Tag: business training

In a pre-online shopping world, and before the Internet was mainstream, the retail sector seemed a much surer bet.

But even then, there were brands that didn’t rest on their laurels.

Perhaps one of the best examples of this is The Body Shop. Under the stewardship of founder, Dame Anita Roddick, the company was innovative, and a tad rebellious.

Working for the brand on and off for more than a decade, my work in retail sales evolved into a training and mentoring role with the brand.

In 2003 I spent two years in Ireland developing their flagship store in Dublin, helping to improve outcomes and processes. It was my first foray into learning and development – and a path that Anita herself had influenced me to pursue.

I met Anita on several occasions and found her to be passionate and funny. I remember talking to her when I was at a career crossroads myself after starting a degree in Management, and finding it wasn’t the right fit.

Her words of wisdom helped bring me clarity, and it was this clarity that set me on a path to study PR and Communications – a fruitful course for me that’s led to my own learning and development business for brands.

There are many lessons I took from these conversations, and my experience working for this iconic brand, but here are a few of my top takeaways. 

Staff buy-in is key
The people on the shop floor, the franchisors and management have the power to shape an international brand’s reality, no matter how good it may be in other countries. The ‘90s and early 2000s felt like a real golden era for The Body Shop in Australia – and it was run very much in the spirit of Anita. She loved seeing what she could create, and having the right people working for her to bring the brand to life. We were proud to work for The Body Shop, and it showed. 

Make it fun
Anita was a fun person who attracted people who were smart and energetic. She led the way by creating an engaging and interactive retail space that changed the way people interacted with cosmetics. Customers could really engage with the products on the shop floor; they could smell and test the products on a large scale, making their shopping experience more fun and interactive.

Show you care
One of the most unique aspects about the brand is its clear social conscience – and its innovative and at times rebellious approach to community work and advocacy over the years. Our team worked on community projects in some pretty out there places! In 1993 I can remember working with people with AIDS at a time when there was still a huge stigma associated with the disease.

The public were looking for ways to get involved in community campaigns – and The Body Shop offered them that opportunity. We ran a lot of campaigns that fit with the brand’s values, such as a campaign to save the Siberian tiger. We sold soaps in the shape of tigers, took donations, and also offered people petitions they could sign. The public were buying our ethical products, but they were also buying into issues that they cared about; it was a feel-good, community experience that hasn’t really been replicated by a brand continuously on the same scale since.

Give people choice
I think choice is another major reason for the brand’s success. The Body Shop have always offered a substantial product selection and a range of size options. The company were also one of the first to offer the option to recycle your products, where you could bring your products back to be refilled. This was another way that The Body Shop showed their commitment to the environment. Good business is about giving people choice.

Great customer service will set your brand apart
While some blame the rise of online shopping for the demise of many businesses in the retail sector, if you have awesome bricks and mortar, I truly believe you can still be successful. Many brands are failing to engage their audience with the sort of humour and imagination that Anita championed. No-one gives money to people – or brands – that don’t make them feel good! Great customer service remains a key part of the story. Working for The Body Shop I learnt a lot about the human race: how to be respectful, how to make people feel comfortable, and how to involve customers with a product. The Body Shop achieved this, and taught me a huge amount about what it means to serve and understand people and communities.

Let your principles shine
Being a principled leader is perhaps one of the most important lessons I took away from meeting Anita, and my time with The Body Shop. Of course, the brand had to make profits, but Anita also asked people what they cared about – and reflected this through the company’s products, campaigns and initiatives. To this day, principles guide me, and the brands I work with too, in part thanks to those early lessons I learnt from Dame Anita Roddick.

 

Feature image: Daily Mail UK

As leaders, there are times when our courage and resolve will be tested.

Staying true to your personal values where there is a values mismatch with the company or organisation where you work is one of the most testing scenarios of all.

Being brave, and calling BS when it’s necessary, is an important step for leaders. This is especially true where a company’s brand promise and cultural reality differ.

The case for organisational health may seem obvious, but its impact on an organisation’s bottom line is significant. Worldwide management consulting firm McKinsey & Company asserts that the top quartile of publicly traded companies who participated in their Organisational Health Index delivered about three times the returns to shareholders compared to the bottom quartile.

So what steps should you take to test and maintain your organisation’s health?

