Holidays are coming! What a great time to network | December 9, 2014

skateboard santaWith ‘silly season’ well and truly upon us, many are thinking of the wasted working weeks coming up, where their clients aren’t around to speak with, or are too busy being entertained and entertaining to think about new business.

This time of the year is a great time and a fantastic opportunity to get out and spend time networking with our clients. After all, people are expecting to be using the pre-Christmas time in this way, so why not take full advantage of it?...

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The Top Secrets of Great Managers | November 21, 2014

iStock_000012077224SmallIt’s such a common story. You get great at your day job, and start become one of the company’s rising stars. You bill at very high levels compared with your colleagues and people begin to talk about you. You are a high flyer, a top performer, one to watch.

Then one day your ambitions become reality. Your boss pulls you into a meeting room and tells you that the company would like to promote you, they want to make you a manager. 

WooHOO!

But now what? You are a great operator. But managing staff? Motivating a team? Being a player manager? 

These are such different skill sets to what you know and are good at. Somehow (in many businesses anyway) you are expected to know what to do. 

This isn’t a phenomenon restricted to any particular industry industry. In many many businesses, great operators are made into managers because they are great at what they have done. For some it’s wonderful, and for others it’s a nightmare, and for all it’s a steep learning curve. 

The learning curve

I was extremely lucky early in my career to work with some exception bosses, who not only supported and helped me when I needed it but knew when to get out of the way too. I learned some important lesson by making my own mistakes, but in truth I learned a great deal more from analysing and copying the great managers around me, and from the teachings of my mentors. 

I’d like to share some of that wisdom with you.

The top secrets to learn from the world’s best managers

1. Teach the basics and instil great working practices (*1)

If you spend enough time with your team, lead by example and teach your new staff the basics of the job well, you will help them understand how to run their desk themselves. Set them up for success from the beginning by giving them the right building blocks and training, the right time management skills and exhibit the right behaviours yourself. 

As the legendary sports coach Professor Frank Dick OBE says “if you don’t get the basics right, you will spend a lifetime trying to put them right”.

If you do get the basics right the rest will take care of itself.

2. People are individuals, manage them individually (*2)

This may seem so very obvious, but for a new manager it can be rocket science. What works for one may work for another, but as soon as you make that assumption, you are bound to fail.

Learn to understand the differences in people, and differences in their learning styles. Spend enough time with them one-to-one that you are able develop a real understanding and rapport, and be human to their needs.

Only then can you work with them individually. 

3. Chicken in a field theory (*3)

If you place a chicken a very large field, it will peck all over that field in a very superficial way. It will get some of the worms and the seeds, but leave a lot for other chickens to feed from too. If you give a chicken a small field, it will peck deeply and throughly, it will find every worm and seed, and it will own the area. 

The very same is true of business markets and patches. Give someone too big a market and they will work that market sporadically and clumsily. It will be hard for them to be able to focus and the quality of their understanding, and subsequently their control of the market will the poor.

Give them a smaller, well defined and more controllable market patch and they will find every opportunity, work every relationship and make it their own.

4. Post war cake mix theory (*3)

In the years following the Second World War manufacturers of packet cake mix produced a product that they thought consumers would love. All you had to do was open the packet, mix the content with water, and bake the cake. So simple, so easy, such a failure.

When sales never took off the manufacturers changed the recipe, which then required people to add an egg and butter to the mix. Once this change was made, sales rocketed.

As a manager it is so easy to do everything for your staff, so that all they have to do is finish the job. This is a massive mistake. Not only does it fly in the face of Secret No.1 but it never gives them the ability to develop and grow. They will never feel trusted and definitely never feel challenged. 

People need to be be bought into and involved in the process. They need to add their own ingredients and be allowed to do that in their own way. 

5. Rear view mirror theory (*3)

In most modern cars many things are automated. The lights, the wipers, the door mirrors. They are controlled by electronics and make our lives easier. But in the case of the rear view mirror, you still need to use your hand to move it. It could be controlled by a switch or a knob but it’s not. And why not? Well, some things are best left to be manually controlled. 

You need to leave a good level of personal involvement in all aspects of your team and your business. You can automate a lot of things, but many are just better being done by hand. Identify what those things are and leave them be. 

6. Don’t just hire anyone

When you are building the team it is never easy to find the right people. It can be so tempting to hire that person who is nearly right, or who could be right with just a few changes. 

The right person is the right person, and the wrong person is a disaster. The amount of time you waste hiring, training and eventually sacking the wrong person is enormous, not to mention the stress and management time taken up in the middle somewhere and impact on the team.

Team building is never about bums on seats. Hire the right person or don’t hire at all.

7. You will make mistakes, learn from them

I am certain that I have made all the mistakes in management a new manager can make, but I also am proud to say that I think I have learned from every one. Not always immediately, but certainly eventually.

