5 Ways To Improve Your Delegation Skills

5 Ways To Improve Your Delegation Skills

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’ll just do it myself, it’s easier that way.”

We all have tasks that come across our desks that seem like they are fairly easy to do, and will only take a few minutes of our time. Why bother delegating it to an employee? Yet the harsh reality of it is the more you keep these tasks to yourself, the more they add up into a time-consuming and wasteful day.

As a manager, if you take on every role and wear every hat within the business, you’ll limit how much that business can grow. The only way a business can grow to its full potential is if you learn to effectively delegate the smaller tasks that others can do.

Delegation is a learned trait. And with just a little practice and foresight, you can quickly learn which tasks are better assigned to people on your team.

Start by learning to let go. Do you see yourself as a micromanager? Have you routinely fallen into the “do it yourself” trap? That’s okay, recognizing it is the first step in letting go. Micromanagement is a waste of your efforts and will eventually demotivate the team members around you. If you recognize yourself in this statement, the first step is to learn to let go. Delegate a little. As they do a good job, release more to them. If you really see them struggle, it’s time to find an alternative. Are they really the right person for the job? Is someone else on the team better situated for the task?

What to delegate, and what not. What should you delegate? In reality, as much as you can. If you are a manager, your tasks should be limited to:

  • Developing key strategy
  • Building relationships
  • Working on only the important tasks that make a difference to either of these processes

All else should be delegated to someone else. Never delegate work simply because you don’t enjoy it, or keep the best tasks for yourself. This can be demoralizing and leave your staff feeling like they aren’t a part of the team.

Delegate based on strengths. This is where relationship building and teamwork comes into play. You should never delegate simply to get something off of your desk. Instead, learn the strengths of everyone around you, and assign tasks based on where their strengths lie. One person’s chore is another person’s passion. And by playing towards strengths, you will create a happier team overall.

Spend your time teaching. A big part of your job should be building relationships. And part of that process is training them to be better team players for the job. If you spend the time teaching skills the first time, they will better positioned the next time the task comes around. Invest both time and resources in helping coworkers stretch their skill sets and build up their judgement muscles. The more they learn to do on their own, the better assets they become for the team.

Always offer feedback. Poor delegation comes from not giving a person the right tools for the job. If you don’t communicate true expectations, and don’t offer the right tools that will allow them to complete the job satisfactorily, it’s setting both sides up for failure. Likewise, if you don’t offer feedback throughout the process, and give thorough credit where it is due, a team member won’t feel valued. Don’t slip into the mistake of giving negative feedback only. Positive feedback helps your team grow and gives the motivation they need to continue doing a good job.

How To Improve Your Business Relationships

How To Improve Your Business Relationships

In today’s fast paced world, speed is our number one concern. We want magic to happen with a quick text, a simple tweet, or a series of posts we have autoscheduled throughout the week. We rely on technology so much that in many cases we forget the one thing that can build our success more than anything … our relationships.

If you’re still climbing the ladder of success, if you still want to bring in new clients to build your business, stop worrying about what you’ll say in your next Facebook post until you put a plan into place to strengthen and maintain solid relationships.

Start with a system

Relationships take work. And unfortunately most businesses lose massive amounts of potential sales because they don’t build a solid system that benefits their customers. What are the touch points where you connect with people that come into contact with your business? Do you have a process in place to reach out at every point? Spend some time planning out the perfect way to connect with people throughout the process. For instance, a brand new prospect who found you online may be a perfect candidate for a free white paper, followed by a series of emails to back up your message. A client who is finished with the sales process may benefit from a monthly newsletter to learn more about other services you offer. If you create a plan first, you can easily determine the best places to connect, and work at making each connection a meaningful experience for the people that choose to do business with you.

Make people feel special

When the world moves as quickly as it does, it’s hard not to feel like a number with some of the people you do business with. But that “take a number, wait in line, and hurry up with your request because of the long line” attitude will never win points with a customer. We may put up with this process when it’s time to renew our drivers licenses, but it’s the last thing we want when we choose to do business with more personalized services. How do you go out of your way to show you care? Listening can be the first step in building great relationships. People often feel rushed; connecting with someone who truly hears what they have to say can be a welcome relief. But take it a step further. How can you build up customer service to build a stronger bond between the two of you? A thank you note, a special gift, even a surprise phone call can go a long way in showing you care. Don’t stop with the obvious; stretch outside of the box and do extraordinary things that will leave your customers loving everything about you.

