I came across an organisation's core values on their website recently and when I clicked onto the value of communications, up popped the chord principle – it's so natty I thought it's worth sharing – the chord principles mean: clear, honest, open, respectful and direct communications.
Reg Garters writes a regular column in The Press (Christchurch, NZ) and in his column May 1, 2010, (H2) entitled Reviews garner all feedback, he spoke of the acronym Denba, to help in doing performance appraisal interviews. He explained Denba means: Describe – the specific behaviours you observe; Effects – explain what effect behaviours have on others; Needs – tell a person what needs to be done to make a situation satisfactory; Benefits – give a clear statement of the benefits to the person, the team and the organisation, when the required actions are taken; Agreement – seek clear agreement as to what actions are to be taken and when they must be done by. It's a handy tool for your toolkit and one to keep in mind when preparing for appraisal interviews.
Now for a great story – it's great because it shows how easily businesses can lose business and their reputation without even trying. My friend's husband wanted to install a particular sort of heating system in their house. The product he wanted was around $10K all up, he wanted to install the heating as soon as possible and he phoned sixteen companies, explained his needs and asked them for a quote. They all promised they would be back in touch within the week. Two months on, only six companies were back in touch and even then, made contact many weeks after the initial request. Doesn't it make you wonder about: the companies' internal client management systems and how they track initial enquiries, follow up and completion?; whether the staff are trained in customer service?; whether the staff understand the connection between customers, their money and their company's survival and their own job?; why the managers aren't doing what they should be doing? A good business reputation takes time to develop and for customers/clients, one bad experience to damage it. Unhappy potential or actual customers will tell everyone they know about their experience, so the cost of poor systems and service is likely to be bigger than the time and effort put into internal training, systems development, setting standards and monitoring staff.
Here's a plea to those new to management roles or new at being a business owner. Do consider undertaking management courses and formal study to find out what you know already and what you don't know about management functions, managing staff, strategic thinking and planning and all the rest in-between. In the absence of knowledge about best management practices, we typically resort to role modelling the management practices and behaviours we have experienced ourselves. There is no guarantee that what we have experienced and adopt is good and if so, that can be damaging to ourselves, our staff, customers/clients, our workplaces and our business.
A book with the wondrous title of 'Meatball Sundae', by Seth Godwin has been highly recommended…it's about internet marketing and available through http://www.fishpond.co.nz as well as other retail outlets.
Contemplating quitting work, a project, a business or a business idea can be a valid and attractive option on occasions. It may be much easier to say than actually do, because by the time we think of exiting ourselves from something a huge amount of time, personal energy, or money has been invested. There's a fine line too, between not putting enough into something, putting just the right amount for the situation or completely going over the top and losing perspective completely. When in doubt about whether to stay with the status quo or quit something, it pays to talk to trusted advisers, friends or colleagues, to get their perspective and take on things. It could be we've exhausted ourselves; can't see the wood for the trees; missing something completely obvious or really have reached the point of no return. Either way, getting another set of eyes and ears on something is invaluable. I like a Chinese proverb I saw the other day, although it may rather complicate our thinking when we're at our most indecisive – "The temptation to quit will be the greatest just before you are about to succeed"!
We can easily waste energy and time by attempting to do some tasks associated with another task, when we're in the midst of a priority task. We can be diverted when a thought pops into our mind about another piece of work and we then go and do something about it, rather than making a note about what we thought of, to come back to at a later time. It takes about 10-15 minutes to get the brain back into the first task when we divert ourselves from the main task in hand, so it's a sure way to waste lots of time, over a day. Focus on one thing a time and you'll get to the end point quickly.
Sometimes, out of the blue, we may find ourself experiencing a sudden loss of confidence. It may be triggered by specific events at work or people»s reactions to what we are doing or planning to do. It»s a horrible state to be in however there are some steps we can take to get our equilibrium back: pinpoint the specific triggers that set us off; identify and acknowledge the feelings that have arisen; talk to a trusted colleague or friend about the state we are in and our perspective on what has happened; ask the colleague or friend to give their take on our perspective (we may be understating or overstating things, or we may be somewhere in the middle); identify some steps to take to restore our sense of self; consciously stop any internal, negative self criticisms and replace them with positive affirmations; then get going again – move forward and your confidence will soon follow.
It's easy to get into a state of doom and gloom when we are hit with countless reports of what's wrong in various markets, the economy, the cost of living, the affordability of this that and the other thing. And add an overlay of workplace realities – like another round of change, loss of staff or additional expectations on busy staff – then it isn't surprising that people may become negative and workplaces too. A negative work environment takes a fair while to develop and staff in these environments often adopt survival mechanisms i.e. a keep your head down and mouth shut approach; a deliberate withdrawal from their workmates; only doing what's needed to be done and nothing more. Negative environments are easily fed and grown by a relentless focus on what isn't right in the workplace. They're ghastly to be in and the organisation as a whole suffers. Negative workplaces can be changed by having a clear goal, a good plan to change the focus in the workplace and strong leadership, to: identify things that are going well and celebrating the successes; encourage positive language and take a problem solving approach to organisational barriers that hinder productive work; encourage staff to come up with creative ideas and solutions to known problems; engage with staff at a personal level and communicate regularly, using forums that enable staff to talk and listen to one another.
Collegial support is a simple thing in principle yet in practice, it's priceless. Every business owner and manager and employee needs support in the workplace and it can take many different forms, such as: a listening ear, a word of caution, an endorsement of an achievement, an acknowledgement of difficult times, the giving of resources, passing on referrals, lending a hand through a difficult time. A supportive workplace tends to be a happy workplace – what's your workplace like?