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Change – have we an app for that?

As large companies plod inexorably forward, small businesses have the opportunity to dash ahead. Flexible and agile – like a lithe boxer dancing around a lumbering opponent – small businesses use their size to their advantage when in competition with the big boys.

Adding too much structure and process to a small business seems, on the face of it, to be removing this key advantage. However, change and change management is just as big an issue in small companies as it is in big ones.Accepting this and dealing with it does not necessarily mean hamstringing your company.

Change management policies have been seen as overly prohibitive and not relevant for a business until it reaches a certain size – say over 100 employees. There is a certain truth to this – holding formal change management meetings involving three or four employees may seem excessive.

In a small business where the employees meet regularly and everyone feels that they are ‘on the same page’ and headed in the same direction change management may look very different. However, it still needs to be seen.

If you are meeting regularly you are probably discussing and implementing changes anyway. Without holding a formal meeting or setting in place an agreed upon process you are already informally doing the job. What remains is to take that extra time to document these agreements.

In the unlikely event that there is any miscommunication within our small group, you have a process to refer to. More importantly, if you have the ambition to grow your business, you have begun creating a process history for the way change is implemented.

A history of change management is invaluable when the time comes for you to grow your infrastructure. By the time several products or services being developed and offered, staff and teams are working remotely or each original employee now manages a department, you have a documented list of systems and processes to ensure that your operations run smoothly.

If you cross the threshold and are no longer considered a small business, no change management plan will magically appear on your desk. Creating one from scratch for a now not-so-small business is a big task; evolving your existing process is far easier. Artificially bolting on a new process is also more likely to have the hamstringing effect mentioned earlier. A process which has evolved naturally with the business as it has grown is likely to be appropriate, compatible and efficient.

Change management is not just for the big companies. It’s a process that needs to grow alongside your business and it’s never too early to plant the seeds.

Posted in: Managing Change

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And did those feet….?

And was Jerusalem builded here, among these dark, Satanic Mills?’ Blake’s 1808 poem references a concern felt across Britain in the early 19th century. Many who lived through the Industrial Revolution possessed a deep fear of new technology.

Not only could the new technologies be physically dangerous to operate, they rearranged the social and family structure, thrust mankind out of circadian rhythm and represented a threat to employment and livelihood. The smoke and fire from the steam engines were also reminiscent of the ‘satanic’ images of hell described from the church pulpit.

Today’s issues regarding technology might be slightly different, but they still exist. Data and identity theft, surveillance, trolling and cybercrime are all very real concerns. Though Google’s motto is ‘don’t be evil’ one has to ask why they assumed we thought they might be – ‘the lady doth protest too much’? It certainly reminds us they have the capacity to be evil.

The moral debate over technological progress will forever be with us. However, for SMEs and start-ups, technology can be your friend – not something to be afraid of.

New technology has helped to level the playing field – allowing small businesses to compete with larger, established ones. Consider the smartphone. With the device in your pocket you have direct connectivity with clients, collaborators and potential customers. You may not have a PA, client managers, marketing or customer service departments but you can control all those aspects of your organisation from your location.

For a growing business, when you no longer have sole control, technology is still a boon. Cloud computing, software and apps allow your team to operate with synchronicity – maintaining the slicker, more efficient edge over businesses weighed down by bureaucracy.

The main perceived drawbacks – where the fear of technology creeps back in – are cost and training. How expensive are these advantages and how difficult will it be for my team and I to get to grips with using them?

The answers are ‘not very’ and ‘not very long’. Take social media technology as an example. The major platforms are free, with an option to pay for a premium service or promote your content if you so choose. This allows you to familiarise yourself with the platform, measure the impact your engagement is having and decide whether it is worth paying for.

You will also notice that all social media operates in a similar way. Once you have familiarised yourself with one platform you can understand and utilise most of them. Terminology may be specific – likes may become favourites – but the concept remains essentially the same.

