3 Ways to Encourage Your Staff to Think Like Entrepreneurs was a guest post by Miles Jennings that was originally posted on Entrepreneur and made me think about what I usually find in a company where things seem to be run down.  Many times owners of small businesses started a company because they had a skill that they could use to earn money but many times they lack the skills on how to foster a strong workplace.  For the most part most owners I work with are good to their employees but the tend to treat them more like their children than a workforce.  Micromanagement and helicopter supervisions tends to be the downfall. Owners are wanting more and employees are reluctant to do anything outside the box.  I agree with Miles three things but I would also let your staff become free thinkers and make sure they know it is OK to fail.  You want your workforce to be out on the edge trying to squeeze everything they can out of the day.  If they are always worried about what will happen of they screw up they will never come close to their potential and neither will your business – Gordon

Start by challenging everything.

5 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. More and more, we are hearing the concept of intrapreneurship within firms. I’ve talked before about how encouraging entrepreneurial thinking can start early, even with your kids, and what benefits can accrue for them and for all of us. In this article, I want to offer three ways to program entrepreneurial thinking in your staff to capture those benefits for your firm.

Challenge everything.

“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” — Robert Kennedy paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw Entrepreneurs instinctively question processes and the status quo. They aren’t being combative or belligerent. They just don’t have the feature installed in their brains that prevents them from asking why. This feature can be uninstalled in the brains of your employees by simply giving them permission to ask why and making sure that your management team removes the corresponding defensiveness when a question is asked. Make sure it’s clear that “that’s how it’s always been done” is acceptable as an answer, but only as the means to begin a conversation as opposed to a strategy to end it. Encouraging this type of thinking — “design thinking” that is focused on solutions and action as opposed to aimless brainstorming — encourages more circulation of ideas from the bottom to the top, as opposed to traditional top-down only communication. If it’s clear that anyone can simply ask why things are done a certain way without fear of reprisal, and even propose a potentially better way, employees will find their opinions and thoughts to be even more valuable.

Network.

Podcast host Jordan Harbinger has a simple strategy that turns what most people think of networking on its head. Each week he tries to introduce two people in his network who didn’t know each other previously. The introduction could be related to business, but sometimes it’s just two people who like a particular TV show or board game, or perhaps a vacation destination or sport. Many people associate networking with after-hours meetups where people essentially throw business cards at each other and pitch complete strangers on their latest projects. But networking doesn’t need to be so transactional.  In fact, you should encourage your employees to reprogram the concept of networking in their minds to exclude transactions completely. Harbinger’s phrase for a more sustainable way of networking is “always be giving.” By encouraging your employees to network with each other and connect outside of work, not just socially, but in regards to side hustles or passion projects, you can help them build the rich interconnective tissue that most entrepreneurs have had to build by necessity, not just by choice. You can encourage your staff to take opportunities each week to introduce colleagues from the company to those in their own personal networks that share an interest or passion. Many entrepreneurs consider their networks one of the most valuable parts of their arsenal, and encouraging employees to network — without counting the cost — will give them that enduring and rewarding feeling of connecting others.

Encourage autonomy.

Southwest Airlines is well-known for its level of respect and collaboration between management and staff. That flows from a well-known policy of empowerment. Sometimes this leads to great publicity when someone tweets or writes about a story in which Southwest staff really made their travel special. But sometimes customers disagree, and there have been some cases in which the way Southwest handled a customer service situation was criticized. What has been key to the success of Southwest’s policy of empowerment is backing up the words with actions. When the stories are good, Southwest doesn’t try to take credit for the thoughtfulness of their employees, and if the stories are bad — which happens much less often — they don’t throw their employees under the bus (or airplane) and may concede that the situation “could have been handled differently.” But empowering employees means trusting them, and when people are given autonomy, they often rise to the occasion. On a much smaller scale than an airline, Tim Ferriss documented in The Four Hour Workweek that he empowered his employees at a nutritional supplement company to make customer service decisions up to $200 without approval from him. While Ferriss was looking to streamline his day and remove tasks from his to-do list, the more important effect was creating autonomous employees who were then able to offer tweaks to the business that could increase profitability and process with much less friction and process.

Final thoughts.

There is a never-ending debate between “born with it” or “learned behavior” when it comes to entrepreneurship. I won’t wade too deep into that debate today, but it’s clear that while entrepreneurs tend to consistently think and act in certain ways, it doesn’t mean that non-entrepreneurs can’t emulate those behaviors to everyone’s benefit. By taking the lead in encouraging your staff to think entrepreneurially, you’ll not just differentiate your company as a challenging and engaging place to work, but you’re likely to birth great innovations from within your own firm instead of reading about how other firms came up with them first.
This article was originally published here.
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Get More Done with Less

Ever heard of the Japanese concept of ‘Kanban’? It might really help your business.

