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6 Ways Underdogs Succeed (And What You Can Learn From Them)

It’s frustrating when others don’t give you the respect you deserve. You feel like you have to prove yourself over and over again. Underdogs have a mindset that anyone who wants to advance in their career needs to have, reports Forbes. Here are six ways you can develop the underdog mindset to overcome obstacles and succeed:

1. Have a vision.

When you are not given the respect you deserve, it can be difficult to believe in your self-worth. To center yourself, focus on something that you aspire to. It could be a person or a career milestone. Focus on your goal. When you are an underdog, people think you can’t attain your vision. Prove them wrong. Don’t let others throw you off course. Find that beacon, and keep aiming for it. See the opportunity.

2. Fail early, and take risks.

Mistakes are part of the learning process. Mistakes make you better, so don’t be afraid to make some. Because society values flawless execution, you need to learn from mistakes. Take advantage of opportunities to fail early on so you increase your chances of performing well later. If you make mistakes later on, persevere. Be determined to overcome the mistakes. Don’t let the nonbelievers win.

Have the courage to take risks. You are already seen as the long shot, so you have room to take long shots. Sometimes, success requires you to aim for possibility, not probability. Put your best foot forward, and throw your hat in the ring for a project or an award.

3. Be aware of the world around you.

If you focus too much on yourself, you will lose perspective. You will lose awareness of what is going on around you. Keep your head up. Know what others around you are doing. Learn to adjust and position yourself.

4. Outwork everyone else.

You have some control over your destiny. Take advantage of what you have control over, and prepare. Nothing beats preparation. You will never be disappointed that you were well prepared.

5. Don’t let adversity trip you up.

There is only so much control you have over outcomes. When you are thrown a curve ball, do not get flustered. Know that anything can happen. Remember that change is the only constant. If plan A is no longer an option, pursue plan B. If plan B is no longer viable, move to plan C. You have control over how you respond to change. Be determined, persistent and resilient.

6. Stay humble.

No one likes a showboat. Always remain grateful and appreciative for where you are in your career and the opportunities you have received. You will never know everything, so don’t think you ever will. Seek to know more and learn more. Don’t take things for granted. People support underdogs when they believe support will help underdogs reach their goals.

Underdogs are underestimated. Take advantage of this. You know your worth, but others need a wakeup call about your abilities. Be a leader in your own life, and show them what you are made of.

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Here’s How to Create a Feedback-Friendly Culture

Many successful companies have corporate cultures that share some of the same traits: People are honest about what’s working (and what’s not), they are receptive to fresh ideas, and tend not to be resistant to change, reports Inc. 

At Funding Circle, we champion this spirit in one of our five company values: “Be Open.” One of the biggest benefits of this has been that it has helped us build a feedback-rich culture.

Feedback matters because it helps people improve their performance. It also gives leaders the information necessary to build the sort of companies they aspire to. Without feedback, it’s very difficult for people to develop and for organizations to course-correct.

Developing an environment where feedback is welcome takes some work. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Leaders set the tone.

A feedback-rich culture has to start from the top. It only takes one misstep as a leader to shut it down. If it ever comes out that someone bearing well-intentioned views was shut down or punished for speaking out, others in your organization will shy away from being open and honest.

As a leader, it’s your job to show you are open to constructive feedback and want to do your role better. Demonstrating that you can receive feedback–even when uncomfortable to hear–from your team helps give them confidence to speak up, and also sets the norm that they will follow when it’s your turn to provide developmental feedback.

2. Feedback should be a part of daily life.

Feedback needs to be distinct from the performance appraisal process done once or twice a year. In fact, if anyone shows up to a performance review and the evaluation is a surprise, then you know you have a serious breakdown in your feedback culture. The management skills of the person responsible for that employee’s development probably need some work, too.

For most people, being directly and openly critical of others’ behaviors and decisions is already very uncomfortable. As a result, they’ll often hold back or, worse, channel such views into corrosive water-cooler chat that can really kill company morale.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen, a key role for a leader is to set up clear forums and channels through which people can give each other feedback–in all directions–and do so within guardrails that are appropriate for your culture. One simple tactic we often use at our company is to encourage our people managers to solicit and give performance-related feedback to their team members at regular intervals between formal reviews.

