April 29, 2012

Hope it Works

You've heard the saying – doing the same things expecting different results – but how many of us still do it? We hope this time the campaign will work, this time the client will understand, this time the tactic will gain traction. It’s human nature to miss our part of the equation as what may need to change.

All too often we cite external reasons why our past efforts have not garnered better results. The radio campaign didn't work, television is expensive, social media are too much work, we did pamphlets last time and that should work this time.

Nothing replaces strong leadership, good products or services, and hard work. But all that may not be enough.

This is not to suggest you are doing things wrong or your business plan is flawed but it simply takes a breather from the treadmill to examine the situation calmly. You need to find a way to look at things from 30,000 feet. And that, of course, is easier said than done but should be done.

Take 30 minutes, go off by yourself, turn your phone off and just let your mind rest. Your million dollar idea may not come to you in half an hour but you need to shut off the noise or you will never get there.

We need a break, perspective, space to think and we so rarely make time for it yet it is paramount in the success of our projects. Without ample think time you can spin in the wrong direction quickly and often. It can get rather pear shaped in short order.

A break may bring the answers you've been too busy to find. 

Kneale Mann

Image: flickr

April 27, 2012

Breaking the Customer Promise

You need camping equipment. So off you go to the internet to start your journey. As with most online shopping experiences, choices are overwhelming, the interfaces are varied but you seem to be getting somewhere.

Then the critical event occurs. You need an actual human to answer an actual question. Oh look, there’s a customer service toll-free line to call. Perfect! Two rings, three rings and you’re on hold with an antiseptic message that assures you something about you being important and they’re really busy.

Is Help on the Way?

While on hold, you notice their site also offers an online help option through a chat interface. Well two fronts are better than one so while you’re enjoying some Pearl Jam on the xylophone you click on the link. Open, good, it appears that Janice will be serving you today.

As you watch the blinking cursor awaiting Janice’s swift and helpful response, another insipid message says something about them being sorry and they’re receiving an unusual volume of calls, and back to a snappy instrumental version of Lady Gaga booms through your handset. Janice has yet to answer your inquiry. You click the window closed and hang up the phone.

Why so Impatient?

You've been on hold for 10 minutes. What’s the big deal? Well, you have already found three other sites with more selection and this one offers free shipping. The fact that Janice’s company could be the superior choice has become irrelevant.

Some would claim they can’t serve every customer in seconds and they're right. But unfortunately, customers and potential customers don’t care. Make it simple for your customers to interact with you. No amount of SEO or marketing will help the moment someone hits a dead end.

Is my Business Important to You?

Some companies think that a handy contact us form is the best way to manage the volume of requests. It is a form featuring several boxes and a small section at the end for comments. If someone would rather use their email system, there is a sales@ or info@ or contact@ option at the bottom.

Here’s where that strategy falls flat on its face – most (all?) visitors think these emails go into a large heap of unanswered inquiries never to be seen again. I tried this recently with ten well known brands through their website and received three auto responses and no actual answers. If you've ever shopped for residential or commercial cleaning companies, this becomes an exercise in frustration.

Can You Actually Help Me?

You need camping equipment but you don’t want to drive all over town hoping to find a helpful sales person who will solve all of your needs. You want to have a plan of attack but you seem to be lost in a never ending loop of technology and no answers.

It all begins with strong leadership ensuring a minimum requirement means responding when someone wants to spend their hard earned money with you. We all want good service. Not someone to shine our shoes and make us king for a day, just good service. Yet we often have trouble finding it.

This week, I counted 11 instances where I inquired about services for my business, myself or a client and the provider lost the sale before the work even began.

Some of us are giving bad service.
Few of us would admit to being a culprit.

Kneale Mann

image: flickr

April 24, 2012

Do You Enjoy What You Do?

It’s a means to an end, a paycheck or a way to get to the weekend. All explanations of how far too many people describe their career. Leadership can come from each of us but often that strength is squashed by spending time during the week to make money in order to pay the bills and perhaps have some fun once in a while.

But what if we got to enjoy our work?

Sir Ken Robinson did an 18 minute talk at TED2006 and to date, more than four million of us have watched it. As a lifelong educator, his subject was about the fact that the education system is killing creativity. He returned to TED in 2010.

You’d think he would tell us all to go to school. You may be surprised by his thoughts on the topic and how we best look to our passion and life’s calling of which few people actually do. Ken is entertaining, thought provoking and funny.

If you haven't seen this, watch it, then follow your dreams.

Kneale Mann

TED | Ken Robinson

April 22, 2012

Wearing Your Wares

Think about the last time you walked into a store and the clerk was on you from the second your foot crossed their front door. You probably quickly told them you were just looking because your personal space was crushed by someone trying to sell you something even though you were in their store.

