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Useful tools, tips and strategies to help your business learn, develop and expand.

Did You Get My Message In A Bottle?

business-coaching-london-man-island

Do you sometimes feel like you are alone on an island and the only way to communicate is by placing rolled up messages on faded parchment into bottles and throwing them out into the ocean, hoping for a decent response?

When you build your business, it can be really lonely. You have to devote so much of your time, effort and headspace into creating success, that it can sometimes feel like you have forgotten how to interact with other people. Working with team members, communicating with suppliers, talking to customers – these seem to be monumental tasks, but also not the absolutely critical skills to prioritise when you are just trying to keep the right pace in your business.

When you grow to a size where you need to start bringing in the help of team members, it can be frustrating when they are unable to do the work the way you want them to – and it feels easier to just do it yourself. So, to just get on with it – to just keep the business moving – you knuckle down, sweep away the faults of your team environment, and continue on your journey. You haven’t really changed the way you work to adapt to this new business size.

Additionally, at this size, communication with your customers becomes a lot more complicated than when you were just your own little island trying to shout out about your product. Often, you just end up shouting louder to try and be heard by more people, which comes at the expense of the clarity of your message.

While the approach of just working harder at what you’ve always done might keep the business ticking over in the short term, you not only run the risk of burning yourself out, but you may also be missing out on leveraging the power of your team and your market, which holds you back from greater, longer-term, sustainable growth.

If you learn how to build strong and free flowing bridges, you can leverage good communication to ensure your business is a wide-spread and connected archipelago sending out radio signals rather than just your lonely island that’s trying to throw thousands of bottles out into the ocean.

Here are some ideas that have cropped up in recent business coaching sessions that may help you streamline your business’s internal and external communications.

Internal Communication: One Thing You Can Start NOW

A client once said to me: ‘I wish I could grow my business without having to hire anyone’. To them, the idea of finding new employees, providing them with training and managing them as a team sounded exhausting, time-consuming, complicated and entirely unappealing (even with our streamlined 4-hour recruitment process).

Our clients tell us that they hesitate to hire because they do not want to waste time constantly firefighting. They tell us how they wish they could align their team’s focus with their own focus when it comes to business matters – because these are so frequently maligned.

If you have felt the same, know that you are definitely not alone and, fortunately, this usually requires a reasonably easy fix to get a powerful team working well: improve communication.

There is one simple intervention that I think every business owner with a team of more than 2 can do in order to improve internal communication. That is to introduce formal, and well-run periodic team meetings. These should be scheduled, structured and focused meetings that your team know about ahead of time and are prepared for.

This gives them an opportunity to quickly address issues that need to be addressed not only with yourself (so you don’t become a got-a-minute boss) but also with other team members.

Not only that, it also ensures that each week, everyone on your team has some idea of what others on your team are doing – which ensures that everyone has a wider scope for their work and do not get stuck in a demotivating silo-type work environment.

Internal Communication: How to Implement Formal Team Meetings

There are 4 key points to consider when you are arranging your team meetings.

  1. Purpose: Why have you scheduled this meeting? What focus will it take, and what do you want to get out of it? This will help you maximise useful time during the meeting.
  2. Agenda: What do you plan to discuss in the meeting? You might want to tell the team about this ahead of time so that you can get the most out of it and so they can also add items to the agenda if they have things to bring up.
  3. Time: How long is the meeting going to last? Sitting around and having an informal chat is unlikely to help move the business forward. Set a time limit and put a check in place to make sure you stick to it.
  4. Attendees: A huge mistake is including the entire team in every meeting. Think carefully about who is actually needed so you are not wasting the time of employees who could be spending that time on something more useful, maybe. This requires careful consideration because sometimes your team members may not feel like the meeting is relevant, but they will, in fact, benefit from being there. You should make the final decision on this: in the end, it is you and your business that is paying for your employee’s attention and time. Use that resource wisely.

Internal Communication: What Type of Team Meeting Should You Hold?