The same is true for many business apps. They are often free, with an option to upgrade and work in such a way that mastering one will allow you access to many. The key thing to remember for a growing business (which may have a ‘bring your own device’ policy rather than issuing staff phones, tablets and laptops) is to look for apps and software that work across operating systems.

If you’re looking to start your own business and build your own Jerusalem, technology is not a dark satanic mill to be afraid of but a valuable construction tool which can help you punch above your weight and operate with efficiency and fluency.

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Technology, Flexibility, Simplicity – Disrupting a Medal Machine

You have to feel sorry for Team GB’s cycling rivals. Well, a little bit sorry. Perhaps not but, for the sake this article, let’s pretend. With the Olympics and Britain’s Olympic success dominating the front and back pages of every newspaper, it seems apt to tie an article in with the national mood. However, despite their phenomenal success in the velodrome, the British track cycling team isn’t going to be ‘case study one’.

Team GB’s track cycling setup is nearly all-powerful. The team is nicknamed ‘The Medal Factory’ and every rider is returning home with at least one piece of Olympic neckwear. They are the established, well-funded, dominant force – which is why their rivals are interesting. From the point of view of the start-ups, disruptors and potential gamechangers of this world, how do you take on a giant?

A new company can’t hope to achieve success just by being a carbon copy of an existing business. Something has to be different or the bigger fish will always win. Team GB’s dominance continued this summer, but there were chinks in the (lycra) armour and inspiration to be taken on how to compete with, and even how to get one over on the big players.

Technology always provides an opportunity. The USA’s technological gamble didn’t pay off, but you can appreciate the concept. Moving the chain to the left-hand side shifted their bikes’ centre of gravity to the inside of the velodrome. It wasn’t enough on the day, but came close to causing an upset and demonstrated how the early adoption of new technology can potentially shift the balance. Early implementation of new software to speed up a system or process, improve internal communication or to reach new customers could bring the edge a company needs.

Flexibility is often the secret weapon of the underdog. On the track, Team GB wore the optimum racing skinsuit. Time and money had been poured into finding the best possible garment. The Italian team that claimed gold in the Omnium recognised that each race of the event took place at a different speed and created a suit for every occasion. With less bureaucracy and fewer moving parts, smaller companies can offer bespoke solutions more easily – offering a tailored service to each client rather than a package.

Simplicity and finer detail can become lost as a company grows. However, as they say in insect numeracy classes, it’s the little things that count. Simple, efficient solutions are another trademark of start-ups. Top of the range skinsuits are all well and good until you stick a very un-aerodynamic safety pin in them to fix on your number. The Netherlands, who took gold in the women’s Keirin, had transparent pouches for their numbers built into their suits.

Coming up against world-leading rivals forces people to start thinking laterally and triggers innovation. Small businesses may not have tech labs and research divisions refining software and kit but have a closer ear to the ground – you may network with somebody developing genuinely new technology. Start-ups are more flexible and can adapt not only to new situations but to the clients’ needs. In a smaller business on a smaller scale, key details and simple solutions do not get lost – they can be seized upon and leveraged to your advantage. Celebrate Team GB’s success, but keep an eye on the competition and what you can learn – subtle improvements can have a disproportionate impact.

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How to maintain a positive service process to keep clients coming back

Sometimes, when someone says ‘have a nice day’ it genuinely means something. A stranger wishing that your day is nice can actually make your day nicer as a result – a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course we have all heard the line ‘have a nice day’ muttered to us in a bored monotone by someone who is clearly having a very bad one.

The droning automaton is clearly following his or her company’s customer service process. This presents a problem. Given that, I’ve written about the importance of establishing a process in order to ensure consistency of service, especially when your business is growing and you require new staff to operate to your standards.

Though reciting ‘have a nice day’ probably isn’t a specific aspect of your process, you don’t want to create the situation where your process is something to be trudged through and resented by your staff. Especially if that resentment becomes obvious to clients.

This can be partly avoided by ensuring that your process provides your staff with enough flexibility and freedom. I’ve written previously about how a process can be a series of checks which you use to asses, then respond to the situation accordingly.

If the imaginary individual mentioned earlier was following a process which involved engaging the customer socially, but was given the freedom to write their own script, then perhaps they would sound more convincing.

The real key though is complementing a solid, consistent and successful process with a sense of enthusiasm and urgency. The real grating point of the ‘have a nice day’ scenario is the lack of sincerity. Try replacing that negative image with memories of times you have encountered people who take genuine pleasure in their work.

To create enthusiasm about the process you need your staff to follow, give them a stake in that process. Ensure goals and responsibilities are not merely allocated, but discussed, shared and understood. Sharing information creates a sense of unity and urgency within an organisation.

Ensure you compare results with these goals. You don’t want to get mired in analysis paralysis, but sharing and discussing outcomes as a team and handing out rewards where they are due builds on these foundations.

To keep this enthusiasm within a framework, you can remind your staff of the concrete aspects of your company’s process by emphasising the adaptability of the areas which are not fixed. Setting new, frequent and varied mini-objectives and encouraging experimentation with new techniques in areas that you are want people to leave their own stamp on caters for creativity and innovation and above all, make sure you keep on top of the process and not too deep in it. Retain and overview of how your staff are performing – these regular goal setting and sharing meetings should help. Be aware of individuals departing too far from the plan and those following it in a soulless, uninspiring manner. If you discover any rogues and robots, then act on it and you can continue to deliver with quality and consistency.

Posted in: Top Tips

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Good business habits and how to stop bad ones creeping in

Do you drive today like you did on the day you passed your driving test? Do you read terms and conditions with the same scrutiny that you did the first time you made an online purchase? As we become familiar with something, we don’t necessarily approach it with the same diligence we once did.

That said, how do you ensure that client 100 receives the same level of service as client 1?

Bad habits can creep in. They might not be terrible habits – though they can be! It is often a case of an outstanding service being reduced to merely a good one, which is bad enough. To return to the driving analogy, you don’t have to have become a menace on the road before you realise that you’re not operating to the same standards you once did.

The key to ensuring a consistently outstanding level of service is to establish a clear process. This is not about treating each client the same; this is about ensuring you respond to each client’s unique needs with the same level of attention and dedication. You’re not making them jump through generic hoops; you’re holding yourself accountable to a set of rigorous checks.

There are many aspects to the driving test, but if you remember one thing it is most likely the process – ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’. Required facts, such as stopping distances, are only applicable in one specific situation and gradually fade from memory. You are far more likely to remember a process, mainly because it works – it is applicable for every junction, roundabout, and lane change.

Whatever may have slid from your memory, you probably still check mirrors and indicate because the process has become habitual. It doesn’t involve treating every situation the same but ensures you run through the same checks in order to treat each situation appropriately.

To ensure that client 100 receives the same treatment as client 1, you need to be very clear about the process you put in place on that first occasion and endeavour to replicate it every time. To form a new habit such as taking up exercise takes roughly a month to become habitual if done every day. Given you may not be meeting clients each day this process may take longer to become embedded but over time it will.

Building your business around good habits is the best way of preventing bad habits. Your process needs to be firmly built around your goals and your responsibilities and flexible enough to incorporate new, beneficial habits you develop along the way. It needs to be rigorous enough to hold you to your own initial high standards but simple enough to teach and export, as others will need to learn the process if your business is to grow…

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How agile are you and your business?

Strategy and tactics are not interchangeable terms. As you probably know, your strategy is your answer to the big question ‘what are you trying to accomplish?’ It relates to your vision for your business and your long-term goal. Tactics relate the smaller scale operations which achieve your objectives along the route to that goal.

Perhaps routes towards your goal would be more accurate. The world is complex and constantly changing. Whilst your long-term strategy needs to remain fixed, there may be various means of getting there and you may have to adapt your tactics accordingly.

