Cheating Doesn’t Pay

Cheating never pays. The National Cricket team is learning all about this. As word spreads around the world, the whole Country becomes the focus of negativity. Such a great Country does not need to be brought down by such unbecoming behaviour. As a proud Aussie, I am disappointed and disheartened. Winning at all cost is not winning. Winning the right way is winning.

Procrastination

I came across this great quote today and decided to share it.

“Time is a created thing. To say, ‘I don’t have time’ is to say ‘I don’t want to'” Lao Tzu

For me, this quote says a few important things:

  1. We all have the same amount of time.
  2. When we say we dont have time, we probably dont want to do the thing that awaits us.
  3. Maybe I dont know what I am doing and that is why I dont want to?
  4. We are at risk of missing many great opportunities.

 

Innovation- What does it mean to you?

Recently, I have been reading about the concept of innovation and what it means to different people. In the process, I have given thought to what innovation means to me. The answer was actually quite simple. In short, for me innovation is all about unlocking a value proposition.

The value we unlock can be directly related to creating a new product, identifying a new supply chain opportunity, generating efficiencies, solving a problem, introducing new technology, or being creative in many ways.

To unlock the value proposition, we need to empower our people to think, be prepared to challenge the norm, have the courage to take a risk, be prepared to invest and encourage collaboration.

The innovation challenge has never gone away. Embrace it.

Making a list and checking it twice, three times, four or more times. Why?

Recently, I made a list of all things that I used to check once, twice, three or more times per day. In no particular order, here is what I wrote.

  1. Daily sales
  2. Gross Margin
  3. Sales by product
  4. Product profitability
  5. Sales by State
  6. Cash at bank
  7. Debtors and Creditors in both dollars and days
  8. Staff complaints
  9. Customer complaints
  10. Sales pipeline local and overseas
  11. New product schedule
  12. New business opportunities
  13. Web site hits and updates
  14. Board papers
  15. Marketing analysis, successes, failiures, rock stars

Upon reflection, it looks like I was getting in the way. I could have halved the list twice over and still been successful.

In our small business today, we are allowed to discuss issues but, we are not allowed to allocate any part of our job to anyone else. If anyone does or needs to do this then, they must delegate the entire task to the person. Suffice to say, people dont allow themselves to be tagged that often and solutions are found to problems by asking, researching or phoning a friend.

Personally, I ensure that my list today includes making contact with my children and inlaws multiple times each day (easy with one as his business shares the same office space), unless travelling, I have lunch with my wife every day and I talk to existing and prospective customers and suppliers. I focus on understanding their business, discussing possible solutions, where we fit or could fit, market trends, how they are performing, what is working for them and what isn’t, we share strategies, develop ideas, share experiences good and bad and we discuss our families, likes and dislikes. Call me old school but, I afford myself the time to be more personal and relevant with a customer and supplier rather than a click away.

I know I have grown up, I know I have gotten older but, what I also know is that people still like to talk when you give them the chance to do so, my time is better spent doing the things that others are not doing or cannot do and when I am at my happiest I am successful.

My simple aim is to be a useful and valuable distraction.

 

KISS Principle

According to Wikipedia, KISS is an acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid” as a design principle noted by the U.S Navy in 1960.The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided. 

I am positive that almost everyone that reads this post will know of or have heard of the KISS principle. Over the years, variations to the acronym have been produced. Here are some that I have come across:

Keep it simple and sell

Keep it simple, Salesman

Keep it simple and straightforward

Keep it small and simple

If you have collected other variants, I am interested to learn. Feel free to share them by commenting on the post or email your variants to steve@baclogroup.com

 

Problem Solved and Intuitive

Is this the basic premise of design?

After more than 20 years of launching new products, it ultimately gets down to this.

  1. If the product you have developed doesn’t solve a problem, then, you have a potential problem.
  2. If your product is not easy to use and simple to understand, potential buyers are not likely to buy it.

Put simply, buyers are intuitive. When they see it they want to understand it. As well as being appealing, its benefits need to be obvious and It needs to make sense immediately.

It is safe to say that, most buyers will not read a user manual. When was the last time you did? Ask your children if they have ever read a user manual? I know mine haven’t.

Is this the basic premise of design?

 

After more than 20 years of launching new products, it ultimately gets down to this.

