Last week was a big first for me regarding diversity and inclusion.
After working for over 20 years in senior leadership positions, I attended a meeting where there were more women than men in leadership positions than men.
The meeting was a program review board and of the 20 people in attendance 13 were women, that’s 65% of the project/program leads were women.
It’s also worth noting that this isn’t some small program, one that is of little consequence. I would say that this is probably the most significant program I have ever worked on, both regarding its importance and potential impact.
So what’s the issue?
Which got me thinking about diversity and inclusion, and made me ask myself, are we just playing at this?
Over the past 20 years, all the companies that I have worked at have had special programs looking at increasing the number of women in leadership positions. Yet not one of the previous companies got anywhere near close to a 50-50 split, let alone 65%.
At my last big company, there were only 20% of women in leadership positions. Even worse, the higher up the ranks, the lower the percentage became, and that was in spite of the discrimination program.
One of the challenges with that program though was that although we were told to be looking to increase women in leadership positions, we were always directed to promote the best candidate. And it was only in cases where the candidates were equal that we should take the female candidate ahead of a male candidate.
Surprise, surprise this program had limited impact on our diversity ratios. It always gave the promoting manager an out. They could claim that they would have loved to promote a woman, but unfortunately, there were no female candidates that were good enough.
This option allowed our unconscious biases to dictate who we would promote, in spite of their being many capable women available.
It can also be that we don’t give women chances to shine at an early stage of their career. Which then helps to provide them with visibility and make them candidates for promotion.
Leadership defines culture
Leadership defines culture, and too often I have seen leaders talk about diversity but then through their actions either limit or hinder the promotion of women.
I worked for one boss who treated every woman as though part of her role was secretarial. In group settings, he would always ask one of the women to take notes or to take care of the coffees. These actions sent a clear signal to everyone as to how he saw women and what he thought their roles should be.
At staff review meeting he would often say how difficult it was to increase diversity and to find good female candidates. Yet he was a big part of the problem.
So let me ask you.
Are you part of the solution or are you part of the problem?
Last weeks meeting showed me what is possible. Every one of the women in a senior position was highly capable and was there on merit.
There is no reason not to find suitable female candidates to promote other than you’re not looking, or are resisting the move to a more diverse and inclusive leadership.
It’s time for us to stop playing at diversity. To stop paying lip service to inclusiveness and to finally make the changes needed.
Is your market becoming increasingly competitive? Are you struggling to turn a profit and remain viable in your niche? Are you wondering how you can continue to turn a profit and hopefully grow when you are facing these serious issues?
These are some of the more pressing questions that many of today’s smaller and larger businesses face. To some, they may seem insurmountable.
However, when you approach this problem in a practical and thoughtful way, you may achieve the incredible results that you desire.
Understanding Lean Thinking
You may have heard about Lean Thinking or Lean Six Sigma through your business classes in college, by reading professional articles online or through various other areas.
This is a powerful business improvement philosophy that was originally used in Motorola in the 1980s, and it gained increasing popularity when General Electric adopted its strategies for improvement in the 1990s.
Because of its history, you may assume that Lean Thinking is only useful in large organizations. However, it is now used in smaller and larger companies around the world and across all industries with amazing results, and it has a place in your business as well.
What Is Lean Transformation All About?
After World War II, Toyota was forced to remain viable in a time when resources were severely limited. After all, Japan was devastated by the war. Need is the seed for innovation, and Toyota produced its own unique production system that is now recognized as being the precursor to Lean Thinking.
The Toyota Production System was created with the overall goals to eliminate waste and redundancy while at the same time finding ways to maximize production. This was all intended to be completed without sacrificing quality or increasing cost.
You may be aware that the Toyota Motor Company is among the most profitable international companies operating today, and this is largely due to its now-famous Toyota Production System.
If Toyota can overcome its many significant challenges and rose to become a true leader in its industry, do you think a Lean Transformation may be helpful to your business as well?
The reality is that businesses of all sizes and across all industries may currently operate with a considerable amount of waste.
Processes may be pointless or redundant
Space may not be used efficiently
Resources may be squandered
In addition to negatively impacting your bottom line, these challenges may be affecting your brand image, customer satisfaction and more.
Are you ready to improve your business through Lean Thinking?
Apply these steps to experience a profound transformation.
#1 Challenge the Status Quo
In many businesses, employees have wonderful ideas for improvement, but they feel unheard and unimportant. Your employees are the lifeblood of your company, and each of them has probably spent ample time thinking about how their activities and responsibilities could be improved.
In fact, employee encouragement is the main pillar of Lean Thinking.
Therefore, one of the first steps to take for a Lean transformation is to encourage your team to speak up. Talk to them regularly about the need for constant improvement, and create a suggestion box so that they can offer their ideas freely.
