Simple Ways To Recognize Greatness

How hard do your employees work for you? When your employees produce excellent work, do you take the time to thank and reward them? Not only does recognition make employees feel good, your praise incentivizes them to excel and helps retain them. Cultivating an atmosphere of continued achievement begins with giving credit where credit is due.

Research from Bersin & Associates reveals that 80 percent of surveyed employees feel more motivated to work when they believe they are appreciated. Another 71 percent say they’re motivated by the competition when peers are recognized for their work at least monthly. Proper recognition can do wonders for engaging your employees, even if they aren’t the ones being recognized.

Today, we share five simple and effective ways to recognize outstanding work from employees.

1. Buy a gift. The best employees give a lot of time and effort to their job, and you can return the favor with a gift. Put some thought into what you give. Generic gifts, such as gift cards, are appreciated, but they hardly show how much you truly value your employee. Instead, consider the needs and wants of your employees and don’t be afraid to spend a little cash to make them feel appreciated.

2. Create a personalized plaque. When an employee produces particularly good work, they deserve recognition beyond a simple gift. Give them something to forever commemorate the occasion, such as a glass plaque or award that can be displayed publicly on a shelf or mantel, and becomes a long-term keepsake for the recipient. Within the promotional products industry, the options are almost limitless. Opportunities to recognize good work can include special designations such as Employee of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, or other top-performer recognition awards. You might also reward employees for sales, leadership, milestones, customer service, safety, partnership or special categories.

3. Designate an Employee of the Month. If you’re in an informal setting and a banquet or award plaque seems too formal, consider developing an Employee of the Month program. It might seem like a simple way to recognize great employees, but it’s effective, and engenders productive competition and helps boost morale.

4. Invest in professional development. When you have high-performing employees who are eager to learn and advance their skills, reward them by providing professional development opportunities. You might pay for them to attend an industry conference (bonus points if it’s located somewhere tropical) or education program that provides training in their area of specialty, or pay the tuition for college classes related to their current work or career goals.

By investing in an employee’s education, you’re sending the message that they’re truly valuable. In addition, it motivates the employee to do a better job. It’s an investment in the employee and your company.

5. Donate to a nonprofit. Do some good while showing your top-performing employees you care. Allow your best employee to select a charity, and then donate a high-dollar amount to that organization. Studies show that when employees are enabled to provide service or donations to those in need, even vicariously, they tend to be happier and more motivated in their careers.

Source: Jenna Cyprus is a freelance writer in Renton, Washington, who is interested in travel, nature and parenting.

Managers: Pay Attention To The Back Row

I recently read an article about a woman attending a  Zumba class at the local recreation center. It’s a class made up of all ages of women and men (yes, men do Zumba too) from high school to retirement age. Some people try it a few times and never come back. Some are seasonal attendee, and there are the regular diehards-those of us who show up as often as we can.

Over time, a pecking order has emerged among this hodgepodge group. The back row is typically made up of newbies who are trying to learn the steps or who have a difficult time keeping up in class. The next two rows are typically a mix of regulars and sporadic attendees. Some of them are uncoordinated and need some extra space to move around in. Others in these rows tend to be somewhat experienced, but they don’t want any attention as they go through the steps. In the next two rows, right behind the instructor, are the regular attendees. They know the steps, they put in 100 percent effort and sometimes they even throw in some additional moves or use hand weights for the added challenge. Finally, we get to the front row-those who do Zumba alongside the instructor. Obviously, space there is tight here, so this self-appointed, elite group is typically comprised of three to four proteges who like to interact with the instructor and don’t mind having all eyes on them.

During the time in this class, what she noticed about the front row. No matter how crowded the room is, these people always make their way to the front assuming they have a reserved spot there. These participants like to observe themselves in the mirror and they are confident in knowing all the steps. This group has confidence, expertise and there’s a sense of elitism. But if anyone else from the class attempts to step into the front row, there’s an unspoken threat that they don’t belong there.