Put the focus on them

It’s easy to fill a potential customers head with all the things you do. And the longer you’ve been in business, the more stories you’ll have to share about all that you can do. Remember, potential customers don’t care about others; they care about their own needs and how you can help them. Yes, stories can go a long way in helping people see what you can do. But once you connect on a more personal level, make it all about them. Familiarize yourself with who they are. Spend time with their products or services and get to know what makes them tick. The more you learn about them, the more you can listen and offer advice that will truly help them improve what they do. Don’t be afraid to add value to their lives before they lay down the credit card for the first time; proving your worth before the transaction will make you that much more valuable to do business with.

Don’t forget to love everyone

Unfortunately even the best businesses will occasionally have a customer that is less than thrilled with the service. With every effort you’ve made to build a strong and healthy relationship, something just isn’t right. They are unhappy. That’s okay, it happens to every business once in a while. But don’t ignore the situation and assume it will go away. While you can part ways and realize your business isn’t for everyone, do everything you can to make the experience as good as it can possibly get. By spending a little extra time correcting a wrong, you may turn an unhappy customer back into a neutral one that won’t leave negative reviews or spread bad press about what you do.

The more care you put into your relationship building process, the more your customers will come to value what you have to offer. The message you create will shine through in your marketing, your sales process … and the way you post to your Facebook account. Building solid relationships is a full time process. But if you’re in business for the long term, it’s the most important part of doing business.

Securing IT In A Cloud Based World

Securing IT In A Cloud Based World

Remember the days of making a decision about what programs to purchase for the office? You carefully evaluated needs, looked through your software options, made a decision, then worked for days to get the program loaded and functioning on every computer in the office.

Those days are gone. The digital, social and mobile revolutions have caused technology departments to shift their focus from maintaining systems, to enabling innovation. It’s no longer a matter of choosing a program that every employee will use; it’s about delivering a system that allows speed and agility to dominate in a world where every employee will choose the best programs for them. It’s about using cloud based systems that build the infrastructure to keep company data safe while allowing employees to work as efficiently as possible.

While an IT professional’s job just a few short years ago centered around hardware and infrastructure issues, today’s IT professional is focused on systems, resource planning, customer relationships and content management. Instead of maintaining systems, they are transitioned into driving their organizations cloud strategy forward, including how data is collected, stored, managed, and more.

Yet as convenient as cloud computing is for employees, it can leave gaping holes in the security of a company’s data, especially in the case of loss, theft, or being hacked. Cloud systems can be more vulnerable unless you take the necessary precautions to secure it.

Make sure the cloud system you choose has strong security features. A cloud system should be designed to utilize antivirus protection, encryption controls and other features that provide protection for your company’s data. It must have controls that allow data to move seamlessly back and forth between systems and devices without putting information at risk.

Backup and backup support should be readily available. Cloud computing systems often come with backup systems in place; however, they may need to be manually set up. Also make sure your cloud computing system has backup support, not just backup capabilities, to ensure quick turnaround if and when you experience a problem.

Test your cloud system regularly. Every business faces a certain amount of risk with their data. Hackers breech system controls all the time, in some cases for fun, and in some cases for unscrupulous use of the data itself. While cloud systems providers offer their own level of security, ensuring your data is well protected is still a role you’ll take on. By testing the security regularly, you will find potential problems with a system long before they become actual problems.

No matter what cloud system you choose, never assume it provides 100 percent protection. To keep data safe, it’s more important than ever to test and review the system on a regular basis. By doing so, you can prevent your business from potential losses while still allowing your employees to do their jobs in the most efficient way possible.

How To Run A Successful Meeting

How To Run A Successful Meeting

We’ve all been through it; the meeting that goes on and on. Instead of listening, you resort to playing with your phone or daydreaming the time away, all the while wondering why you are even in attendance.

According to Salary.com, meetings are ranked as the number one office productivity killer, and they are increasingly filling up a good portion of our days. While the need for running a meeting will never go away, the art of running an effective meeting is a skill we can all learn more about. There are effective ways to run a meeting that will leave employees feeling energized and excited about work, instead of yearning for a break instead. Here are a few tips:

What is your purpose?

Before you ever calendar a meeting and send out the invites, ask yourself one question: what do I hope to accomplish? What are my ultimate objectives? If you can’t clearly define the purpose for the meeting, the results you hope to achieve, and the process you’ll take to get there, spend some time refining each of these items before you hit enter. A purpose provides direction, and helps keep things on track.