Now imagine you're at a networking event and you meet John who shoves his card in your hand before you can say hello. You can feel yourself backing up and scanning the room for a few gulps of fresh air, a lifeline, a way out. Despite being at an event where you are trying to meet potential customers, clients or partners, John's approach is a bit much so you recoil. You quickly realize the room is full of two types of people - sellers and those who are too scared to sell.

Beyond the Elevator

Everyone tells you that you need to get out there and meet people, shake hands, let them know you’re looking and what you offer. Yet few people enjoy networking. It can be intimidating to try and 'sell yourself' in a room void of buyers. Most shun those who pitch their offer on the social web yet I'm unaware of anyone who can pay their bills with followers and a better Klout score.

Perhaps if I was painter, it would be easier to explain. My passion to provide business solutions to owners and managers who want to become better leaders and improve their people and revenue. The process isn't easy to define because it changes with each situation. When you look closer at your offer, you may say the same.

Beyond the Title

We need to know how best to explain what we stand for and how we help others. Even the painter does more than slap paint on a wall. She may enhance the feel of the office while it blends with the dark cherry desk and black leather chair.

So before walking in a room to sell your wares or greet new customers in your space, figure out how you can help them and the process may be smoother. And if you think this is an issue exclusive to service providers and small business owners, even large enterprise stumbles on this stuff.

Think about whether you're selling or solving.

Kneale Mann

image: flickr | original: nov 2011

April 20, 2012

It's Never Enough

I was on a client call recently and the tone was clear, she didn’t feel she had enough time or resources to carry out the solution we had identified together. It became the barrier to every discussion point.

She began to think she simply didn't have enough time or money. Looking at how to solve the issue was replaced by a flat out no. Any option – free or otherwise – was dismissed in place of her current constraints. In her mind, a solution was unattainable.

Life Imitates Life

Have you ever felt yourself shut down and think no solution seemed plausible? There never seems to be enough time, money, resources, people, sunlight, matching socks, peace and quiet, food, good shows on TV, shelter, budget, gas in the tank. Though new socks every morning would be sweet!

At times, we put ourselves into a corner and begin to read the new reality as our only choice. "We have no budget for that" replaces "is this a good idea?"

Walk away. Ask for help. Give yourself some time to replace those no’s with some how’s. Try a new route for a change.

Kneale Mann

image: getty images
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April 17, 2012

Is Leadership an Endangered Species?

It may not be the work or the compensation, but something isn't quite right. Co-workers begin to spend time commiserating about their situation while talk of customer solutions and product improvements are replaced with nitpicky items that seem like a big waste of time and energy. Sundays are filled with dread of the impending week and calling in sick becomes an attractive option.

In all of the stakeholder surveys and research I’ve seen over the years, it is clear that no one wants a boss. Nobody takes pleasure in being over managed. And not a soul enjoys when their direct report consistently focuses on mistakes while ignoring the victories. So why is it so common?

Leader v Boss

I was speaking with a colleague last week and he said “the boss” (his words) gave a full company update which demoralized more than rejuvenated. The message was clear – the boss wasn’t happy and needed to point out exactly where others were going wrong. This management style helps no one except the short-sighted manager. The moment anyone in that room gets a better offer, they’re gone.

For a moment, imagine a working environment where good work is lauded, setbacks are solved as a team, finger pointing is eliminated and people actually want to put forth the extra effort. Now add in leadership that encourages ideas and feedback isn’t just reserved for the antiseptic 30-minute annual review. Envision a place where people actually enjoy collaborating as a team.

Read the Room

I’m sure, like me, you have made the mistake of being tough on someone because they didn’t do what you needed them to do. But before you feel the urge to point out the negative, remember how much you dislike that approach.

If you have issues, ask your team member to discuss a solution together. The result may surprise you. Improvements and revenue are important to keep the company in business, but bossing people around is not the way to get it done. My colleague’s parting comment; “I need a new job”. What a shame.

Co-created environments make Sunday more enjoyable.  

Kneale Mann

image: animal-photos
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April 15, 2012

Creativity and Making a Difference

There is a theory that states we do things for one of three reasons: to make a living, to make a name for ourselves, and to make a difference. It is possible to do all three. We can all make a difference in our lives and the lives of others far beyond the grand gestures we measure on the world stage.

Success is a strange beast. We strive for it yet we fear it won’t return. When things don’t seem to go our way, we feel success may be unattainable yet when we experience it, we worry it won’t replicate.

Elizabeth Gilbert is a gifted writer who gained worldwide notoriety after toiling with her passion for two decades. Three years ago, she reflected on the success of her book "Eat Pray Love" during her TEDTalk and how she felt about whether it would return. Her perspective may surprise you.

