Business advice from Elizabeth Toogood – local business mentor.
Thank goodness it is March. There may still be winds and chilly nights but the daffodils are out and the crocus and snowdrops are wonderful. Easter eggs are in the shops (but some of us have given up treats like chocolate for Lent so we are trying not to notice). Spring is just around the corner and so is the new tax year and for many of us the end of our financial year. It is a good time for reflection before we start the whole process again.
So how do you intend to reflect on 2016/17? The figures are a great place to start but they only tell so much of the story. We need to be honest with ourselves about:
The revenue – did we do enough? Charge enough?
The costs – are they about right or did we get tempted and buy things we should not have done or pay too much for a de-luxe version? Do we question our ongoing costs regularly? I have a client who has a spreadsheet dedicated to each of her marketing activities right down to each event she attends to analyse whether it was worth the cost and time investment – good for her.
The profit – are your margins right and are you making enough money?
Every question generates an answer that will pose more questions. All the answers add up to doing it again or changing to be more effective. Great information.
Then the next big question is how are you doing? What a nasty question! I am inviting you to do some self appraisal. I think this is the best sort: it is done with the best possible motives, there is no conflict about the facts backing the comments and the boss is gentle! Or should be! This is also a wonderful opportunity to praise your successes and affirm all the things that you are doing correctly.
Thank goodness form based appraisal systems are going out of fashion but we need to look at our own performance systematically (then we can move on to those who work with us). I love the old-fashioned approach which looks at knowledge skills and attitudes. So, let’s look at you.
How is your knowledge?
You probably need a whole range of technical, managerial, business and legal knowledge. What is the list? Do you have everything on it? Is it broad enough? Is it deep enough? Are you up to date?
If any answer is “No” how do you plan to train yourself?
Are you using your knowledge creatively to look for new angles and generate new ideas?
How are your skills?
Again, you need a whole range. Which skill sets must you have? Which would be useful? Do you have any gaps? And of course, we all need great communication skills especially verbally – how are yours? Knowing you need a skill is only half the story you need to be able to practice it effortlessly. So how good are you at doing the things you must? And is this good enough?
And how is your attitude?
Are you positive, inspirational, flexible, “can do”, good at prioritising, focused on important issues, warm and all the other things you need to be? Would you employ you or do you cause yourself difficulty?
So, draw up the template for your job and then examine how you are doing in each category. You will be great at lots of things, mediocre at some and poor in others. Create a plan to develop yourself.
Getting outside feedback
It maybe that you can do the analysis of how you are doing but would it be more effective if you get some feedback from others.
Uber boss Travis Kalanick was videoed recently swearing at one of his drivers and had to apologise. He says “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it”. Sounds like he had nowhere to go partly because his behaviour was videoed and partly because of the public outcry it exacted. His diagnosis was a lack in knowledge and skill and his attitude ….. the whole nine yards. Now he knows and can do something about it.
Hopefully you are not caught on camera so, how do you find out what the effect of your skills and attitudes might be? If you genuinely want to improve you need good information from people you trust who are good at analysis. The important elements are:
- Be sure you are in the right frame of mind to receive it
- Ask someone you trust and respect for honest feedback. Be specific about what you want to know so they can focus.
- Listen gratefully to their information. DO NOT react.
- Think it over and consider where you can improve.
Then plan. You do not need to tackle everything at once. Pick the important areas or those where you can make a quick change. Then just work through the plan. Simples!
There is an old management spectrum that goes like this:
You may now be consciously incompetent in a few areas which is great because you can do something about them. The aim is to improve and so expect to become consciously competent before you become unconsciously competent. It is a gradual process.
All the way through this process I hope you have been noticing all the things you are doing right, unconsciously competently and well. Please make sure you have acknowledged them, celebrated them and afirmed them. Enjoy the good things!
None of this is original. We all know we need to pause and reflect sometimes and think about where we need to change or improve. It is hard to find the time but the benefits can be enormous. You are an asset that will appreciate if you invest in your own training and development. Sometimes it is hard to do alone, if you need someone to support you then you could consider a mentor.
If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.
Elizabeth Toogood Critical Friend
Telephone: 01234 273644