Because Small Business is Big Business

Posts by Todd Conkright

Communication Crisis

communication crisisThere is a communication crisis in the marketplace. As individuals and organizations shift from traditional forms of communication to leverage technology, we’re seeing lots of information flowing back and forth, but much of it is ineffective, frustrating, and confusing.There are generational preferences when it comes to communication. Baby boomers prefer a phone call, Gen-Xers would rather get an email, and Millenials like to communicate via text. These are generalizations, of course, but seem to make sense as we think about the technological evolution of the past 50 years. READ MORE »

 

Five Reasons to Have a Coach

Five ReasonsThe coach doesn’t play in the game, but they know the game inside and out and provide invaluable input that leads to improvement and, ideally, a win.  A professional executive coach can provide you with things that you might not be able to do for yourself. Here are five reasons to have a coach READ MORE »

 

Why You Need a Coach

Connor is a former business student of mine who just got his second promotion since joining a national retail firm three years ago. He’s managing a group of professionals and reached out to me to be is coach as he takes on his new responsibilities. He has a boss, of course, who can provide direction and help him through the learning curve, but Connor wanted someone who could not only help him navigate the role, but provide unbiased input as well as a sounding board from a source that wasn’t writing his performance review.

Connor and I talk through relationships with his team, especially those he finds more challenging to manage. We’ve worked through the company’s new performance management system and how it can be used positively despite the fact that it’s not perfect. I’ve shared some tools with him that will help him build relationships while helping his team reach their goals, and Connor has asked me questions about managing his own career and influencing his bosses. READ MORE »

 

Tips for Putting Information Into Action

According to the philosopher and man of science of a century and a half ago, Herbert Spencer, “The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.”Ralph Waldo Emerson picks up on this thought, adding, “The ancestor of every action is a thought.” As we gather information to educate ourselves on a topic, ultimately putting information into action using this new-to-us knowledge.

Gathering information without the aim of putting it into action may be interesting, but certainly won’t lead to change.

But with the avalanche of information falling on us through a typical Google search, we quickly become buried in material. With pages and pages of results for our simple query there is no shortage of information – results abound! So we suffer from information overload, right?

Well, according to Clay Shirky, who writes and speaks on the effects of internet technology on society and economics, “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” In fact, all of the futurists remind us that the amount of information available to us will continue to increase. More and more stuff will be added to the internet, so we have to improve our ability to find relevant information and be able to access that information quickly when we are ready to use it.

So before we can put information into action we have to gather it and store it or organize it. I think each of us has developed some good habits when it comes to accessing, storing and retrieving information. But I imagine we each have some gaps as well. And what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you, but maybe you’ve discovered something that hasn’t come my way yet.

The fact is – there are multiple answers to this conundrum of how to manage information so that we can put it into action later. So here are Todd’s Tips for Putting Information Into Action, categorized into phases of gathering, organizing, and retrieving.

Todd’s Tips for Putting Information into Action

Information Gathering

  • Go beyond Google!
    • Find credible sources and case studies through online journal databases using your public library card. Most libraries provide free access to EBSCO and other article databases from the convenience of your laptop.
    • Look at the references in that Wikipedia entry to see where they got the information. You may question the reliability of the Wiki entry, but often the summary is based on valid sources.
    • Use google.com to home in on deeper articles. It takes a little practice to get the most useful results, but you can often find really good full-text articles and e-books.
    • Another Google Chrome add-on, called Mya, is in beta testing right now. It allows users to search specific sites for topical information, then save results for later use.
  • Compare & contrast multiple sources. Don’t trust the first source you find – get different viewpoints and draw your own conclusions.
  • Books, articles and blogs are still great sources of information! Commit to reading non-digital sources regularly.
  • If you’re not sure where to start researching a topic, ask someone! If you don’t have anyone in your professional network to tap in to, LinkedIn groups are a good way to find practitioners and experts in just about any specialty. You can start a discussion and ask for responses, or search for people to connect with and send an InMail to.
    • If you use the Kindle app and highlight quotes, you can access all of your highlights using the My Notebook icon. If you use the desktop Kindle app you can copy & paste those quotes into a separate document and save it in your folder system.
    • Leverage social media. Many authors or professional groups have Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts, as well as blogs. Follow them for continuing discussion and research on topics of interest to you.

