How to Make Team Building Meaningful and Effective

Team building” is one of the most meaningless phrases in the English language. That’s right – meaningless. Yet the request for “team building” is the single most frequent request I receive from business executives, managers and team leaders. Almost always, leaders request team building because they cannot articulate exactly what they do want or need, or why they really need it. They just know a lot of time seems to be wasted on “relationship issues” or “we could always be more productive with a little more team work.”

“Team building” means little because it can mean so many different things in context. Most often, team building requests are about fixing or improving relationships among group members. In my work over the past 20 years, I have found that relationship issues are seldom the root cause of team problems; they are more often the symptoms. So allow me to offer a basic primer in understanding the nature of effective teams and what team building generally is all about.

First, start with an effective definition of team building. This alone will help shape a high-quality intervention with
your team. My definition is:

Team building is an Organization Development technique for improving a work group’s performance and attitudes by clarifying group goals and clarifying members’ expectations of each other.

Begin with some appreciative inquiry among team members. Consider positive qualities about your team that you can build upon. What are some of your best memorable moments? What happened or what worked that made the situation positive for the team? What kinds of actions and attitudes could you replicate from that event? What are some individual strengths on the team? Stay focused on the positive to appreciate what you have already that might be working keeping and improving further.

Consider what your team would look, feel, sound and be like in its “ideal” state in the future. What adjectives and phrases would best describe the team then? What would be the rewards to the team and to individual team members if you achieved this desired state? What would be the consequences for doing nothing – what would it mean to you as individuals if the team did nothing to progress toward this desired future?

Search for specific inhibitors to your team’s performance that might keep this team from moving toward its desired future. List all possible obstacles without any evaluation of ideas up to this point. Just record the thoughts of everyone without further analysis. List all possible inhibitors.

The “relationship issues” will come up first, but you will need dig deeper. Root causes of inhibitors need to be explored in the order listed toward the end of this article. Most importantly, team building must be an ongoing process – not a half-day activity or outing. Team building activities of that nature are effective only when used as a single element of an overall strategy for team development. Develop a customized approach depending on the context and commitment to change from leadership and team members.

Now, for each inhibitor, list possible solutions. Again, you are still brainstorming, so no evaluation of ideas; just record the ideas. Once you have discussed several alternative solutions for each inhibitor, begin to evaluate the possible solutions that could improve the team’s performance, attitudes and mutual expectations. Choose the best solution(s) for each inhibitor with some degree of group consensus. Develop an action plan for addressing each inhibitor in the event that it occurs, assigning responsibility and personal accountability for each step based on individual team members’ strengths. Determine dated milestones for when and how the team will track its progress toward the desired future.

Remember, your goal is specific: to improve team performance and attitudes by clarifying group goals and members’ expectations of one another in the following order. This requires focus, disciplined adherence to a structured process, and at least some assistance from a skilled facilitator from outside your team and organizational culture. This simple model works for any kind of team, whether it’s a marriage, a family, a church, a neighborhood or civic group, a government task force, small business or Fortune 500 corporation.

Goals

Do team members have a clear, shared understanding and articulation of the same mission, goals, vision and even values?
By the way, you might call this all-important clarification process, which is the first step necessary to get team members “on the same page”, as “The Intersection of Purpose”.
Teams I have worked with are amazed at the transformation of their attitudes, among other outcomes, just by achieving success at developing a clearly stated common mission. This is one of the reasons why I say Strategic Thinking and Planning is perhaps the most powerful “team building” activity any group can pursue.

Roles

What roles are necessary for the team to be effective and who will play those roles (individuals, Strategic Business Units, product lines, locations, departments, etc)?
Within each role, are there clearly identified goals that support the team’s overall purpose and mission?
Do team members share mutual expectations of one another (and SBUs, etc) in their respective roles?

Rules

Is everyone playing by the same rules? These include written rules like policy, procedures, regulatory issues, written core values…
This also includes “unwritten rules” – the ones that really define team and organizational culture. Typically, it is often a continuous, and sometimes very difficult and time-consuming challenge to identify a team’s unwritten rules. Team members and team leaders are typically hard-pressed to do this heavy lifting, but it can pay big dividends and nearly always requires outside assistance.

Relationships

Yes, relationship issues can produce root cause inhibitors to team success, but should only be accepted after the other three causal areas are explored and well-defined with a great degree of consensus.
Usually, when goals, roles and rules are clarified, the relationship issues take care of themselves. Conflict still exists, but is productive and exists for good reason – as the necessary ingredient for innovation. No longer is conflict about “right versus wrong” or “win versus lose”; now it’s about win-win relationships and “what is the best right answer among all our team members’ possible right answers?”
Where relationship issues still exist, now they can effectively be addressed through tools and activities like sharing behavioral style assessments (i.e. DISC) and traditional team building activities.
Now, with all this said, I do use traditional team building as a means to introduce organizations to more profound solutions. But I am very careful up front when I say “yes” to these agreements. Unless relationships are the only inhibitor to effective team development, these activities provide short-term fixes at best.
If you are a team leader, perhaps the most powerful question for you to consider before all others is, “What if I am the problem?”

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Team Building Maneuvers and the Team’s Leadership

Conquering the Challenge of “Change” through Team Building Maneuvers

Nothing is as upsetting to your people as change. Nothing has greater potential to cause failures, loss of production or failing quality. Yet nothing is as important to the survival of your organization as your people and their response to change.

Research tells us that 70 percent of all change initiatives fail (Source: Author Peter Senge, “The Dance of Change,” Doubleday Press, Toronto, Ont. 1999, p. 3-4). Beyond a doubt, the likelihood of your change initiative failing is overwhelming. Since 2004, I’ve studied, facilitated and taught change processes and experience tells me that change efforts fail for one, two, or all of the following three reasons:

1. Failure to properly define the Future Picture and the impact of the change.
All too often, the “change” initiative addresses the symptoms of current challenges and problems rather than the future the organization wants or needs to create. Change is about creating a desired future, not just correcting current problem/symptoms.

2. Failure to properly assess the current situation, in order to determine the scope within the requirements for change.
Organizations perpetually assess the current situation against current measures of performance. However, change is not the same as problem-solving or project management. Rather, managing change is about moving an organization strategically forward to achieve its vision of the future.

3. Failure to effectively manage the transition of moving from the present to the future.
Experience demonstrates that failure to effectively manage the transition/transformation need is the leading cause of failure for strategic change initiatives. The change itself is not the problem. Change is an event; it is situational: deciding to implement a new system, target a new market, acquire or merge two organizational cultures (Source: Author William Bridges, “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change,” Addison Wesley, Don Mills Ont., p.3). The problem occurs with what happens within the gap between the present and future, after the “change” and before you get to “there.” The reality of change is that change is about people not structures – people are the reasons for stop gaps in change initiatives!

Failure to successfully execute often comes from seeing the change as solely structural, so once the new system is designed and ready for implementation, the new organization is agreed upon and the doctrine papers are signed to legalize the “deal,” everyone, including the CEO, walks away from what is considered (prematurely) a “done deal.” This is a mistake that goes on all too often like a broken record. History is full of examples of organizations and teams that failed when experiencing changing environments (most of them are now extinct). The secret to successfully managing change, from the perspective of the people within the organization and their teams, is “definition” and “understanding.” To make it clear, I’ll explain them in subsets.

Definition and Understanding for the “WHAT” in Teams

It is important to understand that not everyone who works together or in close proximity is a member of a team. This concept is a misnomer for a lot of people. A clear explanation of a team is a group of individuals who are interdependent with respect to intelligence, information, transferable skill sets, resources, and tools and who seek to combine their efforts to achieve a shared-vision towards a common goal. A team, for instance, is either building or falling apart. An essential aptitude for true team building and the maneuvers they require is leading the team into building on a continuous basis. Team building maneuvers lead a group into higher levels of team spirit, cooperation and interpersonal communication. Building teams is the process of developing on the team-dynamics and interpersonal relationship of the people that come together to make-up the unit. Team spirit either grows or it dies based on the dynamics of the unit.

