Who do you talk to?Written by Graham Yemm
Many of you reading this will be running businesses, or parts of, whether they are your own or not. This means that you have many things to deal with on a day to day basis plus trying to do long-term thinking needed to lead and run business. You probably find yourself being very busy, possibly working long hours and, if you are honest, being reactive most of time. When do you get (or make!) time to really think about your business or way you are operating personally? (Working on business rather than in it!) Among dilemmas you face are; making time to tune out and relax, time think about business, and finding time talk to about issues and frustrations.
When you are a leader in a business you face a number of challenges at different levels. Ask yourself how much focus you put on to these:
- Assessing market and what is happening?
- Who are your main competition – and what are they doing?
- Medium and long-range goals and aims – and planning?
- What direction do you want to go in, why and how?
- Day to day challenges
- Financial aspects, especially cash flow
- Monitoring and control of your business and activity
- Sales and service
- Personal management style and effectiveness
- Staff – numbers, performance, motivation, development
- Customers and suppliers
- Colleagues and working relations
As we said earlier, many in your position are so busy dealing with running of operation they rarely take time to think about these things in a more detached way. Does this apply to you? This is often compounded by a sense of isolation, brought about by their position too. (Is this familiar?) Who do you talk to about your own style of running business or handling your people? Who can you share concerns with, without feeling you are weakening your position?
This inability to spend time, or right amount of time, on these vital areas of your business carries risks! Also, what do you do about your own, personal challenges and concerns? Any sense of isolation and not being able to talk to appropriate people also has risks. Not many set out to fail in their business lives. Why do they? Often, because avoid dealing with these risks (possibly even denying them until it is too late.). Sometimes, there may be a combination of circumstances which mean that it cannot be stopped. However, often, disasters can be prevented with right degree of warning or right type of support. Many people running businesses, or organisations, are too close to them. They do not have time to work out what they are doing well and to arrange to do more of these things. When things may not be going right way, they do not consider things objectively. The pressures might build to stress and it seems even harder to share concerns with a third party. This can lead to a downward spiral towards who knows where!
The risks to business can affect any aspect of it – and people involved. Beyond that, there are also risks to other areas of your life. If things are going awry, other part to suffer may be your family or friends. If you are using them as your sounding board, or just carrying bad news or discussing concerns with them it may not help those relationships! (Nor does hiding these things from them either!)
So what can you do if you feel you do want someone to talk to? You can use friends or family, but they do not necessarily provide encouragement for you to step away and look at things in an objective way. There are various options which you can consider. There is no one “right” approach. You need to consider which seems to be most suitable for you at time, given circumstances.
Advisors: This might be your accountant, someone from your bank or a person you know with a specific “technical” competence who you can turn to. Think about them as someone you can present your situation to and ask for their ideas, or suggestions, about what you could, or should, do. They can be very useful when you need particular expertise.
Network: Depending on how you operate, you will probably have some sort of network of contacts, whether part of a formal set-up or not. Think about who you know, who has what qualities or skills you can respect or admire and then approach them. (If you are in an organisation, consider colleagues or bosses.) If you have a few friends or acquaintances who are also running businesses, or are people you respect in their field, you may want to consider initiating a support network for you all. (Or create a “mastermind” group.) Arrange to meet at a regular time with aim of having a short, focused meeting to address specific issues and goals – using your colleagues as a sounding board, and for challenge and support. Do not slide out to a purely social gathering, that can come later!! Be disciplined in way you work and you will all benefit.
Getting the most from appraisals - from both sidesWritten by Graham Yemm
Does your organisation have one of those annual ‘occasions’ that few look forward to: annual appraisal or performance review? How do you look forward to it? I wonder how people talk about it before and after?
Are appraisals worth doing? If done properly – yes. If done poorly – no!!!
Why have appraisals? When carried out properly they can achieve a number of benefits for all parties. The organisation, manager and appraisee can:
Some of typical problems that happen to lead to poor appraisals are: - It is an annual process - Nothing has happened with outcome of last one - There is no on-going feedback or review of progress - Things can change in between, whether it is manager or job! - The process is not taken seriously from top - The organisational culture views whole process as a chore to be endured - Insufficient preparation time or effort - The ‘recency’ effect where only previous 6-8 weeks are reviewed - Too much focus on negatives or problems of year - It is too subjective and too much is based on opinion - It is too time consuming and interferes with day-to-day work - Appraisals are just part of salary negotiation
- establish current levels of performance, and organisation benchmark across departments or functions,
- identify ways of improving performance, individually and collectively,
- set clear goals for future,
- assess potential and desire for development,
- establish appropriate means of motivation,
- improve communication throughout.
When you look at what can be achieved and compare benefits with reasons why they often fail to deliver, you can see that a lot of this is due to attitude of organisation and line managers, starting from top!
Think about what can happen when appraisals are handled in a constructive manner. They allow organisation and individuals to:
This does not mean that managers should “duck” difficult issues or things they are not happy with. However, there should be no surprises at an appraisal. Feedback on performance should be given at time – not stored up for appraisal!!! As a manager, if you have concerns, deal with them. Most people want to be given feedback on their performance regularly (and that does not mean annually!!) – even if it is to be told they have to improve.
- learn from past to improve future
- build on successes and strengths for future
- recognise individuals’ strengths and abilities
- identify areas to develop skills and knowledge
- value individual contribution
- improve working relationships through clear communication
One challenge in many organisations is to use current system effectively. Too many people get caught up in worrying about paperwork – whether designing a new set or using existing. I recall working with one client in developing a good, thorough, process only to be questioned by some directors from their Scandinavian partner about why we were going to so much trouble. They held up a blank sheet of paper and explained that was their idea of all they needed for a productive appraisal!!! They are right. The reality is that a productive appraisal owes more to quality of communication between people involved than to paperwork! Should appraisals involve salary reviews? This is a quandary with no straightforward answer. When they do, there is a risk that amount of rise becomes absolute focus of discussion and can even be a negotiation. If they don’t, how objective is salary award when it is given? My own view is that salary review and appraisal can be linked, yet held very separately. There is no reason for not holding appraisal, setting some goals and even specifying some behavioural change and then using this as a part of salary discussion. Although there is a risk in having appraisal and salary combined – it can work, regardless of gap. After all, shouldn’t salary and raises reflect performance rather than just opinion? If appraisals are carried out well and constructively there should be a fit between two.