Want Innovation? Learn From Ants

As is virtually always discussed, innovation plays an important role in any organization, both large and small, but there’s a significant difference in how innovation shows up in each type of organization.

Large companies usually have innovation teams focused on large-scale problems and large- scale production. Ron Ashkenas and Markus Spiegel, authors and contributors to HBR.org, note that these types of teams move in a specified direction at predictable speed.

On the other hand, innovation is not as organized and formal in small companies. It’s usually more spontaneous and nimble, driven by those wearing multiple hats.

Ashkenas and Spiegel have studied more than a dozen global organizations and their approaches to innovation—some successful and some not so much. Here, we share four of their findings on innovation.

1. It takes the mindset of an ant. Teams functioning like machines—blindly following highly defined processes and execution plans—were the least effective at achieving their goals and coming up with innovations. The most successful teams operated less like highly efficient machines and more like ant colonies, where they quickly adapted to changes in their environment. They had a set of simple rules and a clear goal, allowing them to be more flexible and able to learn along the way.

2. Centralize your mission; loosen your structure. As Ashkenas and Spiegel point out, ants have no central control, no single “master ant,” yet the entire colony works together as one community. They’re able to align their individual activities to the powerful common purpose that each ant shares—the survival of the nest. Thus, when the environment shifts, individual ants adapt their roles for the collective good.

Leaders of effective innovation teams communicate and centralize the mission of the team, but give the team members the freedom to do what’s needed to achieve their part. This allows the team to adapt when they hit dead ends. This is also why companies like Google align their people through yearly and quarterly goals, while giving them the ability to work toward these results in multiple ways.

3. Communication is key. Back to the ants. We’ve all seen long ant trails leading to a food source. If the source is particularly good, the trail intensifies and more ants follow it. It’s a time- and energy-saving way to communicate.

Rich, frequent and candid communication is also important for organizational teams to find innovations as quickly as possible. People need to bounce around ideas, share insights and challenge each other’s assumptions. Leaders need to make sure their teams have the time, space and tools to make this happen. Bring your team together often and create a comfortable atmosphere for dialog and brainstorming. Make it easy to share ideas through tools like instant messaging and file sharing.

4. Experiment with ideas. Always test new ideas and new ways of doing things. It’s at the heart of innovation. Ashkenas and Spiegel us the example of Intuit, who puts new product ideas on the internet before they are developed to test whether there is a market. If there’s interest, they proceed with development; if not, they modify the idea or quietly withdraw it.

Encourage your team to test ideas through action instead of just through studies and analyses. Of course, this requires both dollars and resources to build prototypes and mock-ups early in the discovery process and to engage directly with customers to get rapid feedback and test assumptions.

Embrace these management concepts behind innovation and watch your “colony” flourish.

Source: Ron Ashkenas is partner emeritus at Shaffer Consulting, where he helped leading organizations achieve dramatic performance improvements and coached CEOs and senior executives on strengthening their leadership capacity. He’s also an avid author and contributor to publications such as Harvard Business Reviewon topics related to organizational change.

Markus Spiegel is partner at Schaffer Consulting where he helps organizations to master the challenges in complex environments. His experience includes working in the automotive and financial services industry, including key roles at the BMW Group. He is also a contributor to Harvard Business Review.

Four Ways To Combat Lukewarm Leadership

In the backdrop of uncertainty, a mere spark of ambiguity or apathy by leadership can ignite the pervading fuel of resistance among the masses. Today, we will share four ways to combat lukewarm leadership from business coach and author Brian Braudis.

1. Set the tone: Begin with the energy and gusto you want to see in others. What you do as a leader has tremendous influence on those throughout your team and even your stakeholders. People respond to what you initiate. Demonstrate how much you are willing to give and show that you are duty-bound early and often. Make your messages steadfast. When people see and feel your energy, enthusiasm and promise they will not only buy in, they will help spread your all-in message.

