Silent Leadership

quiet.jpgWhen most people are asked the question, “what makes a great leader?” the responses are predictable, with a list of qualities that most often includes confidence, charisma, and energy. But there is a whole other type of leader that tends to be forgotten: the silent leader.

What exactly is quiet leadership? Simply put, it is the ability to inspire, motivate, and encourage through action instead of words. While a boisterous leader may have the right effect in some cases, they are certainly not the right fit for every company or team. Fortunately, anyone can adopt a quiet leadership style by practicing a few important behaviours that I’ve detailed below:

  1. Effective Listening
    • An ability to listen to others and actually hear what is said will ensure everyone feels respected and has ownership in the work of the company.
  2. Honesty
    • To be a successful quiet leader, your employees must trust you implicitly. Being truthful will ensure loyalty from your followers.
  3. Transparency
    • This goes hand in hand with honesty. While remaining quiet, you must still ensure you are open and approachable to your team.
  4. Modesty
    • Even as a leader, you do not put yourself above your team. You hold yourself to the same standards and accountability as your employees.

Keep in mind that although a quiet leader may be in the background a lot of the time, they still have an air confidence about them that people respond to. Leading by example and not just “talking the talk” can be the best way to motivate your staff. When you build the right relationships with your employees, you will find that you no longer have to be loud in order for them to listen.

Have you ever adopted a quiet leadership style within a team? Was it successful? Please share your experiences in the comments!


Five Tips to Making This Year More Profitable

speaker-2Have customers stopped caring or is there little for them to care about?  How can your business continue to thrive in this increasingly confused marketplace?

As business owners, we all ask ourselves these questions, so to kick off the new 2015 business year, we invited a business speaker, Curt Skene, to present to over 100 business owners across Ontario and try to provide some concrete answers to these key questions.

The actual presentation was called Insights for Attracting and Sustaining Profitable Business, and I’d like to share with you my learnings and top five tips on how to make 2015 your best year ever:

  1. Know Everything About Your Customer: Sometimes we don’t ask our customers questions, and sometimes we don’t ask them the right questions. We all know customers are 100% of our business, so make sure you understand them better by asking them thoughtful questions about their business and then turning that into an opportunity to align yourself with their business.
  2. Provide a Solution Not a Service: Think about what problem your business solves for your customer. If you are an RMT, are you trying to reduce stress or relax muscles…or both? What exactly is the solution you offer and start thinking in those terms when describing your business. It needs to be a value-based solution.
  3. Create a WOW in Your Business: Do you know what creates a WOW for your customer? If you don’t, find out by asking them. Your customers chose you when there are so many other companies bidding for their attention. Why? Find out and then leverage it in your marketing strategy.
  4. Have a Hero: It may seem trite, but these days more than ever, we all need to have a hero, a mentor, someone alive or not, to whom we can align our own thoughts and values. A good example was Mayor Rudy Giuliani who when faced with the atrocities of September 11th, recalled his hero Sir Winston Churchill for guidance and strength to help him manage this crisis.
  5. Leverage Your Network Better: We all know hundreds of people and thanks to social media networks, we all know far more than we think we know. Take the time to tap in to your networks, family, friends and social media, to see who you know and how you can “connect”.

While growing your business is important, it will never grow if we don’t take the time to focus on who you are and who your customers are. Sometimes this means conducting market research, but the more you know, the more you can grow!

How well do you think you know your customers? When was that last time you surveyed your customers (and not with a printed or electronic survey)? Do you think of your business as helping your customers? If not, then why not? Let me know in the comment section below.


How Social Media Savvy Are You?

social-media-jigsaw-via-greyweedWith some platforms celebrating almost a decade in existence, it’s safe to say that Social Media is here to stay. Not only has it connected us to friends and family all over the world, it is now engrained in business practices and has become an essential part of connecting with our audiences.

How familiar are you with the different social platforms, either personally or professionally? Do you have a LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter account? Do you post or search for videos on YouTube? Does your company post a corporate blog?

To have a little fun, and show us where the gaps in our understanding may lay when it comes to this new medium, try your hand at the quiz I’ve assembled that asks, How Social Media Savvy Are You?