I pulled this article from Entrepreneur news feed.  Don’t get caught up in the details but focus on the theory behind them.  Regardless what your company does these processes can be executed at any level.  As a matter of fact it was all done on pen and paper before all of this computer stuff started coming around. – Gordon Lear LLC

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A typical day in the life of a professional team consists of an endless number of to-dos. Unless there’s a plan in place to tackle them, the items on the checklist pile up fast.

We are decades into the digitization of the world, but there still continue to be Luddites who would rather use pen and paper to make lists than use apps on their small-screen phones. Pen and paper? More reliable, these people believe.

But this approach cannot work in a company set-up where teams need to collaborate across offices and geographical locations, and where members need lists to be centralized so they can ascertain the status of tasks. Such centralization ability is especially helpful for big projects involving multiple players and tasks within tasks.

That’s where the right kind of project management software becomes essential: It can prevent confusion and improve productivity. Here are some simple but effective ways to help your team remain on top of the workflow.

There is a lot of shiny words below trying to explain a simple concept.  Kanban is just a big board (wall / whiteboard) with a bunch of “to-dos”.  Think sticky notes.  But the sticky notes are color coded based on priority and each person has a row to stick their notes in the to-do, doing, and done columns. I have found this to be an effective way to plan and track any project.  I have been using this type of process for years and it has never failed me. – Gordon Lear LLC

1. Kanban board apps for greater control

The meaning behind the concept known as “Kanban” becomes clear when you realize that the word literally translates from Japanese to signboard or billboard.

Yes, a billboard. A message spelled out in big, bold letters so that it cannot be missed.

Kanban board apps rely on their clever structure/software rather than size and flashy neon signs to help teams set up and execute systematic workflows. The underlying principle, however, remains the same: Messages are laid out in a way that makes it hard to miss those important to-dos.

While many to-do list apps have their place and a deservedly dedicated following, they might be somewhat flat in certain situations. Depending on the apps you use, they might  lack the ability to establish hierarchy; and they might present no way to intricately detail a task mentioned on the list.

A Kanban board, in contrast, helps users visualize workflow by splitting tasks into color-coded lanes that stand for simple and complex processes. Think of these as colorful digital sticky notes laid out on a screen with appropriate titles.

Quire implements the concept of the Kanban board and combines it with structured to-do lists to give companies ultimate control on workflow organization. It lets you break down big ideas into small chunks to create nested to-do lists and makes use of a Kanban board to color-code and visualize these steps.

From within the nested to-do lists, users can switch to the Kanban board to track progress and/or execute tasks, all from one place.

Other notable Kanban apps include the ever popular Asana, Github and Trello. Trello, in fact, may just have popularized the whole Kanban concept with its lean interface that requires almost no learning.

Smartly designed Kanban-board apps help teams streamline their work, track progress and spot obstacles as they arise. This promotes productivity, transparency and accountability.

Everyone has a To Do list and I am not sold you need an APP that is just for a To Do.  But I think this article misses the biggest productivity issue when it comes to do list.  Choosing what to keep off them!  I  build what I call a MUST DO list!  Keeping track of everything is one thing,  but knowing what are the high value tasks and which ones to let go are the difference between getting big things done and having trouble getting out of you own way.  Figuring out what NOT to do is just as important ask keeping track of what you MUST DO – Gordon Lear LLC

2. Invest in the right to-do list app for your team

Sometimes, especially if you are just starting out, a simple to-do list app is all you need. You don’t need a full-fledged project management tool, just  an effective checklist app that simplifies task management for your employees. The latter has its advantages; as a long-time user of Google Keep, my reliance on the app means I can’t go a single day without using it.

In an office setup, however, you need something more professional. We have many excellent choices in this field to help users organize their tasks and navigate through busy days and projects.

For instance, you can assign priorities, delegate tasks and set reminders with Todoist.

Any.do, meanwhile,  is a beautifully designed app that goes beyond being a barebones to-do tool and lets users set daily reminders in the form of push notifications. Users can also make voice entries, and drag and drop and swipe to complete tasks.

OneNote, which is offered as part of Microsoft Office 365 suite, is an excellent tool for task management. In its entirety there’s a lot this software helps small businesses with. But it can also be used as a checklist app on the phone.

Then there’s Evernote, the darling of all note-takers. The only problem I have with it is that it is very restrictive unless you purchase a premium plan.

All of these tools have collaborative features and integrate with other popular tools. Find the one best suited for your purpose.

