Elephant in the Room – Expose it, Resolve it, and Get on With a Productive Environment

Strategy Plan One

April 25, 2012 

elephant in the roomElephant in the Room

We have all heard the expression “Elephant in the room” as it describes the big issue (“elephant in the room”) that everyone obviously knows about but doesn’t want to talk about or deal with.  It’s an expression used when an issue is so big it can’t be ignored.

 

 

It may be a challenge that crops up in an organization, but due to its complex, controversial or sensitive nature, no one wants to deal with it.  Yet, without dealing with it adequately, stress and discomfort continues to build around the elephant in the room, as long as the issue has been unresolved.

So how do we rid of the elephant in the room? You may think it’s a simple task.  To deal with it adequately and effectively, you as a business leader and your staff or stakeholders need to recognize it, expose it, and focus in on it.  Bring it out in an open and transparent environment, sooner rather than later.  The longer you as a leader leave deep rooted issues unresolved, the more attention this elephant gets.  Staff anxiety and anger levels around the issue increase and it will deflect attention away from your productive work environment.

elephant in the roomLeadership to Tackle Elephant in the Room

As an entrepreneur, you need strong leadership skills in identifying challenges in your organization and to adequately find resolution.  You need to have a few strategies in your back pocket to handle challenging circumstances.

Involving, empowering and encouraging staff and stakeholders to assist in problem solving will be a part of the overall resolution.

Identify the Elephant in the Room

In meetings, take on a new format of raising honest, deep-rooted problems in the organization.  Encourage team members to speak freely about anything without any repercussions or reprimands.  Time to get everything out in the open, and this is Step 1 … essentially issue identification.

Ask for Feedback and Recommended Solutions

With the elephant now exposed, time to wrap a harness around that elephant and give it some attention, meaning give the identified issue some attention.  How do we walk that elephant right out of the room?  Ask your valued team, stakeholders and customers for feedback and proposed solutions.  And not engaging with those parties for resolution could have been the issue.

Take it step by step to issue resolution.  Chances are that this issue is a complex one, and something that cannot be solved overnight.  Take steps and demonstrate partial resolution.  Now with interim milestones achieved, morale of all staff will have improved and the team will have some successes achieved. 

Show Strong Leadership

With recommendations in hand from valued staff and stakeholders, show strong leadership by implementing solutions to those sensitive or complex challenges.  Through your actions the elephant in the room will be eliminated for a stronger, more productive environment.

Business Planning to Resolve Elephant in the Room Syndrome

To be pro-active, ensure that in your business planning you should identify the serious, complex issues that you and your team will encounter.  Your plan will set up resolution mechanisms and contingencies to handle the most challenging circumstances.  You must be prepared to handle the difficult stuff that comes your way in your business.

 

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

The Right Body Language and Attitude Integral to Success

Strategy Plan One

April 6, 2012 

reading body languageReading Body Language

As an entrepreneur, business owner or professional, body language and attitude become critically important in face-to-face meetings.  It can be the difference between success and failure.  In reading body language, physical cues and tones in speech  can signal a leader, partner or customer a certain way and trigger a response accordingly.

It is best to create and to exude a positive image and body language, which will in most case, trigger more positive responses than negative ones.  On the flip side, you can imagine what type of response you will get from a partner or customer reading body language that is unfriendly, appears uninterested, full of inappropriate gestures, and is all around negative.

Body language will tell people, for example, if you are interested, alert, attentive, happy, relaxed, angry, aggressive or bored.  Body language is one of the non-verbal signals that you will give off to create or not create a great impression.  Body language from some reports accounts for ~ 90% of all communications between parties, and hence the importance when reading body language of individuals.

reading body languageReading Body Language – Body Language Signs

First impressions are everything.  A leader, investor or partner will observe your initial behaviours, immediately reading body language you exude.

It may not matter who you are, but how you behave in a professional manner in an initial meeting.  A leader or investor may be looking to meet with you to determine what type of person you are, how professional you are, and how you fit in to meet common objectives and goals.