2. Communicate: Communication is a standard by which leaders guide, direct, motivate and inspire action. Clear, confident, resonant communication will engender trust and gain followers. Here’s how:

  • Get specific: Simple and concise is more effective than complicated and confusing. Hit the high points in your speeches and save the granular details for in-person communications.
  • Get face to face: Aim for dialog rather than monologue. Employees and team members know the demands on leaders and managers. They know the value of authentic live contact and informal dialog where they can see and feel that their message is being received.
  • Demonstrate beyond words: What you do supersedes what you say. The proven formula for personal communication is 55 percent body language, 38 percent tone and seven percent communication through words. Body language and tone will validate everything that you say. Sending protocol out in a memo is not nearly as effective as walking around and informally sharing your thoughts and expressing yourself on the need for procedures.

3. Be the Island of commitment in a sea of uncertainty: Increased global influence, more demanding customers and disruptive new players are challenges to be surmounted. But to your team members the new economy means uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to anxiety that makes people susceptible to stress, and being less productive and more vulnerable to conflict. During times of upheaval we need leaders who

are anchored in commitment. They bring a calming presence and a higher perspective to the context of uncertainty. There will always be some degree of uncertainty. But when leaders show resolute certainty in their commitment, team members take note and follow suit.

4. Show consistent enthusiasm: Leaders who show enthusiasm remove any hint of being lukewarm. People can visibly see and feel your passion, energy and commitment and they buy in. Your team wants to win and they want you to be successful. No one tries to be second best. Show consistent enthusiasm and your team reciprocate with buy in and enthusiasm of their own.

When savvy followers see and feel your energy, commitment and enthusiasm shining through the daily challenges and frustrations, there’s nothing lukewarm about that.

Source: Brian Braudis is a highly sought-after human potential expert, certified coach, speaker and author of High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies for Your Ascent. He has also authored several audio programs from executive leadership development to stress management. Braudis believes “leadership” is a verb not a title. His passionate and inspiring presentations are based on the foundation that regardless of your position or role everyone is a leader.  Image courtesy of google image search.

Five Essential Principles For Growing Your Small Business

When it comes to succeeding in growing a small business, many people view success as luck. Some will succeed and some won’t. And it’s stories like John Mackey’s that inspire us to try. Mackey started a small vegetarian store in Austin, Texas, more than 30 years ago and this year sold his Whole Foods empireto Amazon at a price tag of $13.7 billon.

Business author Faisal Hoque points out in his recent Fast Company article that luck isn’t what it takes. Small business success comes from five essential elements, which we’ll share here.

1. Timing is Everything. The timing of your product or service must be right in the marketplace. There must be a need or a pain point that your product or service solves in order to gain interest and traction. If the market isn’t ready, then your business will fail or you will need to wait to launch your product or adjust your product to the market needs. As Hoque points out, smaller businesses have the advantage of being able to make choices and implement changes without the exhaustive process and conflicting points of view that slow down major corporations.

2. Brand, Brand, Brand. You need to create a positive experience for your customers to stay competitive. And, if you want to create a scalable business, you must understand just how crucial it is to build brand equity. The emotional attachment that links customers to your product, as opposed to any other, translates into sustainable growth. Hoque shares these basic rules for brand-building:

Choose your target audience. The surest road to product failure is to try to be all things to all people.

Connect with the public. Your objective is to make your audience feel an emotional attachment to your brand.

Inspire and influence your audience. An inspirational brand message is far more influential than one that just highlights product feature functions.

Reinforce the brand image within your company. Make sure employees at every level of your organization work and behave in a way that reinforces your brand image.

3. Scale Your Sales. You also need repeatable sales processes to create a business that can easily grow. It is one thing to sign up a few customers; it is another thing entirely to identify, design and implement repeatable sales and customer delivery processes. According to Hoque, you know your business is scalable when:

You can add new hires at the same productivity level as yourself or your sales leader.

You can increase the sources of your customer leads on a consistent basis.

Your sales conversion rate and revenue can be consistently forecasted.

Your cost to acquire a new customer is significantly less than the amount you can earn from that customer over time.

Your customers get the right product in the right place at the right time.

4. Embrace Technology. Bottom line, it pays to embrace technology. If a small business can identify a genuine need, technology likely exists to fulfill that need both locally and globally. There are few barriers to entry in an age where anyone with wireless can cheaply and quickly access the enabling technologies needed to execute their business model. Put effort into mapping out a plan that ties technology into your operational and business needs.

