Wednesday 24 February 2010

Personality profile or preferred mode of communication?

Never say never!! I remember the first time I came across the DISC model that promised to tell you what type of person you are. I had the same respect for it as I had for the horiscope in a women's magazine - none whatsoever but a bit of fun! I have to admit that the groups we were put into at the time did show the traits of the personalities but I have always believed that we can and do change our responses to suit the situation.

I came across DISC again when I was trained as a facilitator. This time I was forced to reconsider my opinion because the person advocating it was my trainer, mentor and friend, Lyn Sykes. She stated that she used it frequently in helping her to deal with people. As Lyn is the most insightful person in dealing with people I have ever met, I had to take notice.

Four years later I have revised my opinion. I still don't believe that it gives an indication of your personality. However I have come to see it as an indication of your preferred mode of communication. This style can be influenced by your personality, your experiences and the situation you are in at the time. It has helped me deal with people, especially in situations where I feel I am not on the same 'wavelength'. It helps me to re-assess my approach and change in order to suit their communication style and has had some startling results.

Now I hope to further my knowledge by studying the Briggs Myers tests. So a lesson in never discounting experiences as useless.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Time management for staff

I often meet employers who are frustrated that their staff spend time on things that are not important to the detriment of really important tasks. However as in all cases of perceived under performance of staff the first question an employer should ask is 'what is my responsibility here?'
In this case the answer is usually that the staff do not understand what you are trying to achieve in the business. Spending time communicating your vision of the business to staff is always time well spent.
One very efficient way of doing this is to write up a business plan that is purely for staff. The plan could include a history of the business, your priorities now and where you want to be in 5 years. Sitting down with staff once a year and setting targets is also a good idea.
Another good idea is to talk to staff about the 80/20 rule. Explain that 20% of the tasks they perform have a major impact on the performance of the business. Then help them to identify those 20% tasks.
The employer's actions have to be congruent. For example, if he/she says the aim is to have a lost cost system and then spends money on expensive kit that is not essential, the staff are naturally sceptical of the employer's real priorities. Therefore employers have to set an example.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Do you love your family enough to discuss a succession plan with them?

So many of us put off discussing succession because it does not seem as urgent as other things and because it's easier not to do it. But what are the consequences of our inaction?

Consider the story of a farming family from the southern hemisphere. They decided to have a facilitated family meeting to discuss succession. They had a large business and 3 children. Twins, a boy and girl of 21 who were in full time education. Both of them wanted to travel and neither had decided what they really wanted to do. There was also a younger daughter of 15.
When asked what was in their Will should something happen to both of them, the parents stated that 3/4 of the business would go to the boy and 1/8 each to the girls. The twin daughter turned to her parents and without any malice said "why have you brought me up to believe I was as good as anyone else and then treated me like this?" The parents were mortified and as a result changed their Wills leaving third shares to each child.

Think of the consequences for those girls if the parents had not had the forsight to have a meeting and they had tragically died. Those children could have suffered serious psychological problems and had very mixed memories of their parents.

Some people flippantly say that they are not worried about what happens after their death because they won't be there. However all of us want to leave a positive legacy to our family and would not like to think of our children and families suffering in any way due to our inaction or mistakes.

The cost to our loved ones could be very high if we bury our heads in the sand and refuse to consider succession.

So I ask again. Do you love your family enough to discuss a succession plan with them?

Monday 2 November 2009

Managing staff the McDonalds way

McDonalds is a huge company in most cities worldwide and one of their many strengths is that wherever you are you know what to expect. You can be in Auckland or Cardiff and the food is going to be exactly the same. How do they manage such consistency? Manuals!
They have a proper proceedure for every operation to ensure consistency for the customer. I daresay someone could come along with another experience from McDonalds but those are rare. Also they manage this with young inexperienced and often temporary staff - an extraordinary achievement.
What can small businesses even farming businesses learn from this? There are so many proceedures that can be written down and standardised, yes even on a farm. The advantage of this is that in times of crisis anyone could come along and run that business. Also it helps so much when you are changing members of staff - they can settle in so much more quickly.
I was fortunate to see an example of this on a visit to New Zealand in 1999. A group of us were talking to a farmer and a car drew up with a relief milker who had never been to the farm before. Our host excused himself and spoke to the milker for less than a minute. He pointed out where the cows and milking parlour were and that was it! How could he do that? He had a manual in the dairy that covered the whole operation, from getting the cows in, milking proceedure and washing up afterwards.
So it can be done. Are there areas of your business you could put in a manual? That farmer said " you have to make it simple so that a monkey could do it because one day one may have to!"

Monday 26 October 2009

How can we be fair to all our children?

How can I be fair to all my children? This is a question I often get asked by parents who are sorting out their Wills or starting to transfer assets to the next generation.

My answer is always you don't have to be equitable to be fair.

It is often unrealistic to be equitable anyway if there is a business or farm involved. The farm could be worth millions, however that is only on paper and often bears no resemblance to it's earning capacity. My experience in running family meetings has taught me that as long as people feel they have been consulted and know exactly what is happening they behave very reasonably.

The next question is - what if the child who has the farm or business sells it and makes a lot of money? To prevent this being unfair a sunset clause can be put on the asset so that if they do sell they have to share the profits with siblings. You can put whatever time frame on this you wish and it can incorporate a sliding scale with siblings getting less of a share if the asset is sold some years after it was inherited. You also have to be careful that any increase in the asset value due to the owner's work is separated and the owner retains that increase.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Sian Bushell Site is LIVE

The new Sian Bushell Site is now live.

Visit us on