Are you a Leader or a Manager?

Leadership has been defined as being about influence, and Management has been defined as being about authority.  Which is right for your business?

John Kotter, the Harvard Academic, maintains that Leaders are inspiring and successfully promote new directions whereas Managers take care of today’s business, getting things done by executing the directions.

People choose to follow Leaders who are seen as inspiring and people orientated but are required to follow a Manager who is seen as controlling and task focused!

But surely this view is over simplistic?!

The qualities required by both Leaders and Managers are not necessarily mutually exclusive for one or the other.

To be a good Leader or Manager both need to have a degree of inspirational skill.

Whereas, an inspiring Leader might move people to change direction, an inspiring Manager will move people to exert more effort to get a job done!

As a Manager you do need to be a leader to get things done and as a Leader you do not need to be a manager to motivate and get people to follow. Realistically it all comes down to the individual’s personality and how they interact with the people.

Leaders can inspire and get people to follow, however without the skills to get things done, everything will be just words.

Managers on the other hand, with or without the qualities of Leadership are still able to maintain the important tasks at hand.

One could argue that it is better to be a Manager with the qualities of a Leader, who will create the better task force – Leadership qualities being the added bonus to have, but you don’t necessarily need them.

The key element is the individual characteristics of the individual involved and how they influence their people and the people around them, and in turn how those people respond.

Strategic Business Analysis

“Raise your head above the parapet, take yourself off somewhere for a couple of days, leave the mobile device and clear your head”.

Brilliant advice received from the founder of a major international company dealing in high tech components for mobile devices. He admitted this was something he failed to do while his business was growing, then suddenly the growth stalled, a quick analysis highlighted that the company did not have clear strategic objectives and was consequently dissipating huge amounts of energy and resources on unproductive activity, which included him travelling over a hundred days a year.

Business People often get so wrapped up in the day to day business of running a business that working up a strategic plan is one those jobs that is always relegated to next week. It is not earning cash, its not looking after customers, its not dealing with the supply chain, logistics, sickness issues, staff motivation, cash flow or how your brain hurts. But, and it’s a big but, spending time out will help all these issues, including the pain in your brain.

It helps to have an experienced unrelated, (to your organisation) individual to mentor your thoughts. Being an outsider, they’re more removed and can help with your global vision and perhaps add a perspective which you might not have considered. It doesn’t matter what stage of development you are at, starting, early days, growing, mature, it’s a fundamental basic to have this in place and to review it regularly

Why Chief Executives fail……….

  • ARROGANCE: you are right everyone else is wrong. 
  • MELODRAMA: you want to be the centre of attention.
  • VOLATILITY: your mood swings create business swings. 
  • EXCESSIVE CAUTION: the next decision may be your first.
  • HABITUAL DISTRUST: you focus on the negatives in others.
  • ALOOFNESS: you disengage and disconnect.
  • MISCHIEVOUSNESS: rules are made to be broken.
  • ECCENTRICITY: its fun to be different just for the sake of it.
  • PASSIVE RESISTANCE: allowing your silence to be interpreted as agreement.
  • PERFECTIONISM: get the little things right even if the big things go wrong.
  • EAGERNESS TO PLEASE: being popular matters most.  

If the cap fits……………………….?

Pointless Stress Creation

Analyse your day. 

How many productive decisions have you made? 

How much time have you spent dealing with complaints, sorting out administrative mistakes, dealing with employee problems, production problems, customer/client issues, etc. 

How much time have you spent procrastinating about important task, avoiding it completely perhaps?

Why?  What delayed you?  Was it because you were nervous or lacking confidence?  Were you worried about new challenges.  Or perhaps you feel you have inadequate skills to complete the task to the required standard.  

Thinking we can do it all is where most of us cause our own problems  –  both in life and in running our businesses. 

The short answer, if we are honest enough, is that we know we can’t do it all.

Support is critical, and when we recognise this, the benefits are substantial – less stress and much greater productivity. 

The Cardinal Rules of Management

Experience shows that there are seven cardinal rules which form the nuts and bolts of successful businesses. Every Manager should have these as a mantra for their business activity: I will……

1. Communicate and build trust

a. Have an overall goal with repetitive communication.

b. Treat internal departments as you would your best customer.

c. Grow trust internally using your relationship building skills.

d. Focus on customer and joint goals.

e. Use every communication tool you can – frequently and effectively.

2. Set goals jointly.

a. Have an overall goal with repetitive communication.

b. Make them SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time framed.

c. Encourage individuals to set their own stretched targets.

d. Reward achievement.

