Getting the most out of your Gen Y employees…..

 

Biggest asset? Biggest pain?

A thought provoking guest post by Dr Andy Adcroft on making the most out of your 25 to 35 year old enfant terribles employees. Well worth a read if you have any!

Eric Cantona leaps, feet first, into the crowd, is banned for 9 months and when he comes back the manager makes him club captain. Luis Suarez bites an opponent, for the third time (yes, the third time) and then moves to Barcelona for £75 million.

No-one said it was easy managing talented people but for some people, whose talent and achievement is obvious, you might make an exception. But, and this is a huge but, what do you do when the hardest person to manage has seemingly endless potential but hasn’t, as yet, actually achieved anything?

Welcome to Generation Y

20 somethings. The selfie generation. Self-confidence that can be brittle. Ambitious and impatient. Live their lives on social media (some say they’ve been raised by technology). No respect for positions, no respect for hierarchies, no respect for lines of management. Don’t get it, won’t get it.

But hugely creative and innovative. Maybe they are where the next big idea is coming from.

Do you fight them? Socialise them? I’ve even heard one business talking about house training them. Get them to fit in around you, rein in their creativity.

Or give them their heads. Wind them up, watch them go.  See what happens. The next big thing. Or the next big crisis?

Here’s my advice.

Try this one for size. Let them make up their own rules. Let them decide what is and isn’t acceptable. But remember two things:

  1. They’ll probably surprise you with how strict and challenging their rules are – you might not  be negotiating something more reasonable but working out how you support smart people to achieve lofty ambitions for them and for you;
  2. Make sure you hold them to it. Conversations about behaviour and conduct need to start with their rules not yours.

Guaranteed results? No. Easy to do? No. Still, as every Generation Y knows, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun.

andy adcroftDr Andy Adcroft is Deputy Head of the Surrey Business School and a recognised expert in assessing, engaging and motivating generation Y employees.

Click here to learn more about him.

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Posted in Guest Posts

20 second tip that could save you months of effort

Yes, it really is this simple!

Yes, it really is this simple!

We often need to make contact with somebody to get a decision.

Email is OK provided the other person is serious about the decision and reads all their emails. If not it can be a barren land that never yields a bean.

The telephone is better but during the day people are busy in meetings or working and prefer not to be disturbed; they turn on their voicemail.

Leaving messages on voicemail can be worse than sending emails.

Here’s a different approach that works most of the time.

  1. When you begin to engage with a new decision maker find out if they are an “early starter” or a “late finisher”.
  2. Most managers are one or the other – some are both, few are neither.
  3. Make a note of this preference on their CRM record.
  4. Get a direct-dial or mobile number if you can – ditto on CRM.
  5. Confirm that “if I need to get you should I call you at whatever-time-they-said”.
  6. When you need to speak to them ring at this time.

Einstein said the definition of insanity was to do the same thing in the same way over and over and expect a different outcome each time. Never more true than trying to contact decision makers during normal working hours.

So here’s the skinny. Find out when your decision maker is most likely to be available and ring them at this time. Ta dah!

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Posted in Blog, Efficiency & Effectiveness, Sales Effectiveness, Sales New Business, Time Management

4 things great negotiators always remember

 

If only negotiating was this easy.

If only negotiating was this easy.

Negotiation is a tricky thing. It can be painful and the consequences of doing it badly can be costly. Today’s guest post is by corporate law specialist Andrew Stilton who has negotiated more deals than I’ve been on miracle diets and with considerably more success, I might add.

There’s a school of thought that a successful negotiation means winning every single point. But that approach can be counter-productive, not least because it encourages the other party to be equally intransigent, which can make the transaction extremely painful for all concerned and even cause a good deal to be lost.

1 Leave something in for the other guy

The best negotiators make sure that, wherever possible, there’s sufficient in the deal for the other side. This isn’t based on altruism but rather because many deals experience post-completion “issues” and people are far more likely to resolve these in a sensible, commercial way, rather than rush off to the courts if they are, overall, happy with the deal which they’ve signed.

Read more on negotiating win:win deals here.

2 The upper hand can move around the negotiating table

I’m by no means a believer in karma, but sometimes an overly-aggressive approach can backfire spectacularly. On one occasion, some clients of mine were selling a company which was struggling. The buyers and their advisers were determined to fight tooth and nail to win every single point, because they felt that they held all the aces.

At 8.00am on the morning of completion, there were still a couple of issues to be resolved but then we discovered that the buyers were desperate to announce the deal to the market by 9.00am, in advance of their AGM later in the day.

The boot was suddenly on the other foot and so my clients and I decided to have some fun and, over the next fifty-five minutes, systematically and successfully re-opened all of the major points which we had been forced to concede earlier in the negotiations.

3 Give on the small things but stand firm on the big ones.

The best negotiating team I ever worked with was for a company client who fielded Mr Nice … and Mr Even Nicer: between them, they readily and cheerfully conceded all of the peripheral points but, in a very charming way, held firm on all of the points which potentially had a real financial impact, rather than esoteric legal points.

They had worked out in advance which points were the real “must-haves” and made sure that they won every single one of those.

4 Get real – you know what’s reasonable.

As lawyers, of course, what we regard as eminently reasonable when acting for a buyer will be dismissed as totally unacceptable when acting for a seller.

