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Some teams work in-house. Some teams work from home. As more companies are creating policies and measures to respond to the current global pandemic and its residual effects, which experts predict to linger for at least two more years, workplaces will look very different from today.

In this video, we explore how you can boost employee morale when you have in-house and remote teams working with and for you in this ever-changing workplace.

The sweeping changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic will affect the workforce in various ways, and this includes employee morale. Many workers have been encouraged to work from home to lower the risk of coronavirus spread. Some companies, such as Facebook, Square and Google, have started putting infrastructure in play to enable some of its workforces to work from home in the long term, or even permanently.

Telecommuting or working remotely is not an entirely new concept as it has existed to some degree for a few decades now. However, the events in recent years, such as globalisation and the emergence of certain risks, such as the coronavirus pandemic, combined with shifts in modern technology and demands for greater workplace flexibility has made remote work more familiar and accessible to more workers.

While remote work has its advantages, particularly in providing workers greater autonomy and flexibility in how and where they work, it also has its downside. Health experts monitoring the effects of increased remote work during the global pandemic reports that mental health issues are surging.

And then there is also the issue of how remote work is viewed by in-house workers who have not experienced working remotely. There is a certain stigma with remote work—some people may think those who work from home, work less to watch Netflix more or take excursions to the mall or the beach more often.

Well, if you’ve ever tried working from home, you know that this is far from the case. In fact, more studies show that people who work from home suffer from anxiety and stress precisely because they work longer hours.

If you’re a business which keeps a mix of remote and in-house workers, this becomes a pressing issue because this affects overall employee morale, and consequently, employee productivity. So how do you motivate your team and boost team morale when your team is a mix of remote and in-house workers?

Here are three key factors:

(1) Keep deliverables and policies clear.

First things first, determine how employees will be evaluated.

Employees are appraised based on whether they show up at work or not. In the traditional workplace, this is measured by their physical presence at work and the number of hours they spend working. Did they show up today? Did they work the full 8 hours?

In remote teams, measures are not as straightforward. While there is software that may allow you to measure whether a remote worker is working on their desktop at particular times of the day, this seems rather counterintuitive to why we allow remote work to begin with, which is to provide greater autonomy and flexibility. In my previous video, How to motivate employees the right way, I explored how cutting the number of work hours to provide employees with a greater (but reasonable) amount of autonomy motivates employees and results in greater productivity.

As work shifts in-house to remote locations, measures of productivity should shift, too. And these measures should apply to both in-house and remote teams. The focus, then, should be on output,  creating and enforcing policies that enable and encourages workers to focus on delivery. Did they do the work that they were supposed? Where they able to accomplish the work?

But what if workers are required to “show up” to work at specific hours of the day? What if the type of work requires teams to chat with or deal with customers at particular hours of the day? How do we, as a business, handle that?

Here’s an example of a business whose employees all work remotely but “show up” for work at pre-determined times of the day: Mountain Bikes Direct. In a previous video, I discuss how they keep their team motivated despite all of them working remotely from different parts of the world. The key to this productivity is being clear about what is expected from each team member. Being fair to everyone is an important factor that determines employee morale.

(2) Stay in contact.

Promote a positive, inclusive culture by setting up regular catch up meetings, where both in-house and remote team members are present.

The catch-up meetings can be a venue to update the team about the state of current projects or a venue to elicit help from each other to fix issues. Alternatively, these can be informal virtual coffee or cocktail meetings (depending on the profile of your team) for people to just catch up and share stories to nurture team bonding.

Aside from these catch-up meetings, businesses should also define how employees can report challenges or issues with work specific to them. Determine a communication plan with clear channels for escalation.

What if a remote worker experiences connectivity issues in the middle of critical work? Where should he or she report this issue, and how should he or she proceed? Or, what if an in-house worker needs to reach a remote team at hours outside of operations for a critical issue? Or, what if an employee, whether in-house or remote, suddenly needs to take a day off for personal reason?

(3) Keep health checks and policies in place.

Experts say that the global pandemic will change the way we work. Remember your team member who would report to work even if they are sick just because work needs to be done? We used to measure worker diligence and commitment based on what an employee is willing to sacrifice just to get to work done. It was normal to see a sick person report to work because things needed to get done.

Not anymore.

These “norms” should soon change—and as leaders and business owners, it’s our responsibility to keep everyone safe and healthy. There is a need to revise health policies, particularly policies on when employees should not report to work due to particular illnesses. The new policies and norms should also include measures that address employee mental health, particularly to remote employees who are more susceptible to loneliness isolation, anxiety, and even depression.