More than that, act on those ideas when appropriate. When your employees see that their workplace is constantly improving, they may feel happier and may be more engaged.
You should also actively look for ways to support your team in their efforts. Try new technologies to simplify processes, improve quality, save money and accomplish other critical goals.
#2 Ask the Right Questions
Many business owners ask how they can make more money, but they really should be asking how they can improve or do a specific task better. The concept of kaizen is the backbone of Lean Thinking, and it relates to a continuous focus on improvement.
While change is important, it should be done carefully and after adequate research and planning have been completed.
A Lean transformation is intentional rather than hasty.
Create a culture in your office of trying new things to see if processes can be improved, and embrace errors because you can learn from them. Involve everyone in the discussion so that you can get ample feedback about value-added processes, areas to improve on and more.
When your team is fully engaged, implementation of new processes may be completed faster and easier.
#3 Develop an Eye for Waste
In many companies, tasks and processes have remained the same for years or even decades because that is simply how things are done.
Lean Thinking requires you to scrutinize all processes regardless of how seemingly minor or substantial they may be to your operation and ask what you can do to eliminate waste.
Depending on your industry and processes, waste can take on many different forms.
For example, waste may include:
resources that could otherwise be used in other products, sold for a profit or used in other ways.
downtime because of inefficiencies in processes.
the use of parts or materials in the manufacturing process that are not needed.
Because waste can take on many forms in your company, it is important to develop an eye for waste and to identify any aspects of your operation that add no true value.
Even a seemingly small matter can have a major impact on operations.
FedEx realized that its drivers each spent a small amount of time searching for keys each day. They instituted a new rule that required drivers to wear their keys around their necks. While this may save one driver only a minute or two at best each day, the net effect across the company has been tremendous.
Even in a small company, small improvements add up over time. If you make a small improvement today that reduces waste by 1 percent, and you make another improvement in a few weeks that reduces waste by an additional 1 percent, you will notice a marked improvement over time.
Remember that kaizen means continuous improvement, so these small improvements add to future improvements for a profound cumulative effect.
#4 Standardize Your Production
Different types of waste are associated specifically with manufacturing environments. For example, idle time while your team waits for goods to be shipped in or out can result in huge financial loss over the course of a year.
Wasted materials, ineffective processes and other aspects of operations may also be detrimental.
One Lean strategy involves using just-in-time production. Avoid making large batches, and focus on creating a steady workflow. Keep production in line with demand as much as possible.
Lean digital technology is making this easier to do in various ways.
For example, it is now easier to track and control orders with software, production volume, shipping schedules, the arrival of raw supplies and more through digital technology like bar code scanners.
#5 Clean, Rinse and Repeat
Small businesses have more simplified processes and less complex operations compared to large corporations in many cases. Because of this, it may be easier to identify areas that require improvement and to implement your ideas.
This does not mean that a Lean transformation is always easy to do. After all, one identified problem may have several contributing factors that may each require improvement in their own right.
Through Lean Thinking, you do not need to solve all problems at once. Your goal is slowly yet steadily improve operations.
Start with one identified problem that is business-critical, and move on from there. It is critical to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) for various processes, so you can continuously improve those processes over time.
Now that you understand how Lean Thinking can be applied to any size of business in any industry, you may be ready to implement these steps in your own organization.
By focusing on regular improvement rather than accepting things as they are, your business can potentially flourish in the months and years ahead.
About the author:
Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in business and tech. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.
Our journey’s are not always clear cut or obvious. I know you might think that’s a strange thing for me to say as I am a very big advocate of setting bold goals, laying the path and setting your own destiny.
But, whilst that is true, sometimes opportunities just present themselves to us, especially when we set ourselves with an upward trajectory. I know this from my own experience, having on many occasions, found opportunities present themselves that I wasn’t expecting.
For example I went for a job to be Project Manager to run a $10m, during the interview, my future manager said “Gordon I want to change the interview, I don’t think this is the right job for you” . As you can imagine my heart sunk, I was so keen on the job.
Then he said to me “We have a Program that’s in trouble, this is a very big program multiple projects, multiple countries, $100m budget, and I think you’d be the ideal candidate for that, would you be interested”.
I was stunned, because not only was it no something I was expecting, but it was also something I would never have applied for, seeing it as beyond my capabilities at the time.
Of course, I said “yes, I’d be very interested”.
But I didn’t think I was ready, it wasn’t something that I saw as a next step got me, but sometimes we have to embrace these opportunities, as you never know when they might come along.
We are all capable of more than we think, and we should look to embrace these opportunities, especially when someone else sees something in us, as we can sometimes be our own biggest critics or inhibitors.
The biggest example for me would definitely be my writing. It was something I had never done before. Never thought I would be any good at, and I finally decided to do it because I just wanted to write down my thoughts and I found it cathartic.