3. It’s a skill, not a talent.

A healthy feedback culture allows people to understand what they need to change, but does so without undermining the interpersonal trust that’s crucial for constructive workplace relationships. Creating this type of environment takes continual work and practice by everyone involved; it probably won’t happen naturally.

At our company, we offer workshops to give people a chance to learn and practice their feedback skills. One tip is to start with a simple, experience-based “When you did____, the impact on me/that other person/etc. was___.” This allows you to be specific and provide clear guidance on what someone might have done differently, and it does so without challenging someone’s interior motivations.

Whether speaking with someone junior, senior, or a peer, I’ve found that a direct, empathetic approach to feedback leads to lasting and positive behavior change. It also can create stronger relationships and, ultimately, improved business performance.

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Employees, Not Consultants or Executives, Are Your Best Innovators

The insurance industry gets a bad rap as outdated and inefficient. But one insurance firm, CSAA Insurance Group, is bucking the stereotype with a strikingly modern approach to innovation, reports Entrepreneur.

This American Automobile Association-affiliated insurer caught the attention of the Harvard Business Review last August due to its all-hands-on-deck innovation strategy. As the article described, CSAA had harnessed the brainpower of its 4,000-person employee base to encourage systematic improvement at all company levels.

The results were astounding: Underwriters analyzed the company’s call data to improve voice prompts and reduce misplaced calls . . . by 40 percent. Other employees jumped in to streamline online claims, improve the issuance of insurance cards — and more.

But CSAA’s approach wasn’t innovative just for the insurance industry. Top-down innovation has been tried over and over, and it just can’t hold a candle to the alternative: employee-driven innovation teams being used by companies like CSAA and my own human resources solutions company.  We like to call these teams EDITs.

Why an EDIT philosophy works

Industry insight and creativity aren’t exclusive to the C-suite, nor are they best purchased from industry consultants. In fact, they can be found in every employee, from the part-time package handler right on up the corporate ladder.

Sarah Miller Caldicott, author of Midnight Lunch (and great-grandniece of Thomas Edison), has been trying to tell this to the business world for years. So when I heard her speak at a conference a few years ago, I couldn’t help but try an EDIT at my own company.

All EDITs begin with a call from a leadership team sponsor who brings a business problem to the table. That person then invites volunteers to form teams of around eight employees each. Teams choose their own leaders, who then hold the rest of the team members accountable and ultimately deliver proposals to the executive team.

EDIT does more than make us a better company. Team members develop cross-departmental friendships; help boost everyone’s morale; and grow their own leadership, presentation and executive consulting skills. Rarely do non-managers have the chance to shine in leading roles the way they do with EDIT.

Another upshot of our EDIT? We began a new HR project, “Extending the Culture Beyond Our Walls,” in which we’re expanding our employee culture to our clients, contingent workers and broader community through employment branding.

The only down side? We wish we’d done this sooner.

Ready, set, EDIT

If you’re hungry for the fresh ideas that come from a collaborative, team-driven approach to innovation, you’re ready for an EDIT. Here’s how to get and keep the EDIT ball rolling:

1. Make the problem and ideal solution as concrete as possible.

Every EDIT begins with a problem outlined by someone from the organization’s leadership team. Think of this like a call to action. What’s the problem or opportunity, and what type of action, process or technology will solve or capitalize on it? Be sure to also describe what resources the EDIT will have to work with, such as budgeted funds, fixed assets and subject matter experts.

The Arizona Department of Transportation, for example, was looking last year for faster ways to reopen Phoenix-area freeways after closing them for repair. ADOT workers designed a reverse stencil that protects painted surfaces from an asphalt finishing spray. For materials, they used just scrap metal and two trucks,

Now, a scrap stencil may not have been what leaders first envisioned as their “future perfect” solution, but ADOT’s employees certainly made smart use of their resources.

2. Give diversity and inclusion space at the table.

An EDIT is only as strong as its members are diverse. In other words, don’t assemble a team entirely of marketers, salespeople or denizens of any other one department. A study from Holton Consulting noted that people tend to come up with more interesting, exciting and unusual ideas when they’re not thinking about their own area of expertise.

Don’t worry if one EDIT has four people and one has 10. Team size doesn’t matter nearly as much as the diversity of backgrounds, departments and skill sets. With that said, do your best to not exclude willing participants. To this day, our company has never turned away someone who wanted to contribute to an EDIT initiative.