People are driven by their purpose. They are motivated to work when they see that their work contributes towards this purpose. They are also motivated when there is fairness when policies are equally enforced so that good work is recognised and offences are corrected.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

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While being professional entails knowing how to manage our emotions to allow us to work despite pressure, studies have also shown that emotions influence productivity. Happy employees are more likely to be professional.

In this video, I explore what determines an organisation’s emotional culture and how this impacts team performance and team productivity. I further discuss what team leaders can do to nurture a positive emotional culture.

One of the pillars of professionalism is self-regulation. This means that we need to have the ability to work under pressure. However, the flip side of this coin involves what experts now call psychological safety and the need to take care of our mental health.

A recent study by Google concludes one key factor that differentiates mediocre teams from high-performing teams is psychological safety. These findings suggest that emotional culture play an important role in organisational performance as emotions affect team productivity and performance.

What is emotional culture?

There are many facets of workplace culture. The most recognised facet is organisational culture, which defines a set of understanding on how to do things to achieve a goal.

But there is also emotional culture which “predicts many important work outcomes, including employee absenteeism, teamwork, burnout, satisfaction, psychological safety, and objective performance outcomes like operating costs.”

What determines emotional culture?

Emotional culture is contagious—and it trickles from the top. How managers behave and react to different circumstances sets the tone for the team’s emotional culture.

How does emotional culture affect productivity?

Imagine what could happen if you have a manager who consistently reacts negatively to mistakes. Or, what if this manager is prone to blame members of the team for mistakes caused primarily by circumstances out of their control? What if this manager focuses on putting blame rather than using mistakes as opportunities for team members to learn and improve? How do you think the team will react?

  • Team members will be afraid to make mistakes or try new things. This instantly “kills” the growth mindset.
  • Team members will be more focused on doing what they think the manager thinks is right and appropriate, rather than what is good for the team. They will afraid of disappointing their manage. When things go wrong and team members are afraid, it sets off their fight-or-flight response, which instantly “kills” their ability to be creative or innovative.
  • When team members are focused on “not making a mistake,” they’re likely to only focus on just the job or task at hand, and not finding new ways to improve the process. This kills productivity right away.
  • There is no psychological safety because no team member will feel safe in taking risks and making mistakes and doing things differently. If team members are not allowed to learn, grow, and be innovative, there is no incentive for anyone to perform well.

If you have a team leader who consistently focuses on mistakes and putting blame, you are unlikely to build and nurture a high-performing team. What you have is a team of robots or “yes” people who will do only what they are told and nothing else.

And when the environment becomes even more unbearable, team members are likely to jump ship and find work somewhere else. In this scenario, you are more likely to lose the best people in the organisation.

How do you nurture a positive emotional culture?

  • As a leader, keep your emotions in check. Observe how you react and see how your own employees react.
  • Replace blame with curiosity. In my video on How to Build High-Performing Teams, one of the key things to change is mindsets—and one that redirects the focus on issues and root problems, rather than on people.
  • Take a step back and take care of yourself, the leader. Perhaps you are stressed, which is affecting everyone else in the team. In the video, Maximising The Best Asset in Your Business, I discuss how rest is important to encourage creativity and problem solving in the long run.
  • Ask for help. When we have been doing the same things for a long time, it is easy to develop blind spots. Because of this, we tend to think that how we do things is “normal” and “acceptable.” Perhaps they are, but there may be things that are not as acceptable or maybe some things that need improvement. It’s hard to see beyond our blind spots, so we may need someone—a person looking from the outside in—to show us what we don’t see. This someone can be a mentor, a trusted colleague, or a business coach.

Do not let your pride limit you on what you can do in your business. I personally seen successful businesses be ruined by the business owner due to the individual’s perception that only he knows what is best for the business. I have seen his team members leave the organisation, and yet he stubbornly refuses to change his mindset about the business. The result? He is now working alone on his business and struggles to make ends meet. Please do not make the same mistakes as he did—ask for help.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

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In this video, I explore the characteristics that make a team successful and high-performing and discuss how your team can build one.

Who are empowered employees?

Empowered employees are your employees who know what they are supposed to do and what they are accountable for. More importantly, they are the ones who take the time to understand problems and their root causes, find solutions to these problems, and find ways to improve processes to make things work easier and more seamlessly. The best part about empowered employees is that they do all of these things without needing to be told—they work on developing solutions almost instinctively.

