Sunday, 22 April 2012

Together Everyone Achieves More

Believe me, this will be stuck in
your head for quite some time!
Cheesy, right? However, despite wincing at the all-American cheerleading images that frolic into your head when you read this, you know that it makes sense.

On a recent overnight “away day” with our Management team I was confronted by this clever little acronym and immediately decided that it was worth passing on to others. Now I am probably not the best for making an authoritative decision as to the value of these sorts of things because I can often be a bit of a cheerleader myself. I love to be inspired and forced to think ... and often the cheesier it is, the better. This time though, I was sure that this simple acronym was an important one.

I am sure there are a number of people reading this blog (well maybe there aren’t actually but I will continue nonetheless) who come from the school of “if you want to get a job done, do it yourself” and I can’t blame them. There are many times when I am sat re-doing things that I have asked someone else to help me to do because I do not believe they have successfully reached my required standards of completing the task. The most prominent example of which is house cleaning; my partner Paul is absolutely useless at cleaning the house. He does a great job at the superficial cleaning, where he ensures that there is nothing left on the sides and the carpet has been hovered but he ignores the dust on the skirting boards and certainly forgets the tiles around the bath (Wow, I just realised that I have turned into my mother!).  Despite my frustrations at his lack of attention to the finer details of cleaning, I know deep down that it would be so much easier and a quicker task if I allowed him to help me rather than flapping about it and re-doing it all by myself. Really, it is all about us understanding what we are trying to achieve, using each of our strengths to our advantage and working out the best way that we can get the job done together. Mind you, that didn’t work with the building of the furniture when we moved in to our house, so perhaps we are going to have to work extra hard at this.

A book that I am reading at the moment “The Five Dsyfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni tells a story in the opening pages where an incredibly successful business founder expresses the power of teamwork. He says “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time”. This is pretty powerful stuff and I am 100% convinced that he is right but the question remains, how do you achieve that? I think that perhaps this will always be an elusive goal due to the number of determining factors involved but there are many things that we can do, within our personal and professional lives, to ensure greater teamwork.

One of the most important elements of teamwork is clear communication. Everyone in the team needs to understand where they are going, what their particular role in getting there is and what the end result will look like. Teamwork will always seem clunky at the beginning, especially if these 3 questions are not answered and sometimes it will seem easier to just get on with things by yourself.

An acquaintance of mine recently attended a leadership course, upon which he was asked to complete a team exercise with other attendees. They were encouraged to work together, with a few curveballs thrown in (e.g the leader acting in a passive and indecisive way) and managed to complete the set task in no more than 10 minutes. When the participants were asked about what they thought about the task and how they could improve, many of them believed they could have done it by themselves in a much quicker time.

They were probably right.

However, they were then told that the quickest a team had ever completed the challenge was in less than a minute, an impossibility for one man/woman alone. This achievement required teamwork, with every member on the team pointing in the same direction with an understanding of how their jigsaw puzzle piece fit into the wider puzzle.

Quite simply:

Together Everyone Achieves More

Monday, 9 April 2012

Using social media to drive traffic back to your website

If you are using social media for business you need to be clear about what you are trying to achieve and just like any other communication channel, you should have a strategy. 

Often we spend vast amounts of time adding 'like' buttons and twitter icons to our website in a bid to increase the number of users and 'friends' on our social media sites. Although this is certainly a valid way to spend some of your time, it should not be the focus.

Social media exists to allow you to engage and start a dialogue with your key audiences, however, it is also enables you to guide further traffic to your website. You should be looking at ways to drive traffic back to your website, where potential clients will be able to further their knowledge about your organisation and the services or products that your business has to offer.

This is often easier said than done, so here are a few tips on driving traffic back to your website from your social media hubs;

1) Embed your YouTube videos on your website; using YouTube will generate more views. Don't forget to place your website address in the content section as well!

2)When posting about competitions or exciting information on your twitter or facebook page, do not give away all of the information in the post. Make 'viewers' go to your website! For example, “Want to be in with a chance of winning 2 free event tickets? Enter our competition here (link to competition details on your website)”. Give people a reason to go to your website!

