The Structure Puzzle

 

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Out of the many questions I receive, the most common one is, “Why can’t I get my team structure right?”.  There are many variables in this, however, the first thing as a leader that you need to consider is does, my business have the right people and are they in the right roles?.    If you do, then you are part the way there.

The second layer ofthis is to think about the design of your organisational structure. To get this right you must have a clear understanding of where your business is sitting today and what the needs will be moving forward.  One of the biggest mistakes made in businesses is that we do not include the time factor. What I mean by this, is that over time a business will grow and change, and in an effectively functioning business, the organisational chart quickly becomes outdated as your people develop and the natural growth occurs.  

The third piece to this puzzle is the career path. A career by its very definition cannot be static and will be defined by the visions of the business. Offering career paths to your team through a process of empowerment unlocks the talent within the team as they strive to achieve more. To drive a culture of empowerment, each person in the team must accept a new level of possibility and be prepared to step up to the challenge and accept the change that comes as the business moves forward.  

The fourth piece of the puzzle and the one that ties this together is the systems tools and your technology. A key element in this is training, you must ensure that your people know how to implement the systems, use the tools and they are trained across all platforms.

If you can get these pieces of the puzzle right, then you can not only create a high performing team, you will also become a business that attracts the best people, one that is built on solid internal foundations and is known for offering successful and rewarding careers.  As we know, this is a wonderful Industry and it brings with it amazing opportunities.

Journeys Bring Lessons

I recently spent some time with a Principal who has been in the Industry for over 30 years and runs a very successful business.   He talks about the mistakes he made and the lessons these provided. John, who we will call him in this article, has some sound and solid advice but one thing that stood out for me during this discussion was how he recognised that he needed to become the Leader .  

John commenced his real estate business over 27 years ago as an independent agency doing sales and property management.  John says “I guess I didn’t really think about anything past getting the doors open and selling to get some cash in, certainly not how to truly prepare the foundations of my business”.  We had been open for almost 12 months and things were as they say, “ticking along fine, or so I thought”,  “then one day my property manager came into my office and resigned, announcing that she was relocating interstate.   That rocked me,   I remember thinking, I don’t have any idea about that side of the business, I had left it to her,  as I had just assumed she would be there for years”.  The outcome was, I panicked and sold my rent roll, what a mistake, probably the biggest of my career.

John continued to operate his small sales business from the same location, but did not start up property management. Continuing to operate for a further two years without building an asset, was another mistake, he says, but as time passed, he knew he needed to.  John knew of a local lady who was looking to go back into the workforce after having her family, she had previously worked in at another agency and had done a little property management and sales.  John says “I approached her and asked her if she would come and work for me, thankfully for me Julie decided to give it a go and join the team”.

With Julie now on board the rent roll and business overall began to grow and prosper. John and his team outgrew their current office location and he decided it was time to relocate to a new premises,  so with 10 salespeople, 3 property managers and a BDO they moved.  As John puts it “things were good” but I just had a sense that something was not quite right inside the business.  I started talking to a few people who helped me see that I needed to start working on the business and not in the business.  The business needed me to be a better leader and in order to do that I had to change the way I operated inside the business. Julie who had been with me for almost 8 years was the perfect candidate to step up and oversee the daily operations for me.  

Looking back John says “I can see a number of defining moments in the evolution of my business”, starting property management again being the big one, relocating the agency was definitely another”.  Our new location generated drive and energy in the team which in turn created a stronger culture with greater internal stability.  Implementing quarterly strategy sessions, weekly team meetings, a full review of our systems and procedures, better learning and development programs and building a recruitment strategy, led me to where I am today.   Finding the right people is not easy but unless you invest in your people and your business and have an agency that people want to work in, then in my opinion you will always have a revolving front door.

John says I now have a strong property management team with a portfolio of almost 1000 managements, I have the two sides of the business working in harmony together and this brings better value to all my clients and customers”.

In closing I asked John, what is the best advice you could give to anyone starting up their own agency today?,  “Make sure you build solid foundations, with good technology,  systems and procedures, be across the business as much as you can and expect the unexpected, but most of all be a leader to your people”.  “I can’t help but look back and wonder just where I would be today if I had built stronger foundations and had strengthened my business better in those first 12 months.