Not all team meetings are made equal. Different meetings serve different purposes – so think carefully about the format of your meeting and align it with the purpose. The kinds of meetings we suggest to our business coaching clients are:

  1. Daily check-in meetings: These should last between five and ten minutes and should help give managers an overview of immediate actions for the day, and help team members bring up any pressing immediate issues impeding their work.
  2. Weekly meetings: These are tactical meetings that focus on the current operations and allow both team members and managers to highlight priorities, and for you as the leader to ensure that the priorities are still aligned to optimise growth.
  3. Monthly meetings: These should be more strategic than tactical and should focus more on the wider goals and progress metrics. Typically, these meetings will have fewer people and be more targeted to particular teams or departments.
  4. Quarterly meetings: These are most important for taking a giant step outside the business to assess it from afar. These should be in-depth, long meetings where you celebrate wins of the previous quarter, and set the larger, business-wide strategies for the coming quarter. Doing this ensures you align everyone in the business with the longer-term goals so that they remember what their day-to-day operations should be ultimately contributing to.

You must remember that you will be much more able to run a large, powerful business when you have more than just your will-power and expertise alone to pour into it. A good team should mean that you are working with people who are as smart, if not smarter, than you. When you effectively systemise and manage good team meetings, you can leverage that collective intelligence to take your business further than you even imagined it could go.

The frequency and format of your meetings will largely depend on where you are in your business lifecycle and the kind of culture you have fostered. And as you transition from a smaller to a larger business, you will find there is a critical balance to be maintained with regards to how often you should have meetings and how important they are. Where in massive corporations fewer meetings are more productive, in small and medium-sized businesses you may find that more frequent meetings are exactly what your business needs to progress quickly and with precision.

And that’s where having a business coach can be invaluable – I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have helped dramatically improve productivity simply by seeing that the frequency of team meetings wasn’t quite right for where a business was currently at.

External Communication: Your Marketing Message

If you are trying to constantly throw bottles into the ocean hoping that your customers are going to find them, you will struggle to ever achieve the kind of growth that you have the potential to reach.

If you are a bit fuzzy on who you are supposed to be communicating with, or how those people best like to communicate, you are highly likely to send out confused messages to your customers or worse, not reach your customers at all.

Having clarity about who your customers are and what they respond to is the first and most critical step to providing them with relevant and consistent education about how you can help them.

Do you know who your target customer is? Not your target market mind you (target markets don’t work!) – your target customer. Simply saying ‘interior designers in London’ is actually NOT specific enough.

As we regularly tell our clients, marketing is often thought of as 1:many. However, what marketing really is, is 1:1, many times.

Define how you would communicate with one individual customer (your ideal customer) – know that person inside out and know exactly the words you need to say to them – and then replicate this so that you talk to your entire audience in an extremely personal way.

External Communications: Define Your Marketing Avatar

A simple way to determine your target customer is to create a marketing avatar. Our Avatar Creator Toolkit is how we help our clients to do this for themselves (you know your customer best – you are the best one to define the Avatar).

Identifying your marketing avatar is quick and easy, and makes it so much simpler to develop your business’s ongoing communication strategy. It also helps make it clear to your team who your business is selling to and how you are selling to them so everyone is on the same page and is sending out the same message.

As some general rules of thumb, your marketing avatar should:

  1. Like your business.
  2. Be easy to reach out to.
  3. Be receptive to marketing.
  4. Have a relatively short sales cycle.
  5. Buy from you repeatedly.
  6. Be profitable to your business.

Once you have clearly and precisely defined your marketing avatar, you can use this information to write relevant content and decide which communication channels to use.

You should be where your target person is. If they mainly connect with brands on social media, for example, then social media is where your strategies should be focused. If they are the kind who are surprised and delighted by something coming in snail mail, then focus your strategy meetings around how to best leverage a direct mail strategy. If they think a message in a bottle is actually quite exciting, then figure out how to systemise sending out those bottles to them!

By taking this systemised and considered approach, you can stop using a haphazard method of tossing those bottles out and letting the tides hopefully carry your message to them. In doing so, you can drive your business forward more efficiently and effectively.

Business owners who focus on streamlining their internal and external communications are much more likely to find that their team is happy, their growth is consistent, and their customers are satisfied.

You may still wish to retreat to your island from time to time, but as long as you establish a secure network for communication across the other islands – and with the wider world – you can participate in a network of minds, and truly transform your vision of a larger business into your reality.

Need more business communication strategies?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionA large component of business coaching for London businesses has been to help business owners transform their communication with their teams and with their prospects – marketing and team management are always some of the most useful ways we can help business owners.

If you feel like we may be able to help you streamline your team management or your marketing, book a complimentary strategy session with us and let us dive in and see how we can help you grow.

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Is Next Week Wasting Your Time?

There’s a small mistake you may be making unknowingly, which could be massively impacting your productivity.

