True Conspiracy

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Teambuidling 101


Jones Loflin is a motivational speaker and author with primary areas of focus being work/life balance, time management, and change.

A lot of teams nowadays are distributed. People are telecommuting, working fr om home and relying on other forms of non-traditional employment ranging fr om (freelancing, temp work, short term contacts). How do you build a strong team when people don’t see each other every day in an office environment? 

JL: Three things come to mind:

Clarity of work and outcomes. When people are working in non-traditional environments, it’s easy to get so focused on your own work and forget how it connects to what others are doing. As a manager of leader of virtual teams, it’s critical to keep everyone focused on the “big picture” and what each member is doing to contribute to the outcomes.

Maintain “face time.” Part of what makes a strong team is positive emotional energy. Interacting with others through some type of video conferencing on a consistent basis is important. If at all possible, physically meet from time to time as well.

Keep everyone informed. As the leader or manager of the virtual team, keep other team members abreast of what others are doing. It prevents team members from thinking, “I wonder what _______ is doing?” which can lessen the trust they have that the other person is fully contributing to the desired outcomes.



A lot of times team building activities provide a short term motivational boost that quickly fizzles out. What can managers do in order to make sure that there really is a long term transformational effect after that weekend retreat? 


JL: I think it starts BEFORE the weekend retreat starts. Getting input from the team members about their expectations and needs from the retreat is essential. It helps them take more ownership in the event and more fully participate. When someone contacts me about conducting such a retreat and says the goal is “teambuilding,” I know I have a lot of work to do to get to the real needs of the team before the event.

The other key is completing something akin to a 30/60/90 day plan before leaving the retreat. Connect the actions to goals and outcomes. Make it as “granular” as possible.

What are the most common team building mistakes that companies make in your experience? 

JL: Thinking that team members know each other. You may know wh ere they have worked and some “surface” stuff, but do you know the types of projects and assignments they have completed? Team members so often have experience and insights that are never leveraged because we don’t take the time to learn from them. We don’t know what drives their behaviors or gives them a sense of meaning about their work.

Not everyone is an outgoing extravert type. How do you deal with ‘loners’ and ‘lone wolf’ employees? 

JL: Communication, Communication, Communication. In my opinion this is wh ere the manager or leader can have a huge impact on the success of the team. Take the time to better understand how each member of your team prefers to get work done. Consistently communicate to that “lone wolf” about staying in contact with other team members. Regularly scheduled brief meetings via video chat or phone can help keep them connected to the team.

You wrote three books. What was your motivation behind ‘Juggling Elephants’, 'Getting to It' and 'Getting the Blue Ribbon'? 

JL: For Juggling Elephants, the primary motivation was for Todd Musig (other co-author) and I to find a better way to manage the struggle of “too much to do.”

Getting to It was a natural follow up to Juggling Elephants. We wanted to create a sort of “field guide” to personal productivity. The idea of “It” is fun because people always say, “I just can’t seem to get to it.” We wrote the book to help people identify what “it” really is, how to get it done.

Getting the Blue Ribbon grew out of my own struggle for professional and personal improvement. I was looking for a model that was easy to understand and apply. It’s been fun to see organizations take the gardening analogy and move their people and their teams forward.

What resources, books, blogs, podcasts do you recommend to our readers who want to build a productive team and need to learn how? 

JL: There are just so many resources available today, and it’s hard to begin listing them. My advice for those who want a “quick start” on building a more productive team is to look to social media. For example, spend a few minutes on Twitter seeking out subject matter experts on teams and leadership. Create a list of 10-12 of them. Set aside 10 minutes each day to review the posts from the list and explore content that connects with your needs. It’s amazing how many nuggets you can gain in a short time that you can immediately apply to your situation. Look to Linked In in a similar way, following those who focus on developing your team.

I’m a huge fan of Patrick Lencioni’s work in the development of teams. I think his book, 5 Dysfunctions Of A Team, is still one of the most eye-opening books about building a stronger team. You won’t go wrong with any of his content.

Thank you for the interview.


Bitrix24 is a free team task management solution with unlimited projects, tasks and subtasks. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB.



See also:


Call Center Software
Free Call Center Software
Free Telemarketing Software
Free Virtual PBX & Free Cloud PBX
Virtual Call Center Software
Free Business VoIP System
Free CRM with VoIP

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Where Do Engaged Employees Come From?