Empowered employees are motivated to go to work every day. They do not just do what is expected of them, but also the things that are needed to be done for the good of your business and your organisation in the long run.

Why do we want empowered employees?

Having empowered employees mean that you have your entire team making it their business to delight your customers and to improve business. Working with them means working with a team who cares about your customers and your business. They work together, carry out their responsibilities, resolve problems for the greater good of your business, and, most importantly, without needing your intervention.

This sounds like a very ideal situation—but it can be done!

How do you empower employees?

To understand what motivates and empowers an employee is to understand the importance of trust. An empowered employee trusts in the belief that what he or she does is important and meaningful—that it is important to him/herself, to the people he/she is working with, and to the organisation he/she is working for.

An empowered employee also trusts that his/her team and organisation as a whole is looking out for him/her—just as he/she is looking after the team and the organisation. An empowered employee is equipped with the necessary skills and tools to carry out what is expected of him to do, and that the team and the organisation trusts him well enough to know how to use these skills and tools to deliver exceptional service.

The goal then is to build trust. How do you do this?

  1. Hire the right people with the right attitude. Depending on the kind of industry you work in, you hire people who have the right disposition for the job. If your business requires that your team provide technical support to your clients, then you probably want team members who are patient and can remain calm to address problems and provide quick solutions.
  • Train for the skills and the tasks at hand—this includes formal training, mentoring, or even shadowing.

In a previous video, I shared a simple guide on how small businesses can train employees.

  • Make sure that everyone is clear about and understands the organisation’s goals, what their roles are, and what they need to do to achieve these goals.

In Disney, for example, Cast Members (that’s Disney language to mean Disney employees) go through rigorous training to ensure that everyone understands Disney’s main goal and know how each Cast Member can do to achieve this.

  • Nothing proves that you trust your employees more than allowing them to take over their roles and own it. That means cutting micro-managing tendencies and allowing them leeway to solve problems and achieve goals the way they see fit—of course, within reason.

The main challenge is allowing them to make mistakes on your time. But this leads to learning from their mistakes and learning how to make things better.

Do you think that you have empowered employees in your small business? Would you like to share how you empower them? If you have a story to tell, please send me an email and let’s chat.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >

The age-old saying is “honesty is the best policy.” Does it make business sense to be honest and transparent with your customers? Will honesty bring business success?

In this video, I explore two companies and how differently they manage the issues of honesty and transparency in business, and how this divergence led to two distinctly different outcomes.

Does it make sense to be honest and transparent with your customers? The more important question to ask, perhaps, is why is important to be transparent and honest in business? Why should businesses tell the truth all of the time?

Allow me to answer this with one example: Volkswagen.

Why is it bad business to lie to your customers?

In 2015, Volkswagen became the center of world attention when they were caught lying about what they claimed was the world’s most environmentally safe diesel engine. The media called it “Dieselgate.”

From 2008 to 2015, Volkswagen claimed that it manufactured and sold vehicles that ran on “groundbreaking clean diesel” engines. These engines supposedly met the USA’s “stringent tailpipe emissions standards.” The company marketed it as the safest diesel engine in the world.

The problem is that this is not entirely true. In fact, it was a complete lie.

The company intentionally programmed their turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines to activate their emissions controls only during laboratory emissions testing, which allowed them to mask true emissions scores to meet the safety standards. In 2015, reports confirmed that some five million Volkswagen-branded cars, 2.1 million Audi vehicles, 1.2 million Skoda automobiles and 700,000 Seat cars, as well as 1.8 million VW commercial vehicles were fitted with a defeat device in their engines.

What has Volkswagen lost by cheating?

Dieselgate was ruinous for the company. Volkswagen paid close to an estimated US$30 billion in penalties and fines. In 2015 alone, the company suffered a US$4.6 billion loss. Its share prices lost 40% immediately after the scandal.

Volkswagen lost its reputation. There was widespread distrust—from customers to car dealers. Their workforce felt demoralised. In 2017, 2 high-ranking employees were sentenced to prison.

The cost of lying is that its reputation as a trusted and reliable brand was tarnished in the mind of consumers and businesses alike. It will take a lot of marketing dollars and resources to bring the brand back to where it was before Dieselgate began.

The Volkswagen story is an extreme example of what could happen when a company is caught cheating; it provides a good lesson on why businesses should NOT lie and cheat.

