How do you eat an elephant?

“There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”

Desmond Tutu – Noble Prize laureate, anti-apartheid campaigner

In using this old African proverb, what did Desmond Tutu mean?

How often are we confronted with tasks or challenges that seem insurmountable?

The first action in confronting a major project is to set the goal…………that is, eating the elephant.

However, in order to reach the goal of eating an elephant you need to plan and set incremental time bounded goals. In this case, it’s eating the elephant one bite at a time. Setting goals is an important discipline for business owners and managers. Furthermore, setting goals also helps in creating a meaningful, satisfying, and successful life.

Small goals have several advantages in giving you:

  1. something that is tangible and achievable on which you can focus
  2. the satisfaction of achieving the small goals
  3. the way to achieving your major goal

A junior IT employee I once employed was daunted by the number of tasks he had to complete. He said he felt helpless and was not enjoying his role as he ‘was not getting anywhere’. We devised a simple plan that visibly showed progress. Using a simple exercise book, he listed the jobs to be done, both large and small. When he completed a task, it was crossed off the list and dated. He immediately had a visible and simple method of tracking his progress. This resulted in a significant improvement in his job satisfaction and productivity.

Job satisfaction, like life satisfaction, is higher if you see life or your job as a series of small milestones or goals along the way. Remember life, and this includes your working life is not a destination but a journey.

Whilst the practice of goal setting is important, there are certain ways to set goals that will increase the chance of success, including using the acronym, SMART for setting goals:

Specific – be very clear on what you wish to achieve. It also helps to visualise your goals. Using the elephant analogy, an African elephant weighs around, 5,000 kilograms.

Measurable – set a goal where you can measure your progress toward achieving it. Record the kilograms of the elephant you eat each week. As Peter Drucker, the famous management thinker said, “what gets measured gets done.”

Attainable – your goals need to be reasonable and realistic. You then have a better chance of success. With the elephant example, eating 100 kilograms per week would be unrealistic whereas 10 kilograms is achievable. This moves you towards your final goal, which is eating the elephant. However, at 10 kilograms per week it would take you nearly 10 years to eat the elephant by yourself. This brings us to the next consideration.

Relevant – set a goal that has meaning, whether personal or for your career or business. There is little point in having goals that have no meaning as you are wasting both time and resources. Also, you are unlikely to be motivated when the going gets tough. Due to the time involved in eating the elephant by yourself, it is not relevant or practical, even if you like elephant meat!

Time-Bound by setting a timeline or deadline you are forced to commit. This includes the small goals along the way that lead up the major goal. In meeting both the relevance and time criteria, to eat the elephant before it becomes rotten, you could enlist 100 of your fellow villagers and it would be completed in only 5 weeks!

Note: 10 kgs per person per day multiplied by 100 villagers and 5 weeks equals 5,000 kgs

Often when I sit in front of a client, they are daunted by the task to improve their business’ performance.

How do we solve the apparently daunting task?

By using the ‘eating the elephant, one bite at a time’ approach. We break down the business plan into initially, 3 year goals, then 1 year goals and more importantly 90 day ‘bite size’ goals with actions that add up to complete the business plan.

Goals are dreams with realistic and achievable deadlines.

Motivational coach Zig Ziglar stated that “a goal properly set is halfway reached.” If we remember, setting a goal is just like eating an elephant, bite by bite, and bit by bit, we can reach firstly, our smaller goals before the final goal.

What is going to be your approach when you are confronted with a daunting task?

Can you recognise an organisational psychopath?

“There’s an absolute lack of conscience, lack of remorse, and lack of guilt. They’re manipulative, superficially charming, and pathological liars. They like conning people and there’s a grandiose sense of self-importance.”

Dr John Clarke – expert on work psychopaths

For the past 6 months, the news media has been full of stories of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour by men in powerful positions, whether its sexual abuse allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein or Australian TV presenter and producer Don Burke’s alleged sleazy and bullying behaviour, toxic workers are certainly topical.

Toxic employees can have a detrimental effect on an organisation. I wrote about this issue in a previous blog (Disruptive Employees) Furthermore, the failure to take action can be costly in terms of morale and profits. It also takes away the positive energy required for managing an organisation.