3. Provide structure, but avoid rigidity.

Give your EDIT space to work, but don’t let it fly blind, either. Have the EDIT take its cue from agile development or the scientific method, whichever its members are more familiar with. Encourage the EDIT to hypothesize solutions, test them, iterate and then evaluate them against the “future perfect.”

When our company’s EDITs meet for the first time, they always begin with a brainstorm. From there, they test ideas in low-risk, low-resource experiments. For example, a team suggesting a casual dress policy might survey or visit other companies with such a policy: The point would be to see whether changing acceptable workplace attire affected productivity.

The goal? To get real-world feedback on potential solutions, narrowing them down until the only top performer is left standing.

In our industry, there’s no greater cliche than “Your employees are your greatest asset.” But nothing has driven that point home for us, like EDIT. The soon-to-be-released enterprise-resource planning system that our employees spearheaded is proof that these people are, indeed, our strongest innovators.

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Why Grateful People Always Succeed

Being Grateful Is A Choice, Not A Result

To begin I’d like to preface with the idea that gratefulness is a choice, not a result. I hear all the time that it is so easy to be grateful when you’ve made it to the top. It is easy to be grateful when your career, mission, relationships and finances are all going exceptionally well. Yes, that is true but contrary to popular belief it is also easy to be grateful during a time of struggle or during a building phase of life where you are trying to improve in all sectors. In fact, gratefulness is the key factor in achieving ultimate success and happiness, reports Forbes.  

Don’t Believe Me? Learn From The Experts 

Oprah Winfrey is a prime example of practicing gratefulness because not only is she known for her humble beginning but also for her dedication and consistency in her gratitude journaling. She has produced an overwhelming amount of content on gratitude and its effect on her own personal life and she even said she has journals that date back every single day for over a decade.

“Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.” – Oprah Winfrey

Gratefulness Creates Happiness 

David Steindl-Rast, in his Ted Talk on happiness proposes a question: ‘does happiness cause one to be grateful or does being grateful create happiness?’ He concludes his talk explaining that gratefulness is the sole creator of happiness. We all know people who have faced devastating adversity and challenge but have managed to persevere with gratitude and happiness. They are the perfect example of creating happiness through practice of gratitude.

Tony Robbins speaks a lot about the importance of focus. As he says where focus goes, energy flows meaning that the brain sees and feels whatever you focus on time and time again. Whether your focus is positive or negative, thoughts and feelings are manifested based off of your initial focus. You better make sure you’re focusing on the right things!

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” Tony Robbins

Stay Positive 

I’m grateful that I have positive modeling in my life. Closest to me is my husband, Noah Flom, he is the most positive person that I know. Noah’s outlook and positivity is incomparable and I learn something new from him every day. He believes that how you think on the inside, whether positive or negative, will manifest on the outside – and this approach will affect your life, your business, your attitude and your personality. Ultimately, people don’t really want to be around someone who is constantly negative and looking at the glass half empty.

Noah has taught me to always look at the glass half full and find the positive aspects in every situation, challenge, opportunity, and trial regardless of how fair or unfair the situation may seem. Through him I have discovered that attitude is contagious and although we all can’t have the world’s best attitude (like I believe he does) we do have a choice.  Regardless of the circumstances, we can always choose to approach any situation from a positive and grateful place. He often says it takes just as much effort to be negative as it does to be positive, so choose wisely!

Hard Days, We All Have Them

All of our days are filled with micro and macro ups and downs and life is constantly testing our abilities, our strength and most importantly our perseverance. Our attitude, focus, and level of gratefulness is in direct harmonization with our level of happiness. You can not be happy without being grateful. Whether you are grateful for a good meal, a smiling stranger, or a brand new car all happiness is stemmed from being genuinely grateful for all opportunities, people, experiences and challenges.

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, oh which all men have some.” – Charles Dickens

How To Take Action And CHOOSE Gratefulness

If you struggle to find the positive things in your life and something to be grateful for try to improvise and stimulate your mind by listening to a podcast or perhaps a video of someone else showing gratitude. A great example of this is Will Smith. He is known as someone who is not only grateful but also someone who is extremely positive and always faces a challenge with a smile. We could all learn a thing or two from him!