Mind mapping isn’t a new thing but it sounds like a futuristic CIA spook concept to me. But all it really means is to take all that stuff that speeds through your head while you are trying to fall asleep at night and document it so you are not so overwhelmed.   Being able to see it all laid out allows you to see any gaps or opportunities that might not have been so obvious while it was a mashed up stealing your Z’s.  However, I am not sold on all these apps, I think there is a place for them, but not so sure it is at the core of the solution.  My fingers are not even close to being as fast as my head so this is where I go old school with a whiteboard. I can fill up four walls in about 10 minutes.  Of course I take pics with my phone and upload to OneNote so it still all goes digital. – Gordon Lear LLC 

3. Use mind maps to boost creativity

It would be reductive to say that a mind map is essentially multiple to-do lists in one. The reason: A mind map is so much more than that.

It’s a detailed drawing that allows users’ creativity to flow. It’s an excellent brainstorming tool, and it’s something I highly recommend all businesses invest in. Use it to start the conception journey for a project and see your productivity jump. Not just your productivity, but also the quality of your ideas.

With the right kind of mind-mapping tool, teams can visualize complex tasks in great detail, zero in on the gaps, see obstacles and predict outcomes that might otherwise be easy to miss.

MindMeister, Lucidchart and XMind are some of the top tools in this space. Their collaborative properties allow virtual teams to work together to create magic.

While smart time management is at the heart of productivity, the right tools can prove to be of immense value. If something doesn’t click, it’s a simple matter of switching software until you find which works. The range of tools in the market means that no business, no matter its size, need suffer a dip in productivity because of chaotic task management.

All three of these processes have been trending way up for years and there is a reason for it.  They work!   You don’t need to bring in new apps to apply some of these proven productivity boosters.   If you think improving your team production is a good idea for your company let me know.  I can help you with the learning curve and save you some headaches by showing you what works and what does not.- Gordon Lear LLC

The original article was published here.

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If your IT guys is like Nick. Call ME!

Your IT guy should understand your business

MOVE! Back in the 1990s when I was a wet behind the ears help desk tech working for the pocket protector punch card IT expert the culture definitely had an elitist attitude.  Back then there were all the smart IT guys and all the stupid users. They would show up at your desk speak a language of alphabet soup and make remarks that would be demeaning, patronizing and now be considered pretty hostile. Because of this Nick Burns was born.

Do not put up with Nick Burns

Jimmy nailed it and the skit was an instant classic because anyone that worked in an office knew at least one Nick Burns.  Furthermore, I can not tell you how many guys like this I worked with because there were too many to count. What I can tell you is that I was never that guy. Also, I did not become an IT guy like most others and actually got into computers by accident.

When I was in college there was no “online registration” and we had to stand in huge lines waiting to get our hands on these giant reams of “green-bar” paper reports. Due to the fact I was a freshman, undeclared and not an athlete  I pretty much got to pick last. It took forever and when I finally got to registering for my last class I needed an elective and the pickings where slim.  However, by chance I stumbled across a class labeled “Intro to Comput”. PERFECT! Intro to Computers! This would totally give me a leg up on writing papers if I knew how to use a computer.

Blah, Blah Blah

The first day of class was something I will never forget. The class was small. Only about 20 students (all male) and they all looked exactly like a room full of  nerds would look in 1991. The professor had the pocket protector, matching coke bottle glasses and the first thing he said was, “Welcome to the Introduction of Computer Programming!”

Wait, what. Just as I was about to raise my hand he then says, “Anyone who was stupid enough to think this was Intro to Computers come on up and get a drop slip” and at the very moment half the class turns around and looks at me. So what do I do? I turn around and look at the guy behind me because there was no way I was going to give them the satisfaction of letting them know I was the stupid one he was talking about. But most importantly, I have never fogotten that sinking feeling I had that day and every day after  when some jerk of a computer guy talked down to me trying to impress me will his geek speak talking about stuff like his Mt-32 sound cards, megabytes and PCI buses, Blah, Blah, Blah…

Might be time to rethink things

I knew back then that I would never be that guy. Further more I didn’t know it then, but not wanting to conform to the computer guy stereotype would make me stand out during my career in corporate IT.

So, I made it a point to talk in everyday business terms and try to relate technical solutions and strategies with everyday terminology that everyone could understand. Over two decades of making sure I didn’t make anyone feel stupid when it came to technology was something I to pride in doing.

Today I am known for keeping things simple and painless while delivering superior results. Nick Burns is not today’s IT guy. If you have a Nick Burns it maybe time to rethink things.

IT needs to understand business

Today, the IT guys with the most value have a strong understanding of business. Sales, Marketing, and Leadership are among their talents. The capability to hear a business problem and apply a technical solution is what puts them far ahead of everyone else. Their ability to communicate, build teams, and find value in everyone are just more traits you should be demanding.

Of course many Nick Burns are still out there but they shouldn’t be on your payroll.Your IT guy should understand your business. Think big picture. Be a visionary, an innovator. They should inspire those around them and when it is all said and done they just Make IT Happen.

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