Josh Horneman is a business and professional coach based in Perth, Western Australia. He has been a strong believer in the value of effective communication his whole life and recognises it is critical for driving business and personal success.
I recently made a whirlwind trip to China, spending time in Shenzhen for the EASTxWEST Forum. It was a conference aimed at facilitating better business relationships between Australia and China. My first time visiting this amazing country opened my eyes to the possibilities that exist for collaboration between such close global partners. I want to share my thoughts on a key to success in this part of the world that can become a guide for all that we do.
One of the most critical parts of doing business in China is the way in which you first build a relationship. This is actually something I believe should be the foundation for every business interaction, no matter where you are in the world. The fact is, building a business relationship in China is a time honoured tradition and a critical process taken so seriously that your ability to squander opportunity vastly increases if you choose to disregard it.
I was fortunate enough to meet some successful and influential people during my trip. They were shining examples of this relationship based business process. The level of respect the most successful Chinese business person had for those we may assume too junior for them to even worry about was inspiring. I saw introductions that would have you believe an assistant was the life blood of an entire organisation. Then, in one introduction someone made of me, it felt like I was already an academy award winning film producer. Some may say all this is just part of a game, said with tongue in cheek. I challenge this, as what I saw was a test of one’s humility and honesty, two critical facets of business in China. How you respond to an introduction, or introduce someone yourself, plays a huge part in representing your character.
To explore this further. If you compared a contract from China with a contract from Australia for exactly the same business deal, the Chinese one would be three pages and the Australian one close to 100 pages. The agreement the Chinese are looking to make with you lends more weight to their ability to trust your character, your commitment to deliver and your humility in recognising that everyone should be benefiting from the arrangement. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
So much of how the western business world operates is fast paced and distrusting. When it comes to making a deal things need to happen quickly and all negative outcomes covered. The relationship building process is pushed aside with minimal consideration, despite often being the part that raises any red flags. Yes it might take a bit longer, but building a relationship has been a part of so many business cultures for generations, a true gateway to entry for anyone looking to succeed. The long term benefits for a business willing to take this approach in China are unfathomable. The Chinese middle class are hungry for access to new markets. They see Australia, particularly when it comes to food and tourism, as one of the most sought after locations on the planet.
In China I met Australian business owners and government officials that have already put in the time and effort to build relationships with Chinese counterparts, hearing stories of the significant success they are having. Yet others could not grasp this method of entry to a market as being a way that a country or economy, particularly that of Western Australia, can grow.
It might be a punt for some, but I think there is enough evidence to say that our relationship with the Chinese will define the success of our state, and even our country in the future. We aren’t the only ones with this opportunity either, the rest of the globe recognises the value in having a presence in China and so this is an act now situation.
We share a time zone, hold so much of what they desire and need to look elsewhere to secure our own futures. If we accept traditional practices, put the time in and recognise the value of building strong relationships there is an unknown abundance of possibility on tap. No matter your business size consider what you have to offer to our neighbours in the north, as leaders of both countries are working to develop even stronger ties through free-trade agreements and an open dialogue.
Consider the traditional Chinese approach to business, not just in your work with them but in all that you do. Spend some time on building relationships first and see how it improves your chances for greater success in the future.
The Golden State Warriors recently set the record for most consecutive wins to start an NBA season. They are sitting at 16-0 and have had a mix of ‘walk in the park’ wins and truly epic comebacks throughout the season, and all with their head coach sidelined due to a serious back injury and his 35 year old assistant holding down the fort.
Before the recent record setting victory interim head coach, Luke Walton shared about a moment where head coach Steve Kerr briefly met with the team to provide his thoughts on how they are achieving this success. He wrote four words on a whiteboard:
These are the core values of the Golden State Warriors basketball team, and Kerr emphasised to the group how proud he was that they were achieving each one every day. This is a team of elite sportsmen, who have trained for years to be where they are, being congratulated for focusing on and delivering to the values of the organisation they are a part of and having it reinforced that this is a critical factor in their success. WOW is an understatement.
In thinking about “the value of having values” I wanted to touch on how these four in particular can have such a massive impact on success, and why I think living values such as this can be critical to the success of a business just as they have been for arguably the greatest team in sports at the moment.
The fact that the first and, as Walton confessed, most important value is Joy really shows you the importance in having fun. The ability for a person’s mindset to be affected by the negativity that comes with not working, playing or living in an enjoyable environment is huge. The toxicity that this negativity can then have on others is almost unparalleled, yet so frequently overlooked. A business is no different to a sports team in this regard. If your workplace is not a fun place to be you can guarantee employees will be disengaged and not performing at their best. Simple changes can see huge improvements in productivity and staff wellbeing, which in turn see upside to the bottom line. Having fun matters! And it is possibly one of the simplest corrections to make, for a reasonable low investment but a huge return.
Mindfulness is probably the most interesting value in this list, while not one you see often I think it is extremely important and starts in the leadership of any good team. Being self-aware and able to acknowledge how you act, react, think or respond in any situation is critical to being a good leader. Mindfulness helps you stay in control of any situation, allows your best judgement to take the lead and therefore provides your team with the greatest chance of success. In a basketball environment mindfulness could be the difference between giving away a technical foul or not. In a business environment mindfulness could be what stops you unnecessarily jumping to a conclusion or placing the blame. At an individual level the benefits of practising mindfulness are unbounding and unique to all of us, though so many overlook them. Mindfulness is most effective when used to set an example. Leaders for staff, coaches for players, parents for children, we can all take it on board as a beneficial value and activity to practice.
