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Monthly Archives: February 2018

5 Steps to Create a Solution Oriented Team

“We have a problem.”  

These words are uttered in businesses across the world on a daily basis.  An employee or team member is tasked with doing something and they can’t complete their task for one reason or another.

Instead of problem solving and finding a solution they stop where they are in the process and tell you they can’t go any further. The get caught in the frustration of not knowing what to do next that they essentially make it your problem.

As a busy business owner it can be very tempting to just give them the solution and tell them to go implement it. It’s certainly faster, ensures that the issue will be resolved to your satisfaction and in a way you expect, and it removes any question about how to handle it the next time around.

And you can get on with your day, right?

Wrong.

Because you’ve just taught your team member that the fastest way for them to get an answer to a question is to ask you. And you have dramatically cut their productivity and ability to help you in your business because their effectiveness is reliant on you.

So, if that’s not the best way to handle it when a team member comes to you for problem solving, what is? How can you get the work done, often by deadline, without giving them the answer so they can be on their way?

There are several steps you can take to make sure your team is full of solution-oriented people who can help you grow.

FAIR WARNING…this will take more time and energy from you in the beginning, but it will quickly pay off in dividends.

Ok, here are the things you can do to help your team be solution oriented.

  1.      Ask them to clarify the original issue, their outcome, and their specific question. These are three very distinct items that will give you the insight needed to help them find solutions. Oftentimes a simple lack of clarity around the problem. So, when someone comes to you with a “problem” first ask them what their initial issue was. Click To Tweet Where were they when they started? Next find out what their desired outcome is. What, specifically, are they trying to accomplish? How will they know when they have found a satisfactory solution? And finally, what is the specific issue they’re having now? What has them stuck and what specific help do they need to get past the current block?
  2.      Ask them what solutions they have already tried. This simple piece will help your team know that you expect them to have tried other solutions before coming to you for help. It’s easy to ask for answers when you run up against a wall. This is true for all of us. And sometimes we can create habits that have us asking for help before we’ve really hit that wall. This will serve to remind them that they are expected to look for solutions before coming to you.
  3.      If possible, ask them questions so they can come up with additional solutions. Use probing questions about the problem and the outcome so they can use their own problem solving skills to figure out a solution that might work. Encourage them to do the ultimate problem solving, using you as a sounding board.
  4.      Send them back to try the solution, with encouragement to look for additional solutions if that one doesn’t work. A lot of times people will come to you because they’re afraid of making mistakes or errors Click To Tweet. Let them know that it’s ok, and one of the many things you value about them in their role is their ability to problem solve on their own, to look for and find solutions, and to make sure they find a solution that will get the outcome that’s needed.
  5.      Ask them to write down their solution in your company knowledge base if the problem is likely to recur. This is a critical step to making sure you are building a sustainable business and giving your team ownership of finding solutions. It will also build your knowledge base so your team will have somewhere to go before they come to you in the future, giving them the autonomy to solve problems they run across and the tools to be successful in their roles.

Once you can discipline yourself to follow these 5 steps when your team comes to you with problems or difficulties you will find your team reaching new levels of success and autonomy within their roles. You will have empowered them in their roles to be their best, to support you as much as possible, and to help you grow and scale beyond measure.

Following these steps will accomplish something else too. It will help you to develop leaders who can grow with you and your company. It will create a culture of accountability and performance Click To Tweet, and will help define you and your company as a place people want to work. They will enjoy working with you and they will rise to meet your expectations.

Because they will know you are willing to do the same for them.

What are you doing with the rest of your life?

Okay, it’s the New Year and we’re still here.

You know, five years from now we may still be here, and there will be NO DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER in our lives — except for the changes that we choose and take action to create.

A smart guy once told me that if he ran into me five years in the future, the only difference in me would have come from the books I had read and the people I had known.

You might want to think about what you’ll read and who you’ll choose to associate with this year.

Just a thought…

Seeya,

Tom

Beating Overload

This article deals with time, which is going by too fast anyway. So I’m going to ask just a very little of  yours to tell you how to get more out of it. I promise you’ll gain time from the minutes you spend  reading this.

Lots of people in my life are going around with lists of To-Do’s buzzing in their heads, and never enough time to get everything done.

My wife Vikki has a chronic complaint – “I have too much to do.”