Below, I’ve outlined the essential steps every leader, and company for that matter, can take to ensure a healthy company culture. Remember there is never just one culture present. Organisations are like people, and have positive and negative aspects vying for attention.

Define – and benchmark – what success looks like
Being able to define your own benchmark for organisational health is essential. Without benchmarks, how will you know whether you’re heading in the right direction? This involves being able to define the type of products and services you want to provide, to whom, and in what ways. You won’t be the right fit for everyone, nor is everyone the right fit for you. By summarising your brand purpose, values and leadership culture, you’re defining what success should look like for your brand.

Assess the gap
Once you’ve determined your organisational benchmarks, you’ll need to work to remove the obstacles to the culture you’re seeking to create. Consider what you need to change and what has to be introduced into the organisation’s reality to be able to deliver on its brand promise. Too often the organisational cultural reality is totally incongruent with the marketing fantasy. And, as gothamCulture Managing Partner Chris Cancialosi warns, “when you brand promise doesn’t measure up to your audience’s expectations, you won’t just disappoint; you’ll lose their trust and loyalty.” He says embedding this culture in your organisation first is essential, and prevents this disconnect. Ask yourself how far the gap is between promise and reality in relation to your staff, clients and partners.

Get real insights
True assessment of your company’s culture requires leaders to not only look inward, but also outward. Davis & Company CEO Alison Davis recommends that you assess your company’s health at an individual, team and organisational level to get a true picture. Anonymous surveys and one-on-one interviews that give employees the chance to talk candidly about the environment are some useful tactics. It is best to bring an external person in to do this work and analyse and present key insights in order to get an independent and accurate picture.

Remove obstacles to long-term success
You’ll also need to be prepared to remove barriers to the cultural reality you’re seeking. This could involve saying good bye to staff members, or parting ways with a client due to a misalignment of values and purpose. Ten years ago I was personally challenged when our key client took on new management and asked us to provide a substandard product to its clients. The outcome resulted in us walking away and losing in excess of 90 per cent of our income overnight – not ideal! While this was challenging, I backed the quality of our offering, the reputation of our brand, and our genuine respect for the end user. I also held true to the belief that you can always get other projects, but it is damn hard to rebuild your reputation. As tough as it can be, I recommend constantly holding these cultural aspects to account and calling BS when they fall short of the standard you’re aspiring to. Take the action you need to say good bye and make the necessary changes.

Create your team
Finally, attracting the right talent will go a long way to developing a healthy organisational culture. Ensuring you get the right personality fits, incentivising staff, and creating an environment where teamwork is rewarded and recognised, are just some of the ways to build a positive culture for the long-haul.

As a leader remember that what you put up with you end up with.

Ask yourself: What am I tolerating within my own company that I’d like to call BS on? I’d love your insights.

Promoting from within is a great motivational tool for your team – and a fantastic way to retain your best people.

But, when taken too far, it can create a culture that is insular and nepotistic.

Striking the right balance between promoting from within and bringing in outside talent with fresh ideas is key to any business’ success.

Here, I’ve covered my top five reasons why looking beyond your in-house talent pool can add value, whether you’re looking at a new hire, or working with expert contractors on a regular basis.

Fresh perspective
External hires and contractors, such as trainers and business coaches, can bring fresh ideas and perspective. Likewise, hiring leaders outside your business can have many benefits. University of Missouri-Columbia research found that while 78 per cent of new CEOs are hired from within an organisation, external hires “spend more money on research and development” and showcase a greater commitment to innovation. This is particularly important where a business is struggling or in need of rejuvenation. Let’s be honest – regular, constant rejuvenation is a reality for any business that wants to be relevant and grow into the future.

Multi-industry expertise
When sourcing outsider talent, choose experts with experience across multiple industries. The scope of their expertise is a major value-add. In fact, outsiders with expertise far-removed from your industry can offer more value still, since like for like expertise often does not allow for new idea generation.

Challenging the status quo
Outsiders bring new insights – and can challenge group thinking that can come from knowing each other too well and feeling too comfortable. When done right, outsiders will challenge the status quo, including relationships and team behaviours that inhibit growth and innovation.

This is particularly true of business coaches. The right business coach will immerse themselves in your business to gain a full picture. This might include interviewing staff and observing your business in operation. Working with outside experts also brings a level of accountability that can see ideas be executed rather than merely spoken. This minimises waste and, in turn, can increase morale and staff buy-in.