Teams have specific characteristics that should be addressed:

- Teams must be constructed to achieve a shared-vision for a shared goal.
- Team associates are interdependent regarding some common interests; teams are the instrument of sustained and enduring success in leadership and management.
- Teams use strategic thinking, acting, and influence – associates each possess the authority to manage their own stimulus for change.
- A team is a type of group, but not all groups are teams – team leaders know this to be true.
- Teams are formed to best facilitate learning and peak performance while operating in a socialist environment.
- Team associates are not responsible to “self,” but to their team and its mission; their obligation is to guide the unit to find its voice, while strategically and flawlessly executing.
- Teams learn to navigate positive transition to disseminate authority and power for change – and, they understand when it is a “must” to move into greater levels of performance (the difference between ordinary and extraordinary high performance teams).

The difference between ordinary teams and high performance teams are its people and their abilities to overcome the fear of change. High performance teams place a focus on the people who drive the overall performance within the system: “how do you define a high-performance team?” A high performance team is a group of people who are led by an exception leader, ALL having complementary skills, who understand roles and goals, and who are committed to achieving those goals through a shared-voice, as one unit or body, to demonstrate strategic and flawless execution measures for overcoming changing environments.

This team format learns quickly how-to work together toward mutual goals using their individual skills to support one another regardless of the situation they are engaging or any amount of resistance to change from a fear of the unknown or an expectation of loss or failure.

The “alpha” of the high performance team’s resistance to change is how they perceive the change. The “omega” is how well they are equipped to deal with the change they expect. The team member’s degree of resistance is determined by whether they perceive the change as good or bad, and how they expect the impact of the change to be on the entire unit. Their ultimate acceptance of the change is a function of how much resistance the team member has and the quality of their coping skills and their support system. The job role of the team leader is to address their resistance from both perspectives by helping each member reduce it to a minimal, manageable process level. The success of the response depends on the leader’s ability to lead by example, their level of trust from the members on the team and their ability to persuade the members to overcome their resistance so the unit can move ahead. When the leader is able to communicate a low threat level and/or limited risk, the member’s perception will be one of trust for engaging the objective. Simply, it will all come down to the leader’s relationship with the team; hence, the success of the team not only depends on its members, but also on the leadership they follow.

Definition and Understanding for Accepting “CHANGE” on Teams and Organizations

Now, we’ll look at how teams can manage change and fear, and overcome them both to perform at its peak as a unit, and pronounce its leadership style to permeate peak performance across an entire organization. The “alpha” here begins by looking at change as an emotions state that is synonymous with fear. Fear stipulates an uncomfortable emotional response to potential threats and a way of life. It is a basic survival mechanism that occurs in response to specific stimulus of future events, such as worsening of a situation or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable. It needs to be addressed by the leadership personnel in as much detail and as early as possible. Leadership must be able to provide updates as things develop and become clearer if any chance is possible for overcoming the fears that are the precursor for change.

“Definition” is a two-way street. In addition to defining a problem that causes fear, team leaders need to get their members to a point that they feel comfortable defining the reasons behind their resistance. “Understanding,” the “omega” here is also a two-way street. Team leaders must be prepared to clearly explain to their members what is changing and why. They must also be clear about the member’s reluctance. Here are a few things that the team leaders must be aware of:

- Team leaders must not try to rationalize the issues, but focus on opening and maintaining clear channels of communication with their team members so they understand what is coming and what it means to them and the unit.
- Team leaders must be able to help their member gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation at hand, both the positives and negatives.
- Team leaders must inform their members what the change will be, when it will happen and why – what is not changing and how the anchors on the team (the characteristics, such as “trust” that holds the team together) will be affected as they face the winds of uncertainty and change.
- Team leaders must be able to understand the specific fears of each member. What their concerns are and how strongly they feel about the potential outcomes, both the positives and negatives (do they perceive it as a good or a bad thing?).

The Bottom Line: Definition and Understanding

Conquering the challenge of “change” through team building maneuvers requires innovation, creativity and some good old fashion “leadership.” People yearn for ideas (big and small ones) and think that if they just had that one “right” idea for the team or organization, success would surely come. Certainly, we can all do things to be more creative, but having ideas isn’t the biggest, or even first, source of our challenges.

Think about it this way. You’ve experienced what is believed by you to be the greatest workshop ever attended, so you go back to the workplace to integrate what you’ve learned – only, you never do. You’ve thought about trying a new approach to your meetings, but never did. You’ve had a great idea that never went anywhere. You’ve had an idea for a new process, but failed to introduce it to other the leaders. The list can go on and on and you’ll see that there’s no shortage of ideas or creativity that is stopping you. What is stopping you is fear, the fear of change or the fear of failure. Either way you look at it, fear is the stimulus that stops great people from doing great things – the action that is required for successful progress in life and in the workplace.

Change and Failure (Breakdown)

Failure and success are the outcomes of change. No matter how you look at them both, they each have a constant that cannot go unnoticed, “leadership.” We cannot succeed at higher levels of performance if we maintain status quo, but inherent in change is the possibility that we might fail or experience a breakdown in process. So any discussion of the “fear of change” or the “fear of failure” needs to start with a discussion on transition and transformation. While there are downsides and risks involved in change (including the risk of failure) think of all of the positives that can come from change:

- Process Improvement to Leadership and Management,
- Overall Employee Performance Increases,
- Team Development, Transition and Transformation,
- Greater Satisfaction (Individual) – Personal Proficiency,
- Organizational Renewal – Professional Mastery, and
- Marketplace Expansion, and much more.

And these are just a few. The next time you feel the fear of failure, think about how you feel about change and how it impacts your level of fear. All change involves a certain amount of uncertainty and ambiguity and those two conditions provoke anxiety. This is a reason to hold onto the past for lessons learned; it’s familiar, and as the adage goes, “better what you know versus whet you don’t know.” So, although change has the ability to promote new systems, structures, organizations and teams, people will always conform to the “same old~same old,” unwilling to let go of the past. That is why looking at the positives and keeping an open mind is so critical to the success of experiencing change.

Structuring Failure and Success (Breakthrough)

One individual’s failure is another individual’s success; it’s all based on a decision that “must” be made at some point. Sun Tzu, arguably the greatest military strategist that many still follow, had his say on success and failure: “Consideration and analysis of The Five Elements, “Dao” – Moral Unity, “Tian” – Weather Condition, “Di” – Geographical Condition, “Jiang” – Leadership Quality, “Fa” – Discipline and Organization Structure, a must know for all commanders. Victory to those who understand and no victory to those who does not. The Five Elements will determine success or failure of conducting war.”

Here’s an explanation of Sun Tzu’s statement through comparison and an analytical lens. The Five Elements will reveal the factors of success and failure of all battle, namely: Moral Unity, Weather Condition, Geographical Condition, Leadership Quality, Discipline and Organization Structure.

Moral Unity determines the cohesiveness between the ruler and his subjects, the leader and his followers, the general and his soldiers. Ultimately, to achieve full support by fellowman, putting aside life and death matters and share the view of the ruler’s is the goal of Moral Unity. Only when a view or decision is fully supported, can orders be carried out smoothly by the team.

Weather Condition such as summer/winter and drought/flood will have significant affects on how plans are executed. When weather is an element that no one has any control, the best strategy will be take full advantage of the conditions when able. Going against the force of nature may prove rewarding when one overcomes, but it usually spells destruction.

Geographical Condition here refers to distance of near/far, terrain/mountainous/flat regarding the battle space, wide/narrow the battle field and whether the location chosen to engage the battle favors attack/defense.