The reality, though, is that most of us act regularly for both buyers and sellers and borrowers and lenders and know pretty much what the legal agreements are going to look like at the end of the day.

It’s much better, therefore, to produce draft documents which are very close to where they expect to end up and then negotiate sensibly, while leaving the other side with a few “wins” to make sure that their honour is satisfied.

Andrew Stilton

Andrew Stilton

Here are 3 more negotiation rules well worth sticking to if you want to get a great result.

Andrew Stilton is a corporate lawyer for Keystone Law and also happened to be the lawyer who managed the sale of my own business. He did us proud. Read more about Andrew here

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Posted in Guest Posts, Sales Negotiation

Top 7 ways to stop people reading your blog

blog logosThe internet is a wonderful source of information, however due to the sheer volume of material available how can you make people read your blog over others?

Our head curator at Flair Headquarters would like to share with you the top 7 ways that will  make her stop reading your blog…

The Title             

Witty titles have their time and their place and yes, sometimes an intriguing title will make me want to find out more but most of the time if it’s too wacky I’m not going like it.

If I found your blog on Google then the first thing I’ll see is the title, if it doesn’t engage me or inform me of what it’s about then I am not going to click on your link.  Simples!

No Pictures

Every time I’m faced with a long block of text that doesn’t have a bit of colour I cry a little inside. I’ll never read it, ever.  I won’t even read it if it’s a topic I am interested in, instead I’d much rather spend another 10 minutes finding a more aesthetically pleasing blog.  Strange but true.

Lack of Formatting

I spend a lot of time curating each week and I read a lot of blogs but am truly amazed at how many of them have no formatting.  It’s very rare that someone will read a whole blog, it’s more likely they’ll try to find what they need by skimming the text or going to the summary at the end before deciding to read the whole thing.

If you have clear and defined sections to your blog entry then please separate them with formatted text, such as making your final statement a bright colour or making subheadings bold.

Long Paragraphs

Seriously, who gets excited when faced with huge blocks of text and who just can’t be arsed to read them. I know which camp I’m in – more short paragraphs please.

Complicated Language

I get it, sometimes the best word for your sentence isn’t ‘nice’ it’s ‘fabulous’,  ‘tremendous’ or ‘stupendous’ and I say good for you! The English language is full of phantasmagorical words that should be rolled out as often as possible nevertheless, there are limits.

If someone were to start talking about their lethonomia* or use jargon that an average person wouldn’t understand then you bet your bottom dollar I’m not going to read your blog.

Think about your target audience and use the appropriate language, you could even get a client or friend to read it first to see if you are on the right track.

* lethonomia is a tendency to forget names – I’m pretty sure I have it.

 Your blog is split over various pages

Ever read a blog where you have to click ‘Next’  at the bottom to read the second half?  This infuriates me!

The purpose of a blog is to give me information swiftly and efficiently and if you have a ‘Top 10 …’ spread over 10 pages how am I supposed to get my information quickly?  It might work if your post is mainly pictorial but for text blogs it seems pointless.

You’re better off having your blog on one page properly formatted to show the different sections.

Your Blog is too fussy

Your blog is a reflection of you or your company so of course you want it to be aesthetically pleasing, but if I can’t easily navigate your blog, or if it takes me 3 or more clicks to get to what I want to read then I will quickly become frustrated.

Also having music playing on your blog is almost always a bad idea. Easy to navigate doesn’t have to mean boring, you can jazz it up with your colour scheme and fonts but remember simple is really best and easy navigation is key.

The bottom line……

Now I’m sure some of you think that I’m being picky or frivolous with the blogs that I’m discarding and to you I say – it’s the way of the world my friends;  best deal with it.  There are more and more fickle people like me who have rapidly decreasing attention spans and are very choosy on what they spend the little time they have.

When you consider the sheer volume of data on the internet if they don’t like your blog there will be 50 other blogs to replace it.

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10 different types of LinkedIn status updates you can make

LinkedIn Status Update

Image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

LinkedIn allows you to log a status update which will then be seen by all your connections.

Many people don’t bother to do this either because they can’t see the point or because they don’t know what to say. Rookie error right there. Read on and be amazed.

So why bother making only 2 or 3 status updates a day: -

It invites people to interact with you by commenting on your status update. Since all relationships are developed and maintained by interaction this is a quick and easy way of starting dialogues with your stakeholders.

Even if they don’t interact it reminds people you exist which is half the battle in sales. 

You can reinforce your credibility and personal brand by consistently making status updates that support whatever it is that you do and believe in.

By placing personal status updates you can begin to help your stakeholders to get to know you as a person and thus strengthen your relationship still further.

So, that’s dealt with the “why” so now lets’ crack on with the “what”.

There are 10 different types of status updates you can make. Here they are.

1. Activity

In simple terms you tell people what you have done, are doing now or are going to do. This is the easiest status update to make but make sure you don’t give away any client secrets or present yourself in a bad light.