Good leaders, lead people, make better decisions and create businesses of attraction.

Today versus Tomorrow

Today versus Tomorrow

Did you know that the word Procrastinate comes from the late 16th century and is Latin.  It’s meaning is procrastinat- ‘deferred till the morning’, from the verb procrastinare, from pro- ‘forward’ + crastinus ‘belonging to tomorrow’.  The real meaning for us, is that we find that tomorrow arrives and in fact we now have less time.

If you think about this and look at our lives, it is easy to see how many of us get to the end of each day and wonder where the hours went and why there are still so many things left on our list.

Here are some tips to help:

  • Write yourself a “to do list” but go further than this, apply a time frame to it, for when the job or task will be completed, that way you set yourself boundaries. Knowing that you have an allocated time period to finish helps you maintain focus.
  • If your task is a large one, break it down into smaller sections to work through.  Sometimes a task can look so big that we keep putting it off, thinking “That is a big job I better leave it till I have more time”,  The reality is that “more time” will never arrive.
  • Build in accountability for what you want to achieve, you can do this by asking your friends or colleagues to help keep you on track.  Share your to do list and apply check in points for them to monitor your progress.
  • Remove all distractions.  With technology the way it is and the many communications platforms that are out there, it is easy to get distracted.  Lock yourself away and turn off your notifications that way you won’t be tempted to quickly check that email or text message, or jump onto your social media site.  By removing these distractions the task at hand will be completed before you know it.
  • Reward yourself on your achievements.  We all know that feeling, the sense of accomplishment when something is finished.  Take a break and go for a short walk, grab yourself that well deserved coffee, grab a snack and before you know it you are ready to tackle the next challenge.

The key is, start today!  Develop your new habits and look at how your can adapt a few small changes in your mind set, this helps shift your perspective and puts you in charge of your day and on the pathway to success.

A Customer Experience

A Customer Experience

To be a quality business you have to view your business through the eyes of your customers.  With systems and technology moving rapidly all the time maintaining a quality business can be a challenge, however it is achievable if everyone in the business holds the belief.  

This mindset does not come easy.  In a day-to-day workload it can be tempting for people to start thinking about things by looking inward. For example, “How could I save 10 minutes here”?.  “How can I get this task done quicker”?   The risk in this is that little by little you get further away from the core goal of service levels and providing the best customer experience possible.

A quality business does not just say they are one, it is embodied in everything they do. Policies and procedures need to be designed so that practices support your quest for quality and particularly your point of difference. This means doing more than just the bare minimum.

In order to get the balance right you need to adapt your approach.  Identify your internal business needs and also seek feedback from your customers, as they define the value. Armed with all this information you then design a set of services and way of operating that meets those definitions. If you do not do this, then you will quickly lose your way.

If your clients see value and trust you, they will become your best asset and will provide you with referrals and a stellar reputation in your community.

It’s all in the Language

It’s all in the Language

Remember these words being said to you?  

“Just letting you know that your Annual Performance Appraisal is due, please see my PA to arrange a time”  

A statement that can instantly change a person’s mindset, and as many people have told me, the words themselves place a real fear around what should be a very positive discussion.   Now as a leader I am not suggesting that we banish this, but rather look at how we can improve and better manage this systematic evaluation process.  

If you think about our role as leaders, we coach, we support and we mentor.   Good leaders create  innovative environments, they encourage growth and create opportunities.  They develop strong cultures and aid in the development of career paths for their people.   So it’s time to change this and look at how your people have also contributed to these areas, because if you really think about it, they have.  So with this in mind remove the fear simply by changing the name, maybe,  “Contribution and Development Review”, which I believe will alter the mindset and improve the overall outcome.

Removing the fear and getting this step right will not only change the culture of your business, it brings team members closer to the vision of the business and helps them understand clearly the critical role they play in the business overall.  

A small idea that will have a big impact.