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Engaged employees are one of the major factors in successful businesses. If employees are engaged , they feel connected to their work and do their work with passion.
That passion and sense of connection helps engaged employees to do better work: they go the extra mile, see (and implement) ways to innovate, and improve your business with their enthusiasm and insight.

However, only about half of employees feel engaged. The rest feel either not engaged (neutral) or actively disengaged (unhappy) at work.

To increase employee engagement in your business, start with this list of proven ways to help employees connect, work with passion, and love what they do.



1. Recognize your high performers.
A little praise goes a long way. Like all of us, your employees appreciate having their efforts and work noticed. But noticing doesn't increase engagement unless you also let them know that you've noticed. Simple verbal praise, alone or in a group, can be very effective . Consider instituting - and giving - regular awards or rewards. Make them meaningful to your business, and more specific than the generic "employee of the month."

2. Get employee input.
Here's a novel idea: instead of guessing, ask your employees what would help them to be more engaged at work. What makes them feel connected? Perhaps it's having a big-picture vision, or big goals to achieve with the team. Or perhaps it's having the opportunity to head up a project or work on different areas.

Your team members can help you see the ways that they feel blocked from engagement. There might be bureaucracy, micromanagement, or certain processes that simply don't work anymore. Your job here is being open to what they say and willing to change in order to remove those obstacles to engagement .

3. Implement good leadership.
A lot of employee engagement depends on the type of leadership in your business. If employees feel that their ideas are rejected without consideration, they stop sharing ideas. If they feel that negativity, gossip, and unhealthy competition pervade the work environment, they will either join in - adding to the problem - or they will withdraw altogether.

Implement good leadership first by being a good leader yourself. Then make sure that the managers you choose value their employees, listen to their concerns, and help them to work in their strengths.

4. Think in the short-term.
Business owners and team leaders are always being told to think long-term, get the big picture, take time for high-level strategic thinking and planning. Those activities are really important.

In order to increase engagement, however, you can't depend on high-level strategy. You need to bring it to the day-to-day level . Turn long-term goals into short-term goals. Track them daily and weekly. Build in milestones that you and your whole team celebrate.

5. Rework the meeting.
Let go of the traditional meeting and turn it into something that employees look forward to.

Each meeting you schedule should meet the following criteria:
- Purposeful. A meeting needs a clear purpose that is limited (specific) and achievable.
- Inclusive. The people directly involved should be there… and that's it.
- Timed. Set a beginning and ending time and stick to them.
- Conversational. Lectures belong in classrooms; discussions belong in meetings.
- Ended with an action plan. Everyone in the meeting should walk away with a clear action or set of actions to take. Otherwise, what's the point of the meeting?

Try a strategy and see how it affects your employees; if the response is positive, try more of the same. If not, try a different strategy. Engaged employees are well worth the effort.

Bitrix24 is a complete suite of social collaboration, communication and management tools for organizations. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Want Your Business To Grow? Watch For These Five Signs

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Your business is running well, profits are growing, and you feel the urge. You want to push to the next level. How do you know it’s the right time? Check out these five signs it’s time to expand. 




Your Finances Are Organized 

Your financial records are filed. Your accounting system is set up completely and you know how to use it and you do use it. You know where your money is and you keep track of where it’s going. You make sure your bills get paid on time. You pay invoices before they come due. You negotiate with vendors for the best rates. 

You’re either a whiz at accounting yourself, or you’ve hired a company accountant, or you have a great accountant on retainer. You know the numbers, and you watch (and can easily track) your bottom line. 

Your Teams Are Strong 

No matter how great your product is, and how stellar your customer services is, without a unified and strong team, you don’t have a business ready for growth. 

Do team members communicate well? Team meetings run for a purpose, not for socializing. Team members play together nice. Telecommuters check in regularly. In-house people get along. The teams are meshing, and the managers are managing (but not micromanaging). 

If you have the right people in the right positions, you have a solid business. If you’re seeing one people problem, it’s this: everyone’s workload is growing, but everyone is working at maximum output level. 

Your Profits Are Steady 

You have a good profit margin. A track record of profits. Growing profits. And from all financial forecasting and sales figures, you expect to see continued growing profits. 

This is the biggest, best, and boldest sign but if the other signs don’t accompany it, don’t lean on profits alone to make your company fit for growth. Profits matter, certainly, but without a strong team or a functioning financial system, profits are not enough. 

A diminishing or leveling profit margin doesn’t always mean you are doing something wrong; it could mean, in fact, that growth is necessary. Without growth, your business might not able to meet increasing demand. As a result output will level off, meaning profits will either steady out or, perhaps, slow down as you cease pushing and marketing with the same zeal. 

Your Cash Flow Is Positive 

Your incoming cash exceeds your outgoing cash, even on the lean days and weeks. You understand your sales cycle, and you have a streamlined payment process. You’re not depending on a haphazard “hope the payments come through before the bills come due” methodology. Instead, you are proactive. 

You know how to in get cash in before cash goes out. You see the cycles, the ebbs and flows, that are a natural part of running a business. You’ve learned how to work with those ebbs and flows, not overextend your finances, and not assume a cash-confidence you shouldn’t have. 

You keep the whole financial picture in mind, and that allows you to make good decisions and keep your cash flow positive. 

Your Funding Is Ready 

You know you want to expand, and you have the capital in place (or a sound plan for getting it) to fund that expansion. 

Expanding a small business to the next level can often feel like a leap in the dark for small business owners. And it is, if you don’t have adequate funds to finance it. If you’re ready to expand, you will have a phased-out plan for how that expansion should happen. You will have accurate figures for how much each phase will cost. You might even have a timeline in mind for how long each phase should take to complete. 

Expanding without funding is like jumping without a parachute. It might be exciting at first, but it’s going to end in disaster.

If you’re looking at your healthy business and seeing these signs, congratulations. You’ve done a stellar job of growing a small business that can move onward and upward. If you’re not quite there yet, now you know what to tackle. See you on the next level. 

Bitrix24 is a free Team Management and Planning Tool. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB. 

See also: 


Wednesday, February 04, 2015

5 Essential Changes to Make for a More Productive 2015

The beginning of a new year is a great time for resolutions. Better than resolutions, however, are simple but specific changes you can make right now that will help you make this a more productive year. 


1. Think small, not big. 
We like to talk about big goals and big dreams. That's not a bad thing, but when we only look at the big picture, we can miss out on the small actions that we need to take on a daily basis. 

You can work up your energy and motivation, and make a few great big leaps forward. However, it's far more effective to cultivate the habit of small but consistent progress. 

Think of making regular bits of progress rather than huge surges toward your goal. You can't maintain the focus and energy required for those all-out effort. You can, however, maintain a tiny, daily habit or a weekly step forward. Break big goals into smaller goals, and then into tiny actions that you build into your daily routine. 

2. Limit your to-do list. 
An overgrown to-do list requires you to spend your valuable time sorting, prioritizing, and shuffling tasks instead of getting important work done. 

It's okay to admit your limits. The sooner you do, the sooner you can start completing tasks instead of simply moving and managing tasks. 

Limit your daily list to one to three important tasks that you must complete. You will gain immediate clarity. You know what you're supposed to do, and you can focus on it and let other things fade out. There will always be unplanned tasks and questions that come up in your day. You will have to handle those, but then you can go right back to the important tasks on your list without any hesitation. 

3. Use your calendar, planner, and/or task management system daily. 
Your system can only help you if you use it regularly. All those task lists, scheduled events, meetings, ongoing team projects, work communications and updates should stay in your system, not in your head. 

Multiple daily check-ins allow you to see, review, and upd ate what you need to without giving yourself those mental burdens. Make it a ritual for morning, noon, and night. Let your system do to remembering, organizing and reminding, and free your brain to do the work. 

4. Set up a system for your recurring tasks. 
Whether it's planning out work schedules or assigning project responsibilities or creating content, every time you complete a recurring task you go through the same steps, and usually in the same order. 

A simple system enables you to get through the task faster and ensures that you don't miss any important steps. Your system might be as simple as a checklist, or it might be more complex and involve supplies, a schedule, or written steps that remind you what to do and how to do it. 
Bonus: once you systematize a task or event, you can easily train someone else to take it on. 

5. Choose your interruptions. 
We think of interruptions as things we can't control: invasive people, important phone calls, unavoidable requests. It's the daily deluge of the urgent, and most of us just handle it as best we can and try to get our work done at the same time. 

Change that, this year, by spending 15 minutes thinking about which interruptions are valid and worthwhile. An important phone call from your boss or client might be a priority no matter what else you have going on; but a schedule change, a product review, or a client email might not. You have to decide, and once you do, put those valid interruptions on a list and keep it in plain sight. 