Good – “Am just starting the day in the Natural Cafe before a hard day interviewing sales people and running sales meetings”

Not so good – “Have just submitted a proposal to get XYZ & Sons out of some deep do-do. Silly beggers”

2. Adding value

This could be: -

  • a link to a blog you’ve just written,
  • a blog somebody else has written and you think your connections would benefit from reading,
  • an article in an on-line publication,
  • a great website you’ve discovered
  • a video on TED.com, YouTube or somebody’s web site
  • a sage piece of home-spun advice

The essential thing to remember is that whatever you publish should appeal to a large proportion of your connections.

“This is a great piece for anybody whose job calls for them to produce written work – check it out

3. Opinion

Good – “I think there is a very fair chance the Wolves may get promoted this season” (I should say I don’t really believe this though)

Not so good – “Is it just me or is employing the over-fifties more trouble than it’s worth” (BTW I’m 54 as I write this)

4. Amusing or Interesting

We all have a sense of humour but not all our senses of humour are the same. I think the odd amusing video, joke picture or even one-liner can all enrich the busy lives of our connections so why not share what you find funny with your peeps.

As for the previous category avoid contentious subjects and only share things your mum would approve of (seriously this is the acid-test). For the record my mum is OK with the odd swear word.

Oh, and don’t overdo these kinds of status updates unless you’re looking for a spot at the Comedy Club!

“This makes me laugh every time I watch it – worth a look

5. A mention

Whether its a happy birthday, congratulations for an achievement or just commenting on something somebody has done it’s OK to send this out as a LinkedIn status.

If you include the name of the person in question LinkedIn will notify them (first degree connections only) what you have said. Simply type the person’s name in your status update, a drop down list will then appear and you select the person from this list.

Warning Will Robinson: don’t say anything derogatory – imagine what that person would say if you told them to their face and type accordingly.

6. Topical

There’s always stuff going on. It could be a breaking news; sport related or perhaps even something related to the date. Topical stuff when combined with opinion (see above) can also be quite a good combination.

I published a blog on the day Mrs Thatcher died and caused quite a stir – marvellous.

7. Quotations

Whilst a quotation is a sort of a cross between adding value and being interesting I single them out because I think they’re great updates provided they are used sparingly. Words of wisdom from the famous and the worldly-wise always seem to resonate with people.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him” – James Miles

8. Promotional

Whilst it’s really bad form to constantly bang on about the next seminar you have or the latest award you picked it’s OK to do it every now and again; in fact why wouldn’t you? One or two of these kinds of update a week is fine; will add to your brand image and may well result in something positive happening for you.

“Final call for our Webinar on Using Social Media for sales NOT marketing which starts at 2:30pm GMT today.”

9. Inspirational

Anything really that lifts the spirits of those who read it. Again it could be a quote, a comment or a link but there should be nothing in it for you and many of your connections should be able to relate to it. Beware: you can only have so many photographs of cute puppies in amusing situations.

“Imagine being blind all your life but replacing sight with human sonar: the remarkable story of Daniel Kish

10. Questions and requests

Asking for help or advice is not only a welcome change but will also encourage interaction from your connections. I would advise you to be genuine: only ask when you really want to know but well worth a try.

“Am going to Oxford for a long weekend. Any advice for things to see or do would be very welcome”

Some other stuff to consider

  • Try and mix up your status updates; after all variety is the spice of life even more so when it comes to social media.
  • Use Hootsuite or Socialoomph to send the same LinkedIn status update to your Twitter feed and Facebook page.
  • Start by committing to one update in the morning and one in the afternoon then see how you do. You can schedule these using Hootsuite of course.
  • Looking for interaction? Include a question or request in your updates.
  • Most of your updates won’t be read and even less acted upon so feel free to send out several each day. You won’t offend or irritate if you do.
  • Make sure you respond to other people’s status updates. The more you do the more interaction you’ll get back in return.
  • This is your window to the world – don’t waste it.

One more thing………

If you have any other types of update please let me know – happy to include and credit you.

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Posted in Blog, LinkedIn, Personal Brand, Social Media

7 Strategies to Create Exponential Revenue Growth

Software Knowledge Turnover Growth

Software Knowledge Turnover Growth

This graph shows the growth in turnover of a company I owned and ran in the 90s. It was an IT services business and in a decade we took it from zero to £40m – about £60m in today’s money.

There were hundreds of firms like ours and most never got anywhere near this growth so what did we do differently? In this blog I aim to answer this question.

I believe there were many reasons but I reckon it comes down to 7 things we did that others didn’t do as well as us or at all, in fact. So here they are.

1 Make your Offering Turn Heads

In other words make your product or service different from your competitors. This may sound harder that it actually is if you concentrate on the wrong things. We focused on 4 things and perhaps you could do the same: -

  1. The way you deliver your offering, especially when interfacing with your clients.
  2. What else you can add to your offering to make it broader.
  3. Take more responsibility off your clients and do it as part of your offering.
  4. Be more creative and take more risks with your pricing structure.

This is the first strategy because it’s the most powerful one by a country mile.

2 Put your clients in charge of your Quality Control and R&D Functions

Everybody has these functions in their business: if you’re a one-man band it’s you and if you’re a large corporate you have teams of people to do it for you. Somebody has to make things better and improve your offering.

Many firms run quality control surveys and engage in client dialogue around their performance but they normally ask the wrong questions and in the wrong way. Look at the title of this strategy again and rethink what you do.

