Leading your team through the COVID-19 Pandemic and others to come

It's inevitable that in our lifetime, leaders will face more of these challenges, and we need to start preparing ourselves to lead effectively. The new post-pandemic world will require much from our leaders. In assessing my leadership approach to this pandemic, I have found the following to be significant in the way we lead.

Is Your Tech Empathetic?

In 2018 the SXSW conference took on a new direction for its conversations around interactive technology. It shifted from the idea that the digital ecosystem is driving a new paradigm for people to adapt towards the message that technology should better serve humanity. Susan Lahey summed the conversations up to say “By creating tech to achieve commercial ends, without understanding how it would impact people, we’ve done great damage. It’s time to repair it.” It’s this same message that I share in my book Humancentric. That technology fails unless it means something to someone. We are bestowing a responsibility to human beings to consider people in their commercial models and digital ecosystems. Here lies our most significant advantage over technology, our ability to empathise. As Greg Satell so eloquently writes “a computer will never strike out in a Little League game, have its heartbroken, or see its child born. So it is terribly unlikely, if not impossible, that a machine will be able to relate to a human as other humans can.” Empathy means: I know how it feels to be you – is this something technology could ever understand? I would suggest not. I do, however, believe it’s something technology can help us facilitate and scale. Empathy is why social technology has been such a powerful disruptive force. It’s created the ability to replicate empathetic relationships in a digital economy. As P.J. Maney explained back in 2015, ” we can see in the incredible emotional outpouring of support on...

Are You Saying Yes Too Often?

There’s a well known entrepreneurial concept that say’s ‘always say yes, then figure out how you’re going to do it.’ It’s something I have lived by for most of my life. Always excited to find the next challenge to solve I was always ready to say yes first, and then figure it out later. The concept served me well as a young entrepreneur looking to make enough money to survive. It helped me generate revenue and pay my team their salaries and build a successful business. In fact, we had almost made an art of saying yes. We got inspired and energized by the thought. It was a way of life that seemed to spell out that this ‘yes first concept’ was a business truth that you could live by. In managing personal boundaries most entrepreneurs understand that saying no is a good way to manage their personal energy reserves. The motive though is usually to get enough rest to go out and do everything we said yes to. Today I think about it slightly differently. I am thankful I said yes to so many things, it’s helped me learn this lesson. Stop saying yes, start asking for yes. When you say yes as an entrepreneur you are signing up for someone else’s vision, but when you ask for yes you are driving your own vision. After years of saying yes I had a great reputation for solving problems and I had managed to create a relatively successful business around...

Are You Making These Recruitment Mistakes?

Hiring the best employees is vital to success in any industry. You can’t run a successful business on your own without a great team behind you, no matter how good an entrepreneur you are. As a leader, it is important that you are able to motivate your team and work with them to develop their skills so that you can use them to their maximum potential.  While it is important that you know how to develop your employees and get the very best out of them, it is just as important to hire the right people in the first place. Here, we look at some of the biggest mistakes employers make when it comes to hiring. Hiring without a good reason Whenever you hire someone new, you need a reason for doing so. If you don’t have a purpose, there’s probably little point. In some cases, there is a very clear reason for hiring somebody. For example, if an existing employee leaves, you will usually need to hire a replacement. However, if you’re expanding your team, it’s important that you are doing it for the right reasons.  If you can’t clearly state what a new member of staff will bring to your business, you probably don’t need to hire them. Not having a transparent recruitment process in place. Whatever scale your business is, just like having relevant benefits in place for attracting great candidates is important, having a clear process for the recruitment and hiring of new employees is equally...

How to Get Your Employees to Stick Around

While there might be times when you want your employees to move on to new pastures, there are many occasions when you want to keep the talent that you have. If you’ve found employees that you can be proud of, you don’t want them to leave and start working for a competitor, especially because it means finding someone to replace them. So how can you ensure they stick around and keep working hard? Give Your Employees a Future Many of today’s workers find it difficult to picture a long career with the same employer. One problem is that they might not see a path to advancement. If you want your top employees to stay, giving them a future at your company, including opportunities to keep learning and advancing, will help them to see the benefits of staying with you. Offer Benefits Employers can offer various job benefits to their employees, but it’s important to make sure you offer the right ones. Maybe you give your employees a discounted gym membership, but is anyone actually using it? You should pay attention to what people actually want from their employer, such as a choice of healthcare options and flexible working arrangements. Monitor Job Satisfaction How happy are your employees with their jobs? If you don’t know, you could be taken by surprise when one or even several of your employees decide to leave. You should understand the levels of job satisfaction within your company if you want to be able to keep...

Being The Best For Your Business: The Harsh Decisions To Make

Often as a business owner you will find that every important decision falls at your feet. It isn’t an easy thing to have to navigate at times. But a necessary part of entrepreneur life. There will be some harsh realities that you face, some will have a real impact on your business day to day, and some will impact how you work and feel. It is good to be aware of the situations that you might find yourself in as a business owner yourself, so here are some of the harsh decisions you may need to make in the future in order for your business to be successful and thrive. Valuing your time One of the biggest things an entrepreneur and business owner can face is placing a value on their time. The truth is, you may want to be part of every aspect of your business, but there will not be enough hours in the day once your business starts to progress. Outsourcing certain aspects of your business could be the answer, and things like using  expert contractor accountants for your accounts or having an IT team in place to deal with website issues and your online presence might be worth the investment. Freeing up your time for the things where you can make the most difference. In addition you should be making sure that you delegate the work you need to. Too many entrepreneurs are doing too much work themselves that can be delegated and free them up to...

The Problems Caused By Legacy IT Systems In Business

IT changes in the blink of an eye, which can be hugely problematic for modern businesses. It can often feel like the moment a business fully adapts to a new IT system or way of operating, the technology shifts again, leaving the company with a difficult choice: Update their systems again in order to embrace the possibilities offered by technology, or… Stick to their existing systems While the first option is undeniably the best – the more modern IT infrastructure is, the more secure and capable it is – many businesses choose or are forced to choose, the second option. Time passes. More updates arrive. Once again, business owners look at the same options and decide that it would simply be far too much hassle to try to upgrade their system at this point. More time passes. More opportunities to improve and update the business’ IT system arise. Again, the business owner decides that now isn’t the right time. So the cycle continues: the possibility for updates and upgrades arise, businesses defer the decision, and continue with their ever-more outdated legacy IT system. Eventually, the issue mushrooms into a new problem; years have passed, the opportunities for upgrades have been declined, and a business is now running a legacy system that is so tired and out-of-date that the prospect of upgrading seems nigh-on impossible. The above scenario may sound far fetched, but it is a genuine issue that impacts millions of businesses – not to mention the US government –...

5 Important Rules For Hiring Your First Employee

When you start a new business, managing your finances is so important. You need to keep spending as low as possible until you can get things off the ground. For a lot of people, that means handling the day to day running of the business on their own. But once you start making a few sales and the business starts to grow, you’re going to need to start hiring some employees. Hiring your first employee is a big step and if you haven’t run a business before, you probably don’t know where to start. The success of your business is so dependent on your employees so you’ve got to make sure that you get it right. These are some of the most important things to remember when you’re hiring your first employee. Know Your Responsibilities As An Employer When you become an employer, you’ve got a lot of responsibilities to fulfil. You need to make sure that you’re creating a safe working environment, you’re paying everybody fairly, and you’re following all of the regulations around sick pay etc. You could land yourself in a lot of trouble if you’re not fulfilling all of your responsibilities and that usually happens because employers don’t know exactly what is expected of them. Research is key here, read a HR blog for more information about what it means to be an employer, what rules you need to follow, and the issues that you might face once you hire your first employees. I found that...

Perks Of The Job: Attracting Better Candidates To Your Business

Recruitment can be a very frustrating field, especially in this digital world. Regardless of how much effort you put into making your advert, getting it out into the world, and going through the applications you receive, it will always feel as though the perfect employee is a resume or two away. While this is partly thanks to a stagnant job market, it could also be down to the perks which you offer alongside your roles. To give you an idea of what you can use to attract better professionals to your roles, this post will be exploring some of the most popular perks which come with modern jobs. Transport The concept of a company car has been around for a long time, with employers providing their team members with their own sets of wheels to ensure that they can get around. While this can cost a lot of money, it gives you the chance to offer a lower salary, while also ensuring that the people working for you will always look incredibly professional. Car dealerships will often offer lease agreements to handle this. This will make it possible to pay for the cars as if they were just another salary, helping to avoid any cash flow issues as the result of this investment. Being able to offer a company car will make your job look more desirable than other options on the market. Health & Fitness Keeping fit and healthy is a challenge, especially when people are stuck working in...

Are You A Natural Born Leader?

When it comes to your career, it pays to know your strengths. No matter what field you’re in or what job role you have, understanding your personality will always help you to succeed. This isn’t because you can sing your own praises, but it’s because you can play to your strengths, and work on your weaker areas. Because that’s the thing about life. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, there will always be things that you’re naturally good at. And on the flip side, there are also those things that you’re going to struggle with. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll never be good at them, it just means that you need to work a little harder. This is very much the case with leadership. Sure, some people are born to dictate. But others can learn the skills so that they can become great leaders too. Let’s consider how. 1. Understanding People So first of all, you need to make sure that you understand people. And that you like working with people. And, that you care about how you communicate with them. The more that you can understand how people think and act and work, the better you’re going to be at leading them. 2. Proactively Aiming To Improve Next, you’re going to want to choose to improve. And you HAVE to be proactive about this because you are not just going to improve by accident. You are not just going to ‘end up’ a good leader. You need...

Developing Your Inner Guru

Stick or twist? Stop or go? Making business decisions can feel like a step into the dark sometimes and leave you wondering if you’re going to plunge headlong into a financial abyss or into something altogether more enticing. Unless you have the gift of seeing into the future, there can be no way of telling for sure what’s going to happen but is there such a thing as business sense? If you’re setting up on your own for the first time, it’s a leap of faith and you might make one or two questionable decisions during those early days. The stakes only start to get much higher the further along you go, so how do you avoid the snakes and climb the ladders? We’ll show you how to develop your inner business guru and make decisions that boost your business rather than harm it. Network For so many of us, the idea of making small talk in a room filled with strangers is torture but making contacts, particularly with people in the same boat as you, can help you to develop some sharp instincts. Don’t be afraid to quiz them on their decision-making processes, what’s worked and what hasn’t. If you can gain any insight into their practice, then use it to your advantage. If you build a strong enough network, you might even be able to call on them for advice when it comes to crunch time and decisions need to be made, just be willing to extend that...

Essential Trends That Future-Forward Business Need to be Aware of in 2019

It tends to be businesses with their finger on the pulse that do the best. Therefore, if you want your company to be considered among these, and reap the rewards, you will need to educate yourself on the most important trends of 2019. So let’s explore a few of the big topics impacting business today. Automation It does not quite mean rise of the robots yet, but automation will be playing a big part in business in 2019. In fact, if any repetitive and mundane tasks are still being done by humans in your business, the likelihood is that you are not working as efficiently as possible. Of course, a lack of efficiency has a direct affect on your bottom line and limits your capacity for growth. Therefore it’s crucial to examine the application of automation to areas such as marketing and sales, accounting, and even document production in your business. Outsourcing Another business trend that will continue to dominate in 2019 is outsourcing. This is where instead of doing things in-house you send particular projects to specialists that work independently of your company instead. There is massive trend in freelancing and this is set to impact many industries as many top line thinkers move out of organisations and begin freelancing their services. Of course, the value of outsourcing is tremendous because not only does it ensure you get the best people for the job that needs to be completed, but it also frees up your staff to focus on...

The Extravert Growth Path

Extraverts are often deemed to have natural leadership ability, especially in business structures. While they are strong with communication and networking functions of business there are many areas of success in business that seem to allude the extravert. In a previous article I expressed my ideas that extraverts could learn and grow for their introverted colleagues as much as we expect introverts to learn from extraverts. In my experience working with extraverts there is a growth path for self development that reveals itself to those humble enough to consider the possibility. Learning to be comfortable alone Extraverts are more comfortable in group settings but can benefit a lot from learning to be alone and examining their inner thoughts. Although they will find this a tiring exercise the benefit can be enormous as they uncover a better understanding of self, which builds confidence and their ability to communicate their ideas more effectively. Being alone also helps people focus on the task at hand, and extraverts can often come across as unfocused and easily distracted. Finding ways to be comfortable alone in order to think and focus will help extraverts produce better results in the long run. Deep thinking and consideration When issues require deep-thinking, look to enlist the help of an introvert. Deep thinking comes naturally to them and as the extravert you can learn about what it takes to unpack and consider an idea in its fullness. Allow the introvert to lead you on this journey as they are better...

The Introvert Growth Path

Introverts are some of the most misunderstood people groups in business, often over looked due to the way they process information, socialise and contribute to teams. In general extraverts are more visible in the work environment in comparison to introverts and this inevitably leads them to be front of mind when decisions are made regarding who should lead projects or receive promotions. According to Jennifer Kahnweiler in her book “The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength” there are number of growth paths introverts should take to be more successful: Talk about your performance Introverts prefer to let their work speak for itself however many leaders are too busy to stay in touch with every project, especially in enough detail to let them see what a good job you’re doing. Introverts should learn to develop the skills to clearly communicate their performance to their leaders. Using opportunities as they arise to be seen as a valuable contribution to the team. Plan solitary time carefully Most business activities are very social. Meetings, collaborations, networking and open plan environments can become exhausting and overwhelming for introverts. Its common for introverts to choose corner desks in open plan environments or to never exit their office unless necessary. This can be quite detrimental to an introvert as it cuts them off from people and can leave them with weak business relationships that limit their ability to affect positive change in the organisation. However if introverts simply just embrace social gatherings and activities all day...

Working with Extroverts and Introverts

Steve Gardner and I had a powerful business relationship. We challenged each other and pushed each other to be better at almost every turn. Without realising it, we were two opposing personalities that spent considerable time learning how to get the best out of each other. It wasn’t easy for either of us but our candid and honest communication was always appreciated and it lead to us being able to tackle some huge challenges together. Challenges that were way bigger than each of us on our own. You see Steve is an introvert and I am more extroverted than him. I am not a complete extrovert, according to the quiet revolution test I am classes as an ambivert. In Myers Briggs terms Steve is an INTP and I am a ENTP, essentially my extroverted nature was the primary difference between the two of us. While I loved extraverted communication, Steve avoided it at all costs, I would love working in our open-plan office and Steve would use our work-from-home policy to its maximum. Steve often was criticised for being disconnected and unapproachable, however my impression was very different. Steve was always thinking about the business, always looking for ways to add value and always approachable, I just had to learn how to see that in him. In fact I always saw Steve as my biggest supporter once we both took the time to understand each other better. What Steve and I faced in business is a classic challenge that we...

The power of someone else’s idea

I remember the day I had an idea. A big idea! An idea that lead to me starting a business. I spent all my time trying to make that idea a real thing. I have spent the last few years of my life building a business, an idea I had for a digital agency. An agency that would help business succeed in a digital world. Its been an incredible journey and one that I spent every waking minute creating. I poured my heart and soul into making that idea a real thing. Something that had a real impact on the world. That idea became my reason to wake up, to go to work, to read, to hire, to teach, and to speak. Everything inside me wanted it to become a reality. As I have built a team over the years I have learnt an important lesson. It doesn't matter how much I love my idea, how much I believe in it or how much time I spend getting you to believe it. If I focus on trying to convince people about my idea the best I can hope for is a few people keen to work with me, who can share the work load of my idea. I have worked with many people you have liked my ideas and even believed in them alot. These people have been incredibly valuable to me in trying to get my ideas off the ground but there was something missing. The missing piece was...

Leadership and Motivation

Keith Coats, the man who was both my mentor and mentoree, helped me realise that helping people unlock their true potential meant they needed to be motivated and inspired. There are many different leadership styles and ways of motivating staff, but Keith approached motivation in a similar way to Fredrick Hertzberg. If you aren’t familiar with Hertzberg, he was an American psychologist famous for his model of motivation theory. Hertzberg suggested people aren’t only motivated by what he referred to as ‘Hygiene Factors’ in a work environment. What are ‘Hygiene Factors’? They are the basics aspects of employment that need to be met to make sure employees feel satisfied in their jobs. Here are Hertzberg’s ‘Hygiene Factors’: Job security Compensation Organisational politics Relationships Working conditions Quality leadership These factors aren’t tools that can be used to motivate people or increase job satisfaction. Hertzberg’s theory suggests that motivation and job satisfaction don’t rely on one another. Employees can actually be satisfied in their jobs but demotivated at the same time. Often, leaders make the mistake of trying to use ‘Hygiene Factors’ to motivate people. I say ‘mistake’ because ‘Hygiene Factors’ may provide a short-term increase in job satisfaction, but they don’t successfully motivate people. But, that’s not to say hygiene factors aren’t important. They are a good foundation for motivation and good leadership means making sure they are met: Compensation: Make sure your team is earning a fair and market-related salary. Quality leadership: Invest in your team. Constantly work on their...

Constructive Criticism Can Break You

At the beginning of the year we decided to run a culture exercise in our business to improve the ability our team has to deliver and receive constructive criticism. We watched a series of video’s from last years Global Leadership Summit and then planned a simple exercise.   People have blindspots, these are things you think you’re great at, but actually you’re not. Apparently the average person has 3.4 blindspots that they have no idea about. So we asked our team to share each others blindspot though an anonymous platform so that people would become more self aware of the conflicts they sometimes cause.   To be clear, we knew the risks were big. We knew that some people might be offended and some may take joy in writing hundreds of witty ‘blindspots’ to share around the office. The risk of building a team of people who were too polite to help each other grow was even bigger though.   We wanted to create a method where each person who wanted to grow personally could put themselves in a place to receive constructive criticism (so it was a voluntary exercise). This went towards our value in Unlocking Human Potential as a business and we felt the team would be mature enough to manage an exercise like this.   So this blindspot exercise was a stepping stone to building that culture. It worked, people participated and anxiously awaited their list of blindspots. Some even told me they were excited to see where...

The best advice I took when I started DigitLab

I can still remember the day I started my business. I had just been retrenched and was desperately needing something new, exciting and profitable to sink my time and energy into. Starting a digital marketing agency made sense to me and it just felt right at the time that I take this passion and turn it into a business vehicle. It did however dawn on me that no matter what I decided to do I needed some sound business advice, or else my great business idea that I was so passionate about was doomed for failure. I embarked on an intense learning exercise in business. I read every article I could find, met with every successful business owner who would let me buy them coffee and a few pearls of wisdom rose to the forefront of my business strategy. Address the immediate cash flow crisis Almost every single budding entrepreneur buys into the idea that it will take time to see the money come into their business. While it may take time to realise profit, it should never take long to drive some good solid cash into your bank account. Cash is what counts, it will make or break your business so its worth spending the time developing a strategy to drive cash into your business quickly. I did this by creating quick sellable services like presentations, workshops, and ‘out the box’ services that I could sell to people. This made it easy to get cash in quick and give...

Why we don’t delegate and how to start

A leader is constantly in need of people around them who can make things happen. The trouble is that many of us don’t lean on those people around us and we therefore end up focusing more of our time in the business instead of on the business. This is a standard issue problem that most entrepreneurs experience and it becomes one of the biggest reasons why they cannot lead effectively. You cannot lead someone if you are doing their work for them. Over the past few years I have found three reasons why we don’t delegate work to our employees and our peers in business. 1)    We don’t trust others to do it It is that simple. We are surrounded by people we don’t trust to do a good job. People who are incapable of producing the work you need done. Entrepreneurs often don’t spend enough time with their team to build up their skills in doing the work the right way. Solution: Hire well and train better: Hire and partner with trustworthy people then spend a lot of time at the start making sure they know and understand how to do what you need them to do. 2)    Self importance, only I can do it right This often happens when we get into a rut on the first problem. When we are constantly let down by untrustworthy employees or employees who weren’t trained properly we begin to believe a massive lie. “Only I can do this right, I just...

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