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Communicating the big picture

September 29th, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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There Communicating the bigger pictureis an old story about a man who sees three workers laying stones.  Curious, he approaches the workers to inquire about their labour.  The first worker barely acknowledges the man, only reproaches him:  “Are you blind?  Any fool can see I am laying stones.”  The second worker scarcely pauses, replying curtly, “I’m building a wall.  Don’t get in my way.”  But the third worker puts down his tools and takes a step back.  He proudly surveys his work and announces, “I’m part of the team building a great cathedral.”

Many strategy-makers assume that everyone in the organisation will instantly understand and execute the strategies they define, however research indicates that less than 5 percent of a typical employee group does.   It therefore becomes important to ensure every employee understands and is involved in implementing the organisation’s strategy.  You can only ensure others’ understanding and involvement if you yourself first make sense of the strategy, identify where and how your team’s work links to and supports it, and then communicate it in meaningful and operational terms so that everyone can conduct their daily business in a way that contributes to the overall success.

The key to effectively communicating the big picture is not necessarily being a great orator.  It requires constructing a message that is credible and that engages employees and increases their ability to take action. Constructing such a message may seem a daunting task – it requires generating enthusiasm about and movement toward implementing a strategy that is complex and perhaps only partially understood.

A few guidelines can help to craft a more effective message:

  1. Simplify the Communication
    Organisations and our role in them are complex enough.  Provide enough detail in the message to draw a full and accurate picture for listeners, but not so much detail to overwhelm them.  Include the reasons for the change as well as a description of the change.  Where it is possible, describe what is new in relation to what is familiar, being sure to clarify what is the same and what is different.  The goal is to create a sense of meaning and shared understanding.
  1. Create a Coherent Picture
    There are a number of ways to ensure your message is coherent and integrated.  Think for example about keeping the theme – in this case, the strategic focus – more prominent than the details.  Begin with the strategic focus, making it an organising framework for the rest of the communication.  Instead of just listing or describing strategic elements, explain how they relate to the strategic focus, and make sure the linkages among the elements are clear.
  1. Communicate Relevance
    Information that is too abstract or conceptual often feels disconnected from the day-to-day realities of employees.  To create relevance, use simple, concrete language.  Examples and stories can also be powerful tools for ensuring that abstract or disconnected information is translated into situational information listeners can identify with.
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Top tips for great project management

September 15th, 2015 by Kate Hoddinott
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Project management fundamentalsAlthough sometimes challenging, a well delivered project can be extremely rewarding. Successful projects contribute to individual and team success and at the end of the day it is the positive client experience that enables businesses to grow and gain positive reputation. Project management goes way beyond delivering specific tasks and it requires team collaboration and being able to form and grow strong client relationships. Your key stakeholders play a key role in helping you to stay focused on the right priorities and to get things done – so managing these relationships effectively creates increased clarity and focus. As projects can be often complex, there are little things that can help to get the basics rights:

  1. Understand what motivates your client

We all have different drivers and understanding what is it that motivates your client will go a long way. By understanding what success means to them you can help them to get there. Focus on individual, team as well as business success – this way you are contributing to the bigger picture but are also providing personalised support to your key stakeholders. Know their priorities including what are they accountable for and they key results they are focused on.

  1. Help to solve your client’s challenges

Your client’s agenda can be often complex so it’s essential to understand the challenging aspects of their work and how can you make their life easier. They need your support and vice versa, so be aware of what’s competing with you for their time and energy. Focus on their business challenges and struggles that keep them up at night. Never make assumptions about what are their expectations – if you are not clear it is always better to ask than assume you know what they want.

  1. Adapt to your client’s communication style

Your clients are likely to have limited time, so use it efficiently. As you start a project, ask for their preferences in communication, determine how much detail are they interested in and what’s their preferred way and frequency of communication. Throughout the project stay focused on important points and if there are any issues let them know before things get out of control.

  1. Communicate regularly

Keep them updated about the results you aim to achieve, by when and how you plan to achieve them.  Open and honest communication will help you stay aligned with your client and their business strategy, address potential obstacles and focus on the right priorities as circumstances and strategies change. Keep it simple and communicate regularly the progress you are making and any measurable results that support your end goals and if you are initiating a change of plans, establish a business case that links the change to the overall strategy.