Get this strategy right and I promise everything will change for you.

3 Be a Sales Hunter and not a Marketing Trapper

This is my favourite, but then that’s probably because I’m a salesman. The point here is, in the B2B world you can identify exactly the person you need to establish a relationship with to get some business. So why bother marketing to them if you can sell to them instead? In those days we were very definitely hunters; I still am.

Our marketing budget for the company that achieved that growth was zero; not a penny. We spent our money on relationship based 121 sales activities. Much more productive.

4 Treat Your Clients 95% the way you would your Friends

We did this unconsciously because all the main players in my organisation liked people, so it was easy for them to socialise and make friends with their clients. But there’s much, much more to this strategy that a few beers after work.

Just think about every thought and action you devote to your friends and loved ones and then translate them into your business relationships and you won’t be too far adrift. Oh, and I know what you’re thinking; that’s why it’s only 95% the same!

5 Communicate like your Business depends upon it.

Back in the day we had face-to-face meetings and telephone calls and that was it. Now we have a plethora of communication channels at our disposal (although, ignore the two I just mentioned at your peril).

If you pay no attention to people or worse still, communicate with them only when you have time, it’s not possible to create, and maintain, the kind of relationship that weathers storms and sees off competitor’s lower prices. Interactions are the sunshine and water that grow strong and fruitful relationships.

6 Be a Pilot not a Passenger; stay in control

You wouldn’t run a business without management reports plus, meetings to discuss them and agree any required actions, would you? So why would you run your business development capability any differently.

It’s hard to increase your revenue today but, easy to do things now that will increase it in a years’ time. Being forewarned and taking action now is what business growth is all about.

It’s vital to make sure you have the right metrics in place (avoid proxy measurements) and a robust management framework to interpret and act upon the information you’re given.

7 Have the right sales power tools and know how to use them.

Imagine being a modern-day carpenter and not having power tools. Sure, you could make do with more traditional tools but jobs would take longer and would be no better quality (perhaps even worse) than having used the old Black & Deckers.

In the modern age we have a number of sales power tools available to help us achieve much more for much less. Remember though, owning them isn’t enough; you also have to learn how to use them properly to reap all the benefits that they can provide.

Where to from here then?

Having worked out what created our exponential revenue growth I wondered what next?

I’ve shared them with others and have had a lot of interest so I decided to build a talk around them. What started off as an informal breakfast meeting has turned into a half day structured seminar which explores the “what”; the “why” and “how” for each strategy.

We’ll be running one in London and another in Birmingham so if you fancy coming along just follow the link and book your space – it would be great to see you there.

Midlands on 17th of September – Sold out 

London on the 25th of September click here to find out more and register. 

Midlands on 7th October – click here to find out more and register

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Posted in Blog, Sales & Events, Sales Effectiveness, Sales Leadership

Book Review – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers By Malcolm Gladwell

Title:  Outliers

Author:  Malcolm Gladwell

Who is it for:  People who genuinely seek success for themselves and for those with children who want to see them do well in life.

What’s the book about:  Why do some people achieve so much more than others?  Can they be so extraordinary?

In this provocative and inspiring book, Malcolm Gladwell looks at everyone from rock stars to professional athletes, software billionaires to scientific geniuses, to show that the story of success is far more surprising and far more fascinating than we could ever have imagined.

He reveals that it’s as much about where we’re from and what we do, as who we are – and that no-one, not even a genius, ever makes it alone.

Review:  Success is one thing that most of us crave; partly because of the material things it can give us and partly because it stokes our ego. We see others around us who are very successful (dubbed Outliers), some of whom were old school friends or work colleagues, and wonder “why them?”

Well Outliers goes a long way to answering that question which in turn can help change your future and the future of your children.

Essentially Malcolm Gladwell states that success is less about people’s innate talents and abilities and more about when they were born and how many hours they spent doing something as well as their family, culture, education and upbringing.

 Here are just some of Gladwell’s ingredients for success: -

  • When you were born: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison were all born with a few months of each other which means they were just the right age when the computer boom first began and were well placed to be part of it. You can’t help when you’re born but it can help you.
  • 10,000 hours: Gladwell states this is the magic number. Even if you have no talent for something if you do it for 10,000 hours he says you will become an expert. Gates had access to a computer from the age of 13 and got his 10,000 programming hours by the time he was 21. The Beatles managed to get their 10,000 hours by playing in Hamburg dive bars between 1960 and 1964. Put the effort in and the rewards will come.
  • Environment: IQ is less important than environment. He cites the difference between Chris Langham with an IQ of 195 who should have had an outstanding career but instead was in and out of prison all his life because of his poor family life. Compare that with Robert Oppenheimer, the inventor of the A-Bomb, who was no smarter but came from an upper class family and succeeded despite trying to poison his college tutor.
  • Education: this may seem obvious but the more time kids spend in school and an educationally rich environment the better they do. He mentions the KIPP project in the US that is having outstanding results simply by getting kids to be in school more.
  • Luck: sometimes you just need a break as one of Gladwell’s own ancestors got when as a slave in Jamaica she married the plantation owner which removed her from a desperate alternative life. He attributes his own success to this one single twist of fate far back in time.