3. Track progress publicly.

a. What gets measured gets done!

b. Measure weekly or monthly against quarterly or yearly.  Direct comparisons of week on week, or year on year don’t necessarily show underlying trends.  Use MAT’s ( Moving Annual Totals) for trend analysis c. Feedback at regular short intervals.

4. Plan and anticipate the future.

a. Plan what you need to happen – set the intended outcome.

b. Anticipate what needs to be done.

c. Activate the Action steps needed.

d. Always play “what if”.

5. Place and coach winners.

a. Focus on winners.

b. Put people in their best jobs.

c. Show people how their piece fits.

d. Actively encourage people to excel.

e. Exemplify service from the top – lead by example.

6. Organise myself and others.

a. Implement tools to increase productivity.

b. Turn effective into efficient.

c. Don’t assume it still works now.

d. Look at what used to work.

7. Celebrate successes!  People need six things in their jobs:

a. Compensation.

b. Recognition.

c. Fun.

d. Personal growth.

e. Challenge

f. Convenience.

The 4 principles for implementing change.

In an organisation, every function will without necessarily realising it, have a strategy, albeit sometimes subliminal, for achieving an objective.

Strategy in this context being defined as the all embracing term to describe the path to achieve a desired outcome.

In reality, there needs to be a cyclical sequence of four guiding principles applied to achieve a desired outcome:

  1.  Strategy development – best done as a “brain storming” exercise with stake holders and involved parties,  to confirm the desired outcome, identify the industry environment, the prevailing market forces, competition and the organisations resources and capabilities.
  2.  Planning – establishing measurable goals and deadlines to be accomplished towards achieving the desired outcome, identifying and scheduling specific resource requirements, developing the operational plans directed at specific fields of the company’s operation, setting monitoring points.
  3.   Implementation– the doing, checking and adjusting to achieve the desired outcome.
  4.   Evaluation – the “ how did we do”, “was the process resource efficient”, “what could have been done better”, “what has been learnt”?

Making a sustainable change of any sort in an organisation should be an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary process, hence the 4 principles should be a cyclical process.

What makes for an effective Board meeting?

Board meetings in SME’s can take a variety of guises, from the formal monthly meeting held around a table in the office to the more informal, ad hoc  “when we have something to discuss” meeting over lunch in the pub.

Either way, Board meetings are an essential and integral part of the Corporate Governance that all Directors have a responsibility to conduct and participate in.

So what makes for an effective Board meeting?

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) of the accounting profession says the Boards role is:

  • To provide entrepreneurial leadership of the company within a framework of prudent and effective controls which enables risk to be assessed and managed.
  • Develop and promote its collective vision of the Company’s purpose, culture and values.
  • Give strategic input and to monitor the work of it’s executives.
  • Not become purely an operational meeting – an extension of the senior management team meeting.
  • Vision, strategy and direction should be an important outcome.

How is this best achieved?

Through regular structured meetings, which allow participative, focused deliberations that are minuted and then closely monitored for implementation.

  • Having a regular time and date.

For example, Board meetings will be held on the 2nd Tuesday on alternate months starting at 9.30 am.  This enables the participants to plan ahead knowing that there is a 3- line whip to attend the Board meeting.

  • Importance of an Agenda.

An effective way to accomplish productive meetings and strong governance is to design a good agenda and run the meeting accordingly.

The Agenda should be circulated prior to the meeting, to enable all the participants to prepare and distribute any information or papers prior to    the meeting that will be discussed for decisions to be taken at the meeting.

  • Having effective meetings.

An effective meeting will not always, necessarily be a comfortable place to be!  Board meetings should create a forum where open and sometimes challenging discussions can take place.

Having diversity of personalities in the Board’s composition is a good thing and this will inevitably lead to differences of opinion, which are healthy!

The participants.

  •  The Chairman.

           The FRC says good boards are created by good Chairman.

The Chairman creates the environment and conditions for overall board   and individual Director effectiveness. This is a fundamental tenet of the role.

  •  Non Executive Directors (NED’s)

The appointment of non-executives usually triggers a requirement for regular properly minuted meetings.

Having NED’s provides an opportunity for the company to obtain           feedback on what they are doing from someone who can take a less introspective view.

  •  Executives.

 The Board meeting can easily become an extension of the Senior/Executive management team meeting and thus become purely operational in its deliberations.