5. De-Stress For Success. As Hoque points out, managing the success of a small business can be twice as stressful as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner, nearly three times as stressful as raising children, and more than four times as stressful as managing your own personal finances. In fact, a Bank of America survey pointed out that 38 percent of small business owners maintain full or part-time jobs while running their own business.

If you’re not happy, healthy and motivated, growing your business will be difficult. You also set the tone for everyone who works with you. So, take care of your mental and physical well-being so that you can provide the best of you to the business.

PCT returns tomorrow with more tips for success.

Source: Faisal Hoque is founder of SHADOKA and other companies. His newest book is “Survive to Thrive — 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, And Leaders” (Motivational Press, 2015). He is formerly of GE, and other global brands, business author and contributor to Fast CompanyBusiness Insider and the Huffington Post.

Bet On Pets

Roughly 65 percent of households in the U.S. own at least one pet, which equates to more than 81 million homes. The American Pet Products Association is projecting over $69 billion in pet industry expenditures in 2017, with an average annual growth rate over the last 15 years of 5.4 percent. With these strong spending predictions and ample opportunities for innovation, there’s a huge market for products that cater to pet owners.

It is not a coincidence that the demand for pet specialty products is increasing as the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement. Many of the Boomer households are “empty nests,” and with their children gone, they are lavishing attention on their pets. Pet spending reaches its peak (at ages 55-64) as consumers focus on their “fur babies,” according to John Gibbons at petbusinessprofessor.com.

Even better news for the industry is that Millennials are embracing the trend. This generation was raised treating their pets as part of the family, so it is natural for them to splurge on luxury pet goods too. Many products and services that would have seemed extravagant to prior generations—doggie day cares, organic foods, high-end grooming services, expensive medical treatments and apparel—are now the norm. And as Millennials earn more disposable income, expect to see them spending more of it on their pets.

As the market for niche products and high-end services for pets expands, so do the opportunities to reach this audience through promotional products. “We’ve been successful selling to veterinarian offices, groomers, pet day care centers and dog treat companies,” says Charles Huang, vice president of sales and marketing for supplier Minya International Corporation (PPAI 112523). “There are also many channels and baking shows on YouTube that specialize in animal treats—and they sell merchandise to their followers. In addition, we’ve worked with animal shelters, rescue groups and breeder organizations for fundraisers.”

Humanization, the modern impulse to treat animals like people, drives the universal appeal of pet-themed products. Even among people who don’t own pets, who can resist heart-melting images of puppies and kittens? “Our ‘Best Friends’ calendars are appropriate for nearly any business serving consumers because pets are such a big part of family life now,” says Jerome Hoxton, president of Tru Art Advertising Calendars (PPAI 113720). “The primary buyers are veterinarians and veterinarian clinics, but other frequent buyer categories are banks, hardware retailers, dentists, tire service retailers, feed stores and auto dealers.”

With research pointing to increased health benefits associated with pet ownership, more and more consumers are following the craze. The U.S. Public Health Service touts pet ownership as beneficial to obesity prevention and helpful for those who are trying to quit smoking. In addition, the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation states, “People are happier and healthier in the presence of animals. Scientifically documented benefits … include decreased blood pressure, reduced anxiety and enhanced feelings of well being.”

———-

Pet Trends to Watch

Natural products
toxin-free materials and organic food

Premium services
spa treatments, mobile grooming, portrait photography, pet sitting

Superior health care
including health insurance

Travel Accessories
so that Spot isn’t left at home

Tech
wearable health trackers, monitors and interactive devices

———-

Have Pet, Will Travel

While on the go, pet owners are increasingly reluctant to put their animals in kennels. Numerous travel and hospitality organizations have responded, with airlines expanding their policies allowing pets on board, and many hotels and restaurants shifting to a more pet-friendly model.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at New York’s JFK Airport, where The ARK, the world’s first animal airport terminal, recently opened. The state-of-the-art center offers veterinary care, microchipping, and custom reports on individual animals. When complete, the terminal will unveil a Paradise 4 Paws pet resort that includes a bone-shaped dog pool and a jungle gym for cats. Although the terminal has only rolled out stage one of three so far, The ARK has raised the bar for travelers expecting quality care for their pets.