One of the most difficult jobs as a manager is to create a fair and equitable approach to team development and team dynamics. In an environment where personalities and personal agendas impact team dynamics, sometimes the loudest get the most attention and others with potential but softer voices go unnoticed.

As a leader, what can you do to optimize your team members to get the most creativity and productivity? Try these steps:

1. Manage the spotlight. Every team has a super star—that individual or group of individuals who stand out. They are experienced at what they do and they let others know it. While they might be cordial to the team, they control the team culture. They believe they deserve the spotlight and can take up the boss’s time and attention because of this.

It’s easy to give into these individuals because they make their presence known. Sometimes these individuals will self-appoint themselves as “second in command” due to their tenure or experience. Be careful with this as it can be confusing, and frankly, degrading, to other team members. As a leader, you certainly don’t want to discourage high performance. However, you also need to manage your time and attention across your entire team if you are going to optimize the team and get results. These individuals do best when they know they’ll have time with you, so set up one-on-one meetings with these individuals so they can share ideas. And make it clear that your job, as the leader, is to set the direction and goals. It’s not up to them.

2. Give the second and third rows a chance to break through to the top. Often there’s great talent on a team that’s held back or doesn’t get exposure because of the front-rowers. Take time to identify that second- and third-row talent. Who does their job well? Hits deadlines? Brings new ideas to the table? Identify those individuals and give them some additional responsibilities that will grow their exposure across the organization. Whether it’s running the next staff meeting or planning the next corporate customer event, give them their own spotlight moments that won’t get overshadowed.

3. Groom those diligent attendees into front-row experts. Remember the team members who show up each week and are getting better and better at their skill sets. These team members might not have the skills down like other team members, but they are learning and have the potential to be part of the “front row” someday. If that’s the case, invest in these team members. Send them to professional development programs to hone their skills. Set them up with mentors in your organization. Help groom their skills and give them the confidence that they are up-and-coming high performers. By investing in them, you are not only building your bench strength for the future, you are also building employee engagement and, hopefully, employee tenure.

4. Don’t let those back-row success stories go unnoticed. Finally, don’t ignore the back row. The truth about the back row is that some of these team members will drop out or move to other teams. However, there are a few who will begin to move their way up in terms of skill development.

Be available to coach these back rowers and provide them with clear direction and instruction. With these team members, you’ll need to be proactive, reaching out to them individually and assessing their level of interest and engagement. By spending the extra time, you can determine where there are opportunities for improvement and where there are gaps in skills and contributions to the team.

There is also the opportunity to identify back-row success stories. These are individuals who quietly and unassumingly contribute in a very significant way to the team. Discover these successes and let others know.

Pay attention to your team dynamics and adjust the time you spend with team members based on their level of expertise and visibility.

Source: Cassandra Johnson is a tech-savvy marketing communications consultant and freelance writer. She reports on the latest trends in the promotional products industry, public relations, direct marketing, e-marketing and more. She supports clients in a variety of industries, including promotional products, hospitality, financial services and technology.

Sincere Questions That Cut Through Small Talk

One thing I know for sure about myself is this: I’m not great at small talk. I wasn’t born with the gift of gab. While I thrive on other people’s energy, I hate to come up with frivolous conversation starters. I’d much rather jump right into a meaningful dialogue than participate in idle chatter. This makes opportunities like networking events a bit intimidating. And I’m certain I’m not the only one with this aversion to small-talk.

Marcel Schwantes, principal and founder of Leadership From the Core, discovered that to be able to draw people in, he simply had to ask the right questions. Here, we’ll share some of Schwantes’ questions that drive interest and persuasion in a professional conversation. He points out that the first four questions are borrowed from business author David Burkus, which were shared in the Harvard Business Review.

1. What excites you right now? As Burkus explains, this question can go in many directions with a wide range of possible answers that may overlap into your personal life or work life, which will open the conversation further. And asking it allows for the other person to share something that he or she is passionate about.