Storing & Retrieving Information

  • Consider going 100% digital.* Scan articles and training materials, type up notes from presentations as well as quotes from books. (A bonus of typing up notes & quotes is that your memory is aided by the process!)
  • The key is your folder and sub-folder system. Make it your own – only you need to know how to find things in your system, so do what makes sense to you.
  • Use Dropbox, Google Docs, or some other cloud-based system to store your information so that you can retrieve it from any device and any location.
  • Use bookmarks to sort searches and online finds. Most browsers allow you to save articles as PDFs, so you can easily add that online gem to your folder system.
  • Use tags for individual files to help making search more accurate a
  • When you “like” or retweet an article or other resource through social media, go the next step and save the item in PDF to the appropriate folder.
  • Evaluate your system from time-to-time and make tweaks – pay attention to the growing pile of paper resources and schedule time to scan.
  • Purge! That great article on new technology from 1993 may be an interesting historical record, but it’s cluttering up your files. Get rid of it!

*if you have file cabinets full of paper documents, take out one at a time and scan & file each item. It may take a while, but you’ll have all of those docs in one place, organized for easy access. Make sure your scanner can do optical character recognition (OCR), which makes the text searchable.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to gather and store information, but it should provide some food for thought as you consider how to collect and sort material. Keep in mind Shirky’s warning that it’s not information overload but failure to filter. If you’re getting too much clutter, evaluate what you actually use and remove what you don’t. That could mean unsubscribing to a newsfeed or blog, un-liking a Facebook page, or moving that pile of magazines to remove the guilt of not getting to them!

Putting information into action, then, means being able to access the material you’ve squirreled away quickly and efficiently.

When I am asked to deliver a presentation on change management I can go to my Research folder, open the Change management sub-folder, then see additional sub-folders labeled PowerPoints, Assessments, Theories & Models, and Handouts. I’m not spending hours searching for my stuff because it’s all at my fingertips.

 

Resuscitating Your Leadership Can Breathe Life Into Your Team

According to leadership expert and entrepreneur Jeremie Kubicek, leadership is dead. As a consultant to leaders around the globe Kubicek has seen first-hand how self-preservation has built walls that prevent leaders from influencing followers in productive and positive ways. The key to resuscitating your leadership is by replacing self-preservation with influence.

“To be influential requires that we shed the fears and self-preservation instincts that hold us back (Kubicek, Leadership is Dead).”

The past couple of years have been tough for everyone, but small business owners have perhaps been the hardest hit by the financial crisis that started in 2008. As the fear of not being able to make payroll or invest in needed technology loomed, many small business leaders retreated to self-preservation mode. The goal was survival, including personal survival as well as company sustenance.

But we can’t lead well when we’re in preservation mode. We lose perspective and cannot build rapport with those we most need to be on our side. We build walls that keep others at a distance, which often leads to undesired behaviors of staff, clients and peers. People don’t want to be around leaders who are only interested in their own need to survive.

If you’ve found yourself in this deadly leadership position, the key to resuscitating yourself is turning your focus to building mutually beneficial relationships. Relationship building is easier for some than it is for others, and if you’ve been in self-preservation mode for a long time it will take intentional focus to tear down the walls that hinder your influence.

The following three steps will help you in your quest to increase the positive influence you have on those around you:

  1. Know yourself. Spend some time thinking about your leadership style. Write down 3-5 things you want to be known for as a leader (character, inspiring others, empathy, etc.). We have all been influenced by someone else as we’ve evolved into the leaders we are today. What do you admire most about the people who have influenced you? What unique leadership brand do you want to create for yourself? 
  2. Know others. Make a list of the 10-15 people you interact with most (family, colleagues, staff, clients). What are their strengths? What opportunities for growth do they have? Spend some time getting to know these people better. Ask them how you can help them grow and succeed. If you’re really daring, ask them to tell you what you’re doing to block their progress. Find out what makes them and what motivates them. 
  3. Make a plan. Once you know yourself and have insight into those around you, make a plan to maximize your influence. Make it a progressive plan – don’t try to overhaul your leadership approach overnight. Your staff and clients may not know what to do with that! But if you can break your plan into 3-4 stages, you’ll be able to see when progress is made, adjust your plan as it evolves, and get feedback along the way.

You’ll be amazed at how taking the focus off of your own preservation will actually lead to your success. When you help others succeed you cannot help but grow and improve yourself. It’s a win-win approach that builds credibility and trust with those you most want to influence.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of Jeremie Kubicek’s book, where he explains in depth his model of influence that can revive your leadership. I have the privilege of hosting Jeremie along with four other authors, consultants and thought-leaders at the Leading Forward: Emerging Views of Leadership conference on August 24th at the Kroc Center, sponsored by the Omaha Organization Development Network. This conference is open to the public and online registrations are accepted through August 23rd at www.omahaodn.org/leadingforward.