Carefully observe and be cognizant of how you are in a meeting.  Closed body stances such as cross arms or postures pointing away from clients are problematic and show behavior hinging on avoidance, non-acceptance and non-openness.  Appropriate upright body stances towards the participant help in saying you are interested in the person, topic, goal, and that you are genuine and there to assist or join in.  If you are slouched over, leaning to one side or using the advantages of ergonomic chairs to lean way back, chances are you are giving the wrong signal in that you are not interested, you are not serious, or that you are not listening and engaged in conversation.

Reading Body Language – Eye Contact

Eye contact with the in-house audience is critically important in making a connection with the people there.  Good eye contact will inform the audience, leaders, and partners that you are genuinely interested.  Great eye contact strengthens the communication and connection between two people, and creates a richer communication experience.  If you don’t maintain frequent eye contact, parties may be receiving a signal that you are not interested.  It is also distracting when speakers or listeners’ eyes and body wander all over the place.

Reading Body Language – Hand Gestures

Watch and ensure appropriate hand gestures are made by you.  Hand waving and arm flaying motions may set a negative cues, whereas slight hand movements emphasizing points may be appropriate.  Another blog could be written on appropriate hand and body gestures applicable to in business environments where the culture is different that North America.  Be sure you seek advice about conduct in face-to-face meetings in other countries.   Selfgrowth.com has some additional great tips on body language.

Reading Body Language – Attitude

Go in with a positive attitude, even though is some circumstances you may not agree or want to be there.   As mentioned staying positive will rub off on others and you will most likely receive a positive response.  In some cases, you may even experience a constructive, negative response which may be as good as a positive response.  Coming in with a negative attitude will spell immediate failure in negotiations, handling difficult challenges, or in building relationships.

In some cases, you need to be a good actor, for the good of the company and your fellow colleagues.  You may need to exude the positive, as your actions may impact many others in the organization…remember that.

Reading Body Language – Tips for Body Language, Attitude and Presence 

  • Be prepared and be professional for first impressions
  • Look and act interested
  • Engage in conversation
  • Be polite, be courteous
  • Showcase your best and what you have to offer as a person and professional
  • Dress appropriately for the occasion
  • Facial expressions – anything neutral to slight smiles signals the positive
  • Keep an upright stature, whether sitting or standing
  • Do not slouch, lean, rock, swing in chairs
  • Provide slight body and hand gestures; aggressive motions – negative
  • Use slight gestures to emphasis points
  • Watch you tone in speech and watch language
  • Ensure you use the right body signals, language for the right cultural environment

In the global, highly competitive world, you as an aggressive entrepreneur need to make positive immediate impacts with customers, partners and other successful business owners.   Similar to business planning processes, plan in your head how you will act and behave in face-to-face meeting to successfully negotiate and win over people.

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

Positive Work-Life Balance in Your Business Organization

Strategy Plan One

April 4, 2012 

work-life balanceWork-Life Balance

Work-life balance is the process of establishing an equilibrium between work and every other aspect of life.

 

In a satisfying environment, one strives to seek that balance between the activities that are classified as doing work and those activities we deem essential to running the family and household, those recreational and down-time activities we need to recharge and enjoy life.

A great work-life balance must start with you first, if you want to be a successful balanced entrepreneur.  You will also need to ensure your staff are happy and healthy in a productive environment by way of a strong, implemented work-life balance in your organization.

Work-Life Balance – In your Business

To maximize your business’ performance, you and your team need to stay healthy and happy.  Work-life balance is one of those key things an employer can do outside of compensation, to provide more benefits to staff.  Without work-life balance features, employees will need to take off significant amounts of time for family responsibilities and other.  You as a business owner know that in some cases, staff may call in sick when family duties are calling them.  This has a significant impact on operations and performance of the organization. Business finances take a hit if leaves are compensated for, or if you have to insert replacement staff.

work-life balanceWork-Life Balance – Flexible Scheduling

If your business environment is one of flexibility to allow for flexible scheduling, encourage and promote flexible work arrangements.  This works well in industries where core functions are not considered essential services.