3) Do you have a blog? If you do then it is certainly worth embedding your blog within your website and then linking to articles on your blog through other social media platforms. If you do not have a blog then it may be worth evaluating whether you need one. Blogs can allow a great opportunity to show expertise and gain the status as a credible source for information

4) If you are willing to put some finance into this venture then Facebook ads can allow you to target related social media users towards your website

5) Use social bookmarking websites (such as Digg, Pinterest or Delicious) to bookmark articles from your website or even interesting articles from elsewhere as your profile will show a link to your website. The increased number of links you have across the internet to your website the better SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) you will have

6) Comment on interesting articles and blogs that you believe your target audience will be reading. Leaving a comment will allow you to leave a link to your website. REMEMBER, your comment must be relevant to the article/post and must add something of interest....otherwise readers will just ignore you!

These are a few ideas for using social media to drive traffic to your website; it is unfortunately not an exhaustive list!

Next week I will be posting about using social media within the workplace and the potential pitfalls surrounding the implementation of internal social technologies, otherwise known as Enterprise 2.0.

Monday, 2 April 2012

The chaos of change

I have spent the majority of my working life looking at change models and developing initiatives and strategies to ease the change process. The subject fascinates me.

I first learnt of a “change process” when sat in a lecture theatre eagerly awaiting a speech on “making the most of your year abroad”. I was expecting an upbeat promotion of the wonderful experience that we were all about to embark upon delivered by students who had done it, been there and had “found themselves”. Unfortunately, I was faced by a university lecturer who solemnly pulled up a slide on the projector to explain how we were probably going to experience “anxiety”, “fear” and “depression” at some point during our trip ... certainly not what I wanted to hear!

Anyway, I do digress. I am just about to move house, something I hate at the best of times and this time it is not helped by the fact that my partner of 5 years is moving to London whilst I stay in Cheltenham. I feel like I have been on a placid playground ride that has just turned into Nemesis at Alton Towers. Suddenly I have had to find somewhere new to live, start to pack up my things, leave behind the silly items that were bought specifically for the large regency-style apartment we were living in, downsize significantly and divide our other things between our two new houses (obviously I have earmarked all of our nicest belongings).

Although I am used to considering the change curve and process on a work-level, I had not really stopped to think about how it affects us on a personal level and how unsettling yet exciting change can be in everyday life. I think I am currently stuck somewhere around the denial stage, having left all my belongings unpacked and still avoiding planning the logistics of the move, but I am keen to follow my own progress through the many stages of change.

Paul moves out for good on Sunday and I will be making the transition to my new place in two weeks, so I’ll keep you updated!

To understand a little more about the change process, check out this diagram by John Fisher.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Pursuing excellence

At the beginning of the year, as most of us do, I decided to sign myself up to the gym (again), give my house a serious clean and to think about ways for personal improvement. Yes I know, grab your sick buckets, next I’ll start talking about the latest self-improvement book on my bedside table.

I have actually joined a club called Toastmasters, specifically the Cheltenham Speakers club. The idea behind Toastmasters, which is a now a worldwide membership programme, is based around helping people of all abilities to improve their off-the-cuff and prepared communication skills. What I love about the concept of Toastmasters is that it about positive learning experiences and that over time you do get to see people’s communication skills improve tremendously.

When I joined, many of my colleagues were intrigued as to why someone, that they thought was a total chatterbox and certainly didn’t have any issues with speaking, would be joining a club to improve their communication skills. Well, my reason for joining was based on the concept that you can always improve and also that you can always learn from other people. Interestingly, Barry one of the members in my club said that his friends had said a similar thing when he joined. He told me that he had always been told to “focus most on the things that you are good at, so that you can become great at them. After all, what do you think Serena Williams will be doing tomorrow morning?”

I have to admit, I was quite taken aback by Barry’s comment but actually he made a good point. As long as you don’t avoid trying to improve the things that you are not so naturally gifted in, it is important to make sure that you pursue excellence. After hearing what Barry had to say I knew that I was in the right place.

At the tender age of 13, I received my annual school report with the traditional one sentence wonder from my headmaster at the end, except this time it read “Jenny is a good all-rounder, no areas specifically exceptional but good in all areas”. Well, read that how you will but it has stuck with me since and spurred me on to make sure that I always make an impact.

I don’t want to be an average Joe, and I certainly don’t intend to be.