Unleashing Your Power

Unleashing Your Power

If you uncover the true definition of the word “goal”, you’ll find that it’s  “an observable and measurable result which is linked to the objectives that a business wants to achieve inside a given time frame”.

Of course, you can’t truly achieve your goals without first having a plan – the two go hand in hand.  Plans and goals make up the DNA of the strategic planning process.   Looking at the diagram below, you can see how planning and goal setting fits together across the different managerial levels of a business.

Planning leads to goal attainment and ultimately to the overall effectiveness and performance of the business, the departments and all team members.

The Benefits of Goals

While having clear goals increases performance, they also help clarify expectations.  They provide team members with a clear understanding of the desired outcomes for the business.  Without goals, members of the team will lack direction and this has a major impact on the business overall. People don’t know what they have to achieve, when they must achieve it by or why it is important.  Even though everyone might be working hard, collectively they will accomplish little.  Think about it this way, if the team were in a boat rowing, and each member was rowing in a different direction, they would achieve little result and certainly no real progress.

Goals also play another critical role in a business – they increase motivation.  When individuals and teams meet their goals, they feel a sense of accomplishment, a pride in knowing that their achievements have produced real results and benefits for all.

Follow a Goal Setting Process

Achieving success will depend on how well you plan in the early stages. Research shows that adopting the SMART theory will lead you to success.

Specific – to be effective you must ensure that your goals are specific.  You should ensure that each goal is clearly relevant to your department’s business plan.  There is little benefit in setting a goal which does not provide you with a specific outcome or result.  You could strive hard to achieve this goal, only to realise that there was no real point to it in the first place.

Measurable – it is often said what does not get measured does not get better.  How true this statement is.  Goals should be tangible and also clearly provide evidence for team members to assess their progress and show them that they are on the right path in achieving these.  You will also find that there will be smaller internal measures that can be tracked inside the goals  that lead to your overall success.

Achievable – goal setting will always work best when the goals are attainable.  Goals should be achievable, but they should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged. Knowing and utilising your skills and knowledge is critical in defining your goal.

Relevant – this is where the planning process comes into play.  It is important that the goals are relevant to the strategic plan of the agency and/or department.  Goals should be measured by the desired outcome and not just activities needed to accomplish them.

Time framed – goals should be linked to a timeframe.  The  importance of this is to create a practical sense of urgency around the objective. By setting a time frame, you set your unconscious mind into motion.  This is the “when by” part of the process. Without a time frame, the goal is unlikely to produce the relevant outcome, or even be achieved at all.

Goals and Facilitating Performance

A key component in this area is that we must truly understand how goals and people work together.  Yes, goals will facilitate performance, but only when the right components come together.  You must  ensure that a person tasked with a specific goal has the right skills, knowledge and ability to complete it. You simply cannot expect someone without the required skills to achieve a successful outcome.   Feedback and opportunities for people to ask questions during the process is important and this enables people to gain a clearer understanding of the desired result while reassuring them they are supported. If your team members are simply left to try and figure things out alone, they’ll become demotivated and less likely to engage. Quite often, they will just give up.

Part of the journey is known as “Goal Commitment”. This is a person’s attachment to or determination to reach the goal.  When people believe that they can reach their goals and are provided with the training, support, guidance and recognition to help them toward the achievement, they become empowered in the whole process.  This leads not only to a final successful outcome, but also gives the whole team or individual member a sense of accomplishment and personal pride on a job well done.

Setting goals will provide a business with many benefits.  When people have a goal, they have a sense of purpose. This leads to an increases in motivation, productivity and also morale. When your people feel that the tasks they are completing  and their actions make a difference within the company, they want be a part of the road to further accomplishment.

Complaints are your feedback

Complaints are your feedback

No business is exempt from complaints and property management can often be more susceptible than most.  Given that moving is considered to be one of the three top stressful events in our lives is,  it any wonder that sometimes we find ourselves on the frontline of complaints.   Now  before you all stop reading and just go, “yes we have heard this all before”, take some time to sit and think about how complaints can help you and the business improve.  

To begin with let’s change the name from Complaints to Customer Feedback.