Cost-effective support
In addition to their expertise, working with contractors is a cost-effective approach for many businesses. In-house help in areas such as business coaching, finance or marketing may be cost-prohibitive to many small to medium businesses. At the same time, uneven workflows may make working with outsider talent a more attractive approach.

Cultural shake-up
Outsiders – and hiring outside leadership – can also be useful when a business is in need of a cultural shake-up.  One prime example is the banking sector, with the big four currently under intense scrutiny as a result of the royal commission that is underway. Hiring outside leaders to overcome a culture of mistrust is one effective way to signal a new beginning in the eyes of the public.

So whether you’re after a fresh perspective, in need of a multi-disciplinary expert to bring external expertise and challenge the status quo, or it’s time to reset and refresh your business, outsider talent can add huge value to your organisation that should not be overlooked when it comes to your hiring practices and contract work.

How often does your organisation refer to its strategic plan? Is the document front and centre? Or is it sitting in a filing cabinet gathering dust?

If yours falls into the latter category, it’s time to take your strategic plan and bin it!

Writing strategic plans is like a disease of modern management. But while the art of writing a plan might make us feel better, we need to question its purpose.

Binning your plan may sound extreme, but time and again organisations invest in expensive consultants to complete this work, only to find that the execution phase (points 4-7 below) has been overlooked.

How do I know this? Because I’ve witnessed it firsthand across numerous organisations we’ve worked with, and through interactions with the 1700 people Kiikstart has mentored to successfully change and execute ideas.

Every organisation needs a compelling and actionable strategic plan that can be relied upon day-to-day. A good strategic plan should anchor your organisation and not only support your objectives, but lay out the path, actions and timeframes to achieve it.

Below, I’ve covered the seven must-include elements for your strategic plan.

  1. Clearly defined (and prioritised!) objectives

Be as specific as you can regarding your organisation’s objective/s. Consider the end game for your business if they execute on these. Then prioritise your agreed objectives in the best order to achieve this result. Question throughout the process what matters to your stakeholders – both internal and external – and why. 

  1. A Set Strategy

Your strategy, or strategies, covers the ‘what’. From past experience, many strategic plans stop with only a list of what needs to be done, but without laying out the further steps. Read on!

  1. Supporting tactics

Your supporting tactics cover the ‘how’. As Nell Edgington from Social Velocity asserts, “A good strategic plan includes a tactical plan so that the broad goals are broken down into individual steps to get there.” Ensure you’re really clear about the specific actions you must undertake to achieve your end objective.

  1. Task assignment

Ensure that you assign the right people to each tactic. Consider your team’s skills, experience and expertise to find the person who will add the most value when executing that part of the project. Also ensure you involve your key players in this process. Writing for Forbes, Aileron says one of the most common strategic planning mistakes is not involving “those charged with executing the plan” from the start.

  1. Identify supporters

Be sure to also identify your broader network of supporters. Look beyond your organisation and consider your broader networks, and prospective partner opportunities. A well-conceived strategic plan can be a compelling resource for prospective funders.

  1. Set timeframes

Strategic plans have a limited shelf life, so ensure you set achievable timeframes for each strategy and tactic. You should allow enough time to keep your team focused and on their toes, but not so little time that the quality of your work is compromised.

  1. Track your progress

As part of your plan, be sure to also identify how you’ll assess and track your success against each objective. Consider accountability mechanisms and the programs and people who will do this work and keep your team on track.

My final piece of advice is to avoid overcomplicating your plan. This is your roadmap for success, but it doesn’t need to be a particularly lengthy document.

Keep it concise and stick to these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to strategic supremacy. Happy planning!

A certain amount of ego is needed to build any successful business. It can bring you the confidence and resilience to persist, even when the odds are stacked against you, and to pick yourself up and keep going after failures and setbacks.

But too much ego can have a converse effect. In extreme cases, it can even kill a business.

Writing for entrepreneur.com, Virtugroup chairman Neil Petch says big egos are responsible for poor financial performance, equating to an estimated loss of 6-15% of annual revenue.

At Kiikstart we like to say that if you want to get stuff done, you need to get out of your own way! But the line between a healthy sense of self and an ego that is negative and counter-productive can be a fine one.