One form of toxic employee is the ‘organisational psychopath’ (Forbes Article)

The term psychopath conjures up images of evil murderers from a Hollywood movie such as Hannibal Lector in the Silence of the Lambs. However, they generally don’t murder people instead they destroy work colleagues and their subordinates as well as seriously damaging the organisations they work for.

Have you ever worked with or for an organisational psychopath?

How do you recognise one?

They are not normally the overbearing, rude and unreasonable boss. They far too clever for that and often remain undetected for years in organisations.

I can remember working for one many years ago. He was superficially charming, had excellent oral communication skills, was outwardly extremely confident and ‘managed up’ exceptionally well.

Within 3 months unbeknown to me, he was wanting to dismiss me. There were no conversations about performance and he certainly gave me no assistance in my role. I later found out that he had previously forced the departure of several other employees. What alerted me was him undermining and subtly criticising the staff under my control. He was known as the ‘the smiling assassin’ and was displaying the psychopathic characteristics of lack of conscience.

My wife came to work to pick me up one afternoon with our 6 month old baby. He was dismissive and rude. This should have rung alarm bells, as one of the characteristics of a psychopath is a lack of empathy.

He was described as a hero by the business owner, as under his division, the business had grown significantly in terms of profit and revenue using new technology. I found out later that another executive was instrumental in advising and assisting him in implementing the new technology and opened the doors with existing customers. This shows three other characteristics of psychopaths, claiming credit for others work, being manipulative by managing up and using excellent oral communication skills.

Like all good organisational psychopaths, he left the organisation before he was found out. Upon leaving, the final confirmation fell into place. I was to complete a project he had commenced and found out that much of what he had claimed had been completed had not. Yes, the final characteristic was being a pathological liar.

The experience of working for this organisational psychopath left me somewhat scarred, losing my confidence and feeling demoralised. However, I learnt how to recognise organisational pathological behaviour and made a pact with myself never to work with or for one again and help others to manage who had been affected by their behaviour.

The following link provides a good summary of how to deal with them ( Dealing with an Organisational Psychopath )

Read it and refer to it when needed…………………

New Year’s Resolutions for 2018 for you and our business…..

“We adopted a strategy that required our being smart and not too smart at that, only a very few times. Indeed, we now settle for one good idea a year”

Warren Buffett – business magnate, investor, and philanthropist.

It’s the new year and the festive season is over.

The start of the calendar year is a time for reflection, recharging your batteries and planing for the year ahead.

Was 2017 a challenging year for you?

Did you achieve your professional or business goals?

If not, why not?

Many of us make long lists of New Year’s resolutions that are unfortunately never fulfilled. Maybe we had too many resolutions, or they were too difficult or we were just plain lazy. One study found that less than 10% of New Year’s resolutions are never completed or considered successful.

However, as business owners or managers we are obliged do better and are expected to do better!

For example, as a manager or business owner, you will probably have a couple of new year’s resolutions about being more productive, expanding or improving your business.

Are they the right goals?

Will they make a REAL difference and become habits and a mindset so that you succeed now, and not just for the next 365 days?

As Warren Buffet suggests in the quote above, making a few significant right decisions will make a real difference. With New Year’s resolutions, set the right resolutions, limit the number and keep them simple – the KISS principle: keep it simple stupid. Using this principle, they are more likely to be effective and result in changing your habits.

Here are three resolutions you could consider for 2018 with three aims of being positive and habit forming, changing your mindset and having a positive impact on you, your business and your team.

Resolution 1: Ask More Questions

How often do you meet people and find they rarely ask questions?

Asking questions is not a sign of weakness. Questions are a tool to drastically improve your knowledge, resources, and even your network. Put your ego aside and ask questions. You will be surprised at what you will learn. I recently attended a training course and met some new professional consultants. By asking questions I found some surprising links with people we knew and experiences they had that could be useful in the future.

Asking questions is one of the most valuable skills a manager can have, whether it’s asking for advice, asking for feedback, or simply asking for help. It also demonstrates empathy and builds understanding. Great leaders do not have all the answers, however they usually ask the right questions.

Resolution 2: Work On My Business, Not Just In It

Most businesses start with a technician wanting to work for themselves because they have technical skills. (refer to blog on The E-Myth ) However, as the business grows there is a tendency to work on the activities you know and enjoy doing, that is working in the business not on the business.

