Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The biggest choice you make when hiring

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You can take a number of measures to manage the risks associated with hiring someone new for your business - you can do diagnostics, background and reference checks, team interviews, multiple stage interviews or some other methodology to get to know the candidates as well as possible prior to hire. But before you advertise the job you have to decide one thing:  do you want to buy the capabilities or do you want to grow them in-house.

Obviously for some functions the licensure has to be already in place, such as in the cases of teaching certifications or medical licenses.  Law firms, accounting firms and brokerage houses often permit new hires to study for their bar, CPA and securities exams while on the company clock.  In some of these instances the hire allows the company to secure a desirable candidate before he or she becomes a more expensive acquisition.

Buy the skills
If you choose to buy the skills all ready to go, you have greater assurance that the individual is ready to do the job day one.  If you don't want to train, don't have the resources to train, or need specialized capabilities that are not yet available in the company you bring in someone who already has the license or the expertise that you need.

The upside of hiring the person who is already ready
to do the work is, of course, that they can hit the ground running and provide a return on your investment sooner.  But a word of warning - skills can be trained but attitudes cannot. Even the best technician will not be beneficial to your business if they don't fit with the culture.  Skill doesn't benefit anyone unless the individual also has the proper motivation to use that skill in the manner that the company needs.

Grow the skills
When you choose to grow your staff in-house your hire is about motivation and raw material more so than it is about the person being ready to jump into their ultimate role on day one.  You might have a certain prerequisites for education, but your plan is to send each candidate through your process of orientation, job training, and cultural indoctrination.  By the time you are done the new employee will look like (speaking of dress code), talk like, and behave like everyone else in your company.

You can bring someone in before they have been sullied by bad workplace experiences and help them along their career development.  But this requires that you have adequate processes and personnel in place to make sure that the training conveyor belt is operating, and that each employee's strengths are being assessed so they are deployed in the role that's the best possible match for them.

Taking a page from each
Neither approach is best in its extreme.  When you constantly bring in fresh blood your existing employees can become frustrated at the lack of potential for progression and career growth.  That frustration, in turn, interferes with employee engagement and can contribute to turnover.  On the other side, when you rely too  heavily on grooming the in-house folks you limit your company's development to the point at which the in house knowledge stops.  You miss opportunities to add fresh knowledge and expertise to your organization. And you risk having nobody to test the status quo.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Why culture change takes so long

Your company's culture started to form on the day that
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it opened - at the latest.  For many businesses, even the founder's startup process reveals quite a bit about the standard operating methods in the company.  He or she might not even be choosing consciously at this point - the manner of startup and the approach to the business is a combination of temperament and habits, with intention added.

Habits form some of the key obstacles to culture change.  They are the behaviors and thought processes that every team member engages in without even noticing them.  And an attempt to change company culture means a disruption in the autopilot that gets everyone through the day. (That's part of what makes change a four-letter word in some minds!)

There is a multitude of moving parts in culture:

  • How the business views customers, competitors, the community, the environment, and its other stakeholders.
  • The language that is used by leaders.
  • The communication processes that drive the business (oral, email, text message, memo) 
  • The frequency, format and agenda in communication.
  • The selection of who in the business receives what (and how much) information..
  • Attitudes toward innovation and change.
  • How staff members dress.
  • Business hours.
  • How the work space is configured, including colors, comfort, proximity of one worker to another and one department to another, etc.
  • How the business solves problems.
  • How management reacts when mistakes are made.
  • How leaders are selected and where they come from
  • The standard agenda items in meetings.
  • The role of training and staff development, and how it;s implemented
There are more factors than are in this list.  So if you are a leader who wants to affect culture - on purpose - you have your work cut out for you.  The easier items to change are the ones that simply require a template change - like the standard agenda items in meetings, who's invited to them and who leads them.  The more difficult culture changes are the ones that arise from individuals' habits of thought and habits of behavior - their attitudes.

As a leader you can start to impact attitudes - the way in which your team members habitually see things - when you change the methods, the dress code, the configuration of the work space, etc.  You prioritize projects differently because of your intended new direction.  The tangible impacts of the intention to change start to affect the intangible.