This came up in a recent business coaching session when we were discussing how one of my clients goes about delegating tasks to their team members.

This small shift could be saving you days of work with your team members, and could help you spur on even faster growth in your business.

So the first step you have to remember is to make sure you set some sort of clear communication about the timeline of tasks (remember – manage activities, not people) that your team members are executing.

But secondly, and importantly, you must stop thinking about tasks as being done in this week or that week, and start narrowing them down further into days.

Stop waiting for a week when the task may only take a few days. Then you will gain days of work that can be put towards taking your business to new heights.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi, this is Shweta from London Coaching Group. As you can see I’m about to leave the office, but I had to capture this learning which got featured in one of the coaching sessions with the client. Now the topic really is that when we are delegating tasks to our team members, one thing that I see very commonly is that business owners don’t allocate or assign a specific timeline to a task.

The Question To Ask When Delegating

So it’s like asking a single simple question: By when do you reckon you will complete this work? So that’s one. But what I really want to focus on today is how the timelines get agreed and the very common phrase, a very very common phrase that I hear from my clients, that I hear them saying to their team members and vice versa, is “next week”.

What I mean by that is, yup Shweta we’ll do it by next week. Yup, my team member, can you come back to me by next week? The team members say yeah I’ll come back to you by next week or I’ll finish it by next week. This whole “next week” phenomenon, if you think about it, there are 52 weeks in a full year. By the time you say next week, roughly 2 percent of the time is gone and how many times do you say this in your business?

Let’s sit down next week, let’s do this next week. All this, when it gets accumulated, a lot of time gets spent and wasted and the most important thing is that it generally doesn’t take a one full week to complete the work. It happens in a certain number of hours.

Team Management: Think in Days Not Weeks

So what I’m really trying to explain here is that when you are next time allocating or assigning some task to your team member, try to think in terms of days and not weeks. Try to say OK and give them a choice. Do you reckon you can give it to me tomorrow or day after? And they might say day after – perfect! That’s good. We’ve just saved three to five days for ourselves and for our business.

So again start thinking in terms of days and not weeks when you are delegating tasks to your team members and to yourself.

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The Silent Complexity of Your Growing Team

You are running a successful business, you have been working long hours, and now it is time to expand your team to manage the extra work.

This is a familiar scenario to most of my clients. Unfortunately, what often transpires is that when the team expands to meet the demand, the complexity issues that arise seem disproportionately extensive.

This can lead to you questioning your skills as a manager, a breakdown of company culture, and sometimes even less productivity than when your team was smaller.

In this video, I explain a formula that I share with my clients to help them get to grips with where this background complexity comes from. Once they understand it, they are far more in control and are better equipped to keep the team, the work, and the culture of the business intact.

When you view each new team addition as a set of relationships with your existing team members, rather than just an individual, you can prepare for that level of management.

Once you understand this formula, you can then employ the strategies that we teach to manage complexity that comes with growth.

That means looking at induction strategies (like knowing the best day to start a new hire) and maintaining team management systems (such as not being a “got a minute boss” and setting up a strong company culture), which ensure that your new team hires can slide into place with minimum fuss and maximum satisfaction and productivity.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

What I want to talk about today is the silent complexity that exists in your business. Now, when I’m working with my business clients and their business is doing well, it’s growing invariably, and they end up extending their team size because they need more capacity. Now at that point, of course they are focusing on the size of the team, whether it’s gone one and a half, two times, three times, but what really reminds them most of the time is that it’s not just that number of team members. It’s that there is another factor which is silent, which is there in background, but very critical one. And that straight away gives sense of complexity to our clients and therefore how could they best preempt those issues in the future and how to deal with those issues to make sure that the culture is right and the team stays absolutely productive at its best level so that they can move forward.

Business Formula

What I wanted to do was to share with you a simple formula and it might be interesting for you to calculate and to use that formula in your business. Now this formula is N squared minus N by 2. The N here will be the number of team members that you have in your business including yourself, and the output of this formula gives you the number of relationships that exist in your business.

For example, if it’s you and just another team member, so N is equal to 2 here. Now let’s put this formula and there is one relationship in the business, make sense right? Now imagine there is this new team member who comes on board because the business is growing and you have not two but three relationships here. Now let’s look at another level. Imagine the team is growing so they’re looking at 25 minus 5 divided by 2 which is 10 relationships in this business and the business is growing even more, in this case it goes to say 19 members so you’re looking at 81 minus 9 divided by 2 and it’s 36 relationships. The point that you need to understand and really focus on is that though from this stage to this stage it feels that the team has gone 3 times, of course it is right? From 3 to 9, but then if you look at the numbers of the relationships they have jump from 3 to 36 which is 12 times. Can you imagine the level of the complexity? Can you imagine the issue that can occur in this business if one is not aware of that?

