Blog Performance Strategy and Planning

When “Ready, Fire, Aim” Hurts Business Results

When we feel pressure to achieve business results, such as greater revenue or profitability, we often opt for quick and immediate action – that’s even what productivity specialists advise. 

While there is truth in the adage, “the only thing worse than a bad decision is no decision”, those kinds of adages don’t always apply and it can save you a lot of time, money and frustration when you understand when the situation is right for a quick decision and when it makes more sense to “measure twice and cut once” to achieve better business results.

We all want to be effective business leaders. Somewhere on the entrepreneurial journey most of us develop a belief that spending money to solve a problem or to get desired business results is a productive action. And although investments of time and capital are required to achieve results, we get lured into believing that because we’ve spent some money we assume the issue is resolved or the result will be reached. This mindset is often the reason many entrepreneurs never obtain the results they are wanting and run out of money trying.

The goal of this article is to remind us that while quick and decisive actions are good, they need to be balanced with clarity of outcome, simplicity of strategy, and other things that may require time but allow for better long-term business results. There is a reason why one of President Lincoln’s most famous quotes is, “If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.”

Here are three scenarios where a Ready, Fire, Aim approach hurts you and undermines your business results:

  1. Business Result #1: Spending Marketing Dollars

Marketing is likely a painful concept for you if you are like most business people. And like all painful things, we do our best to avoid the topic as much as possible. When the need arises to obtain more clients or increase our brand awareness we tend to delegate the work to external marketing agencies. 

We do this in an attempt to avoid the discomfort of working within the marketing arena and hoping that people outside of our company will understand the nature of our products and services. 

Where the Ready, Fire, Aim approach normally rears its head is in selecting an agency to work with. We begin interviewing prospective marketing agencies before we have clarified some key data points. 

One of these is who our core customer or buyer persona is. It is not rocket science to figure out what our best customers look like. Even if you aren’t comfortable with the exercise, a quick Google search on ‘Best Buyer Persona Questions’ will provide numerous examples on how to clarify who your desired customers are. 

Often these details will affect what agency you are looking for and how to investigate whether an agency has had success with marketing in your specific field of business Selecting an ill-fitting agency will often cost you up to a year of time and thousands of dollars, often completely failing on your business results.

  1. Business Result #2: Hiring a New Employee

There seems to be a global acceptance that it is impossible to know whether a new employee will ultimately be a good fit in an organisation. This sentiment makes it easy for people to want to take the Ready, Fire, Aim approach in hiring new team members. Where this breaks down is when that strategy undermines the need to have a clear job description identified and precisely what the position entails.

This usually incorporates three specific areas:

      1. What business results the position is accountable for producing
      2. What the key activities are for the position
      3. What Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) define whether the role is being performed at a satisfactory level.

When we are clear on what the role needs to produce for results we will have a greater understanding of the skillset required of a new employee. 

This has two specific outcomes. On the one hand, it may discourage applicants, but these will likely be unable to achieve the desired business results. On the other, it will provide clarity for applicants, displaying the true breadth of a position that could initially be perceived as minimal. Either way, it promotes greater clarity of the position, often saving you time and money in interviewing people who aren’t a good fit ever being hired in the first place.

Once again, an ounce of prevention in the form of a more developed job description is worth more than a pound of treatment once someone has been hired into a position they may be inadequate for. 

  1. Business Result #3: Building Effective Teams

With so many team-building products and services out there, it is easy to fall into a Ready, Fire, Aim mindset, purchasing something promoted to build well-functioning teams. Once again, prior to purchasing something that could help you and your team achieve better business results, it is important to clarify what you are wanting to accomplish with your team dynamics. 

A team whose performance is impacted by a lack of trust is quite different from a team that is struggling with accountability or fear of conflict. Yet, with the Ready, Fire, Aim mentality; we purchase 360-degree reviews and Myers Briggs tools simply because it is marketed as the team-building solution.

Less is more with most business activities. When time is spent clarifying ‘what’ specifically we are wanting to accomplish, the ‘how’ will often reveal itself in more practical ways than simply purchasing an ad hoc product or service. The extra time spent initially will be time saved tenfold, and more than compensated for in business results.