Because there are so many things to do as a leader in culture change, assume that it will take 1-3 years for the new culture to take hold, even when you're working on it consistently.  And that timeline also relies upon the unity of the management team in helping the change happen.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Are you a patriot?

Would you consider yourself to be a patriot?  Perhaps the
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second question after that one would be, "Is patriotism important to you?"

When Independence Day comes around (that's July 4th for Americans who were sleeping in history class!) the flags and buntings come out, the red white and blue beverages and desserts cover the pages of the housekeeping magazines, and the fireworks vendors work overtime.  For many, July 4th has become associated with beach sounds and the smell of sunscreen, grilled hot dogs and burgers in the back yard - it's the height of summer vacation season. And if you live in South Central Pennsylvania, Independence day is also observed by re-enactments and living history displays from the battle of  Gettysburg, often termed as the turning point of the Civil War.

What gets lost in the celebratory shuffle is what it really means to be a patriot.  The day commemorates a time when individuals banded together and said that they were no longer willing to be subject to a king.  They decided that they wanted a say in their government, and they wanted to be free (and allow others the freedom) to have life and the pursuit of happiness.  Not happiness necessarily, but the pursuit of happiness.

What does that mean to you now, almost 240 years later?  How does it impact your habits? Are you actively pursuing the upholding of the standards set by our American forebears?  Or have you forgotten some of the parts of patriotism?

  • Liberty is like the right of way when driving - the intention is that you yield to it rather than grab it for yourself. Yes, you are free to pursue your life, but are you really a patriot if you do so at the expense of others, or restrict their liberty in the process of pursuing yours?  Who designated yours as more important than theirs?
  • The founding fathers - and yes, they were all men - determined that you should be granted the right to participate in the decision making of your country. You have representation in the legislature, and the opportunity to vote for the President, the individual with the highest office in the land.   Early on in our country, voting power was limited to those who were men, who owned property, who were educated.  Now you can vote whether you are a man, a woman, a person of color, educated or relatively uneducated, property owner or not. In how much of this process do you actually exercise your right to participate? 
  • Are you maintaining and preserving the land that has provided so much prosperity for you and your fellow citizens?  When our nation was founded it appeared that the land was limitless and the resources plentiful.  Are you leaving clean water and air, trees and wildlife, for future generations to enjoy and benefit from, or are you using it up, cutting it down, or leaving it dirty?. 
  • Are you viewing your country as a collection of fellow citizens who deserve your attention and care, or do you view other people primarily as competitors for a scarce and finite amount of resources?  If you are a patriot, you believe that opportunity is all around.  You believe that all are created equal.  In our country's early days, sharing of resources was literally the difference between life and death.  It still is that way today for some citizens even though their need is often hidden behind walls of homes and dispersed geography.
Your relationship to your community, your country, and your fellow countrymen and women is part of your values.  Take the opportunity this Independence Day to consider how you can help this country, YOUR country, move intro fulfilling its potential.  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Going fishing where the fish are

This might be the biggest "Duh!" statement you hear
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today - go fishing where the fish are.  Of course you won't find plentiful trout or salmon while trekking through the Sahara.  But are you trying to do this, in effect, in parts of your life - looking for a giant tuna in a trout stream?

There was a conversation among small business owners last evening where one participant commented, "I'm thinking that I'd like to shift the focus of my business to a larger client.  But that would mean that I'd have to choose to up my game."  This individual wasn't only talking about making sure the business was capable of serving the new market from a skill and service offerings perspective.  The owner was talking about all that goes with generating that kind of business, like going to the places where the owners of those sorts of businesses go.

The change in market focus might mean that higher-end networking events and volunteer work with high-profile charities will be in this owner's future.  The new fishing ground might include trade shows and/or conferences.  This business needs to go where its prospective customers are.

If you want to sell snowballs, you need to be where the kids are.  If your client base is women of color you set up shop conveniently located to them.  If you want to sell sports fan apparel, you offer the inventory for the teams that the locals like best.