She has good reason for feeling this way, taking care of our house (and me), operating a fully booked psychotherapy practice, taking care of a couple of grandchildren for some time each week while making time to study and write, and having a personal life.

I take care of fewer people than she does and I still feel like there’s too much list and too little time.

Anyway, Vikki and I discussed this when we were in Reno visiting family a while ago and my daughter chimed in, “Me too!”

Well, she’s a working mother of two daughters, so it’s easy to see how things could pile up for her.

Then I said something REALLY dumb, and I got my head handed to me by both of the “women in my life.”

I said “Well, everyone gets the same 168 hours in a week, and some make it work and some get overloaded.”

“What do you know, you don’t change the diapers and go to the schools to meet the teachers and shop for dinner and ………..!”

Whoops. Right. I don’t do most of the stuff they do.

But hey, I’m still pretty busy myself, as demonstrated by the fact I’m finishing this note to you in an airport, and will send it out when I get home after midnight. And when I’m not being so insensitive I admit that once in a while it feels like “my cup runneth over” and not in a good way.

To make up for my stupid remark, I talked with my wife and daughter and we “unpacked” the experience of being overloaded.

And this is what you might find useful.

When I questioned each of them, I got a description of what goes on in their heads when they think of everything that they have to do.

It was a little bit different for Vikki than it was for my daughter Tracy, and when I studied my own inner experience, mine was a little bit different from the two of them.

But ALL THREE OF US had a lot in common.

So let’s do an experiment – you can go inside your head if you are curious, and really examine what YOU experience when you feel that your tasks are overflowing the time available.

First question: How do you know when you’re overloaded???

Don’t just say, “That’s dumb! I have too many things on my list, and the buggers keep reproducing in the dark! The list gets longer, faster than I can check them off!”

Okay. You’re a little frustrated. Let me share with you what we found out about ourselves, and maybe that would be useful in your own investigation.

When I asked Vikki about her internal experience, she said that she saw oversized playing cards hanging in the space in front of her, like on a transparent wall. They had images of all the things she wanted to do and were flickering and waving back and forth in their places, like they were competing for attention. So no matter what she was trying to do, competing tasks and priorities kept distracting and pressuring her.

My daughter Tracy, on the other hand, saw in her imagination a room with papers overflowing all the surfaces, tables and chairs and on the floor – she said you couldn’t even walk into the room in her mind, it was so cluttered.

In my mind I see movies – not just one but many — on lots of screens, like in the window of a TV store. Each one is a movie of something bad that might happen if whatever I need to be doing doesn’t get done.

Here’s an example of how one of the movies might look. If the task is doing taxes, the movie might be of my opening a notice that my bank account was attached because I didn’t do the taxes right or on time or something.

Another movie might be of someone looking disappointed because I didn’t do something I was going to do for that person. Or an overgrown yard. Or an auto breakdown because I put off getting the car tuned.

See, I really know how to have a good time!

But the thing is, for all three of us, each of our brains had unconsciously developed a way to represent all of the tasks competing for our time and attention – and — THEY WERE ALL JUMPING UP AND DOWN IN OUR FIELD OF VISION ALL THE TIME!

Wow. No wonder we each felt distracted, tired and overloaded. Too many things going on at once for any of us to focus doing one thing at a time.

So here’s what we worked out:

Vikki found that she could imagine that the cards showing the various items on her To Do list were in a stack, with the most important task in front. Her mind seemed comfortable with that, because it “knew” that the other tasks were right there, in the pile in front of her. So whichever task she needed to do next would be in the front of the pile, which let her relax and focus on doing one thing at a time.

Tracy discovered that she could imagine that all the clutter in her imaginary room was in neatly labeled boxes on shelves or in files in the file cabinet. Then, she took a spiral notebook and wrote down all the things she needed/wanted to do. Once they were written down she could prioritize them, and give them numbers. Then she did them one at a time with ease.

Funny thing, I just called her to get her permission to share this with you, and she told me she has adopted the spiral notebook idea in real life, and was telling me how much easier it was making things for her.

I took all the TV screens with the movies on them and did pretty much the same thing that Vikki did. First I turned them all into plasma flat screens (of course), then put them in a pile, front to back, with the most important tasks in front, then immediately behind this article, for instance, is the movie about me unpacking from this week’s trip and putting the stuff for the dry cleaners in a pile by the door so I can drop them off first thing in the morning, then the printing out the notes for my 9 A.M. conference call, etc.