I have read this book a couple of times now and find it both informative and inspiring. I thoroughly recommend it for people who genuinely seek success for themselves and for those with children who want to see them get on in life.

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LinkedIn Tip: make your headline work for you

My LinkedIn Headline

My LinkedIn Headline

You have 120 characters in your LinkedIn Headline so why not use them?

Many people just use their job title but I suggest you include a little more: -

  • Job Title
  • Who you work with
  • The outcome of using you

As you can see from mine when your name appears in a LinkedIn or Google search it’s your headline that stands out most and many people will decide whether to look at your profile (or not) based upon what it says.

To change it just click on Edit Profile (displayed when you move your cursor over Profile on the LinkedIn menu bar) and then click on the pen next to your headline as shown below.

How to change your Headline

How to change your Headline

For the sake of a few minutes why not present yourself to the world in a more positive and informed way. You know it makes sense!

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Posted in Blog, Differentiation In the Sales Process, LinkedIn, Personal Brand

7 Handy tips for making your meetings more effective

There’s more unproductive time spent in meetings than any other form of business activity. A recent survey by Management Today suggests that at least a quarter of the time you spend in meetings is a waste.

Here’s a few ideas to make your meeting’s more effective.

 

Not the best time to start a meeting.

Not the best time to start a meeting.

1. Start them at quarter past the hour.

Ever heard somebody say “I’ve got back-to-back meetings all day”. Very commendable but when will they prepare for the next meeting or make sense of the last one or actually get any work done?

Start meetings at quarter past the hour but still finish on the hour. You’ll get exactly the same amount achieved in the meeting but you’ll have an extra 15 minutes to do the things that matter.

If you’re feeling particularly brave you can even start at 25 minutes past the hour!

2. Never assign an action to “all”.

Dead simple tip this, but a very effective one.

When writing up the minutes to a meeting NEVER put “all” next to any of the actions.

The vast majority of people will read “all” and translate it  in their heads into “somebody else”.

If lots of people have to do an action make one person in the meeting responsible for making sure they all do it and put their name next to the action.

 

Your time is up: ding ding ding!

Your time is up: ding ding ding!

3. Start with some good news.

If you have regular monthly meetings try starting them with each attendee saying one positive thing that has happened since the last meeting. Best if it relates to work but if they can’t think of anything then it’s OK to recount a personal “win”.

I’m not one of your happy-clappy types but this really does lift the energy in the room and get the meeting off to a great start.

Warning: some people will bang on a bit here so it has to be timed. I suggest 30 seconds each with a bell to signify times-up.

4. Separate actions from minutes.

Most repeat-meetings start with a look at the minutes from the last meeting. This is a bad idea because minutes tend to record actions, notes and agreed decisions. There is a tendency for people to re-discuss notes and decisions, given the chance, which is largely a waste of time.

Instead separate out the actions into an action log (what, who and when for) and only discuss the actions due by the date of the meeting.

5. Record the minutes electronically

This can slow down a meeting a little bit, unless you invite an assistant to take down the minutes, but typing them into a Word document or Excel spreadsheet during the meeting has one massive benefit.

You can have the minutes in the inbox of the attendees within the hour. Research tells us that the sooner people receive confirmation of actions they’ve agreed to do, the more likely they are to do them.

6. Always distribute all meeting papers 3 days in advance.

A meeting has been arranged to discuss an important proposal. The night before the meeting the proposal appears in the inboxes of the attendees or worse still is handed out at the beginning of the meeting.

So people have to either read, digest and evaluate the contents of the document almost instantly or a decision is made without people really understanding what’s at stake. Professional? I think not.

All meeting papers including the agenda, previous actions and discussion papers should be in the inbox of each attendee 3 working days before the meeting.

7. Try and do without a meeting in the first place.

A meeting eh? Or you could just do your job and figure it out yourself!

A meeting eh? Or you could just do your job and figure it out yourself!

 

Thought I’d save the best one until last.

Many people call a meeting because they just can’t be arsed to figure out the problem or don’t want to take responsibility for a decision. This is unacceptable; so the next time somebody suggests a meeting on something you feel they should be able to tackle themselves try something like this: -

“Can we have a meeting to discuss how we’re going to handle that so-and-so issue?”

“OK but what’s your suggestion on how we should deal with it?”

“I think we should do this that and the other” – “great – sounds like a plan. Off you go then” or

“I’m not sure” – “well have a think about it and get back to me with your suggestions”

Always challenge a meeting you don’t think is relevant because if you don’t, its a dead cert, nobody else will!

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Posted in Efficiency & Effectiveness

10 things you really need to know about the new flexible working law

 

Blair Adams

Blair Adams

This is a guest post written by Blair Adams of DMH Stallard and specifically aimed at my SME readers although anybody who employs staff should give it a read. To read more pieces written for SMEs by Blair click here.

Here are 10 tips for dealing with flexible working requests.