This will limit the size, type and performance of the troop. The same for business – this will also determine the team’s reaction to the mission and the amount of resources – people, process and management of initiative that will be required to win.

Leadership Quality (my favorite) concerns the general/commander’s leading capability. There are five qualities of a good leader: “wisdom, trustworthiness, benevolence and deportment, courage (both physical and emotional) and sternness (temperament).” These five qualities will affect the leading capability of a commander, his culture and climate for organizational behavior effectiveness within the environment and the efficacy and value of his command being carried out by the people under his leadership.

Discipline and Organization Structure is the system of open communication and the vehicles used to do so – how each level within the organization manages and leads the people and process, including logistics. It requires a fair, consistent and clear communication to everyone. Communication is the greatest resource in all of life, not only in organizations, but in all we set out to accomplish. Effective communications is leadership’s greatest tool to win its people, systems, processes and management of functions.

As The Five Elements are inter-related, no leader can either ignore or fail to understand the constructive/destructive nature of each element. Victory will overcome “failure” and “success” will fall upon those who analyze and clearly understand The Five Elements. Therefore, by asking who offers fairest reward and punishment, whose troop, team or organization is best trained and led, whose equipment and resources are more efficient and plentiful, who can deliver and communicate order/leadership smoothly, effectively and thoroughly, who has better geographical/weather advantages (culture and organizational climate), who has more resourceful leaders and followers – teams, whether the appointed leader/leadership is wiser, more strategic in their thinking, tactical in their approach to engage and has virtue… the winner is clear, defined and understood.

Constructing it all to Enhance Leadership for Teamwork as an Essential Goal

What am I referring to in the term “Leadership for Teamwork?” Organizations can try to influence leaders to work as a team, but only leaders themselves can make it work. Why should you want to be a team-oriented leader, and how can you take steps to make it happen, even when the status quo is not favorable? A strong motivator to becoming a better cohort with your leaders-colleagues-peers is to take stock of what “not” collaborating is costing you during the tough times (and, even the not so tough times).

As you attempt to lead others and yourself, it is important to keep in mind your quintessential intention to enhance, deepen and strengthen the spirit of “we are absolutely on the same team, sounding with one unified voice, and committed to achieving the same outcome/ Future Picture for one another.” Integrate the improvement of the quality of leadership for effective teamwork into your objective, strategy and tactics. Include it in the vision and mission and ensure that all members across each level of the organization understand and can communicate it without fail. It must not “only” be written on a fancy picture and placed on the wall (the all too common inspirational). It must run like blood through veins and become as important as the air we breathe.

Express your value of Leadership for Teamwork and team fortitude by ensuring that the cost factor is not as important in the decision to remain on a continuum to train organizational behavior, transformational leadership, strategic execution and team building maneuvers as the decision to make all allocations to do so. The cost of not doing it, even when things are tough, offers a far more potential for failure.

If you overlook Leadership for Teamwork and effective team building maneuvers by focused exclusively or excessively on the outcome you want teamwork to accomplish, you’ll place your team and organization in a position to neglect the means to your end and eliminate the solution-centric outcomes in your future. This would be like a U.S. Marine purposely neglecting to adequately care for his weapons while on the battlefield.

How you think about each individual and team in the organization is the most critical aspect in Leadership for Teamwork. By leading your own thoughts, you begin leading in the most significant way. So discipline yourself to think about those you are responsible for leading as members of your team, and not as your problems, adversaries or competitors. You have to “mentally embrace” them as for you, and not against you, particularly when they demonstrate difficult conduct. This is the truest form of selflessness that, in most cases, is forgotten.

An effective and easy tool to form the greatest disciplines in Leadership for Teamwork is for everyone to do his best to interpret the behaviors of others, however dissonant, as a sign of a core challenge or initiative that needs immediate attention. It’s important to realize that behaviors are a form of communications to address Leadership for Teamwork and this action can transform bad feelings of resentment into positive organizational behaviors and gratitude. Our President Barack Obama, the 44TH of the United States, used similar techniques to successfully win the elections to lead the American people; “CHANGE and Leadership for Teamwork!” His message rings true around the world and is also being used to bring communities and Governments (also forms of teams) together in ways that at one time, would never have been thought of. Marcus Aurelius said, “Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

This statement can be applied to teams and defines the true meaning of Leadership for Teamwork. The team that is not overwhelmed with being productive and full of life is far too busy dying. Life is born from every member and led by every member. Regard Leadership for Teamwork as an essential means for overcoming fear, winning change and leading through cooperation to experience peak performance that takes the organization to the next level.

How to Lead your Team to the Next Level

What is the worst thing that could happen? Actually, people will ask a more rhetorical question: “what could happen?” But, they never really get the answer they are hoping for because of fear. Most of the time, just asking the question seems like progress is being made or, a significant amount of time (meetings to schedule more meetings that promotes nothing but time and talk) planning and not executing. This is a question that simply hangs in the spam folders, lost in internet space or on a memo at the water cooler. Don’t let it become a technical “error message” that requires someone else to get it done. Take the initiative to go against the status quo and get the question answered yourself. Consider the very worst thing that could happen; answering the question for yourself can and will stimulate movement in a positive direction. Often, the absolute worst case isn’t as bad as might think.

What is the best possible outcome? Seriously, what is the best thing that could happen? Think about the scenario where everything goes perfectly. Will this be your outcome? Maybe not, but your worst case scenario likely won’t happen either. It takes both of these questions to really understand your situation. Chances are, your results will be somewhere between the two. Once you have considered the range of possibilities, you are in a better position to decide whether to proceed or not, and you will have definitely reduced your fear of failure if you do take that step forward.

Next, you can explore the development of a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) for the team. This is designed for people to learn broadly, to inspire the service out of generosity for others, and to prepare them to lead courageously into the future. A Memorandum of Understanding encourages a perspective to become firmly grounded in the potential for successful growth using a series of constructs – a portfolio management approach – that everyone buys into for effective deportment and forward movement. A Memorandum of Understanding acts as the blueprint for strategic leadership on the teams and across the organization.

Are you wondering how to build an organization in which executive leaders, team leaders, middle managers and front line staff will flourish? To build an environment where people, teams and organizations will flourish and achieve peak performance, you must get the best leaders to pay close attention to the design of the elements around them (situational awareness).

The Memorandum of Understanding articulate a lucid purpose, helps to create effective leadership teams, prioritize their initiatives carefully, redesign organizational structures, employ strategic intent meets strategic agility to result flawless and strategic execution and, most importantly, integrate all these tactics into one coherent strategy.

The Memorandum of Understanding must include the following constructs:

- The Cardinal Rules,
- The Guiding Precepts,
- The Forms of Disposition,
- The General Orders,
- The Strategy Forward – Establishing Professional Mastery, and
- The Centers of Gravity.

The Cardinal Rules are a set of guidelines that are invaluable for people and organizations to follow while planning and executing at the strategic or tactical level. These rules, once established by the individual(s) or teams are the rules that govern forward movement and must not change (i.e. To manage by mind, lead by heart).

The Guiding Precepts are designed to inform people what they should and should not be doing in accordance with executing a well designed strategy to win. They also inform of the reasons “why” an action must occur and the repercussions should the individual and/or organization fail at meeting such a task (i.e. Unselfishness; this trait is the avoidance of providing for one’s personal comfort and advancement at the expense of others. The comfort, pleasure, and recreation levels should be placed above everything. Looking out for the needs of others is the essence of self-leadership).

The Forms of Disposition offer a substantive transformation in “thought” about how people achieve a perspective on things in life. It refers to an orchestrated, systemic and revolutionary new world-view resulting in a “change” of societies, cultures, and marketplaces due to behavioral perspective. This is today often called “systems theory,” which sees a web of relationships coalescing to become something greater than the parts. Individuals must be able to look at things from a perspective that they are always changing and evolving into new forms – thinking “out-of-the-box!” We are doomed to a slow death unless radical change occurs in the way we think. Change your way of thinking or die a slow death (i.e. Mistakes are a fact of life that requires an eraser; it is the ability to respond to error that counts. You can’t live without an eraser).

