We face challenges. The world has changed, and how we respond is important. Intrinsically we know this to be true. There's part of us that knows we have an opportunity to make changes in our business, and actually balance our lives a bit.
Covid has changed our workplaces. It's forced us to adapt the way we work, the tools we use to work, how we collaborate with our colleagues, and even the way we serve our customers. For many of us, there just aren't as many customers either. Business is difficult, and especially when we face economic uncertainty.
It can be uncomfortable to confront, as we don't like the uncertainty, we might be anxious about our future, and it might seem that there's so much outside of our control.
In corporate speak; "we are facing headwinds".
It's time to click it down a gear or two and make the pedaling a bit easier. You can't change the wind, but there are other choices. You can react, rebuild, or retreat.
We are seeing all of our clients facing these choices at the moment. It can feel lonely, but actually many people are asking the same questions, facing similar dilemmas, and looking for the right gear. That's why we have started a webinar series. You're welcome to join the conversation with our H Agent's and other business owners who are also working their way through change.
Our advice to business owners is to turn off the news, block out the complainers, analyse your business strengths, make the time to think deeply about what you'd like to achieve for (and from) your business, and find people who can help you rather than judge you.
An H Agent can help you find your right gear. We're working beside our clients to:
The winds will change, and one day there will be tail winds. How we respond now will set how fast we can go when the winds turn. Now it's time to face the uncertainty and deal with it on our own terms. It starts with you.
There's an elephant in the room, Karen. It's sitting right there on the sofa, getting very comfortable. For goodness sake, don't give it the remote control, especially "in these uncertain times".
Do you see it? It's sitting right there, at the end of that last paragraph. It's hiding in plain sight, so we put some quotation marks around it so that you can spot it more easily.
When were "times" ever certain?
There is no doubt, that nobody is untouched by change. It's been forced on us in a way we rarely have to experience here in Australia. However, that does not make the world less certain than it was before. In some ways the reverse is true - we have now have more rules that influence our lives than we had before.
So why do we feel that everything is now more uncertain?
We are in a situation that very few of us ever imagined. We had our future mapped out in our heads, and it didn't include the risk of spreading a deadly virus. Nor did we imagine that we might have to practice social distancing from some of those we love, that we might have to change the way we work, or that even the act of getting food would need some form of reinvention.
We feel more uncertain because the future only ever existed in our own imaginations - and we never imagined it would be like this.
So now we will have to re-imagine it - and we have a choice. We can give the elephant the remote control, or we can take control ourselves.
Giving the elephant the remote control means that we will just wait. We'll watch what the elephant wants us to watch, or play what the elephant wants us to play, when it feels like playing it - if it feels like playing it.
The feeling of uncertainty is because what we imagined turned out to be not what happened. Some of what we thought we would do, may not even be possible for some time. So now we can simply re-imagine it. We can take control of our own future, we can be realistic about what wasn't working before, and we can reset our compasses.
Change Agents, now is the time to lead. Let's imagine and communicate a better future, based on what we've learned recently.
We've learned that family and friends matter most, that having savings for a rainy day is a good idea, and that flexible working can 'work' well. Let's imagine working in ways that enhance our well-being, rather than taking from it.
How are we going to invent the future and make the world or work better, because believe it or not, the elephant has no idea.
When C.S. Lewis published his wonderful work, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in 1950 it was a part of a series; The Chronicles of Narnia. The inspiration for the series was the time when three children, that had been evacuated from London during the blitz, temporarily came to live with Lewis near Oxford for their protection from the bombs falling nightly on London. Through his story, Lewis provided a place where they, and us with them, could escape their isolation.
Lewis created the story of a magical kingdom, Narnia, that existed from within the wardrobe in the spare room. There the children flourished through adventure, discovery, and the strength of finding themselves and their abilities.
Many workers are now facing a new form of evacuation, as we deal with the wretched blitz of the Covid-19 virus. None of us have likely ever seen such a change in our society, businesses, family, and working arrangements. We've certainly never had to respond to such a situation, let alone so quickly.
For many, this now means working remotely with very limited social connection, beyond the distance of a screen. In a way, we are very similar to Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter, the characters that Lewis created, as we now effectively isolate to protect ourselves and others from this terrible virus that uses us to spread so easily.
Since very few of us just happened to have a ready home-office just waiting for this scenario, we have found ourselves hastily preparing a work station, probably similar to a study desk. Our workplaces arranged for the right connectivity and the video conferencing, and so we packed our necessities and headed home.
We are often told that people don't like change. Our new response to that can be to remind ourselves of just how adaptable we are.
Now there's just our families or house-mates, our screens, and maybe the dog. It wouldn't be a video call if there wasn't at least one bark in the background, reminding us that there is a life beyond the screen, the work, and the world that resides on the Internet. Yet now we have far greater limitations on interacting with that world.
