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Decision Making Teams

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

During my executive coaching sessions, I am frequently asked by my clients how to improve the decision making process amongst their teams.  So let’s focus on how teams make the most optimum decisions in business situations.

There are three areas that need to be considered when getting a team together to solve a problem, create a new product, market or business model, or think strategically on where they are going. These are:

1.    Size of the group or team

2.    Make-up of the team

3.    Focus and clarity of the teams objectives (content)


Let’s start with the easiest one first, the size of the group. Seven people is the optimal size of a decision making group. Research has shown that each additional member reduces effectiveness by 10%. This suggests that groups of 17 or more are lucky if they make any decisions at all.

Team Participants

This can be analyzed from three perspectives inside of the make up of the team. The first is the functional areas, skills and knowledge around the table. Do you have the right people with the right expertise to make this decision? What is the caliber of our team?

Second is the level, titles or power of the people around the table. Of course this will depend on what the decision needs to be made or what goal need to be accomplished, but it is important that the individuals selected fit the need such as strategic, tactical, leaders, managers, workers or executives with power to make the decisions. They are selected to create a “high performing team” with the authority to make decisions or given the opportunity by management to implement recommendations.

Third is the social style of the team members. As previously described in early blog posts, we all have a dominate social style of either driver, analytical, expressive or amiable. Each of these styles look at a problem or situation through a different lens, and each take different approaches to solve a given situation. This is exactly why “high performing teams” have people on the team with each style. If you need to a decision made about a new market, product or strategy; you will want people from each style around the table. If you get mostly one style chances are it will be a wrong or not the optimum decision.

Focus and Clarity

A determining factor in team decision resides in the strength of its leader. Leadership is about clarity, focus and asking the right questions. The team making a decision needs to know many aspects (or inputs) into the decision:

-         What decision are we trying to make?

-         Why do we need this decision?

-         What time constraints do we have?

-         What parameters must we follow (possibly budget or money)?

-         Will this decision be aligned with company goals?

-         What resource constraints do we have?

The leader will be the individual who keeps everyone focused on answering these questions and making sure that the discussions remain on track and solve the problem at hand.

These are some considerations for teams to make the best decisions. A well balanced, high performing team can solve just about any issue when it has the right mix of social styles, is sized appropriately and asks the right questions before starting to make decisions.

Posted By: Michael  Ker @ 9:08:25 AM


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How to Manage / Lead Millennials

Monday, January 03, 2011

·         Provide structure. Reports have monthly due dates. Jobs have fairly regular hours. Certain activities are scheduled every day. Meetings have agendas and minutes. Goals are clearly stated and progress is assessed. Define assignments and success factors.

·         Provide leadership and guidance. Millennials want to look up to you, learn from you, and receive daily feedback from you. They want “in” on the whole picture and to know the scoop. Plan to spend a lot of time teaching and coaching and be aware of this commitment to millennials when you hire them.

·         Encourage the millennial's self-assuredness, "can-do" attitude, and positive personal self-image. Millennials are ready to take on the world. Their parents told them they can do it - they can. Encourage - don't squash them or contain them.

·         Take advantage of the millennial's comfort level with teams. Encourage them to join. They are used to working in groups and teams. In contrast to the lone ranger attitude of earlier generations, millennials actually believe a team can accomplish more and better - they've experienced team success. Not just related to age, watch who joins the volleyball match at the company picnic. Millennials gather in groups and play on teams; you can also mentor, coach, and train your millennials as a team.

·         Listen to the millennial employee. Your millennial employees are used to loving parents who have scheduled their lives around the activities and events of their children. These young adults have ideas and opinions, and don't take kindly to having their thoughts ignored. After all, they had the best listening, most child-centric audience (parents) in history.

·         Millennial employees are up for a challenge and change. Boring is bad. They seek ever-changing tasks within their work. What’s happening next is their mantra. Don’t bore them, ignore them, or trivialize their contribution.

·         Millennial employees are multi-taskers. Multiple tasks don’t phase them. Talk on the phone while doing email and answering multiple instant messages – yes! This is a way of life. In fact, without many different tasks and goals to pursue within the week, the millennials will likely experience boredom. Be careful of them being “a mile wide and an inch deep”.

