FLASHPOINTS: Play Is More Fun Than Work!

BAG Screen shot 061714Play is more fun than work!

I read somewhere that by the age of twenty one, the average millennial will have spent 10,000 hours playing video games … for us older folks, we shout in glorious victory when we get in the fastest moving checkout line! Why? We all enjoy the challenge and the reward of competition. According to game designer Jane McGonigal, the positive traits that gamers develop include: the drive for productivity, “urgent optimism” and the ability to “weave a tight social fabric.” Sounds like great attributes for any high-functioning team!  And so enters the concept of gamification: since gaming is here to stay, doesn’t it make sense that we apply the dynamics of a game to a non-game environment to reap the benefits of increased stimulation? How can you apply gamification to your team?

Effective Time Management When You LOVE Your Business

Many entrepreneurs absolutely love their business and end up spending most of their waking hours working on their business, working in their business and talking about their business!  While this is great on some levels, it can also strain – or even break – important relationships with friends and family.  Ironically, many entrepreneurs got into business in the first place to create more freedom for these important relationships.

So, how do you solve this dilemma?

Here are a couple of thoughts on balancing life with your business:

  1. Embrace Productivity Enhancers: One way to create more “time” is to get more done during work time.  Here are some tips we use:
    • Use Multiple Computer Monitors: This is a huge time saver. The amount time lost each year by most single monitor users in open, closing and switching windows is at least one full workweek. Using 2 or 3 screens is a big productivity booster. A great app to turn your tablet into another screen for your laptop is Air Display: ($9.99)
    • Only Return Phone Calls/E-mails 2-3 Times per Day: Another big productivity booster is turning off your e-mail/message notification on your computer and PDA and returning calls/e-mails at specific times each day. For example, you could return these between 11 am – 12 noon and 3 pm – 4 pm each day. When you are focusing on a task, each interruption costs you 10-15 minutes of productivity time
  1. Only Work on Tasks Aligned with Your Strengths: Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should!  Many entrepreneurs waste enormous amounts of time on marginal tasks instead of outsourcing, delegating or deleting them because they either don’t have the right team or they aren’t using that team properly.  Don’t fall into this trap.
  1. Schedule a “Digital Detox”: To achieve enduring success as an entrepreneur, you must schedule downtime.  One of our colleagues, who is a very successful 7-figure entrepreneur is fond of saying “the less I work, the more money I make.”  Regularly taking time away from your business by completely unplugging (no iPhone, Blackberry, or e-mail) is crucial.  Letting the constant buzz or “white noise” of business subside actually improves your ability to think strategically, as it allows your subconscious mind space and time to operate.  Combining these strategic timeouts while spending time with family, friends and other important relationships is a powerful 1-2 punch.  We recommend starting with one afternoon a week as soon as possible and expanding from there.  Ultimately, you should aim for taking 1-2 weeks (or more) away from your business!

 

For more information on effective time management when you LOVE your business, be sure to listen to the August 2012 Virtual Jam Session replay.

FLASHPOINTS: Talk Less, Learn More

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The key to more productive & rewarding conversations will never exist in making the right statements, as much as it does in asking the right questions.

Almost everyone I know admits they wish they were a better, more dynamic communicator. But to become a master conversationalist has little to do with making pithy or brilliant statements every time. Most of us aren’t that smart, or able to respond that quickly. What moves a conversation from boring to brilliant is asking great questions, and listening intently…a learned skill.  Questions create insight, offer intrigue, build intimacy and improve conversations…instantly. It’s also amazing how much more interesting people find you when you ask probing, relevant questions. Never underestimate the “gift” of a good question. Talk less, learn more, and ask great questions today.

 

Building a Business A-Team

Developing a Board of Advisors for Your Company

One of the most important things you can do to insure sustainable growth and enduring success in your business is to attract and secure the right members for your Board of Advisors—even if there are specific tasks that individual members are not doing for you, there are challenges and mine fields they can guide you through…proving to be very influential for your business. 

We highly recommend developing both professional and personal boards of advisors for you and your business to help break through barriers that stand between you and success.  Too often, however, entrepreneurs fill their board with people who may offer name recognition and “credibility” to their company (which is important), but they neglect to accept that even more vital to company success is stacking the board with people who are well rounded, dedicated to the company success, passionate about new ideas, and share the company’s ethos.

When searching for, and interviewing, potential Board of Advisor members:

  • cast a wide net, play the field, date around…whatever cheesy cliché you choose, look beyond your own list of contacts, develop profiles of your ideal advisors, and spread the word;
  • establish relationships with potential candidates before offering them a position on your board.  Give them an inside look at how you operate, share some of your dreams and aspirations for you and your organization, see if there is chemistry and an appropriate fit in style of communication and demeanor;
  • let the candidates know why you’re considering them, what you’re hoping to get out of the relationship, and what your expectations are of them.  Additionally, be sure to let them know what you’ll be offering them…even if it’s the idea that you’re a fun organization to work with, and you have some challenging obstacles that need attention that will excite them;
  • be clear that they can expect an occasional phone call from someone on the team who’s upbeat and optimistic, who’ll be respectful of their time, but may need some guidance to face a challenge that they’ve got some experience with;
  • and be reasonable with your expectations, and let them know you don’t expect them to always be available to answer every question that may arise, but if there is a crisis, you’ll be expecting their support and wisdom.

