True Conspiracy

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Smart Hiring 101

Stephen Denny is an author, keynote speaker and consultant delivering marketing workshops, executive training and big ideas to clients looking for “giant killer” performance. 

1. If a person has good leadership skills, does it mean that he or she will be automatically effective working with remote teams, or is 'virtual leadership' is an entirely different set of skills? 

SD: The leadership skills needed for thriving in a virtual workplace are different – and changing. The emerging managerial skill set I see is being able to manage “in space” – meaning the ability to work in an extremely unstructured environment with little to no support. 

In this new future of work, managers must really excel at several key skills. First, they must be outstanding at reading people. They must be able to interview and hire people with the understanding that once they’re on-boarded, they’ll be loose in the system and working without daily face-to-face coaching. Mistakes can be costly because they won’t always be noticed quickly. You need to be able to identify and hire fully formed adults who can operate on their own. There’s a bit of trust here, but it needs to start with hiring great people. Next, they must be extremely efficient and clear communicators. When the majority of your interaction with your individual team members is on the phone, you need to achieve alignment quickly. There’s no room for misunderstandings. Lastly, these managers need to be willing and able to identify when things aren’t going well – either with something as small as a project or as large as a hire. They need to be willing to fire those who can’t perform quickly. This means they need feedback loops, clear metrics for understanding individual performance and the unwavering understanding that their job is on the line, too. 

It’s not easy managing virtual teams! But the upside is enormous. In 2015 (and beyond), it’s not good enough to limit your talent pool to your immediate local geography. Everyone already has a computer and a phone where they are. That puts the burden on you – the manager. 
2. What common mistakes do managers and business owners make when working with virtual teams? 

SD: The biggest mistake is “out of sight – out of mind.” Virtual team members can literally be forgotten – forgotten in terms of compensation, promotion and input. Social bonds are built in the white spaces between the functional work. When people aren’t physically present, these relationships have a harder time growing. Many business leaders uncomfortable with the idea of virtual teams find they can’t trust them because they can’t monitor them during the work day. This is limiting, for obvious reasons. 

3. Which modern technologies do you think will have the most effect in remote collaboration? 

SD: Fortunately, we’re living in the golden age of collaboration technologies. We have Unified Communication platforms like Microsoft’s Skype for Business, Cisco’s Jabber and Webex, plus a host of other communication platforms that allow colleagues to use presence, chat, call and video all fr om their desktops. Even the consumer version of Skype allows for these features, along with others like desktop sharing. Combine these with cloud-based services like Bitrix24, Dropbox and Basecamp and you’re able to not only keep business going but also begin to forge the personal bonds that create a real team. When everyone has a smart phone in their pocket, a connected laptop on their desk, and a headset on their head, they can be as productive on the road as they would be sitting next to you. 

4. One of the challenges with virtual teams is that there is very little personal contact. How does one align individual goals with the team’s objectives and instill the 'corporate spirit'? 

SD: It’s easy to treat each member as a separate entity and not forge the intra-team bonds that create the culture you’re looking to build when everyone’s somewh ere else. There’s several ways to address this, outside of the mindset (answered above). Communication needs to be thorough and systematic – to the point of being almost over-done. You need to find excuses to bring people together to build the relationships that they’d otherwise miss. That’s what “headquarters” is for. Building culture in a virtual team takes effort – it’s hard – and it’s easy to forget this. 

5. What resources or tools can you recommend for our readers to help them lead their virtual teams? 
SD: I’ll point you to two resources that you might find helpful. The first is Jabra’s blog, which focuses on the “new ways of working.” This is penned by my friend Holger Reisinger, who runs product management at this very interesting Danish headset brand. Another is an interview I did with Mark Dixon, CEO and founder of Regus, on the rise of his business and the future of work – you can find that in a e-book I produced in 2013 called, “The Killing Giants Framework: 3 Areas of Excellence That Define How Davids Topple Goliaths.” It’s 99 cents, but I hope you’ll give it a look anyway. As a leader in the world of office space on demand, Mark is in a unique position to guide the rest of us on creating a sense of culture and inclusion when your team is spread out over different countries and continents. 

Thank you for the interview. 

Bitrix24 is a free virtual workspace available both in cloud and on premise. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB. 

See also:

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?

PickyDomains - World’s first risk free naming service 

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

PickyDomains - World's first risk free naming service 

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
Free HR Tools
Employee Directory Software
Talent management software
Free Convo alternative
Free Snapforce CRM alternative