  1. According to Business Insider, 5 million affluent investors are using social media to research financial decisions. True or False.
  2. Which day is the most popular day for tweets: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. (Choose one)
  3. What is the symbol for hashtag?
  4. You can use a hashtag to mention another user on Twitter. (True or False)
  5. What is the maximum amount of characters you can use in a Tweet?
  6. A live-tweet is the action of sending tweets in order to comment on an event happening live. (True or False)
  7. Google is the most popular search engine. What is the second most popular? Yahoo, YouTube, Bing or Vista. (Choose one)
  8. Which social media platform tops Google as the most trafficked site? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube. (Choose one)
  9. A Facebook Page is a profile specifically made for businesses, brands and celebrities. (True or False)
  10. Someone who likes a Facebook Page is called a: Liker, Follower, Fan or Connection. (Choose one)
  11. You can permanently erase a social media post. (True or False)
  12. LinkedIn is NOT:
    • A) The leading online professional directory of individuals and companies
    • B) An online resume
    • C) A platform to share online photo albums
    • D) A networking tool

Quiz Answers:

  1. True
  2. Tuesday
  3. Symbol for hashtag is #
  4. False. Use their handle @User to mention another Twitter user
  5. 140
  6. True
  7. YouTube
  8. Facebook
  9. True
  10. Fan
  11. False
  12. C: You cannot share online photo albums on LinkedIn

How did you do?

If you didn’t do as well as you hoped, don’t write off your social media skills just yet! There are plenty of articles and YouTube videos out there that can take you through the ins and outs of each platform so that you can make use of each tool effectively. Ultimately, your engagement with these tools will support your brand’s online presence so that, at every touch point, your audience receives a consistent message.

If anything, the growth and prevalence of social media in business has shown us that our learning is never done – we must constantly be adding to our inventory of knowledge and adapting with the times, even if it is uncomfortable at first.

Has your business fully incorporated social media into your business strategy? Are you still struggling to see the value of social media to your business? I look forward to you thoughts below.


Are You Self-Employed or a Business-Owner?

the_office_30529Are you self-employed or do you consider yourself a business owner? The difference between these two titles is often difficult to navigate, as it can be much more than the amount of people you employ. While neither title is more accomplished than the other, you may want to ask yourself “what do I really want to be doing in my role in the coming years?” Do you want to continue to grow your tactical skills set, or manage those who carry out the work of your business?

As I have discussed in many of my previous blogs, owning your own business regardless takes discipline, hard work, but most importantly, direction.  Clarifying what type of business will help you in creating your vision and setting the stage for growth plans moving forward.

I’ve outlined below two sets of questions, aimed at helping you bring clarity to your business.  Try to keep track of how many you answer “yes” or “no” to so you can tally your sores at the end of the exercise.

1.

Did you require an investment to begin your business?

Could your business run for a month without you?

Do you require formal marketing and promotion to gain new clients?

Is your role focused around expanding your business?

Is having an office space required for running your business?

2.

Is your location flexible? Mobile?

Do you make decisions around demands of your industry?

Are you carrying out the work of your business yourself?

Do you trade hours for dollars?

Does business run according to the output of your skills?

Do you harvest multiple business opportunities and tasks?

If you answered, “yes” to more questions in Set #1, you consider yourself to be more of a business owner, where you are taking steps to grow your business and have it run independently of your direct effort. If you answered, “yes” to more questions in Set #2, you may consider yourself to be self-employed and prefer to hone your craft and increase your skills set to reach your audience.

Whether you are a business owner or self-employed, what kind of role do you want to play in your business in years to come? Would you like to eventually be more hands-off? Or continue to be the driving force behind your business’s success? I look forward to your thoughts below!


Reframing “Business Vision”

business visionThere is a common misconception that creating a “business vision” requires combining several overused buzzwords together in an attempt to define what your business is. “Success” “Equality” “Passion” and “Care” often crop up as abstract terms to try to describe the vision of a business, but what does this concept mean?

Perhaps it’s easier to describe what a business vision is not – it is not merely a mission statement or a lofty goal of $50-million in revenues, both of which lack substance and fail to capture what you want your business to be.

With over 30 years of experience advising SMB owners, I always tell them instead of focusing on creating a business vision statement, you need to ask yourself: At its very best, what do I want my business to look like?

  • What kind of client or customer do I want? Am I satisfied with the relationships I have with my clients?
  • What is the employee culture of my workplace? Are my employees engaged, hard-working and having fun?
  • Where do I want my business located? Am I proud to have clients visit my office?
  • Do my clients value my product or service? How can I increase value for my clients?
  • Do I feel like I’m contributing to my industry or client-base?
  • Am I fulfilled by the work my business does?