I never expected to write as much as I did, neither did I expect to write for some of the biggest platforms in the world. In fact if you told me I’d write for Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, etc., I would have told you you were crazy.
But when the opportunities came I embraced them. Did I think I was good enough? No! Did I think I was ready? No! But I decided to do it.
We never know what is outside out comfort zones, or what life could have in store for us, because we never know what we are truly capable of.
As leaders, it’s our role to help people to see that potential in others. To encourage them, to support them, to cheer them.
As leaders, it can often be our role to be role models in embracing the unexpected, to seize the opportunity, to not only take the challenge but to rise to the challenge.
Many of the things I have achieved in life have surprised a lot of people, but more importantly, they have also surprised me.
I don’t think I am unique or special. I think that a lot of these achievements comes from my willingness to embrace the unexpected, to take things and run with them and I would encourage everyone else to do so.It’s ok to be afraid, big goals/opportunities should be a little scary, because if there not then
Communication is one of the pillars that holds any business together. Without it, your business will likely collapse as a result of miscommunication and confusion. For this reason, looking for ways to communicate better in an organization should always be on the agenda. It goes beyond having team meetings or sending emails. If you want to get better at communicating, you’re going to have to implement a mix of different solutions which consist of technology and building communication skills. On that note, keep reading to find out how you can improve the communication of your company.
Build Communication Skills
If you truly want to improve the communication of your company, one of the first things that you can do is invest in developing your employees’ communication skills. It is especially true for people in leadership positions as they’ll be the ones delegating tasks on a daily basis. Some basics of communicating that you should be emphasizing on are ensuring they can communicate through written word and verbally as well as that they’re able to deliver messages clearly and concisely.
Get a Cloud-Based Phone System
Another approach you can take when trying to improve communication in your company is to get a cloud-based phone system. This is important as it’s a way to gain control of your voice and data networks. One core benefit of having a cloud-based phone system is that you have control over modes of communication. Also, they have fully integrated communication systems which is helpful as it can help increase efficiency in your company. If you look at smartchoiceus.com, you’ll also see that they can be accessible and convenient as well.
Make the Mission Clear
At times, messages are lost in transition in a company simply because the mission and vision aren’t clear. You should reiterate both as often as possible so that they can focus their work on the business goals and objectives. It may also be a good idea if you have the mission statement printed and placed somewhere that they can see and read it every day.
Use Instant Messaging for Business
When communicating in a business, it’s easy for messages to get muddled up and for you to lose track of message threads when it’s a group conversation. To improve this, try using instant messaging apps or software for businesses as a way of keeping your communication more organized. Some ideal instant messaging apps to try are Adium, Google + Hangouts or Spark.
Most businesses have a hierarchy, but too much of one can be bad for communication. You need to ensure that everyone can communicate freely, or you may find that messages aren’t getting across effectively or people aren’t communicating at all. It may help if you encourage team building exercises and take the cultural norms of different employees into account too. By eliminating or at least reducing the level of hierarchy in your business, you ensure that people are free to share vital information.
Improving the communication of your company is something that you can do. It may require you evaluate the way you presently communicate and make some adjustments, however. By doing so, you’re likely to find you have stronger internal communications and better results.
Like many people, I wanted to do a Tedx talk. It’s a great brand to be associated with, it helps to boost your visibility and credibility which are all great to help you boost your business.
The challenge is that the competition is very fierce. For each TedX event there are usually 12 speakers required and on average there are ofter over 300 applicants. In order to improve my chances of landing one of those coveted spots I spoke to a couple of TedX organisers to understand how the process worked. To my surprise, they said that around 90% of the applicants rule themselves out by making one of these five mistakes.
Whilst there are 12 speaker spots if your application arrives once they have all been filled, then no matter how good your pitch, no matter how good your speaking experience your chances of being selected are nil. In fact, one organizer told me they don’t even look at applications once they have their 12 speakers.
The pitch they received was clearly one of a batch that appeared like it had been sent to several events at the same time. The inference being that the applicant wanted to speak at any TedX event, rather than this specific event.
Talk Not Relevant To TedX Theme
Each talk usually has a theme, and you would be amazed how many people ignore that, and try to explain why there talk would be great even though it didn’t fit the theme.
Talk Doesn’t Resonate With The Organizer
When I was in high school we learned pretty quickly that if you wanted to get a good score in a history essay test, the more you agreed or reflected how the teacher thought the better the score you received. This wasn’t about getting the facts right it was the interpretation of the facts. The more you agreed with him the better the score, the more you disagreed the poorer the score.
We all have our preferences, and if your talk, even though it fits with the theme doesn’t resonate with the organizers view your chance of being selected has just reduced.
