Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gotta Do What You Gotta Do

According to the ADP National Employment Report, from January through April this year, U.S. companies with fewer than 50 employees let go 904,000 employees. Being laid off is a huge psychological and financial event, but it can be just as traumatic for the business owner who has to perform this dirty deed. Although a much different setting, managers and directors of large organizations can go through the same thing.

But just like the flight attendants tell you on the plane, always put the oxygen mask on yourself first. You're no good to anybody if you're incapacitated. I'm not trying to be cold here but lets face it, you gotta do what you gotta do. If you don't look after the business, why would anyone else?

A number of years ago, I knew a guy who had a yard landscaping (mowing) business that took off like hotcakes. He quickly developed a rather large clientele and hired extra people in order to keep up with the workload. And then, alas, Winter rolled around and the workload dropped just as quickly as it had grown. He felt so bad about the idea of having to lay off some of his workers that he couldn't do it, and the business eventually (fairly quickly actually) fell apart. Instead of putting on HIS oxygen mask, he tried to share it . . . and there wasn't enough. The survival of his business depended on him putting on his own mask first.

When the time comes to lay off staff is when the real leader comes out. Honestly explain to your employee(s) the reasons for your decision, express gratitude for their loyalty and service, and be sure that you re-enforce the fact that the lay off isn't in response to their performance. And remember that you aren't the focus of the conversation, the life of the organization is. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Protect Your Brand

Protecting your brand is the name of the game these days. There's just too much competition out there for you not to be continuously looking for ways to improve. You say you don't have a brand? Wrong. Every company and every person has a brand whether you realize it or not. It's what defines you. It's what sets you apart from everyone else. If you don't see or work on your brand, you're not going to be in business for too awful long.

One of the (many) things you need to do is protect yourself by actively seeking out the things that others are saying about you, whether good or bad. You need to be prepared to react appropriately to accusations or capitalize on positive comments. You don't have time though to sit at your desk and manually search for your name in articles, blogs, video's, etc. That's where Google comes in - I love Google. Contrary to what you may think, the Google website is chock full of all kinds of everyday business tools. It's definitely not just a search engine.

One of the things that Google can do for you is to send you alerts when people are talking about you. Create a Google account, if you haven't already, and go to www.google.com/alert. Here you can type in key words or phrases, like your company name, CEO's name, etc, and Google will continuously and automatically search the web for you and send you e-mail alerts whenever you're mentioned. Pretty cool, huh? And guess what - it's FREE. You can't beat it.

Setting up alerts takes less than a minute. Start taking some steps to improve your brand, and start right here and now. It takes no time at all, and it's free. What more can you ask for?
Note: If you want to search a specific name or phrase, type it in quotation marks (ie, "walt disney world") or else you'll get hits on each individual word also.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Relentless Preparation

In a recent issue of Success Magazine, Rudolph Giuliani discusses his seven success strategies. One of them that hit home was, "Relentless preparation is key". He says to "anticipate what is going to happen. Practice your response, and then afterward, study what actions you did take and what those results were."

Too often people come up with a solution to fix a problem, celebrate, and move on. That's not going to help down the road when it happens again or to someone else and you can't remember what you did before. Especially when it happens off-site. If you have supervisors out in the field overseeing operations and they're dealing with the day-to-day problems, they should be reporting these things to their supervisors back at the ranch. Chances are, if things are happening out there to them, they're happening to others. Why continuously try to reinvent the wheel? That just wastes peoples time and money, and could very well complicate the situation.

You should have a system in place to document problems that arise and what's done to correct them. They should then go to a main supervisor/manager(s) (or some other designated person) who will then discuss them amongst themselves or with the field supervisors, however would work best for you, to determine if that was the best way to correct the problem or if there would be a better way. Depending on the size of your organization, you may even need to go as far as creating an actual department, or make it a part of QA's job function. These problems and their preferred corrective actions should become the standard and be shared with your field supervisors/managers.

The idea here is to stop wasting time, energy, and money. Plan and be READY to act, not react. Even if you weren't a Boy Scout, I'm sure the majority of you know what their motto is - "Be Prepared". These are kids that adhere to this motto - do you really have an excuse not to?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings

Have you ever sat down at a meeting table and asked yourself, "why the heck are we even here?"? Me too - many times. I used to have a department head that held a basic "what's happening" meeting the last hour on Friday and again first thing Monday morning. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

According to the Wall Street Journal report on Wharton Centre For Applied Research, the average CEO in the United States spends 17 hours a week in meetings that costs the company $42,500 per year. Senior executives spend 23 hours a week in meetings and cost up to $46,000.00 per year each. Middle managers spend 11 hours a week in meetings and cost up to $20,000.00 a year each.

There are some things that you can do to counteract some of these expenses. First and foremost, ask yourself if the meeting is really a necessity. Look to see if there's a more cost-effective way to achieve your objective - by phone, email, or water cooler.

Speed up your meetings by supplying all participants with an agenda two to three days prior to the meeting. Include objectives, issues to be discussed, start and end times for each issue, a list of attendees and any preparations required. Assign someone as a time-keeper to keep things on track according to the set time limits.

When making out your participant list, be sure the people you're choosing really need to be there. If not, you're just completely wasting their time. Pretty soon everyone will be questioning their need to be at any of your meetings.

And by all means, manage your meetings. Keep discussions on track. Use the parking lot - if the group starts getting off track, write that issue on a sticky note and post it to discuss it more at the end of the meeting, if there's time, or at a later date.

Good meetings don't just happen. If you manage the process, the results will take care of themselves.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Speech Tics

After a little time off - I'm baaaaaack. And I want to talk about something you hear about a lot when discussing training or speeches/presentations. Speech tics. Speech tics are when you repeatedly use words, sounds, or phrases over and over. Things like "okay", "ya know", "I mean", and "um" and "uh".

Speech tics can be VERY annoying to your audience. PRACTICE your training or speeches prior to performing for the first time. You may think you don't have any tics, but you may actually find out that you do.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was listening, with a group of others, to a presenter. We all eventually tuned out what he was trying to get across because we were too busy counting his "um's" and "uh's". I actually can't recall what his presentation was on.

Repeating your speech tics - repetitive sounds - gets old and boring really fast. It's a sure way to lose your audience. In addition to just losing them, you also stand the chance of being made fun of (I saw some of that) and also decreasing your believability (saw that to).

Recognize your pet phrases and words and work on eliminating them - PRACTICE. Ask someone to keep a record each and every time one slips out. Use videotapes or even audiotapes to play back to see for yourself. Warning: it may not be pretty. Watch your audience while you're giving your presentation. You can pick it up by noticing their mannerisms and looks.

Even the most seasoned presenters will fall into the speech tic mode from time to time. If getting up in front of people isn't your main occupation, chances are you're going to fall into it more than what you think. PRACTICE.