  1. Remember that employees have the right to request a different working pattern, not a right to have it.  It’s probably best to remind employees of that at the beginning of the process.
  2. There are eight statutory reasons for refusing a request and they are broad enough to encompass most situations.
  3. Employers now have three months in which to respond to a request and can use that time to assess what the impact of flexible working might be.
  4. Receiving a flexible working request can present an opportunity for negotiation with an employee.  For example, you might give a preliminary indication that their original request is unlikely to be granted, but that a different request might be accepted.
  5. The immediate penalty for not dealing reasonably with a flexible working request is relatively small: an employee can claim up to eight weeks pay at a tribunal.  But worse lies in store: constructive dismissal and (indirect) discrimination claims are commonly linked to the poor handling or unreasonable refusal of flexible working requests.
  6. Having a blanket refusal policy is likely to be indirectly discriminatory against women because it is probably still the case that women in the workforce generally bear a greater share of childcare responsibilities and need flexible working arrangements to help them deal with childcare.
  7. If you receive multiple requests, picking names out of a hat isn’t a good idea.  Although ACAS suggest that it might be an appropriate tie-breaker if you receive two very similar requests. I suggest that it’s always better to try to find some real differentiating factor between them.
  8. “First come, first served” doesn’t apply.  If A and B work in the same team and you agree to A’s flexible working request, you cannot reject B’s request simply because A got in first.  You need to be able to justify the rejection by reference to the eight statutory reasons.
  9. If A is a single male who wanted the flexibility so that he could fit work around training for Ironman triathlons and B is a working mother, there is the potential for B to bring an indirect sex discrimination claim even if you reject her request for a statutory reason.  It would be something of a test case, but few employers want to have a test case.  Better to try to work out a compromise solution involving both of them.
  10. Try to manage future expectations.  New working patterns agreed as a result of a flexible working request have contractual force and employees whose requests are accepted tend to perceive that the arrangement is absolute and permanent.  Manage their expectations by making it clear in your policy, and when you agree to a request, that you might have to review things in the future if other employees in the business make flexible working requests or if the circumstances in the business change.