As defined by the Oxford dictionary – Feedback is

Information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

If you take the time to consider that general definition, then It becomes a simple equation.  Negative feedback equals deficiencies inside a business.  With this being true, why as an industry do we not  use feedback as a barometer?    I believe it is because we are afraid to face the truth.

Feedback provides insights, taking  a closer look at the issues raised you will be able to identify where in the business the process or system has failed and how you can look to improve it.  

Let’s take a look at an example

“A customer raises issues with the way their property or tenancy is being looked after, highlighting that they have reported specific issues and nobody is looking after these or and they have not any anyone contact them”.   

Looking deeper into allows you to identify key areas where processes, systems, and communication are lacking.  It also highlights the lack of transparency across the business.   The next step is to change your communication procedures and implement a regular learning and development program for the team.   Simply fixing this issue will not fix the deeper problems, you need to look below the water line.

Now with that all being said the way that feedback is handled will also determine a successful outcome.

So here are some tips for today:

  • Stay Calm and professional – regardless of what matter is raised or the reaction by the customer
  • Don’t take Things Personally –  if you do this you add emotion to a situation and this only makes things worse
  • Listen and ask Questions – If you don’t thoroughly understand the nature of the issue then you are less likely to be able to resolve it quickly and effectively.
  • Have Empathy – show your clients and customers that you care about their issues and that you want to help them resolve it.  
  • Work Together – don’t offer solutions that don’t work for either party, this doesn’t help your customer, the situation or the business.
  • Follow Up – contact your customer a few days later, to find out how they are and if the problem is resolved.  

Recruiting for Attitude

What makes a good employee? What makes this person a better bet for efficiency, productivity and excellence over this other, similar person? Is it skill? Is it experience? Is there some predictor that a recruiter can pin down and say “they have what it takes” without a shadow of a doubt?

If there was an easy answer, a lot of those involved in the recruitment process would be out of a job. If there was some kind of single, perfect test that could weed out an excellent candidates from the poor ones, I suspect you would have heard of it already – and likely be using it.

No, the reality is that recruitment remains a sought-after skill because the right candidates are not always immediately obvious to the inexperienced eye. That isn’t to say that there aren’t a few guiding principles that could help you spot that diamond among the glass beads. Attitude, not aptitude, should be the gold standard for anyone looking to find a new entrant to their workforce.

Can they learn the unlearnable?

Let me ask you a question: Would you prefer to have a person who is highly skilled but stuck in the mud, or a willing worker who might need training? Skills can be taught, but outlook is something that goes right down to the bone – or at least, deep enough down that the average employer can’t expect to be able to change it overnight. The way a person perceives the world, positive or negative, can be as fundamental a part of their make-up as an arm or a leg, and you wouldn’t expect to need to remove a limb in order for a person to fit in at your company, regardless of how much experience they have.

Positive emotions drive business success. A happy workforce is a productive one, high morale feeds directly into greater enthusiasm from your employees. Plus, away from the strictly business side, it simply makes your enterprise a more enjoyable place to work. Surrounding yourself with people who are ready and eager to learn makes success that much easier to achieve. Even if they need to be taught, they at least have the personal resources to be able to do so efficiently.

The power of positive

Speaking of personal resources, I’d like to point out that this kind of “positive thinking” isn’t just some kind of ambiguous business-speak that just shows up in slideshows and conferences. Positive psychology has proven effects on the ability of people to do better in the workplace.

Take one study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, aptly titled ‘Open Hearts Build Lives’. This study investigated how an increase in the daily experiences of positive emotions through a specific kind of meditation subsequently increased a person’s personal resources: Willpower, social support, purpose in life and even decreased illness symptoms.

You can see how an increase in these kinds of factors would improve a person’s ability to function in a workplace. Now stretch that out to an entire workforce, and suddenly those feel-good vibrations start taking on a far more tangible form. The above study showed how these kinds of feelings can be induced through a meditative trance; but if you can find a person to whom such emotions come naturally, then surely that is the better option.