2. What are you looking forward to? Like the last question, this one is more forward-looking, which, says Burkus, allows for the other person “to choose from a bigger set of possible answers.”

3. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this year? It’s the same technique as the previous two, but this one goes back in time for the other person to reflect on something pivotal that may have changed the course of his or her life. It also opens up a wealth of answers to choose from, which may overlap into some of your own areas of interest for further discussion.

4. What’s the most important thing I should know about you? Because it can come across as a little direct, this is certainly not your first question, and it may not even be your third or fourth, but it “gives the broadest possible range from which they can choose,” says Burkus. Use it in context, listen for clues and wait for the right timing.

5. What’s your story? This is open-ended enough to trigger an intriguing story—a journey to a foreign country, meeting a famous person, getting funded for a startup, a special talent used for making the world a better place, etc. It’s a question that immediately draws in the other person and lets him or her speak from the heart.

6. What is one of your defining moments? This question invites the speaker to share on a deeper level, which builds momentum and rapport more quickly. Obviously, asking a few casual questions before it helps set the mood for hearing about a profound moment or transition in that person’s life.

7. Why did you choose your profession? This assumes that, at some point, you dropped the mandatory “What do you do?” question. As a follow-up, it’s a question that will reveal multiple layers of someone’s journey. It speaks to people’s values, what motivates them and whether their work is their calling. It may also trigger a different, more thought-provoking response: some people aren’t happy in their jobs. By asking, you may be in the position to assist or mentor a person through a career or job transition.

8. What are you currently reading? You may have the same authors and subjects in common, which will deepen your conversation. Also, use this question to ask for book recommendations. You may find the conversation going down the path of exploring mutual book ideas to solve a workplace issue or implement a new business strategy.

9. How can I be most helpful to you right now? To really add the most value to a conversation, once a level of comfort has been established, ask the other person how you can be most helpful to him or her, whether personally or professionally. You’ll be amazed how pleasantly surprised people will be by that thoughtful gesture, and how responsive they are in their answer. Your genuine willingness, no strings attached, to make yourself useful to others leads to more interesting, engaging and real conversations that may lead to future opportunities.

Whatever question you decide to use, the important thing is to always ask open-ended questions and to avoid work-related questions or business questions until much, much later in the conversation. You’ll be surprised by how seamless the transition will be to business, conducting a sales pitch or exploring partnerships once both parties know each other.

Source: Marcel Schwantes is an expert in developing exceptional servant leadership work cultures where employees, managers, executives and their businesses thrive. He is an entrepreneur, executive coach and adviser, and keynote speaker.

Image courtesy of google image search.

Three Ways To Encourage Innovation

Where does innovation fit in your business? Regardless of size, innovation is important to enter new markets and grow the reach and market share of your business.

Innovation, however, can sound rather intimidating to some businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. According to workspace design company, Red Thread, there are simple things you can do today to encourage innovation among your employees.

1. Give Your Employees A Reason To Care. Employees with an emotional investment in your company and their jobs are the ones who are going to put in the most effort and produce the best work. If your employees are only at the office for the paycheck, their willingness to participate and innovate is going to be much lower. Encourage innovation by giving them a reason to care. This motivation can come in many forms such as incentives, raises, promotions and feedback for a job well done. When employees feel like they matter, they are more likely to be invested in the company and innovate on new projects.

2. Include Social Spaces In Your Office. Give your employees a physical space to be creative and innovative. Creating social areas or lounge-type spaces in your office is a great invitation for employees to relax, mingle and get the creative juices flowing. Studies show that taking small breaks throughout the workday can boost workers’ productivity and motivation, too. When employees have a space to take a break from their hectic workday, they can recharge and come back to their desk full of fresh ideas.