·         Take advantage of your millennial employee’s computer, cell phone, and electronic literacy Are you a Boomer or even an early Gen-Xer? The electronic capabilities of these employees are amazing. You have a salesman in China? How’s the trip going? Old timers call and leave a message in his hotel room. Or, you can have your millennial text message him in his meeting for an immediate response. The world is wide, if not yet deep, for your millennial employees.

·         Capitalize on the millennial’s affinity for networking. Not just comfortable with teams and group activities, your millennial employee likes to network around the world electronically. Keep this in mind because they are able to post their resume electronically as well on Web job boards viewed by millions of employers. Sought after employees, they are loyal, but they keep their options open – always.

·         Provide a life-work balanced workplace. Your millennial employees are used to cramming their lives with multiple activities. They may play on sports teams, walk for multiple causes, spend time as fans at company sports leagues, and spend lots of time with family and friends. They work hard, but they are not into the sixty hour work weeks defined by the Baby Boomers. Home, family, spending time with the children and families, are priorities. Don’t lose sight of this. Balance and multiple activities are important to these millennial employees. Ignore this to your peril.

·         Provide a fun, employee-centered workplace. Millennials want to enjoy their work. They want to enjoy their workplace. They want to make friends in their workplace. Worry if your millennial employees aren’t laughing, going out with workplace friends for lunch, and helping plan the next company event or committee. Help your long-term employees make room for the millennials.

·         Make things crystal clear. Millennials are used to following directions (think gaming here). Clarity on all processes, especially how they will move up in the company, is essential. Communicating clearly from the beginning can save enormous amounts of time and energy. For example, if you want your new sales person to send out thank-you notes to their customers after a visit, be sure you tell them that is your expectation and why it’s important. What may seem glaringly obvious to you isn’t always so with this group.

·         Focus on what they are good at. This group is energetic, bright, and fearless, and multi-task better than anyone. They are technologically savvy and are used to a 24/7 environment. Instead of complaining about the ways in which this group differs from past generations, use their strengths to your advantage.

·         When delivering negative feedback, start with something positive. Overlooking this step can do a lot of damage to a relationship. This generation has grown up being told they can do and be anything, and be the best at whatever they choose. Here is an example of opening a difficult conversation: “Jennifer, your numbers were up in the first quarter, and you did a great job closing three major accounts, but your sales figures for Q2 and Q3 are not acceptable. Let’s talk about what’s going on and how I can help you succeed."

There are over 80 million millennials preparing to join or joining the workforce. These are desirable employees. Make your millennial employees happy in a fun, yet structured setting, and you are building the foundation for the superior workforce you desire. You are developing the workforce of your future.

In order for this group to be accepted and integrated into existing corporate structures we will have to be aware of some of the leadership tips above and they will have to compromise on some of their ideals.

Thanks to Susan Heathfield at About.com for her contributions here.

Posted By: Michael  Ker @ 11:03:52 AM


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Millennial's: Who Are This New Generation

Thursday, December 09, 2010

With over 90 million millennial’s (born between 1980 – 2000) joining the workforce; understanding how to manage this population is a growing niche and focus as they work and act differently than their older peers.  I recently attended a presentation by Julie LaCroix on this topic and want to share some of her insights.

In order to understand how to manage millennial’s; it is important to understand how and why they are different.  Millennials have been raised by a generation of parents who tried to give their kids what they needed and asked for. This upbringing reinforced the “ask for it and you will get it” attitude. Video game playing taught this group to “breakthrough” each level to get to the top of a game. This is why in business they ask for promotions, raises and managerial responsibility before they are ready or have earned it. This is where some the sense of entitlement comes from. This generation of workers received an award just for participation in a sporting event or other activity and this consistent reinforcement that “showing up” equals “success” proves to be a challenge for many managers.

The first challenge comes in the form of communication.  With Facebook, text messaging and IM’ing as the preferred platforms of choice, their communication is short, real time and not face to face dialogue.  Real communication using people skills, collaboration, listening skills, reading micro expressions, body language, neuro-linguistic programming  and conflict resolution skills are poor and will need a great deal of development on the part of the leadership team.