  1. Build trust

To build and maintain your client’s trust, it is essential to be dependable – to keep your promises and commitments. If you can’t deliver your tasks on time, communicate this in advance stating realistic timelines. Don’t make excuses and don’t over commit yourself. Admit the things that you can’t answer, but go the extra mile to find the answer or the solution. Be the partner that helps them succeed.

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Generating personal energy

September 8th, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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Creating meaningFinding meaning in what you do in your personal and work life is a critical factor in not only well-being but also performance. For one person, this meaning may be spiritual, for another, family, or a goal. But in each case, it rests on a set of values and a purpose – looking for the personal meaning in all situations. By aligning personal meaning and doing what matters most, you can create a focus and source of energy that can help you cut through much of the chaos around them. A purpose-driven motivation also results in higher levels of sustained energy, increased interest and confidence, as well as greater persistence and creativity. People who make meaning for themselves by using concrete goals and strong value systems protect themselves from being overwhelmed even in the most extreme sorts of adversity.

Here are a few tactics you can consider using to create meaning in your day to day life:

  1. Focus on your personal values
    A good way to start is to ask yourself what values is so important to you that you would teach it to your children as the basis of a happy life. Define these values, write them down and tell others.  Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, recommends asking yourself, “If I inherited $20 million, would I spend my days the way I do now?” and “If I knew I had only 10 years to live, would I stick with my current job?” Once you know what your values are, explore the links between your personal and your workplace’s values and see whether they are aligned.
  1. Have a plan for the future
    It is easier said than done, but try to orchestrate your life around meaningful things. Take the time to think about the next phase of your life and how you will imbue it with meaning. Identify the direction your life has taken and make course corrections to get you where you would like to be.
  1. Connect with your sense of purpose
    Remember that you cannot do it all – prioritise so that you can spend time doing what matters most. Be intentional about building in opportunities to reconnect with what is meaningful to you. Regularly choose one thing in your life that does not matter and that hinders you and discard it. Know your strengths – identify the things you do best, those you enjoy most, and those that give you the most energy at work, and capitalize on these strengths. Experience your work as an expression of your creativity and find ways to use the strengths and abilities that are unique to you
  1. Spend time developing relationships
    Build deeper relationships with people. Identify your most meaningful relationships and devote time to them – reconnect with important people from the past, especially those with whom you engaged in meaningful activities. Ask people how they are doing and really listen to their responses; find out what motivates them and ask about their values and concerns.
  1. Take it easy
    Learn your limits. Pay attention when you feel that you had enough and do not exceed your limits without rest and recovery. Take regular breaks from work, eat or drink something nutritious or take a short walk.  Make time for yourself to reflect every day and make this time away from the needs of others.
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Accountability and the Little Things that Count

August 26th, 2015 by Russ Becker
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Sepp Blatter has been working under a dark cloud in the wake of a major personal and organizational challenge, the launch of a federal investigation into the corruption within the world’s soccer governing body that has ultimately led to his resignation immediately following the U.S. Justice Department’s 47-count indictment against 14 FIFA officials.

Black and white leather soccer ball on green grass

Although he was once known as one of the most powerful people in sports, the federal investigation and timing of this scandal has caused Blatter to end his 40-year FIFA tenure rather than step further into his role and face accountability. Summertime lends itself to FIFA being in the spotlight, as the Women’s World Cup Final took place earlier this month, but Blatter was absent from both the game and the attention to the scandal while the US took over news headlines with their 5-2 victory.

Blatter ended his month-long silence after stepping down as president by facing the media on July 20, where he was put on display unexpectedly by a press conference crasher, British comedian Simon Brodkin. The mockery concluded with Blatter announcing an election for a new president in February 2016, the ultimate consequence of his lack of accountability and ownership of the corruption that has since tainted the reputation of this global organization.

Unfortunately, this is something many organizations struggle to master. So what lessons can companies learn from the scandal? According to Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager, a meager 18 percent of current leaders have the high talent required of their role, while the other 82 percent falls short of guiding their teams, and organizations, effectively.

