How to Become an Agile Business

AgileBusinessPhotoIn today’s competitive landscape, it’s important for a business to be able to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes. “Agile” is the buzzword associated with this ability to adapt quickly to changing situations; but what is “agile” and how can a business become an “agile business”?

Agile is a philosophy, not a process. Although originally used for software development, it’s now used by companies large and small in any industry. According to the Agile Manifesto, agile refers to:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Becoming an agile business is a process that constantly needs work. Is it worth it? According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, agile firms grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits.

Here are some guidelines for becoming an agile business:

Create focus. Don’t be distracted. Get rid of a long list of priorities and instead replace it with a short, manageable list of three or four items that are “must dos”. As you complete one item, add another to your list. This will keep you focused.

Communicate your vision. Communication is the key to change and change-worthy behaviour. Communicate with employees often, be transparent and give them clear and compelling reasons to embrace agility and become agile champions.

Hire the right people. The success of your business rests on hiring the right people – employees who are aligned with your vision and your values. In order to be agile, the employees you hire must be results-oriented, not task-oriented. They must be able to work within an organization that gives them the freedom and the responsibility to accomplish their jobs without a step-by-step instruction manual on how to do it.

Create autonomy. You can’t maintain a stranglehold on your employees and micromanage every decision in an agile environment. Senior managers need to lessen their direct control over day-to-day activities and give their employees control over how they do their work. Give your employees the environment and support they need and have confidence that they’ll get the job done.

Be prepared for the unexpected. Although you can’t plan for the unexpected, you can be prepared for it. Agile businesses are flexible, adaptable and expect change. They are ready for all eventualities and can quickly pivot. Changing requirements are the name of the game.

Agile is motivating. An agile environment by nature is motivating. Instead of working on the same project month after month with little change, an agile environment empowers employees to respond to changes, giving them freedom to become more than their job descriptions.

How agile is your company? Want more advice on becoming an agile business, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


The Best Managers are the Best Communicators

As a business owner, you dedicate much of your time to communicating with your clients. While this is crucial for your business, equally important is communicating with your employees. Internal communication touches every aspect of your business from announcing the onboarding of a new client, to introducing a new product to your business line. No matter the size, industry, or type of company you own, I recommend having an internal communications process embedded in everything you do.

An internal communications process allows for the exchange of information between all members of your organization, which will save you time and money. In fact, companies with effective internal communications processes experience 47% higher total returns than those that are not effective at communicating.

I’ve outlined below 3 key elements to help you establish an effective internal communications process.

  1. Have the Right Mechanisms in Place to Keep Employees Informed

Your internal communication mechanisms must be strategic, in order to be targeted and the most beneficial. Consider your company’s current mechanisms, from the methods of communication it uses, to the way your company engages with and seeks feedback from your staff, to the way it measures if the mechanism is successful and identifies any issues for future change.

Choosing what mechanisms to use depends on your size and budget. If your company has multiple locations, you may decide to invest in passive, large-scale communication options to disseminate information. Creating an intranet (a private network only available to a company’s staff) is one great option. If your business is smaller, consider using more conventional communication channels such as an internal newsletter, e-blast, Director’s blog, or notice board. I have even seen some companies benefit from using social networking sites as their primary means of internal communication. More directed options could include Breakfast Briefs for front-line staff, a monthly Director Communications Day, scheduled Director Q&A drop-ins, or Lunch & Learns.

No matter what mechanism(s) you choose, the bottom line is that employees have access to a platform where they can receive important company information so they stay abreast of the information they need to do their job.

  1. Creating a Two-Way Loop

Having great communication mechanisms in place is vital, but ensuring that they consistently generate engagement between management and employees is a key step. It is imperative that business owners and managers actively respond to feedback received and ensure a loop is created, as opposed to a top-down form of communication. By acting on the honest feedback reported by employees encourages more of the same – staff telling it “like it is”.

  1. Measuring the Mechanisms

To ensure that the communication mechanisms you choose are working effectively, incorporating measurement indicators, such as scheduled weekly face-to-face meetings with actionable items reported for follow-up, anonymous employee surveys offered at quarterly or annual company all-staff meetings, or through specific activity surveys through the intranet, could help identify gaps, what is or isn’t working, and what methods of communication work best for your employees.

Regardless of which avenues you choose, the main goal is to ensure employees have several effective paths available to them where they can communicate with senior management and feel heard.

Communicating with your employees is essential for the productivity of your business. Does your company have an internal communications process in place?


A Business is Only as Strong as Its Team: Part Two: Building Your Team

Startup Stock PhotosAs discussed in my last blog, a business is only as strong as its team, I shared with you why having a strong team is so vital to your business’s success. Once we as business owners understand the value of a strong team, the natural next step is how to create that team and how to measure its success.