Kneale Mann

TED | Elizabeth Glbert
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April 13, 2012

What's Your Best Leadership Advice?

That is a question I posted as a recent Facebook status update. Leadership isn’t easy and it takes skill, patience, time and experience.

Here are the insightful responses

Elizabeth Grattan Be sure there are people actually following you. ;)

Maureen Turner Rasmussen Listen.

Vivian Vasquez Definitely listen.

Maryse Senecal Lead by example, always.

Kevin Hamil No one has all the answers to don't think you need to
or worse think you already do.

Charrise McCrorey Be you.

Chris Young If you want to be a leader, make sure you're worth following.

Michelle Fortin Stay curious and access your compassion when you are feeling frustration. Oh yes, and read "Power and Love" by Adam Kahane :)

Andrew Hedges Be transparent.

Lydia Robertson Actually care.

Steve Gamlin Live as an GOOD example.

Catherine Jones First learn how to follow.

Joel Scott Good leaders are good listeners and don't ask someone to do something
you never would or won't. Lead by example.

Glen Bryant Be fair. Be consistent. Be credible.

Barbara Nixon Listen.

Kathy Hahn Become the example.

Chris Kennedy Integrity must be the #1 core value demonstrated win all actions and decisions – especially during crisis and when having to deliver bad news.

Helen Smith Be present. Learn where to help and when to get out of the way.

Jeff Schueler Engage everyone in the outcome.

Carol Roy Respect everyone for where they're at in life/career and always support
where they want to go. Be honest, at all costs.

Wendy White-Katsipodas Be honest. Something that used to be a man's word for the people he leads.

Brendan Jones Be dishonest and you are a fool if you don't know they know.

Scott Armstrong Listen.

Sarah Montague Listen and let other people lead.

Great advice from some strong leaders.
Clearly one word keeps coming up – listen!

image: forbes
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April 11, 2012

Your Biggest Business Fear

Fear is a curious emotion and one that is often created solely in our minds. If a lion was running at you in the jungle, you would be justified in feeling fear. But how often do we get wound up and stressed over something that is nothing more than a temporary situation or something we've created in our minds?

We may be worried about what happened yesterday and stressed about that meeting coming up tomorrow while we overlook what’s right in front of us. We miss right now while we spend far too much of our time worrying about the past and the future.

Some is Real, Most is Self-Inflicted 

If we try to change what has already happened, our inner critic seems to find great satisfaction in focusing on what we did wrong verses building on our strengths. No matter what we do, we can’t change the past yet we can let our minds be consumed by things that can't be changed. Making mistakes is part of the human condition so we need to give ourselves a break once in a while.

When you mesh fear with business, people can begin to act strangely. Some may say their focus is revenue but their behavior is creating the opposite effect. They are being tough on their team, over managing the situation and making everyone skittish. This type of environment will result in less revenue which will create even more anxiety.

Focus and leadership is hard and requires patience. So beating ourselves up about the past, or what may happen next, won't help.

Priorities Shifted

Some may decree that people are their most important asset but their actions prove they are doing all they can do alienate others for the purpose of improving business. And deep down, fear can be the culprit.

It’s been said that fear is a powerful motivator but just for today imagine all of those layers are removed. No more fear of failure, fear of leadership, fear of success, fear of speaking out, fear of losing your job, fear of that client hearing that their idea won't work, fear of standing up for yourself, fear of (insert here).

If you’re feeling stressed or fearful, reach out.
You will be pleasantly surprised who may help you.

Kneale Mann

April 7, 2012

Today I Will...

Today I will not be so hard on myself. Today I will be present for others. Today I will not be so busy. Today I will be more collaborative. Today I will dance. Today I will let them do the talking. Today I will accept help. Today I will be clear what I need. Today I will keep things in perspective. Today I will take better care of myself. Today I will not let distractions disrupt my progress. Today I will be a stronger leader. Today I will help a friend. Today I will remember today. Today I will live in the moment. Today I will be more kind. Today I will help without payback. Today I will offer clearer communication. Today I will be kind. Today I will take time off. Today I will clarify my goals. Today I will stay focused. Today I will stop worrying about the past. Today I will give myself a break. Today I will be more compassionate. Today I will not follow in others’ footsteps.

Today You Will?

Kneale Mann

image: istock

April 5, 2012

The Elusive Future of Leadership

Anytime I think about the future, it reminds me of what Eckart Tolle says that the future will never arrive and the past is simply our recollection of what may or may not have happened.

