Chris' Blog

What colour are you? Build balanced teams

September 18, 2009

What kind of person are you? Do you lead or do you follow? Do you like to be the centre of attention or are you more comfortable on your own? Do you see the bigger picture or scrutinise the detail? Is your glass half full or half empty?

Socially, we tend to seek out people like ourselves. Even as children we made friends and hung out with others who had the same interests. If you are an extrovert, if you are confident socially then most of your friends will be likewise. This is fine in a social setting, but unfortunately this gathering of like-minded people tends to be repeated in the work environment.

Many managers who employ others seek out those like themselves. This is understandable if you’re a sales manager say, employing account managers. People in sales have to be of a certain type; confident, sociable, etc. But leaders of small and medium sized companies must be wary that their company becomes too heavily weighted to certain types.

People whose glasses are said to be half empty are seen as negative and tend to receive a, well…a negative press. I’m sure everyone whose glass is half full knows people like this. If your glass is half-full, how do you view them? Do you avoid them in case they bring you down or burst your bubble? Do you get impatient with them in your organisation because you feel they hold things back, slow things down? If you have people like this in your organisation, be glad and let them be heard.

People who are different bring balance to a group or team. This balance is much needed when, say, developing strategies to ensure all ideas have been voiced and analysed from all angles for any weaknesses. Take "The Apprentice" as an example of teams that don't work. They are red dominant wannbe leaders who, unsurprisingly, clash at every turn as they fight to be the boss and are unable to take instruction.

There are a number of models that characterise a person’s type. I recently attended a conference where a very interesting and entertaining session covered the method of identifying people types using four colours. The presentation was given by a representative of a company called The Colour Works who presented the idea that our characters can be categorised, to a greater or lesser degree, by four colours; red, yellow, green and blue.

The colour red represents the assertive, driven leader, yellow the creative and socially confident extrovert, green is the empathetic carer of others and blue the attention-to-detail, cautious, analytical. The colours are arranged in a quadrant with red top right and going clockwise in the above order. This is important because those colours diagonally opposite are also opposite in personality and have the potential to clash.

Each of us is a combination of all four colours with one dominant colour. I for example am predominantly yellow followed by red, green then blue. “Yellows”, for example, are creative and sociable and tend to see the bigger picture. (We’re good at delegating the detail.) Our opposite are “blues” who like to check all the details for anything that could go wrong before moving forward.

This is where the opposites can clash because the yellow person gets frustrated with the “blues” attention to detail and vice versa with the “yellow’s” bull-in-a-china shop attitude and seeming ignorance of risks. These are a little extreme but help to illustrate the differences.

Ironically, I was attending with a close friend who is a “blue”. We immediately knew what our colours were and looked at each other smirking like kids. I now call him “Mr. Blue” when he starts jumping into too much detail.

So, when building your strategic teams, pick people who work well together but who are a combination of reds, yellows, greens and blues. The results are more likely to be goals and strategies that are challenging, balanced and well thought through.

I think therefore...

August 29, 2009

In school, did your teacher call you or any of your friends “a dreamer”? “Chris is a dreamer and is easily distracted.” It always came across as a negative, as something you need to stop being. Well, it’s “dreamers” that become creative thinkers from which great ideas spring.

Do your best thoughts and ideas come to the fore when you decide or do they pop into your head unplanned? Have you woken up in the night and wished you had paper and a pen at your bedside? Some days can be spotted with inspirational thoughts whilst others nothing. Is there a particular time or place when you tend to have creative ideas? Do you tend to have more thoughts and ideas when doing a certain something? For me it’s when I’m driving. I could be sitting at my desk and nothing but ten minutes into a drive and ideas can start to form through the fog, and slowly come into focus. (I need to get a dictaphone.)

Brainstorming meetings can often become damp squibs as you look upon blank faces. Even though the person who called the meeting enthusiastically outlines the situation that needs to be “brainstormed”; “Bob, we need to increase production by 5%...any ideas?” “Helen, our competitor has launched a new product, how do we compete?” Even though he or she kicks off with some ideas and gets the ball rolling, why is there a distinct lack of inspiration? Why isn’t he getting inundated with good ideas from his team?

Many companies call these kinds of meetings with little advance notice of the core elements of the meeting and the aimed outcomes. However, it is nigh-on impossible to be inspirational or creative on demand and good ideas may surface days later. Save yourself having to call a second meeting by giving thinking time to your people well in advance. Outline in detail the problem and the aim of the meeting and any initial ideas you may have. The result will be a far more relaxed and productive meeting where ideas come thick and fast and healthy debate results.

Everyone can be creative but unfortunately life is so hectic that most, whether in the work or at home, have little time to stop and think and be creative. Encourage thinking in your organisation. Maybe allocate an area or room for people to go to who want time out from their computer and telephone, a place where they can relax and think or discuss ideas with others. If someone needs to go for a walk or a drive because they need to think over a problem, let them. Who knows, you may have a thinker in your midst who comes up with the next great thing for your business.