The need for accountability is clearly evident during leadership-testing moments, such as FIFA’s, but can often go unnoticed when it comes to smaller, everyday activities and behaviors. Yet if left unchecked, can lead to larger organizational issues. A lack of accountability could have a serious impact on operations, making it important to spot the signs and address these issues strategically and quickly.

So how do you know if your organization has a culture of accountability? Here are some warning signs indicating the need to improve:

  • Giving excuses
  • Blaming others
  • Putting off important things
  • Doing the minimum
  • Acting confused and playing helpless

All of these actions can lead to missed deadlines, scapegoating, overruns which severely impact productivity, processes and even staff turnover.

To overcome these obstacles companies should emphasize the need for increased focus on training, development and coaching, with the end goal of increasing accountability. On a day-to-day basis, leaders can improve employee and organizational accountability and create a climate of accountability if they:

  • Set clear goals, linking back to organizational imperatives, for all employees
  • Build alignment on how goals will be achieved
  • Ensure employees get the resources and skills needed for success
  • Admit mistakes to advance problem solving while preserving credibility
  • Develop capabilities to effectively provide positive and constructive feedback
  • Increase employees’ comfort with handling conflict and providing feedback
  • Resolve dilemmas so employees understand what actions to take
  • Coach accountable action and lead by example

And for leaders to ensure that individual staff are acting accountably, they themselves must also display accountable behaviors by:

  • Keeping their promises
  • Modeling accountability, leading by example
  • Providing clear goals linked to organizational objectives and offering feedback on progress toward their achievements
  • Ensuring needed resources and abilities are available
  • Providing regular feedback—both constructive and positive
  • Being solution oriented and including diverse thinking when problems arise

In addition, linking accountability to personal and organizational performance is also important in keeping it in-check. Two thirds of our survey respondents indicated that setting clear expectations with others, getting alignment on goals and admitting mistakes are most related to personal performance.

Similarly, clarity as well as agility are integral to keeping strategic initiatives on track to ensure that mission-critical targets are met.

Looking back, it’s arguable that all of the warning signs of Blatter’s lack of accountability were present along the way. During his long career, Blatter often found himself defending the integrity of FIFA, whether on counts of corruption in marketing and broadcast agreements, or alleged bribing of voting officials in the World Cup hosting rights. As FIFA faces an uncertain future while under public scrutiny, it further emphasizes the need for organization heads to lead by example. Responsibility demonstrated from the top will, in return, help foster a culture of accountability across the whole organization to drive solutions rather than impede them when faced with business challenges.

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Price versus Value

August 18th, 2015 by Emily Thornton
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Price vs. valueThe recent news about the farmers` frustration in the UK with unfair milk prices, which lose them 7p a litre on average, has generated many discussions about customers being prepared to pay more for higher quality products.

In the UK the average cost of milk is lower than the price of bottled water, which creates difficult conditions for many dairy farmers – in fact according to the National Farmers` Union the crisis had already driven 256 herds out of the industry so far in 2015. The new initiative – Milk for Farmers aims to pay an extra 10p per litre to farmers which mean the cost of a four pint bottle (2.27 litres) will increase by 25%. Would I pay more for better quality milk that also supports the local farmers? Absolutely I would!

Price is a key indicator for any purchasing decision, but it is definitely not the only one. And cheaper is not necessarily better or sustainable. Many premium brands demonstrate daily that clients are happy to pay a higher price if they feel they are getting good value for their money. So, in addition to price, these are the factors I would consider:

1. Buying experience

It is not only about getting the product or service, but also about what it feels like to interact with the seller. People will be a key factor here as they create the overall experience. It’s a cliché but people really do buy “people” and the importance of focusing on building relationships as part of selling shouldn’t be underestimated. Having a member of staff personally recommend me a book in a shop means that I’ll have found something I probably wouldn’t have otherwise – and to me, that personal touch has made a big difference to my experience.