Whew.

All three of us had different unconscious ways of making our lives miserable, but they had similarities. After making these internal changes all three of us found, in the last week, that we were more motivated and life seemed to be a little easier.

So, how about you? When you’re feeling overloaded, why don’t you take a minute and go inside your own head and notice how your brain is signaling you that there is too much to do?

What’s going on there that you didn’t notice before? Is it some confusing visual image like the three of us had? Or perhaps it’s a crowd of voices, demanding your attention and distracting you from getting the focus you need.

In the case of voices, for instance, here’s what I did with a coaching client. I had him turn the volume down on all the voices but the most important one, and had him assign priority numbers to the other ones. I then asked him what the voices would sound like if they knew they would each get their turn. He smiled and told me that they turned into voices of encouragement.

Believe me, it’s worth figuring out — it doesn’t take long and once you know what the “magic signal” is, you can change it like we did, so that your mind is satisfied that nothing is going to drop off your list, but you only need to focus on one task at a time.

That’s the key, so play with this and see what works for you. When you’re looking for the way your mind is working where you usually wouldn’t notice it, just “slow the videotape or the audiotape” wa-a-a-ay down.

Frame by frame. And you’ll be able to see or hear it. Believe me, it will be some sort of thing like one of the examples above.

My experience is that people’s brains automatically adjust in favor of comfort and effectiveness, once they give their internal process some attention.

Most of us get stampeded and overburdened because we haven’t known that we could actually “get under the hood” and make these adjustments.

Give it a try. You will be rewarded with immediate peace of mind, and you’ll probably be more motivated to do what you choose to do without making yourself miserable in the process. It might even prove to be fun.

Seeya,

Tom Hoobyar

5 steps to a successful launch, because of or in spite of, your technology

Are you listening? I’m about to share one of the most important secrets of business with you. It’s not often talked about, and even less often is it accepted.

Are you ready?

Technology is not perfect.

At all.

There is no software on the market that is perfect and flawless. It doesn’t exist. And the pursuit of it will do nothing more than make you crazy.

There is no software on the market that is perfect and flawless Click To Tweet

Because again, it doesn’t exist.

So, let’s talk about this. Why it doesn’t exist, and what to do about it.

There are thousands of software programs out there, and any one business can be using dozens at any one time. In order for all of these to work, isn’t it critical that they operate according to plan?

Well, sort of yes, sort of no.

Let’s talk about a critical piece of information that is often forgotten when dealing with software and, for that matter, hardware.

It is developed by humans.

It runs on computers built by humans.

It communicates on a internet network that is maintained and upgraded by humans.

You see, regardless of the name of the software, the function it’s supposed to perform, the price or age of the software or anything else…it is still developed, built and maintained by humans.

Regardless of the name of the software, the function it’s supposed to perform, the price or age of the software or anything else…it is still developed, built and maintained by humans. Click To Tweet

And that means it is imperfect.

So, knowing that, what can we do to keep things running amidst the imperfections that will inevitably affect us at one point or another? What do we do when a software we purchase doesn’t work as we thought it would? Or when an existing platform we rely heavily on is eclipsed by an up and coming competitor? Or when something breaks in the middle of a critical launch and things go haywire?

What do we do when a software we purchase doesn’t work as we thought it would? Click To Tweet

There are several things you can do to prepare for this if it happens, and deal with it when it does. Let’s look at each of them.

Have a sense of humor and levity about things

Yes, I know, I know. This is tough. It is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do, and one of the most important. Let me explain why.

If something breaks during a launch, for instance, and you begin to panic or get upset, a number of things happen, most of which will make the situation much worse.

When you keep calm you have many more resources available to you. You are able to reach out, resourcefully, to your team or colleagues to explore solutions. You have more of your problem-solving skills available to you instead of your adrenaline and fight or flight response.

You are less likely to make a decision or change based on emotion, and more able to think logically about all of the potential risks and benefits to making any change.

You are able to more clearly communicate the issue to your team and find solutions that will get things working again. You are able to consider the immediate and long term consequences to any choices you make, giving you the chance to find the most stable and effective solution to your issue, allowing you to get your launch live again and working smoothly.

By maintaining a sense of humor and levity you are able to counteract the initial adrenaline filled panic response that naturally comes with a break in a system. It is a way of inoculating yourself against all that comes with panic and frustrations.