 

  1. If the product you have developed doesn’t solve a problem, then, you have a potential problem.

 

  1. If your product is not easy to use and simple to understand, potential buyers are not likely to buy it.

 

Put simply, buyers are intuitive. When they see it they want to understand it. It needs to make sense immediately as well as being appealing.

 

It is safe to say that, most buyers will not read a user manual. When was the last time you did? Ask your children if they have ever read a user manual? I know mine haven’t.

My 7 Golden rules for dealing with difficult people – Part 3

5. Keep it real.

I am a firm believer that people need to deal with people, not machines. We all think we’re so busy that we don’t have the time to have a conversation at a personal level. Wrong. Many times, I have found that managers hide behind an email or a bulletin as they see it as the quickest and most efficient way to get the message across. For me, the opposite has applied. I have always made myself available to speak with staff one on one or in groups. Obviously, I enjoy the personal connection but, giving staff the opportunity to eyeball you and ask questions, gives you the ability to connect with them. In addition, I have always encouraged monthly BBQ’s across all our offices locally and overseas and where possible getting staff to organise social events such as night golf has been a fantastic way to break down barriers and establish better channels of communication.

6. Identify and agree on the actions.

It is important to reach agreement on what the key actions/outcomes are and why. The why is crucial for both parties but especially the person that you are trying to deal with as it builds on the respect and professionalism I mentioned earlier. Set up review dates and times and offer assistance in terms of tools and resources that may be required to help deliver on the actions and outcomes. The review date is critical to monitoring progress but also for providing and receiving feedback. I stress providing and receiving feedback, as this is a two way street not a one way.

7. Final Step.

If the steps above have not delivered the desired/necessary outcome then, it is time for the final ‘honest conversation’. At this point, you will have built a better understanding of the person and their issues and them of you and your situation and what you have been trying to achieve. It hasn’t worked and it’s time to negotiate the separation. Have a clear understanding of what your legal obligations are, what the person’s legal entitlement is and remain calm, professional and articulate. Letting a staff member, customer or supplier go, is never easy, however having followed a process that hasn’t delivered for either party, it makes the discussion a lot easier. In my experience, many people see it coming themselves well and truly before this final discussion.

If you have any feedback I’d love to hear from you.

My 7 Golden rules for dealing with difficult people – Part 2

Part 2

3. Respect. You may think that the person does not deserve or has not earned the right to be respected. Wrong. More often than not, when you show the person respect you are throwing water on a burning fire and you will actually put the fire out. You may be wondering how to show such a person respect in a way that will extinguish the flames. Quite simple. My personal experience taught me that you can achieve this by listening carefully and giving the person time to vent in a controlled manner. This allows them the opportunity to list all their grievances both personal and work related while you almost repeat the conversation with them by summarising what has been said. This way there is a process of reflection on the issues and their situation which results in an outcome that the person was wanting to achieve, but did not know how to get there which is ‘being heard’.

When someone feels like they have been heard, they calm down a lot. This puts you in a position where the person realises and feels like you have invested the time to not just listen but to actually hear, it tells the person that you care enough, that you are professional and respectful. The door is now open for a proper negotiation or what I like to call ‘the honest conversation’.

 

4. The Honest Conversation. For me, this is all about making sure that the person knows and understands my concerns, issues and perspective and engaging with them to help put them into better perspective and balance for both of us. A key element of this is about carefully articulating my intentions based on the honest conversation.

When all the cards are on the table and each party better understands the other person and their intentions, the process of negotiating a solution that delivers the desired outcome is much easier. Sometimes, despite what we think, the other person does not understand what we are trying to do and what our intentions are. When they do, your ability to make them part of the solution is enhanced significantly.

Something I encourage people to do regularly is to rehearse the conversation. When we have to make a presentation to the Board, we prepare and rehearse. Why not do the same when dealing with difficult people? For me, this takes the form of using a Dictaphone and recording the conversation. Today, your smartphone has a recording function. I replay the conversation to myself and often I will stand in front of a mirror and observe my body language. I look carefully at what my body is saying and does that match what is coming out of my mouth. The two need to be in sync for me to deliver the message effectively. If the conversation is going to be by phone, I listen to my recording and pretend that I am the person at the other end. If my message is unclear to me, then you can imagine how it will sound to another person!