There are several key elements to building and measuring a strong team—from defining roles, ensuring communication, to celebrating successes and measuring progress. I’ve outlined four key elements that you’ll need to consider in building a successful team. 

  1. Define and Value Roles

In addition to a job description, ensure your staff have their responsibilities clearly outlined. Clearly defining what it is the team member is responsible for, as well as how it plays a part in the overall company, will help in understanding the value their position plays in the overall growth of your company.   

  1. Openly Communicate

Open, or two-way, communication is a key aspect in running a successful business. Your employees rely on you to communicate your expectations to them and to provide any information or training that may be required.

From a feedback and measurement perspective, communication is key. Create not only an onboarding document which outlines your expectations, but also develop a feedback mechanism for them to communicate their progress or any difficulties they may be experiencing. You can establish weekly or daily meetings with them and ask them to create a report, which gives you an overall perspective on how they are progressing and managing tasks. 

  1. Celebrate Success/Embrace Failure

If an employee or team accomplishes something in the workplace, celebrate it! No, you don’t have to throw a big party with cake, streamers and balloons, but even the simplest recognition like a personalized email acknowledging their accomplishment can go a long way.

However, if mistakes happen, use them as a learning opportunity not just for that individual, but also for the entire team. As a business owner, it’s essential not to place blame or point fingers when something goes wrong. The goal of your team is to work towards the future of the business, so learning from mistakes should make for a valuable lesson moving forward.

  1. Collaborate

A team is non-existent without collaboration. Collaboration can be achieved in many ways – through effective communication, sharing of knowledge, and peer support. Ensure you have built in opportunities for collaboration, which might be regular team meetings, in-house lunch and learns, one-on-one meetings, etc.

Roles often collide and allow employees to work synonymously together. If we think back to the restaurant analogy, a cook would not be able to plate food without clean dishes, nor could a server serve the food if the tables are not cleared.

Lastly, team building and measurement is an ongoing process in which you play a vital part. Allow yourself the time to invite your team to share in your goals and help you achieve them. Just as no man is an island unto himself, no company can be built without a strong team.

 

What do you and your team hope to accomplish for the remainder of the year?


A Business is only as Strong as Its Team

team.jpgWith over 30 years of experience, I’m often asked by business owners how they can take their business to the next level. While there are many ways of doing this, such as marketing initiatives, sales strategies, staffing and the like, I always stress one important factor that tends to be overlooked – the foundation of a solid team.

As a business owner, you’ve likely hired staff to support your operations. If you haven’t hired any staff yet, it’s likely just over the horizon if you plan on any form of growth in the near future. Strategic staffing ensures you are hiring not only the right person for the job, but someone who will support the vision and future growth of your organization. When hiring someone to fulfil a role, ask them what their values are and how they think they align with your company’s mission. Simply put, just because a candidate has a certain skill set, it does not mean they are a good fit for your company. Having a team mentality with cohesive goals will foster a dedicated work environment built for success. If your team encapsulates members who are willing to grow as individuals, both professionally and personally, there’s a good chance they’ll want to apply that opportunity for growth to the growth of the company. Taking the time to mentor your employees will result in unequivocal benefits for both parties involved for years to come.

Further to aligning values and goals, balanced skill sets will ensure you have a strong team. It’s important to remember that as individuals, it’s human nature to have both strengths and weaknesses. The strongest team is one that encompasses skills of all sorts that complement each other in a synergistic manner. Similarly, there must be a good balance between leadership and peer support. As a business owner, you should strive to lead your team to success through empowerment and motivation, but most importantly, through example.

One thing that I have observed in organizations is that there is sometimes a lack of effective communication within teams. As individuals, we tend to think that everyone we interact with wants to be communicated to in the same way that we do. However, this is not always the case. While one person in your organization may like to talk things through, another might like things written down. Learning how to effectively communicate with your team will allow for a more productive workplace and will ensure that your goals are always successfully met.

Ultimately, a strong team will only thrive if trust is established between team members. In my next blog, I’ll discuss in more detail the best ways to build a strong team and how you can go about measuring their success.

Do you think you have the right team in place to achieve your company’s goals?


Benefits of Team Building

o-TEAM-BUILDING-facebookAs a business advisor, a common question I’m often asked is if team-building activities are actually important. The answer is a resounding yes. You may not realize it, but you may be doing yourself a disservice as a business owner by not taking the time to focus on building the strength of the relationships between your team members.