To choose gratefulness we need to substantially show effort in practicing this skill. Whether that is writing it down in a journal or on a notepad in your phone or even just taking five minutes to think in your head what you were grateful about that day; gratefulness begins with action. It takes conscious effort to be grateful but just like any skill you acquire, it not only becomes stronger over time but it also becomes effortless as it becomes a habit it your daily routine.

When you begin to change the lens you use to view the world and you come from a place of gratitude, you begin to see the things differently. Give it a try! Let’s start by commenting 5 things you are grateful for today

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4 Ways to Effortlessly Train Your Employees

One of the keys to developing my business was focusing on the growth of not only the company, but most importantly the growth of my employees. As our team began to learn together and gain experience in our positions, the company ran exponentially more efficiently, reports Inc. 

Training your employees within their own environment is not a very hard task, but it is a necessary one if you want your small business to succeed and run smoothly. Here are four of my favorite tips for developing your small business employees.

1. Allow employees to pursue their passions.

Something I’ve found to be one of the most important keys to a cohesive workforce is to allow employees to have time to pursue their passions, even if they may not be the most qualified for the position when they start. I initially started my business by assigning strict roles, assuming that the assembly line model would allow me to produce content at peak efficiency.

Unfortunately, I did not account for employee morale, which my intense instructions had taken a toll on. After reading about various ways to remedy this problem, I settled on allowing my workers to pursue stretch projects. Allowing employees a choice in their role on projects and opportunities to lead their own projects greatly increased passion and morale in the workplace, making for a much more efficient company than the traditional model I ran before.

2. Provide resources to allow employees to grow in their respective field.

In addition to keeping employees motivated and passionate about their jobs, it is also important that you provide resources for your employees to further develop their skills and grow in their respective fields.

As a small business, I have traditionally relied on MOOCs (massive online open courses). These courses of study, available over the internet without charge to a very large number of people, supplement the knowledge I am able to provide personally to my workers. Universities from around the globe offer free courses in disciplines from Art History to Finance, allowing for employees to take advantage of a plethora of learning material.

I have found that many of the world’s top universities offer either free or low-cost access not only to lecture recordings but also to course notes and testing material for private learners. While adapting some of these courses to fit my employees’ interests can sometimes take a little bit of effort, the payoff I’ve seen in the efficiency and passion for work has far outweighed the couple of hours it took me to put together the free learning material.

3. Build comradery in the workplace.

After morale, comradery in the workplace has proven to be one of my top hidden secrets to growing my small business. I have found that the easier of a time employees have interacting together and working with each other, the more work we get done.

While initially I found it hard to foster a sense of community amongst my employees, I soon found that encouraging informal meetings was a great way for my colleagues to get to know and relate to each other.

By arranging dinners and spending some time outside the office with my employees, I found them to develop real relationships amongst each other which was reflected by a noticeable increase in work. By learning to both work and have fun together, projects began to streamline and employees reported less and less stress in the workplace.

4. Mentor employees one on one.

A crucial aspect of being a small business owner like myself is taking initiative and mentoring employees. My experience in my industry is almost always completely different from the people I hire. It is hard to understand the difficulty of starting ones’ own company, but along the way I learned many important lessons that I find crucial to a successful workplace.

I began to shift my location in the workplace, making sure to place myself around the employees as a resource and someone who would be able to answer their questions. Many of my employees began to utilize my new role as a problem solver of sorts, and work speed improved as I made sure to share my wisdom and experience with those who hadn’t been through the same trials and tribulations as myself.

By utilizing these four simple and cost-effective tips, I have been able to measure real changes in the efficiency of my workers and have noticed a significant uptick in employee happiness. Paying attention to not only the emotions of the employees but also the aspirations and professional desires of my employees has proved to be an incredible help to my business, accelerating growth and fostering a friendly and productive workforce.

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This Growing Company Realized It Was Time for the Founder to Step Aside — Here’s How They Made It Work.

Changing the nameplate on your top executive’s door is never easy. Even more difficult is when the previous CEO is also the founder and has a strong emotional connection to the company’s mission and history. And far more complex is navigating that change while maintaining a sharp focus on customer relationships and company culture, all while continuing to please investors and move the business forward, reports Entrepreneur.

