INCREASE BUSINESS BY NETWORKING

Networking 2During the past year, or so I’ve attended a number of networking and referral groups. It never ceases to amaze me how many people simply don’t come prepared…or don’t seem to know what to do at these events.

They don’t wear the nametags usually provided for them…and if they do, they don’t write their names or business name large enough or legibly.  They don’t bring anything to write with (or on), and more often than not, they don’t bring business cards, or the right mindset to make the investment of time and money really pay off.

At a recent event I found myself speaking to a business executive.  It sounded like the company was doing some fascinating things.  I had some questions I wanted to ask, and a few ideas I wanted to share about how to possibly improve her business…but on the floor of a networking event wasn’t the best place to get into such a discussion.  I wanted to follow up with this person after the event, so I asked for one of her business cards, as I was reaching into my pocket for one of my own. In an embarrassed tone she mumbled to himself about not being sure where they were, or if she even had any with her.

She pulled out her purse and began looking through the various sections, becoming more anxious as the seconds crept by and the silence of our interrupted conversation became more and more uncomfortable. As I watched her it felt as if I was an eye-witness to an archaeological expedition.  She pulled out credit card receipts, credit cards, family pictures, her driver’s license, and other people’s business cards…most with notes scribbled on the back. Sheepishly she said, “I know I’ve got one…somewhere.  Let me look in my briefcase.”  The search continued.  She opened her briefcase, which was packed with files and papers, memos, reports, newsletters, newspapers, and perhaps at the bottom, a business card. Finally she found a shabby, dog-eared one and handed it to me.  We agreed to speak again…and moved on.

Wanting to make a few quick notes on the back of her business card to facilitate adding her to my database, and planning to give her a call in a few days, I turned the card over…and there were notes already scribbled all over it.  I made my notes in a small white space I found in one corner.  When I got back to my office I updated my contact database.  Who knows where the business card I gave her might have ended up?

A few moments later, I began a conversation with networking partner. We spoke for a few moments, and when I asked if he’d be interested in hearing more about one of my marketing approaches he said he would.  So I asked him for a business card. He opened his portfolio, and began a similar ritual rummage through its contents.  He found just about everything…except a business card.

Finally, after a minute or more of silent searching I handed him one of mine…along with a pen, and asked him to write his name, e-mail address, and any other contact information on the back.  When I retrieved my card back I handed him another of mine…which got promptly added to his bulging portfolio.

Business cards are not terribly expensive.  You can buy five hundred for $50 to $150, depending on whether you go for black & white or color, and how much graphic work is required.  You can even create your own, quite simply, on your computer.  But if you forget to carry them around with you…what good are they. You never know when you’ll meet someone who could become a customer, business associate, or ‘circle of influence’ contact.  Rule # 1…always be prepared for opportunity.

While waiting for my flight I found myself sitting in the departures lounge next to a business owner- who was also headed to Denver. We arranged to sit together during the flight and had a great conversation.  When the plane landed, we continued our conversation as we walked into the terminal and collected our luggage.  During the few hours we spent together we discovered we shared a number of common philosophies and business interests.

Before saying goodbye we both made notes to ourselves…on the backs of each other’s business card…about what we would do next.  We’ve since exchanged e-mails and have agreed to exchange additional information.

Tips & Suggestions:

1-    Always keep a large quantity of business cards in your briefcase, wallet, or purse and replenish your supply after every meeting and networking event.

2-    Create a system for giving and taking business cards.  You might consider keeping yours in your shirt pocket or left-hand pants pocket (or a certain pocket in your purse or briefcase) and put the cards you receive in your right-hand pants pocket (purse or briefcase).

3-    When you receive someone’s card carefully review it before you put it in your designated ‘place.’  Look at their name, look at their face.  Make a mental picture of both their name/face so you can have more than a printed card to remember them by.

4-    After meeting someone, note key pieces of information on the back of the card, and any action items or follow-up you have committed to (or want to) when you return to your office.  If you don’t want to follow up or put them in your database, discretely write an X across the card.

Your Job Is To Follow-Up

Giving someone your business card isn’t nearly as important as getting the other person’s business card. If you hand someone your card, and then expect them to call you up, you’re going to be sitting by the phone for a long time.  In fact when others ask me for mine, I often teasingly reply “I only get cards…I don’t give them.”

The real reason most of us aren’t effective net-workers is that we don’t have a good follow-up system. When you meet someone, and want to keep in touch with them, take the responsibility to put their name in your database, schedule a follow-up call, and then…call them.