Below I’ve outlined a few of the ways that your ego could be damaging your business – and ways to turn it around.

Failing to listen
Too much ego often means we think we have all the answers, and can come to think we’re right regardless of the facts. But as Neil Petch says, “a one-way, top-down communication style will also mean that there are missed opportunities”. It creates a culture where your team may stop sharing and generating ideas.

Turn it around: Be open-minded and receptive to new ideas. Good leaders ask for insights from those who add value – and take this feedback on board to make better decisions and get better outcomes.

Hiding from failure
To quote Eckhart Tolle, “The ego is very vulnerable and insecure, and it sees itself as constantly under threat.” So too much ego can lead to false pride, causing us to avoid – and even refuse to acknowledge -our failures.

Turn it around: Talk about your failures and learnings. Be open to reviewing your personal performance, and own your mistakes, even if that means acknowledging your mistakes in front of your team and clients. Great business takes courage!

Overlooking your team’s successes
Leaders with too much ego spend too much time looking inward, and not enough time giving credit to others where it’s due. This can cause some leaders to take undue credit for others’ ideas and efforts, or fail to recognise the efforts of others in their team.

Turn it around: Getting the best out of your team means openly acknowledging, celebrating and rewarding their success. Be sure to give credit where it’s due.

Making it about ‘me’ not ‘we’
Personal ambition is fine, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of the business. The primary focus should always be on building your company and responding to the needs of your team and your customers. When taken too far, career and workplace expert Patti Johnson says a “drive for personal recognition and success … can distract you from doing important work that’s much bigger than you”.

Turn it around: The best leaders are open to new ideas, happy to seek input, and willing to share their knowledge. Sprinkle useful insights like fairy dust to those that are open to it – and put your team, your customer and your mission as a business ahead of personal interests.

An inability to recognise personal skill gaps
This is a particularly dangerous shortcoming that business leaders with an inflated ego face. An inability to recognise our own skill gaps means we won’t take the advice we need on board, and can also fail to delegate effectively. Consequently, some leaders can underestimate challenges that their business faces.

Turn it around: Remember that no-one has all of the answers, and no-one excels at everything.  I don’t like the term weaknesses, but we do all have skill gaps, so undertake an honest and insightful critique of your skill gaps, and outsource to people who excel in these areas. Be prepared to invest money in responding to these skill gaps where it is relevant to your business and wellbeing. Also be prepared to say no to opportunities that aren’t the right fit.

So keep your ego in check and get out of your own way!

Remember that a leader’s personality and ego is a powerful tool. Cultivate positive working relationships by listening, putting your team first, and acknowledging success. Stay humble, and recognise your own failures and skill gaps. Your business will see the benefits.

People often talk about “organisational culture” like it’s a silver bullet. Get the culture right in a workplace and, before you know it, you’ll be breaking sales records and winning awards, right?

Wrong.

Many organisations are investing huge money and effort into getting their company culture just right.

It’s a fantastic objective, but one that’s potentially flawed when organisational culture is viewed as a homogenous mass.

So here are a few insider tips to consider when looking at your organisation’s culture. Take these tips into account and you’ll ensure you get value from your review.

Tip 1: Organisations aren’t limited to one culture

This is a common misconception, but there are many cultural aspects that create both your clients’ and staff’s reality. Often, numerous organisational cultures are competing for attention. While your culture relates to your team and staff processes, it’s also expressed through customer experience.  Motivational speaker Simon Sinek cites Starbucks as an example, saying “Starbucks was founded around the experience and the environment of their stores.” He says the brand created a comfortable space for people to come and work without pressure to buy. “The coffee was incidental,” he continues.

Takeaway: Remember that while culture is often seen as relating to your internal team, how you’re perceived in the marketplace by your customers, as well as the wider community, is another measure of your organisational culture.

Tip 2: A culture of loyalty can be damaging

I want to debunk a long-held view that staff loyalty is always essential to a positive organisational culture. I’ve worked with dozens of companies and organisations who have proven that loyalty – often viewed based on length of service – can be counterproductive. At times employees can become so “loyal” to an employer that they don’t make their own future and wellbeing a priority, with disastrous consequences. Loyal employees can feel disengaged if they’re overlooked for promotions, while employers might conversely place too high of a regard on loyalty, rather than finding the best person for a particular role. Loyal employees can stop employers from making the hard decisions they need to. At the same time, employees might miss out on the opportunities they want, resulting in a lose-lose.