To build a successful team or business, you need to learn how to create an entity that can exist without you. Leading rather than doing. Simply working harder, or working longer hours is unlikely to improve your business as significantly as required or desired. Whilst you may know your business better than anyone else, or are the most efficient person in the business, the time you spend doing jobs that other people could be doing is time not spent running and improving your business.

I learnt this the hard way in my former logistics business. I was spending too much time calculating the productivity of the different sections of the business by employee and customer – working in the business. It dawned on me that someone else could prepare the productivity reports for me. With the completed reports, I could then concentrate on the areas that needed action plus of course highlight and praise good performance – working on the business.

So, force yourself to look at your organisation objectively and determine what needs to occur so you can achieve your goals.

Resolution 3: Do more Networking

Networking is one of the most valuable tools you can have in your manager’s tool box. Knowing the right person provides opportunities to grow your business, from new markets or products to finding yourself a mentor.  Those managers or business owners who surround themselves with a diverse, dynamic, long standing and large network increase their likelihood of success.

I was able to successfully find a prospective buyer for our logistics business through a networking contact (Networking) that went back over 25 years. However, networking needs to be approached with the mindset of maintaining a relationship and helping others. You are likely to have contacts, skills and experience that can assist others and in turn, they are more likely to help you. Remember, people do not like being used.

You are far more likely to develop relationships when you are not selling or asking for something. Networks are support systems. You are more likely to gain assistance through your network when you require assistance.

So, force yourself to make phone calls, catch up for coffee or join an organisation, whether professional or a service club. You will be surprised how rewarding it will be.

It’s not long to the New Year…………

Have you started thinking about your New Year’s resolutions?

Will these New Year’s resolutions meet the KISS principle?

Will they be habit forming, change your mindset and have a positive impact on your team or business?

………….and finally good planning and action for the coming year.

What can a Sherlock Holmes story teach us about management?

‘My name is Sherlock Holmes.  It is my business to know what other people don’t know.’

Sherlock Holmes – fictional English detective

As business owners and managers, we are often concentrating on ‘the business noise’ and daily work activities rather than what is not happening in the business. The Sherlock Holmes mystery The Adventure of Silver Blaze, involving the apparent murder of a champion race horse’s trainer and the disappearance of the race horse illustrates this point.

On the night of the alleged crime, the residents in the house near the stables heard no sound.

The dialogue from the book makes interesting reading:

Inspector Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?

Sherlock Holmes: ‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.

Inspector Gregory: ‘The dog did nothing in the night-time’.

Sherlock Holmes: ‘That was the curious incident.

What was Holmes’ conclusion?

As dogs often bark at strangers and the dog did not bark perhaps the offender lived in the house near the stables. This important clue where the ‘dog didn’t bark’ helped Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery.

What did we learn from Holmes’ actions in The Adventure of Silver Blaze?

We normally think that important clues involve events that did happen, however we often forget that events that did not happen can be more important. Using customer service as an example, we concentrate on replying to customer’s phone calls and emails, whereas instead we should also be concentrating on those customers we do not hear from?

The equivalent of the dog that did not bark.

The customer could be very satisfied or extremely unhappy with our products and services? Reconnecting with the customer presents us with a great opportunity to reconnect and reinforce the positive experience they are having with our service or products or save their business from going to competitors because of a poor experience.

Remember, like Sherlock Holmes perhaps we should as managers and business owners also allocate time away from the daily ‘business noise’.

Are you looking at what is not happening in regard to staff and customers, especially those we do not hear from?

This may give us valuable clues on where to improve our products, services, staff relations, or our management style.

Don’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in his shoes……….

“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

 From the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (1926-2016)

This quote is a derivation of an old Cherokee proverb which states:

“Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”

What does this old Native North American proverb mean to managers?

Have you ever worked for a manager that tells you to do something but does not understand the situation because they have “never been or done that” before and this annoys you?

As managers of people we must be careful not to fall into this trap. Our staff will think we lack empathy, are incompetent or a poor manager. Certainly, in recent times many politicians on both sides of the political divide in Australia have entered politics as political advisers, staffers and trade union officials and have never run a business or worked in the private sector. Other examples are consultants advising on a course of action even though they have no practical experience in the area.

This situation was illustrated recently when I took an elderly friend who uses a walking frame to our local multi-level shopping centre. He was unable to use the stairs and required an elevator. We found out that the elevators were at the opposite ends of the shopping centre. This meant walking further than more able- bodied people. I would never have realised this issue existed if I had not experienced it for myself. I now realise why he was reluctant to visit this particular shopping centre.