Is the ability to care about the other members of your team becoming a rarity? Compassion is so often defined as the moment spent caring for someone in a time of need, but it is possible to be compassionate in our day to day activities and use this as a way to support and empower those we spend time with. The Warriors compassion for one another is clear, no player goes without a helping hand if they fall during a game and a shooting slump by a team mate is met with a positive outlook at a post-game press conference. In our day to day business lives the ability to remain in tune with how our team is feeling is critical. The simplest of questions, “Are You OK?” can make a world of difference. Trying to approach situations with the thought of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can vastly improve our ability to overcome issues or challenges. Compassion ties in well with Joy and as the Dalai Lama says,
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Finally, and most fitting to the basketball environment is competition. Anyone can appreciate that the sporting arena has a need for a competitive edge, and the ability to be the best is what the elite sports men and women of the world strive for. But competition as a value takes things to another level. Everything you do is driven by a focus to be the best. It is about individual improvement, which leads to team improvement, which leads to organisational success. Along the way you compete against yourself, your teammates and your opponents, with an ultimate goal in mind. Unfortunately competition within business is frequently the cause of more harm than good. Individuals work at besting each other with disregard for how this might actually affect the team dynamic or the business as a whole. To make competition in business successful a leader must take charge and promote healthy and effective methods by which it can take place. Driving growth and success through well-structured competitive goals has seen some massive business success throughout history and will continue to be the significant factor as the world we live in becomes even more competitive to break through.
The need to revisit our values is usually scoffed at; many organisations have a list in a business plan, sitting in a draw somewhere, which is reviewed once in a while. The Golden State Warriors have shown us that having values at the core of what you strive to achieve works. Take a moment to think about yours, or those of your business, do you live by them every day in all that you do?
Are notifications taking over the world? They may be one of the most frequently used, yet unproductive features of modern technology. A few weeks into my entrepreneurial journey I decided to take note of how many times in a day I was distracted by a work based notification, e.g. a banner popping up on my phone, a call coming in, a desktop pop up via Outlook or a message delivered on Slack. To be honest, I lost count by about 11am as it was very clear that my day was being seriously chopped up by this constant stream of attention seeking activity. So, I set out to make a change. Here is how I did it, and how you can too!
Activate Solution Quest – Being a lover of advice I asked a few friends, co-working companions, and even had a gander on Quora to see if others had this problem and how they overcome it, before planning to trial a potential fix that I thought would suit me based on the feedback I received.
Initiate Test Phase – To start with I selected three tasks that I estimated would take me about 20 minutes each to complete. I then chose a 60 minute set on SoundCloud, it was an upbeat instrumental piece aimed at keeping me motivated. Then I did the unthinkable…turned my phone onto Do Not Disturb, closed Outlook and Slack, and even closed Chrome as I wouldn’t need it until the third task on my list! Headphones went in and thus began my first Power Hour.
Analyse, Analyse, Analyse– After the hour was over I made sure to take stock of everything: what I had achieved, what I had missed, how I felt and who I had pissed off. Top of the list, I had successfully tackled all three tasks that I had set out to, it was a pretty good feeling! I had missed one call, a few new emails had come in, no one had directly mentioned me on Slack and I didn’t bother to check social media to avoid further distraction. The cool thing I realised from the test, switching off wasn’t the end of the world, everything that was outstanding after that hour could be tackled in a few minutes, bringing me back up to date and feeling great.
Re-Test – I conducted a couple of varied test runs, tackling larger single tasks and then a heap of smaller tasks over 60 minute periods, all the while seeing a really productive outcome from each test and managing to get back up to speed with anything missed in only a few minutes afterwards.
Celebration Time – The results of my tests clearly supported the actions and I felt pretty comfortable that I had come across a method to increase my productivity that suited my work style.
As a result of this little exercise I now implement Power Hours a few times each working day, and have started seeing awesome results and feeling way more productive at the end of a work day and week. On top of this I have stopped almost all push notifications for email, Slack and social media across my devices and not missed them one bit!
Now an hour may not suit you or your work style, so test the theory out before diving in. After researching similar working styles a little further I came across the Pomodoro Technique, which suggests 25 minutes is the optimum period for this sort of activity and that this method of working really improves productivity.
I would like to challenge you to try and “switch off the notification noise” and focus for any period of time during your working day. You will hopefully see an amazing increase in your productivity or focus and be better prepared for achieving your daily or weekly goals.
If you already have a productivity technique that helps you zone in and stay focused I would love to hear about it.
In a moment of quiet contemplation thanks to some lovely early morning traffic, I decided upon five actions I plan to take to improve the year ahead. You could say it is my #BigIdeas2015 on a very small scale.
1. Don't speed, the fine or points off your license aren't worth it, and no one cares that much if you're late. It is way more important that you just arrive.
2. Put your phone away. Conversations are awesome in real life. Technology is systematically removing this element of basic communication even though it is the most rewarding.
3. Hug your nan, grandma, nonna or oma! They are more often than not the silent support holding a family together, who have sacrificed a lot so we can have so much and we don't thank them enough.
4. Give something to charity, whether it be time or money, because there's too many people in this world struggling to get by and the smallest gesture can truly mean the world to them.
5. Wear sunscreen! Ok, this is personal one since I am a pale man living in a city with a lack of ozone layer. But still important none the less.
Enjoy the year ahead and remember that it is usually the simplest actions we take that bring the most joy to others.
What are your 5 Actions for 2015? I would love to hear about them and why they are the steps you will take to improve the lives of those around you!