The General Orders are broad, community-wide “need statements,” designed to encompass a variety of related issues in a person’s life or within the life cycle of an organization. These related issues are referred to as “Guiding Objectives,” which are specific items that need to be addressed. The Guiding Strategies (developed to fit current and future circumstance) are the methods identified for addressing the Guiding Objectives, and the Guiding Policies are the specific action steps that are recommended to implement the Guiding Strategies. The General Orders, all eleven of them, offer the ability to explore implications in an open and reflective manner and reinforce each other in providing a coherency and wholeness often lacking in life cycles (i.e. Know yourself as a “Leader” and seek continuous improvement).

The Strategy Forward – Establishing Professional Mastery. The traditional values are the foundation of the modern day; that was yesterday. Tomorrow, you have an opportunity to create commitment and the needed momentum to establish, publish, share, and teach a different set of life’s code, values, and ethics to journey into the future. After much hard work, you are prepared to develop a strategy to move forward and plan the next steps to target critical successes for winning the Future Picture. What a legacy you will leave when executed with personal and professional bearing for others to follow. This is the way of the future. This is a new chapter (i.e. Remove the Jars’ Lid: Allow for profound growth by employing Transformational Thinking to navigate the maze of organizational politics – and the schedule to do so – to accept change).

The Centers of Gravity. Just as time changes, so does the internal and external influence in your life and in the life cycle of an organization. The Centers of Gravity are the dynamics within a process that offer the greatest impact on the overall system when change happens. They offer a high level of “value” and return on your energy “investment.” When combined with the concept of parallel deposits (creating energy from various perspectives in a short period of time), the Centers of Gravity make possible the seemingly impossible task of realizing success in changing paradigms. The Centers of Gravity places significant influence on the five established epicenters of any changing system to receive desired effects: Leadership, Processes, Infrastructure, Population, and Action Units.

In summary, a Memorandum of Understanding, your blueprint for strategic leadership, offers an opportunity to free up our actions as public servants. It is empowering, it is enabling and it grounds us in a public way on the fundamentals that we all must share. There is no ethical malaise. It is important to realize that the new is not a finding from what has been lost. Rather, we are like the journey of the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz story in search of a brain (brain power in this context); the Tin Woodsman in search of a heart, and the Cowardly Lion in search of courage. Your value system is intact and has been with you the entire way thus far. The Memorandum of Understanding simply articulates and reaffirms the core value and behavioral perspective that already underlie your personal and professional appearance and conduct to achieve significant growth.

Develop, learn and instruct the Memorandum of Understanding well. It will make the difference between winning and losing in every aspect of your life – personally and professionally – and maintain a positive team building attitude.

Finally, Maintain a Positive Team Building Attitude

To lead most effectively, the leader’s attitude needs to be strongly and deeply rooted in the dynamics of the team and its fortitude, particularly when relating with individuals who are also seeking to grow themselves and the organization they are a part. The Memorandum of Understanding has been used to lead successful transformation efforts for organization and teams to achieve their goals in and away from the organization and the battlefields of life. A paradigm-changing approach, the Memorandum of Understanding concurrently addresses multiple disciplines across the entire transformation life cycle; enabling leaders and teams help people build a stronger, more responsive and resilient organizations.

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Team Building and Development in a Matrix Environment

What is a team?

There are many kinds of teams. A functional team is a permanent team established to conduct operational activities for a particular part of the organization, such as finance, sales, marketing, etc. There is no specified time limit on functional teams as they are needed to keep the business running. A project team is brought together for a discrete period of time to achieve a defined goal. At the end of the project the team is disbanded. Project teams are often matrix in nature, staffed by members taken from diverse functional teams in order to achieve the project goal. When the Project Manager has a high degree of authority this is known as a strong matrix; when Functional Managers have stronger authority this is known as a weak matrix.

In all organizational structures, there are many ‘teams within teams’. For example, if I am the Manager, I might have several teams within my overall team:

- Me and the whole team

- Me and each individual in my management team

- Me and all of my management team

- Me and my peers in other departments

- Each management team individual and their direct reports

This is complicated enough if the structure is a well-defined functional hierarchy. However, a matrix environment for completing projects adds in another layer of complexity. The functional ‘teams within teams’ still exist and each person has a functional ‘home’ team, but now they also belong to a ‘project’ team which has a finite life span.

All of these teams need nurturing if a project is to be successful. In a matrix environment, allegiance to the project is not created by the structure itself, but rather as a result of the relationships that are developed within the project team. Relationships in all teams are important for success, but on matrix teams, particularly weak matrix teams, where the project manager may have little authority, they are especially important. On such teams, relationships are more difficult to establish, are more fragile, and can be more easily destroyed. Keeping a diverse group of people together in a matrix team depends on building loyalty and trust.

Phases of Team Development

In 1965 Bruce Tuckman developed the theory that a team went through certain phases of group development: forming, storming, norming and performing. The phases can be summarized as follows:

- Forming – the team comes together, starts to understand the goals and boundaries, initiates the tasks, but each individual is still working somewhat independently. Managers need to be directive at this stage in order to steer the team toward the goal.

- Storming – ideas and approaches start to be exchanged about how the work can be accomplished, and this can result in conflict. This phase is critical for the growth of the team, and results in individuals learning ways to work together. Managers still need to be directive at this stage, and also accessible to ensure that conflict is resolved and the team is starting to move forward toward the goal.

- Norming – the team starts to feel a sense of achievement, rules of operation (either formal or informal) are working, and trust begins to form. Managers start to be participative, and need to be available to provide guidance as the team continues to grow together.

- Performing – the team is now maturing and often high performing. Work is accomplished, team members know how to work together, and even though conflict takes place it is managed and navigated with skill and can enhance productivity. The team requires very little supervision at this point and can largely make its own decisions.

Tuckman later added a final phase ‘adjourning’ to acknowledge that teams, in particular project teams, typically break up after the objectives of the project are complete.

Team Building Techniques

Team building activities are conducted in order to develop loyalty and trust which are a critical foundation for getting the most effective results from a matrix project team. Team building is not just about creating ‘fun’ events, although that is part of it. It is also not just about understanding team members through personality assessments, although again, that is part of it. The most effective team building involves combining a variety of tools and techniques.

- Kick off meetings – a new project should be initiated with a kick off meeting so that the purpose of the project, roles and responsibilities and how the project fits into the organization’s overall goals can be understood. This technique can be used in all types of teams, but in a matrix project team that has come together with staff from multiple different sources it is especially important as the team has no established context for the project.

- Team agreements – Teams that know how to work together are more likely to be effective and efficient. Establishing agreements can assist in this process. Collaboratively establishing ground rules for how a team will operate will provide the team with clarity and will ease communication over issues such as boundaries, responsibilities, and team member behavior. Functional teams already have this established through the use of departmental policies and procedures. However for newly formed matrix project teams that do not have rules of operation established as part of their formal organization structure, team agreements is a necessary aspect of building an effective team.

- Delivery process definition – Understanding how the work is to be accomplished makes it easier for a team to work together. Functional teams typically have the process for delivering the work established as part of the departmental rules. Given that the nature of each project may be different, matrix project teams typically do not have initial stated rules for delivering the work. For example, if a software development team is unsure which development lifecycle (waterfall, agile, etc) is being followed to achieve the project goal, confusion and a lack of productivity by the team may result. Clearly defining and establishing a process that is understood by all the players in the newly formed matrix team is critical for the success of the project.

- Conflict management- A skillful Manager will understand that conflict happens on any team and will take the initiative to establish a clear process for managing it. This provides clarity to the team in the event that conflict does occur. A newly created matrix project team will find this especially helpful as the team is not used to working together and will need to navigate this as part of the process of maturing as a team. This will also help the team move more quickly through the ‘storming’ phase of group development.