The second challenge will be resetting the perceptions of this generation to appreciate and develop their capabilities to their fullest potential.  This group is good at multi-tasking but is a mile wide and an inch deep on a number of topics.





Workplace Actions


Technology natives

Give them tools to be efficient


Want to work with you, not for you

Provide opportunities to learn


Need feedback

Frequent reviews

Excessive guidance

Lack autonomy

Create work teams/pairs

Lack work ethic

Seeks balance

Lattice/zig zag careers

Job hoppers


Align work with motivations

Informal, non traditional

Seeks fun

Flexible, mobile jobs



Provide to do lists & priorities

                                                                                                                                                By Julie LaCroix

Millennials also want to be entrepreneurial and do their own thing. They typically don’t want to work for a boss.  They think they should work with their boss as an equal. Like the hippies in the 1960’s, this new generation of workers may seem unrealistic and idealistic, but I think in select industries there may have to be some compromise on both sides for this to work. This generation of young workers wants their own hours (some are morning people, most are night people), bring their dogs to work, play their iPod all day while working, and dress very casually.

A third challenge with this group is their outside team of advisors.  Millennials were raised by “helicopter parents” who stay involved with their kids in their 20’s and request to be part of job interviews, salary reviews, and job offers discussions. These parents “hover” and stay as an active parent in millennial’s lives and add a twist to managing goals and objectives.  This advisement team is close at hand as many of the Millennial’s also known as the “boomerang generation” have returned home after leaving the nest for college.

In the next blog post we will address how to manage or lead millennials.

Posted By: Michael  Ker @ 7:33:09 AM


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How Do Investors Determine Your Valuation

Monday, November 29, 2010

This is discussion I have with a number of clients as they considered the various ways to raise funding for their company.  These clients take the various forms like the seasoned executive who is leaving corporate America and wants to start his own business and is not sure which way to fund a new start up, to the young entrepreneur who has been in business for a couple of years and is ready to start out on their own.  In either situation, understanding the different kinds of investors and valuation models is important to evaluate for your particular situation and considerations for level of autonomy and loss of control.

Let’s start with the types of investors:

Friends & Family – is typically your first round of money and it is quite literally passing the hat to get your friends & family to throw some money into the new venture. This investing is the accumulation of smaller amounts between $5,000 to $20,000.   From a personal perspective, this kind of funding can be risky if the investment does not meet the expectations of both parties and can be damaging to long standing relationships. It is very important to clearly define goals, objectives and milestones to set those expectations appropriately. 

Angel Investors – are usually high net worth individuals that will invest in amounts from $25,000 to $ 2 million. They may invest alone or as part of a group of angel investors. These investors may not be well versed in your industry or technology so there will be a level of education and due diligence not necessarily required by a friends and family round and thereby lengthening the funding process.

Venture Capital – This group is viewed as the first round of professional money. They want a sizeable return (usually 10X) on their investment and want a sizeable percentage of the company. This “smart money” comes with tough terms and high expectations for their investment (such as higher percentage of ownership and ratchet provisions for non performance.

Private Equity - This group offers the most sizeable amount of investment through a variety of financing instruments such as debt, equity, warrants, etc. This group will require this highest cost for investment; including higher percentage of ownership, board seats and their own management teams.  Some PE firms specialize in turnaround opportunities where they acquire distressed organizations and bring in their own team to turn things around.

Company Valuations Using Various Methods

This list of valuation methods comes from a great mind in this area; Dave Berkus. Dave is a brilliant man who had invested in many high tech companies.

1.    Sales, Profit or EBITDA Multiple

The usual limits of a financial multiple valuation is a number is used to multiply against a top line number (revenue) or bottom line number (net income) or other variations EBITDA (earnings before interest taxes depreciation and amortization). This can be viewed using trailing (last 12 months), actual (fiscal year projections) or forecast (next 12 months or fiscal year).