And that’s what I wanted to convey that if you are facing this level of complexity because of the way your business is performing or something that you want even to get better. Then please feel free to reach out because if you don’t deal with this it has a potential to sabotaging your business growth and its potential.

Need a Team Alignment or Induction Process?

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Stop Adding Value

One of my coaching clients was visibly upset at our coaching session recently. He was having an issue with how his team didn’t seem to be responding well to his feedback. They didn’t seem invested in what they were doing and were not giving 100% to their job.

We did some quick roleplays to find out how he was delivering feedback to his team members. In one scenario the team member’s work wasn’t very good, in another it was ok, and in the final one it was very good.

What these roleplays revealed was a big learning for this client and I thought I would share it with you…

In the end it is important to remember that people do not work hard because of you or your leadership. They work hard because they strive for what success means to them – and that often involves ownership over their work, and pride in their achievements.

So let them shine, and give them value by not adding value to their tasks.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

I’ve just come out of my coaching session by the client and a very interesting one, so I thought I’ll straightaway share some learnings from that.

The Problem With His Team Members

Now I’m sitting down with the director of the company and he clearly looks upset. And he’s like, Shweta, I’m so tired of, you know, giving feedback to my team members and it seems that there is no attention to detail, and you know they’re not really passionate about the work that they’re doing. In fact, it feels that they don’t have the sense of ownership of what they’re doing. And what do I do, I just don’t understand. I’m trying to help them, but it’s just not making sense. So I was like, OK that’s interesting and yes I do come across those situations sometimes in my coaching meetings, so tell me a little bit more about this.

So I was like, OK that’s interesting and yes I do come across those situations sometimes in my coaching meetings, so tell me a little bit more about this. Let’s, in fact have a roleplay, or some roleplays, and tell me how you go about those meetings.

Team Management Roleplays Revealed The Answer

So we did some quick roleplays. Okay. In which maybe my work was not that good in one roleplay it was okay. And the other roleplay was pretty good. And I saw and experienced how my client was going about that discussion. And on reflection, I said there is one thing you need to become better at. Which is stop adding value.

You can imagine to that comment he was like “What do you mean? I’m the director of the business. You know I’m the line manager they expect me to add value, what do you mean don’t add value?”

What Do You Mean Don’t Add Value?

And I was like, yeah, no actually it makes sense for you to not always add value. Because think about it like this. Once it becomes a habit that whatever the level of work is, if you are feeling the pressure of adding value just because you are the managing director or the line manager. It’s like the habit formation for the team, that I can never please this person, every time I’ll go to that person will actually add value or make changes or make additions.

And by the time they leave the room it’s no more their work. It’s your version of the work. Think about the ownership. What happens to that level of ownership? It just goes down with every point that you make. Every new suggestion that you’re adding in that document.

The Highest Compliment You Can Give to a Team Member

So the question that I really want you to reflect on is, say you say, do I really need to add value in all the scenarios? When is it best to add value which will give you that incremental upside? And when is it really good to say, “Well done. I can’t think of anything else. This looks good, go back and focus on implementation and obviously keep me updated.”

Now that is the highest form of complement a team member can get from you when you say “No, I don’t want to add any value. It just looks really good. You’ve done a good job there.”

Think about the sense of ownership. Think about what they would want to do next time. They want to have another scenario next time, similar scenario where you’re not able to add any value or you don’t feel the need to add any value.

But the main point is just because you’re the business owner doesn’t mean that you have to keep on adding value. Sometimes, you know, the best way to add value is not to add any value.

Need more team management strategies?

Managing your team is one of the typical things that our business coaching clients have issues with – so we have become very skilled at helping resolve.

If you’d like to find out if we could add some value to your business, then request an obligation-free review with us:

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3 Key Attributes of Questions Good Leaders Ask

In the last video blog post, I talked about what kind of questions generally results in excuses from your team members.

Today, I am going over how to make the questions that you ask even more effective. If you want your team to progress and get things done, then keep these 3 key attributes in mind…

This is an example of the tweaks to thinking and actions that I advise my clients on regularly. The result? An even better team and an even greater performing business.