As this example shows you should try and understand someone before criticising them, or make them do something that is unreasonable or very difficult unless you understand their experiences and challenges.

Can you remember the last time you did this?

As managers we are all guilty of this at times. The challenge is to limit this behavior as much as possible.

 

What can Elvis teach us about business?

“I’m as helpless as can be
I become a puppet on a string”

From Elvis Presley’s Song “Puppet on a String”

Last month it was 40 years since the death of the “King of Rock-n-Roll” Elvis Presley.

What has this to do with business?

Elvis died of a heart attack at the relatively young age of 42. Exemplified by his estate at Graceland, Elvis became known for a life of excess and luxury, owning three pink Cadillacs to a private jet. This lifestyle finally caught up with him. Combined with years of substance abuse and poor dietary habits which resulted in multiple ailments including glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon, he went from a 1950-1960s sex symbol to an overweight unhealthy man who died a premature death almost bankrupt.

It is a sad story of decline through excess and poor choices and could parallel a business failing for similar reasons. For example, Kodak grew fat on a film based processing business model and despite inventing the digital camera filed for bankruptcy in 2012. However, there is another more positive lesson from the Elvis Presley story.

When Elvis died in 1977 he had less than a million dollars in his bank account and probably would have been bankrupt within a few years had he lived. However, in 2016 his estate earnt more than $US27 million ($A34 million) with total record sales heading towards 1.5 billion!

Was what is the lesson or message here?

Businesses must be able to continue to prosper and grow without the owner or CEO having to be working in the business.  Like the words of the Elvis song “I became a puppet on a string’, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3TrdM2ivQ) businesses should not be reliant only the owner or CEO.

The Elvis Presley business continued to grow significantly after his death.

What is the takeaway message of what I call the Elvis Business Model?

Have a business that can operate without you working in the business on a day to day basis. In other words, a business continuity plan.

https://5-dimensionz.com.au/2016/05/21/business-continuity-do-you-have-a-plan/

What are you, as a business owner doing about creating a business that can operate without you on a daily basis?

 

Another lesson from the farm……

“There’s nothing like putting your bare feet into fresh cow dung on a cold day. It’s great “
Makhaya Ntini – first ethnically black cricketer to play for South Africa

In a previous blog I wrote about lessons from the farm Constant Renewal – Lessons From The Farm and I now have another ‘farm story’ from my childhood.

One of my jobs was to ‘pen up the calf’ each evening. This was done so that when my father milked the calf’s mother in the morning it would have enough milk to collect for our growing family of four boys. Rounding up the calf each evening was often a challenge. Regularly the calf would be cunning and refuse to go through the gate to be penned up.

The cow paddock was also a world of excitement for young boys. A creek to cross, dive bombing plovers in mating season, the odd angry bull, a mob of kangaroos with joeys, snakes……….

What a challenge!

However, the paddock other dangers. Yes, it was full of ‘land mines’ (our nickname for cow manure) — ranging from the very fresh to the dry and dusty.

It was fun to trick my youngest brother. He sometimes followed me around on my afternoon chores. On one of his first adventures into the paddock with me to pen up the calf for the night I encouraged him to jump on a week-old cow pat. Not being entirely convinced, he tapped it with a stick. It sounded hard so he then, with my encouragement jumped on it.

Two things happened.

Firstly, he was shin deep in cow manure and secondly, I doubled up with laughter — apparently the look on my brother’s face said it all. What a mean older brother. I certainly had some explaining to do to my mother when we got home.

The cow paddock in many ways was a great learning ground for a life in business. It was a very practical lesson –

‘what you see is not always what you get’

Are you careful enough in assessing opportunities and problems which are your land mines?

Are they what they seem on the surface?

Procrastination and egos cost businesses..

procastination-1

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.”
Elbert Hubbard : writer, publisher and philosopher

How often, as business owners and managers do we procrastinate on making decisions because of the feared consequences?
Sometimes we procrastinate making the most obvious decisions and further compound indecision by allowing our egos to rule rather than practical common sense. Let me give you an example.

