Thongtaccong Management

Managers are people who do things right

Month: October 2015

Managing a Business While Navigating a Personal Crisis

It isn’t often that I bring my personal life into my work, but recently I’ve come face to face with a battle that many entrepreneurs will have to face at some point in their businesses – my husband was diagnosed with cancer, something which has not only turned my personal life upside down, but has caused me to have to re-evaluate my business as well. Whether dealing with a health crisis, a divorce or a death in the family, personal crises can derail a business if not handled effectively.

Several entrepreneurs shared their advice on how they continued to run their businesses in the midst of personal crises:

Outsource and learn to ask for help.

Entrepreneurs are used to running their business solo, but when personal crises arise, you may need to consider recruiting some back up. Marianne O’Connor credits her staff with helping to keep her creative PR agency, Sterling Communications, alive after her daughter became ill in the fall of 2010. Although the company didn’t grow during the three-year period that her daughter was ill, O’Connor says her team stepped up, allowing her to focus on taking her daughter to doctors’ appointments and caring for her at home.

“Entrepreneurs tend to be ‘I can handle this’ types, but you’ll get through any personal crisis better and faster if you share the burden,” says O’Connor. “The people around you – colleagues, friends and family – want to help, so let them.” Find the things that can easily be taken off your plate and transferred to someone else so you can dedicate your time to only focusing on the most important things that only you can take care of.

Be honest with clients and customers.

If you find you aren’t able to go about your business as usual, alerting clients to your situation is the best thing to do to avoid any misunderstandings. Most people are understanding of those going through tough personal times. Reassure them that their business is still important to you and tell them what level of service they can expect to receive from you during this time.

Focus on maintaining relationships with key clients.

Margaret Reynolds was diagnosed with breast cancer at a time when business was booming. “My pipeline was full for the next six months,” she says. She continued to work as much as she could but shortened her working hours when she felt weakened by the treatments. “I focused my limited time on serving clients – those already on the books – over my other role of rainmaking,” she says.

Reynolds felt making sure current clients got her best work was more important than taking on any new clients. “Our reputation was not to be compromised,” she says. “Managing my client and associate relationships through these times with as much transparency as I could muster helped them know how to help me and earned me their respect. By maintaining strong relationships, I maintained a strong business.”

Do some soul-searching.

There’s nothing like a personal tragedy to cause you to reflect upon the things that are important in your life and to realize what makes you tick. Reynolds realized how much she enjoyed her work and relied on her love for her work to get her through the tough times.

6 Reasons Why ‘My Way or the Highway’ Management Doesn’t Work Anymore

Say what you will about opposites attracting — the fact is that for the most part, we feel drawn towards those who are most like us. This is especially the case in upper levels of management. A quick look at leaders within companies will reveal that there tends to be a common culture — a workplace not of diversity, but sameness — in thought and action.

But while it’s only natural to appreciate those who follow and never challenge us, being too comfortable can obstruct the innovation, leadership and direction necessary to drive your company forward. When I hire, I look for people who will challenge me — those who aren’t afraid to tell me things that may be tough to hear. When making key decisions, I want to be surrounded by those who will question my strategies and suggest changes that I may not have thought of.

When assembling your team, you don’t want people who think the same as you and who will agree with you every step of the way. It may sound counter intuitive, but you want thought leaders who will challenge you, question you and force you to explain yourself. Here are six reasons why:

1. Yes men will get in your way.

They’ll agree with you and make you feel better about yourself, but in the long run, yes men — or women — will become your worst nightmare. They’re not sincere, and they can’t be trusted, especially not in positions of authority. They’ll agree with what you say, but they won’t call you out on areas where you may be mistaken — areas that if left unchecked could land you into trouble. Nowhere would this be more disastrous then when key decisions such as during an acquisition or merger are being made. Being surrounded by a group of yes men could sway you into making decisions that could seriously jeopardize the future of your company.

2. A fresh perspective can lead to innovation.

Constructive feedback is essential and a necessary part of innovation. The ability to run ideas by a team of objective thinkers is truly invaluable and giving your team the freedom to think independently of you can lead to tremendously valuable ideas. Allen Wesson, internal auditor of the Dallas Independent School District, tells of an employee who approached him with a plan to expand school audits. “I gave her time and freedom to develop her idea,” says Wesson. The result? An audit program that added significant value to the school and district.

It’s easy to develop tunnel vision, believing that our ideas are the best way to do things. But by seeking out opinions that may be different from ours, we bring in a fresh perspective — the best way to get an honest and unbiased assessment of the situation.

3. Empowering your team will motivate them.

The best way to motivate your team is by giving them a sense of empowerment — and independence.

“Autonomy is one of our fundamental human needs — an essential component of a healthy workplace,” says Nadia Goodman, M.A.

According to Ben Dattner, an organizational psychologist and founder of Dattner Consulting, independence in the workplace fills our need for intrinsic motivation. Giving your team the freedom to generate new ideas and rewarding independent thinkers will go a long way towards creating an exceptional work culture where employees are happier, more motivated and committed to their jobs.