You will make plenty of mistakes. This is a good thing, as long as you are able to recognise the mistake, learn from it and be better next time. 

8. Get out of the way

This secret is something I learned myself the hard way, and I would very much like to save you that pain. It is very much linked to secrets 4 and 5 above. 

I think in his autobiography Lee Iacocca, the famous American Motor Industry giant puts this secret best – “I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.”

Being in their way can feel stifling to your consultants. It shows a general lack of respect and trust, and ultimately you will lose them to your competitors. Getting out of the way worked for Lee at Ford and Chrysler, it works for Google and Apple today and it can work for you too. 

Hire the best people you can, train them and teach them all you can, and then let them do what you hired them to do.

9. Take the job seriously, don’t take yourself seriously (*4)

This secret, taught to me by my first mentor when I became a manager doesn’t need much explanation. Take the job seriously, but never take yourself seriously. It is so important to remind yourself of when things are tough, and it is often easier said than done.

The business is a serious thing. But life, life is a fun thing.

Contact me

For more on developing yourself, your staff and improving the profitability of your business, please do get in touch. You can email me at james@jamesnathan.com, or call me on 07736 831151. Follow me on Twitter at @jamesnathan, connect to me on LinkedIn, or follow me on Facebook.

I look forward to being in touch.

jamesdot 150px

*1 Thank you Jamie Newman

*2 Thank you Kath Roberts

*3 Thank you Renny Hayes

*4 Thank you Gary Watson

 

...

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Blogging to Google Search Success – A simple SEO secret, that’s not so secret | November 3, 2014

IMG_8642So how do you go from nothing to the top of www.google.co.uk's natural search? This is a massive question and not one easily answered. There are plenty of ‘gurus’ who are happy to tell you their thoughts.

I have no doubt that a lot of this works, and optimising your site is absolutely imperative....

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Top tips for delivering great customer service | September 15, 2014

thumbs upIsn't it amazing how often we experience really bad customer service. And, when we do, doesn't it really annoy you?

The way your customers feel towards you is so important. The more care and attention you provide them, the more they are likely to continue to want to work with you. This is simple human nature. Taking this a step further, shouldn't customer service be a top priority day in, day out?...

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An Insider’s Guide to Writing a Great CV (Résumé) | June 2, 2014

iStock_000035768924SmallWith the recruitment market getting busier and busier, there are increasingly more opportunities available to look at for that fantastic career move. And, as the market heats up, so too does the level of competition for each role.

To give yourself the very best chance of going on the ‘Yes’ pile, your CV needs to make an immediate impact and demonstrate exactly why you are right to be considered....

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Jack of all trades, master of none | May 7, 2014

Jack of HeartsI’ve recently had a call from a good client of mine, asking if I was able to run a new training programme for them.

Like most people I love being asked to do more work for my clients, but the problem was that what they were asking for wasn’t really my main area of expertise....

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There are no cover bands in the rock and roll hall of fame – differentiate the Scott Ginsberg way | April 1, 2014

rock guitarWe are all individuals, and we like to be thought of as individuals. Not numbers, not the guy from XYZ Co, not so-and-so’s husband, wife, brother, boss etc. Just us, as we are.

When it comes to business, this can be dramatically overplayed. For one reason or another we often melt ourselves into a one size fits all version for the world to see. We become what we think the world expects of us. Sure, there is good reason for some of this, but when it comes to working with clients isn’t it true that people buy people?...

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Delighting a client is so easy…… | February 20, 2014

thumbs up“Under promise and over deliver” - these are the very wise words of Tom Peters. It’s such a simple concept but in practice so few businesses manage to do it.

If we manage our client’s expectations, if we let them know exactly what they can expect and then deliver on, and if possible over that expectation - every one is happy. And we all want happy clients, don't we?...

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The Secret Of Small Talk | January 15, 2014

Speech bubblesI’m often amazed at how many people I meet who tell me that they are no good at making small talk. They are happy to chat with friends, or people that they meet at a party. But when it comes to business, when it comes to networking, they find it tough.

Some even feel that what they do won’t be interesting to other people, and clam up completely as a result.

Small talk truth

The truth is that small talk is vital. It allows us to get to know that other person. It’s the starting point that helps us to decide if we like that other person. Small talk is the glue of relationship building.

Know, like and trust

It’s important to remember that we can't do business with people that we don't know, and we don’t buy professional services from people that we don't trust....

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Get the job you really want this new year | January 8, 2014

dream job no backgroundI was a recruiter for a very long time, actually longer than I would like to mention (okay 16 years) and in that time, and ever since, I am asked by people to help them in their careers.

I love to help people and I really enjoy watching those people go on to get the jobs they really want, and build better and more enjoyable careers as a result....

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