It’s also about the convenience and the ability to meet client needs. You might pay less today but if prices are so low that a company’s business model isn’t commercially viable, they are not going to survive. And as customers, we could end up paying more in the long-term – and having fewer choices.

2. Reputation

Reputation is every brand’s most expensive asset and once ruined, it’s incredibly hard to bounce back. Knowing that the company’s ethical and sourcing standards are in line with my own makes me to trust those brands and I will repeatedly make a purchase even if the price is higher compared to its competitors. It’s important that I trust the companies I buy from – when a company acts unfairly in one respect, it makes me question how they might treat me in the future.

3. Quality of product/service

Making cheap purchases can actually cost you more as you need to make more of them over time. As the saying goes – “We are not rich enough to buy cheap things”. A company that is focused on providing a cheap product or service could have to skimp on fundamentals to be profitable. Although some buying decisions are one-offs, most of the time, you are establishing a relationship that if it’s to be sustainable, has to be beneficial to both parties. When a product or service is of high quality, it makes my life easier and ultimately more enjoyable. For instance, it’s easy sometimes to buy online when the price is low and it’s a product like a book that is exactly the same as in a shop. But I thoroughly enjoy wandering round a bookshop and browsing the shelves is an experience that, for me, can’t be replicated online – and is worth paying extra for.

4. Local community support

The community is a huge part of our lives and anything we can add to it will be felt throughout that community. Buying decisions can feel ephemeral but when I choose to buy from my local bookshop, I’m increasing the chance it will be there in the future. Working with local suppliers, supporting the local markets means that those doing well will drive the local economy and we will all benefit from it.

Buying decisions are more complex than just looking at the price tag – so for me, it’s not really a question of price vs. value but of choosing to spend money on things that I value.

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Selling is a Team Effort

August 10th, 2015 by Monika Benz
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Selling is a team effortIn a B2B environment you should never sell alone. To achieve success, the sales team needs to involve the wider team: from marketing, focused on building the presence in the market place to generate new business opportunities, through to the product development team, ensuring the right fit between demand and supply, and project leaders focused on delivering the best possible client experience; everyone involved in representing the business during the sales process is selling, not just those who carry the official job title. The power of team work should not be underestimated; if aligned and managed well, the combined efforts of the wider team towards a common sales goal will achieve so much more.


The marketing function can never work in isolation if it is to truly understand market needs.  This is where team work provides a lot of clarity on ‘what’s out there’. The sales team meet prospective and existing clients on a regular basis and has a thorough understanding of their business challenges. Armed with this insight, the marketing team can define the go to market strategy, in cooperation with the product team, to ensure your business can address relevant market needs. The success of the marketing team depends on the sales team and vice versa; this close alignment is absolutely critical to drive business growth.


B2B selling is a consultative process, heavily focused around the client.  Involving the wider team in early stage discussions can add real value in helping a prospective client make a more informed buying decision.  This is your opportunity to differentiate from the competition; through showcasing your business’s expertise, and  creating a  strong sense of what it will be like to work with your people – how your team collaborates, engages with stakeholders, and tests ideas in early-stage exploratory discussions, will make all the difference in whether you win (or lose) the business.  Our research shows a significant proportion of client buying decisions are based on the strength of the relationships they form with the people they encounter in the buying process – the old adage that ‘people buy from people’ still rings true;  the chemistry – both ways – is an important indicator of the success of future cooperation.  However, there is one more dimension to this, and it’s clients also buy from people they trust.  So, give prospective clients every opportunity you can to meet the wider team they will be working with, and make sure you have an agreed strategy on how you each intend to engage and build trust with stakeholders.  Finally, remember to recognise everyone who played a part in winning a new business opportunity – share, celebrate, and learn from success stories!


Clients who see the value your business is adding to theirs will not only want to continue the partnership, but will also be more likely to recommend you to others. And, as we all know, it’s much easier to go ‘broad and deep’ finding new opportunities within an existing client relationship, than finding and winning new ones. Again, work proactively on your account plan by involving the wider team and defining what role each person will play to meet and exceed client expectations at every step of the way.  Furthermore, establish an agreed approach for gathering and sharing client intelligence on potential new opportunities.