2.    Price Earnings Ratio

This is most often used for public companies. The P/E ratio is equal to a stocks market capitalization divided by its Net Income over a 12-month (4 Quarters) period, called Trailing Period.

3.    Free Cash Flow Model

This method is used to value private companies with a range of five to eight times the cash available to spend after operating expenses are paid. Free cash flow is important when the buyer intends to finance the purchase using the revenue from the purchased company itself.

4.    Book Value Method

This is the basic net worth of the company on the balance sheet. It is not relevant for early stage companies, since the value of intellectual capital and future growth are discounted entirely using this method.

5.    Liquidation / Salvage Value

This value is only used as a minimum floor below which no offer should ever fall. It represents the value from a distressed sale.

6.    Replacement Value

Good for young companies where the investment in technology has been heavy and the life span of the technology is long. Value goes up when there is a high barrier to entry. Usually an appraiser is required to determine value and this is expensive.

7.    Similar Company Transaction

This logical way to determine valuation looks at what other people pay for like companies. This is often done with public companies; unfortunately using public company for comparison greatly overstates the value of private companies.


8.    Internal Rate of Return Method

IRR is a classic financial methodology where projected profits are discounted back to the current period. The problem with early stage companies is that most don’t have stable enough history to rely upon the numbers.


9.    Comparable Public Company Valuations Method

Compare your business to similar companies that are on the public market. Usually, an investor making such a comparison will deduct about 20% of the value for the intrinsic value of being a public company.

Valuing private or early stage businesses is also a function of what type of money you are bringing in. Is it “smart money” or “dumb money”? The difference being smart money comes with investors that can add value and help scale and grow your business. Dumb money is just money, nothing else.

Liquidity (Merger & Acquisition) valuations also have huge ranges depending on the buyer and are they a “strategic buyer” or a “financial buyer”.

The strategic buyer will pay a larger premium for your business because they see a strategic need for your product or service.

The type of investor you will choose is usually a phased approach and depends upon which stage of evolution your company is in.  The valuation method used will depend upon whether you are public or private, the stage of your company’s growth and comparables in the market.  Comparables being the other companies in your industry or similar growth stage.

Posted By: Michael  Ker @ 8:52:38 AM


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Monday, November 01, 2010

These five dysfunctions are outlined in Patrick Lencione’s book of the same name. Building a high performing team is tough to do and a vast majority of management teams struggle with their dysfunction and never get to being a great cohesive team.

Absence of Trust
Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without trust teamwork is impossible. Vulnerability based trust cannot be achieved overnight. It requires shared experiences over time, multiple instances of follow-through and credibility.

The role of the leader is to demonstrate vulnerability first. This requires the leader to risk losing face in front of his team so that subordinates will take the same risk themselves.

Fear of Conflict
All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. Teams that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. People avoid conflict in the name of efficiency, but healthy conflict is actually a time saver. Teams that avoid conflict actually doom themselves to revisiting issues again and again without resolution.

The role of the leader is to demonstrate restraint when their people engage in conflict, and allow resolution to occur naturally. Teams have to learn conflict resolution skills.

Lack of Commitment
In the context of a team, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. Great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team.

The two greatest causes of lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty.

The role of the leader is to be comfortable making a decision without complete information, and which ultimately turns out to be wrong. The leader must also be pushing the group for closure around issues.

Avoidance of Accountability
Accountability refers to the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team. Members of great teams improve their relationships by holding one another accountable, thus demonstrating that they respect each other and have high expectations for one another’s performance.

The most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards of performance on a team is peer pressure.

The role of the leader who wants to instill accountability on a team is to encourage and allow the team to serve as the first and primary accountability mechanism.

Inattention to Results
The ultimate dysfunction of a team is for members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance. No amount of trust, conflict, commitment or accountability can compensate for a lack of desire to win.

The role of the leader is to set the tone for a focus on results. If team members sense that the leader values anything other than results, they will take that as permission to do the same for themselves.