I appreciate that your talk might be the best talk ever, but TedX organizers are not looking to regurgitate your previously given talk. Yes, the audience might not have heard your talk before, but how does it reflect on their brand if when you search youtube you find several vidoes of you doing that talk elsewhere.
If you’re looking to land your first TedX talk, then check out my webinar that we will be running to teach you the techniques that I used to land my Tedx Talk in just 42 hours. Click here to find out more now.
multiethnic Group of young business people throwing documents and looking happy while celebrating success at their working places in night office
Let me start by saying that I am a believer in the power of motivation, but that I definitely believe that motivation alone is not enough.
Also motivation shouldn’t be the starting point when your are looking to create engaged, empowered and excited teams.
Motivation is great when we want teams to keep going, to keep pushing, but many initiatives fail because teams don’t really get involved, or lack belief which makes any effort half-hearted and end in failure.
There are two additional ingredients that are needed for success to be achieved and these need to be addressed before we start with motivation.
These special ingredients are Aspiration and Inspiration.
Why Aspiration important.
The definition of Aspiration is a hope or ambition of achieving something.
When we start with aspiration we look to get the goals that we have set or the targets we are looking to achieve aligned with the aspirations of the people we need to help us achieve them.
When our goals and targets are aligned with a teams aspirations this automatically increases the level of engagement.
Its much easier to get people to take action if it’s something they want to do.
The best ways to achieve this are to let people know whats in it for them, why it might be important for them, as well as for the company.
If there is nothing it for them, or it’s not important for them, then why should they lift a finger to help achieve it.
You can always find a way to make it important for people, because some of our basic needs, according to Maslow, is a need to feel a sense of achievement, recognition or boosting our self-worth.
Which means for any goal, if we can show link it to these needs, it will increase engagement.
My favourite story on this, which I have told many times, is when I worked for DHL and we had a project to increase parcel on-time delivery.
The project manager explained to us that this project was important because there is no Santa Claus, and it’s our job to make sure that kids all over the world get their christmas presents and birthday presents on the right day.
By showing this as the purpose of the project it made everyone feel that this project was important and that we would be doing good. Not only did that increase the engagement but people were happy to work evenings and weekends to ensure it was a success.
This is what can happen we we align the aspirations of the goals with those of the people involved in delivering it.
Why Inspiration is important
We become inspired when we believe that we will be successful when we can see the path to success and it’s this that excites us and gets us keen to begin.
People are not afraid of hard work, they are afraid of failure. When they cannot see a path to success then why should they get involved, why should the be excited about starting something.
I know form my own experiences that if I can’t see how success will be achieved then my level of effort and commitment is significantly lower than when I can see how success will be achieved.
Here’s a testimonial I got from a recent speaking event
By explaining things in an easy to understand way Amanda became inspired she felt convinced that she could be successful.
This should be your goals with your teams, giving them that confidence because not only will it get them excited and willing to start. But it can also become a self-fulfilling prophesy. If we think we will fail we often fail, but if we think we will succeed this can be equally as powerful.
But What About Motivation
One the teams are engaged, and excited about starting this is where we add the motivation. We do that by applauding their early efforts, and we show them the progress that they are making. This is what will encourage them to keep going, to continue their efforts and make even more progress.
But without Aspiration and Inspiration, Motivation is not enough.
Aspiration is what makes people want to be involved, gets them passionate and committed, and it’s Inspiration that gets them excited and builds their self confidence increasing their eagerness to get started.
If you have a great goal or target you need to achieve then improve your chances of success by starting to build Aspiration and Inspiration within your teams.
There are many reasons why pursuing a master’s degree is a worthy investment to consider. You can be a better business owner or perform better in your career with the skills and experience acquired while pursuing the master’s degree. The process of getting the degree itself is enriching, especially if you pursue a degree in a field you are passionate about.
There are a lot of master’s degrees to pursue these days, but a Master of Business Administration, or MBA, remains the most popular of them all. The degree is getting more and more valuable too, plus you can now pursue your own master’s degree in business administration with the help of online programs from top universities.
The big question, however, remains the same. Is an MBA the right degree for you? To help you answer that question, we are going to take a look at some of the benefits you can get from getting an online MBA degree.
More Affordable Than Ever
Let’s take a look at one of the most interesting online MBA benefits, which is the lower overall cost of earning the degree. Online programs are more affordable than the equivalent offline course mainly because universities can run their online courses without the high overhead costs.
If you are looking for a way to earn an MBA while keeping the cost of getting the degree low, online courses are the way to go. Compared to conventional MBA courses, online MBA programs are up to 60% more affordable.
A Career Boost
There is also the fact that an MBA degree can really help you climb the corporate ladder. According to this survey by Jack Welch MBA, 21% of respondents who pursued an MBA for career purposes received a promotion soon after graduating.