- Personality assessments – An effective way to understand the other members of a newly formed matrix project team is through team building sessions using personality assessments. These can be simple and quick assessments, such as the Personality Profile: The Shapes Test, or more complex assessments which include Strengthsfinder, Myers Briggs Type Indicator, FIRO-B, Kiersey Temperament Sorter, etc. Regardless of the specific assessment conducted, the results can bring a team significant value in determining how team members can be best utilized, how the project manager can best communicate with specific team members to get the best outcomes, and how people like to be managed to make them efficient and productive. For matrix project teams, personality assessments can help shorten the process by which the team matures and learns to work together to get the results needed by the project.

- Team building events – Group events encourage positive team dynamics to develop and mature. In matrix environments, the development of loyalty and trust is critical to the stability and effectiveness of the matrix structure. Engaging people in activities outside the project allows them to get to know each other in a more relaxed setting and is quite effective in building team esprit de corps. In addition, this allows people to find ways to work together in a non-stressful environment that can then be carried back to the workplace. Some options are:

- Social events – participating in a social activity can create a team spirit that encourages people to support each other when they are at work

- Team building ‘games’ – building or creating something outside of the project may engender a camaraderie that can then be carried back to the working day

- End of project celebration – to acknowledge the success of the project meeting the goal

- Executive Coaching – Individual and group coaching can be an effective tool in all types of organizational structures. Executive Coaches can facilitate team development, as well as individual leadership development, by focusing on areas such as collaboration skills, negotiation skills, addressing personal or group blind spots, and improving communication. For matrix project teams, Executive Coaches can assist in team building events, as well as facilitate personality assessments, and help the group understand its own dynamics and assist the team in becoming more effective. Executive Coaches can also help teams and individuals navigate conflict in an emotionally healthy way that allows the team to move quickly through the ‘storming’ phase of a project and onto the next phases, thus becoming more productive more quickly.

- Regular status updates – There are a variety of ways that status can be gathered and communicated. This is a natural activity in a functional team, as members are typically used to an established status reporting routine and may be more clear on their role in that structure. For newly formed matrix project teams it is important that team members feel that they belong to the team, and can see how their progress affects the overall progress toward the goal. Examples:

- Weekly status meetings

- One on one sessions

- Project dashboards

- Project status reports

- Clear Task Assignment – Assigning work that is relevant, achievable and appropriately challenging for the individual is important in all types of teams. In newly formed matrix project teams it is especially important to make this clear, as clarity is not necessarily provided by the structure itself, as it is in functional teams. Defining tasks clearly and explaining how team members’ roles in completing project tasks contributes to the success of the project, especially in the early stages of team development, is critical to the effectiveness and productivity of the team.

- Recognition and rewards – its is always important to recognize people that either go above and beyond, and in matrix project teams this can feel especially rewarding for the team members, if it has taken both the individuals and the team itself some considerable work to get to the point of operating smoothly together to achieve project goals. This can be in the form of a simple thank you, certificates, bonuses, gift cards, etc.

The techniques described can be used in any type of organizational structure, but are especially important for building loyalty and productivity in matrix teams. In a functional environment a level of allegiance is created by virtue of the structure itself, as there is only one focus for a team member’s loyalty. In a matrix environment a team member has multiple loyalties and may be more loyal to his or her home team than the project team. In addition, projects often have aggressive deadlines and so it is critical that project teams become efficient, effective, and productive as quickly as possible.

The techniques described above can be mapped to Tuckerman’s phases, as described below.

Forming:

- Kick off meetings

- Establish team agreement

- Personality assessments

- Goal Definition

- Clear task assignment

Storming:

- Delivery process definition

- Develop Conflict Management approach

- Executive Coaching

- Goal Reinforcement

- Clear task assignment

- Regular Status Updates

Norming

- Goal Reinforcement

- Executive Coaching

- Team building events

- Clear task assignment

- Regular Status Updates

Performing

- Regular Status Updates

- Recognition and Rewards

Adjourning

- Plan project celebration/social event

- Conduct lessons learned/post project review

Summary

In summary, team structures, even in well ordered functionally structured organizations, are inherently complex. Today’s matrixed organizations make that complexity even greater. Matrix project team members have multiple loyalties and if the team is not cohesive, these divided loyalties can be harmful to the success of the project. There is a variety of team building techniques that can be undertaken to help make teams in matrixed environments more cohesive and successful. Seasoned and successful managers and leaders will continually analyze the team, determine which of Tuckman’s phases the team is in, as well as the needs of individuals, so that effective team building techniques can be employed appropriately.

Karen Davey-Winter is an Executive Coach with over 20 years of experience in Director and Manager roles in large IT organizations. She has managed teams of over 150 people, and has considerable skill in navigating matrix organizational structures, developing leaders, influencing through collaboration and building effective teams.

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9 Tips on Organizing a Successful Result Driven Team Building Program

How to Measure Results or ROI from Team Building?

In defining team building, there are many type of such events are organized. Before we could acquire details about Results Driven program, it would proper for us to understand various type of team building.

Team building is known as systematic process towards achieving team bonding and cohesiveness towards accomplish desired objectives. In brief, some of the common types of such programs are:
1. Retreat program – the purpose of this event is to provide an avenue for team members to have fun and feel entertained through games and activities.
2. Basic Team Bonding Program – a program prepared to allow members to acquire conceptual and micro understanding about team work, as well to have proper ice-breaking of every member in the team.
3. Motivational program – is aimed at inspiring individuals of a team to realize their hidden potential and work towards attainment of their goal. With the changes made after team building by each individuals will definitely improve the overall productivity.
4. Conflict/Crisis Management Program – is specifically designed to support an organization to overcome conflict at workplace, team conflict, departmental conflict, sudden crisis response for emerging problem.
5. Results Driven Program – is designed to provide ROI on specific areas through team building. These include Sales Drive, Workplace Productivity Drive, Customer Satisfaction Improvement programs.

The first 3 programs are the most common type of such program organized by organizations. However, over the last 5 years, there are emerging trends showing that most large organization are turning to Results Driven Program as their best option to accomplish their organizations’ objectives. Many MLM and Trading companies are acquiring the expertise of Results Driven program organizers to host their Sales Drive activities. While some other companies are making use of such team building to achieve other objectives, such as Customer Satisfaction drive, Retail Sales Improvement, Safety Response Team Challenge and many other programs focusing on accomplishment of other specific targets.

While many business owners and HR practitioners are still doubtful on this, many other organizations are already reaping rewards or ROI by choosing Results Driven Team Building program.

Let us see how we could utilize Results Driven program to reap a similar or better success in results through such program. There are 9 most important tips on how your organization could make use of Results Driven program to accomplish their organization targets.

1. Team building is for empowerment
Who said Results Driven program has no FUN? This is really a pre-matured judgment. All type of team building should blend the element of FUN and CHALLENGING together. For a program that going to drive results for an organization, it need to incorporate a lot of empowerment towards the audience proper blend of activities. Audience can only be empowered if they feel that they are appreciated. Only appreciated members will truthfully contribute towards growth of their organization.

2. Be clear of your target
Business owners or Management need to be clear that a proper designed program can be used to boost or empower their people to accomplish their objectives. With this in mind, business owners and managers need to come up with specific expectations to accomplish through such event. These expectations could be Sales volume, level of customer satisfaction, productivity improvement, project dateline or others. It need to be specified in quantity or volume.

3. Choose team building consultant
There are 2 different types of organizers of such program at the market place, which are event organizer and team building consultant. Event organizers are normally capable to conduct the first two types of team building. But, the rest need the expertise of team building consultant. As the client, an organization has all the right to obtain useful information on how to accomplish their expectations through such event. At the same time, consultant need complete details about the current performance, demographic details about their target audience and other useful details. It is worthwhile to share such information.