Industries such as medical care or education, flexible arrangement may be difficult but not impossible.  Having flexible scheduling allows staff members to take care of family responsibilities without impacting the business or the career path.

Work-life Balance features you could offer to employees:

  • Combining or revising classifications of leave (i.e.: vacation leave or medical leave)
  • Paid leave for educational or capacity building activities
  • Work at home arrangements
  • Work on the road schedules
  • Daycare programs at work
  • Concentrated scheduling
  • Allow for health, wellness and fitness programs and time for it at work
  • Bring kids to work environment if you have teams of working parents in your business
  • In stressful and pressured work environments ensure you build in corporate activities to give everyone that stress break, such as non-work activities

Work-Life Balance Statistics

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) completed a study (Sept 2010) of the work-life balance dynamic in US businesses.  Here are some of the statistics:

  • 89% of respondents stated work-life balance was an issue; 54% stated it was serious
  • 57% of those surveyed claimed that employers are not effectively addressing work-life balance and not doing enough
  • 38% said work-life balance has worsened in these tough economic times

 

However, with businesses that incorporate great work-life balance features, employees cite they are more happy and productive and the performance of those organizations show marked improvements.

Some of the Many Work-Life Balance Benefits for Employers and Employees:

  1. Physically and mentally healthier and happier employees
  2. Less absenteeism
  3. Job satisfaction level for employees increases
  4. Sick leave and medical claims decrease
  5. Improved corporate culture
  6. Improved performance of staff and units
  7. Talent management improvements in employee retention
  8. Can be included in the promotion of “best places to work”
  9. Improved enjoyment of life
  10. Improved and stronger family and business relationships 

Encourage leaders within your organization to come forward and develop teams and meetings to address work-life balance issues at your business.  As an effective leader and entrepreneur, encourage team members to provide feedback on how to make the work environment better.  Listen and learn when employees speak on employee satisfaction in the workplace.  Survey employees frequently and engage in conversation with them about work-life balance.

Work-life balance at work is a very effective way to improve your organization across individuals and business units.  Allow your professional teams to help others be successful with results-based, work-life best practices.

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

Strategies for Handling Difficult Conversations

Strategy Plan One

March 28, 2012 

difficult conversationsDifficult Conversations

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, we have all encountered scenarios, difficult scenarios, where the conversation with staff, partners, customers or contractors has been rough or will be rough.

 

Certain techniques will help in alleviating difficult conversations and pressures and get everyone back on track with meeting goals and objectives through productive business methods.

 

Here are some strategies and techniques in handling difficult conversations:

  1. Establish mutual ground rules at the beginning of the discussion; ensure there is a mechanism and a procedure to fall back on if things get off track
  2. Ensure there is a goal and purpose to the conversation; make the scenario valuable with an intended outcome
  3. Don’t make it personal – set the mutual ground rules up front and state the goal is to resolve the issue and not make it a personal attack
  4. Create an environment where everyone can speak freely and in an open manner
  5. Make sure that other parties know their feedback and discussions are valued
  6. Be genuine, truthful and create an environment of trust
  7. Hit on the positives where there are significant negatives; positive reinforcement works
  8. Be constructive in your conversations
  9. Offer solutions not barriers or roadblocks
  10. Think and bring to the table alternatives if the current pathway isn’t working
  11.   As a leader, be an active listener
  12.   As a leader, be a learner; learn from the experience
  13.   As a leader be available, and engage parties frequently
  14.   Raise a third-party or theoretical example if points need to be supported
  15.   Ensure all parties have access to information, especially when it comes to rules and regulations and that line must be focused on

 

Extreme Difficult Conversations

Where you do have serious circumstances that require the most difficult conversations, you have the ability to speak directly and openly about inappropriate behaviours or non-performance issues.  You could approach the scenario by recommending some solutions to get everyone back on track with meeting objectives.  It may also be in the best interest to ask the other party what they need leadership to do.  Their feedback for issue resolution is important.

 

Third party mediation or seeking outside sources to help resolve may also be options when the one-on-one discussions are not going anywhere.  Third parties or mediation can help take the pressure off the affected parties.  A third party or mediator may take neutral ground, observing both parties’ positions and offering up independent recommendations that will work.