Even for less glamorous types of travel, including biking, going for a run or simply running errands, enthusiasm for mobile pet products is high and expected to rise.

For individual products and case studies, please visit our flipbook.

Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.

Japanese firm gives non-smokers extra six days holiday to compensate for cigarette breaks

Company based on 29th floor of Tokyo office block says every break lasts at least 15 minutes.

A Japanese company is granting its non-smoking staff an additional six days of holiday a year to make up for the time off smokers take for cigarette breaks.

Marketing firm Piala Inc introduced the new paid leave allowance in September after non-smokers complained they were working more than their colleagues who smoked.

Hirotaka Matsushima, a spokesman for the company, told The Telegraph: “One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems.”

Following the suggestion, the company’s CEO Takao Asuka decided to give non-smoking employees extra time off to compensate, Mr Matsushima added.

The matter has been taken seriously by the Tokyo-based company which is reportedly based on the 29th floor of an office block — making any cigarette break last at least 15 minutes, according to staff.

Mr Asuka hopes the scheme will create an incentive for the company’s staff to quit smoking.

Efforts to reduce the number of smokers and impose tougher anti-smoking regulations have been seen across Japan in recent months.

In July, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike made plans to impose a smoking ban in public places across the Japanese capital ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

But the proposal is likely to encounter strong opposition from pro-smoking politicians, restaurateurs and cigarette manufacturing giant Japan Tobacco, which is one third government-owned and paid the state $700m in dividends in 2015.

The World Health Organisation ranks Japan at the bottom of the list in anti-smoking regulations according to the type of public places entirely smoke-free and around 18 per cent of Japanese are believed to smoke.

Regaining Focus

It starts the moment you wake up in the morning, or maybe it’s the reason you wake from slumber. It’s the buzz of notifications on your smartphone or tablet. Most of us immediately check the devices by our bedside. It’s the first thing we do in the morning, even before kissing our spouse or letting the dog out.

This is one example of how digital devices have inundated our lives. In fact, studies show that people use digital devises an average of 12 hours a day. And the digital deluge is distracting us from gaining focus in other areas of our lives—including work.

 

Another area of distraction is our excessive addiction to meetings, according to William Treseder founding partner at BMNT and HBR.org contributor, who adds that studies indicate that we spend anywhere from 35 to 55 percent of our time in meetings.

To stay focused on truly meaningful activity at work, something has to change. Today, we share a few tips from Treseder on how to regain focus at work.

Practice mindfulness. The single biggest mistake most of us make is in how we start the day. As we mentioned above, the first thing most of us do is check our phones. Treseder quotes Stanford psychologist Emma Seppälä, author of The Happiness Track, who says that “By constantly engaging our stress response [when we check our phones], we ironically are impairing the very cognitive abilities—like memory and attention—that we so desperately need.”

Instead, begin your day with some quiet time. Take a few deep breaths or even meditate for 20 or 30 minutes. This allows you to train your body to stay calm in the midst of stress. It helps you make better decisions.

Organize tasks. Another common mistake is letting other people fill in your calendar, particularly in the morning. You have to make sure you leave enough time to accomplish complex, creative tasks. Schedule time for this type of work in the morning, when you can be most creative, and push other types of activity, like status meetings, to the afternoon.

Clean up. Is your desk a mess? What about the desktop of your computer? Your smartphone’s home screen? These areas might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but your environment affects your productivity and quality of work. As Treseder says, keeping a neat work environment, both physical and digital, is essential to your ability to stay focused. So, create folders on your desktop to get rid of all the random files, and keep only the most important eight to 12 apps on your home screen. And turn off all unnecessary notifications.

Shrink meetings and schedule time between. How many people were in your most recent meeting? More importantly, how many of them were actually involved in the creation or fulfillment of deliverables from that meeting? Limit the number of people in your meetings to ensure focus. Make sure each meeting results in action items, a timeline for each action item, and one person who is responsible for ensuring that it gets done. This takes the load off of you to “babysit” or spend your time following up.