Today we’re happy to share that we’re on the other side of that decision — Wade Burgess, as the new CEO of Shiftgig, and Eddie Lou, as the founder, former CEO and current executive chairman.

While no two companies are exactly alike, there is a somewhat systematic way to approach a leadership change. In its simplest form, it boils down to three things: when, who and how. When is a leadership change necessary? Who is the right person for the job? And how can the process be seamless for both internal and external stakeholders?

When

When do you need to reconsider your CEO? Here are three places to start.

  • The CEO’s strengths don’t match the company’s needs.
  • Expertise gaps go unfilled for too long.
  • The industry is changing faster than the strategy and operations of the business.

No matter where a company is in its lifecycle, alignment between a CEO’s skill set and the needs of the business is critical. That said, it’s less black-and-white than it seems. A company’s growth trajectory, pace of innovation, industry, agility, business strategy and culture are all important considerations when assessing CEO fit.

Often the CEO skill set required depends upon the phase a company is in. For example, a company prepared for rapid growth would likely need different skills from the top executive than a startup, turnaround or a business optimizing for margin expansion. In Shiftgig’s case, Eddie’s strengths in ideation, raising capital and getting a product to market with accelerated iterations were what the company needed to establish a solid footprint. To rapidly grow the company to its next stage, Wade’s skills in strategically scaling a global HR technology business made this a logical leadership transition.

No one individual can perfectly meet all business needs for a company’s entire lifecycle. For that reason, the best CEOs understand at all times where they’re providing the most value and what gaps might exist. This is where the rest of the leadership team comes in; in essence, to fill those gaps to ensure business continuity.

As a company grows and evolves, the entire leadership team does as well, stretching to meet new needs and demands. The right CEO can anticipate these changes, adjust the business strategy and operational alignment to pivot if necessary.

Who

Once it has been established that a leadership change is in the best interest of the company, there are many different ways to go about finding a new CEO. While each search is unique — and rightfully so — they all should begin with the same question: Where does the company need to go next?

Finding the person best suited to lead a company to that destination isn’t without roadblocks. In Shiftgig’s case, there wasn’t a time restraint on when a new CEO would join the company so the decision-making team had the flexibility to wait until the right candidate came along. Eddie searched for nearly two years to find the perfect candidate. However, with that came the need to be patient and make tough decisions in turning down qualified candidates with the hope that a perfect fit was out there.

Don’t hire someone without a string of commonality to the business — hire the person who has the experience to take the company to the next level. Don’t get caught up in a candidate’s accomplishments. They mean little if they can’t be replicated from one business context to another. Don’t compare and contrast candidates against the outgoing CEO. This one can be difficult, but once a decision is made to replace a leader, it’s best to keep looking forward.

CEO candidates can be evaluated on any number of criteria, but there are three that stand out.

Do consider how well his or her strengths address the business needs and leadership team’s gaps. Do make sure the candidate is respectful of the company’s history and passionate about carrying out the vision. Do look for a new leader to have the ability to inspire others around him or her — change is always difficult, and this trait will be key to a successful transition.

How

While there are many moving parts to a leadership change, proactive, consistent communication is fundamental to the transition’s success.

Today’s CEOs are leading organizations that look much different than they did just a few years ago. Employees no longer stay with the same company for decades – hence the reason why Shiftgig even exists in the first place. That also means that today’s employees expect more change, and are more equipped to handle it.

Today’s currency isn’t salary, benefits or vacation days — it’s relationships. Never is this more apparent than when a new CEO takes the helm. A new leader should keep in mind that younger generations — now the majority of the workforce — value transparency and honesty. How he or she communicates should reflect that, and share themselves and not their resume.

At Shiftgig the outgoing and incoming CEO jointly hosted a fireside chat a few weeks prior to the official transition, in an effort to ensure employees felt involved and valued throughout the process. We work hard to prioritize transparency and take cues from employees by doing things like holding a bi-weekly all hands meeting to update the company on where we’re going as a business and open up the floor for questions and suggestions.

Now a few months after our leadership transition, we owe a large part of our success to following a systematic approach with a clear communication strategy. By sticking to the plan and staying on the same page, we were able to avoid the tumult that can accompany some leadership changes and cause them to fail.

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