If your goal is to provide poached eggs for breakfast, the strategy of poaching needs to remain unchanged. You can’t start frying or scrambling. However, the day-to-day tactics employed may vary. You might try adding vinegar to the water, creating a vortex in the water to crack the eggs into or invest in a specialist poaching pan.

To employ a more relevant example, you may well have a sound social media strategy in place. Perhaps you are using Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with potential clients and uploading content designed to draw them towards your website.

By making changes and experimenting with new methods (in this case perhaps altering the frequency of posts, the timing of posts or the key words and hashtags used) you are adapting the tactics within the strategy. Switching to directly selling your product or service through Facebook would be an entirely new strategy – a ‘back to the drawing board’ type situation.

Strategies should be fixed and tactics should be flexible. In reverse, this can spell disaster – a business with a fluid strategy is one with no sense of direction and a business with fixed tactics is unimaginative and constrained. Assuming you have your strategy and tactics in the right order, you also need to ensure that your business is structured to accommodate their different characteristics.

Anything aspects of your business structure which relate to your strategy need to be appropriately fixed or formal. Formal structures are laid out methods of operating and conducting business both internally and externally. They define the relationships between yourself, your staff and your clients and should clearly address the goal you are trying to achieve.

As tactics can be changed and adapted, a more flexible structure needs to be in place for relevant areas of your business. Flexible structures, by their very nature develop over time. New ways of doing things are tried out and new tactics formulated to take advantage of new technology.

If connecting with people is central to your business, direct human contact may be a key aspect of fixed company strategy. Perhaps research and surveys have suggested that your target clients feel more comfortable, relaxed and engaged when conversing with a flesh and blood human and you feel you can offer a better service when able to assess a client’s reactions whilst in their physical presence.

Rather than Skype sessions or conference calls, you want to ensure that meetings with clients are always conducted in the real world. Whilst no employee should deviate from this strategy, the tactics might vary. Depending on the client, this meeting might take place in an office, a meeting room or a coffee shop. The freedom to adapt this is critical as a client might not be equally comfortable in all three locations.

What are you doing? Meeting with people to assess and address their business needs. How are you doing it? The tactics will vary, depending on the individual. Strategic and tactical planning is essential in building a road map for your business. Creating the correct structure for strategic and tactical operations provides you with the vehicle to travel.

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If at first you don’t succeed

Transforming a good idea into a commercial success requires determination – this is a universally accepted point. However, the amount of determination required is still sometimes underestimated. A quick look at the literary world makes this abundantly clear.

Agatha Christie (the most widely read author of fiction after Shakespeare) endured five years of publishing rejections, and J.K. Rowling (whose eventual combined sales were over £450 million) had her initial book rejected twelve times in a row. Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit was turned down so many times that she eventually decided to self-publish.

You might consider your business to exist in a very different world from that of authors and literature, but the frustrations encountered and determination required transcend the specific situation.

All of these books were clearly good ideas. Though they might not be on your personal reading list, time and experience has shown that the writers were on to something. There was nothing wrong with their thinking – they had written stories that there was a huge market for. However, the process of bringing that idea to the market was long and challenging.

Perhaps it is the culture of Dragons Den, X Factor and instant success that we are surrounded by which tricks people into thinking that, for them, it will be different – that their particular business idea is so innovative and wonderful they will fast track through the hard graft.

Whilst some individuals might get scooped up into instant success, the stories of these authors make clear that there is no direct correlation between the quality of your idea and the speed with which it gets noticed, accepted, appreciated and becomes a commercially viable product or service.

To depart from literature, both Richard Branson and James Dyson tell similar stories about the need for determination. They both credit their success more to being able to stick out the tough times and persevere with their plans rather than their initial innovations. Interestingly they both agree that a determined attitude is a quality which can be learnt and developed, not an innate ability.