Carefully weigh who is invited

It’s easy to call a meeting and invite everyone on the team. But does everyone truly need to be there? Take the time to think about who truly needs to be there, and who will be impacted most by what the meeting is about. If the subject isn’t relevant to a team member, or they will have little impact that will carry weight in the final decision, they will view their attendance as a waste of time. It’s better to allow these team members to do other, more productive tasks.

Set a specific schedule

Open ended meetings tend to drone on and on, with no end in sight. Create an agenda that outlines the specific topics of the meeting, and how much time will be dedicated to each topic. Use that timeline as you make your way through the meeting. You can even use this to be specific in scheduling your meeting, telling attendees how long it will be, and providing them with outlined topics so they can be more prepared for the discussion.

Create an equal playing field

If you’ve carefully constructed the people in attendance, it’s important to hear what each one has to say. Never allow one person to monopolize the time, providing all the thoughts or answers. Instead, call out each person and hear what they have to say. If you take this approach in all your meetings, the expectations will be there at the start of each one, giving you more brainstorming potential and greater interaction between the team members.

Ban technology

The new reality is everyone carries their smartphones and iPads with them everywhere. While it allows people to get more done, it’s also the easiest way to get sidetracked. Instead of focusing on the topic at hand, a person can easily be consumed by an email or a text message. If you keep meetings short and direct, keep technology out of the conference room, and keep all eyes and thoughts front and center.

Take action

It’s common for people to walk away from a meeting with very different interpretations of the final outcome. As a part of the process, clearly outline the final outcomes and strategies, and make assignments as necessary. A simple followup email can keep everyone on track, knowing exactly the work that needs to be completed.

Meetings can be a valuable and productive part of doing business, if you take the time to make them that way.

Managing Your Online Personas

Managing Your Online Personas

Being online means growing and sharing all that you do under the watchful eye of the public. It isn’t just your business that is impacted; every single person in your organization can have an influence on how people view what you do.

Imagine an employee constantly whining about having to work for your company on Facebook. Over and over, they talk about the drudgery of the job, how unfair management is, how little they are paid. That can impact a company in a big way. But it also influences any future opportunity for the person as well.

We all make judgments based on what we see and hear. If a human resource director can easily find a few negative comments about a previous employer, or witness first hand through video about your wild weekend nights, why wouldn’t they use that as a basis for employing you, or in the case of a customer, choosing to invest their hard earned money with you?

While you may have thought somewhat about your company’s online persona, have you considered how your own personal persona plays into your branding? And equally important, how your employees’ personas play into it? Here are a few important tips to move your business forward:

Social media is a necessity, not an option

Social media is no longer just for entertainers or big businesses vying for airspace. Social media is a necessity for anyone trying to build a business. Whether you are simply trying to build a network, or are working to close a sale, there is no question that a person will Google you to find out all they can about who you are and what you do. Are you trustworthy? Do you have a good reputation? How do you handle the negatives as well as the positives in the online world? That is why it’s important to keep all of your news, awards, acknowledgments, activities and events up to date throughout your online profiles and sites.

It’s more than marketing

Have you ever found a competitors newsfeed or website where all they do is sell? Not very exciting. And in most cases, their prospects and customers feel the same way. That’s because people today want more than marketing; they want to build a relationship with those they choose to do business with. What’s the story behind your company? What made your company what it is today? What do you give back to your community? It’s important to post videos, photographs and links to give you a more personal feel, and help people see beyond the business side of what you do. People buy from people; if they can see it, they’ll probably buy from you.

Learn and grow

By all accounts, social media is still a very new phenomena. And while many businesses haven’t considered how to market through social, and may still be experimenting with it themselves, there are plenty of great examples out there. Like a few of your favorites on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter. Then take note of the posts and campaigns you like best. Use these to emulate within your own campaigns, and continue to build over time.

Develop a social media policy

Do you speak with your employees about online safety? Do you have written guidance on how you’ll handle the good and the bad in the online world? Social media is not something you can choose to leave to chance. It happens whether you talk about it or not. It may be time to hire someone either internally or externally to help you understand all the power social media has, and to help both you and your employees learn how to manage their personas now and into the future.

Social media today is as much of a daily business as answering phone calls and sending out emails. Remember, you’re not wasting your time with a post or a tweet – if you realize the potential it has on your future.

How To Build Healthy Customer Relationships

How To Build Healthy Customer Relationships

Think back to the last time you found yourself in a situation where you were developing a relationship with a new friend or possibly even a love interest. A lot of things went through your mind as the relationship grew. On some level, you probably asked yourself questions such as:

What will we gain by deepening this relationship?How To Build Healthy Customer Relationships
What are the expectations if we move forward?