Beyond happiness

However, the right attitude towards work isn’t just about being a happy person. They have to have the willingness to learn as well – and that factor has never been more important than it has been in the modern world, as we continue to roar along at an ever-increasing pace. To stay stagnant in your workforce is to stay stuck in your business; and that is a death knell for any enterprise, large or small.

Where can you find such attitudes for learning? Many of you will not be surprised to hear that it is the younger generation where this kind of attitude is concentrated. You might think that, with so many coming out of university, that young people might be a little sick of learning.

However, that is not the case, according to one survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers. It revealed that millennials considered the opportunity for personal development to be the number one reason for their decision to accept a particular role. That, of course, isn’t to say that you can’t find adaptable and reliable people among older generations as well, but it appears that is a major factor in the personality of the new wave of workers.

Ultimately, what does the right worker have? They have a spark, the initiative, and a willingness to learn, though not necessarily a huge amount of skill; you might even find it easier if they don’t! The right attitude is integral to success in the modern workplace. Have you found it yet?

The Art of Effective Communication

The Art of Effective Communication

In order to succeed in business, you have to know how to communicate. Hard skills can only get you so far, and the ability to manage, guide and express yourself to your colleagues as well as clients can go a long way to creating overall success.

The question, however, is whether your current communication skills are really up to scratch. You might be able to craft a brilliant email, but do you talk over other people at meetings? Perhaps you’re a fantastic active listener, but your body language seems stand-offish to your clients. Maybe you are warm, open-armed and welcoming, but your written communications result in people being turned off from your enterprise.

Are you putting enough of a focus on your skills of communication? And, if not, what can you do to rectify it?

Your grammar is a reflection of your image.– Jeffrey Gitomer

Despite the growth of other forms of media, many people still choose to engage with others through the written word. Memos and adverts, social media and blogs, the ability to turn a phrase or string a sentence together remains as important now in both communication and building your brand as it has ever been. Ignoring this fact, then, is a decision that only the unwise would make. And yet people do.

The strangest part of this phenomenon is that people who aren’t great at written communication tend to be the ones who overestimate their skills in it. In one study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers from Cornell University found that people scoring at the bottom of grammar tests thought themselves to be above the average. The issue was that they were unable to tell accuracy from error – meaning that they were making mistakes without knowing it.

For a business, that could be a nightmare: Imagine if you had an employee happily writing poorly-worded emails to important clients without any knowledge of the fact that they were putting themselves and your business in a bad light. Poor writing can be solved, but only if the person knows they are doing it, and your place of work has the right culture for them to feel comfortable in expressing their need for help.

Which, rather neatly, brings us on to the next type of communication: Verbal.

“Say what you have to say, then stop.” – Rudolph Flesch

Verbal communication is, at its heart, a two-way street. A good leader will know that you don’t talk at your employees or your clients; you talk with them. Look at the rise of social media – something that enterprises have embraced wholeheartedly as a way to have a conversation with their users. The same is true with the “manager with an open door”. While it may be a cliche, it is an indicator of something that any wise leader will know: that transparency is key to a well-functioning office, and a big part of that is the way you verbally communicate with the people around you.

Of course, some factors are more important than others in success in verbal communication. Some of these you can control, others you can only mitigate. The Queensland government, for example, provides the basics of effective verbal communication for business owners, including varying tone and pitch, using “I” statements and choosing the right speaking style.

However, it also highlights the importance of being able to effectively listen. Too often, leaders in a position of power simply wait their turn to speak instead of actively processing what their employees are saying. It’s an indicator that a person has already decided what they are going to say, regardless of what the other person is about to communicate. This is hardly a way to build a business culture that encourages open communication and understanding – something that is integral to any enterprise that wants to retain staff, efficiency and good business outcomes.

“There’s language in her eye, her cheek, her lip.” – William Shakespeare

But verbal communication is only one part of communication when speaking face-to-face. There is the saying that body language is 80 per cent of communication (though the exact proportions seem to fluctuate depending on who is quoting it), and, like many a saying, there is a definite truth to it.