4. Design of program, activities and experiential learning activities
One of the most important area to give close attention in organizing a Results Driven program is on the Program structure. A well designed program should incorporate a mix methodology of team building delivery and it should have the following components; a) Games, 2) Motivation, 3) Challenges, 4) Competition and 5) Rewards. It should have the balance between FUN and LEARNING. Fun is to ensure the audience is excited with the program. While Learning is to ensure that the audiences are with necessary skills/knowledge to be prepared for the challenge.

5. Take Back Challenge
Members should be aware that they have brought back a set of challenges to accomplish within a period of time. A good take back challenges should be briefed thoroughly during the team building, and it should be implemented within 7 days after the program. The duration of challenge could be at least for duration of 1 month. The take back challenge itself should be designed in away that members have to compete to accomplish target given. It will be like a race between individuals or members. For example, the Challenge could; “Who could be the Best Sales Team?’, Which Department has shown Greatest Increase in Productivity?”, “Which shop has highest level of customers satisfaction?” and others

6. Tracking Tools
Since there are target to accomplish, a periodical tracking is required to gather actual performance results. These tracking should generate daily, weekly or monthly reports. Through the report, managers can compare the performance shown by each member who attended the results driven program. A tracking format can be made available through manual report, spreadsheet, software or other options. The best person suggests a proper tracking would be the Team building consultant. Without tracking, it is ineffectual to run a challenge.

7. Management / Leader’s Involvement and Intervention
Management or immediate superiors’ involvement is seen as one of the most important intervention required during implementation of take back challenge. One important matter to note here is that the superior need to use empowerment approach when dealing with their team. Otherwise, the inner confidence and sense of ownership created among staff during team building will defeat the main purpose. Superiors are expected to provide their best support to their team in order to accomplish the given challenge successfully.

8. Offer Rewards
This must be made known that reward plays a crucial role in empowering individuals to perform. Individuals who results driven always want to show their competitiveness by showing that they are in great desire to win the reward offered. Rewards can be offered to most successful individuals or team, and it does not have to be expensive. It would be useful if rewards can be offered on weekly and at the end of the challenge. A hamper, certificate of achievement, mobile phone, paid holiday trip can be useful reward to offer. But, managers must ensure that the rewards offered are worthwhile for the results accomplished.

9. Discuss on measurement of success – ROI
It is very important to measure the success of a Results Driven program by looking at the financial gain reaped compare to money spend to conduct the program. A positive ROI will definitely indicate a similar team building program could be used to accomplish similar or other targets in an organization

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Six Steps to Increase your Team Building Success

Each year organizations invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in team building. Where some claim transformation others report little change and poor results. It’s unsurprising then that many employees react with cynicism when their trusty leader announces it’s time for the team to build and bond.

What exactly is team building?

The term team building is used to describe so many different activities it can include almost anything from the long-term process of structured team development, to pounding the boss with paintballs or even an extended lunch at the pub. No wonder results vary.

Effective team building however, involves a deliberate and planned intervention that improves the team’s performance by strengthening its relationships and systems. By keeping this in mind and by addressing each of the points below, leaders can avoid the pitfalls to increase the success of their team building initiatives.

1. Define the Teams Performance Needs

A thorough gap analysis enables the design and selection of the most effective team building strategy so it’s important to clearly identify where the team is now and where it needs to be. Identify and prioritize the issues, systems and skills that need to be developed. Involve the team in this assessment as it builds awareness and ownership.

If you don’t have the resources to do this or if you’re dealing with a particularly challenging team then consider engaging an independent consultant.

2. Determine the Purpose

Use the results of your needs assessment to determine and prioritize the objectives of your team building. For example will the team building focus on:

Improving and strengthening the team’s dynamics, climate and culture, or
Establishing or improving team structures, systems and processes, or
Are you using team building to recognize the team’s achievements?

While these areas are interconnected (often one factor will positively influence another) it’s unwise and unrealistic to incorporate too many into one programme. Focus on a few, do them well, and establish the new or improved practices with the team before moving onto the next

3. Differentiate between Recognition and Performance Improvement

Fun team building events, which are designed to reward the team, let the team know they are valued and their efforts appreciated. It’s important to invest time in building relationships through social interaction too so do allow time for team building of this nature. However, no amount of social interaction or team “trust falls” will produce sustained improvements where issues exist with the team’s leadership, design or dynamics. Just because we worked well once as team suspended 50ft in the air doesn’t guarantee we will come Monday when systems crash, calls spike and phone lines jam. Teams return to the same environment with little insight, agreement or the skills to make the necessary improvements to their system.

4. Increase Insight to Improve Performance

If you work with a consultant, ensure they design programmes which involve action learning to generates individual and collective insight. This doesn’t mean you need ropes, a cliff or a kayak. Meaningful insight occurs with less adventurous and expensive activities as long as effective debriefing supports it. Debriefing is the key to deep team learning so ensure your team building dedicates time to thoroughly debriefing activities and exercises.

5. Follow Up and Follow Through

Even well considered and structured team building events fuel cynicism when the team fails to follow through. Raised expectations go unmet, little changes, cynicism and resistance deepen, morale and performance plummet. The team building “buzz” fades and it’s back to (bad) business as usual.

To avoid this ensure your team building produces a record of the team’s learning. This record and most importantly, the team’s action plan are the tools the team needs to implement new skills, great ideas and agreements. They are far more powerful than team building tales and anecdotes. They help to keep the team on track so the buzz lasts much longer.

6. Team Building is Not the Silver Bullet

Recognise that team building events are only a small part of the overall team development process. However invest as much time upfront with your analysis and planning as you can. When poorly conceived, designed and executed team building can deliver a big dent in your budget for little more than a short-lived blip in morale.

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Small Business Marketing Hacks Every Business Owner Should Use

There’s a lot that’s changed recently with online marketing. Most people now go straight to Google to search for something they want. The phone book is out and Google, or search traffic is in. If you are a small business owner you can benefit from the internet as a source of business. What’s even better is that you can tap into this resource for free if you have a physical business.

Google Places

Google Places lets you advertise your local business for free in the search results. When someone searches for a local business in your area, your results will come up first for many searches. This is a simple cost effective strategy you should definitely be employing in your business. With Google Places, you list your local business and Google will send you a confirmation postcard with a Google verification code on it. Once you have verified your listing with this code, Google knows you actually reside at this address, or run a business from it.

Google Places works wonders for small business owners who work from a certain location. If you’re not on it you are definitely missing out on business. Plus, your competitors could be using it which means they could be taking your potential customers. To use Google Places just do a quick search for it on Google and it will take you through the setting up process.

Bing Places

Bing also offer this same listing on their own search engine. It’s just like Google Places so not much to add here really. Simply fill out your details on the online platform and verify your listing when you receive a code in the post. When you create your listing you will have to list your business within a certain category, or two. Look through the existing categories and find the one or ones which are the best fit for your business. This is the same as Google Places. By listing in more than one category, if the platform allows, you can benefit from a number of searches within your local area.

Other Listings For Free

Yell and Yahoo also offer free listings for businesses too. Also do a ‘Google search’ for local directories and free listings and you will find a range of sites which offer free business listings in your area. In some cases even the extra links back to your website can make a difference to your ranking, even if the link itself doesn’t bring you more business.

Blogging

You may well not have the time or inclination to start a blog. However, in some business areas blogging is a good way to increase your business reach online in a fairly cost effective way. Depending on your business, and whether it opens itself to a blog, you can get some good results by targeting some keywords in your business niche, or simply writing compelling content and sharing on social media.

Keyword Research

You can use Google’s free keyword planner to search for terms which are already getting hits on the search engine. By finding long tail keywords in your business niche and writing good content for them, you stand more chance of being listed on the search engine. If you can find untapped keywords which bring in customers to your business, you can write articles which will bring in customers for free for years to come for free.