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GET EMPLOYEES ACCOUNTABLE

One of the most common complaints I hear from business leaders is about a “lack of accountability” in their company. They claim to have the “Vision” identified – they know where they are going (even if their people don’t). They claim to have a Strategic Plan (more likely a set of projections and goals – but unfortunately goal setting is not strategy). And they think they have the right people on their team (sort of). But what really frustrates the business leader is the struggle to get their employees to do what needs to get done – and do it faster!

So I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say you do have a well-articulated vision of what your company can become. You have crafted a winning strategy to get there, and you have made your plan visible to all your staff using a One Page Strategic Plan. You have followed a rigorous recruitment process and have hired a team full of high performing “A” Players.  So, now what?

Business Execution is still the #1 Challenge

Even with all these elements in place, execution is still the #1 challenge for business leaders. A good starting point to drive execution and accountability is to clearly document the performance standards for each role:

1. The key duties and outcomes that each role and employee is accountable for

2. The Key Performance Indicator (KPI) number(s) that will be used to measure successful performance in the role

3. Every role should have at least one tangible measure of successful performance – that can be tracked every week (or at least monthly).

YOU drive Accountability

Assuming you have recruited the right person for each role who; (a) “fits” with your company Core Values; and (b) has the necessary competencies to succeed in the role – the onus is on YOU the manager to provide the necessary training and support – AND you must hold the person accountable for meeting the required performance standards.

This is where many managers struggle. Accountability requires the discipline of giving your people regular feedback on their performance. We recommend this feedback is given every week.

What are the consequences?

Every week, when your employee completes their tasks, moves their projects forward, and meets their KPI targets – the consequence should be that they receive genuine praise from their manager. Good performance must be recognized and reinforced.

Poor performance must also be confronted immediately. If there are no consequences, the manager is implying that poor performance and lack of accountability is acceptable. The consequence should be that both the manager and the employee discuss the poor performance, identify the cause, and agree the specific actions that both parties will take to improve the results before the next weekly meeting.

Increase Employee Accountability

1-    Time and Attendance Software  –  Once an employee clocks-in, the information is recorded and can then be uploaded onto the time and attendance software allowing for accurate tracking of employee attendance. This software can also be incorporated into the billing software, allowing the track of hours by client or project.

2-    SMART Goals  –  Empower your employees to set their own SMART Goals  SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented and time-bound. Note that all individual SMART Goals drive the Strategic Plan.

3-    Team Incentive Programs: Team incentive programs will allow employees to reach their highest accountability and potential. Employees will work together towards completing common goals, and will be compensated for going above and beyond the goals set out for them.

4-    Prioritization: Employees often struggle to balance tasks and goals and eventually become overwhelmed and unable to complete their tasks on time. It is important to help your employees prioritize their responsibilities in relation to your company’s overall goals. Helping to prioritize will allow your employees to feel more organized and competent in the tasks they are assigned.

5-    Monitor Progress: Monitoring your employees’ progress will help motivate them to be more productive and accountable. It is only natural that when we know someone is watching our progress that we will try to perform to our best abilities. Along with monitoring employee progress, it is equally important to share progress reports with them so they may learn what areas need more attention and what areas they are excelling in.

SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES DO THIS

Success.2What are the reasons that some companies (and people) reach their goals, while others never seem to fulfill their potential.

Playing to your companies’ natural strengths and talents is one of the major keys to success.  In other words, doing those things that comes naturally and easy – things that are enjoyable and fulfilling.  In addition, successful companies achieve their goals not only because of who they are, but more often because of “what they do.”  Here is our take on what successful companies (and people) really do:

Be Specific

When you set a goal, make it obvious exactly what you want to achieve and by when.  Just expressing an outcome (e.g. sell 100 widgets this quarter) is not as powerful as expressing your goal as a specific, tangible project that will achieve the desired outcome when successfully implemented.  Your goal should not be that easy ‘reachable’ goal; rather it should be that goal that you have never been able to achieve even when it may seem a little uncomfortable.  So how much ‘stretching’ outside your comfort zone are you willing to do, in order to achieve that goal?  Remember, change never happens until your drive yourself out of your comfort zone.

Test

Goals and projects should be expressed in a way that it is obvious what the finish line is that you intend to hit by the due date.  For long term projects – what are the desired milestones that you must reach by the end of this quarter?  Is it clear to everyone at which point they can pop the champagne cork to celebrate achieving a specific milestone?

Optimism with Realism

Just when you set yourself up to succeed, ‘stuff’ happens and fires need fighting.  By setting SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals and due dates that take into account that you will also may need to deal with any fires (or Chaos) that normally comes along in the process – yet can still achieve your milestones.  Don’t underestimate the difficulties and challenges you will face along the way, rather allow for these as a business variable in your plan and for the opportunity to identify and fix a weak link. Don’t forget to DWYSYWD (Do What You Say You Will Do).