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Mike's approach to business coaching was very refreshing, I attended Mike's Flair coaching course during 2007, which lead to a number of changes in both my personal and business life. I took alot from the coaching and have put into practice most of his ideas. "Thanks for the inspiration !"
Mike has armed me with the confidence and skills to win new business...and that has come my way as a result. Many thanks, Mike. All the best John
Mike delivered a really practical half-day workshop to my group of entrepreneurs within the Academy for Chief Executives. Based upon his creative “Latch-Key” concept, we learned how to generate very practical tools to boost and support our business’ sales success. The members really enjoyed the session and went away with loads of ideas to implement in their businesses. I have taken a major action-plan away myself! This is my second group to participate in Michael's session and Michael has made sure that it is getting better and better. I will do this session with my other groups, and I am keen to try Michael's other session on using Social Media to SELL (rather than for marketing, leads-generation or networking). Recommended
Mike Ames will make you think differently about sales, marketing and business development. With an easy to understand approach, Mike shrewdly does away with excuses and focuses on achievement.
I participated in Mike's Flair course which has helped me develop some really useful skills for developing the business I work in. Unlike other courses, I am actually using the techniques Mike teaches.
Mike took everyone on the course to a new level as business developers, with ideas and techniques to make us more professional, effective and focused on winning more business.
I first met Mike 18 years ago when we were direct competitors; immediately we established mutual trust and rapport, which is rare in the often cut-throat world of recruitment. We collaborated on a number of ventures, where the process was as rewarding as the results. I have great respect for Mike; he is honest, ethical, utterly grounded and great fun to work with. I also admire his thirst for knowledge and his passion for continuous self development. I always read his Flair Bracer coaching blog with great interest for insights, book recommendations and most of all to find out how much weight he has lost.
Anonymous
Mike is certainly a one-off. He tackles issues from the other side. While most of us are busy with the more obvious, Mike is helping you to develop a fuller understanding that will benefit you for the future. He makes you realise that most constraints, whether in your career or your personal life are self imposed. By freeing yourself of these you can develop to your full potential. He observes behaviours and traits that make people successful, enabling you to build your own virtual bookcase, helping you to gather and file experience and knowledge. He then combines this with his training in specific skills and techniques to create a programme designed to benefit you as an individual, which then in turn makes you more effective in your work life. This cleverly addresses the question that most of us ask when faced with yet another ‘training course’ – what’s in it for me? There you are [...]
Wow what an inspirational person Mike Ames really is. I really was at "rock bottom" in my career and personal life when we first met. He has completely turned me upside down, sideways, rattled me and then propelled me upwards. All the Flair principles are truly embedded in me. He really makes you think and question everything you do and I find myself just getting on and doing things now. I really don't recognise myself anymore and I am no longer MRS AVERAGE. Thanks Mike - thank you so very very much. Jean
Mike is an inspirational trainer with good insights on the sales and marketing aspects of professional life. He sees things from both sides of the fence, gets his points across and does so with humour and focus. It was a great pleasure as well as a benefit to be trained by him.
I have attended many personal development courses over the years and consider the Flair programme to be the best. Mike's approach maintains a high level of interest, is action oriented and delivers excellent results. Anyone looking to improve their sales skills, networking abilities and time management in a practical, proven manner would benefit immensely from Mike's course.
As a coach, Mike is inspirational. I come away from conversations with him armed with new ideas and a boost of energy with which to implement them. I value the wisdom of Mike's insights and counsel, which are invariably rich in new forward thinking and lateral but practical solutions - things that work. Important to me also is that Mike's views and the coaching he delivers are balanced - looking at business yes but recognsing that a career is or should be part of a life that has other aspects - home, interests learning etc. I am also very grateful for Mike's willingness to say what he thinks and his obvious complete integrity. Simply Mike is excellent at all he does and a pleasure to work with.
I commissioned Mike for a day's training in Business Development skills for the partners in the Corporate Division of our legtal practice. It was an excellent day. In 25+ years of practice it was the most stimulating day's training I have ever had.
Mike's Flair programme has provided real focus and structure to my business development activities as well as teaching me techniques which enable me to be more effective on a daily basis.
It is a real pleasure and honour to write a recommendation for Mike. I have known him for many years – he is clever, innovative and very charming! But what I really admire about Mike is his humility, his integrity, his thirst for learning, and his passion for personal development (both his and others) – how often can you say these things about a highly successful owner of a recruitment business?!
I attended the Flair behavioural change programme over a six month period in 2009. The programme was designed to encourage behavioural change and entrepreneurial ethos. Mike Ames is a great motivator and both the one day sessions with him and the various assignments set over the course of the programme were thought provoking and challenging. I came away from the programme with a new and highly effective approach to time management and business development. Mike's advice and guidance was particularly useful to me personally in transforming my use of IT systems so that they have become a valuable time management and business development tool, rather than a drain on my time. This has made a significant difference to my own productivity and has directly resulted in new client work and links with work referrers.
Mike has the ultimate credibility in having successfully been involved in BD for many years. However, the key thing for me is that he has simplified what he does into easy to understand chunks and he can communicate these in simple but effective ways. In other words, we understand him and can apply what he tells us. I cannot recommend him highly enough if you need to change things to get better results.
I attended Mike's Flair coaching course during 2007, after which I started to make many small changes in my personal and business life. There was a lot covered during the Flair course and having put into practice some of his ideas has made large improvements especially regarding self confidence and my outlook on life. "A very worthwhile and inspiring course - Thanks Mike!"
Mike made a real impact on our organisation. He gave clarity of thought and presentation to the sales process and made us think in ways we had never thought before. He did this in a way that made sense and was supportive. I would thoroughly recommend Mike
Mike has definitely had a huge influence on me both at work and in my personal life. I have just been part of a group on the 6 month Flair programme. The 4 days were spaced out with assignments in between. This gave us the opportunity to put into practice the skills and techniques we had learnt rather than being bombarded with information. Mike is attentive, inspiring and encouraging. He is a mentor as well as a coach. My team have noticed a huge difference in me in subtle ways and I am hoping to hire Mike back to run a similar course for my team. I would not hesitate to recommend Mike.
Mike enables Flair candidates to step outside their comfort zones, critically examine their life goals, then offers them a toolbox to holistically balance their approach to all their business and personal activities. His enthusiasm is constant; the outcomes can be a revelation - try it!
Mike has had a huge impact on my performance and the value I add in my role. This is evidenced by the huge amount of positve feedback I have received since Mike started coaching me. If you want to change and Mike can coach you, do it!
Mike was the most inspiring and motivational manager I ever had the pleasure of working with. He instilled a culture that I have not even been able to replicate in my own business. For those that have worked with him he has given back as much time in coaching, mentoring and training as they have given to him. All of the skills he has gained over the span of his career convey themselves through his business coaching company - Flair. I have used Mike to coach a number of the business development executives within my company and he can be credited with giving every one of them the inspiration and change needed to be even more successful. If you need to engender change, motivate and increase your sales capacity in your organisation with common sense and a fair bit of humour you should be engaging with Mike. Thank you Mike for still being my mentor after twenty years - continued [...]