Takeaway: Modern businesses need to create a culture that places respect for each other and our clients, hard work and genuine output ahead of loyalty.

Tip 3: Review your culture – regularly

Think you’ve already got a great organisational culture? It’s still important to review your cultures, as your internal culture influences how your customers perceive you and your organisation, and impacts on the quality of your service delivery. This, in turn, will impact your KPIs and the overall performance of your organisation. Steve Jobs once famously stated that the real return on culture at Apple “happened when we started getting more deliberate about it”. He said this was done “By writing it down. By debating it. By taking it apart, polishing the pieces and putting it back together.”

Takeaway: Your organisation’s cultures are always a work in progress, open to review, change and growth.

Need support reviewing your organisational cultures? Kiikstart can help. Get in touch at enquiries@kiikstart.com or phone 0428 593 400.

Opening her eyes to “new possibilities” for two iconic Outback hotels saw General Manager Jo Fort engage Kiikstart last year.

What’s followed is a “quiet little revolution” at both The Birdsville Hotel and The Innamincka Hotel that began with an idea for a business makeover and evolved into staff development work involving all staff.

Located in Outback Queensland and South Australia respectively, Kiikstart’s Virtual Scholar program has enabled staff to undertake remote training with our director, Ali Uren.

General Manager Jo Fort explains the shift.

Kiikstart: What services have you engaged through Kiikstart?
Jo: I had heard of Ali prior to meeting her at the 2017 SATIC Conference. It was generally agreed that the Kiikstart approach was refreshing, and that she was potentially a consultant who could assist us with staff development and improving customer service, particularly at point of sale.

Why did you engage Ali and how has she helped the Birdsville and Innamincka Hotels?
Jo: When I met Ali I had a vision of empowering management to think like entrepreneurs – that way I imagined I could step back from my already overloaded role. I knew that work needed to start at General Manager level first.

What changes have been made and what changes are underway for your businesses?
I can honestly say there has been a quiet little revolution that has resulted in a makeover in what we do and the way we present to our guests. Ali has helped our businesses by assisting us to deal with the tricky issues, and helping our team to come up with ways to do the job better. Choosing to live and work in the Outback can place people well out of their comfort zone and, while it may seem exciting, it’s like any job; it can be mundane and repetitive. Living close together and having to work on relationships at work, as well as outside of work, is challenging.

She’s encouraged us to think imaginatively, to be creative, and to question work practices. If the actions don’t fit with our values and vision, then they have no place in our life.

How has Ali helped to streamline the change process?
The development process is streamlined to suit individuals. Ali is persuasive, but she also understands that some concepts take time, and that from little ideas, big things grow. As a group we are excited, inspired, encouraged and motivated to stand out from our competitors and to be notably excellent in general.

Ali guided me in the early phase of our plan to get myself and then our team to think outside the box. Once I was happy that the foundations of the business were strong under her guidance, the business strategy, roles and responsibilities were fleshed out.

How would you describe Ali’s coaching style?
Ali is a tenacious, tireless trainer who works from her heart. She is 100% authentic and what you see is what you get. She is as terrifying as she is inspirational! I have used the word ‘terrifying’ because it’s the only word I can think of when your tasks aren’t done and you have a session booked with Ali. She is not up for ‘the dog ate my homework’! Ali believes in what she says, and she has the experience and background to back up her teaching. I understood from the beginning that it was my role in my learnings with Ali to set aside the time to do the work and set the tone.

To what extent have you relied on technology throughout this process?
Heavily! Technology has enabled us to learn with Ali through the Virtual Scholar program. That’s been the great strength in the way we’ve done things. Simply parachuting in to learn in one hour will not grant the paradigm shift we’re now seeing unfold. We have the technology, so we use it!

How valuable do you think your investment to date has been?
I believe I have invested wisely in engaging Ali. Not only is she a fantastic resource, but she has become a friend, and I look forward to continuing our journey. Sure, it’s a business decision to invest in staff development, but already there are outcomes and a level of maturity on-site that was not seen before. We are thinking before we act, and we are empowered and confident as a group.

To find out more about coaching options for your business, including our remote Virtual Scholar offering, get in touch with Ali at
enquiries@kiikstart.com or phone 0428 593 400.