Posted By: Michael  Ker @ 8:13:18 PM


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Collaboration is Business

Monday, June 15, 2009

One of my favorites subjects is collaboration. I was recently in Hawaii and watched the outrigger canoe paddlers each morning in front my condo. Most boats had six or eight paddlers with a person in the back calling the stroke rhythms. What is interesting in outrigger racing is it's not the strongest paddlers that win but the team that is completely in synch paddling. If one person is out of synch, the effort is lost. Think of the CEO as the caller in back keeping everyone (company or management team) in synch.

Another analogy is how a Canadian geese flock always flies in a V pattern. It is interesting to watch the geese as they "slip stream" or draft off each other, much like in bicycle racing, car racing or even swimming. The goose at the head of the V is always changing, they take turns pulling the flock. In the geese world the V formation allows them to be 15% more efficient. Meaning that as a collaborating team they can travel farther and faster, than on their own or not working together.

Collaboration in business is a cornerstone of a high performing team. Along with communication, purpose, measureable goals, and different perspectives (such as the different social styles of driver, analytical, amiable and expressive). Collaboration and communication go hand in hand. Just look at the proliferation of collaboration software tools and social networks in the last five years. Consider how sites like facebook, myspace, and linked-in allow people to connect and exchange ideas and information. Collaborating in business on a global basis is the key premise made by Thomas Friedman in his great book "The World is Flat".

One lesson I have learned in business (and life) is the better you are at collaborating with people, the better your business career and the better your life will be. I guess you could say collaboration is the measure of a person in business.

Posted By: Michael  Ker @ 10:58:18 AM


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Achieving A Life Balance Is Tough

Monday, June 15, 2009

As a CEO or senior executive, achieving a life balance can be a tricky thing. We all say we want it, but few of us actually give up the work reins to support our desires. I think there a few things that influence this dilemma:
 Ego
 Insecurity
 The sense of responsibility we have as leaders of our organizations

Being a CEO can be a lonely job. We have to motivate ourselves (as well as others) and rarely do we have anyone saying “good job” or providing feedback (other than at a quarterly board meeting). Our board feedback is usually while “looking back through the rear view mirror” rather than “looking forward through the windshield”. Our egos rarely get stroked. We have to keep ourselves moving forward and on pace with very little encouragement from anyone else.

The insecurity comes from the knowledge that the average tenure of a CEO in a company is under three years. One false move and it’s on to the next CEO. The days of long tenured C-level positions are over. It’s perform or perish. That kind of pressure will definitely keep you in the office. Lastly, the sense of responsibility we place upon ourselves can be incredible; we believe we can’t let our people down, we feel responsible for their jobs, their careers, and their families, as well as our own.

Achieving a life balance is tough but necessary in today’s world. Our business careers are like a marathon, not a sprint, and we need to keep our engines (mind, body, soul) in top running order. Life balance is about harmonizing four areas of ones life:
 Work
 Personal
 Spiritual
 Community / Charity

The work side of life balance shouldn’t be an all or nothing proposition, it must be a happy medium. As CEOs, we want to create a culture in our companies that encourages life balance. This means that we can only get involved in three areas of ones life; the spiritual or religious side is a individual, personal journey and has no place at work. To me, the personal or family side of life balance is about being at my child’s recital or sports practice. It means taking a family vacation each year and another trip with just my significant other. We need to continue to invest in our marriages / relationships as well as investing in our children. We need to be the role models for life balance for our employees and encourage them to keep their schedules in perspective as well.

The final area of one’s life is charity or community involvement. Every company needs to be a good corporate citizen by being active in community or charity functions. This area is less about writing checks to charities as it is about getting involved, such as giving employees two days of paid time off to build homes for Habitat For Humanity, or sponsor Special Olympic athletes and rent a bus for your employees to go cheer them on.

What are your thoughts on life balance?

Posted By: Michael  Ker @ 10:56:16 AM


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Fuel For The Brain

Monday, June 15, 2009

A number of business books have come out over the past ten to fifteen years that have guided me in a number of different areas. I love to read about leadership; personal, self-improvement or spiritual growth, and lastly general business books I will not touch on the first two groups of books in this post, but will instead focus on what I believe are some of the best business books and where I have learned the most valuable lessons.