This translates into your personal life as well.  If you want to meet other singles who are of your same faith, you go to church.  And maybe you go to a big church if you want to come in contact with more possibilities.

To take this metaphor a bit further, if the fish aren't biting you either need to seek out a different fishing hole or change your bait.  Just because they aren't biting doesn't mean that they aren't there - they might not like what you're offering enough to take the hook.

Go where the fish are.  This, of course, assumes that you know what you want to catch.  And if you don't know that yet, this post isn't going to help you one bit.  That's the first question.  Then once you know what you want to catch and where they hang out, go there.  Make yourself visible.  Introduce yourself and ask to be introduced.  Place yourself in situations where you are most likely to meet the person(s) you want to meet.  The opportunities are out there.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

To have you must become

It's easy to fantasize about earning a certain income,
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traveling for months out of the year to fantastic and varied destinations, owning several spacious homes in prestigious locations, or starring in a hit movie.  But dreaming is very different from committing to a goal.  When you choose to pursue a goal - and to stick with it - you are choosing do to something, and perhaps many things, differently than you have done previously.

One or more of the obstacles to the achievement of your goals relates to you, who you are, how you show up, and what your habits are.  Chances are that to have more (and this is not just defined in material things) you need to become more of the kind of person who has them.

The becoming process starts when you determine what it is that you really want.  Are your aspirations connected to:

  1. Your career and finances?
  2. Your mental development?
  3. Your physical health and conditioning?
  4. Your family life?
  5. Your social life?
  6. Your ethics, spiritual life, or your role in giving back to the community?
Balance and priorities
You might have aspirations in many if not all of these areas.  And although you can work toward all of them, your becoming process might require you to prioritize for now, and focus your attention on the one(s) that are most important to you now.  For instance, it's difficult to meet the future partner of your dreams when you spend all of your life at work.  You might have to choose which is more important right now and strike a balance in the investment of time and energy that is congruent with your goals.

Focus and overcoming preconceptions
If you have one compelling goal or intention you need to look at the behaviors and attributes that contribute to that result, and then create and implement an action plan to develop them.  For instance, if you want to be a CEO of a startup business but you hate the details, you will need to recognize their relative importance in your venture, determine what the most critical details are, and then choose to master them.  During startup there is nobody but you to do them, so if you want to succeed, instead of affirming your hatred for details you need to embrace them and master them.  You need to continue to do this until and unless you can develop the financial wherewithal to hire someone else to handle them.

Rules of nature and your goal
One of the fundamental laws of physics says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This doesn't mean that your first sales call is going to result in a sale.  There is more going on in a selling/buying process than you showing up.  But without you creating the first action you will not create the opportunity for the reaction to happen. If you want to have a lot of sales you need to become the type of person who opens a lot of sales opportunities (a person who prospects as a matter of habit).

One of the other laws of physics is that it requires less energy to keep an object in motion than it does to start an object in motion. This works to your advantage in your becoming process. If your desired outcome is compelling enough to pull you into taking the first step(s), you will start to create momentum in that direction, needing less effort to keep going than it took you to get going.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Self-discovery and conflict

The goal of coaching is typically to help develop an
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"undiluted" version of an individual.  This means the intention is to help develop self-awareness about strengths, clarity on values, and a habit of taking action toward greater alignment, congruence, and professional and personal goals.

The news of past weeks brings to light a question associated with all of this self-discovery and development: what does your self-development have to do with anyone else's?  What if your higher sense of purpose and alignment and action creates conflict with other people?  The challenge is that as you discover more about your authentic self, your internal sense of misalignment becomes greater until your resolve it, and the potential for conflict with others increases as you seek to renegotiate the terms of your life.

Nobody lives in an interpersonal vacuum, and changes have an affect on others. But how much do you allow another person's preferences to impact your growth?  If part of your self-discovery is that you (heaven forbid) love bluegrass music, why should anyone care, or presume to tell you that you can't play it?  If they don't like it they don't have to listen (and you don't have to blast it when they are around - that's just good manners).  If you come to grips with the fact that you are gay and you need to live your life in congruence with that instead of hiding in the shadows, what business is it of anyone else's?