Of course, your initial idea does have to make sense. However, if you have surrounded yourself with the right people, sought guidance and advice from trusted individuals rather than sycophantic yes-men and thoroughly thought through the detail then you can be assured that your course is worth pursuing.

The trick is to hold that course. If you have a business idea that makes sense, and enough determination, you can make things happen. If you keep working hard and are doing the right things you will create opportunities.

Perhaps it’s easy for people like Branson and Dyson to look back at their initial hard times as instrumental in developing a sense of urgency and determined work ethic now that they’ve established their empires, but if you read the biographies of successful entrepreneurs (and authors) across a wide variety of disciplines you will hear very similar stories across the board.

Determination is a required characteristic. In the same way that running not only gets you to your destination but improves your fitness while you get there, determination is not only needed in order for your idea to be realised but its implementation allows you to learn more about yourself and improve the way you work. Keep working, keep believing and good things will happen.

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Today’s organisations need a new model of leadership which no longer reveres heroes, says Val Sedounik

Why your organisation needs post-heroic leadership

Heroes, admired for their bravery and noble qualities, exist in the myths, legends and folklore in every culture. We’ve all been reared on stories in which a protagonist shows courage in the face of adversity; history has taught us about larger-than-life military and political figures; film and TV have shown us Superman, Wonder Woman and a host of other action heroes. We all have a strong sense of what a hero represents – and that can be disastrously unhelpful for anyone who steps into a leadership role.

The problem lies in our perception of leadership. For most people, a leader is the person ‘in charge’. The buck stops with them. We imagine leaders to be charismatic, powerful and influential figures who can steer organisations through stormy waters by the sheer force of their personality. So when someone becomes a leader, they often feel compelled to act as a hero (or heroine). Sadly, this can give them an inflated sense of their own importance, leading them to adopt what pioneering social psychologist Kurt Lewin described as an ‘authoritarian’ leadership style. They’ll make the key decisions, they’ll tell others what to do and when problems arise, they’ll roll up their sleeves and get stuck in.

Rather than helping the situation, this dominant or heroic style of leadership often has a detrimental impact. Poor decisions get made because teams are reluctant to challenge their master’s authority; infighting becomes rife as subordinates vie for the leader’s favour; silo working and bureaucracy proliferate. The heroic style is also self-reinforcing: when its consequences diminish performance, leaders find themselves encouraged to act even more aggressively to finally make things work again. Worse still, the values of ‘heroic leadership’ cascade down to all levels of the organisation. Micromanaging and even bullying can become the cultural norm. New leaders – men and women – quickly learn that this behaviour is not only tolerated in the organisation, it’s rewarded. They’ll therefore adopt this leadership style to fit in, even if it’s against their natural instincts.

To cap it all, investment analysts and the media seem smitten by the idea of a charismatic, heroic leader controlling the destiny of a company. They like to see a ‘strong’ commander at the helm: someone who knows where they’re going and who’ll take the company with them.

Ultimately, this model of heroic leadership pervades because it is embedded into our psyche; it’s what we expect. But it needs to be challenged.

What’s the alternative?

In today’s complex and dynamic environment, organisations need the agility, responsiveness and innovation that can only stem from multi-disciplinary working and collaborative decision-making. It’s no longer appropriate to command and control others; you need to take them with you, especially in times of change. This can only be achieved if you establish trust with other people and value diversity of opinion.

Here we see the main weakness of the heroic leadership model: it doesn’t leverage the strengths of others. Because hero leaders take it upon themselves to drive the company forward, initiative gets stifled and employees are left disempowered and disengaged. That restricts productivity and fuels staff turnover and absenteeism. The truth is that an organisation is never a one-man show.

The alternative to the heroic model – what we call a post-heroic leadership style – involves fostering co-creation and collaboration, negotiating with others and agreeing actions. Instead of telling people what to do, post-heroic leaders will strive to create an environment where knowledge workers can operate autonomously and effectively.