4. Independent thinkers can help you to get the right result.

“It’s nice when people agree, but if everyone thought along the same lines all the time, nothing would ever change,” says Richard Branson. “Every company needs mavericks. Independence of thinking should be celebrated and encouraged.”

“The worst culture you can ingrain within a business is an atmosphere of saying yes to everything,” Branson continues. “When you are debating a new idea, those who disagree are crucial to getting the right result in the end. Yes men will only ever get so far.”

5. Thought leaders will keep you humble.

Stop thinking your way’s the only one. It’s not. Often, there are 100 ways to reach the end result, and chances are some of them may be better than yours. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you and try to ask opinions from those who you know will disagree with you. Often this can reveal real flaws in your plan. Keeping humble will save you from presuming that your strategies are infallible, and will help you to keep an open mind — something that’s extremely important when there are major decisions with serious implications on the line.

6. What about losing control?

How do you empower your team without losing control of your company? Surrounding yourself with different advisers doesn’t mean that you have to hand over the reins of your business, but it does mean that you master the art of listening and considering a situation from new angles.

While conflicting viewpoints can be difficult to hear, often they’re exactly what you need. Striving to create a culture where new ideas and different opinions are encouraged will result in a workplace that’s thriving and growing — one where innovation becomes second nature.

5 Time Management Techniques Worth Using

If you read every time management book ever written or go to every time management seminar offered, you’ll be able to boil all the technique “stuff” down to just a few things worth doing. Let me save you some time and talk about a few key time management techniques:

Technique #1: Make and use lists. There is not a single time management discipline or system on earth that doesn’t revolve around making and using lists. You cannot carry it all in your head. For years, I’ve operated with four basic lists:

1. My Schedule. This is for the entire year, day by day.
2. Things-to-Do List. This is a basic “Things-to-Do” list organized by month, week, and day, prioritized as As, Bs and Cs.
3. People-to-Call List. My third list is a “People-to-Call” list, also prioritized alphabetically.
4. Conference Planner. This is just a page for each person I interact with a lot, where I jot down things I need to talk to them about as they occur to me in between meetings or conversations.

You have to get some sort of regimented, regularly used list-making system working for you. If you aren’t making lists, you probably aren’t making a lot of money either.

Technique #2: Tickle the memory with tickler files. The idea is simple: You have 90 file folders: red ones numbered 1 through 30, blue ones numbered 1 through 30, and white numbered ones 1 through 30 that represent the current month, next month and the month after that. Let’s assume you agree to follow up with a client on a particular matter on the 10th of next month. Take either that client’s whole file or that piece of correspondence or a handwritten note, and plop it into the blue file folder numbered 10. And forget it. On the 10th of next month, it’ll pop up all by itself and remind you to do it. Used right, tickler files reduce clutter, serve as automatic memory, and help organize daily activities.

Yes, I’m well aware that there are all sorts of “contact management programs” for computers, pads and phones that can substitute for the file folders in a drawer. If you prefer that, by all means, be my guest. But manual, automated, physical, virtual, or hybrid, a tickler file system can be a very good friend.

Technique #3: Minimize meetings. Nothing ever got done in a meeting. I hate ’em. For a lot of people, meetings are a place to hide out. Or preen and be important. But they’re not a place to actually do work or get anything done. You need a strategy to avoid them. If you lead meetings, you need a strategy to abbreviate and focus them. If you must attend meetings, you need a strategy to escape from them at will.

Technique #4: Block your time. Most people’s schedules only have their locked-in-stone appointments with others. Mine also has my pre-allocated, locked-in-stone appointments with myself and my work. For each year, a lot of time gets locked down months ahead. For example, I clump most of my necessary phone appointments during a month into one day and book my Phone Day in each month a year ahead.

Month to month, I book in various work appointments: speaking engagements, coaching meetings, the time blocks for writing my monthly newsletters or for work on a book. My goal is to have as little unassigned time as possible. If you lay your calendar out before you and pre-assign or block as much of your time as possible, as much in advance as possible, you will then leave yourself only a small amount of loose, unassigned time. By blocking time for important, high-value functions, you prevent the demands of others from moving your best-value activities from number one to number ten on your list, over and over again.

Technique #5: Profit from “odd lot” time. Everything is now portable. A seminar by a great speaker, just about any book ever published, how-to information of every variety–it’s all on audio CDs and DVDs, accessible through online media, inside your Kindle or Nook or iPad. You can use YouTube for something other than watching kittens water ski. Or you can make sure you have an actual book with you at all times. There is no excuse to simply waste time while waiting in an airport, stuck in traffic, parked in a reception room.

Some people give their odd-lot time to returning calls, texts or emails, or to talking on the phone. This is a mistake for three reasons. One, you’ll be doing it hurriedly and without proper preparation, and if any of it is important, it’s too important to do poorly. Two, it’s a bad precedent to set with those who have access to you and with whom you communicate. If you inject randomness, you lose the ability to impose organization. Three, it steals time you need to think, to read, to listen, to get and process input. Constant connectivity makes Jack a dull boy, dull meant as synonym for stupid.