If you keep these three features in mind whenever you sit down to talk to or question your team members about something, I can assure you that you will not only find your team performing to an even greater level than they have before, but you will also maintain a closer and more honest working relationship with them.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi, this is Shweta from London Coaching Group.  

In the last blog, I talked about what is that one type of question that you should never be asking as a business owner. That is, the questions starting with “Why”. This is because, as we discussed, as soon as you ask someone, “Why didn’t you do this?” or “Why didn’t you finish your homework?” generally speaking, people come back with excuses.

Today, what I wanted to share with you is, what are the 3 key attributes to keep in mind when you are asking questions, and when you are actually trying to help your team to make that progress.

In fact, I want you to write them down because they are quite fundamental, and they are very powerful. I want you to become very aware of these 3 attributes. Whenever you are in a situation where you want a team member to do something, make sure that your questioning has got these 3 fundamental attributes.

How to Ask Your Team Questions: Forward Moving

Ok, so the first one is, your question should be forward moving. That’s really important.

Whatever you ask should help the team member to think of the present and think of the future, rather than anchoring that question in the past and kind of doing a post-mortem. It doesn’t really help anyone.

So these are questions like, “What do we need to do now so we can finish this in the right time frame?” or “How would you go about completing this task now?”

These are all the questions that are forward moving.

How to Ask Your Team Questions: Enough Detail

The second thing is that as you’re building on this questioning, make sure there’s enough detail.

When people start sharing those details with you, they are clarifying their own thoughts, and you also come on the same page as theirs, making sure they are capable and very clear of doing that task.

How to Ask Your Team Questions: Timeline It 

The final attribute is that for every task that you set or you want your team member to do, there should be a timeline. Because remember one thing, if there is no timeline, then there is no clear accountability.

It becomes difficult for you to go back and do your follow up. Or for the team to know what you are expecting. Because as a good business owner, as a good manager, your main task is to make sure that the team is clear, and they are super clear and they are being held accountable as to what needs to be done. Because that’s absolutely essential for a top performing team and a top performing business.

Want more shifts for greater growth?

The kinds of shifts we help advise business owners to make are designed to help them accelerate their already excellent work to even greater heights.

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How To Stop Getting Excuses From Your Team

At the latest Strategic Growth Intensive one of my clients asked me a question about managing the activities of his team members. He said, “Whenever I ask my underperforming team members a question, they come back with excuses or ‘reasons’. What do I do?”

I asked him, “What do you ask them when they come up with these excuses?”

In answering my question, he learned why he was getting excuses from his team…

When you ask “why”, generally you are asking for your team members to give you an excuse or reason.

When you ask the right sort of questions, ones that are set in the future or the present, you push your team members to think in the future or present rather than get stuck in explaining the past.

That way you can encourage your team to keep progressing and get results rather than keeping your business back by constantly going over reasons.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Show Transcript »

Hi this is Shweta from London Coaching Group. What I want to talk about today is one question that you should not be asking if you’re the business owner and the manager of your team.

In my full day event, which is called the Business Growth Intensive, one of my clients, Julian, asked me a question. He said, “Shweta whenever I ask my team a question, they generally come back with excuses or reasons. What do I do?”

So I said, “Julian, what do you generally ask them, to which they respond with excuses?”

“Shweta I ask, why have you not done this? Or why have you not submitted this in time?”

“Julian stop.” Literally, that’s what I said. “Julian stop.” The question that Julian was asking was wrong. He was asking a question starting with ‘why’.

Now I want you to think about it – when you ask a child, “Why have you not done your homework?” or even you ask your team, “Why have you not done what I asked you to do?” generally speaking the response will be full of excuses or reasons.

Now you want to anchor your questions more in the future or present rather than past. This is a very important distinction that I want you to make. Because as the owner, as the manager of the team, it is important that you get your team moving forward.

And therefore the questions like,

“So what needs to happen for us to get this job done?”

“How would you go about completing this task now?”

These are all forward moving rather than doing a post mortem and asking why didn’t you do this?

So knowing what questions to ask can make a huge difference with yourself, with your team, and obviously in your business.

I hope that helps because just increasing awareness is a starting point.

Looking for more help with your team?

When you lead a winning team, it can sometimes help to have an outside perspective on how to ensure you are guiding them to even greater heights than they already climbing with you.

Book a free strategic review of your business and see if our strategies could help you achieve double digit growth.

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