Post heroic leaders do not feel threatened by others who see things differently. They have a big picture view of the needs of customers and of the organisation, in the context of the external environment, and they’re open to fresh perspectives on how to meet these needs. They understand that, with a trusted team around them, they can use the expertise of others to best advantage. The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t play an instrument but their role is nonetheless vital for a good performance. They create a sense of unity, reinforce self-confidence, inspire others and infuse them with energy. That’s the epitome of post-heroic leadership.

The benefits of this are considerable. Firstly, involving people makes them feel valued and part of the organisation. Nobody wants to be told what to do; we all want to make our own choices. A post-heroic style of leadership can unleash talent and improve performance as it frees up the workforce to be more flexible and agile. It can instil pride in the company and have a beneficial impact on employee engagement. Also, through positive role modelling, the values of post-heroic leadership can cascade throughout the company. That can change the corporate culture and position the organisation as a more attractive employer.

Developing post-heroic leadership

Changing people’s entrenched perceptions and expectations of leadership is a challenge. For many leaders, the heroic approach is the only mental model they know. It takes courage for them to question the style that has got them to where they are now. For others, the notion of heroic leadership is tied to their ego. It embodies their self-esteem and sense of status.

The first step in developing a new leadership style is for leaders to reflect on their own mental models. They have to understand how the nature of their role has changed, why a new style of leadership is needed and what behaviour is required today. Essentially leaders need to shift their focus from exercising ‘power over’ others to employing ‘power with’ others.

New skills will also be required. One particular skill that’s valuable in post-heroic leadership is sense-making. In organisations, data mining has become an important activity but the real value comes from analysing and interpreting the results. In the same way, post-heroic leaders must be comfortable with conflicting views and different interpretations of information, so they can help teams make sense of ambiguous situations and take appropriate action.

Finally, leaders will need support to help them embed the necessary behavioural change. Many leaders don’t realise the impact they have. They need to recognise that different circumstances require variations in their style. Some situations will continue to demand stronger leadership; others may require them to take more of a back seat. Having a greater awareness and understanding of which style is best suited to which circumstance will help them to respond and behave appropriately in each situation.

Experiential learning programmes can help leaders with each of these aspects. The right programme will challenge leaders’ self-perceptions and mental models, help them discover their values and purpose – and make them explore and expand their repertoire of leadership styles. The definitive reason why every leader should switch to a post-heroic leadership style is the impact it can have on others and the organization. As a leader, you’ll benefit and so will your organisation because this approach inspires performance, not simply obedience.

Dr Val Sedounik is Director of Future-Focused Leadership and Organisation Effectiveness at KAIROS Consulting, which runs development programmes on Future Leadership. She can be contacted at or +44 7795 666 165.

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A StartUp Story

There are seven great stories. Think of the people around you in the house, office, train carriage or wherever you may be. They will each have their own favourite books, films and plays. Each will have its own plot but it will likely be one of seven stories: Voyage and Return, Quest, Comedy, Rebirth, Tragedy, Overcoming the Monster, or Rags to Riches.

Your business will either involve doing something new, doing something in a new way or doing something for a new market. It will (hopefully) be unique but it will be part of a larger story and is likely to follow the conventions. This is a good thing! Commonality makes any problems or growing pains easier to overcome. Facing a common challenge does not mean you’re lacking originality or innovation.

Star Wars was an innovation. No one had seen anything quite like it before. However, look at the story and you will see the conventions of a quest. Obi Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and a lightsaber equal Merlin, Arthur and Excalibur. In fact Kenobi, Merlin, Gandalf, Morpheus, Dumbledore, Mr Miyagi and many other famous characters all perform the traditional story role of mentor to the hero.

Because conventions are shared across stories, looking at your progress in your own story can help to arrange your priorities. So what is the StartUp Story?

An owner-manager starts by working hard to live a dream. They work hard, control everything, and try to have some fun. For some, this is as far as the story goes. A lifestyle business that allows them to do what they love is both the beginning and the desired end result. There’s nothing wrong with that: waiting for Godot has been hugely successful and – spoiler alert – not much changes in that story.