I am often asked for suggestions on how to start an honest conversation. Obviously, this will vary from person to person and issue to issue. Some suggestions to consider;

‘I have a great opportunity that I would like to discuss with you. It impacts on our current arrangements and I would like to share this with you and discuss your thoughts on how you think we can address the opportunity.

‘I have had complaints regarding your aggression in the work place. I know only to well that we all react in different ways to various issues. My goal is to understand your perspective, share some of my own experiences and together work out what is going on and how we can address any issue.

‘We have been working together for 2 years now and I would like to share some feedback with you and maybe you can give me some feedback on’

‘We have been supplying your company for 3 years now. We haven’t been very good at getting feedback from our customers on how we perform against your expectations. This is changing and I have decided to call customers myself to ask for feedback’

Recently, one of my young mentees said to me that for him, this approach has really helped him build rapport and lets people know that he is genuine.

Part 3 to come

My 7 Golden rules for dealing with difficult people – 3 Part Series

My 7 Golden Rules For Dealing with Difficult People – Part 1of 3

As someone who has been a manager in the public and private sectors as well as a business owner and manager for more than 20 years, I have had to deal with a variety of difficult people in tough situations. Following are some of my thoughts derived from my experience of what helped me to not only survive, but also thrive when dealing with people who had issues that made their behaviour ‘difficult’

Here are my 7 golden rules for Dealing with difficult people

1. It happens to all of us. No manager or business owner is alone when it comes to dealing with people who display issues that make them difficult to deal with. Using my own experience as an example, today I encourage people to find a group of like-minded people outside your business or organisation and share what you are going through. Try and listen and learn from others and understand what tactics and strategies have worked for them. Not all of the issues facing difficult people are the same but, in your group of like-minded people, you will find somebody that has dealt with someone that has similar issues to the person or people you have to deal with.

To find like- minded individuals, I recommend you explore your key supply chain partners, lecturers, tutors, member associations that you belong to, friendship groups and key advisors such as Accountants, Auditors, Human Resources, Marketing and Legal. These will have diverse client groups and can connect you with people they believe you will be compatible with. As an example, my Accountant has connected me with someone that has proven to be a great like- minded person I can chat with regularly.

So, step 1, invest in your practical learning by sharing your experience and listening and learning from people you respect and understand. My group of like- minded people would gather for lunch once per month and we would each share one issue and ask the others to contribute their knowledge and experiences to the solution. Some of us still meet today just because we can and we enjoy one another’s company.

2. Control your own anger, frustration and aggression. I have seen the calmest of people get angry or frustrated when having to deal with people that are making life awkward or business harder than it needs to be. The ability to get angry and show our frustration exists within all of us. As a young man with a short fuse, I needed to learn early in my life to control my own anger, frustration and aggression. To help me I tried to identify people that I liked and believed could help me. Having identified them, I asked for help. As early as Year 9, I can recall asking my English language teacher for help. She was a great person and I enjoyed her class immensely but, as English was not my first language at home I struggled with the concepts and structure. One day I took the initiative and explained to her that I was disruptive in class because I was struggling. For the next six months, we met as often as possible over lunch and she dedicated her

time to helping me. The deal was simple. ‘I will help you if you commit and stop being disruptive’? She was my first official mentor. Over the years, I continued with a mentor or coach. The message has been consistent. Stay calm, control the anger, manage your frustration and talk through the issues before you engage with the person. Having this support has better equipped me to not only deal with the issues but, I was better equipped to coach/mentor my managers.

One thing is certain, getting angry will not make you feel better and it will not make the person less difficult to deal with. Your anger throws fuel on a fire already burning out of control. Some of the key messages that I have held onto are;

Never be afraid to seek help
Don’t fall for the trap that you know everything
The ability to stay calm, control anger and manage frustration is a key ingredient to solving a problem properly and in a respectful manner.
Never write a letter or email in ager.
Never make a phone call when angry.
You are not alone.
People are difficult for a reason. Get to know the reason and you are better equipped to solve the problem.
If someone gets angry and raises their voice, lower the tone of yours and ask them respectfully to do the same.
From Lachlan my mentee, ‘Praise in public, criticise in private’
By staying calm you are a better listener.
By managing anger and frustration, you are a better person.

The ability to stay calm, control your anger and frustration is a key ingredient to solving the problem. Do not be afraid to get external help to help you be better.

Part 2 to follow shortly