Also, be sure to add time between your meetings to reflect and prioritize. It seems that a sign of status at the office is the person who has back-to-back meetings (read: that person must be very important)., Well, that person will not have time to do his or her own work and will experience burn out very quickly. Be sure to build in buffers in your calendar so you can have time to process.

Source: William Treseder is a founding partner at BMNT, a problem-solving consultancy in Silicon Valley. He loves to find creative ways to improve the everyday behaviors that define our lives. Images courtesy of Google image search.

How Do You Rate As A Boss?

Have you ever had a great boss? I mean a really great boss? I’ve had many good bosses over my long career. Looking back, the ones who had the most impact on me were those who were knowledgeable, pushed me by setting high expectations and taught me new skills.

National Bosses Day is coming up on October 16. If you are a boss, it’s a perfect time to take stock and determine what improvements would make you an exceptional boss. Today we share these insights from business author Jeff Haden.

1. Look past the action to understand the motivation. Sometimes an employee makes a mistake or does the wrong thing. Sometimes an employee takes over a project or role without approval. Sometimes an employee jockeys for position, plays political games or ignores company objectives in pursuit of a personal agenda. When that happens, it’s easy to assume that person won’t listen or doesn’t care. But there is usually a deeper reason for the behavior. A good boss will look at the underlying issue to determine why the employee is frustrated or if there is any justification for the employee’s action.

2. Forgive and forget. We all make mistakes at times. When an employee makes a mistake–especially a major mistake—it’s easy to label that employee as incompetent. A good boss will view the mistake as one incident and use the opportunity to educate the employee, not judge the employee in the future based on theerror.

3. Focus on employee goals as much as organizational goals. An effective and memorable boss will inspire his or her team to achieve corporate goals, but tie in how employees will benefit by achieving the corporate goals. Whether they get professional development or an opportunity to grow, those who feel a sense of personal purpose almost always outperform employees who feel a sense of company purpose. If you’re a great boss, you know your employees well enough to tap the personal, not just the professional.

4. Provide support without seeking credit. A good boss is not about self-promotion. For example, if there is an issue with a client who is upset or an employee who is frustrated, a good boss will support the employee dealing with the issue. This means getting all the facts and giving the employee the benefit of the doubt. A good boss will support the employee, even if it sheds a negative light on the boss.

5. Make fewer public decisions. When a decision needs to be made, most of the time the best person to make that decision is the employee closest to the issue. Great bosses trust the expertise of their employees and select the appropriate person to make a decision.

6. Don’t see control as a reward. Many people desperately want to be the boss so they can call the shots and be in control of the team. An effective boss is not focused on gaining control, but instead is focused on helping others and the organization as a whole.

7. Let employees have the ideas. A good boss is a nurturing boss. You get to know your employees, their strengths and what motivates them. Then you put them in situations where they can generate ideas and have a vested interest in the goals and action steps. You see the potential in your employees—and you find ways to let them “take the ball and run with it.”

8. Always feel like you could do better. Good leadership never stops. You always strive for process improvement, better quality, faster service and a better bottom line. Good leaders also strive to understand and elevate their employees.

Looking for another great way to be an exceptional boss? Read about 14 of the industry’s best bosses in PPB‘s October issue.

Source: Jeff Haden is a ghostwriter, speaker, LinkedIn Influencer, and contributing editor to Inc. He learned much of what he knows about business and technology working his way up to managing a 250-employee book plant; everything else he picked up as a ghostwriter for innovators and business leaders. He’s written more than 50 nonfiction books, along with hundreds of articles and reports. And he’s collected four years of tips and advice in his book TransForm: Dramatically Improve Your Career, Business, Relationships, and Life … One Simple Step at a Time.
Image courtesy of Google Image search.

Five Smarter Ways To Manage Others

Today, many employers say they’re having trouble retaining their younger employees—specifically, Millennials. At 82 million strong, Millennials are the workforce of the future. Studies have shown they want to work where they can make a difference and contribute to something bigger than themselves.