3. Collaboration Is Key. When it comes to innovating and generating new ideas, the more heads in the room the better. Collaboration allows for employees to put their best ideas together and generate truly innovative solutions. In order for employees to collaborate successfully, they need the technology, space and resources to do so. Equip work spaces with collaboration technology like smart boards and wireless connection to encourage innovation. Make sure you incorporate areas where employees can individually focus as well as collaborate in groups.

Source: Red Thread helps organizations and their partners to create work environments that support productive, engaged employees. Through integrating furniture, architectural products and audiovisual technology, holistically designed spaces can dramatically impact your bottom line. Red Thread was established in 2012 when Office Environments of New England, BKM Total Office and Business Interiors joined forces as a regional enterprise. Red Thread serves as the authorized Steelcase dealer in New England.

Image courtesy of google image search.

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.

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.

Four Strategies For Making The Right Connections

Networking is critical to keeping the momentum of growth and opportunity throughout your career. Unfortunately, networking comes easier to some people than to others. Today we share these five strategies from Jill Johnson, business author and speaker, on how to build your network of connections.

1. Build Your Network Before You Need It:
 Johnson says the best time to start networking is while you’re still in school. Look for professional groups in your field. Attend their events with the goal to meet people working full-time in the field and learn from the speakers. Many of these groups need volunteers.

As a student, I was a member of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and had opportunities to interact with public relations professionals. It was a great way to ask questions, learn about the skills I needed and make connections for internships.

Be sure to follow up your meeting with a thank-you note and reach out to make a connection on LinkedIn, along with a personal message. These are the details that get you remembered.

2. Be Specific In Asking For What You Want: Don’t waste the time of your networking contacts. Be clear about what you are hoping to gain from the meeting. Tell them exactly what you want to do and why you think they can help you. “Informational interviews” are a terrific method for learning about their career path and gaining their insight on how to build your career. Make sure you have a stated purpose for the meeting and then stick to it. Ask if there are any events, trade association meetings or volunteer opportunities that you should consider to help you build your network and gain some good foundational experience.

3. Face Time Is Critical:
 We’re all too used to communicating by text and email. While that works in many situations, networking requires a personal connection. People can only get to know and like you as well as help you when they meet you in person.

You can get face time simply by asking for it. Request a 15-minute face-to-face meeting. Prepare for your meeting by reviewing your contact’s professional LinkedIn profile and company website. Have your question list ready, then greet them and listen carefully as they answer your questions. Conclude the meeting with a sincere “thank you,” in person and with a follow-up handwritten note.

4. Use Your Expertise To Help Others: Ready to pay it forward? Share some of your learnings and perspectives with your new networking connection and keep in touch. One interaction is not enough. Remember to pay it forward by asking if there is anything you can do to for them. There might not yet be an answer, but it counts that you’re interested in a two-way street if possible. You have valuable knowledge, too.

Whether starting out early in your career or looking for the next right opportunity, try these tips and branch out with new contacts.

Source: Jill Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant and author of the forthcoming Bold Questions Series. Johnson helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted nearly four billion dollars’ worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results.

Seriously, Don’t Come to Work If You’re Sick

We’ve been off for a bit due to the busy nature of the holidays but today we are back with a vengeance and to talk about something very important to all of you out there.

Nobody wants you and your gross germs.

840x-1There’s nothing more selfish you can do than come to work sick. You may get a gold star for showing your sniffling face at the office and soldiering through the workday to prove your value—but everyone around you just gets sick. You’re an inconsiderate work hazard.

When people bring their infectious illness to work, it spreads—and when sick people don’t have a financial incentive to show up to work, fewer people get sick, according to a new working paper by the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research.

The researchers studied U.S. cities with paid sick-leave mandates and, using Google Flu Trends data at the city and state level from 2003 to 2015, looked for changes in flu rates after those mandates went into effect.

The cities that adopted paid sick-leave mandates in that time frame saw flu cases drop by about 5 percent after their laws took effect. For a city of 100,000 people, that comes out to 100 fewer infections per week, the researchers estimate.