Paid Advertising

After you have exhausted the free methods of advertising, you can start looking at paid advertising methods. Many business owners try and fail with paid advertising. This is why it is worth learning properly the do’s and don’ts of paid advertising.
Pay per click advertising can make a massive impact on your business. But you should also be very careful. Make sure you start out with a small budget and get properly educated on how to create adverts and which keywords to choose. In particular look at the different types of keyword matches. Get this wrong and you can easily burn through your budget and list your advert for entirely the wrong audience.
However, paid advertising is remarkably scalable. Once you have a campaign which works you can easily increase your budget and you are in a position to pay for new customers.

Return On Investment

When I started with pay per click I didn’t understand return on investment. I ‘dipped my toe in’ and dabbled very tentatively. If I didn’t see an immediate profit, I stopped altogether. This is a mistake. Initially there is a lot of testing and measuring to do with paid advertising. After a while you get an advert which successfully brings you customers. However, knowing the return on investment from successful doing this is a game changer. If your customer goes on to purchase again and again, how much are they worth to your business over a year, or 10 years? Knowing this is a huge key to having the confidence to put money into an advertising campaign. Even if you lose money in the short term, your new customers will bring you new business over the long term. Learn the average spend from each customer over a year and then 10 years. Then decide what each customer is worth in terms of advertising. Does this change your view on what you can afford?

Paid Advertising Methods

There are various paid advertising methods available to use for small businesses online. Start with one method and become good at that before moving on to the next. Facebook advertising lets you target potential customers down to their interests, location and other variables. Pay per click advertising lets you target intent driven adverts. With pay per click you start with the keyword your visitor is looking for online. Once you have tested and measured an advertising method and you have a profitable model, you can leave it running and scale it easily. Then move on to the next one.

Even if you only use a couple of the methods suggested in this article, you can dramatically improve your business with only a small amount of effort. Once you have learned all these methods, you will know how to scale up your business and increase your profits. You can then invest in other forms of advertising, testing and measuring as you go. Whether these are on the internet or offline, using the same strategy (which lets you measure the response of a customer) means you can gradually improve all your advertising methods over the long term, increase profits and grow your business.

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10 Reasons Why You Should Start An Online Business

Whether you are attracted to an internet business because you hate your current job, want to improve your circumstances, or would like a more flexible lifestyle, the internet offers all these opportunities.

Why An Internet Business?

1- Flexibility

Many people come to find themselves with an internet business through necessity rather than deliberate creation. For me, I needed a flexible job which I could work around contract work. It didn’t come in often but when the phone rang, I needed to take the work. This presented all kinds of problems. Normal work didn’t pay as well and employers didn’t want me taking large chunks of time off when the other work came in!

I tried juggling several jobs over a number of years but nothing seemed to fit. At around the same time I was attempting to use e-bay to buy and sell for a bit of extra money. It wasn’t until later that I discovered affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing, for those who don’t know is a kind of referral selling. You point links from your website to other people’s goods and services. The link is tracked so that when you make a sale you are rewarded for it with a commission.

Once you know how to do this you can set up links from your online content to other people’s products and services. You can also use paid advertising to find people all over the world to sell to. This was perfect for my work because I could take my laptop anywhere with me and as long as I had an internet connection I could work. It didn’t interfere with the work when it came up, I had no boss to answer to so it was the perfect solution.

2 – Automation

There’s also a number of other reasons why I chose an internet business – and why you should too! The flexibility of the business was my primary concern. I wanted to be able to choose my own hours so I could take work when it came without any complications. But the other reason I chose this particular model was the ability to use technology to ‘leverage’ my time and income.

Once I had a website and content up and running, it kept going and I was able to make sales and deliver products without being physically present. This is the ‘magic’ of an online business. The automation involved with an online business means that you can do the work once and let that work keep running in the background. You can make sales and deliver products over and over through the same piece of content or advert, which can run an virtual autopilot 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.

Each piece of content you create can send people to a landing page and sell a product. By creating many pieces of content and sharing them online you can build multiple sources of income which can all run continually, working as your own ‘automated sales team’.

3 – Ability To Scale

Along with this amazing automation is the ability to scale your business. Because there is no human intervention in the ‘sales loop’, multiple sales can happen instantaneously through the same platforms. Your content and advertising can be grown over time and scaled instantly (in the case of paid advertising). As your content gets more shares and more people flow through your website and content, your sales grow as a result. If you use paid advertising you can also scale a profitable campaign up easily by increasing your daily budget.

The automation of an online business makes it very easy to scale. In the case of a physical business this often means more staff, sales tools, larger office space and a whole lot more expense and hassle. With an online business everything is already in place. You simply need to send more customers through the automated sales systems with content and/or paid advertising methods.

4 – Low Startup Costs

When I started an online business I did it from my own pocket. I didn’t need a massive loan and I worked at a level which suited my budget. An internet business is very cost effective and you can start from scratch from pretty much any budget. If you have more to invest you can grow it faster with paid advertising. But, if you are on a budget like I was when I got started, you can get started easily and cheaply.

With a regular ‘bricks and mortar’ business there are many overheads to consider. Your costs include a business premises, staff, hardware and stock. Then there’s advertising and delivery costs. With an online business you just need a laptop and an internet connection – two things many people already have. Your main cost is getting the right education and learning the best strategy to build on.

5 – Simplicity

Technology has made it much easier than was previously possible to set up your own website and learn how to use simple online platforms to connect people to products and services. Advertising and content creation is now available for anyone to use. Websites can be set up with a few clicks and anyone with an email can learn to use the tools and strategies of online marketers.

Whereas previously website building was the domain of the tech savvy programmer, now anyone can use simple user friendly platforms and programs. An online business sounds like something for a technical person, but anyone can now learn the skills needed to build their own online business.

6 – Control

An internet business gives you control over your life. Of course it takes time to build up to a stage where it can replace your current income. But the flexibility of an internet business means you can work it around your existing employment until you can make this happen.
Once your income is beyond that of your employment, you are in a very good position to take charge of your life. You don’t have to do the daily commute, or put up with an uncomfortable working situation. If you don’t like your job you can quit. Don’t like your boss? Fire him/her!
One of the very best things about an internet based business is the control it gives you over your life. You can also build your work around your lifestyle, rather than the other way round. Most people are forced to put work first in everything they do. Family time, holidays and hobbies all tend to depend and evolve around work. An internet business allows you to prioritize the things in your life which mean the most. It can put you back in the driving seat of your life, both in terms of what you earn and how you spend your time.

7 – Work From Anywhere

Not only does an internet business offer great flexibility in terms of working hours but it also offers you the choice to work from anywhere globally. This appeals to many people who would otherwise be more trapped by conventional work in a localized workplace.
For me, it was the flexibility of being able to choose my own hours and not have a boss. But for many the ability to travel anywhere globally is the most important factor to owning their own online business.
Take your laptop anywhere with an internet connection and work while abroad and travelling.

8 – Learn Life Skills

The skills I have learned from building my own internet business also make me much more employable. I also worked for an internet based company with the skills I learned from my laptop while sitting at home!

Being able to reach people globally and target specific types of people is a great skill and very desirable in business too. I was also able to use the knowledge I learned online to build one of my other physical businesses much more quickly by using both my website building skills and paid advertising.

The internet is a fantastic opportunity for anyone to be able to improve themselves, learn new skills and build another source of income. Skills learned are yours for life, whether or not you continue down the path of building an online business.

9 – Independence

We might believe ourselves to be independent but many of us are very dependent on our work for income. As such, our employers tell us how much we can earn, how much holiday we can take and what we will be doing while at work. Financial independence is the ultimate freedom.