  • The Board meeting, whilst monitoring the “day to day” activities of the company should essentially be involved with “ the tomorrow”; assessing and managing risk; developing and promoting  the executives collective vision of the Company’s purpose, culture and values in determining strategic direction.
  • If the Board meeting becomes an extension of the operations committee, without outsiders (NED’s), where only operations are discussed and very little strategy, behaviour can become much worse.  This is particularly so if the Chairman/CEO is a bully, with executives taking it in turn to be ritually humiliated, resulting in an unpleasant and embarrassing meeting.
  • Secretary.

It is essential to have someone nominated as the Secretary, to take accurate minutes, support the Board members and make sure that Agendas, papers etc are circulated

What makes for poor Board meetings?

  • Meetings – repeatedly called and cancelled at short notice.
  • In appropriate meeting venue –  room too small, hot/cold, noisy, poorly soundproofed.
  • Documentation – no discipline about producing and circulating in good time even the most basic information.
  • Chairmanship – the importance of this role cannot be over emphasized enough. An ineffective Chairman allows the meeting to get out of control. Discussions become irrelevant, no clear decisions are reached, some people are allowed to dominate a discussion and others ramble on. Alternatively, meetings are rushed with insufficient opportunities for discussion about detail and risks involved.
  • Poor behaviour – a number of issues, bullying completely stifles discussion, as no one is willing to raise their head above the parapet.

Interruptions allowing participants to answer phone calls, read emails, etc.

  • Lack of respect – for other Directors so discussion becomes a full blown row or shouting match.
  • Attendees – appearing at meetings unannounced and not properly introduced.
  • Late circulation of minutes and papers.

What makes for the best Board meetings?

  • Regular meetings – in a suitable venue with agendas (prepared in consultation with the Chairman and Directors) and most papers distributed several days beforehand in accordance with an agreed timetable.
  • High quality board documentation – erudite papers which are to the point and ideally all produced in the same format with an overview of each part of the business.
  • Strong effective Chairman.
  • Regular Board reports being taken as read – with the author just restricting their comments to the highlights so that discussion is focused on the important issues.
  • Sufficient time being allowed – for discussion on contentious or business critical issues to be debated or challenged.
  • Clarity on actions required – time scales and responsibilities.
  • Empowering managers – below Director level to give occasional presentations on their particular areas of expertise. Gives the Board the chance to better understand the dynamics within the company.
  • Consider adoption of “consent” agenda items – where the Board agrees at the beginning of the meeting that where some papers have been circulated and the Board is fully aware of, and have discussed all the pertinent issues, that approval can be given without further discussion.

The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager – Which are You?

Leadership has been defined as being about influence, and Management has been defined as being about authority.  Which is right for your business?

John Kotter, the Harvard Academic, maintains that Leaders are inspiring and successfully promote new directions whereas Managers take care of today’s business, getting things done by executing the directions.

People choose to follow Leaders who are seen as inspiring and people orientated but are required to follow a Manager who is seen as controlling and task focused!

But surely this view is over simplistic?!

The qualities required by both Leaders and Managers are not necessarily mutually exclusive for one or the other.

boss v leader

To be a good Leader or Manager both need to have a degree of inspirational skill.

Whereas, an inspiring Leader might move people to change direction, an inspiring Manager will move people to exert more effort to get a job done!

As a Manager you do need to be a leader to get things done and as a Leader you do not need to be a manager to motivate and get people to follow. Realistically it all comes down to the individual’s personality and how they interact with the people.

Leaders can inspire and get people to follow, however without the skills to get things done, everything will be just words.

Managers on the other hand, with or without the qualities of Leadership are still able to maintain the important tasks at hand.

One could argue that it is better to be a Manager with the qualities of a Leader, who will create the better task force – Leadership qualities being the added bonus to have, but you don’t necessarily need them.

The key element is the individual characteristics of the individual involved and how they influence their people and the people around them, and in turn how those people respond. 

Little Data : Big Data

Companies are investing heavily in data warehouses and data analytics software.  But many of them don’t have much to show for their efforts and sometimes customer service is actually worse.

 

What’s the problem?  To begin with, big data has been hyped so heavily that companies are expecting it to deliver more value than they are actually able.

 

The primary reason that investments in big data fail to pay off, though, is that most companies don’t do a good job with the information they already have.  They don’t know how to manage it, analyse it in ways that enhance their understanding, and then make changes in response to new insights.  Companies don’t magically develop those competencies just because they’ve invested in high-end analytics tools.  They first need to learn how to use the data already embedded in their core operating systems, in much the same way people must master arithmetic before they tackle algebra.  Until a company learns how to use data and analysis to support its operations, it will not be in a position to benefit from big data.