So here’s to team work to drive greater success!

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Don’t spend your time – invest it instead

August 4th, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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Time managementTime management is an investment in results, where time is your capital that is strategically invested in activities with the most potential for return. Managing time is about generating results, but real results are not achieved using the traditional approach such as rigid schedules, lists, and hyper-organised work environments. Those who effectively manage their time, use what they want to achieve as a guidepost for determining which activities to invest in and whether and how to make changes in direction. They don’t spend their time – they invest it instead. Additionally, they reserve some of their time for investment in energising activities, such as reflection time, that help them to achieve and maintain their focus.

The standard approach to time management is to increase efficiency and get more done in less time. However, efficiency does not always equate with effectiveness, and even if it does, there are few ways left for most of us to gain efficiency. By approaching time management as an investment in being effective rather than being efficient, one can be more assured of generating business results as opposed to getting a lot of things done in less time. From this perspective, maximising time investment requires identifying critical goals and objectives, and maintaining focus on those activities that achieve them.

Being purposeful about investing time requires focus and energy. The first step in getting focused is to develop an accurate picture of how you currently invest your time. There are three things to understand: your critical business and individual goals, what activities you currently invest your time in and how well those activities pay off in terms of your goals and objectives. Energy has to do with the internal fuel that drives the ability to not only focus, but to get work done. People who are highly effective at investing their time employ practices that help them to create and sustain high levels of energy over the long run.

Effective time managers are able to clearly articulate their business as well as personal goals and objectives and, as a result, are able to direct their time and attention to the critical few activities that will generate results. Moreover, when faced with a competing activity or task, they are able to use their goals and objectives to make decisions about whether and how to change direction. This is then linked to creating and reserving energy and reducing stress by devoting time to specific “energising” activities.

However, none of this happens in a vacuum – and individual effectiveness is enhanced when the people whose work one depends on are more purposeful, and when one collaborates with managers and key stakeholders.

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Leadership skills that England can deploy to help win The Ashes 2015

July 28th, 2015 by Simon Brown
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Ashes 2015The most historic battle in cricket, The Ashes, is just about to see England and Australia head to the third Test match with the series currently tied at 1-1. After the convincing success of the English team in the first Test match in Cardiff, the England team were heavily defeated by 405 runs at Lord’s as Australia levelled the five match Ashes series. Prior to the series, the England team has seen a number of important changes from a leadership and team perspective which boosted the climate and had a significant impact on the team’s performance (the ‘brand’ of cricket that England was suddenly playing was seen by many as upbeat and positive) – at least up until the new found confidence was lost again during the second Test match.

Naturally, when your confidence is crushed, it is critical to discover some mental toughness (resilience) to bounce back and adapt to the new circumstances – which is clearly what the Australian team demonstrated after their initial defeat in the first match. As you improve, your competitors do too. So what improvements can the England camp make to regain the optimism and focus which led them to do so well in the first Test match and sustain winning ways?


Clarity comes from effective communication and enables the team to confidently answer the question “Where are we going and why?” The fresh approach installed by England’s new management team, including former captain and now Director of Cricket, Andrew Strauss, and new Coach, Trevor Bayliss (ironically, an Australian) has presumably brought a new sense of clarity to the team. My sense is that this messaging has not been lost. Perhaps it just needs to be reinforced after one poor performance. The strategy adopted during the first Test match to be positive and take the game to the Australians. England executed the strategy well, outplaying Australia in every department of the game. Strauss, Bayliss and the captain, Alistair Cook, need to bring this back to the front of every player’s mind.


Unity means that once the team knows where they are headed, they agree wholeheartedly on the merits of that direction and the need to work together and move ahead. In both business and sport, collaboration is the main driver of unity. When leaders foster a culture of collaboration, spell out a common cause and ensure that everyone is equipped with the technical and soft skills to make their contributions, projects and strategies hold together. Lack of collaboration and a resulting lack of unity is a chief reason for teams and initiatives sinking and staying below the noise-value line. Since Kevin Pietersen’s departure from the team (a sign of strong leadership from Strauss and Captain Cook), disruptions in team spirit have been removed, enabling much greater unity.