That is what Lincoln is talking about when sharpening his axe. A little more effort in clarifying what to aim at will pay dividends on the value obtained when firing your shot. 

We hope this article helps you find a bit more patience with the effort of aiming and that your shots in business generate more value for you both professionally and personally.

As always, enjoy the process!

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CrossFit for Your Business: A 3-Step Guide to Organise Your Business [part 3]

When you take the time to organise your business, you not only improve its functionality, you can also save time and money, increase productivity and optimise profitability.

As I have discussed in the previous blogs of this series, a disorganised business can become a self-destructive machine and its own greatest hurdle to success.

In week one, we identified whether or not a business was problematic; last week we explored the repercussions of these issues.

Today, we look at solutions.

Let me begin by stating that to effectively organise your business it takes time and effort; it is a process that simply can’t happen overnight. 

However, by setting aside the few hours it will take, you will save yourself time exponentially, creating a far more efficient business that continues to steadily improve week over week.

You will now know whether or not your business is healthy, you will understand the problems and the implications they have. Now, let’s organise your business in five easy steps:

How to Organise Your Business & Make it More Presentable

Step 1 – Re-Clarify Your ‘Why’ (60 Minutes and 1-2 glasses of red wine)

This concept isn’t new but it is often misunderstood. 

We have a tendency to think that ‘why’ we want to grow our business and make it more profitable is self-evident – but it isn’t! Why you need your business to be more profitable will be different to another business owner or manager, depending on business type, current size and personal perspective. In fact, this ‘why’ is so different from person to person that after 25-plus years of trying anticipate a person’s ‘why’, I’ve officially stopped trying to guess because I’m wrong 98 percent of the time! 

The reason you want to be clear on your ‘why’ is because that is where your greatest strength lies. You need sustained energy and tenacity to grow a consistently highly-profitable company. Show me a flat company and I’ll show you a leader who has lost their ‘why’. When you are thinking through your ‘why’ remember that you will likely be far more passionate about doing something for someone other than yourself, so watch for that thread when clarifying your ‘why’. 

Assign an absolute maximum of 60 minutes to completing this task. Revisit your Vision Statement for where you want your company to go and why. Do the same for your Mission Statement, which is basically how you intend to use your product or service to get to your vision target. Finally, identify the three to seven qualities you most like in people you work with, which will reflect your company’s Core Values. 

A quick hack on core values is to utilise Patrick Lencioni’s work. He identified that the qualities of Humble, Hungry and Smart are consistently found in great team players. You can see his descriptive and informative video on this here. Over time you can use more descriptive words, but in all likelihood they will be derivatives of those three core values. 

Step 2 – Identify Your Top 5 Company Performance Numbers (60 Minutes)

Don’t over think this. Imagine you are cut off from communications with anyone at your company but you can receive five numbers each week to monitor and organise your business. What would those five numbers be? Typically, it will include a number defining ‘new opportunities’ our leads, a number about your sales pipeline, and a number representing actual closed sales. Often a number on recognised revenue may be included, but that depends on your type of business. Finally, a number explaining customer satisfaction or employee safety may be added – again, depending on business type.

As you are seeing, these are not the typical Profit and Loss numbers your accountant may more readily submit to you. Although your profit and loss statistics are important, they are often non-specific to your company’s functionality and don’t help you understand how your business is performing now – not to mention how it will likely be performing over the next few months. Your five numbers should provide a snapshot of the current health of your business and a sense of where things are headed. 

Next, you need to figure out how you will obtain and review these five numbers each week. This may take some work but it will prove incredibly valuable in the longer term.

Step 3 – Begin Having Real Weekly Meetings Focused on Company Performance (60-90 minutes per week but should replace any existing management-type meetings)

You are now ready to have a real weekly company performance meeting with your key people. Schedule a weekly meeting of about 60-90 minutes where the agenda is consistent and focused on three things:

    1. Reviewing the Top Five performance numbers and identifying any issues
    2. Sharing any relevant customer or employee headlines to keep key players informed
    3. Identifying, discussing and resolving for any identified problems (or opportunities) the company is facing. 
  • Then monitor the execution of those identified tasks to ensure that they are effectively implemented until completion.