When the interruptions come, and they will, check them with the list. If an interruption is not on the list, remember that you have opted out of it; all that is left is to convey that message, kindly but clearly, to the source of the interruption. That may mean closing your door, turning off notifications, moving to a quiet space away from other people, excusing yourself from a conversation, or asking to schedule a phone call for a later time. 

When you take control of your interruptions, you also take control of your productivity. Make the simple changes now that will allow you to be at your most productive this year. 

Bitrix24 is free collaboration software suite . Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 
Free HR System
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Employee Directory Software
Talent management software
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Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Top Money Mistakes that Small Businesses Make

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Not all small businesses are the same, of course, but there are a few money mistakes that are common to many types of small businesses. Check them out, and make sure these are not happening in your small business.


Mistake 1: Not Documenting Your Financial Foundation

This means doing your due diligence. Running a small business requires more than a great idea and some agile folks. It requires thought, planning, and documentation.

Yuck.

You're good with the thought and the planning, but the documentation? Most of us don't really like it.

It's important, though, and if you think that you can lead your small business to financial viability without keeping track of things - like your money - you're in for an unpleasant surprise.

Do you have a business plan? Do you have written goals for the short-term and long-term? Do you have the legal documents needed to run your business? Contracts for your employees, projected expenses, and accurate estimates of growth expenses and overhead as your business increases?

Though it's easy to think that winging it will work, especially at first, it becomes more and more difficult to keep track of what's happening financially as your business ages and grows. You need financial documentation for sales, expenses, taxes, employees, contractors, and, really, anything that involves money coming into or going out of your business.

Otherwise you really can't know what's happening with the money in your business, and not knowing is the most common and most dangerous mistake of all.

Mistake 2: Thinking that the Small Leaks Don’t Matter

In a small business, the small leaks do matter. And you know what? In a big business, they matter, too. Small leaks add up to make a big difference.

If you are seeing your business lose money in small quantities in any area, you need to find out why it is happening and what you can do to stop it.

Is it part of the process?

Then the cost needs to be calculated in the overhead, operating expenses, or other designated costs of running your business. If it's not tracked and estimated, you won't be able to make a good estimate of your profits.

Mistake 3: Losing Control of Inventory

With frequent fluctuations in volume and/or type of inventory, it's easy to lose track of what is happening. Inventory represents money for your business. Perhaps you haven't paid all the inventory off, in which case there is a lot of potential lost money if you don't pay before the interest starts accumulating.

One of the most basic things a small business must be able to do is track its inventory. Find a system that works: an app, software, a dedicated system.

Make sure that your employees are trained and able to track inventory as counts change, and that there is a periodic overview (quarterly or annually) to make sure that the inventory counts are accurate.

Mistake 4: Letting Disorganization Create Financial Chaos

If you have all the documentation but you can't find it when you need it, it's not going to help you out very much.

Is organization an issue in your small business? If so, it's time to tackle this issue so that you can get your hands on the paperwork and information you need when you need it, not three weeks or three years later, when you find it hidden at the bottom of a stack on your desk.

Organization may not be a fun activity, but having things organized and accessible will make your work so much easier. Invest the time. Get help if you need it. Set aside a weekend and tackle one area of your business at a time until you have papers filed, supplies categorized, and documents accessible in a way that works for you and your business.

Mistake 5: Skimping on Your Employees

What's the bread-and-butter of your business? Is it your product? Your flagship service? Your brand? Your customers?

Wrong.

It's your employees.

How many do you have: 5, 50, or 500? It doesn't matter. If you're a tiny business, a small business, or a medium business, your business is only as good as the employees in it.

And if you're skimping on your employees, you are hurting your business.

Pay a decent salary, enough to attract the good employees who will do great work for your business. Put appropriate benefits in place. And invest in employee training, whether that investment is in terms of hours or dollars, or both. The best and most talented employee cannot do a good job if you haven't provided the right training.

Get the most out of your employees by investing more into them.

What's the Bottom Line?

Isn't that the basic question that every small business owner wants to answer? What's the bottom line: what are we making, and can we keep making it, and is it enough?

The bottom line is that keeping track of money in your small business is something you can do and must do. And when you build that good foundation, handle the small leaks, get organized, and invest in your employees, you'll be building a sound financial future for your business.

Bitrix24 is a free TBM (total business management) platform. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

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- 3 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Boost Workplace Productivity
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- Free Nimble CRM Alternative