What Volkswagen teaches us is that getting caught lying can be very costly to a business. They lied about the emissions and initially did not get caught. This, in turn, emboldened them to continue lying about it.

This seems part of human nature—to continue lying when one is not caught. That does not mean that one should lie in the first place. If lying is bad, does it necessarily mean that being honest is good for business?

What do companies gain when they are deliberate in being honest and transparent with their customers? Does it make good business sense to be transparent?

Let’s take a look at Patagonia.

Why does it pay to be honest?

Patagonia, a global outdoor sports brand, is an example of how being honest and transparent can have a significant and positive impact on the bottom line and brand equity. Patagonia had established itself as an ethical company that advocates environmental sustainability, workplace safety, and employee well-being long before the 2013 Bangladesh building disaster that exposed the problems of those who work in the global clothing industry.

In the 1980s, they discovered that the materials used in their clothing caused some of their retail staff to fall ill. They immediately made efforts to improve workplace conditions and to source for safer materials.

In 1996, Patagonia decided to use organic clothing in all of their clothing lines, even when it initially ate into their profits. In 2014, Patagonia partnered with Fair Trade USA. To date, the company continues to work on making every item in their clothing line fair trade.

To help customers understand where the materials of their clothing comes from, Patagonia launched an interactive website that allows consumers to trace the footprint of every product they have—essentially providing transparency to Patagonia’s supply chain.

What has Patagonia gained from this strategy?

In 2017, Patagonia was said to have earned over US$1 billion in revenue. In the same year, Patagonia was recognised at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum for producing quality clothing that doesn’t contribute to waste or the depletion of natural resources. In 2018, Patagonia was ranked No. 1 in the Social Good sector of Fast Company’s World’s Most Innovative Companies list.

Most importantly, because of its transparency strategy, Patagonia has nurtured consumer trust. In 2011, Patagonia ran their famous “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign, urging consumers to buy less and keep their old clothing off of landfills. Surprisingly, this campaign generated a 30% increase in their sales. Patagonia believes that this is a result of consumer trust. Their consumers trust that Patagonia jackets are well-made, ethically sourced, and made of environmentally-safe material—so they would rather buy one good jacket from Patagonia that they can keep for years to come instead of buying a new jacket every year.

Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario has this to say about the company’s philosophy:

You can serve the interests of your employees and do what’s right for the planet and still make great margins.”

What does this all mean for small businesses?

Let’s consider what consumers have to say about honesty and trust. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, only 52 percent of global respondents trust businesses today. In Australia, that number goes down to 48 percent, which means that many Australians don’t trust businesses in general.

Sprout Social, a US-based social media marketing company, calls it an era of distrust. What this means is that consumers do not believe that businesses genuinely care about their customers—and that they’re merely in it for the money. Consumers, these days, have been increasingly calling for businesses to work on transparency. In fact, Sprout Social’s study shows that almost nine out of 10 Americans believe transparency from businesses is more important than ever before.

So, to answer my initial question at the beginning of this video: does it make business sense, to be honest and transparent with your customers?

If we look at Volkswagen and Patagonia, it seems that it does pay to be honest and transparent—and that lying is a bad strategy.

Being honest and transparent nurtures trust.

In Patagonia’s case, the company communicated its strategy and followed through with their actions. To be truly honest and transparent requires words and actions to match. It’s not enough to tell customers that “We are honest!”—we, as business owners, need to show them how honest and transparent we can be.

Redeem yourself by admitting fault and rectifying mistakes.

We all make mistakes. For brands and companies, what is important is to admit fault and to communicate the steps that will be undertaken to rectify these mistakes. Many brand strategists even propose that mistakes and blunders can be opportunities to gain loyalty. Sprout Social’s study supports this: 89% of respondents said business can regain their trust if it admits to making a mistake and is transparent about the steps it will take to resolve the issue.

Transparency takes effort—but it also pays.

Communicating closely with your customers may require more effort, but think of it as investing in your relationship with them.

When your company suffers a service outage and which consumers suffer from, for example, take this as an opportunity to develop a better relationship with your customers. Closely communicate with them. Explain what caused the outage. Describe the steps that you intend to take. Frequently update them about where you are in the repair progress. Service outages cause a lot of inconvenience to customers—but their irritation intensifies further when you fail to communicate about what they can expect from you.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >

Do you delegate your work to others so that you can do more? Do you find delegating easy? If you find handing over control over certain tasks difficult, this video might be for you. I discuss mindsets that prevent us from delegating and how we can overcome our resistance to delegating.