Some want to move their story on from lifestyle business to value business. Successful owner-managers will gradually assemble tools and methodologies to make them more efficient and effective. Each story is different, the tools and systems will vary. However, this transitional process is common to all who try and make the move towards value creation (and some others who just want to improve their lifestyle business).

Eventually, successful owner-managers will be driven by results which show that value is being created. The less reliance on the owner, the more value the company has and so this stage of the story involves the hero increasingly stepping back from roles and responsibilities. The story’s not done, in fact it’s likely the story is about to become more important than the hero.

Do you recognise where you are on in the story? Once you do, and you realise that everyone’s story shares common elements you can use this to your advantage. At your networking events, who is facing the same trials you are? Who has passed through this phase and might be willing to offer some advice? Perhaps your story is a quest story and you need to look for someone to fill the mentor role..?

Stories have their ups and downs. Good stories need an element of peril too. Don’t go seeking trouble but don’t be surprised when trouble occurs. You may have to slay a monster or two or escape to live to fight another day. Remember that whilst your trials may be unique, they fall within a recognised story and so there are people to speak to and there are always ways to overcome.

Posted in: Growing Businesses

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Don’t Panic!

‘Don’t Panic’ reads the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in large, friendly letters. Not only is this the most helpful or intelligible thing anyone has said to Arthur Dent all day during the worst day of his life, it is useful advice in general.

Operating in a state of panic is never a good idea. However a sense of urgency is vital and the line between the two can become blurred – especially from an external perspective. There are times when you need to display a contagious sense of urgency to those around you without giving the impression that you are panicky or unintentionally inspiring panic.

Making the leap from a large organisation to working for yourself imbues most people with an essential sense of urgency. Firstly you (hopefully) have a real passion for what you do. Secondly, you realise that you and you alone are responsible for getting things done. Thirdly you are aware that, by leaving behind the ponderous bureaucracy of a large institution, speed and efficiency are now key advantages.

These factors combine to generate positive urgency. However, when you’re successful enough to begin to grow your business and begin recruiting new staff you can discover that not everyone shares your sense of urgency. Let’s not forget that to be in a situation where your business is expanding is a good thing. The need to instil a sense of urgency is one of the normal ‘growing pains’ people experience.

To inspire this urgency in others it’s important to set an example. However, you can’t expect your positive dynamism to simply ‘rub off’ on those around you. You need to actively model your behaviour. Not just performing with pace and efficiency, but making sure those around you understand what you are doing and why. It is a failure to do this which can often lead to others misconstruing your urgency for panic.

For example, when dealing with your own team, simply providing someone with a swift response might go unnoticed. Promising a swift response and then delivering it clearly communicates your method and ethos. Keep messages and meetings brief, be succinct and concise in conversation and ensure that you or your inactions are never someone else’s excuse for not completing their work.

Ensuring your purpose is clear demonstrates that you are not reacting to situations in a state of panic but working urgently to a well-defined plan. Declaring and sharing your intentions, decisions and targets makes examples of your own behaviour and providing goals and outcomes for your team can help this behaviour to spread.

Whilst it’s essential to have a long-term plan and a vision for the future, short term targets and objectives for the here and now can help prevent inertia from taking hold. You need to be sure your business is moving in the right direction towards a clearly defined goal, but if that goal is months or years away it can be hard to generate urgency today.

When it comes to igniting that spark of motivation and urgency in your team, you need to be mindful of the individuals it is comprised of. Individual targets need to be tailored to individual people, capitalising on their behaviours and preferences. Emotional intelligence is a key asset when encouraging and enthusing people, as is flexibility. People are complicated and you may have to adapt and change tactics in order to incentivise everyone.

It can be hard work, but building a workforce who share your passion, drive and urgency is a valuable endeavour. Keep working at it and don’t panic.

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