Over time, this meeting will change how your company operates and highlight the effectiveness of individual team members. Within a month your team will begin to experience a shift in accountability and focus without the need for new strategies. 

Step 4 – Implement a Quarterly Day-Long Meeting (6-8 Hours each quarter)

After about a month of these regular weekly meetings you will be ready to develop greater clarity for the company and team. In a day-long meeting, begin by identifying a set of 12-month goals. This should include financial numbers as an objective success measurement, but also highlight company improvement goals in the areas of:

    • Team development
    • Key process improvements
    • Specific technology enhancements.

From here, identify what specific improvements you need to achieve over the 90 days in order to be on track to accomplish the 12-month targets. 

Step 5 – Update Your Company’s Structure (3-4 hours)

Most companies’ organisational charts begin with people and are completed with people in mind. When you feel established in your new processes, the next big opportunity is to think about your company from the lens of, “What will it take to get paid by customers while remaining compliant with regulators?” This task will result in clarity of the specific ‘Seats’ or roles a company requires to operate most efficiently. It is important to understand that when you have a small number of employees you can easily have more seats than team members. In this case you need to assign multiple seats to a single person.

Each seat is defined by three things:

    1. What it generates or provides
    2. What its core activities include
    3. What key performance numbers it provides and adheres to (eg: how you quantify whether the seat is delivering on its tasks)

This can be thought of as an Accountability Chart rather than Organisational Chart. The key benefits are that you will optimise the company’s structure according to the work required rather than the people in the organisation. Additionally, the clarity of what is expected from each seat will assist staff in understanding and managing their obligations and role requirements.

After identifying the required seats for your company, you can begin assigning people from your team into these well-defined positions. You will often find it will be easy to place most of your team members nicely into the seats outlined. 

There may well be a couple that will not be perfectly suited to a specific seat. These people will require additional thought and discussion to determine whether they are actually appropriate for your company. The goal is to always try to find a seat and set of activities a staff member can be successful at or that aligns with their specific skillset. The good news is whether you can find a fit or not, both you and your team will have more clarity on the skills you need for a specific seat.

Organise Your Business

With these five steps implemented, you will be well on your way to enjoying a healthier, more predictable and profitable business, freeing you up to focus upon the continued improvement of your company, reducing your stress, overtime and additional tasks.

We hope this Five-Step strategy provides you the structure and direction you need to better organise your business, making it more attractive to your potential clients, investors, bankers, or future employees. 

Life is too short to get stuck within a hectic company so, as always, enjoy the process!

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CrossFit for Your Business: A 3-Step Guide to Company Organisation [part 2]

Company organisation can easily slip away from you.

Poorly implemented or maintained systems, changing staff members and lazy shortcuts can all add up to creating major issues within your business. Even when not an issue in and of itself, poor company organisation can be problematic when you are presenting your business to potential investors, or when introducing new staff members.

One of the issues is that if you have longstanding company organisation issues, they are often overlooked, ignored or adopted by new team members as ‘the norm’, so the insipid issues are left to fester indefinitely.

In part two of my new three-part guide, we will investigate the numerous problems that a disorganised company may have. These issues detail where your company may be falling short of its potential, but also provide red flags that can help you avoid significant repercussions.

The Problems Disorganised Companies Have:

They say the first step in solving a problem it is acknowledging you have a problem. If, after last week’s blog, you are now feeling your business is a bit out of shape, it often helps to further clarify why you may want to tighten up certain areas, systems or processes. This requires becoming more clear on the problems associated with an ‘out of shape’ business. 

It is likely obvious to you that the costs and problems stemming from a disorganised business are numerous. For the sake of keeping this article as brief as possible while attempting to create as much value for you as possible, we will identify some of the more interesting problems that come when trying to run a disorganised company.