“You see people who are at the workplace sneezing and potentially infectious. That’s how diseases spread,” said Nicolas R. Ziebarth, an assistant professor at Cornell University and one of the study’s researchers.

For most of us, staring at a computer through the fog of illness is torture, and does nothing to help us recover. Yet 3 million people, or 2 percent of the U.S. population, bring their ailments to work each week—a phenomenon the researchers dubbed “contagious presenteeism.”

Many do so because of financial pressures; nearly a third of workers have no access to paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The other two-thirds, who have the luxury of taking a sick day, need to stop making excuses for showing up at work sick.

Almost half of workers say they worry work will pile up if they stay home sick. People who find their jobs engaging also have a hard time staying home, finding work more fun than submitting to the reality of a sick day.

“Some people want to appear tough and signal that they are hard-working,” said Ziebarth.

But those diligent workers aren’t just showing their commitment, they’re also showering their coworkers with germs; the modern open office plan is a breeding ground for contagious illnesses. Worst of all, people tend to come to the office at the beginning of an illness, when they’re at their most contagious but still feeling well enough to get a little work done.

“You have over-the-counter drugs that suppress your symptoms, but they don’t suppress contagiousness,” Ziebarth pointed out.

And diligent workers who absolutely must meet a deadline or finish a life-or-death project should at least self-quarantine. Telecommuting has become an increasingly acceptable way to work, and 60 percent of employers let employees work from home, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual Employee Benefits Survey.

“It’s good to change the culture of how people see each other,” said Ziebarth. “You can signal hard work in a lot of different ways. It’s not the right way to go into the office and spread diseases.”

In fact, we all need to do our part to stigmatize coming to work sick. If a coworker comes in complaining of a tickle in his throat or clammy hands, say: “Go home! Nobody wants you and your gross germs.”

Original Article by

Rebecca Greenfield August 30, 2016, 9:47 AM EDT

How To Lead Innovation

There may be a time when you need to take the lead on innovation in your organization. The distinguishing aspect of leading a special-purpose team is that you’re not in control; you can only influence behavior. You’re tasked with figuring out how to do something new, so what you do in the formative stages will greatly impact the team’s chances of success?

1. Keep team size small, even for big projects. In Silicon Valley, the “pizza rule” has taken hold. If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, your team is too big. Once a group gets beyond five to seven people, productivity and effectiveness begin to decline. Communication becomes cumbersome. Managing becomes a pain. Players begin to disengage, and introverts withdraw. When it comes to team size, less is more.

2. Pay attention to group chemistry and emotions. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon point to three factors that make a team highly functioning. 1) Members contributed equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate; 2) Members were better at reading complex emotional states; and 3) Teams with more women outperform teams with more men. The emotional component—how we feel when we are engaged with a team—truly matters but is all too often never discussed. Pay attention to how the people you’re inviting onto your team relate to others. Always give credit to your team rather than take credit yourself, and practice empathy at all times.

3. Don’t go overboard with diversity. Can too much diversity be a detriment to team chemistry? Researchers at Wharton think so. Too much diversity of “mental models” can be a drag on forward progress, say professors Klein and Lim. If members of a team have a shared, organized understanding and mental representation of knowledge about the nature of the challenge, it can enhance coordination and effectiveness when the task at hand is complex, unpredictable, urgent and novel. The researchers concluded that team members who share common models can save time because they share a common body of knowledge.

4. Establish a group process. A group without a process is like a ship without a rudder. It will have a harder time innovating. Establish team rules at the outset. Address how you’ll treat each other, how you’ll respect each other and articulate how much of time each member is committing to the team. Effective teams establish clear goals and rules at the outset, and hold each other accountable.