While the outcomes may be different, a relationship is a relationship. If you are in business, and you deal on any level with customers, the same questions apply.

Customers don’t do business with a company, they do business with the people. They spend their money because they have a personal relationship with the people inside the company. They won’t do business without a connection. We all have expectations. And if those aren’t being met by the people already in our lives, we’ll head out and look for them elsewhere.

What can you do to build healthier relationships with your customers?

Acknowledge me
Think about the business relationships you like best. You want to be a person, not a number. You want quick action, and never have to fight for what you need. Simple actions go a long ways. Improve your phone systems so your customers can reach a live person quickly. Talk with your customers as if they are friends rather than a number. Support them in a way that they feel recognized, instead of just another step towards your bottom line.

Communicate with me
People prefer different channels when communicating with a business. Some like phoning in, some like visiting a website. Some prefer to stop by, some people prefer to automate as much as they can. Because there isn’t a right method of communication for every customer you have, it’s important to develop strong lines of communications in several ways. Work to perfect the methods that are most beneficial to you and to your customers.

Educate me
In today’s world, you can’t hide things from your customers. With a little bit of research, they will find out all they need to know online by Googling it, or asking a friend on Facebook or Twitter what they know. That means to develop a strong relationship, being transparent and authentic will get you a long way. The more information you share about your products and services, the more connection your customer will have with the way you do business. And that can help develop relationships for the long term.

Protect me
Have you ever had a bad experience with a company, and had them turn their back and ignore the problem at hand? We all have been there. As a customer, we realize that not everything in life will turn out as perfectly as we had planned. But when a company goes the extra mile to make things right after a fall, it can improve the relationship immensely.

Thank me
Appreciate your customers for all they do. After all, without them you wouldn’t be in business. Simple thank you’s can go a long way in improving a relationship, and also help you build a stronger referral base over time. Customers refer friends when they’re happy with what you do. And in many cases, a simple thank you and a little appreciation can set the stage perfectly.

Why Security Questions Can Be Your Biggest Threat

Passwords. We all use them every single day.

Studies consistently show that people become lazy when it comes to creating a password, with the top spots going to things like “password” and “123456”. But with a little education, you can bring your employees around to changing their habits and creating a more encrypted password choice.

But what about security questions?

Security questions are used on almost every site in which you login to an account. They are used for the “just in case” you forget your password, and have to retrieve it by some other means.

In most cases they provide you with a list of security questions to choose from, with most of them asking fairly standard things.  Top 10 lists put these at the top:

·      What is your mother’s maiden name?
·      Who is your favorite author?
·      Who is your favorite actor?
·      What is your favorite movie?
·      What is your favorite book?
·      What was your favorite pet’s name?
·      Who was your childhood friend?

You’ve probably used one or more of these yourself, over and over again. Yet how secure are they? All are simple questions that can easily be answered with a little bit of research, something a detailed profile on Facebook could make readily available with five minutes of browsing through your page.

While these questions make it relatively easy for an external hacker to gain access to an account, studies also show that its not always an external hacker that will be your biggest threat. In some cases, it may be an internal risk. If a co-worker wants to access company data through someone else’s account, what better way than to do so then through an account from someone they know? And who’s going to question a co-worker when you stand around the water cooler and ask, “what’s your favorite movie”? Its just idle chit chat that we talk about all the time.

So what makes a good security question? A good security question typically will have the following characteristics:

Be safe from guessing or research
This is the most important characteristic of a great security question. It should be something that cannot be easily found out by visiting a social media profile page, or that someone could guess simply by being around a person for a short amount of time. After all, walking your dog and calling him by name can release information to everyone at the dog park.

Won’t change over time
If a security question is vague and can have many meanings, it can be easily forgotten as time goes by. Avoid questions that ask for your “favorite” thing, such as “what is your favorite food?” And avoid questions that can fluctuate as you age, change and grow, “where do you want to retire?”

Be memorable to you
We all have things we talk about and share because it’s a part of our culture. Which is what most security questions are designed around. I’m sure you’ve had conversations with friends, even co-workers, over your very first crush in school, or the first person you ever kissed. But what about the second?

These things are memorable to you, yet they aren’t something we share on a regular basis. They are part of your past, yet don’t come up in regular conversation.

There is one other factor that should be part of online security. When someone forgets a password, having them login with a security question is an important step, but it should always be a part of a two step process. The second half of authentication should be using a code that is sent via email or text to the information used to set up the account. This will further ensure that only the correct person will be gaining access to the system.