Higher Operational Costs

When the same mistakes are repeated, more people are required to complete a set amount of work. If technology or systems aren’t fully utilised, it leads to confusion, increased operational costs, inferior productivity and fewer results.

Lower Accountability

When there isn’t agreement on what is specifically expected from an employee, it is difficult to hold them accountable for specific results. When this lack of clarity persists for an extended period the employee often defines a self-prescribed comfortable job description that is not optimal for the company.

More Difficulty Managing Cash 

To forecast your cashflow accurately you need accurate financial data. In order to achieve this you need people following the correct processes and disciplines to enter and reconcile the data correctly. This is rarely the case with disorderly companies.

When these financial management activities don’t occur correctly or consistently the financial data quickly degrades to the point where it is not trusted or utilised. The end result is that cashflow and profitability are monitored by gut instinct, which is nearly always wrong, especially as the company grows and the figures increase.

Lower Profitability

Gross profit requires consistent monitoring and communication. Disorganised companies often disregard current Gross Profit numbers, making it impossible to identify and fix issues as they arise in sales or production processes. 

Unfit companies often don’t know how much money they are actually making until viewing their annual financial reports. This is not an ideal way to optimise a company’s profitability.

Greater Risk

Not surprisingly, when you are paying more than necessary to maintain a functional company, there isn’t clarity on how the company is performing. This includes diminished risk assessments, poor financial management and a greater potential for problems that can put the business at risk.

Company Organisation

At this point, it is likely becoming apparent that the cost of sustaining poor company organisation is significant. Now let’s turn our attention to working through what’s required to have a tight business – one you are happy present to potential clients, investors or employees.

Next week, we will investigate what goes into creating a well-organised company, but for now it is important to address what you are likely thinking:

“Of course I’d like to have a more organised company; I simply can’t afford the time and potential cost of getting my business to that point!” 

So let’s address that first.

Abraham Lincoln famously said, “If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.” The classic mistake most entrepreneurs make is taking a ‘Ready-Fire-Aim’ approach to activities within their business. This creates a significant waste of time, money and energy that is impossible tough calculate. Getting your company organised, fit and healthy doesn’t and shouldn’t happen overnight – but with efficient and well-executed planning it can progress smoothly and steadily for resounding and noticeable results.

When I’m invited into companies to improve profitability and/or productivity, nine times out of ten we begin by removing activities or processes that aren’t producing the desired results. And when then adding more effective activities, we take a ‘measure twice cut once’ approach ensuring we are only adding productive strategies rather than reactive, unclear, or poorly-executed activities. 

Much of this clarity comes from having a defined framework with which to manage your company. What is the management framework you are using for your company? If you can’t name it, it likely doesn’t exist. If this is the case, it’s likely because you’ve never attended a course or training that describes a practical and applicable management framework. It’s somewhat ironic that we don’t receive an operating manual for the vehicle that is supposed to protect our business’s and family’s future.

Regardless of whether you have a business operating system, you can always refine your company organisation so it will run more profitably and display better potential to buyers, investors, bankers and key employees. 

Next week, I will share a method to do so that can be both efficient and affordable to any business.

If you’re in any doubt as to your company’s health or how to begin creating a business operating system, explore my website further, or book a FREE 60-minute consultation today.

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CrossFit for Your Business: A 3-Step Guide to Business Organisation [part 1]

When is the last time you wished you could improve your business organisation? Many business owners tell me they recently felt that way when they wanted to look into some potential bank financing. Others comment on how they didn’t feel comfortable having a discussion with a potential buyer or investor because they didn’t want to reveal the disorder lingering beneath the surface of their business. 

Beyond the often trivial or fleeting feeling of a little embarrassment that can come from thinking about sharing your company details with an outsider, there are often real costs that are associated with having an out-of-shape and dysfunctional company. 

In my new three-part guide, I will take you through the stages of improving your business organisation, first by identifying what a disorganised company looks like, and then delving into the problems this may instigate, before presenting a collection of solutions towards creating a business profile you can truly be proud of.