5. Pay attention to the 3R’s of innovation: Result, Reputation and Residuals. What motivates people over the long haul is not money, but intrinsic rewards. As the team leader, keep the three R’s in mind: 1) Result: If you hit your target, you’ll have another accomplishment on your track record; 2) Reputation: Your status in the organization rises. Senior management will be delighted. Colleagues will talk you up, praise your contribution, and invite you to join future projects. 3) Residuals: the lasting payout of participating in a successful collaborative team is that you get to see your “product” being used by customers, both internal and external. You know you’ve made a difference, solved a problem or created an opportunity for the organization, your team and most of all yourself.

Source: Robert B. Tucker is a renowned global futurist and innovation keynote speaker with a client list that includes more than 200 of the Fortune 500 companies. President and founder of The Innovation Resource, Tucker is an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of innovation.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

It’s Time For SWOT

In many organizations the end of summer signifies the beginning of the budget process. In order to be ready for budget development, you first need a marketing plan. But in order to develop an effective marketing plan, you need insight into … well … the obvious—your market!

The SWOT analysis is a valuable step in your situational analysis. Assessing your firm’s strengths, weaknesses, market opportunities and threats through a SWOT analysis is a very simple process that can offer powerful insight into the potential and critical issues affecting your plan.

The SWOT analysis will be a useful tool in developing and confirming your goals and your marketing strategy. It begins by conducting an inventory of internal strengths and weaknesses in your organization. You will then note the external opportunities and threats that may affect the organization based on your market and the overall environment. The primary purpose of the SWOT analysis is to identify and assign each significant factor, positive and negative, to one of the four categories, as we explain below.

Strengths. Strengths describe the positive attributes, tangible and intangible, that are internal to your organization. They are within your control. What do you do well? What resources do you have? What advantages do you have over your competition?

You may want to evaluate your strengths by area, such as marketing, finance, manufacturing and organizational structure. Strengths include the positive attributes of the people involved in the business, including their knowledge, backgrounds, education, credentials, contacts, reputations and the skills they bring. Strengths also include tangible assets such as available capital, equipment, credit, established customers, existing channels of distribution, copyrighted materials, patents, information and processing systems, and other valuable resources within the business.

Weaknesses. Weaknesses are factors that are within your control that detract from your ability to obtain or maintain a competitive edge. Which areas might you improve?

Weaknesses might include lack of expertise, limited resources, lack of access to skills or technology, inferior service offerings or the poor location of your business. These are factors that are under your control, but for a variety of reasons, are in need of improvement to effectively accomplish your marketing objectives. Weaknesses capture the negative aspects internal to your business that detract from the value you offer, or place you at a competitive disadvantage. These are areas you need to enhance in order to compete with your best competitor.

Opportunities. Opportunities assess the external attractive factors that represent the reason for your business to exist and prosper. These are external to your business. What opportunities exist in your market, or in the environment, from which you hope to benefit?

These opportunities reflect the potential you can realize through implementing your marketing strategies. If it is relevant, place timeframes around the opportunities.

Threats. Threats include factors beyond your control that could place your marketing strategy, or the business itself, at risk. These are also external—you have no control over them, but you may benefit by having contingency plans to address them if they should occur.

A threat is a challenge created by an unfavorable trend or development that may lead to deteriorating revenues or profits. Competition—existing or potential—is always a threat. Other threats may include intolerable price increases by suppliers, governmental regulation, economic downturns, devastating media or press coverage or a shift in consumer behavior that reduces your sales. Get your worst fears on the table. It may be valuable to classify your threats according to their “probability of occurrence.”

The implications. How can you use the strengths to better take advantage of the opportunities ahead and minimize the harm that threats may introduce if they become a reality? The true value of the SWOT analysis is in bringing this information together, to assess the most promising opportunities and the most crucial issues.

Source: Tim Berry is the founder of Palo Alto Software, a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He makes several notable appearances in Fire in the Valley, Swaine and Freiberger’s classic history of the PC industry, and is the originator of plan-as-you-go business planning. Today, he dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching, and evangelizing for business planning.