Agility is less a matter of adapting one’s direction continuously and more a matter of being open to different ways to achieve the direction you have set for yourself. In other words, real agility is not about heading north one day and east the next; that’s vacillation. Agility is about consistently heading north, but being willing to use sails one day and the on-board motor the next, as conditions demand – it is the willingness to turn and adapt quickly while keeping strategic goals in mind. The England team need a dose of agility through showing some mettle. One heavy defeat does not turn a team, after such a convincing win in the first match, into a bad team. A bit of old fashioned British bulldog fighting spirit is required. Learn from the Australian’s, who have demonstrated how to fight back from a set-back. To stay ahead of the competition, you need agility and the England team can do that by gritting their teeth and re-discovering the form from the first Test. These England players have not suddenly lost their skill levels. They need to all act like business leaders and execute on the original strategy.

Come on England! Adapt to change by showing some clarity, unity and agility! A positive result in the third Test match will set up a very exciting series against our old rivals.

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Overcoming energy drainers

July 23rd, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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Overcoming energy drainersLow energy levels, caused by internal and external factors can have a negative impact on multiple levels and can leave us demotivated and frustrated. Although most of the time we can control our energy supply, we often continue with our habits that leave us drained rather than being focused on energy boosting activities. Some of the most common energy drainers include:

1. Multi-tasking

Contrary to a popular belief, multi-tasking is not an effective way to get things done. A study found that people suffer from something like a writer’s block each time they switch from one activity to another, requiring them to take time to “reset” their minds. The more complex the task being switched to or from, the higher the time cost involved in switching. Even very brief distractions add up. An effective way to overcome this issue is to stop doing activities that don’t generate a return on investment for results, estimate how long it will take to accomplish an activity and block dedicated periods of time for it in your calendar and train yourself to focus on the task at hand during time-blocked periods.

2. Lack of clear goals and conflicting priorities

A lot of work gets done without the benefit of clearly defined goals and objectives. But, without clarity, it is difficult to know whether the right work is getting done and without a clear focus on goals and objectives priorities easily conflict. To get more focus, list your goals and objectives as you understand them and highlight conflicts among them. Then make yourself reminders – post your business and personal goals and objectives in a place where you can see them, or choose representative artwork or other objects to place in your office space as a reminder.

3. Over commitment

People over commit for a variety of reasons: they don’t want to disappoint others by saying no; they feel they have no choice but to commit; they have an unrealistic idea of current commitments or of what is involved in the new commitment– to name a few. Being overcommitted can quickly lead to burnout and exhaustion. Saying no in an appropriate way does not communicate that you are unwilling; rather, it communicates that you are responsible and take your commitments seriously. Avoid the automatic yes when asked to make another commitment. State that you need to check your other commitments and time frames before you can give an answer. Before committing to anything, be sure you have a realistic and detailed idea of what the commitment entails. Don’t say yes when you mean no.

4. Distractions

We are constantly bombarded by distractions and interruptions in the workplace. Think of these events as forcing the mind into a multi-tasking mode, with each event either preventing or breaking concentration. The result is time lost to constant task switching. To eliminate distractions, find a quiet place to work on projects that require concentration, set aside specific time periods for specific activities, and discourage interruptions and save e-mail and voicemail checking for the transition time between other tasks.

5. Lack of Organisation

“Everything in its place and a place for everything” is a good energy-boosting adage. For some people, organisation means files, drawers, cubbies, neat stacks or no stacks at all, and a complete lack of clutter. For others, organisation simply means knowing where to look and being able to find what they need right away – for them a neat desk is alien. The point of organisation is not to fit someone else’s definition of “organised,” but to have what you need in an easily accessible place. Recognise that disorganisation is an energy drain and organise yourself in a way that makes sense to you.

6. Lack of reflection time

Failing to reflect is a vicious cycle that leads to less time for reflection, because without reflection time, it is difficult to know whether one is working on the right activities; it may even be difficult to have a clear idea of what one’s goals and objectives really are. A lack of time to reflect, refresh, and rest can also lead to stress and work overload. Use an existing activity such as regular workouts, walks, gardening, or another hobby as an opportunity for reflection or find a coach or mentor. This doesn’t have to be someone you hire; it could be a manager, colleague, or friend outside work. Set aside specific time periodically to reflect on your work, self, long-term goals and objectives, and so on.