Do you resist delegating things to other people? Do you like doing things yourself? Perhaps it’s time to reconsider and be more open to ‘delegation’.

Sir Richard Branson famously said, “If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to learn to delegate.”

One important reason to delegate is that it frees up your resources as a business owner. Time is a very important resource—and so is mental space. When you delegate tasks to others, you are not only freeing up time but also your mental capacity to focus on the important things. When you free up your resources, you’ll have more resources to use for the most important things in your business—matters that only you, as a business owner, can do or decide on.

But why does delegating still feel so difficult? I’d like to share with you some statements that I found in my research that support the notion that delegation is difficult.

  1. I’m used to doing things myself and worry whether someone else can do these tasks the way I would do them.
  2. It will take me a lot of time and effort to train someone else before a task is done the way I do it.
  3. My business operates on a very limited budget and I may not be able to afford to employ new heads to delegate these tasks to.
  4. I love doing these things, and I do them well!

Do any of these statements apply to you?

I am not immune to the resistance to delegating, and I can identify with a few of them, especially on point number 2. I admit it, I am with everyone else on this. But how can we change this thinking? How can we shift the mindset that is preventing us from delegating work to others?

Instead of thinking about and concerning ourselves with what we will lose in the process of delegating or outsourcing—control, we focus on what we would be gaining if we let of certain tasks. Take a sheet of paper and write down the pros and cons of delegating tasks to other people.

One disadvantage of delegation is losing absolute control. It sounds like a dictatorship, doesn’t it? But it’s true! There will an increase in costs and there will be a variation in the results, which can frazzle you if you are a perfectionist.

But the advantage is less stress and increased free time, a resource you can use to focus on your business—and focus on growing your business. Your free time can be used to work on your business, rather than working in it.

Here are 4 ways to shift that mindset of giving up control into gaining time and mental space:

  1. You may think that you’re the best person to do certain tasks—and perhaps that’s true, for now. But what if you find someone who does it just as well as if not better than you? Wouldn’t that be better for the business? Instead of using your time to do all of these tasks—and using up so much mental space on so many tasks that someone else can do, why not use your time and mental energy to plan for growth, to strategise, and to execute these plans?

In my video, Your business can only grow as big as you can manage, I discuss how you—yes, you, the business owner—can be holding your business back by continuing to do everything. The reality is, the business owner alone cannot manage all of these areas singlehandedly. Your business can grow no bigger than what you can effectively manage.

What can business owners do instead? Take things off of your plate and retain only the things that will help you achieve your goals. Delegate or outsource the rest!

  • It does take time and it does take effort to train people to takeover certain tasks. Some people may need more time than you probably needed to be efficient in these tasks. But instead of thinking about it as time and effort wasted, why not shift that mindset and think of it as investing your time on something that can help free up your time in the long run? Time is not wasted when there is a return—and regaining back that time is a worthy investment!

Time is the most valuable asset—it is limited and non-renewable. In my video, Managing your business’s most important asset – your time, I provide tips on how business owners can make the best use of their time by focusing on the tasks that matter the most—the tasks that only you, the business owner, can fulfill and accomplish. What to do with the rest? Delegate, of course!

  • You don’t need to employ people full time to get help. There are many ways to get help without increasing overhead. You can hire someone part time, or hire a virtual assistant through online market places such as Upwork or Freelancer.

Outsourcing is one if the three things you can do to take your business to the next level as I explain in my video, 3 ways to improve your business today. Many times, particularly for small businesses, it makes much more sense to outsource certain areas of the operations (such as IT and database management or even payroll and bookkeeping) rather than upgrading systems or hiring new staff, which will only increase overhead costs and erode profits.

There are also many small businesses in Australia that outsource non-core operations to other businesses or professionals. For example, Whole Kids Australia (link to video forthcoming) keeps their operations small by focusing on what they are great at—and that’s marketing and product development, and delegating the rest, such as warehousing and distribution. In this way, they keep their operations small, which is their vision, without compromising on the quality of their products.

  • For any entrepreneur, time is an important asset—and so is your focus. Multitasking hurts you more than you think. In my previous video, Is multitasking hurting your business?, I share what scientific studies say about multitasking (hint: it’s not good for you!), and what you can do instead, which is to focus on the important tasks and delegate the rest!

So, think about what you can delegate and then find the resources to invest in that process. This will be the start of your continued business growth.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >