It was Mark Twain who was first quoted as saying “eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day”. Fast forward to today - we don’t have easy access to live frogs, but we do have the need to avoid equally unpleasant things. You’ve found your frog when you can identify the worst part of running a business, something that keeps coming onto your Important list regularly (referring back to the video “Time Target”) and it’s something that you’ve done absolutely nothing about. What’s interesting about that is that every business has similar frogs. There’s no escaping calling up a key client or customer that is unhappy, contacting your Accountant to chase up old debts and payments, preparing for a bank meeting to apply for more funds, or you could even be in an industry which now faces fierce competition which could reduce your profitability (enter Uber and Airbnb).
The author of book “Eat that Frog!” Brian Tracy spent of 30,000 hours studying why some people are more successful than others. He read extensively and followed the lives of those people who managed to do very well in both their personal and professional lives. He wanted to know why they received more money &/or were promoted earlier and also had good relationships. It boiled down to one thing - good self management.
Wrangling your frog
When there is a large (ugly) task ahead of us, what is the first thing that we do? Some people take a walk. Others welcome distractions. Need the water cooler changed? No problem. The office plant hire renewal form? I can sign it. Kitchen fridge is overflowing. I’ll clear it. We’ve also heard that the best way to thoroughly dust and vacuum your house is to enrol in an online course. People will do anything to avoid sitting down and getting on with it. An important point to note when tackling frogs are, as difficult as they are, they will be what will provide the largest results for the business.
Completing a Business Plan for the banks to use in negotiations equals expansion and more investment capital - big result. Securing a key client and ensuring repeat purchases - that’s also a big result. Repositioning the business in the market (adapting to change) to create international markets sales - massive result. Frogs are hard, but they are worth every effort.
Line up your frogs
Each day, identify the frogs that are constantly playing on your mind. These are the most important frogs because if they are left unaddressed, they will distract you and make it difficult for you to focus on the day. By removing these frogs, you will feel more empowered and able to take on other business demands. Managing your frogs this way is slightly different to the traditional “To Do” list. Instead of prioritising activities that may be profitable or important to other people (as we talked about in previous papers), these frogs, when removed will give the Business Leader a better sense of purpose.
Proactivity waits for no one.
Procrastination just waits...and waits...and waits.
Now we finally arrived to the most enduring “pain point” for all business owners with regard to frogs. It’s not listing them out. It’s not prioritising them. And it’s not even looking closely at them on a plate. It’s the business of eating our frogs. We know they are there. They are staring right back at us wondering what we are going to do next. And that’s the point. What are we going to do? If we had the job of eating a live frog every day when would we physically pick it up and eat it? The team at One Week At A Time believe there is only one time in each and every day that we should eat a frog. It’s first thing in the morning.
We know that for many successful businesses there are people who know what they are doing, where they are headed and why they are doing it. What we don’t know (or we assume or forget) is that those successful businesses are made up of people who don’t hesitate to do the very things that are difficult, important and produce profits.
Occupational Health and Safety now more regularly referred to Workplace Health and Safety (WH&S). It’s the responsibility of both the Business Owner or Manager/Supervisor and the staff themselves to ensure that risks are eliminated and minimised, advice, information and training is given and shared and a host of other measures are in place for a safe workplace. That includes putting in place a continuous improvement program where the business constantly scans itself for potential risks and hazards.
The team at One Week At A Time raised WH&S and touched on a case where a business was experiencing litigation surrounding WH&S. Although we are by no means an expert in this field, there are important, in fact critical, lessons that need to be learnt. And it’s based around a safe mindset of:
Sooner rather than later.
Safer rather than sorry.
There are preventative interventions that employees can take to protect their staff. For example personal protective gear is given to staff and maintained by each staff member. Another example may be for every spill of liquid on a smooth floor, place a hazard sign next to it immediately while the cleaning gear is being fetched. There are many more examples like these that the business can identify and implement that are based on both common sense and experience. The key concern for Business Leaders however, in WH&S is to ensure that your business is doing enough in this area and continually check in regularly with your team at every appropriate opportunity to follow up on any questions or queries that are raised.
Go straight to the source
Each Australian state has a regulatory body with outlined rules for what each employee and employer are responsible for in the workplace to ensure safety. Following are a list of each body mandated to administer national Workplace Health and Safety legislation:
The valuable assets in a business go beyond tending to the equipment, inventory, the bricks and mortar. The people within a business, no matter what role they perform, are the most valuable asset of them all. Without a team of people, the business doesn’t function. It would be difficult to run a business if there aren’t people available to answer the phones, invoice the clients, persuade customers to upgrade, fulfil the orders, organise the advertising and balance the books. A business can facilitate more and look after more customers with the presence of a functional, happy, working team. Understanding that - the next question invariably is how to grow and capitalise on the asset of ‘team’?
What and How
Teams work better when they know exactly what is expected of them and what they need to do to achieve success in that group (each member of that group). Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) outline and list out exactly what those success measurements are, and how the each person in that team are travelling against them.
For example in a seasoned sales team, they may be given the group goal of making 100 sales in a month, and in a team of 10 sales staff, each member is given the target of achieving 10 sales. The sales conversion target (of 10), then forms part of a KPI measurement. In addition to the conversions, the staff can also be measured by the number of other KPI’s that the business can use to clearly understand their customers.
Sales are one of the easiest areas to provide a KPI measure against. The teams can even be divided up into Retention (working on current clients) and the New Business team (the “closers”).
The list of KPI’s in sales would therefore include metrics such as:
Softer (non “monetary”) sales measures may also include:
Sometimes the simplest of areas in a business will yield very good returns. Debtors are a great example of this, especially for a small to medium sized business. Ensuring that there is an ongoing monitor of which clients and/or customers are paying on time, and regularly is a great way to increase cash flow and prioritise your sales force. Accounts Receivable or the key Accountant for a business can be given clear KPI’s to ensure the business is on track and being paid for services rendered &/or products sold.
Below is a guideline to use in conjunction with your debtor and aged debtors reports. These are sample KPI’s a business may decide to apply, and of course, the figures will vary depending on the current terms and arrangements within a business.
Debtor KPI example:
And now for the rest
Most managers would like to develop a quantifiable fiscal set of parameters (similar as those set out in sales) and apply those across the board. Areas where that can turn into a stumbling block is when approaching roles such as Administration, Reception, Accounting, Maintenance, Floor Supervision, Safety Management, Forklift Driving etc, where the job is either repetitive and/or generally viewed as the same in any business.
Growing a great team does mean understanding that there will be roles which that are steady, and have the same daily task however the people in those roles do need a direction and improvements in their area can improve the business.
For example the Accountant may be spending a week to generate invoices to clients (impacting on cash flow) and the KPI was set at only “invoice clients”. They meet that target and the business isn’t better off in that area as a result of that measurement. A suggested change in the KPI may be to add “find improvements in the invoicing system/research better systems”. That would immediately bring to the table options of more efficient systems that were found, and could potentially halve the time spent generating invoices, allowing more time to produce other important financial reports (e.g. benchmarking analysis).
Another good example is of a forklift driver. A base level KPI may be to move goods across the factory floor, which is what they do, but to reach a high standard other KPI’s can be given. The driver may be required to ensure that goods are free of damage, that the loading of goods onto pallets/shelves is done in a way that is easy for the inventory/order staff to access, equipment issues are reported immediately (for OH&S reasons). If the KPI was simply set at “moving goods” then the equipment would not be monitored, the stacking/unloading of goods for customer orders would be difficult and the goods may even wind up with damage, reducing sales and costing the business money to replace.
Catch every opportunity
The underlining theme for setting KPI’s is to not miss a chance to give the team responsibilities that are part of developing the business. KPI’s are not meant to be an exercise for a manager scrutinise each employee, pointing out what didn’t go well and what was deficient. KPI’s are a golden opportunity to find improvements and develop a meaningful work life. Finding efficiencies and improvements aren’t the sole responsibility of those in a management role . Everyone in a business can find ways to create interesting work in their role, and a great way to do that is with Team KPI’s.
If you would like to discuss KPI’s for the many different roles that you have in your business please contact Brett Burden, Senior Business Coach on 1300 971 763.
Businesses which run without its owner have two distinctive qualities. The first one is that there are proper systems and structures in place and the second is that it’s people are also provided with those same structures, with the added bonus of being the business’ greatest asset. A terrific example is from the Virgin empire, whose very foundations have always been its people.
The Virgin Pulse CEO Chris Boyce said of its greatest assets ...“Success in business is all about people, people, people. Whatever industry a company is in, its employees are its biggest competitive advantage. They’re the ones making the magic happen - so long as their needs are being met.” (1)
Richard Branson himself said “Put your staff first, customers second, shareholders third.” (2) He was a big advocate of looking after his staff first and the business will be taken care of as a result.
A business owner in any market who grows and nurtures their people will find the business itself will skyrocket. How to get to this point through the process of a review, is the topic of today’s paper. We attempt to answer the tricky question - how do we review a person?
Definition to a role is like oxygen to the lungs.
People need it.
Each role within a business is occupied by a real person. Someone with feelings, thoughts and more critically - needs. And people need to know the what, why, how, where and when’s of their specific area within a business. In previous One Week At A Time papers we talked about the need of matching specific roles to DiSC personality profiles. We take this notion further by arming the person who we now know has the correct DiSC profile for role, with the information for them to perform their role. Once a person knows what is required of them, then they have the parameters to work on how to best service the business. Without role definition, each person will fall back on their skills and become reactive to the urgent needs of the business (refer to our other papers on Time Target and Delusions for more information on reactive business management).
Fit for purpose
Many moons ago the nomenclature when it came to employing staff was “job fit”. The personality of the person had to “fit in” a culture and the swag of skills they possessed along with their congenial nature equalled success. Job fitness in business then moved on to include personality profiles on top of a good “cultural fit”. Again the skills plus profile plus culture fit equalled success. This was used widely in all role definitions across the country.
These terms have been repositioned and job descriptions include what is called “fit for purpose”. Fit for purpose is taking a role, defining all it’s deliverables and outcomes, culturally fitting in and personality profiling and adding the important layer of “purpose”. Why is any of this important?
Going back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs top of the pyramid “self enlightenment” - where a human being is doing something for the greater good. Better than the self. Fit for purpose was invented to work in with this primal need within all people because “having a purpose beyond increasing shareholder profits is key to the modern corporation’s ability to survive and thrive”(3).
Purpose is the most important element in role definition.
Cover the bases
Each staff member has a different classification under the Australian Government regulations. When a role is created these classifications and rules need to be adhered to under Australian Business laws. Therefore when providing a role definition, job description and general terms it is advisable to cover the bases of each type of role, not just the skills required for that role. For example a full-time employee will have different needs and entitlements to a fixed term employee). Please refer to https://www.business.gov.au/info/run/employ-people and https://www.fairwork.gov.au/find-help-for/small-business. Many employers fall into a common trap of the review conversation getting bogged down by a lack of transparency in this area. Best to nib this in the bud and include this as part of the role definition criteria (e.g. clearly outline the role status - full-time, fixed term, apprentice, etc - along with the classification’s specific parameters).
It’s time for that conversation
Arriving at a place where the clarification of role, the skill set, fit for culture, fit for purpose and basic rights are covered will all set up the best possible conversation to have with an employee. Here is where it gets tricky.
For a Manager who has reviewed employees many times, the basic information will help them feel less tense. And if that Manager are like many thousands of other managers out there, they will think of all the good things the staff member did and the most recent not-so-good things they did and write all that down. It’s human nature after all right.
On the other side of the coin, the staffer lists all the projects they completed where they have contributed, and then dutifully crosses their fingers hoping no curveballs are thrown their way. There is a fundamental underestimation of how stressful this process actually is for those being “assessed”. Dressing the review up in an HR campaign of “fun” or a “two-way feedback process” and “healthy constructive criticism”, doesn’t take away from the fact that it is what it is. One person sitting in front of another person they are about to judge(4). How to reduce this stress comes down to
What the experts say
Harvard Business School have performed many studies in this area and solid business practices have come from their learnings. Here is what they have have to say about how to have an effective performance discussion(5):
And these are the “don’t do”s of performance reviews:
Pick a side. Controversial? Not really.
Another area the Harvard professionals believe that managers would be best to do is break the cycle of what they term the “feedback sandwich” (or Australian’s have referred to this as “the slap and the pat”). This is when a manager compliments, criticises then delivers more niceties. The recipient isn’t clear what is going on. Additionally, this techniques does 2 things - it undermines those who are doing well, and washes over those people who aren’t. It’s a tough ask for managers but it has to be done - decide which side the person is on and stick to it. Is the person a good performer (in which case almost exclusively concentrate on what that person did well) or is that person a poor performer (in which case be specific and share what activities are making that happen)?
Nine times out of ten
Performance reviews were never meant to be a walk in the park, and they also weren’t meant to resemble a root canal at the dentist’s office either. Most businesses and their leaders want to empower the staff that they believe in and have employed, to continue to positively contribute to the business. Reviews are a way that they can keep track of the most important areas in each role, so that, like a symphony orchestra, all the instruments are coming together to produce an amazing sound. As managers, it’s easy to lose sight of this, and as employees it’s important to remember the love of music keeps you in the orchestra. Nine times out of ten, performances are good. And in business good means on track. Put another way, if everyone from the lighting crew, the conductor, the choir and the flute section know what to do, practice it regularly and enjoy making the music together, come review time, they’ll turn up for the conversation...in a good way.
If you would like a copy of the Action Centre Performance Review Form please contact Brett Burden, Senior Business Coach on 1300 971 763.
When we have a job to do and we experience people who we perceive are interrupting us, slowing us down, diverting our attention or just plain getting in the way of what we set out to achieve, it can prove to be frustrating and unproductive use of our time. Finding out how to motivate and discipline ourselves so that we don’t get caught up in the cycle of interruptions is a an ongoing process. In our personal journey in business and in life, we find out that we make mistakes, we try and learn from them to resurface into a better, more authentic person. Added to this inner journey Business Owners, Entrepreneurs and Managers are placed in positions of leadership which require a simultaneous understanding of themselves as well as other people’s internal workings. Creating a positive relationship with yourself and your team often is the quality that winds up separating a good leader from a regular “boss”.
Meet and greet
Approaching a new (or entrenched) team can depend on the kind of person that you are under times of stress. We often fall back to automatic, comfort behaviours when we face the unknown or uncomfortable situations. For example you may be a person who likes to be liked, and turns a situation into a series of fun interactions while and at the same time, you can’t find it in your heart to have a conversation which may involve dismissal. On the other hand you may be a person who finds tense conversations roll out more easily however, it turns out that others feel as though they are under constant scrutiny by you. These are two examples of behavioural types which managers and staff experience all the time. Finding out who is likely to behave in a certain way, in advance of a potential conflict, will prepare both people (the giver and receiver) to approach each other differently. The tool that One Week At A Time utilises to find out likely behaviours is called the DiSC Profile(1). It was founded by William Moulton Marston(2), who incidentally invented the blood pressure component of the lie detector test. William Marston’s DiSC profile (extracted from his book The Emotions of Normal People) is now an internationally recognised psychometric assessment that both managers and their teams use to be able to understand each other. Marston’s believed people sat on two axis - passive or active - and he developed a way of approaching people’s behaviour stemming from that basic premise.
DiSC as the pre-season warm up
Before you head out into the field for a game together, DiSC can be used as a form of a team warm up session, to help everyone get used to each other’s style of play. When times are calm it’s much easier to temper our behaviour it’s when times are difficult that DiSC is critical. A recent survey found almost 46% of Australians would rather look for a new job than deal with a workplace issue (or worse still, take a sick day in the hope that the issue will “blow over”)(3). Addressing main preferences in a person and finding where people are the same as us, builds trust and confidence to address issues rather than shy away from them. Using the below 4 basic styles of DiSC profiles(3) will begin a better positioned conversation:
Each person has a combination of all 4 with higher or lesser degrees of each of the styles (which we will go into more detail about further into One Week At A Time). The style that a person will most identify with is the one that they are mainly presenting, for example a person with 30 D, 50 I, 10 S, 15 C will most likely say that they are a “High I”.
Tip of the iceberg
DiSC will show whether a team has a skew or a manager has a preference which is complementary or counter to a team. These preferences are pointing to behaviours which influence what kind of actions and decisions that group or person is likely to make (especially under pressure). When we first meet people, knowing this information is important because we won’t really learn about that person on a deeper level until we have spent a great deal of time and many years with them. Below is an example of the human “iceberg”:
The iceberg shows us that the initial information about behaviour, above the water, is crucial in quickly establishing connections. In business, we don’t have the luxury of time to get to know people, which is where DiSC comes into its own. It will reveal the tip of the iceberg of a person, and give us enough information to couple with people’s skills and demeanour so we can make grounded decisions and positive interactions.
Core Agreement Information
All staff that are employed in any organisational size are covered by the basic rights set out in the Australian Fair Work Act 20091 in the National Employment Standards (NES). There are a number of entitlements all staff are given by the NES. The casual employees base set of entitlements are: (i) unpaid carer leave, (ii) unpaid compassionate leave, (iii) community service leave, and for casuals over 12 months in a business, the employee has the right to (iv) request flexible arrangements and, (v) has access to parental leave.
For non-casual workers the NES provides: (i) minimum weekly hours, (ii) requests for flexible working arrangements, (iii) parental leave and related requirements, (iv) annual leave, (v) personal carer and compassionate leave, (vi) community service leave, (vii) long service leave, (viii) public holidays, (ix) notice of termination, (x) redundancy pay, and every employer must (xi) provide each employee with a copy of the Fair Work Information Sheet.
The Fair Work Information Sheets provide employees with information about awards, the Fair Work Act, workplace rights, flexible hours, termination, the Fair Work Ombudsman, the Fair Work Commission and other important information on how to find help should there be a situation which requires assistance. The core agreement also typically states how a dispute resolution or unfair dismissal may be handled (e.g. should the employee performs a specified unlawful act then the organisation reserves the right to dismissal).