7. Sense of meaninglessness

An important source of energy for many is the pursuit of meaningful goals and objectives. As we become busier and busier, however, it is easy for meaningful goals to be displaced by urgent things. The longer this goes on, the more stress one feels. To re-establish your goals, build fun activities into your schedule. Set long-term personal goals, but don’t become imprisoned by them. Put them in a prominent place – they will become implicit priority-setters and create a standing, flexible weekly schedule in terms of categories of activities: job, chores, exercise, family, unstructured relaxation, and so on.

8. Perfectionism

The drive for perfection can be very draining. Perfection is an indefinable and unobtainable goal that while it can increase the quality of one’s output, also increases workload. Establish objective quality measures; ask others to help you define “good enough” and identify the point of diminishing returns – that point when you stop adding measurable value by continuing to work on something. Before you “make it better,” ask yourself whether a person whose opinion you respect would notice a meaningful qualitative difference if you invest more time and effort.

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Investing in Employee Retention to Drive Business Growth

July 15th, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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Retaining staInvesting in Employee Retentionff is getting harder for employers as the economy has improved and the jobs market picks up.  Pay will always be a main decision driver when it comes to people switching or staying in their job but it is rarely the prime reason for moving on.  Research has long shown that people are more likely to remain with a company that invests in their career development, through training, coaching and mentoring and great leadership. But even if money is a person’s top reason for switching jobs, people still need to feel that they are progressing, if only because career development often leads to a pay rise.

From Forum’s experience, those that switch jobs purely because of salary will be seeking to move on again in 6 months time if that job becomes stagnant again. Retaining people is all about opportunity, development, the potential to grow – these are the key drivers to motivating people, and motivation leads to better engagement which leads to improved performance and retention rates.


Different factors such as generation differences can influence staff retention. Global research by PwC (2013, A Global Generation Study) showed that while the same basic drivers of retention exist for both Millennials and non-Millennials, their relative importance varies. Millennials place a greater emphasis on being supported and appreciated and to be part of a cohesive team.  Non-millennials on the other hand, are more likely to leave a job if they’re not paid competitively and put a greater emphasis on development opportunities.

Whatever motivates, it’s about knowing what inspires that individual and working out ways together to respond to their personal engagement. It’s about leaders having regular conversations with their people to set out a clear career path, how this will be achieved and how this links to the wider goals of the business. This in turn helps people to feel secure and valued in their role which is vital to retaining great talent.


Great leaders with highly motivated teams are ones that have conversations regularly, often daily, with their team and coach often.  This in turn drives performance and retention. The reason for this is because coaching and conversation helps people to feel secure and valued in their role which is vital to retaining great talent. Done properly, it’s a chance for leaders to agree on a clear career path, how this will be achieved and how this links to the wider goals of the business. People are then reminded of the investment the company is making into their future which in turn, leaves them feeling highly valued and appreciative, and assured knowing how their career is progressing.

Coaching and regular conversations are also an opportunity to spot when motivation is lacking which could be the first sign of someone thinking of leaving. People often don’t want the hassle and risk of findings another job, nor do they necessarily think the grass is greener. It’s only when they feel that the business has lost interest in them, they feel forced to look elsewhere. Coaching and regular conversations are not only a chance to highlight how the business values them but an opportunity to  address any problems early and iron them out before it’s too late. It does not always need to be a formal affair. It can be a quick chat by the desk as well as part of a regular personal development meeting. The important thing is to engage regularly so people can see that the business is investing in their future.

Research after research has shown that the more engaged your workforce, the happier they are, the more likely they will stay and the more productive they become. Last year our global research showed that companies cited coaching as the biggest driver of performance because it motivates and engages their people. By investing in creating a coaching culture that engages trains and develops their staff, companies can improve their performance pace and improve their retention rates whilst cutting the cost of having to having to find new recruits.


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