The digital economy is all about capturing, analysing, and using information to serve customers.  Most companies can significantly improve their business performance simply by focusing on how operating data can inform day-to-day decision making.  So why don’t more companies make better use of data and analysis?  One reason may be that their management practices haven’t caught up with their technology platforms. Companies that installed digital platforms — ERP and CRM systems, real-time data warehouses, and home-grown core information systems — over the past 10 to 15 years have not yet cashed in on the information those platforms make available.  In addition, adopting evidence-based decision making is a difficult cultural shift:  work processes must be redefined, data must be cleansed, and business rules must be established to guide people in their work.  The good news is that once companies have made the cultural change, they usually don’t go back, and their operating improvements are not easily replicated by competitors.

Research suggests that companies with a culture of evidence-based decision making ensure that all decision makers have performance data at their fingertips every day.  They also follow four practices:  they establish one undisputed source of performance data;  they give decision makers at all levels near-real-time feedback;  they consciously articulate their business rules and regularly update them in response to facts;  and they provide high-quality coaching to employees who make decisions on a regular basis.

Our own research indicates ‘little data’, readily and relatively cheaply available, often doesn’t figure at all with an organisations management team.  Knowing how to access and use this data can transform performance.

 

*This article uses references from the following sources : –

    • MIT Sloan School of Management
    • University of Texas at Austin
    • CISR
    • Interactive Business Dynamics Limited

Clinching the Sale

Good, thorough preparation is the key to clinching direct Business to Business sales, whatever the product or service that you provide.

With good preparation, the process will follow a few basic steps.

1. Firstly identify your customer or client.  OK, it sounds obvious, but many businesses do not truly know their customers or clients.  Too many businesses place all of their effort into getting the best possible product ready to market without really looking at the end-user and how to actually sell to them. 

To be successful, clearly define the consumer of your product or service.

Once identified, look at how frequently they purchase and the reasons why they purchase.  Using this information, analyse what it is about your product or service that makes it unique and why it stands out from your competitor’s products. This analysis will form the basis of why people commit to purchase from you rather than your competitor(s).

2.  Next, compile a list of your target customers / clients.

Prepare this list in the order of importance to you in relation to the market opportunities and potential sales which you believe are achievable.

3.  Always ascertain the name of the decision maker or “buyer” at each of the target businesses.  This is who you will address your sales pitch to.

4.  Carefully prepare an email (or letter, although email is now the more accepted route) of introduction from your company and the product / service that you are offering to the decision maker. This should be concise and informative as it needs to quickly capture the reader’s interest. The object is generate enough interest to encourage the recipient to accept a follow-up call from you.

5.  Email your letter to the decision maker of your target business.

6.  Ensure you research the target client (company size, number of offices (or sites), locations, customer base, etc).  It will be obvious to your target business whether you know about their business or not, and whether you truly believe that what you are trying to sell them is either what they need or something they should have.  Prepare a list of questions and ensure to have the answers to hand of any potential questions you may be asked about your product and the company.

7.  Follow up your email with a confident phone call.  Your aim is to get a meeting, but don’t let your drive to achieve this stop you listening to your target – the phone call must be a two-way conversation.  Make sure you listen to the other person in the conversation and respond appropriately to what they say and how they say it. Only provide the  information requested, talking too much is a sure indicator of a lack of confidence.  Ask for a meeting, “may I suggest we meet on either Friday or Tuesday”.

8.  At the meeting start with, ‘How can we help’, you don’t need to explain why you’re there or how wonderful your product/service is at this stage – you’ve already given them enough information about it for them to know you have a product or service which could be useful to them and they will now be ready to ask you questions.  You’ve achieved a meeting so LISTEN.  Remember this is not just about your product or service, it is about the business who you are trying to sell to, and in the eyes of the person you are trying to sell to it is ALL about their business.  Failure to listen will lose the sale.

9.  There is always a moment when you’ve clinched the sale, sometimes its subtle, sometimes obvious. One thing is for certain, you’ll miss the moment if you’re talking too much. When you’ve sold stop talking about the product of service. This an excellent time to demonstrate the quality and ability of your company by concentrating on the contract details, delivery schedules, etc. Get this right and you will achieve your ultimate goal – a potential long-term client or customer.  Get it wrong and repeat business may be very difficult to win.

Good sales techniques are a key to business success.  But planning a sales campaign or developing a new sales strategy is a demanding process and unless a business’ sales process is properly thought through and planned time will be wasted, you will fail to secure sales and money will be lost.

Businesses do not survive without sales, and selling a product or service is at the heart of every business –   http://wp.me/P3bj0h-1q