If you are a dreamer, embrace it, nurture it and let it take you where you will.

Listen and build relationships

August 12, 2009

Raise your hands (or just your eyes to the ceiling in that knowing way) if you have friends and colleagues that do any of the following when you are talking to them.

Do they...

To those of you who are aware it is happening, annoying isn’t it. To those of you who are not aware then watch out for it because it does happen. Your friends and colleagues are (hopefully) not purposely being rude but simply doing what just about everyone else does.

I think our inability to really listen and take in what is being said to you is, in most part, down the fast-paced society that we live in. We have little time in our hectic schedule for more than sound-bites. Even if we are not in a particular hurry during the conversation, there is so much in our heads about the things we need to do at work or at home that our attention lapses.

Really listening to someone and giving them your full and undivided attention is not easy and appears to be a dying art.

Think back to conversations you’ve had recently. Did some leave you feeling like you shouldn’t have bothered and a little negative whilst others left you feeling that your point across and pretty positive?

What was different about the other person as you were talking? Was it their body language, was it eye contact, was it less “mmm” sounds and more intelligent questions or responses? Did it feel relaxed?

It’s the same with business meetings. Your customer will notice when you’re really listening to his or her needs, asking relevant questions and not rushing. Moments like these build relationships.

Likewise it will be noticed if you’re not listening, maybe because you’re thinking about your next question or how you can conclude the meeting because of another appointment. This will leave your customer feeling that his needs and business is not that important to you and will go a long way to burning any bridges previously built.

Really listening takes effort and focus but do it and you will go a long way to building strong and trusting relationships.

"So What?" - Create strong value propositions

July 30, 2009

What do you feel when you hear the phrase, “So what?” Is it, as with most people, a negative feeling? Does it conjure up the a picture of an insolent child who you’re trying to admonish with reason only to hear this phrase, delivered in a disrespectful voice and accompanied by a shrug?

Maybe you first heard the phrase as a child when telling someone something you thought was cool only to hear, “So what?” followed by a statement which bettered yours. “I had an Action Man for Christmas”. “So what? I had three, with a jeep, diving gear and a helicopter.” “My dad is a pilot.” “So what? My dad is an astronaut.” Regardless of whether it was true, it left you feeling small and humiliated. And that is why it has a negative connotation.

Even though it is generally regarded as a rude question to ask, it can prove to be an extremely useful question to ask in your company. When promoting your products and services do you extol their brilliance and think, “job-done; people are bound to check us out”.

Most companies have self-serving value propositions. They state what the company does or how good its products are or which household names they have sold to. As a customer (whether a consumer or another company) you are left with trying to figure out if this company, can meet your particular needs.

Here’s an example of a typical value proposition…what do you think?

“We provide world-beating anti-virus, anti-spam and firewall software for your PC”, Acme Software Inc.

Sound reasonable, yes? In fact it sounds along the lines of how most companies promote themselves and their products. So what’s wrong? Does it inspire you? Does it stand out from other security software providers? Will you remember it? Will you remember the company? Does it stick in your mind? Do you instantly understand the benfits to you? No not really.

When developing your value propositions (which should be developed with others in your company), ask the question, “So what?” And ask it as a potential customer. Asking the question forces you to think of other ways to state them. And don’t forget...think like your customers.

Back to Acme Software Inc; how about, “We keep your PC safe”. Does that make more of an impression? It’s definitely an improvement, the benefit is clearer, but keep going with the, “So what?” question until you feel you cannot improve it anymore.

Eventually, you may come up with something like “Protecting your privacy.” Now, that value proposition tells me exactly what the benefit of the product is and it is also inspirational. It may even establish an immediate emotional connection with the reader which will stick.

Don’t use your value propositions to simply show-off how great your products are, how many offices you have around the world or how big your clients are. Develop them with your customers in mind, make sure the benefit to your customers is instantly understood and make them inspirational. And keep asking, “So what?”

What is "Beyond Demand Creation"

July 28, 2009

What do I mean by "beyond demand creation"?

When you create demand, you approach, or attract relevant prospects and demonstrate how your products and services can fill a need that they have or may have. You fulfill an objective need.

However, there is always an emotional element attached to the buying process. Hook into this emotional element and start to build a relationship. This will elevate the relationship so that your customers don't buy from you just because your product is what they need. They also buy from you because they want to. There is a desire to buy from you.

Take this further and your customers will eventually value the relationship they have with you. They will look to you as a partner rather than just supplier.

Creating desire and value takes people who genuinely care about customers and the organisation they work for. This is why the other aspect of beyond demand creation relates to the people in your organisation and how you treat them and how they treat their teams. This is just as important as the customer-focussed aspect and will help bring out the best in your people, increase productivity and reduce staff turnover.

There are a number of ways you can create desire and value which I outline in my eBook. It's free to download and I hope you find it useful.

Welcome to Beyond Demand Creation

July 27, 2009

Welcome to the new Beyond Demand Creation blog. I hope you will visit regularly and benefit from the posts I submit.