Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Get Your Big Idea Into the Marketplace

Scott Anthony refers to it as “the first mile” – that place where innovation moves from an idea on paper to the market.
It is often a treacherous first mile, full of obstacles of your own making and roadblocks thrown up by others. If you can’t make it through that first mile, says the international strategic adviser, then you may find that your great idea goes nowhere.
In a new book, appropriately called “The First Mile,” Anthony, managing partner of Innosight, provides a blueprint for how anyone can ensure that they don’t let themselves or others sabotage their innovation.
“What often happens is that people confuse a concept with a business or an idea,” he says. “They come up with something fun or interesting, but it gets screened out because it won’t drive value.”
For example, you may believe that you’ve got a really cool idea, but if it doesn’t drive a customer need consistently and reliably, then it won’t be profitable and will fail, he says.
“You have to go beyond the ‘what’ to the ‘why,’” he says. “Why should a customer or boss care? You’ve always got to understand what it is you’re selling.”
While this certainly makes sense, Anthony says it can often be difficult for the person infused with enthusiasm for an idea to see why the idea may not be just as appealing to others.
“Once we wrap our mind around our idea, then we reject what we don’t believe,” he says.  “That’s why the first mile is so important. You recognize that any idea is partially right and partially wrong, and the quicker you figure out the weak points, the quicker you can fix them.”
Among his suggestions is first doing the documentation  – simply writing down what you plan to do. He says that it’s often this most simple step that many innovators miss.
Once you’ve documented it, then it’s time to:
  • Evaluate:  This part of the process looks at the customer, the key stakeholders, the economics involved, how it will be commercialized, the team and the financing. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? He suggests one way to evaluate an idea is to role play. For example, let’s say you’ve come up with an idea for a device that will fly you to the grocery store. That means you need to play the role of the retailer who will sell it, the customer who will buy it (and the customer’s spouse) and even (read more here)
- See more at: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2014/07/28/how-to-get-your-big-idea-into-the-marketplace/#sthash.cjybxNye.dpuf

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How to Turn Around Miserable Workers

Is it just me, or are American workers complaining more loudly than ever?

There are the protests by food workers demanding better wages, of course, but even in my local grocery store or doctor's office I hear a lot of complaining by workers.

It's not unusual to hear employees criticizing actions by a managers or bad-mouthing a co-worker. It just goes to show the level of their unhappiness that they would so vocally complain in front of outsiders, I think,

Many years ago I interviewed Patrick Lencioni about his book, "Three Signs of  Miserable Job." He says those signs are:

1. The people you work with don’t know you or care about you.
2. You don’t know how your job matters to others.
3. You can’t assess how you’re doing in your job.

Workers who are miserable are less productive, efficient, and more likely to have physical ailments that affect their professional and personal lives. With the increasing focus on remaining competitive in a global marketplace, Lencioni points out that managers should ask themselves what they can do to guard against workers becoming miserable in their jobs. As part of a self-assessment, he suggests managers ask themselves:

• Do I really know my people? Their interests? How they spend their spare time? Where they are in their lives?
• Do they know who their work impacts, and how?
• Do they know how to assess their own progress or success?

Finally, he says bosses should develop a plan to do a better job of getting to know and understand employees. He suggests one-on-one meetings, team sessions and clearly outlining what is trying to be achieved.

While this seems like a simple concept, Lencioni says that many companies and managers miss the boat. He also has a deeper message to impart to those in charge:

“By helping people find fulfillment in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they’re doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual health of workers and their families,” he says. “That is nothing short of a gift from God.”

Amen to that.

Friday, September 5, 2014

How Leaders Can Keep "No" From Being a Buzz Kill

How do you keep people engaged after telling them “no”?

That’s often a question with which leaders wrestle, knowing that saying “no” can be demoralizing, and even push employees to start looking for another position if it happens too often.
But leadership and engagement experts say that it’s critical that managers learn to handle such an issue. Without a solution, they may find that a team becomes uninterested in coming up with creative, innovative or workable solutions that are critical to business survival in today’s competitive environment.
“I do believe that within every ‘no’ is a portal to another ‘yes,’” says Rosa Say, a workplace culture coach and founder of Say Leadership Coaching. “We can think of that ‘no’ as ‘not now, maybe later’ and that ‘yes’ possibility as our next step instead, while our original thought gains more traction should it still prove itself useful, relevant or necessary later on.”
Phil Gerbyshak, CEO at Social Media Coach, says that the easiest way to keep a team engaged after turning them down on a project or idea is to “continue to add value to their lives.”
For example, you may be able to make a meaningful connection for them, share a good resource or ask if there “are other things you can do to help them,” he says. “As long as ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘never.’ That’s how I keep people engaged after telling them ‘no.’”
David Zinger, founder and host of Global Employee Engagement Network and president of David Zinger Associates, says that he believes “it is less about keeping people engaged and more about inviting engagement.”
“I would hope the employee was invited into the ‘no’ by being in the know. The ‘no’ is less about the content and more about the intent,” he says. “Is the ‘no’ final and fatal – or temporary feedback about a current state that can change? Do we help employees develop growth rather than fixed mindsets so that the ‘no’ is experienced as a step of growth rather than a pit of failure?”
Zinger explains that if an employee is not given a promotion, for example, then “hopefully there is an explanation combined with an invitation to what the employee can do in their future to achieve the ‘yes’ they are looking for. “
Part of the problem with employee engagement is that managers often find themselves saying ‘no’ to ideas because they aren’t directly related to a company’s strategy or culture. For example, a recent Accenture study finds that 85% of managers say that their workers’ ideas are targeting internal improvements instead of external improvements. But employees may not know that they’re on the wrong track if managers aren’t clearly giving them parameters about where they need to direct their energies.
That lack of communication may be behind only 20% (read more here)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Is Your Need to Be "Right" Hurting Your Career?

When you were in school, did your teacher instruct you to choose the “wrong” answer on a test?

What about at work? Does your boss now tell you to try and make "wrong" decisions?

From the time we are children, we are counseled to make the “right” choices, and how to look “right” and how to do the “right” thing. That often continues in the workplace, that need to always be "right."

And, the more “right” we are, the more likely we are to become rigid in our way of thinking. But here’s something to think about: By denying there is anything left to learn, we undermine ourselves and our companies.

Failing to acknowledge that other people may have the right answer can really affect an individual’s and an organization’s success. The most successful people, after all, often challenge others to come up with a better idea and then learn from that input.

Of course, letting go of being “right” all the time takes courage. It's not easy to admit that you don't have all the right answers, and embracing the ideas of others can be scary. But once you've made that initial move, keep thinking about how you view "right" and "wrong" answers.

You may find yourself letting go of a lot of stress when you can become more flexible in your thinking. As part of this process:

Define what winning looks like to you. Think about what you really want, how you feel about certain issues in your work and personal life and why certain outcomes are so important to you. Would a different outcome really be the end of the world?
Look at how often your need to be right really interferes with what you want. If you shut people down by interrupting them with your “right” solution, or they turn away because you have proven them “wrong,” note this interaction in a journal. Keep track of what happened, your reaction and any negative outcome. Did the interaction result in a less creative outcome or hurt a relationship with a co-worker?.
Ask questions. Instead of jumping in with the answer all the time, become more curious. Ask others what they think, and give them a chance to respond. Only then should you offer your opinion.
See the world in shades of gray. Consider how often your thinking is automatically “right versus wrong.” Try to look at all sides of the issue before making a decision.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Get Better Results by Taking Handwritten Notes

The next time you go to a meeting, you might want to consider leaving your iPad behind and instead taking along a pad and pen.
That’s because a new study shows what many of us have suspected for some time: That we’re better able to retain and understand information if we write it longhand instead of using a laptop or other device to take notes.
In three studies by Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer recently published in Psychological Science, it was found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand.
Mueller, a Princeton University doctoral candidate, says that one surprising aspect of the study was that even though someone can take more notes via a laptop, transcribing those notes verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning. In other words, you may write slower than you can type, but you’re also listening, digesting and summarizing what you hear.
This research may give bosses more ammunition when it comes to advocating that workers take notes by hand during a meeting to retain more (and to avoid the distraction of checking Facebook). It also may back up the complaint by managers that workers who don’t write down instructions or other information are sure to forget it later or make an error in their thinking.
Of course, toting along a pad and pen to a meeting also increases the chances that workers will begin doodling, which isn’t possible while typing on a keyboard. While bosses (read more here)

Friday, August 22, 2014

How to Salvage a Bad Job Interview

There's no better feeling than coming out of a job interview and feeling like you nailed it. You and the interviewer clicked, everyone seemed very impressed with your resume and abilities, and there was plenty of positive body language.

On the other hand, there is no worse feeling than knowing that you messed up -- that somewhere in the interview you really bombed and possibly blew your chances of getting a job you really want. You head home,deeply depressed, ready to beat your head against the nearest wall for being such a numbskull.

But before you put that knot on your head, consider that you may be able to salvage the situation. So maybe you called someone by the wrong name or showed up late for the interview -- you still may be able to recover and put yourself in serious contention for the job.

If you feel like you've made a bad first impression, you need to:

  • Assess the damage. Take a hard look at how badly you may have hurt your chances, and whether it was a big deal -- or no one else really noticed.
  • Act quickly. Don't give the bad impression time to sink in. Take immediate steps to correct it.
  •  Re-establish your qualifications. If you follow-up with a phone call or e-mail, use it as a chance to again outline your skills and experienced. Keep it succinct -- babbling will only make things worse.
  • Apologize. Don't go overboard, but if you made a glaring error, then you should offer a sincere "I'm sorry."
  • Use humor carefully. You can make the situation worse by joking about it.
  • Prepare for the next shot. Chances are, you'll be given another chance to interview with someone else, so take steps to make sure you don't repeat your missteps.
What suggestions do you have for recovering from a bad first impression?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to Use Mindfulness in Leadership

Meditation – or mindfulness – is seen by some as the latest new-age fad where people sit around on the floor humming with incense burning nearby. It’s not often considered a top business practice at highly competitive companies.
But some of the nation’s largest employers are embracing mindfulness as a way to ease the stress of a workday for employees, improve leadership and hopefully lead to happier and more productive workplaces.
One of those employers is General Mills, one of the world’s largest food companies, which supports employees as they pursue mindfulness.
Sandy Behnken, corporate continuous improvement leader at General Mills, recently shared her experience with Anita Bruzzese in this closer look at mindfulness and leadership.
AB: How did you come to use mindfulness at work?
 SB:  I learned about mindfulness in September 2009 when considering development opportunities for the Women in IT networking group I was involved in at General Mills. At that time, several leaders at General Mills had received mindful leadership training. One leader in particular inspired me to learn more because I noticed how he always seemed to deeply listen when others spoke and then responded versus reacted to what was said. I wanted to be less reactive and to be a better listener.
With the support and sponsorship of leadership, I coordinated a group of 25 IT leaders to participate in a seven-week mindful leadership course. Within a couple of weeks of the course starting I could see how my mindfulness practice impacted my interactions at work. I became more aware of the many stimuli impacting me and was better able to decide how I was going to respond versus react to them.
AB: How long have you been using it?
 SB: I’ve been practicing mindfulness for the past 4 ½ years. To help strengthen my practice and support other practitioners at work, I lead a weekly drop-in practice session for General Mills employees. 
AB: Can you describe a work situation you felt like using mindfulness made a difference?
 SB: During a time in which I managed a large project for the company, having a strong mindfulness practice helped me when stress levels were high and we had more questions than answers. It helped me create the mental space I needed to bring clarity and focused attention to the work my team and I needed to accomplish. This mental space also allowed room for creativity to find answers to all those questions.
AB: How to you think mindfulness has made a difference in your leadership?
 SB: I believe the biggest difference it has made is in my ability to deeply listen to what is being said. Whether it’s working through business plans or addressing personnel challenges the act of really listening and being open to what is being said has been invaluable.
It’s so easy to come into a conversation with preconceived notions about how to proceed forward that we can miss important insights. It’s equally easy to want to solve all the challenges that are presented when the best thing may be to listen without thinking about how (read the rest here)