 

Positive Outcomes to Difficult Conversations

The end goal needs be a positive one, with satisfaction to all parties involved.  Whatever tactic you choose to handle difficult conversations, think and act systematically and strategically, with end goals in mind.  It is sometimes an easier pathway to find solutions than riskier, costly pathways such as litigation.

 

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

Lessons Learned … From Your Own Employees

Strategy Plan One

March 26, 2012 

 

organizational developmentEmployees Have the Ground, Intelligence Wise

Your business has been successful and booming for a long period of time, and you as the leader / entrepreneur, have been busy in your management duties.

You may be far removed from the ground level operations, not having to grind it out on the floor or crank out code, or deal directly with customers.  However, you are not that removed from your employees who have the greatest wealth of knowledge of the operational level.

Much can be learned from employees who know what is and isn’t working at the operational level, who know what the customer’s actions, thoughts and feedback are, and what other employees are saying behind the management lines.

Engaging and Interacting Frequently with Employees

As a manager, leader, and entrepreneur, engage and interact well and frequently with your employees.  Make it well known that you are openly interested daily about what is taking place on the floor.  It should be a part of your daily routine, either through inspecting your place of retail or office space.  The employees will feel more at ease when the management team is readily and physically available for open discussions.

Grab Intelligence from Employees

Setting the stage with frequent engagement and interactions will assist in your employees openly providing you with a wealth of information to improve operations and/or improve client and customer relationships.  These professionals in your organization may provide valuable recommendations and will look to you as the leader to implement some solutions from issues they encounter.

Make employees feel valued that they can share information and that you, as a tuned-in entrepreneur, are listening and willing to embrace recommendations for approval.

Encourage Continuous Improvements From Employees

To stay on the cutting edge and at the top of your industry, you will need your employees to think and act innovatively.  The best practices and solutions do originate from team actions, and so would innovative practices.

Empower your employees to develop ground-breaking practices that would set the units, team, and business far ahead of the competitors.  Create an environment that is rewarding and promotes recognition for achievements.  Depending on your budgets, you can develop incentive programs for high achievers and for employees that bring innovative solutions to the table.  You may be surprised at the untapped intelligence from all of your professional staff.

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

Strategies to Handle Difficult Employees in Your Business

Strategy Plan One

March 25, 2012 

difficult employeesDifficult Employees

Every organization has difficult employees that are not necessarily the happiest bunch.

Whether is it a personality issue, organizational or environmental issue, it is par for the course to have variance in people’s behaviour, moods, or job satisfaction.

You could have the most successful, corporate culturally rich environment, with great working conditions and compensation and you can still have disgruntled staff.  No fear, there are some human resource tactics to adequately handle some difficult employees who may throw a temporary wrench into your organization.

Identify the Issues with the Difficult Employees

When you as a leader become aware of issues in the organization and with specific staff members, ensure that you approach the employees to better understand the scenario and to isolate the specific issues.  Ensure that in a confidential setting the employee has the opportunity to openly express the situation with you or your human resource specialist.  Encourage open communication in your corporate culture.  Be an active listener first before diving into any actions.

Solutions in Handling Difficult Employees

Take note of the issues the employee has expressed freely, and then ask for some potential solutions from their side.  Employee feedback is extremely important.  You may find that part of the operation or the way things are done in the organization is causing not only this employee but others grief.  Employees provide you with the needed intelligence at ground level.  This intelligence may not be something that you are privy to.

In asking for valued feedback, you make a disgruntled employee feel valued and part of the solution.  In normal circumstances, this should build higher morale with this disgruntled employee, and broadly across the organization.

If the scenario involves more than one employee or third parties, then you may have to engage with multiple parties, seeking solutions from diverse array of people.  Customers, suppliers, and contractors can sometimes be the cause of issues in your organization and with your staff.

difficult employeesHuman Resource Resolution Mechanisms for Difficult Employees

With strong human resource policies and procedures your organization will be well equipped to handle difficult employees.  Whenever possible, your human resource specialist can be used to intervene in difficult circumstances to provide the direct assistance to not only you as the leader, but also to the employee.