Mike has been a fanatastic mentor for me, and would be to anyone looking at progressing their Business Development activities. Having been a salesman and coach for the last 7 years, I could never have imagined how much more I could learn to develop my skills. I highly recommend, guaranteed to deliver results for you and your business!
I had the pleasure and benefit of working alongside Mike on his inspiring Flair programme and can confidently state the course was thought provoking, inspirational and relevant to the ever changing business world. As a Learning & Development consultant, I would strongly recommend any individual seeking improvement to their business & personal skill sets to attend - it developed me hugely and I still refer back to my notes and goals from the course (3 years ago.)
Mike worked with a group of us over a period of nine months as a business coach. He was very well prepared, knew our firm at the outset, and got to know us individually very quickly. His vision of what he wanted us to achieve and how was well defined - both in concept terms and in the way he explained it and delivered his part of the overall exercise. Mike has a very practical, down to earth approach to the business of business coupled with a ravenously enquiring mind and an ability to set theory with practical considerations and an ability to deliver the message, and embed it. Mike will expect you to do your share of the work too - but after all you would not (or should not) be getting this sort of coaching if you don't already feel the need for it. The effort is well worthwhile and I would commend Mike's services - and outlook. If you want to work on your business and [...]
Mike is a focused indvidual who directs his energies into ensuring that every individual he coaches benefits to the maximium from the Flair course
Mike Ames does what he says on his tin. Very direct . Very personable. Takes no prisoners. I recommend when you engage him you buy into his advice . It delivers.
I have no hesitation in recommending Mike as a canny and inspirational business coach. In the late 1990's I helped Mike to sell his business which he had built up from nothing over a comparatively short period of time. His tenacity and success in building the business and the team, in particular sourcing customers, clients and a sound revenue stream from modest beginnings is a matter of record. Anyone in business who needs to do the same should listen to Mike - it is the experience of a successful entrepreneur talking. All this in a very down to earth, honest and likeable chap. Give Mike a hearing - you won't regret it!
Mike is a great guy who is very easy to work with and provides the right level of encouragement depending on the individual. He packages together old and new techniques into a creative "blend" that keeps your interest and stretches you without knowing it! I really enjoyed working with Mike and would recommend you give him a try.
It is an interesting fact that Mike does most of his work by recommendation, which is how we was commissioned by Jumar this year. Mike has a vast amount of experience and knowledge around his specialist areas and offers practical advice in a way that is engaging and highly useful. It is true to say that some workshops that I have attended in the past have been packed with content and can leave you overwhelmed. Mike's workshops leave you thinking and applying new concepts and techniques right the way through until you spend time with him again. I would have no hesitation in recommending Mike to any professional organisation if they are serious about implementing change in order to achieve stustainable and realistic growth.
The modern world of legal services is all about developing and retaining business. Mike has helped me focus my BD activities to generate a pipeline of target clients and has shown me how to convert them into business. Highly recommended.
Anonymous
Mike is a sales and marketing guru and I have been lucky enough to work with him and see him in action. There is no substitute for knowing your subject and Mike is Mr Sales Effectiveness. I also participated in a Flair programme run by Mike and was stunned by the positive impact it had on my personal effectiveness and time management. I hold Mike in high regard and have learned a huge amount by working with him.
Anonymous
Mike is brilliant at helping you find solutions to problems/challenges you encounter and if he does not he usually knows a man or woman who can!
I would recommend Mike on the following basis: 1. Total Client Focus 2. Respect for the Individual 3 Integrity
I have had the absolute pleasure of working with Mike over a period of 8 years. My relationship has extended through several companies and has involved scores of recruitments into many and varied roles. No matter how demanding and short notice our request, the team got straight on to it and Mike never failed to deliver. There were always connections to someone that was a close to fit any role we requested. Mike's integrity and commitment to getting the results for the client is second to none. He has also built a team around him instilled with the same values. I would highly recommend Mike as a source for finding work or finding people for work at any level in an organisation.
I have been a big fan of Mike's for some time. Having attended a number of Mike's seminars and courses I feel he has assisted me significantly in improving my business development skills. I have been very pleased to invite Mike to talk to various organisations I am involved with including Birmingham Future, Coventry & Warwickshire First and the National Association of Women in Construction. It is clear that others have also felt that they have benefitted from Mike's expertise as I have consistently received very positive feedback from those who attended the events. Mike's fantastic practical approach to business development cuts through all the jargon and equips you with techniques that are easy to employ, time effective and really do work. I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Mike as a Business Development Coach to any of my contacts.
I have worked with Mike and his various companies since 1993. Mike has always instilled an ethos of integrity, hard work and just as importantly fun into all of the people he has had working for him and has maintained those values in his own personal business interactions. He has always been prepared to go the extra distance and provide the benefit of his advise and most importantly practical experience in helping to deal with issues / problems when I ask for his advice
I have had the privilege of attending Mike's Flair programme. I got something out of each module that has helped me change the way I work and think. Most importantly, it has helped give me clarity in the direction I want to develop and how I can achieve it. I would not hesitate to recommend Mike.
Mike is someone who can help you get more out of life - and what you achieve depends totally on what you are prepared to put in yourself. There is no "rocket science" - Mike takes you through a holistic, enduring approach which is straightforward, fun and rewarding. Mike himself is highly personable and great to work with.
Mike is a truly remarkable character. He is a self confessed entrepreneur with drive, energy, creativity, wisdom and passion for life by the bucket-load. Mike has a depth of understanding and knowledge of business that makes him a real asset to have around, whether you need help with recruitment or indeed with a more general topic. Mike is truly unique and I'd say he has not only been a great supplier, but I'd also like to consider him a trusted advisor and friend.
Mike is one of the best business coaches I have met. I thoroughly recommend him and his blog, the Bracer 500. The current (12 Nov 2010) edition has some great advice on the use of LinkedIn. See http://uk.linkedin.com/in/mspames.
I attended the Flair behavioural change programme during 2008. The programme is designed by Mike to encourage behavioural change and entrepreneurial ethos. The course itself is very motivating and encourages great positivity and a feeling of personal well-being. Some of the course material, some found challenging on a personal level, and at times quite thought provoking. Mikes personal attention to these students was in itself very inspiring. Students will gain from this course a new and highly effectual approach to time management and business development. They will feel empowered, discovering that their own productivity will increase with little effort and thought. The constant throughout the programme is Mike Ames. This mild mannered, Midlands answer to Paul Mckenna, is one of those coaches one comes across in a lifetime who really does change your view on life for the [...]
I attended Mike’s Business Development Workshop yesterday, and was impressed with the level of enthusiasm, knowledge and useful techniques provided during the day. The Workshop has provided me with a platform, structure and a very real focus to Business Development to take forward into the future. Thanks Mike.
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