Make Time

“Business as usual” must keep happening in the meantime. You still need to create opportunities, make sales, deliver products and services, and collect money – the stuff you do every day to pay the bills.  But you still need to manage your own time to work on the strategic plan– we suggest a half-day every week. Then, you must take specific meaningful actions on a regular basis that will move your strategic priorities forward.

Specific

What number one action can you “complete” by the end of the week that is going to move your progress forward another step?  Be specific.  It needs to be a binary (yes/no) action that is within your control that you can check off and be held accountable for saying, “Yes, I completed that action this week.”  Also, build an accountability system designed for all key persons involved in execution of the strategic plan, with a weekly action chart to track the activities and accomplishment of the key milestones.

Measure Progress

You can only measure, by tracking exactly how far you have come and know exactly how far you have left to go.  Measure your progress every week.  Are you on schedule?  Or do you need help?  Are you behind schedule and in danger of missing your due date?  Be honest and confront the brutal facts.  Don’t wait until the near the due date to signal that you are running behind.

Man Up!  (or the female equivalent)

Show that you have whatever is necessary to overcome the obstacles and get it done.  The more you exercise your courage muscle, the stronger it becomes.  There are things we have to do that we don’t particularly enjoy doing in order to achieve success – but everyone has to “eat your veggies” before you get to have any dessert.

Celebrate

Pop the cork when project goals are reached.  The bigger the achievement the bigger the celebration.  Hard work, commitment and vision needs to be recognized and praised on a regular basis. So, put away “the whip” and enjoy those moments of success!

ARE YOU A BAD BOSS?

NormanLeadership traditionally begins with Position. Someone joins the Army, and he or she becomes a recruit, working to earn the rank of private. A person gets a job, and along with it usually comes a title or job description. It is the bottom floor and the foundation upon which leadership must be built. Now the Upside and Downside of Leadership and Position (or Rights)

THE UPSIDE:

1. They Have Leadership Potential

Most of the time when people enter a leadership position, they do so because it was granted or appointed by some other person in authority. It usually means that the person in authority believes that the new leader has some degree of potential for leading.

2. Authority Is Recognized

When an individual receives a position and title, some level of authority or power usually comes with them. Often in the beginning that power is very limited, because most leaders need to prove themselves. As the Infantryman’s Journal (1954) says, “No man is a leader until his appointment is ratified in the minds and the hearts of his men.”

3. An Invitation to Grow as a Leader

There should always be a relationship between receiving a leadership position and fulfilling the requirements demanded by it. One of the main requirements is personal growth, we all have a responsibility to learn and grow so that we could make the most of it.

4. Shape and Define Their Leadership

The greatest upside potential for people invited to take a leadership position is that it affords them the opportunity to decide what kind of leader they want to be.  However, the position they receive may be defined, but they are not.

THE DOWNSIDE:

1. Having a Leadership Position Is Often Misleading

The easiest way to define leadership is by position. Once you have a position or title, people will identify you with it. However, positions and titles are very misleading. A position always promises more than it can deliver.

2. Devaluation of  People

People who rely on position for their leadership almost always place a very high value on holding onto their position—often above everything else they do. Their position is more important to them than the work they do, the value they add to their subordinates, or their contribution to the organization. As a result, departments, teams, or organizations that have positional leaders suffer terrible morale.

3. Feed on Politics

When leaders value position over the ability to influence others, the environment of the organization usually becomes very political. Positional leaders focus on control instead of contribution. They do what they can to get the largest staff and the biggest budget they can—not for the sake of the organization’s mission, but for the sake of expanding and defending their turf.

4. Placing Rights Over Responsibilities

Poet T.S. Eliot asserted, “Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important…they do not mean to do harm…they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” That’s what positional leaders do: they do things to make themselves look and feel important. Inevitably, positional leaders who rely on their rights develop a sense of entitlement.

5. Often Lonely

Positional leaders can become lonely if they misunderstand the functions and purpose of leadership. Good leadership is about walking beside people and helping them to climb up the hill with you. If you’re atop the hill alone, you get lonely.

6. Branded and Stranded

Whenever people use their position to lead others for a long time and fail to develop genuine influence, they become branded as positional leaders, and they rarely get further opportunities for advancement in that organization. They usually move laterally, but rarely move up.

7. High Turnover

When people rely on their positions for leadership, the result is almost always high turnover. Remember that . . . . People Quit People, Not Companies.

8. People’s Least, Not Their Best

People who rely on their positions and titles are the weakest of all leaders. They give their least. They expect their position to do the hard work for them in leadership. As a result, their people also give their least.

From:  The Five Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell