Friday, July 29, 2016
Likewise, understanding when it's time to quit a product you love, but that is not providing you with the gains you want, can mean the difference between success and failure, or even fulfillment and frustration.
In 1976, 23-year-old Don Schlitz wrote "The Gambler." After pushing it around for a few years, eventually, it was picked up by Bobby Bare and later, Johnny Cash. Despite the talent behind the lyrics and performers, the song never really took off. That is until Kenny Rogers picked it up and launched it to the top of the charts. Schlitz knew he had a song worth pushing and didn't give up. That perseverance paid off in spades (pun intended).
Knowing when to keep going with a product or service is not always so straight-forward, though. It's a difficult decision to give up on your "business baby" that you created and nurtured, especially when revenues are "ok." Sometimes, though, it's necessary to give up an "ok" thing to make room for an extraordinary thing. So, hear from some of the top founders in the country about how they know when to hold em' and when to fold em'.
Is It Profitable?
This question is probably the easiest to answer when you take into account: (1) revenue, (2) time and money investment, (3) emotional investment and (4) company goals. For Elisa Doucett, Founder of CraftYourContent, it's a no-brainer - "if it costs more fiscally and mentally to maintain than it makes, then it is no bueno."
For Matthew Newton, Founder of TourismTiger, his approach is similar - "if the return on time or money invested isn't worth it and you can't find a clear solution, it's time to kill the product."
Is It Providing Value?
Just creating a product because you want to make money or achieve a personal goal may not be the best for your product's success. Likewise, if your product is too similar to your competition or doesn't add more value than a competing product, it's time to move on to something else.
Micheal Ericsson, Founder of Search Scientists, looks to the founder's mindset in determining when to kill a product: "Everyone I know with a truly successful product...[is] not creating a product to create a product, they're moving forward with the goal to change a piece of the world."
Is It Feeding Your Passion?
While passion may not be the best reason for creating a product, it certainly should be a factor in keeping it going. According to Brandon King, Founder of SmartInternChina, "You should kill a product when it is killing you. If you go through an extended period of time working on a product you hate...that drains your energy, that is a good sign that it is time to move on."
Continually working on a product that you hate will erode your ability to put your best efforts into it. Nobody wants to put their name on a mediocre product.
Phil Ivey, (a.k.a. Gambler) always quits for the night when he's no longer at his best. The same holds true for running a business.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
What Makes a Great Place to Work?
Sparks, a marketing company, creates activities that make work fun for their employees. Some of the activities they have implemented include:
*Mix & Mingle - A program that coordinates employees from different departments having lunch together.
*Food4Thought - Focuses on lunchtime presentations from various departments and what they are doing.
*Events - Creating parties for holidays and other occasions.
Encourage Staff to Get Up Out of Their Chairs
Limeade, an employee engagement platform, tries to get their workers out of their chairs by using standing desks, walking meetings, puzzle stations, coloring stations, fitness challenges, and even Nerf wars.
Let Employees Play Games
TinyPULSE, a performance review company, has office games that the staff play together to relax and de-stress throughout the day. Two of their favorite games are Werewolf and Eat Poop, You Cat. These games can be played by the entire staff at short intervals one at a time. Team members can take a few moments away from their job to have a bit of fun. You can find instructions for the two games at the links below:
*Werewolf - Who is the werewolf that has been killing off the sheep? https://www.tinypulse.com/blog/sk-3-team-building-games-organizational-culture
*Eat Poop, You Cat - Similar to Pictionary, people make drawings and try to figure out what they are. https://www.tinypulse.com/blog/sk-work-icebreaker-games
Create Activities that Employees Can Enjoy After Work
SnackNation, a healthy snack company, designs activities for employees that they can do after work or on weekends. Most of those activities involve fitness at some level. Activities include going offsite to nearby parks such as Big Bear, scooter races in the parking lot, yoga in the office, boot camps, and Friday Happy Hours.
How Can You Develop Your Company Culture?
Even small companies can develop their business culture to bring employees together and make work more enjoyable. It doesn't take a large budget to implement some of these ideas. While you may not be able to sponsor a weekend trip, you can certainly add some games into your day that only take a few moments away from the stress of work. You can find a lot of unique team-building games on the internet with a quick Google search, many of which take minimal money to run. Some take only a piece of paper and a pen. These types of games help your staff solidify by laughing together, and they will feel more comfortable working together later on. Additionally, work can be stressful. Taking the stress away will help staff become happier at work which will give them the incentive to stay with your company longer.
You can implement team lunches to share employee recognition or talk about what is going on in the company. You can also help employees build camaraderie with lunch-time sports. Think about how you can make small changes to create a positive, fun atmosphere in your workplace. If your staff is having fun, that attitude will translate to your customers who will enjoy coming into your office.
Friday, July 22, 2016
There is no "right" or "wrong" way to sit quietly for a few minutes a day. Taking the time to think and contemplate things is a real game changer. It teaches you to quiet your mind and gives that big brain of yours time to rest. That's all it is. Give it a try. Take 20 minutes and sit quietly. Let your thoughts come in and gently focus on them one at a time, allowing yourself to sit in silence. Over time, the effects build and offer a calmer mind and body, heightened focus, more patience, and greater productivity.
Your doctor and Jillian Michaels are right. Exercise is especially critical for entrepreneurs. You may feel like you are going 100 MPH on any given day and do not need "additional" activity, but get outside and take a brisk walk. You can even take the time to think at the same time. It's a twofer for the multi-tasking magnate in you.
Experience the Outdoors
Great Scott! Throw nature in the mix and it's a "three-fer" (it's a real word - scout's honor). The outdoors can spark relaxation, creativity, and help stave off burnout. Daily exposure to natural surroundings will give you the fuel to get back in the office and power through your day.
Schedule Your Time
Keep a single calendar that gives you mandated time each day to walk away from your desk, your phone, and your email. Maybe a couple of 10-15 minute breaks that give you time to stretch your legs, interact on a social level, grab a (healthy) snack or call a loved one. This single calendar will house business related obligations and personal outings and priorities. Seeing all of your obligations in one place helps eliminate the over-scheduled executive trap and gives you the opportunity to see, in black and white, how you are spending your time. In addition to your breaks, dedicate some time to your meal periods. Maybe you do not want to allocate an hour per day for lunch. At the very least, turn off your electronic world for 15-20 minutes and give your food your full attention. Think of it as "eating meditation."
Unplugging from all electronics, while a little frightening at first, can help alleviate a ton of stress. Think about it; all of those dings and beeps and buzzes that are always pulling at every last ounce of concentration you have. There's only so much a person can take. Every tweet, poke, Instagram, Snapchat, email and reminder activates responses in you that eventually lead to mental and emotional breakdowns. It's a daunting prospect, but consider taking an hour away from all electronics and build from there. Who knows, maybe you could allocate an entire electronics-free day or evening. Your creativity and your soul will thank you.
These few tips can help avoid burnout and create the optimal environment for the successful entrepreneur in you.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
The dirty little secret here is that there are NO pointless meetings in the world of business - only wasted opportunities to get things done. If you want to make sure your meetings are justifying their existence, you'll want to keep a few key things in mind.
Know When to Schedule a Meeting and When Not To
The first step on your road to a more productive meeting schedule involves coming to an understanding of what type of information should be conveyed in a meeting and what would be better left for some other delivery mechanism. One of the reasons why meetings tend to fall into the "pointless" category for many people is that they don't require input or collaboration. If a team leader wants to draw everyone together to talk about updates to a project, but they don't want the advice of anyone else, what they're scheduling is not a meeting at all. It is an email at best.
Collaboration and the input of everyone involved should be a requirement for any meeting to justify its existence. If a particular problem has cropped up with a project and everyone needs to come together to solve it, that's one thing. However, if the purpose of the meeting can be accomplished by just sending a memo or some other form of communication, don't waste everyone's time by gathering the entire team together to talk about the work they are already doing. Instead, let the team just get on with doing their jobs.
It's All About Solutions and Focus
Another one of the reasons why more meetings tend to be less than productive is because people come with ideas, not solutions. One sure-fire way to make sure that nothing gets done is to allow people to come to a meeting and say off the top of their heads whatever is on their minds, firing off ideas that may or may not work.
In a perfect world, everyone at the meeting would know that you have a problem and would come prepared with X, Y, and Z suggestions for how to feasibly solve it. You wouldn't waste the meeting time searching for an answer to your problem. Instead, you would be able to pick the best solution available to you from what the team members came prepared with and brought to the meeting. Far too many meetings lack this type of targeted focus, which is why so many of us can walk out of a meeting and feel like it accomplished nothing.
At the end of the day, there are no pointless meetings in the world of business or, at least, there shouldn't be. Getting everyone together for a meeting can be a great thing. Everyone is in a room together, feeding off of everyone else's energy and building a solid foundation of creativity that will carry your business forward. Meetings that are little more than lectures (or worse, freestyle sessions) have no place in a productive organization. If you want to have a meeting, by all means, do so - just make sure it has a clear focus before you schedule it.
Friday, July 15, 2016
So what happens when you didn't form the team, but you're still being asked to lead them?
Things change in business all the time and at some point, you may be invited to take the reigns of a project that had already existed long before you got there - inheriting the project's team at the same time. Jumping into a team as the newly deemed leader can be a difficult situation to find yourself in, but it doesn't have to be provided you keep a few key things in mind.
Trust - The Most Important Element of All
When you take over as the team leader for an already established group, one thing will become clear: you probably wouldn't have made the same decisions had you been there from the beginning. It's a bit like a Hollywood feature film when one director takes over for another - a movie is still going to get made, but can that new director still put his or her own stamp on what is about to happen?
The answer is "yes," provided you take advantage of your most valuable asset of all: the team itself. Remember, the people in that group were selected for a reason, and the most important thing you can do right now is to trust them to guide you just as they're trusting you to guide them. Remember that they WERE there from the beginning. They have experience in this context that you do not, and their experience is incredibly valuable. Don't come in barking orders, changing this or that just so that the project is more "yours" than anybody else's. Listen to what they have to say. Talk to them about what they're doing and why they're doing it. Instead of changing them to fit your needs, do what you can to make yourself malleable to address theirs.
You've Been Tasked With Filling a Void, So Fill It
If you're coming in to lead an already established group, the chances are high that what you're being asked to do is fill a void. Why the previous team leader was replaced no longer matters - the people in front of you were prepared to follow that person, and now that person is gone. What you need to do is throw any pre-conceived strategies you may have had out the window and learn the score, so to speak. Find out what challenges were present under the previous leadership and learn what you can do to correct them. Find out how you can provide your personal value in a situation that already existed before you got there. Take the time to learn precisely what type of leader these people need and do whatever you have to do to become it. In this situation, you need to be willing to become a collaborator almost more than you would if you had built the team in the first place.
These are just a few of the ways that you can successfully become a team leader for an already established group. Make no mistake - it's an awkward position to be in, but above all else, the quality of the work can't suffer due to an unfortunate identity crisis. By trusting these people who have already come together and by being willing to become a real collaborator in every sense of the word, you'll be able to make this team your own over time - all without tearing down what was old to build something new in the process.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Logically, we think that if we appeal to the rational brain, we will convince people that our product is the best possible product for their needs. However, if that were the case, would anyone ever buy Croc Accessories or Pet Rocks? Nope.
Unless you're selling to Mr. Spock, there's a much simpler way of convincing people to buy what you're selling. The key to turning prospects into clients is tapping into the deeply embedded emotions inside each one of them.
By identifying these emotions and learning how to trigger them, you can increase your revenue faster than you can say "Chia Pet." Here are the top 5 psychological triggers you can start using immediately to boost your bottom line.
1. Increasing Pleasure and Avoiding Pain
Avoiding pain and increasing pleasure are the driving forces of all human activity. This idea is the most fundamental reason we have a nervous system. If something hurts, we find a way to stop it. If something feels pleasurable, we do it more.
Translating this into your marketing strategy, you must first identify what your clients associate with pain and pleasure. Once you've figured that out, the rest is easy. Draft your marketing message in a way that shows your customers how your product or service will get them as close as possible to their pleasure trigger and away from their pain trigger.
2. Simplifying Life
For most of us, life is complicated. Too complicated. It takes 47 steps to get us from the comfort of our beds and out the door prepared to work. We don't need another product or service that will add more steps (obstacles) to our day.
Take a good, hard look at what you're selling. Does it add or remove barriers from people's lives? If it's not easy and fast to use, consider making a few tweaks that will take all of the "no's" out of the equation.
3. Creating Novelty
New and shiny are what we love. In fact, it has been scientifically shown that exposure to something novel increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, that chemical that makes us all tingly and excited.
If you've ever heard someone complaining about the lack of significant changes in the latest iPhone, but still stand in line for hours to get one in their hot, little hands on release day, you've witnessed the power of novelty.
You can easily create innovation with your products by making a few simple changes and give your prospects that shot of dopamine they've been craving. Think googly-eyes on the pet rock.
4. Telling a Story
Humans have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years by telling stories. It's how we share our experiences. The best storytellers invoke all of the senses to put their audience directly into the action.
You can infuse even the most mundane products with the magic of a good story. Try updating your copy to tell a story about your product that transports your prospects to a happier, more memorable place. They'll buy just to keep the story alive.
5. Building Anticipation
We've all turned 16 at some point in our lives. Remember the anticipation we felt as the day drew nearer and the prospect of being able to drive around without an adult sat winking at us in the distance? It made life a little more sparkly, didn't it?
If you've got a new product or service in the works, don't just plunk it down on the counter when it's all done. Start building some buzz while you're still working on it. Send out emails to your current customers and prospects. Create a series of videos giving out little bits of information at a time. Get people in that "I can't wait" mode and your launch day will be more profitable than you can imagine.
Friday, July 8, 2016
The Dangers of Not Setting Boundaries
The potential pitfalls associated with not setting boundaries for your employees extend quite a bit deeper than just having people who look at you more as a friend and less as a leader. A lack of boundaries can also easily translate into a lack of clarity and direction. You might suddenly find that, while you have hugely talented people working beneath you, they're not focused. They're not engaged. They're more confused than anything and nothing is getting done.
Another significant issue that a lack of boundaries can create has to do with your overall company culture. If you don't set boundaries up front, your company culture could become damaged. People will become demotivated, which will ultimately cause their performance to suffer. This, in turn, not only affects the quality of the work that you're able to deliver to clients, but also your entire company identity from the top down.
Setting Boundaries as a Team Leader
If you want to continue to blossom into the team leader you always know you were meant to be, you'll want to focus on creating boundaries in a few key areas. You'll want to create boundaries that help your employees focus, first and foremost. You need to do what you can to minimize distractions from EVERYTHING that isn't critical to the task at hand.
You'll also want to create boundaries that help build a positive working environment for everyone involved. Whether this means rewarding a job well done or just recognizing when someone turns in a particularly thoughtful piece of work, this will go a long way towards creating a positive emotional environment - which also helps stimulate brain performance and keeps your employees operating at peak efficiency.
More than anything, however, you'll want to establish boundaries that keep your team functioning as exactly that - a team. Any activity or behavior that fragments your team instead of pulls them together simply won't do. You need to always remind your employees that you're all in this together and that every move you make, along with every move they make, needs to be focused towards the same short-term and long-term goals.
These are just a few of the many reasons why boundaries are such an important part of becoming a team leader. Everyone wants to be liked, but remember that you're not in this to make friends - you're in this to get the job done. The types of boundaries that you set need to minimize distractions and bring your team together, not pull them apart. Only then will you be able to grow into the true team leader you always knew you had hidden inside you.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
"Did you hear about Kathy? She is dating one of her supervisors..." or "I think Corey is on something. He has been late a lot lately and his eyes are watery..."
And with that bolt of lightening you have an out-of-control wildfire on your hands. It only takes one person to spark this type of destruction. Once one person speculates to another and then another, that speculation soon becomes a "fact," and the object(s) of the gossip are in a position to defend the truth. This type of defensive space can shut down trust and, as a result, the creativity and collaboration that take so long to cultivate are lost. Gossip wars can emerge with retaliation, and the cycle of destruction keeps on going.
So how can you protect your workplace from gossip? Here are a few tips to help you guide your employees in stamping out the gossip wildfire.
Change the Subject.
If a conversation isn't heading in a positive direction, encourage staff to change its course by politely changing the subject. It can be easy to say something that's interesting - and upbeat - while also sending them a clear signal that you don't want to talk about whatever you perceive to be gossip.
Say something positive about the person who's the target of gossip.
No matter how negative a story about a person may seem, we rarely have all of the facts and there are likely positive qualities to that person. Remind people who are engaging in gossip that the person they're talking about has done or said something praiseworthy by mentioning something specific that's positive.
Confront gossip politely yet firmly.
Stand up to people who are gossiping by saying that you don't want to know about the story they're trying to tell you. Don't hesitate to call out gossip when you hear it, but do so with grace. For example, you could say something like: "That sounds like it is none of my business, so I don't really want to hear any more. Let's just drop it." Encourage your employees to hold others accountable for their choice of words.
Point out missing information.
If all else fails, ask questions that point out gaps in a story, such as specific times and places of events that supposedly happened. Challenge gossiping people to tell you how they personally verified the information they're spreading about others. Help them see that just because they heard a story doesn't mean it's true - and even if it is, they can't possibly have an accurate perspective on the situation.
Making it clear to your staff that gossip will not be tolerated. Eliminating gossip in the workplace will perpetuate an ongoing culture of kindness and respect.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Managing Employees Who Are Working Remotely: Bringing Your Team Together, Even When They're a World Apart
If you want to get better at managing employees who are working remotely and your goal is to bring your team together even when they're a world apart, you'll want to keep a few key things in mind.
Lay Down the Ground Rules
Some employees who are working remotely tend to have this romantic idea that they are their own boss or that they "work for themselves." After all, they don't have to go into the office to be productive - they can work with the TV on if they want to or decide to stay in their pajamas all day if they feel like it, right?
Wrong. In reality, even remote employees still have a very real boss - the work itself. This is the master they're trying to serve, and while they do have an extra level of comfort that on-site employees might not, any decision that takes away from the quality of the work is one that has to go.
Establishing a firm set of ground rules for all employees who are working remotely is essential to getting everyone on the same page. Whether it's the fact that they have to work at least X number of hours per day. or that they have to be available between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., or even a rule saying that you'll have at least one video conference per day, rules are important to not only keep everyone focused but also to make sure you're all working towards the same long-term goal.
It's All About Perspective
Above all else, it's important for you and your employees to start looking at working remotely as a privilege, not a right. Just because the technology exists and is more affordable than ever does NOT mean it is something that they are entitled to. If a top-quality employee who previously worked on-site switches to remote access and the quality of the work suffers, you have to see the situation for what it is: someone who is abusing that privilege. If that situation arises, it's time to not only bring them back into the office (if possible) but make sure that all other employees know that the same thing can happen to them in the future.
The type of work that you're doing cannot exist in a vacuum, yet this is exactly what you're creating if you don't encourage or even insist that remote workers still communicate and collaborate with one another. Even if it's something as simple as a quick daily phone call, it's hugely important for remote workers to understand that what they're doing affects everyone else at the same time. It's far too easy for someone who doesn't go into the office to start thinking "out of sight, out of mind" in terms of their fellow employees. Encouraging regular communication can help prevent this from happening.
Working remotely for a business is a truly great thing, but the opposite can certainly be true if you're not careful. Only by establishing ground rules, holding people accountable, and by having the right perspective will you be able to unlock all of the benefits of remote workers with as few of the downsides as possible.