The first book (in chronological order of release) is Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. This was the first marketing book that pointed out that the old ways of marketing high technology products no longer work. Geoffrey proposed a “New Technology Adoption Life Cycle”, which explained why most high tech products fail to become mainstream; Moore asserts that they fall into the “chasm” defined as being between the early adopters and the majority market; he calls it “the pragmatic herd”. This book is a step by step guide on how to get technology products past the early adopters (risk takers) and into the pragmatic majority.

The second recommendation is The Discipline of Market Leaders by Treacy & Wiersema. This was eye opening for me as it’s thesis is that key for successful organizations (the “market leaders”) to excel in delivering a particular kind of value to their customers is focus. The authors speculate that market leaders choose a single “value discipline” such as best total cost, best product or best solution, and then build their organizations around it. This great book offers understanding and examples of the three disciplines that a company must select from and follow in order to be successful. First, is the discipline of Operational Excellence, second is the discipline of Product Leadership, and third is the discipline of Customer Intimacy.

Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson is my next suggestion. It is an amazing parable of four characters that live in a “maze” and look for “cheese” to nourish themselves and make them happy. Cheese is a metaphor for what you want in life and the maze represents where you look for what you want. The book is primarily about change: how we can embrace change and enjoy less stress. It shows us that in many cases, change can be good, and can lead to a better life, love, career, money.
In our businesses today, change is constant. I learned from this book not to fear change, but rather to embrace it as an opportunity.

The next great book for business is Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. This is about rapid cognition, the kind that happens in the blink of an eye. When you are confronted with a new situation or a new person, usually your first two seconds of processing yields the correct perspective. Blink is about how powerful those first two seconds can be and how to recognize them.

Another favorite is Good to Great by Jim Collins. This seminal book is about why some companies move to greatness and why most do not. It explains what Level 5 Leadership is all about, the Hedgehog Concept, and the Culture of Discipline. Level 5 Leaders build a company to survive long after they’re gone. Once gone, the level 5 leader wants their company to grow and thrive, not suffer and wallow.

The last business book I would like to suggest is The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. This is an incredible view of the world today and how it is truly without borders from a business standpoint. This isn’t just about manufacturing jobs moving to China and India, it’s about US accountants sending tax returns to India for processing and radiologists getting x-rays read at night in India and analysis sent back by morning. The flattening world is about the triple convergence: New Players (China & India), a New Playing Field (internet) and New Processes for Horizontal Collaboration (eBay, Dell, Wal-Mart).

What books have you read that you would recommend to this blog’s readers?

Posted By: Michael  Ker @ 10:53:56 AM


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Telecommuting Can Be a Win - Win

Monday, June 15, 2009

CEO’s regularly ask me about the impact of telecommuting on an organization.  Have I seen it work? What compromises are made in productivity and communication, and what is there to be gained?The traditional management view is that employees need to be seen and monitored in order to develop confidence that they are performing their responsibilities. What if you can’t see your workers anymore? How do you know they are working?  How do you measure productivity when they are not in the office? Are they more or less distracted at home?

A recent study by The Journal of Applied Psychology appears to debunk this old school mentality. A couple of professors at Pennsylvania State University reviewed 43 studies featuring 12,883 employees. Their results showed that working from home is good for business and for staff.

There were seven positive results of employees working from home:

Increased Control – Telecommuters were free to manage their time, dress as they want and layout their home office environment as they like. They skipped the commute time to an office and usually worked more hours because of this.

Increased Life Balance – Workers decide when they work and when they integrate work and family obligations. This means they were better at making work and family schedules work together. Many staff set aside a room at the home for an office to avoid disruptions.Telecommuting reduces the tension that can exist between doing one’s job and meeting family obligations.

Improved Boss – Staff Relationships – The research found that telecommuting had a positive effect on supervisor – staff relationships. This is because usually both parties make an extra effort to stay in touch when staff work from home. Telecommuting means boss and worker see each other less often, so the quality of their interactions is increased.

Reduced Stress – Not having to rush to work through commuter traffic, spend extra money on lunches and business attire, or worry about being late can reduce stress. Coupled with an improved boss relationship and less tension at home, the telecommuter is less stressed out.