It’s imperative to realize that the people in your organization—especially young people—are the fuel to your long-term success, and the one person who affects that outcome more than any other is the frontline manager.

Today,we’re sharing five defined pillars of success for managers from business coach Jan Makala.

1. Engage employees with a compelling vision of what is expected, and provide the mission to achieve that vision. People respond when they are doing or contributing to something bigger than themselves. When national crises such as earthquakes or hurricanes occur, people are driven to volunteer not because they have to, but because they want to. As a manager, you need to create and share the vision and the culture that gives employees a reason to care, to show up and to do their jobs with a sense of purpose and excellence. Let them know that without them doing what they do, you wouldn’t achieve the results that you desire.

2. Make decisions based on productivity. By keeping your eye on the goal and having your people similarly focused, everyone will understand why certain decisions are made and can buy in. If disagreements occur, these discussions and opinions are welcomed because they are relevant to achieving a better outcome toward the end objective.

3. Motivate every team member to take action. People are more likely to take action if they know what is expected of them. When expectations are clearly defined, employees are less likely to disappoint their manager or their peers. Employees will work together without your direction or approval when they all know their roles and have bought into achieving the desired results. If your people don’t know what is expected, don’t be surprised by what you get

4. Have the assertiveness to drive outcomes. Are you more concerned with the process or the outcome? Managers are in place to strive for positive results. Employees may find ways to produce an outcome that the manager never thought of. Give employees the freedom to experiment and try new ways of doing things. Keep your team apprised of progress to keep them motivated If you neglect to provide appropriate feedback on your employees’ progress, you’ll immediate notice a decline in the contributions of team members. Remember, feedback is the breakfast of champions—be generous with your thoughts and expectations.

5. Create a culture that you want. Culture impacts every aspect of how you get things done, from hiring and developing the talents of the employees to customer service. Define your desired culture and then take it from words to actions. If you don’t like the culture you currently have or the results that you are currently obtaining, you are the only person who can change it. Your actions have to mirror what you desire. Do you allow negative behavior to go unchallenged? Realize negative behavior brings everyone down. Your employees are watching, and if they see you doing nothing, your lack of action will send a powerful message.

When employees believe that their manager truly cares about them as individuals, they will walk through fire for that manager. This connection gets to the heart of employee engagement.

Create an environment where people want to come to work, and your business will reap the rewards.

Source: Jan Makela is an executive coach, highly-sought after speaker, and best-selling author of Cracking the Code to Success and Be the Manager People Won’t Leave. Makela has a long and successful history of working with companies to ensure quality hiring and training practices. His specialty revolves around strength-based leadership development, with a particular focus on working with senior and mid-level executives, business owners and professionals.

Tapping The Power Of Outside Experts

We are not all expert communicators, especially when it comes to business. At times, we have to bring in the outside experts—copywriters and marketing or branding consultants. In preparing to work with them, it’s important to provide context and preparation. This will help these professionals to provide the right message to the right audience, and save time and money in having to develop multiple drafts.

Try these tips from Elena Langdon to help you tap into some extra power.

Know thy contractors. Before selecting an outside communications consultant, ask about expertise in your specific setting or field, not just years of experience. For example, if you hire a copywriter for a newsletter or website, look at her portfolio to see if she’s worked in your line of business before. Working directly with the contractor makes this easier, but if you are getting proposals through an agency, many will also provide information on the individual’s credentials and past work.

Explain your audience. Clue the contractor in about whom they’ll be working with. For example, if you’re looking for a consultant to deliver a workshop on employee engagement, let them know what your corporate structure looks like. Names and roles are especially helpful, as are division, unit and project names. This will help make the workshop relevant and personalized, even though an outsider is presenting it.

State your purpose. Your team and your counterparts across the table might know why you are discussing a contract, but an external expert brought in for the day won’t. What are the team’s goals? Are the

stakes high and the situation tense? Think of communication experts as extensions of your team and brief them accordingly. If they know your objectives, they can better understand you and transmit your message accurately.

Get it in writing. Perhaps this is obvious, but make sure you draw up a contract when working with an external contractor. Some important sections to include are confidentiality, deliverables and duration of work. Consider licenses, certification and insurance, too, if there is any risk involved in the work being supplied.