You have the option to go on your way with your self-development, regardless of whether someone else likes it.  The issue ultimately becomes real and not just a control thing when your changes bump into that other person's life.  It's one thing to embrace your realized identity as gay, for instance, and it's another thing entirely when you're already involved in a heterosexual relationship, even a marriage. This is no longer solely a matter of you and your individual emergence into your undiluted self.  This has impact on a collective you - you and that other person, who is a stakeholder in your life, and whose life will be drastically changed based upon your new direction.

In this discussion so far we're using two examples, one (bluegrass music) which seems to be rather superficial and simple to navigate.  Music tastes are a matter of choice.  Sexual identity and sexuality are much deeper and not able to be dismissed as "don't listen to it."  Stakeholders (family, close friends, etc.) have a valid interest because it affects them, but not the right to determine how the developing individual moves forward.  Bystanders and community gossips have no standing in the situation, even if they try to profess that they have it as moral arbiters, etc.

One of the most difficult decisions for a developing individual to make is when he or she realizes that it's necessary to separate from relationships, jobs, and/or situations that are no longer a good fit.  An addict in recovery might determine that he or she can no longer hang out with the former group of friends who use, and might even need to avoid the places that hold associations with the old addictive behavior. Separation might be essential for successful growth and avoidance of relapse.

In the case of relationships from which the individual feels the need to separate, some are familiar enough to give the illusion of comfort.  Even if they are destructive, the individual has known what to expect from them.  Moving out of the realm of familiarity into the unknown can be a frightening process. The developing individual might not have confidence that whatever is out there will be better than what is right here already.

You can choose other criteria when deciding what to do if you need to create substantial change in your life in order to move to the next level.  You might have other factors like children or aging parents that are considerations in whether you are willing to leave a marriage, or to take a job in another city. Timing might be the issue here - your children are growing and your parents are aging.  Part of being the authentic you is determining what you want your impact to be on the significant others in your life.  You may behave in full alignment with your values to make a decision to take the time to be there for them as long as they need you.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The best timing for establishing a connection

There is a huge advantage in having connections, whether
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it's in your business or your personal life.  The benefits include expertise, moral support, resource sharing, etc.  The challenge for some in establishing these relationships is that the investment in time and giving comes before (sometimes long before) the value of the relationship is revealed.

This is not to say that relationships don't have value in and of themselves, without the potential for personal gain. Business friends and social friends brighten up otherwise mundane events, the connections you make can be interesting, even entertaining - and you for them.

The point of this is the timing.  Now is the time to build connections, to establish relationships.  You might not be in the mood to go to a networking function, but go anyway.  You might not consider yourself an extrovert who knows what to say in unfamiliar situations, but it's nigh on a guarantee that if you look around the room you will find other people who are as uncomfortable as you are, for whom you can be a breath of fresh air and a tremendous relief.

If you are only out for what you can get, a one-sided relationship, you are likely to fail.  Remember the scoundrels back in high school who sought to take advantage of any young lady and "wanting only one thing"?  After while they became known for what they were and avoided like the plague.  Those social paybacks also apply in business situations. Better to walk in with the assumption that you will be giving in disproportion to your receiving.  Ultimately relationships are reciprocal organisms, and contributions come back around to benefit the contributors.

So how do you build a relationship, business or otherwise?

  1. Stay in touch - phone, email, lunches, office visits, or invitations to events.
  2. Find ways to serve, to be of help - Share information, introduce your connection to someone else who could be beneficial.
  3. Give without expectation of getting - keep yourself free of hidden agendas
  4. Repeat.

As in any other kind of relationship, some connections will be more mutually beneficial and satisfying.  You might feel more simpatico with certain personality types.  But there is benefit in becoming known as a connector with a variety of other people and businesses - you can provide extra value to your connections by virtue of your other connections.  You don't have to have the goal of being best friends with someone for relationship building to be beneficial.

No matter your experience or intelligence, ultimately it's the interpersonal grease that keeps the wheels turning in your business.  The time for investing in connections and relationship building is now.