Increased Job Satisfaction – Workers who have increased control over their work, who can attend to their familial obligations and experience autonomy are more satisfied and less likely to quit their jobs. Knowing that an employer trusts and appreciates the worker and is flexible and supportive of a telecommuting lifestyle is hugely positive.

Worker Retention – Staff who are ready quit their jobs often cite tensions between work and family, lack of employer flexibility and difficult supervisors as reasons they desire to leave. People stay at their jobs when they feel appreciated, respected and they are contributing to the company’s success.

Improved Productivity & Career Prospects – Contrary to many old school managers, the productivity of a work at home employee increases. Staff are less distracted, less gossip, less time wasted chatting at the coffee machine.

Telecommuting might not be the right solution for all companies. A key consideration for success according to one of my fellow CEO friends, Ray Parsons, is the stage of your company, how developed your business processes are to support a remote worker, and level of maturity and responsibility of the employees. Ray has a great point. The telecommuting employee can be at risk in a start up company because structures, processes and culture have not developed fully, leaving the employee to flounder. For a more established company with a formal infrastructure in place, the opportunity has a greater chance to succeed.

Today we have great communication and collaborative tools that really support telecommuting. These include email, instant messaging, video conferencing, CRM tools, etc. Now it does not matter where you work so long as you get your work done.  If a company is able to measure the work process and attain the results it needs to be successful, all the better!  What do you think? Any thoughts pro or con on telecommuting?

Posted By: Michael  Ker @ 10:52:45 AM


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Effective Leadership Styles

Monday, June 15, 2009

Over the next four blogs, I will discuss the four basic personality style categories that everyone falls into. I will explore and share how to take that understanding to adapt your communication and management style to match other styles to gain optimal results.

Once you understand these styles and can easily recognize the styles in others, you will be able to “flex your style” to mirror the style of the person you are dealing with. Whether people realize it or not, they respond better when the person they are speaking to is like them. They feel a connection with the other person that they might not be able to articulate but they recognize that the other person “gets them”. Understanding personality styles and changing your communication behavior to mirror someone else’s is not deceptive; rather it is a way to form a stronger bond with that person because you have taken the time to understand how they look at the world and use language and thoughts that are meaningful to them. Without this understanding, we continue to make the same mistake over and over again. We suppose everyone thinks like we do, is motivated by the same things we are and if we just keeping banging them over the head, they will change and perform.

I learned these styles when I was CEO of a software company. It dramatically changed my work relationships and the team’s productivity. When we understood what our fellow colleagues needed in order to do their job, the results were undeniably incredible. I saw such an impact on how others reacted and responded to me when I mirrored their style that I decided to bring this new way to communicating home and use it in my personal relationships with my friends and family. The results were the same. I was able to dramatically improve my relationships with my children and family because I knew what was important to them and based my conversations and expectations around how they viewed the world. It made such a noticeable difference in my family that everyone read the material I had learned at work and it continues to be the foundation for the rich relationships we experience today.

There are four basic personality styles: Driver, Analytical, Expressive, and Amiable. Statistics show that in North America, there are an equal number of people in each quadrant. And while everyone has a primary style, we all have a secondary style as well. Sometimes a person’s primary style it is very obvious, other times it might be hard to determine. It was the work of Robert and Dorothy Bolton in their “Social Style / Management Style: Developing Productive Work Relationships” that first identified these styles and began the practice of personality style based communication.

I first learned about this theory when I brought management consultant and professor Denis Shackel into our company to conduct a two day communications seminar for the executive team. We took a simple 2 page test which identified our primary style and our secondary style. It turned out I was a Driver primary and Expressive secondary.

Over the next four blogs I will discuss how to manage each style, how to motivate each style and how each style measures their own success (which might be different from how you measure their success). We will also review which functions/jobs each style excels at, and what flaws in each style impede their success. Lastly, I will review how each style reacts under stress and how you can adapt and “flex your style” to help reduce that pressure.

I hope the information in my upcoming posts will improve your company results, management team performance and personal / family relationships as much as it has helped mine. See you next week.

Posted By: Michael  Ker @ 10:51:35 AM


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