The future of leadership can only be done through the lens of the observer yet each of us makes three fatal errors. We assume others think like us and share our sensibilities, we presume our agenda is pure and we presuppose others will remain constant and agreeable while we activate the necessary change.

Titles are Irrelevant

You don’t attain leadership from words on a business card. It doesn’t appear in the enterprise organizational chart like chosen royalty. And you aren’t given a special potion or pill on first day of that new promotion that makes you a leader.

Countless billions are spent each year on establishing markets, creating customer needs and growing revenue. Much of this investment is to attract external clients while very little time or money is spent on strengthening internal relationships. I call it internal customer service. And it is the most important ingredient to success.

Can I Help You?

We all enjoy great customer service yet we rarely experience it on a regular basis. That can also be said with regards to our relationships at work. Somehow there is an expectation that “they” will make it better or “the boss” is the person who ensures the work day is an enjoyable and purposeful experience.

Far too often a promotion is given to a top performer – the best sales person on the west coast becomes the new VP/Sales for California or the person who landed that new multi-million dollar account is named Director of Marketing – but leadership is about people, not client lists. Favouritism, nepotism and bad leadership are not endangered species but give serious thought to how you can make your situation better.

Invest Before Return

In order to lead, you must spend at least half of your time helping your people grow. Yes, 50% of your week must be with your people. That means actual time actually spent actually helping them. The pressure of bottom lines and shareholder values can distract us from our top priority which is making our people better so the entire team can deliver the very objectives the company wants in the first place.

When you ask people who are unhappy at work for the reason, it is rarely the services or products they are working on but rather it is often the people around them. You will hear words like “direct report” or “boss” which become four-letter words.

Whatever You Say

Respect and trust are not gained because someone signs your pay stub every two weeks. Admiration and belief do not appear simply because someone out ranks you.

The future of leadership starts today. Look at your team and the people who may be below or above you on that dreaded organizational chart. Take a leadership position by outlining specifically what you bring to the team and exactly what you need from them to do it even better.

The future of leadership is now 

Kneale Mann

image: istock  | originally on switchandshift

April 4, 2012

44 Years Later - His Dream is Alive

Many may say it’s not possible. The naysayers will chime in to remind you that no one has tried that before while the status quo will fight to keep things just the way they are now. Every now and then someone is brave to stand for millions and remind us that each of us counts and can affect positive change.

April 4, 1968

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was just 39 years old when his life was ended in Memphis. His inspiration continues more than four decades after his tragic passing. Dr. King's words remind us that we can do it, we can put forth change, and we can have a dream.

• A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

• A right delayed is a right denied.

• At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.

• Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. We must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.

• Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.

• I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

• Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

• Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.

• You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

• Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.

• Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

• Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?

Kneale Mann

image: mlk memorial

April 2, 2012

Leadership is Hard Work

Clearly no one with any sense of decency thinks war is a good idea yet it has been a part of the human condition for our entire existence. It’s painful and senseless. 

Retired four-star General Stanley McChrystal had a decorated career and his story is well documented. His passion and convictions are clear. 

Leadership may seem simple but it clearly remains extremely complicated - especially when actual lives are at stake. During his TEDTalk, General McChrystal outlines its challenges and its vast opportunities.

ted | stanley mcchrystal

April 1, 2012

Marching to Your Own Drum

Daily on Twitter, I like to share a saying or experience, a quote or a quip, something funny or serious, perhaps thoughtful or inspiring.

Here's the list for March 2012 

• Success comes through dedication, determination, discipline, and desire
• Imagine
• Offer help without expectation of reciprocation
• Take time for you time
• Would you rather be perfect or helpful?
• Don’t share your dreams with negative people. Jack Canfield
• What can you improve today?
• Gossip serves no purpose in our life
• Instead of no, ask how
• Their opinion is just their opinion
Change is an inside job.
• Make today your best day ever
• It's not easy to change the world, it's a big job. Nancy Duarte
• Share now and often
• What will you learn from yesterday to improve today?
• Don't let yesterday take up too much of today. Will Rogers
• When giving feedback, give respect to those receiving it and the process itself
• Connect. Imagine. Share.
• Mondays count too
• The past is passed, leave it there
• What will you take from 'what if' to 'will do'?
• Be inquisitive
• To make new behavior an old habit, practice, practice, practice. Greg Zlevor
• Create
• Surround yourself with positive people and avoid the rest
• Take time for think time
• Never underestimate the power of your own curiosity
• Life's carry-on baggage is a choice
• Sure you can
• Leadership and learning are indispensable of each other. John F Kennedy
• Have the courage of a lion and the compassion of a lamb

Make today your best one yet!

Kneale Mann

image: flickr
© Kneale Mann knealemann@gmail.com people + priority = profit
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