Recently a friend was caught up in a situation that not only cost the business significant money but was a major distraction for the business in general. An employee who was still within their probationary period was responsible for bullying two other employees causing them to leave. Despite advice that the offender should be terminated without recourse as they were within their probationary period, the owner procrastinated and the offending employee remained employed after their probationary period. The owner then decided to act on the advice and terminate the employee, who immediately filed for ‘unfair dismissal’. Australia’s employment laws make it quite difficult to terminate employees after their probationary and court imposed penalties are high.

The owner was advised to make a one off payment to make the problem ‘go away’. He refused, stating it was against his principles to make such a payment. Lawyers were engaged, time was spent to present the case to the government tribunal and everybody was distracted. The indirect cost was considerable. The offender then doubled their demand for ‘go away’ money. The final outcome was a large legal bill, plus a payout to the ‘offender’ and wasted time and effort by the business owner and advisors.

All this was avoidable. The offender should have been terminated within their probation period. (https://5-dimensionz.com.au/2014/06/23/the-effect-of-disruptive-employees-in-the-workplace/) Their actions had already resulted in two long term employees leaving the business which was poor management. The second piece of advice to pay out the claim would have also solved the problem. However, pride and ego rather than common sense ruled the roost.

In business sometimes we have to put our pride and ego aside and make a decision that is best for the business. I have been guilty of this in my career, however several painful experiences have caused me to reflect my actions.

Can you think of an example where you procrastinated or allowed your ego to either delay making a decision or discarded common sense advice and made the wrong decision?

Christmas is coming again…………

5-reasons-to-attend-holiday-parties-this-month-1024x678

“What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day”
Phyllis Diller – comedian

Last year I wrote a blog before Christmas about using Christmas as a time to invigorate your staff and business and celebrate their achievements and commitment. A time to build goodwill (https://5-dimensionz.com.au/2015/12/10/christmas-its-that-time-of-year-again) and for managers to ‘rise to the occasion’ and display leadership.

Despite Christmas being a time of joy and celebration it can also be, unfortunately a disaster for both businesses and staff. Every year we hear stories of work Christmas parties that go wrong…..drunkedness, inappropriate and embarrassing behaviour, work accidents and the like. Often management or the organisation is blamed for the outcomes. It all the more disappointing when it is traditionally a period of cheer and goodwill.
So what should you as a manager or business owner do to protect yourself and staff from a bad outcome for your staff at Christmas?

What are the ‘rules’?

Below is a link from Broadspring Consulting that has some Office Christmas Party Success Tips:

Christmas Parties And Avoiding The Hangover

Also remember as an employer, the onus of proof is on you. Christmas parties should be more than about having fun. It’s a good time to reflect on achievements of the business and staff. This should obviously come from the most senior manager, whether the CEO, owner or Department Manager. It’s a time to display leadership and celebrate your business and staff’s achievements and also to thank them for their efforts. It is also an opportunity to set the tone for next year.

So what are you planning for your work Christmas party that will achieve these aims?

Are all your eggs in the one basket?

zimbabwe

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
Anon

I love travelling. Travelling allows me to experience unique cultures, see beautiful and interesting sights and most importantly meet interesting people. It’s amazing what you can learn from listening to other people’s experiences.

On a recent trip to Zimbabwe I was fortunate to be sitting on an aeroplane next to a local businessman who was returning home from South Africa. In conversation he gave me his family’s life story. He had several businesses, some urban property assets and was managing to survive despite the severe economic circumstances. His family also used to have several farms, employing hundreds of people. With the encouragement of the government, these farms were ‘taken over’ by so called ‘war veterans’ in the early 2000s with no compensation. In other words, his farms were stolen and hundreds lost their jobs.

Apart from obvious injustice, his position emphasised an important strategy for business owners. I had initially seen this strategy used by a former employer.

The strategy was “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”

Unlike many farmers who had lost their farms in the ‘farm invasions’ the Zimbabwean businessman had survived because he had diversified his businesses, thereby protecting his wealth. Likewise my former employer had carefully separated his business into various categories – operating business, fixed assets, property investments and stock exchange investments. If the operating business failed, then the rest of his wealth was not threatened.

The lessons learnt from my former employer were implemented in a subsequent business. This could not have been done without a very disciplined approach as at times our business struggled. Too often I have seen business owners draw out of their business for private use such as expensive cars, children’s school fees and overseas holidays and then get into trouble with the tax office and creditors when the business struggles financially.

Have you got ‘all your eggs in the one basket’?

If you have, perhaps you need to reassess your situation……