Have a backup plan for broken technology

Launching a new product or service? Do your revenue goals rely on this launch being successful? Scarier yet, does your ability to stay in business rest on making a certain number of sales?

If so you can’t leave anything up to chance.

So, when the success of something involving is technology is critical, have a back up plan.

For example, a while back Clickfunnels had a huge issue. Their site was down. Like, the entire Clickfunnels site. All of it.

And everyone’s Clickfunnels sites were down along with it.

This meant no emails went out from any Clickfunnels account.

Including from Clickfunnels!

Subscribers and users got no notification about the outage and took to social media. It was, quite frankly, a nightmare. And part of the nightmare was because nobody got any notice that things were broken for a good 45 minutes or so.

Finally Russell Brunson, founder of Clickfunnels, did a Facebook Live video and explained that the Amazon S3 servers had been down and his team was working with them to fix it. He also explained that he hadn’t sent a notification email because he, too, used Clickfunnels and he wasn’t able to send out emails.

Unfortunately, by then dozens, if not over 100, people had already taken to social media in a panic wondering why their launches were stalled and they had no information about why.

Now, I am all about drinking the Kool-Aid and using your own products and services. I wouldn’t run a business any other way.

But…I wonder how differently it would have gone if Clickfunnels had a backup file of their contact list with a way to email their list if necessary. I wonder how much happier their customers would have been if they had gotten some communication as soon as the problem occurred.

I also wonder what would happen if something awful happened in tech and they, for some reason, lost all of their email list. Do they have a backup? I know their database is huge, but it is also their most valuable asset. Do they have a backup plan?

Do you?

Have a tech attack team on standby

Whether it’s someone on your team who is great with tech problem solving or it’s someone else you contract for the job when you have a launch or important sales even coming up, you need someone whose tech skills are strong enough to research and identify the problem, and ideally someone who, even if they can’t fix the problem, can help figure out what kind of solution is needed.

You also need someone who can fix technological problems when they do come up. Because they will. I have seen very few launches and sales events that go off without a hitch. It just doesn’t happen. Things come up, people have issues that no one could anticipate, sales go so well that fulfillment plans need to change.

Any number of things can come up that will require updating things during your launch. If you are ready for it, it won’t be a big deal when it happens. Be clear with your team about your expectations of them during this time. Let them know what you expect in terms of communication, responsiveness and hours of availability.

Don’t leave anything up to chance. Get clarity prior to your event, so there won’t be any reason to panic when things matter the most.

Consider what you will do if the event isn’t successful

I have worked with dozens of entrepreneurs who have a launch that has to be successful and if it isn’t the business may fold. They may have to lay team members off, stop taking paychecks themselves, or even close their business.

That is an insane amount of pressure to put on a single event.

So, in your early planning stages, consider what you will do if your event isn’t successful. If you don’t reach the sales you need to, what will you do?  Will you truly have to lay people off? Will you honestly have to stop taking paychecks? (I have seen this more often than you want to know about) Or, worst yet, will you actually have to close your doors?

Get honest with yourself about the consequences if you don’t reach your goals and your event isn’t successful. What could happen?

And make a backup plan if needed. Whether it’s a second event, or another sale, or outreach to a JV partner, a business loan, or something else, know what the consequences are and what you will do if the worst happens.

Don’t blame your team, keep the focus on solutions

It’s natural, when something breaks, to blame the person who put it together. The problem with this is that it keeps your in problem mindset, rather than in solutions mindest. That means your energy will be spent thinking about the problem instead of figuring out how to fix it.

Once the problem has happened, let’s be honest. What matters more during your launch? Who created the problem or fixing it?

You can save the blame piece for calmer times after the launch or sales event. Once you’ve completed the launch you can spend the time and energy to determine if the error was caused by someone on your team or if it was completely out of your control.

Whatever the cause, you can be sure everyone will be more resourceful if you are leading the team with a solution oriented approach your team will follow suit. If you lead with a blaming mindset your team will also follow suit.

Where do you want their energy spent? On figuring out who made the mistake and trying to save their own skin, or on finding and implementing a solution to the problem?

Once you’ve set these things in place, you’ll be prepared to deal with anything that may come up. If your technology breaks, or something stops working, or your servers crash…whatever problem plagues you, you’ll be ready to deal with it.