This week, we begin with identifying the warning signs that may suggest a lack of organisation within your business. 

What a Disorganised Company Looks Like

But before we explore some of the challenges created by not having an organised business next week, it will likely help to clarify what creates that lingering feeling of disorganisation within a company. 

Describing a disorganised or ‘out of shape’ company can be done by breaking out the three component parts of any business – its people, its processes and its technology. 

The People Within a Messy Business

If a team is unfocussed, despondent or poorly informed on a company’s structure and functionality, it can cause some reluctance, even embarrassment when presented to prospective employees, investors or clients. Team members will likely be unclear on the company’s direction, what the company stands for, or what its competitive advantage is.

The team members of a disorganised company frequently don’t come across as passionate or motivated in what they do or how their input contributes to the rest of the team and business at large. They will frequently display a myopic focus on what is relevant to them, without much appreciation for the greater vision. 

There can also be perceptible cliques within the organisation that create a certain polarisation or dissociation with the company or team as a whole. This may not be recognisable at a level of a potential investor, but if a key potential employee spends much time talking with various team members the cracks in the team quickly begin to appear.

Processes within an Out of Shape Business

A disorganised company lacks the clarity to perform consistently. This is partly due to not having clearly defined processes, but also by not having the discipline to train new team members consistently, thereby instilling strong habits that endure over time.

Common symptoms of companies with insufficient processes are:

    1. Low profitability due to inefficiency and elevated labour costs
    2. Difficulty in training staff to be productive quickly
    3. Repeating mistakes already experienced by the company
    4. Low levels of accountability by team members when things go wrong 
    5. Difficulty in delegating tasks and activities away from the strongest team members.

Technology within a Disorganised Business

Messy companies often have numerous Band-Aid fixes or partial technology solutions. These partial technology solutions lead to a lack of trust in the data and knowledge that resides within the various systems. This then generates a number of bad habits that lead to ineffective reporting and numerous direct and indirect costs to the company and the company’s owners.

Some bad habits are:

    1. Creating manual work-arounds for otherwise automated or centralised processes that result in information being stored in multiple locations
    2. Not using certain functionality within existing applications through laziness or a lack of education 
    3. Duplicating information and maintaining it in spreadsheets rather than in the native application. This is frequently seen in Cloud-based accounting software
    4. Using one’s ‘gut’ rather than actual company performance information because the data isn’t accurate. Leaders tend to use ‘gut instinct’ rather than information when they don’t trust their data. This is how most businesses financially fail. Leaders then try to estimate cashflow requirements rather than turn to validated data and take the appropriate actions.

Business Organisation

If any of this sounds remotely familiar, it could be that your business organisation is distinctly lacking in some areas. The issues may be minimal and the solutions simple, but by acknowledging the underlying issue and further analysing your company processes, you can increase efficiency, promote morale and avoid potential loss to and even failure of your business.

If you are unsure of your business’s health status or are uncertain about how to take the next step, you can find a simple company self-audit on my website, or feel free to book a 60-minute business coaching session with me today.

And, as always, enjoy the process!

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Struggling to Pay Vendors on Time? It Could Be Your Cash Flow

I hear it more and more: companies are struggling to invoice their work, reducing cash flow and making it harder to pay vendors.  

However, delay in billing for your work is not an excuse your key vendors will likely accept for very long before it impacts your relationship with them. The most common repercussion is that credit terms are converted to more immediate payment terms rather than a longer-term repayment arrangement.

Not only will this affect your cash flow, it can also greatly impact your productivity if you are unable to purchase the resources required to convert into profit.

We may try to blame our delayed revenues on outside problems but those are most often out of our control and not helpful. In our practice, we regularly see early signs of delayed revenue problems with our clients. Fortunately between our three-way cashflow forecasts and other KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) monitored on company performance scorecards, we identify these problems early enough. We are then able to guide our clients to finding solutions before the issues negatively impact cash flow and the ability to pay vendors.

One solution is to modify a client’s sales contracts to protect against project delays. Another solution is to identify a risk early enough to be able to add additional suppliers to a client’s supply chain strategy.  