After the courting process, choose advisors who will:

  • be excited about your project and organization and are passionate about assisting you;
  • positively impact your business—enlist veteran business people in your field who have accomplished what you’re trying to do, or something very similar to what you’re doing;
  • fill in the weak spots on your team;
  • be instrumental in introducing you to potential partners, investors, distributors, media, bankers & financiers, etc; and
  • help you shorten the learning curve by pouring themselves, and their wisdom and expertise into you and your business.

Although compensation is not always expected, if you want to attract top-notch advisors, be prepared to offer it in the form of a stipend or equity.  Compensation insures that they remain engaged and available in the face of a crisis (which will, indeed, happen from time to time).  Expect to offer one-half a percent to two percent in equity per board member as typical compensation—you may find, however, that offering equity positions as high as five percent is sometimes appropriate.  Higher amounts would be offered to those who offer to dedicate lots of time and support to the company, and who bring expertise, name recognition and credibility to your team.

Once you’ve picked your advisors, don’t be afraid to ask for help…that’s what they’re there for.  If you’ve picked the right members, they’ll be glad to assist and to participate as you need them.

The key to ultimate success with a Board of Advisors is communication.  It’s no surprise that occasional face-to-face and/or videoconference meetings, and quarterly emails are invaluable.  The gold in the relationship comes in the ability to reach out to your advisors for assistance with the unscheduled challenges that come up between meetings.  Don’t forget to also share company updates, and small wins and successes with your advisors.  Invite them to company functions, parties and celebrations.  Everyone wants to know that their contributions are making a positive impact on the organization, and it allows them to connect to the soul of the company.

We believe an effective board of advisors includes diverse backgrounds, points of view, and opinions by a team of supporters who share an excitement about growing your company.  You should communicate to board members with transparency and respect, and treat them as your most trusted inner circle.   You may be surprised to find a team of rock stars willing to pay you back with connections, open doors, ideas, and unbridled passion that will move your company forward in unimaginable ways.   

Sunday Funnies: Dilbert on Employee Satisfaction

For the tenth year in a row, the employee satisfaction survey says morale is low.

Stop Pouting. Take Action. Be Happy.

Do you have prickly, grouchy people in your life?  Are you, perhaps, one of them?  Do you enjoy having these folks in your life or on your team?  OK, how about those bright, sunshiny people?  Don’t you find it’s so much easier to be around people who are upbeat and happy?  Happy people make the workplace more productive, and they bring more joy to the home.  Time seems to fly by more quickly when you’re around them.  Most have come to accept that happiness and a positive attitude is better for our mental and physical health.

Hey, we get it…it’s not always easy to choose happiness.  Sometimes it just feels good not to work so hard, and to wallow in bitterness, self-pity and resentment for a bit.  But don’t hang out there too long…it’s feels so much better on the lighter side.

 Stop pouting. Take action. Be happy.

The Productivity-Positivity Matrix

Organizations of every size need high productivity and positivity to sustain growth and enduring success.  Too often, however, they fall short in one, or both, area(s).  How is your organization doing?

Those organizations low in both productivity and positivity are standing at death’s door and will soon expire — a total corporate overhaul is needed to survive (or a reservation made at the corporate morgue).  Those who are high in productivity, yet low in positivity are likely grinding out an existence and burning through their human capital — these organizations are in need of soothing relief in the form of team member recognition; improved work conditions; effective incentive programs; up-beat, humane leadership; and perhaps some team member autonomy.

Organizations with low productivity, yet high positivity may have laid the groundwork by developing an upbeat, light-as-a-cloud work environment, but need to take course correction soon by instituting productivity goals; performance metrics; clearly articulating expectations; and identifying team leaders to motivate, inspire, and act as role models.  Left unchecked, the corporate coffin will be carried to the grave by happy, unemployed pallbearers.

Those blessed organizations with high productivity and positivity are destined for greatness.  To maintain the spirit of success they must loosen the corporate reins on their stallions and offer the freedom to run full bore.  They must systematize and automate operations when possible, and celebrate success often.  More importantly, however, they must embrace and learn from their failures.  Leaders who have identified those elements of their organization’s culture that have contributed to success, and then ensured they are ingrained in the corporate DNA, are more likely to defy the odds and secure enduring success.  Sounds great, right?

Where does your organization fall on The Productivity-Positivity Matrix?