The same survey also reveals that 22% of the respondents earned both a promotion and a pay raise, while a further 33% got a pay raise even without the promotion. These are interesting numbers indeed, because they show how effective earning an MBA can be in boosting your career.
The Right Skills for the Market
Let’s not forget that an MBA is the degree for those in business, management, and other fields. It is a degree that works for professionals and business owners alike. The reason behind this is the many skills – market-relevant skills to be exact – that you can pick up while studying for the MBA degree.
If we look at the same survey mentioned earlier, there are some interesting numbers about the skills picked up by respondents too. 45% of the respondents noticed an improvement in their decision-making and management skills. 35% also noticed growth in their ability to present ideas.
As mentioned before, these are market-relevant skills, skills that are in high demand on the market right now. By mastering these skills, you are also securing a better, brighter professional future for yourself. The MBA degree will be more valuable when you can pick up these skills along the way.
The fact that respondents noticed an increase in their presentation skills after completing their MBA programs is interesting on its own. In today’s competitive market, having the right skills and expertise alone isn’t enough. You also need to know how to communicate ideas the right way.
MBA programs are designed to train professionals and executives for future strategic roles. You will learn how to develop ideas from the start and how to communicate those ideas to others. That increase in communication skills is handy in and out of work.
Enhanced Time Management
There is also the fact that MBAs tend to manage their time better. This is a benefit of both pursuing the degree and opting for an online MBA to do that. When you enroll in a top ranked online MBA program, you are given a lot of flexibility regarding how you want to complete the course.
That flexibility means you need to take the program at your own pace, allocate time towards completing course assignments and keep up with the learning materials, and stay on top of the course, even when you have a fulltime job to maintain.
These are challenges that need to be approached with care. Online MBA programs are flexible indeed, but you are required to use that flexibility wisely.
Priceless Management Skills
Lastly, you can choose specific fields to major in when pursuing an MBA degree. These specific fields allow you to sharpen your management skills like never before. Depending on your major (or majors), you can be an expert in manufacturing, marketing, finance, HR and people development, and many more.
So, is an MBA the right degree for you? If you are in business or management, or you run your own business and you want to be better at it, or if you simply want to move forward in your career, an MBA is a valuable degree to have. It is an investment with many great benefits.
Fear is an interesting thing. So much of it is irrational. Fear of the unknown, fear of things that have practically zero possibility of happening, and for some, the fear of the bizarre e.g. Clowns.
But when fear strikes it can paralyze us, make us panic and put us in a position where seemingly easy things become practically impossible.
One of the tops fears for many people, is the fear of public speaker.
This something I never understood. Yes, I get it can feel daunting to get up and speak, especially in front of people you have never met before. But this was something I never really suffered from, and when I was younger I used to perform stand up comedy.
Which let me tell you isn’t easy. Not only is it a form of public speaking but it’s one where you are hoping to make an audience laugh, and them just sitting silently through your performance is not a good things – and yes I have experienced that.
And still, I never understood the fear of speaking that I see in many people that I know, where wild horses couldn’t drag them onto the stage in front of even a small audience let alone a few hundred.
Feeling the real fear of talking for the first time.
Yet all that changed when I decided to do my first TedX Talk, which I decided to make a little more interesting by doing it in French, in front of an audience of 500 French people in France.
Now, this did push me outside my comfort zone, but I thought it would be relatively easy because my partner of the last 18 years in Belgian and we speak French at home on a daily basis. If pushed I would say that I am bi-lingual.
Yet as I started to prepare for the talk, the closer the date got the less confident I started to feel.
Initially, I wrote my talk in English as it was going to be a new talk, then I was going to translate it into French, once I was happy with it.
As that translation process started, I began to realize that my spoken French was quite lazy,
I was actually making a lot of mistakes. I didn’t pay attention to whether nouns were masculine or feminine, which in French is very important. I also noticed that some of the words I was using were wrong, but my wife never corrected it because she thought it was cute.
The caused the first fear to came up, which was that I wouldn’t be able to rely on one of my key strengths, as a speaker, which is to speak in a way that everyone can easily understand the message that I was trying to get across.
My solution to this was that I would get my wife to review the French and to make sure it was perfect. That every tense was correct, that the structure was correct, and that I had the right gender for every noun.
This turned out to be a double-edged sword because I now had a talk that was perfect, but it wasn’t the way I spoke French. This meant that I would need to memorize the entire talk in order to be word perfect and understood.
Now while that seems to be a simple solution, that’s not actually how I do my speaking. I tend to speak from the heart, rather than learning the talks by heart. This makes the talks feel more natural and allows me the freedom to make subtle changes depending on how the audience reacts, or if there are some new ideas that I want to insert I can do that.
At this point, which was actually just three days before I had to give the talk I began to feel like I was completely outside my comfort zone. Not only was I going to be doing a talk in French, but I was going to be doing it on camera in front of 500 people, I was going to have to learn it by heart, and I wouldn’t be able to do any ad-libs because I couldn’t guarantee they would be perfect French and therefore understood.
Each time I went through the lines, I was still making changes. Sometimes to try and clarify the messages, or to make the French easier for me to remember.
When I arrived in Belfort, the day before the event, I was very nervous, more so than any other talk I had ever done in my life. I was invited to a meeting with the other speakers, which I thought would just be a meet and greet, but that actually turned out to be a mini-rehearsal. Within 20 minutes of arriving, I was called up and asked to do the talk in front of 10 people.
This was the first time anyone other than my wife would hear the talk.
I felt unprepared mentally, this was not what I was expecting, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, which actually caused me to panic.
Shit just got real
It was here that I learned something that I didn’t really appreciate about how the mind works. When we panic, we do so in our mother tongue. So as I took to the stage to give the talk, my brain was panicking in English and I was trying to do the talk in French.
The start went fine, but about 3 minutes in I lost my place and my panic level rose to DEFCON 2 (highest level is DEFCON 1 – Nuclear war is imminent).
It was all out panic.
I couldn’t remember the French phrase I needed to say, I knew it in English, but my ability to translate was shut down as now all brain functions were in English-only mode.
I froze like a deer in the headlights. Now I have no idea for how long that freeze lasted but to me it felt like a lifetime before I was able to continue.
When I finished, the organizer, Christian said it was a nice talk, he tried to make me feel more relaxed and confident. But he also mentioned that the talk was a little on the long side at 17 minutes.
I said, “but I thought all TedX talks were a maximum of 18 minutes so at 17 this is within the time limit. He replied simply by saying “that’s is true but we like our speakers to try and keep their talks to 12 minutes, as we find this is a much better length for keeping the audience engaged”.
24 hours before I was due to give the talk, I couldn’t remember it perfectly, I could ad-lib or work my way through it because my brain was in English only mode, and now I had to cut 6 minutes from the talk to meet the deadline.
Now we’re at DEFCON 1.
Now I understood the fear that others felt when faced with public speaking and it’s not a feeling that is conducive to productivity, creativity or great performance.
To say I didn’t sleep very well that night would be a slight understatement.
The following day I got up at 5am, even though I had been awake since 3. I decided I would work on looking to reduce the speech because no point in learning something I was going to change.
The challenge was my talk was about my little secrets to your big success which are Aim High, Start Small, Celebrate, and Keep Going.
Now I can’t cut any of these because it would completely change the talk and reduce its impact and value. So that meant I have to cut over a minute from each section.
After cutting as much as I could, without reducing the idea, the talk was still about 15 minutes. I took out any long words and replaced them with shorter words if they existed. I am a big believer in the power of 3 so I often use three adjectives or give three small examples and I now had to look to cut these down to one.
I felt there was nothing more to cut out, and the only thing left for me was to try and speak faster, which didn’t make me that that much better.
Many people think that long speeches are difficult, but it’s the short talks that are actually the toughest because you have to try and get your message across succinctly, clearly and in a way that allows people to fully understand. With longer talks you can add examples to help illustrate your point, or give a case study to enhance their understanding.
But with the short talks, every word is valuable, and you need to find a way to say a lot in as few words as possible.
Cutting the talk down to 15 minutes, but without diluting its impact took me several hours to, which wasn’t helped by the fact I had to so it in French. This only left me with one hour to learn the talk before I had to do the final rehearsal.
I’d love to tell yo that this final rehearsal went well, but that would be a lie. With the panic, the changes – which I hadn’t fully mastered – and trying to do the talk quicker, I very quickly started to stumble, struggle with pronunciation, miss parts and to be honest completely butcher the talk.
After just 5 minutes I was asked to stop and I feared the worst.
But Christian just said “ok, we have enough, the sound is good, let’s move on to the next speaker”.
For a moment I thought he was giving me the hook,. But as he didn’t know the talk, he didn’t know I had missed bits plus he was checking technical issues rather than content. I guess he just assumed that we all knew our talks.
It was now midday. A group lunch had been arranged for all the speakers, and that would be followed by a tour of the local castle.
But given it was only 5 hours until the curtain went up I decided that I couldn’t participate. I needed to seriously work on the talk, but in terms of memorizing it, and also speeding up the delivery.
I felt so far out of my comfort zone, I began to question question whether this was actually a good idea and maybe, pulling out might be the safer option. There were 12 speakers planned so a cut to 11 wouldn’t be that big a loss. I even argued that it might be a good thing as it would allow people to go home a little earlier.
As I sat there thinking about what to do, it dawned on me that the theme of the TedX was Turning the Impossible to Possible. And that even in my own talk I mentioned the fears that we need to overcome to achieve our big goals, and that the power of power of persistence is a talent multiplier, and that repetition can help us improve our performance and results.
Yet here I was thinking about quitting, when my talk was all about the opposite.
Fortunately, I was speaker number 11 out of the 12, which meant that I didn’t just have 4-5 hours to rehearse but that I could also skip out on the talks of the others – something I was loathed to do – which would give me at least another 2 hours to practice and embed the talk.
The best I could do for my talk was to get it to 14 minutes. I decided that was close enough, it was well under the 18 minutes, and now it was time to just memorize, memorize, memorize.
I was in my hotel room and I just kept going through the talk over and ove, first reading the notes, then having them available but trying to do it from memory and then without.
After 3-4 hour of solid repetition, I had the talk down pat, it was a bit flat. I was just regurgitating it for now. Committing it to memory. My first concern was to be able to deliver it. Working on the delivery itself felt like a luxury I wasn’t going to have today.
I got dressed and went over to the event with my wife. I felt calm, but on meeting the other speakers, especially the first speaker who had been excellent in rehearsal and seeing his nerves, just knocked me back a bit,
I sat through his talk, which after a nervous start he delivered very well, and I went outside, I decided that I couldn’t waste any available moment of practice.
Now that I was able to go through it faultlessly, remembering each and every part without skipping anything or getting stuck I started to think about how I would deliver it, put some feeling and emotion into it to start to bring the talk to life.
At the interval my wife came to look for me. I was outside, pacing up and down going over the talk. speaking it out loud, adding gestures to emphasize this point or that point.
When I saw her I started the talk from the beginning, I wanted her to see the whole thing how I’d improved and get her feedback.
As she listened, she smiled, and nodded as i made the key points, and at the end she gave me a round of applause. I’m not sure whether or not the performance deserved it, but it was just what I needed.
She gave me a kiss and asked me to go through one more time, and not to change anything.
This helped my confidence, but I still needed to do it in front of a live audience of French people, and that thought had my knees knocking loud enough to hear.
As the speaker before me took to the stage I was called up to get ready, have the microphone attached and go through some final pointers.
I told them my talk would be 14 minutes and not 12, and they were ok with that so that was one less thing to worry about.
As I waited I could feel the fear again starting to rise. I knew it was irrational as I had really learned the talk and knew it back to front inside out and now it was just going to be my fear, and that alone that would impact,
It was then when I remember what my brother Phil had told me when I did my first ever professional talk. He made me pinch my thumb and for finger, he said this would help anchor the feeling, and he wanted me to remember the best game of rugby I had ever played, and image in a big hit, and how that made me feel. He asked me to really remember every detail about how I felt.
I told him I felt invincible.
As I waited for Christian to call me I pinched again my thumb and forefinger and that feeling of invincibility came flooding back just as I entered the stage.
That feeling, coupled with the knowledge that I knew the talk got me through the first couple of minutes after which I was able to relax and give the talk comfortably.
I got great feedback, and a great second round of applause when Christian informed the audience it was my first talk in French.
Now that the talk is over I want to thank all those that helped me Christian Arbez who organized the event, gave me the opportunity and was a calming influence throughout, to Phil who’s tip on how to feel invincible helped me take the stage with confidence and also to Carine who helped me craft the talk, who helped me learn the talk and encouraged me front start to finish.
Finally I wanted to share three things that I learned from this experience
First, I learned about the fear that some people have around public speaking and how debilitating it can be and that will help me empathize with them so much better
Second Repetition, Repetition and Repetition are three tools that can help you overcome nerves and give you more confidence in your ability and help perfect your talk
And lastly, if I had learned number 2 earlier then so many of my talks in English could have been even better.
Your workforce is your most valuable resource. You can have the latest cutting-edge technology in the world, but if you don’t have the right team, then it’s all for nothing. That’s why it’s essential that you are always looking for ways to ensure that you attract and then keep the best hires.
An employer who dismisses the importance of their employees’ levels of happiness is doomed to live with low productivity, high turnover rates, and sub-par customer service. If you want your business to thrive, then you need happy and motivated staff. Here are the best ways to keep them happy and ensure that you are getting the best work they can produce.
There’s an old business saying that states the importance of ‘criticising in private, praise in public.’ Make sure that good work is recognized and praised, and ensure that you do this in a way that makes that hard work noticeable to other team members. Praise and reward the best workers, and others will race to keep up.
Have some trust
Delegation is essential for businesses of every size. Micromanagement is very tempting when it is your business and reputation on the line, but trust in the people that you have hired. Delegate and give willing staff members more responsibility, and they will work hard to prove worthy of that trust.
Involve your team
Always make sure that you keep your staff aware of what’s happening with the company. Your long-term goals and your short-term goals should be a constant driver, and the more that they know of your plans, the better they can help you meet your targets. Involve your team, and they will feel more involved. Staff loyalty will reduce staff turnover, and People XCD have created an article highlighting what is a healthy churn of employees coming in and out of a business.
A more flexible workplace
With tech solutions like cloud collaboration and facetime messaging, there’s no need for every employee to spend every day in the office. Let your team take control of their workload whether they’re at home or in the office. Often, business owners feel that an out of sight team member is not going to be productive, but remote workers are proven to have higher levels of motivation and loyalty. Use remote working practices as your team prefers, and you will benefit.
Reduce the Boss/Worker divide
A great way to keep your business growing is to learn from those around you. Offer mutual evaluation time for every team member. During regular meetings discuss their work output and progress, and then allow them to do the same to you. That two-way communication can be a useful way of finding out where you need to improve as a boss, and will reinforce your commitment so that your employees know that you are always trying to improve.
Invest in them
Whether it’s letting them take days off so that they can go to a marketing conference, or providing specialist speakers to come in and discuss latest tech trends for your HR department, investing in your staff is enormously beneficial. Not only will it improve staff loyalty, you will also benefit from having a team that is on the cutting-edge of modern business tactics and strategies. Investing in your team is one of the most essential actions you can take.
A loyal and motivated team around you will be the best resource that your business will ever have. Makes sure that you are always aware of their issues, and take steps to combat their concerns. Trust your team, and they will be as supportive of you as you are of them.
Having worked with hundreds of businesses, senior executives and management teams one topic that is always difficult to broach is accountability. Many people don’t understand what accountability is, why it’s important, or where it starts. Yes they understand accountability is important, but don’t know how to create a culture of accountability, they just hope it will happen.
But hope is not a strategy!
Here are seven truths about accountability, which will help you better understand and increase accountability levels in your organization.
1 – Accountability starts with you
Leadership defines culture, and if you want to create a culture of accountability, then it starts with you. You need to model the behaviors that you want to see in your organization. If you want people to take ownership, then you have to be seen to take ownership, when you make commitments you have to be seen to meet those commitments. If you don’t, then why should anyone else be interested in doing so. You have to walk the talk if you want others to follow you don’t the accountability path.
2 – You are Accountable
As the leader you are accountable. You’re accountable for any failures, as well as any successes that your organization may have. Accountability comes as part of the job description, which is why, if you try to duck it, it will have a negative impact on the levels of accountability that already exist.
3 – Accountability is not a one-time thing
Accountability is not a one-time, sometime thing; it’s an all-time thing. Those people who don’t want to be accountable, or held accountable, are always looking for any opportunities to get out of it any slips, or gaps in your accountability will give them the out they need, to only be accountable when they see fit.
You need to be seen to be as being accountable at all times.
4 – Accountability applies to one and all
When you’re looking to hold people accountable you cannot play favorites; you cannot let it slides with some people. Accountability has to be consistently requested of everyone, all the time. If you chose to let one person ignore their accountabilities then it opens the door for others to be selectively accountable too.
5 – Accountability cannot be delegated
You cannot delegate accountability, accountability is something that has to be accepted for that person to feel accountable and to have them take ownership. The best way to get people to accept accountability is to set them up to be successful. No one is going to take ownership and show accountability for something that they know, or believe is going to fail.
If you want people to accept accountability, ask them if they have everything they need to be successful, when they say yes they have taken a big step towards accepting accountability. If they say no then you need to make sure you provide whatever is missing because without it they will never accept accountability
6 – Accountability is the difference between success and failure
When people don’t take accountability and things, start to go awry, as they don’t feel ownership they go into spectator mode and watch as things fail. If they thought it would fail from the outset it’s even worse; they go into I told you so mode, which nearly always becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Whereas when people take ownership if things start to go wrong, then they step into solution mode. They start to try and figure out whats going wrong and try and fix it. Teams that are successful are full of people that go into solution mode. They are full of people who not only care but take care.
In my experience, accountability is the single biggest differentiator between successful and unsuccessful teams.
7 – You have to hold people Accountable
You can’t just tell people they’re accountable, and then leave them to it. Yes, it may work for some, but not for all. You need to set up review sessions; you have to check in and see how people are doing.
This serves three purposes:
It lets them know that they will be held accountable for the activities.
It gives you an opportunity to provide support in case things start to go awry,
It offers you the opportunity to offer praise and encouragement to move people further if things are going well.
Accountability is something that has to be worked at. There has to be a clear and consistent strategy on how it’s going to be implemented and validated.
It starts with you, and it has to apply at all times and to everyone.
When you can do that it will help you create a culture of accountability where the organization will start to hold itself and others accountable which will have a massive impact on performance and results.