Provide context. Clear communication depends on contextual knowledge, so provide as much background information as possible. Let’s say you need an interpreter to help you sort out an HR problem with an employee who is more comfortable in another language. Inform the interpreter about any previous meetings, the main issues to be discussed, the type of work the employee does and anything else you think is relevant.

Explain specific jargon and acronyms. Your internal jargon or acronyms might be second nature to you at this point, but they probably sound like alphabet soup to an outsider. A short list or glossary can be helpful so that time isn’t wasted trying to decipher “the BPO merger” or the “quarterly up-queue.”

Consider your space. If you will be working with someone who will need to speak to your employees or visitors, let them know w

hat the physical space looks like. Will you be sitting, standing or touring a facility? How many people need to hear the external contractor? Will you play a video or will participants join via Skype or speakerphone? Knowing this information will allow the external expert to better prepare for the situation or even suggest things you haven’t thought about.

Make the most of their time. Whether it’s an hourly rate or a monthly quota of deliverables, you are paying for the contractor’s time. Think of ways to shorten meetings, including agenda items and committee work that does not involve the contractor. The more focused you are while the external consultant is on the clock, the better.

Send files ahead of time. Always send any documentation that will be discussed a few days in advance. Agendas, contracts, previous meeting minutes, presentation slides—anything that provides context and terminology will greatly enhance communication and save time during the actual meeting or event.

Source: Elena Langdon is a certified Portuguese-to-English translator and interpreter, and an active member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents more than 10,000 translators and interpreters across 91 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike.

Images courtesy of Google Image Search.

Maintaining Your Leadership Momentum

Have you ever had a day in which your wheels spin a bit slower? Have you noticed your team not putting the usual miles in at the office? It seems that when a team is aligned, focused and working together, projects excel. But when there’s a lack of focus, energy or commitment, or when benchmarks aren’t set in place, your team project doesn’t gain momentum.

Today,we’ll share these five tips from Elizabeth McCormick, a keynote speaker specializing in leadership, to assure your leadership and team directives match the result you envision.

1. Know Your Destination: When you begin with the end in mind, you have a distinctive vision of your desired direction and destination before instructing your team to launch. It doesn’t matter how big or small your project is—if the direction, intention or desired outcome isn’t clear, it will be tough to for your team reach its goal. Assume nothing, clarify everything, and have it in writing.

2. Engage Your Team: Once you have communicated the objectives to your team, start by having team members re-state the goals and desired outcomes in their own words. Also, flesh out the project, brainstorm with the team and add detail to the project. This type of activity will help jumpstart the camaraderie as your team begins working together as a team toward a common goal.

3. Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan: Be sure you have established the proper benchmarks, and signposts for you and your team, so that if there is any drifting off course, it will be recognized and realigned quickly without much wasted time or effort. Ensure that work is broken down into manageable, measurable, short-term goals to aid in motivation and increase productivity.

4. Own Your Results: As a leader, it’s your attitude, stamina, direction, commitment to the project and work ethic that establishes the environment and culture of your team, as well as the success of your project at hand. One of the biggest reasons people are taken off task is that the purpose for their task isn’t strong enough to keep them engaged. If this is happening, recognize it and take some time to clarify your team goal. And, regardless of why it happened, own the results. Empower your team to help you assess what went wrong, develop the proper benchmarks and guardrails to prevent that from happening again, and then map out a new flight plan to a better destination.

5. Collaborate—Share Your Progress: It is important to communicate, collaborate and share your progress. Your strategic plan could be working well. However, the marketing department may have new information that invalidates an initial premise or causes your data to be out of date. Informing them only at completion risks the success of your entire project. So, it’s important to keep key stakeholders up to speed throughout the entire process.

Include progress updates to those who are affected by your plans so that changes can be incorporated along the way.

Source: Elizabeth McCormick is a keynote speaker specializing in leadership, sales and safety presentations. She was recently named No. 4 on the list of leadership experts to follow online. A former U.S. Army Black Hawk pilot and author of The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life, she teaches instantly applicable strategies to boost employees’ confidence in their own leadership abilities.