By answering these questions, you are closer to understanding what you want your business to be and perhaps where you should be focusing your attention in your business strategy. Ultimately to move your business forward will require uncovering what you want for your business. A business vision is not a static statement, but the dynamic dream you have for the future of your company.

Do you have a vision for your business?  Do you have a static statement?  If so, does it reflect your actual vision for your business?  Do you feel your business has lost the connection to your vision? I look forward to reading your feedback in the comments below.


Strategic Planning Sessions – a Manager’s Perspective

strategic planning imageMid-sized business owners are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that their vision, mission and goals are understood and executed throughout the company.  However, what often happens is that some employees, while clear about what these are, do not know how their specific job helps to support them. Unfortunately, there is a possibility that most will remain unaware of the existence of the vision, mission and goals.

Therein lies the problem many mid-sized companies face, which is communication and support for the overall business strategy. The key to conveying these fundamentals is insuring your key management understands these so they are equipped to relay this message to their staff.

In my role as a business advisor, I am often called on to facilitate strategic planning sessions with senior management teams.  I’d like to share with you an interview with one of the marketing managers who participated in a recent strategic planning session.

Q: Before the session, were you clear about what your role was within the organization?

A: No. It made my daily duties innocuous and frustrating because I did not have a clear understanding of what I was supposed to be doing. Being part of a smaller business often requires employees to wear many different hats and sometimes that can blur the lines of responsibility and accountability.

Q: How were you feeling about the company and your role before the meeting?

A: I felt my skills were not being best used in helping to move the company forward. There was no clear goal in sight or a clear idea of who we are. I became increasingly frustrated and unsure about what I should be spending my energy on.

Q: What were you hoping to get out of this meeting?

A: I was hoping to gain a clear sense of the identity of the company, roles of people in company, and vision of where the company will be next year, two years and beyond.

Q: How do you feel this session has helped you in your role?

A: Projects and initiatives are more defined in terms of relating back to the company’s identity. There is now an accountability structure in place so projects don’t fall by the wayside.

Q: Was the session valuable?

A: 150% yes!  Every business needs to understand who it is, where it has been, where it is now, and where it is going. Without this direction, you are floating on the ocean without a compass.  For me, it has brought clarity, defined goals and a structure to help measure success and shortcomings.  It has created cohesiveness and has tied everything together to reach a common goal.

Strategic planning sessions get the whole organization pointed in the same direction and can catapult your results to even higher levels of success!

Do you feel your organization could benefit from a strategic planning session? If so, in what way do you think you could benefit from this? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.


Do You Have A Business Continuity Plan?

Disaster-EventWith the recent storm in the Greater Toronto Area that left several people stranded and hundreds of thousands without power, including hundreds of businesses, I wondered how many companies affected had a business continuity plan in place.

A devastating event such as a flood does more than just damage to your place of business, it can keep employees from getting to work, and prevent customers from buying your goods or services.

Unfortunately, expenses such as rent, taxes, and employee salaries do not disappear during emergency situations. Most businesses will simply call their insurance companies and seek coverage for the damages, and hope that the coverage is enough to keep the business operating post-disaster. However, insurance is only one of the elements to be considered.

On top of insurance coverage being reviewed regularly, a post-disaster plan of action should be to develop a business continuity plan that deals with key employees, landlords, IT infrastructure, the bank, key suppliers and others who you count on when the business is temporarily closed. When the emergency is over, you need to have a plan in place to ensure a smooth and efficient repair process, and if the emergency is affecting your suppliers as well, getting everything back up and running may not be so simple.

It is important to ask yourself the following questions to ensure your business is prepared for the unexpected:

  • Can your business function without you? This may seem like a simple question, but truly think about it.
  • Can all of your employees contact management and colleagues from home? (Without up-to-date contact lists, this is very difficult)
  • How do you retrieve your backed up data, and can your employees access it as well?
  • Is your data still protected if your employees are accessing it remotely? The Wi-Fi at Starbucks does not provide a private and secure connection.
  • Is your insurance coverage enough to replace key equipment if need be?
  • Do you have business interruption insurance that will compensate you for the time you’re out of business?
  • Do you have contingent business interruption insurance to deal with dislocation of the supply chain

Comprehensive insurance coverage and a business continuity plan that protects your business from disruption after unexpected emergencies are essential to your business’ growth and overall well being. Do not wait for an eye-opening experience to develop your business continuity plan – start today!

What measures have you put in place in case of emergency? Have they helped you during crisis situation? Let me know in the comments.