In a third situation, clients identify a project management strategy as a win/win and agree to provide additional payments in advance.

The 3-Step Cash Flow Solution

  1. Use shorter-period client invoice terms
  2. Pre-plan for future vendor invoices
  3. Negotiate a pre-pay installation plan with vendors

The primary advantage of managing drops in revenue is identifying the causes early enough to be able to find solutions that avoid cash flow challenges. To do this, you should have effective company scorecards and accurate three-way cash flow forecasts. If either of these strategies is missing in your company, I suggest you talk to your business advisor or account for some further guidance. If you don’t have confidence in either of those team members, call me today and we can walk you through how to get your revenue and cash flow under control so you can maintain strong relationships with your vendors and partners.

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Letting an Employee Go

Have you ever struggled with letting an employee go or working to keep them.

You might spend hours, days or even weeks in emotional discussions with business leaders trying to understand how to get various employees to acceptable levels of performance, but to no avail. This article focuses on providing a clear framework to diagnose whether you have an opportunity to fix a less-than-ideal employee performance situation or whether more drastic measures are needed.

With the current employee shortage it is always tempting to retain every employee possible rather than letting an employee go. However, the retention of one weak link can cause ramifications that may become detrimental to the entire team or business. Thus, it is always better to remove these weaker links because the cost of retention will always be higher than the modest void an exited employee will create in the short term.  

Step 1 for Letting an Employee Go – Core Values

Deciding who is worth the effort to retain versus those better removed is actually quite easy when you approach the decision-making in a well-proven way. The first step to letting an employee go is to measure the employee in question against your company’s Core Values. 

This will be difficult if you have not developed well-established core values to promote and demote team members. But thankfully it is never too late to start. If you understand the necessity of Core Values and how they work within organisations but you have yet to implement this strategy into your company, put this article aside and spend the time necessary to implement them effectively. You will be grateful you did and it will always be time well spent for long-term gain.

If you have identified your company’s Core Values then ask yourself how frequently you observe the employee in question embodying them using a criterion of Frequently, Sometimes or Never.  For an employee to align with your organisation there shouldn’t be any Nevers, with a mix of Sometimes and Frequently. It can be personally confronting to exit your first employee using Core Values as a decision-making process but when you see the impact on the rest of the remaining team you will realise that your decision of letting an employee go was wholly justified.   

Step 2 for Letting an Employee Go – Ability

After you determine whether the employee in question aligns with your Core Values, the next step is to identify whether they have the ability to deliver what is required in their position or seat. In order to do this both objectively and effectively, it is important to have the employee’s position or role well defined. For this, three things should be addressed:

  1. What are the position’s key deliverables? This explains ‘why’ this position exists and how you know it is being done well.  
  2. What are the main activities for the position? This should provide insights into what the person does for much of their time.
  3. What are the main Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the position? This will avoid any doubt in what the expected level of activity and performance needs to be within the role.

With this review of the employee’s position in hand you are now ready to evaluate your employee by asking yourself three questions:

  1. Do they fully Understand their position? Often times there can be a fundamental misunderstanding regarding what is important about a position versus what is simply ‘nice to have.’ When you have a clearly-defined role as described above this is less likely, but most businesses don’t do a great job of defining in writing what is critical about a role – the position’s key deliverables. If you have any doubt whether they fully understand the position you need to invest some time in ensuring this is not the issue.
  2. Do they have the Capacity to perform at a level that is required for the position?  Although one could use sophisticated cognitive assessments to determine this for some roles, typically you as a business leader can often get a good impression simply by asking yourself this question. By answering yes to Question One you know they understand what is expected of them, now it comes down to whether they have the skills, disciplines or time management capabilities to do so. If the answer is no then the employee is likely not a fit for that position and you either need to redefine their position or consider letting an employee go.
  3. Do they have the Desire to perform the necessary activities required for the position?  Up to this point you have confirmed they both understand and have the capacity to do what is necessary to be successful within the position, the question is whether they want to. This is an important final hurdle to clarify because people can get tired of things that they are really good at. Problems answering this question in the affirmative require collaborative discussions with the employee to find a win/win, potentially adapting their job description in order to keep them enthusiastic and motivated while still fulfilling the original role. These types of challenges can often be resolved quite easily if diagnosed and addressed early on. Often times a great employee leaves a company without warning with an explanation that they became bored and wanted to find new opportunities.
Letting an Employee Go
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Company culture and your core values aren’t just common topics in the pages of business management books, they are well-proven strategies for growing strong and profitable companies. Clearly defined position descriptions aren’t simply an HR requirement, they should help you and your employees clearly understand what is required of a role and how to measure whether a staff member is fulfilling that role proficiently.