It is no secret that a cohesive team of employees leads to greater success for any business. Why exactly? I’ve outlined below a few key benefits of team building that are worth considering:

  • Increased Trust
    • When you have a team that is constantly working together, a mutual trust between all employees will make every process much smoother. Employees are able to depend on one another and become more productive as a result of trust.
  • Greater Communication
    • A team that can’t communicate will never get anywhere fast. While everyone has different styles of communicating, understanding these differences will make your team more efficient and better functioning overall.
  • Greater Collaboration
    • An “every man for themselves” mentality is detrimental to a successful team. Creating strong bonds between your employees will help them realize the interdependency of the team and appreciate the collaborative opportunities available to them.
  • Easier Conflict Resolution
    • Team building is a great way for your employees to get to know one another on a more personal level. With large groups, you’re bound to have varying personalities, and team-building activities are the best way to become accustomed to each other’s dispositions.

There are a variety of team building activities to choose from that focus on these specific outcomes. While you try to make team-building fun, you want to ensure that the takeaways of the activities directly influence your employees working environment, so your team members recognize the benefits of participating.

As a business owner, it is vital to pay attention to your employees and understand what team dynamics they may be lacking, and react accordingly, after all your employees are the core of any successful business.

What is your favourite team building activity, and how did it influence your team dynamic? Share your experiences with me in the comments!


The Art of Networking

Networking Blog ImageSuccessful business owners will tell you networking is a key component to being prosperous and having influence. The art of crafting powerful and mutually beneficial relationships can do wonders for your career and your business. Like any other form of art, time and practice can help you master your skills. I’d like to share with you some things to keep in mind while you’re working to grow your network:

Invest In Your Relationships

Building social capital (a network of personal and professional relationships – nothing to do with money!) is one of the key assets in your portfolio. Your network will help you connect with influencers and build your personal professional brand. Network strategically and you will find your professional world rich with opportunity.

Network Proactively

Being proactive and staying connected is imperative. Having a network you can tap into is highly valuable, and provides an advantage by supporting you with a collection of smart and powerful people. Being active on LinkedIn and attending business events, such as the TAB 2015 Kick-Off event held by TAB Ontario earlier this month, are easy ways to meet new people.

Be Strategic

Do more than exchange business cards! Rather than focusing on meeting everyone in the room, be intentioned and find one (or a few people) to create solid relationships with. These people will help support your business goals, while you help support them with theirs.

Identify whom you already know and whom you need to know, to help you build a powerful network and reach your business goals.

Create Diversity in Your Network

May I suggest stepping out of your comfort zone? Moving away from your comfort zone will help you separate those who can help you build your business from the people you just like to be around.

Leverage Relationships and Pay It Forward

Focus on the business relationships that really matter – mutually beneficial partnerships.

The right people have power and influence. Identify and develop a relationship with the right people, then build trust in your relationship. Paying it forward comes into play when you are willing to ask others for assistance, and provide some help when others need it.

To Be Successful, Surround Yourself With Success

As Jim Rohn once said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Think about it – you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. That means others assist in determining how you think, act, and ultimately, how successful you could be.

Look around and ask yourself, “Who do I spend the most time with?” Picture your friends, family, coworkers, mentors…etc. Have they reached the goals they’ve intended to?

Find others with focus and determination, and feed off their enthusiasm and passion.

What has your biggest networking challenge been? Share your experiences with me in the comment section, and stay tuned for the next blog where I will share networking tactics to help your network grow.  

 

Image Link:

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Are You Communicating Effectively?

communicateEffective communication skills are the foundation of success not only socially and personally, but in business as well. Communication is essential to the success of any business, but it is often overlooked. In my many years dealing with business owners, I have seen time and time again the effects poor communication between team members can have on a business.

As a business owner, it is important to understand that communication can only be successful if the recipient of the message comprehends what they are being told. The communication process is a two-way street – how the message is delivered is just as imperative as how we listen.

You cannot expect your team to take anything away from your meetings, briefs, or presentations if you do not engage them and take the time to craft your message to help them understand it. Your expectations and desired outcomes must be made clear in order for your team to deliver.

Follow the three easy steps below to improve the communication in your business:

1.    Listen

  • Learn to listen to your team, both verbally and non-verbally. Observing how something is said can be just as valuable as listening to what exactly is said.

2.    Encourage

  • Be supportive of your team and encourage others to be involved in discussions and meetings. Open and honest dialogue will provide you with great insight into your business.

3.    Be Consistent

  • Deliver your message consistently each time, using precise and exact language, clear ideas, and an assertive manner. Regardless of whether the message is positive or negative, your language and manner should not change.

Your team, and business will benefit exponentially from improved communication in the workplace. How do you effectively communicate with your team? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments below!