The entitlements for each employee should be clearly expressed in the core employment contract that is issued when an offer of employment in made. The purpose of having a contract in place is so that the employee is not worse off than the minimum legal entitlement. The contract should be very clear on what the employee is given (including enterprise and other registered agreements), probation, safety, how to resolve disputes3 and dismissal.
Another legal right which is also expressed in an employment contract is the right to work without harassment and bullying behaviour4. This legal right also applies to work experience students, outworkers, volunteers/contractors and volunteers. Often there is a paragraph (otherwise known as a “clause”) in the core contract which talks about this right.
In some form or another, the core contract will talk about reading more detailed information in another section. These sections are called the Appendices which also apply to the contract, but they are flexible and they may change. So what are these additions?
Appendices to the Core Employment Contract
These are the important sheets of information that are “companions” the core contract. There is far too much information to possibly write into a core contract which is why these additions are a good idea. The core contract should focus on the main entitlements and a paragraph is added in that core contract to point to reading about any industry related, company-centric or role specific additional information in another section at the back of the contract. After treating the additions in this way, the core contract is protected, stays in place, is valid. If a change needs to happen to those additions it’s easy to do without it affecting the core agreement.
These additions are often called “Appendices” or “the Appendix” and are usually numbered (e.g. Appendix 1, Appendix 2, Appendix 3, etc). Each organisation can have different information sheets in their Appendices. For example detailed information about the Conditions of Service, Company Culture Statement, Pre-existing Injury Declarations and the all important Position Description.
Position Descriptions (PDs) are handled as a separate item so that they are flexible enough to grow as the organisation grows. PDs allow the employee to perform a variation in their role without having to renegotiate their entire terms of employment. If the role has changed significantly then a whole new contract does need to be provided to capture all the new and relevant information changes (including pay rate scale changes).
The Flip Side: Business Owner Protection
As weighted as it may appear toward the employee, employment contracts are also in place to protect the Business and the Business Owner. It provides clear, written, documentation that covers the business should the employee believe they are entitled to more or were not provided with equal benefit.
Take for example the story of a plumbing organisation in Victoria who allegedly underpaid their 20 year old employee $26,8825. The plumbing business did not specify in writing or in any formal way, that the staff member was an apprentice, they did not sign the employee up to an apprenticeship and incorrectly paid the employee lower apprentice rates (a third of a full rate employee). The business also did not correctly provide leave entitlements, travel allowances, pay slips, overtime hours and a multitude of other basic entitlements during the three months when the employee was working with them.
Not providing an proper and clear employment contract meant the business was left wide open for legal action and, in this case, a hefty bill. An employee contract would have resolved issues of entitlements, rates, hours etc, and provided the employee with the opportunity to either accept or reject the role before they began. Saving the business on time and thousands of dollars in a potential lawsuit.
The additional information (or Appendix) of a position description must accompany contracts and advertisements for available or existing roles. It provides added protection for businesses because it lists out the specific tasks that the role is required to perform (and expected targets). So coupled with the core contract, the position description gives a very fair view of what a role will involve.
Making it clear to prospective recruitment candidates (and existing staff) what you need in your business, what they will receive and how they will be asked to contribute to your business, will not only provide much needed protections, but it makes good leadership sense.
Leadership in a business means actively communicating a message of expectations from the offset. Providing clarity to the business and all its members means everyone knows what they need to do to meet expectations.
Fringe Benefits of Contracts and PDs
On a lighter note, there are many positive benefits of position descriptions and employment contracts that goes far beyond legal requirements and protections. When a business has successfully attracted the mix of staff that they need to grow the business further, these documents act as a guide to greater things.
For example, staff may informally view their position description as a “baseline” for performance, where they will seek out what is required to go above and beyond those expectations. This adds value to an organisation, brings a new dimension to your customer’s experiences, and may even provide repeat or referral customers for a business.
In many businesses position descriptions are used as a form of promotion or goal setting for those staff members who want to move into a more senior role. The staff may request a copy of the senior role and can make personal efforts to go above and beyond their role in order to be taken into consideration for the desired position.
Another use for position descriptions and contracts is to enable a person in a role to expand, learn new skills, provide incentive for greater pay scales, and add more knowledge and expertise to their experience in the business.
Promoting a positive attitude toward position descriptions and contract entitlements can start a new wave of culture in a business. It attracts more motivated staff and creates a unified team that focuses on goals, customers, and all the other areas that makes a business, a great one.
Employment Contract Templates are available from Action Centre.