open, two-way communication, especially in times of uncertainty.
5.  Look out for the organization before you look out for yourself.
6.  Believe employees should be developed and retained; not burned out and discarded.

These six leadership skills topped the list of what leaders routinely do in companies that have won “Best-Place-to-Work” competitions in 45 U.S. cities, according to research conducted by Branham.

“Overall, our research confirmed that the culture that senior leaders build is even more important than how immediate managers manage because it so profoundly influences how those managers manage,”…

Check Out The New LeadershipDigital Portal

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LeadershipDigital launched today.  The new aggregator website gives you access to more than 20 bloggers who write about leadership and management, including:
Harvard Business ReviewThe Leadership AdvisorWomen On BusinessGreat Leadership N2Growth CEO BlogYou can also subscribe to receive a daily or weekly/monthly eNewsletter that delivers the best, update-to-date content to your e-mail inbox.

The only downside is that if you're like me, you'll end up spending hours on the site working your way through the wealth of excellent content.

7 Keys To Business Success

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When you start reading Mark Thompson’s and Brian Tracy’s latest book called, Now…Build a Great Business!, you may feel like you are reading 200 pages of Blog posts, but the bite-sized approach to providing tools, practical steps and ideas, rather than theory, is precisely the authors’ intended approach.

The book thoroughly explains the seven keys for how to achieve business success:
1.  Become a great leader
2.  Develop a great business plan
3.  Surround yourself with great people
4.  Offer a great product or service
5.  Design a great marketing plan
6.  Perfect a great sales process
7.  Create a great customer experience

You’ll find a checklist at the end of each step (each chapter) where you can write down your action plan for applying what you’ve learned.

Particularly interesting is the chapter on strategic planning, where the authors recommend you should ask yourself these important questions before you act to create or reinvent the direction of your organization:
•  Where are yo…