Disciplined use of the time everybody else wastes can give you an edge. The now rich and famous writer of legal thrillers, Scott Turow, wrote his first novel using only his morning commutes into New York City on the train. All around him, others just killed the same time. For most people, these minutes don’t matter. But they can. So when you say to yourself “it’s only 10 minutes,” you miss the entire point of time.

3 Time Management Tips That Will Improve Your Health and Productivity

Time management can be difficult. What is urgent in your life and what is important to your life are often very different things.

This is especially true with your health, where the important issues almost never seem urgent even though your life ultimately hangs in the balance.

  • No, going to the gym today isn’t urgent, but it is important for your long-term health.
  • No, you won’t die from stress today, but if you don’t get it figured out soon, you might.
  • No, eating real, unprocessed foods isn’t required for you to stay alive right now, but it is will reduce your risk of cancer and disease.

Is there anything we can do? If we all have 24 hours in a day, how do we actually use them more effectively?

And most importantly, how can we manage our time to live healthier and happier, do the things that we know are important, and still handle the responsibilities that are urgent?

I’m battling with that answer just like you are, but in my experience there are three time management tips that actually work in real life and will help you improve your health and productivity.

1. Eliminate half-work at all costs.

In our age of constant distraction, it’s stupidly easy to split our attention between what we should be doing and what society bombards us with. Usually we’re balancing the needs of messages, emails, and to-do lists at the same time that we are trying to get something accomplished. It’s rare that we are fully engaged in the task at hand.

I call this division of your time and energy “half-work.”

Here are some examples of half-work…

  • You start writing a report, but stop randomly to check your phone for no reason or to open up Facebook or Twitter.
  • You try out a new workout routine. Two days later, you read about another “new” fitness program and try a little bit of that. You make little progress in either program and so you start searching for something better.
  • Your mind wanders to your email inbox while you’re on the phone with someone.

Regardless of where and how you fall into the trap of half-work, the result is always the same: you’re never fully engaged in the task at hand, you rarely commit to a task for extended periods of time, and it takes you twice as long to accomplish half as much.

Half-work is the reason why you’re able to get more done on your last day before vacation (when you really focus) than you do in the 2 weeks previous (when you’re constantly distracted).

Like most people, I deal with this problem all of the time and the best way I’ve found to overcome it is to block out significant time to focus on one project and eliminate everything else.

I pick one exercise and make it my only focus for the entire workout. (i.e. “Today is just for squats. Anything else is extra.”)

I carve out a few hours (or even an entire work day) to deep dive on an important project. I’ll leave my phone in another room and shut down my email, Facebook, and Twitter.

This complete elimination of distractions is the only way I know to get into deep, focused work and avoid fragmented sessions where you’re merely doing half-work.

How much more could you achieve if you did the work you needed to do, the way you needed to do it, and eliminated the half-work, half-wandering that we fill most of our days with?

2. Do the most important thing first.

Disorder and chaos tend to increase as your day goes on. At the same time, the decisions and choices that you make throughout the day tend to drain your willpower. You’re less likely to make a good decision at the end of the day than you are at the beginning.

I’ve found that this same trend holds true in my workouts as well. As the workout progresses, I have less and less willpower to finish sets, grind out reps, and perform difficult exercises.

For all of those reasons, I do my best to make sure that if there is something important that I need to do, then I do it first.

If I have an important article to write, I grab a glass of water and start typing as soon as I wake up. If there is a tough exercise that I need to do, then I do it at the beginning of each workout.

If you do the most important thing first, then you’ll never have a day when you didn’t get something important done. By following this simple strategy, you will usually end up having a productive day, even if everything doesn’t go to plan.

3. Reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule.

I’ve written previously about the importance of holding yourself to a schedule and not a deadline. There might be occasions when deadlines make sense, but I’m convinced that when it comes to doing important work over the long-term, following a schedule is much more effective.

When it comes to the day-to-day grind, however, following a schedule is easier said than done. Ask anyone who plans to workout every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and they can tell you how hard it is to actually stick to their schedule every time without fail.

To counteract the unplanned distractions that occur and overcome the tendency to be pulled off track, I’ve made a small shift in how I approach my schedule. My goal is to put the schedule first and not the scope, which is the opposite of how we usually approach our goals.

For example, let’s say you woke up today with the intention of running three miles this afternoon. During the day, your schedule got crazy and time started to get away from you. Now you only have 20 minutes to workout.

At this point, you have two options.

The first is to say, “I don’t have enough time to workout today,” and spend the little time you have left working on something else. This is what I would usually have done in the past.

The second option is to reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule. Instead of running three miles, you run one mile or do five sprints or 30 jumping jacks. But you stick to the schedule and get a workout in no matter what. I have found far more long-term success using the this approach than the first.

On a daily basis, the impact of doing five sprints isn’t that significant, especially when you had planned to run three miles. But the cumulative impact of always staying on schedule is huge. No matter what the circumstance and no matter how small the workout, you know you’re going to finish today’s task. That’s how little goals become lifetime habits.

Finish something today, even if the scope is smaller than you anticipated.