Letting an employee go is never easy, but by following this process to assess your employees we are confident you will develop a happier and more productive team.

Enjoy the process!

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The Value in Asking for Help

The Value in Asking for Help

If you are like most of us you are not a big fan of asking for help. 

Although you might utilise this strategy in an effort to cultivate creativity, research shows that not asking for help is most often our default reaction, rather than a choice, due to a fear of possible rejection or disappointment. 

This article’s aim is to remind us of our choice and bring attention it some of the limiting beliefs many of us have developed over the years around asking others for help.

To be clear, I am a recovering addict of self-sufficiency. Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking helped shine a light into a corner of my emotional world I had been keeping partitioned off since childhood. 

In the spirit of keeping this article short, one big idea on this topic of asking for help is to realise that we have wrongly associated asking for help with vulnerability and rejection. 

Misunderstanding Asking for Help

We’ve mistakenly learned to ask for help from a belief that the person we are asking holds the power in the exchange. So the request is coming from a position of shame or weakness rather than a more empowered mindset.

On the flip side, at other times we have asked for help coming from a point of expectation which happens when we feel power over another person. This often results in a feeling of disappointment in the asking process and possible resentment on their part.

The reality is that asking for help should be seen as a collaboration between two parties where both can receive value in the exchange. This type of asking can come from a place of respect, one that focuses on helping one another where there is no judgment tied to the outcome. There is a request and a response that becomes mutually beneficial for, or at least equally appreciated by both parties. 

Whether help is ultimately given in the common form of time or money is immaterial. Sometimes people will decide to help and other times they won’t feel able to. What matters is whether you are approaching the request from a place of respect and that you remain open to whatever choice the person makes.

Asking for Help in Business

So what can this concept of asking look like in business? Obvious examples can be seen in sales. You likely know some salespeople who don’t ask their customers to buy their products and services out of fear of rejection. Others set their expectations of their customers far too high, inevitably leading to disappointment. Whichever perspective they may take, most salespeople could improve their ability to have win/win interactions with customers where they share what is important to them and elicit similar insights from the customers. 

This skill of asking for help reaches far beyond sales, applying to all aspects of company dynamics. How about a boss asking a direct request for help on a project? Often the boss doesn’t want to be disappointed in the employee so they never ask in the first place. This can lead to the mentality of “if you want something done right, do it yourself”, which in turn can create frustration, annoyance and sheer exhaustion. Other bosses might not want to inconvenience the other team member because they are already busy or there may be fear around looking incompetent or admitting one’s own shortcomings. 

All these scenarios don’t end as well as if the boss were simply to be open and able to ask for help in a collaborative and respectful way. At the very least, they demonstrate their humanity to another team member and likely gain more goodwill with them even when no help can be given. Others may result in the boss receiving some additional and unexpected support. 

How to Ask for Help

To be clear, just asking for help isn’t good enough because when it is done poorly it is often detrimental to relationships, appearing demanding and irresponsible. Our opportunity here is to gain more courage in receiving what we really want and need by asking for help in a way where that creates value for both parties with a lack of judgement on the outcome. Respecting a person’s willingness to help, regardless of the effectiveness and ultimate results of that assistance, is the first step to a stronger, mutually accepted relationship.

So get out there and ask people for what you really want. Just be sure you do it in a collaborative and respectful way!

And until next time, enjoy the process!

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