What differentiates body language communication from written and verbal is how important it is in the workplace in particular. It isn’t just about communicating meaning or emotion, but about how well your team functions too. A stand-offish stance, crossed arms and a frown can tell you a lot about what someone thinks about the current conversation, but did you know that body language can affect how much someone learns as well?

A study from Stanford discovered that large, irregular movements from a person trying to teach someone were associated with poor test scores from the student. While the researchers involved were quick to say that this did not show causation, nevertheless the results did show that this unusual body language could predict poor training outcomes. If you’re a leader trying to train new staff or upskill current workers, it is clear how this could end up affecting your workplace efficiency.

Communication is a key pillar of business, and society in general. A full command of it is integral for any leader in business, regardless of type – are your verbal, written and visual skills up to scratch?

Management Vs. Leadership

Management Vs. Leadership

Everybody has, at some point in their lives, had a mentor. It could be a parent, a teacher, a manager or even just a friend you looked up to. Somebody who wanted to push you to the next level, or introduce you to a new skill or way of thinking. It’s not just being shown what to do, it’s being taught how to feel about the task that you are performing and why it is important to both yourself and the greater organisation you are a part of.

Schools, families, businesses: They all have mentors, managers, leaders. But being put into a position of authority doesn’t magically turn you into a good leader: That’s a separate skill entirely.

Management versus leadership

The first thing you need to realise is that a manager and a leader are two different things. Management could be described as a system or set of processes designed to squeeze out efficiency: Budgets and rosters as well as problem-solving behaviour all fall into the definition of ‘management’. A leader, on the other hand, understands that there is more to being in charge than the practicalities of the business. A true leader not only manages, but also inspires. Pragmatism, mixed with people skills.

Engaging and motivating your team is one of the biggest obstacles that you will face in your journey as a business leader. Before you can start inspiring others, you have to look inwards and think about your own attitudes towards your daily work. Do you see it as a series of tasks that just need to be completed, or do you think beyond this? Do you have a vision for the future of your role, do you think about how your position could be used to inspire others? Is this just a job for the here-and-now, or is this a career for years to come?

Management, at its heart, keeps the business ticking over. Leadership, on the other hand, helps your organisation drive towards business growth. Both are important in their own way, but it is the combination of these two skill sets that push an enterprise from the status quo into the future.

The role of the coach

Another aspect of a good leader is the ability to coach others. It is one thing to be able to do something yourself, but quite another to be able to teach someone else. You’ll often find that many people only coach others when it’s time to put out organisational fires. Maybe the person in question hasn’t been taught a particular process properly, or are learning about a new product for the first time. In other words, it is reactive teaching, rather than proactive.

Good leaders are certainly coaches, but they also don’t wait until the last moment to communicate what needs to be done. Driving your team towards results is one part reducing the amount of time you personally have to spend dealing with issues, and one part developing the skills of the people you are responsible for.

These processes will not only make it possible for your teammates to develop down their own career paths, bettering the company as a whole, but also creates a sense of self-efficacy: A feeling of confidence in their own abilities. You can compound this by leading from the front, teaching by doing, coaching according to your own strengths so that you are able to grow them in others. This is the physical manifestation of the desire to strive to do your best, something that every leader needs to be able to have themselves, but also be able to instill in others.

Developing a workplace culture towards success

However, there is only so much a single person can do. The true test of a workplace is the culture that it develops. A leader can have all the clear vision, all the skills, all the proactive coaching that they like, but without the attitudes of your team on your side, all the management in the world won’t count for much.

Whether you are in the real estate industry like myself, the owner of a retail store or the CFO of an ICT company, being able to inspire people both in the short and the long term is the key to success with your staff. Change ultimately starts with you and your attitudes toward your work, but by changing your own behaviour you are also leading by example – becoming the person that your team looks up to when it  comes to getting the job done, and done well.

With the right coaching methods, the right perseverance and the right people skills, mere managers can become true leaders. Organisational culture and success begins with the people in charge, so you’ve got to ask yourself: do you want to see the future of your enterprise filled with triumph? Then it’s time to start becoming like that same mentor you looked up to when you were younger. Change your attitude, develop your team and lead from the front; become the leader that you need to be.