Many from your team are in shock. They may feel isolated, and feel anxious as nobody can predict for how long this is going to last. These feelings change daily, sometimes even hourly, for all of us.
We've written before how humans are social beings and the importance of having social connection. The workplace has long been an important part of our social network, but now it is only two dimensional and is lacking so much because of that.
The study desk, the TV, and our phones have become our 'wardrobe'. They are where we find adventure and discovery. As managers, we now need to nurture our own capacity to find, embrace, and explore our unique capabilities, as well as encourage it in our teams.
So Change Agents - what we need to complete this analogy is a 'Lion'. Will that be you? Will you be the one who uses this time to nurture the capacity of your team, and allow people the autonomy to find their unique contribution?
Will you be nurturing discretionary effort, or will you try to enforce compliance? Choose wisely.
There will be managers out there who are video calling their team regularly, just to check that they're working. Others will be calling to check and test that their authority is still in place. These managers are seeking control, and the problem with that is that it most often stifles creativity, willing contribution, and discretionary effort.
What everyone needs most right now, as we try to cope with the wickedness of a virus that uses our social strengths to cause such devastation, is our own time to process what is happening around us, how we can take care of ourselves, and still find a way to contribute to the things that matter to us.
When we made The H Factor system, we designed it around the things that people need in order to fully contribute to a meaningful purpose. Business for humans is our new tagline, because the system is designed around the natural human desires and the need for all leaders to nurture them. It has never been more important.
Please, take care of yourselves, your family, and your team. Stay well, and do all you can to limit the spread of this terrible virus.
One of the biggest constraints on the growth of a business is the lack of support for managers. As businesses grow, meeting the challenge of having the right data, and expertise to collect and interpret it, becomes a critical success factor.
For small and micro-businesses, the administration support tends to be highly compliance focused. At this stage, it is about minimising the risks of not meeting compliance obligations; usually in areas such as taxes, licenses, and contracts. For example, to reduce compliance risks the business will usually engage a bookkeeper, and put in place an accounting and payroll system. Or they may engage experts and put in place systems for project management and/or CRM.
These technicians, and their systems, then get the business through to the next stage of growth. They become valued partners as they add efficiency and instil structured ways of working that enable operational capability and capacity. Without them, the business would stagnate and struggle under the weight of regulatory burden, operational inefficiency, and the inability to consistently deliver for their customers.
These technicians and their systems are like the morning coffee. They kick things off and provide the quantitative business data for dealing with the issues of compliance, operational capability, and business efficiency. This is data such as financial, sales, production, and capacity information.
As the business grows there becomes a need for more management capability. This happens because with more customers comes the need for more people, and with more people comes the need for more managers. The business needs a different type of data, and a new system for obtaining and using it.
Despite everyone's best intentions, with more people the business naturally experiences the challenges of maintaining its productive culture, instilling consistent management decision processes, and continuing its growth.
One of the most critical success factors for growth, is how well the business transitions the administration effort and focus from compliance to supporting managers in driving the productive behaviours in the business that generate profitability. This requires a system for qualitative data - so that managers can have consistent information about the human qualities that are driving business performance.
Businesses often invest heavily into their quantitative data systems, but they often over-look their systems for gathering consistent qualitative data. This data is often more difficult to systemise as it's responses to open questions, and it's words rather than numbers.
Qualitative data provides far better information about the barriers to human performance. For example, quantitative data can provide managers with information that shows the need for changing something, but qualititative data gives the information that drives the behaviour to achieve that change.
To achieve the next phase of growth, the data system in the business needs to provide a sound process for gathering and using qualitative information. This supports decision making, enables management consistency, and drives productivity. It is like giving the business its second cup of coffee every day, as it drives the business energy towards removing the barriers that are preventing sustainable performance.
Our question to you, Change Agents is: Are the systems in your business only focused on quantitative data, and what process are you instilling for enhancing the human experience - the qualitative experience - in your organisations to achieve growth, sustainability, and ultimately, your purpose?
2020 Vision. It is about clarity and sharpness. In small business, we know that success comes from the clarity of business objectives. When leaders can share their vision and the things that are needed to achieve it, then it leads to contribution, engagement, and achievement.
H Agents are making 2020 the year of business clarity. For our clients, we want 2020 to be the year they progress:
We have always encouraged business owners to have clarity and focus on their desired business outcomes, so last year we integrated our business planning tool - the Proceed With Purpose Plan - into The H Factor system. We became the only online people management system with a built in, structured, and integrated, business planning tool. It enables you to define, articulate, and share your business goals, and then link those goals to specific teams, actions, and people. The system enables your team to build your business with you; as you establish clarity of objectives, set priorities, decide on actions, and enable accountability.
So we want to share our purpose and encourage business owners to join us on #2020operationclarity. Everyone has the right to create the extraordinary, and share the joy of contribution. It starts with clarity and there is no better time to give your business 2020 vision.
H Agents write about the joys and challenges of entrepreneurship and managing people.