Your human resource specialist may also act as a mediator between management and the employee in cases where there are challenges between staff and management.  The difficult employees may be more open to discussing the challenges as they may feel that the human resource specialist is one step removed from management.  The specialist can also provide the direct lines and information on the company’s human resource policies and on any labor acts or regulations.

Implement Solutions to Resolve Challenges with Difficult Employees

Once you nail down some workable solutions, be ready as a responsible leader to implement some best practices or solutions.  Implementation in any action plan is critically important to resolving those initial challenges identified.  Have a plan of action to implement those recommendations that were developed from feedback from the difficult employees and the advice from your human resource specialist.

As a last resort to difficult employees who do not change their behavior, or do continuous harm to other employees or the organization, dismissal of the employees may be the last action to resolve.  You should however, make every attempt to resolve before this last option.  Ensure that if you do go down the path of termination, that you abide by your polices, and any acts or regulations.

Following up with Difficult Employees

After implementation, follow up with staff and units on progress.  Is it working?  Did it resolve the problems?  If not, you may have to tweak your approach with a revised action plan to implement.

If your implemented actions have resolved the issues, then you may be on your way to achieving greater job satisfaction with all staff, which will greatly impact the performance in your organization.

difficult employees

Summary of Some Tips in Handling Difficult Staff:

  • Encourage open communication on any topic with employees
  • Empower employees to make suggestions and recommendations for solutions
  • Make employees feel that they are a part of the solution
  • Be empathetic, be a good listener
  • Show strong leadership and implement solutions
  • Track the results of the solutions
  • Follow up with staff and measure results
  • Be prepared and embrace a continuous improvement process to create a better environment for your valued staff

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

The Four Capacity Building Pillars of Entrepreneurship

Strategy Plan One

March 7, 2012

Capacity BuildingCapacity Building for Strong Entrepreneurship

To be a successful entrepreneur, individuals must build capacities in four key strategic areas – Operational, Management, Financial Management, and Personal capacities.  Entrepreneur capacity building involves developing the combination of all four capacity elements, to provide the ingredients for a great entrepreneurial success soup.

Some of these capacities are gained through experience throughout your career, while others are learned through educational avenues.  Some successful entrepreneurs are born with strong personality traits, and some behaviors are strengthened through learned responses in the business environment.

Here are the four key categories of capacity building leading to the development of successful entrepreneurs.

Operational Capacity Building

Having a brilliant understanding of an industry and business at ground level builds operational capacity.  This of course involves working in a variety of business operations for a period of time prior to diving into entrepreneurship.  This is where you gain valuable insight into what makes businesses tick.  Understanding the dynamics on the floor, in the cubicles, in the field and out on the road, gives you the perspective on how to lead, organize and plan for operations.

Management Capacity Building

Taking operational experience one more step, gaining management experience in a field or business will be directly applicable to managing your own business.  The valuable experience you gain managing operations, resources and people will give you the applicable tools for your own business.  With a few years of management experience, you will gain management capacity and an understanding of responsibilities and accountabilities at that level… all precursors to managing your own company.

Capacity BuildingFinancial Management Capacity Building

Through a combination of work experience and education, you need to be well-grounded and versed in managing finances. You need to be able to accurately estimate and build financial statements and to understand them.  With gained skills, you will need to be able to analyze financial statements, looking at trends and indicators and what those all mean to your business.  Financial reports provide key indicators and information on the business’ financial health…there is a wealth of information in the financial statements.  Other parties, partners and financial institutions will be looking at you and your organization’s ability to manage finances.

Personal Capacity Building

Of extreme importance, if you don’t have some key personal, entrepreneurial traits you may be closing up shop fast.  Some people are born with strong traits while other behaviors can be picked up along the development pathway.  Demonstrating strong traits and behaviors such as dedication, perseverance, ambition, determination, strong-will, openness, honesty, transparency, fairness, etc may move you along the pathway to become a successful entrepreneur.

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One