When we are financially independent we can take a holiday whenever we please and work in our own time and on our own agenda. An online business gives you the automation and independence to live life on your terms, without the agenda of an employer running your life.

10 – Sovereignty

Being an owner gives you sovereignty. The ability to call the shots in your business is what many entrepreneurs aspire to. As a business owner your actions determine whether you make a success of your business or not.

Having a successful online business gives you the kind of freedom which most people will never see in their lifetime. The ability to create your own life on your terms is the reward of having worked hard on your business and on yourself.

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How to Evaluate the Performance of Your Company Based on Your Business Plan

A business plan is one of the most important documents that is needed for the betterment of the business. It includes all the need to know strategies, marketing techniques, sales techniques and financial forecasting methods that will be used to increase profits and revenue of the business. However, writing a business plan is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of time and concentration and is one of the biggest responsibilities that will be undertaken. For this crucial task there are dedicated people called business plan consultants. They will be the people who take the ideas that the entrepreneur has and converts it into a document that will be viewable by the whole world. Since this is a very big responsibility business plan consultant fee is a bit high. There are many factors that affect a good business plan and a great business plan will help the business clarify the business idea, identify potential problems in the business, find out objectives of the business and monitor the progress of the business. Since this is a very important document it is vital to keep a keen eye on the following factors when writing the business plan.

Executive Summary

The executive summary is the highlight and the brief description of the entire business. This has to be highly detailed but short enough so that a potential investor is able to read and understand the status of the business. It does not mean that it has to be limited to one or two pages.

The executive summary will include the highlight of the business concept which will describe about the product or service and the market that they are being offered. Then there are the financial features which talks about all the sales, profits, return on investment and cash flow. Then the summary has to mention about the financial requirement that is need to invest in the business and talk about the capital and how to expand the business. The current position of the business will be stating about the business’s present state and how it got here. Finally, the major achievements of the business is needed to be mentioned so that the potential investors could be impressed by the achievement that the business has done.

Business Description

The business description is about the details of the business. This should not be a highlight about the entire business like the executive summary but the in depth analysis of the business. The description has to start with a short introduction which states about the past, present and future of the industry. Here you should mention about the markets that the business will be interacting with and the future market places that business will be willing to interact with. The products or services that the business is still developing should be thoroughly discussed here so that the potential investors who have got an idea and are willing to invest in the business can get a thorough knowledge about it.

The structure of the business has to be described in the business description. The hierarchy of the business and the business places should be described in detail. The legal considerations of the business should be thoroughly stated so that there is clarity for everyone.

Market Strategies

When developing the market strategies there has to be a lot of market research done on the market place. This will give the business entrepreneur a very good idea about the potential market and how he can use the market to increase the profits of the business. After observing the market the company will be in a position to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the business and will be able to develop a system in order to identify the potential opportunities and threats. These studies will also be able to develop strategies to forecast the market place’s prices and when to supply more goods and services. These has to be clearly mentioned in the business plan so that these strategies can be used when necessary.

Pricing and Distribution

The process of pricing and distribution has to be clearly detailed in the business plan. The descriptions about all the prices must be mentioned in detail in this section. How the business can lower the prices when necessary and how t react to the fluctuating prices has to be mentioned in detail. The process of distribution of the products until it reaches the hands of the customer has to be clearly stated.

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Small Business Benefits of Training Employees

Small businesses aspiring for growth need to keep an eye on performance improvement through online business training courses. To measure up to the ever evolving business world, small businesses need new skills to facilitate workforce gains and to generally meet the competent needs of operations in tandem with its competitors.

Small business training for employees provides an additional skill and exposure to the individuals and to the business. It is more flexible and less strenuous to do an online business training course. This consequently improves your company to continue effectively. Most small businesses fail to recognise the beneficial aspects of training its employees. Among many other advantages that come with training are the following benefits:

To Effectively Improve Your Company’s Competence

Training your employees will result in a better customer service, improved business skills, and growth in productivity. This ultimately makes your business more competent and competitive in the market. It is important to always advance the skills of the employees as the business world is dynamic and overly competitive. The direct tragedy of non-trained employees is the incompetence to match up the necessities of a contemporary society. It is important to consider an online business training course if the difficulty is time or cost of doing a recommended training.

Improving Loyalty and Staff Retention

As a business, staff retention is a saving to the business and its future prospects. Employees have their own aspirations for growth and they may want to venture out to look for that satisfaction. However, if the training opportunity is available to them, they find their professional growth in the business and are likely to stay longer. It is a fact that such training will definitely add them new skills and promote their contribution to the business as well as building their self-esteem. Giving them a chance to improve their skills makes them realise that you value them enough to invest in them.

Improved Business Prospects and Profits

The ultimate objective of running a business is to maximise an opportunity to make profits. Training employees makes them more competent and qualified to promote your business in the marketplace. This will have an effect and an increased business means more profits.

Makes Your Business Competitive

Stagnating is the worst effect that can kill your business, so by ensuring that your staff are constantly advancing, you continue to grow in business and remain competitive within the industry. It is expensive and very disorienting to employ new staff. An online business course for your employees can make them more eligible for internal promotions. Unlike new employees, you will have the benefit of a complete and knowledgeable staff for your business, who are people you know and you can trust.

Exposes Business Weaknesses and Skill Gaps

Training makes the business realise what they have been doing wrong and henceforth, the business can more easily identify any skill gaps in the market and even within the existing employees. This will propel your business to work on filling the gaps which will assist the staff to fulfil their role effectively.

Conclusion

Training is therefore a valuable and profound investment for the business. For the many businesses that may not have adequate time, an online business training course would be more appropriate. The staff will have a much higher sense of job satisfaction, which will improve their motivation towards their work and the business generally.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Buying a Business and Initial Steps

Buying a business is considered as a safe haven by many entrepreneurs as it involves a lesser risk than starting a new business from scratch. Even though buying an existing business seems to have lesser hassles in many aspects, one should practice due diligence to ensure a successful landing.

It is true that business brokers can help you in completing business acquisition deals, but to make it in your best favor, you should make yourself fully knowledgeable about the process and also should gain a solid grip on the purchase to make it profitable.

Advantages of buying an existing Business

The major advantage of buying an existing business is avoiding the huge startup costs. It is not just all about the cost involved, but the time and effort to be invested in terms of start-up establishment is way too high when compared to acquisition of an existing business.

As the business concept, fundamental works, brand establishment, and customer base are already set, you can jumpstart with cash flow instantaneously on the basis of the receivables. You can also enjoy the benefits of having a solid and loyal client base.

Disadvantages of buying an existing business

Even though buying a business seems to be beneficial in many aspects, there are also some downsides to it. The cost of purchase of a profitable business can surely be much higher than the establishment cost of a business.

There may also be underlying problems associated with the business you purchase such as their debts, deterioration of assets, problems with receivables etc.

Starters’ right approach

Anytime when you are getting on to buying a business, there will be thousands of opportunities popping up. It is you who know it at best about which type of business you need to pursue and what your priorities are. Here is a right approach to narrow down your choices and land up on a perfect deal.

It is important to rightly identify your interests and area of expertise while getting on to buying a business. If you are totally blank about what type of business to invest, the best move is to eliminate those which don’t seem to be interesting to you to shorten the list.

Consider your expertise while you are planning to buy a business. You may not be able to run something which you are fully ignorant about. Such a filtering also will help you narrow down your considerations to the best acceptable businesses.

Do proper groundwork to come up with a set of conditions as location, timings, size of the business etc.. Only consider the business satisfactory meeting your demands. While considering a business, just drop those which don’t at least meet 80% of your conditions to end up with the best in hand.

You also need to quantify your investment before searching for opportunities for buying a business. Check out for reasons why the business is put on sale and take a decision accordingly.

Keeping all these in mind, you need to perform due diligence while planning to buy a business and if not confident on doing it on your own, consider the option of reliable business brokers to take it up on your behalf.

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