Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What do you think? Small Business Marketing

A number of my small business clients have been spending the month focusing on creative ways to get the word out about what they have to offer. I always love looking at just how the internet is creating new opportunities to small business to get the word out at no, or low cost.

Walking my talk is very important to me, and throughout the 90 Day Biz Success Program, I too undertake a number of the assignments my clients work on.

A neat tool that I have just started exploring (and I mean just started) is Smilebox, which allows you to create a slideshow with music at no cost.

I thought that I'd try my hand at putting together some photos for my spring through fall programs up in Muskoka which I run with my colleague Sharon Miller. This year, in addition to our couples and women's retreats, we are also offering customized executive and team retreats in Muskoka. You can find more information at our Retreat2Muskoka site.

You can view my Smilebox creation here:

Click to play potentials realized
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a slideshow - it's easy!

It's a very basic slide show, and is just a quick filler for the moment but it was really neat to be able to put this together in less than 15 minutes.

What do you think? There's space for you to comment after you've viewed the slideshow, and as always, feel free to comment below.

Have a great week!

Warm regards,

Jennifer Britton, PCC, CHRP, CPT
Potentials Realized
Email: jennifer@potentialsrealized.com
Toll Free: 1-866-217-1960

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Employee Engagement in the new year

Employee engagement continues to show up as a critical issue for many managers and workplace learning professionals. You can read earlier posts I've written on the topic here.

The 2007 ASTD Employee Engagement Survey has just been released and answers some of the following questions:
  • How many workers are engaged?
  • How much does it matter to the learning function?

This study looked at link between learning and employee engagement and involved 750 respondents in an online survey. ASTD collaborated with i4cp and Dale Carnigie and Associates for the study.

You can listen to a podcast about the survey and its results here.

ASTD has also published an interesting article this month by Cris and Mel Wildermuth of The Effectiveness Group entitled the "10 Ms of Employee Engagement". I saw Cris present on this model back in June at the ASTD Conference in Atlanta -- it's a great model! I hope that the model will be able to spread more into the mainstream in coming months. Cris - if you do read this, I'd love to have you as a guest blogger or interviewee here.

For an additional mneumonic approach to Employee Engagement, check out the 10 Cs to Employee Engagement, originally published in the Ivey Business Journal.

What employee engagement issues are showing up for you right now in your organization?

Jennifer Britton, PCC, CHRP, CPT
Potentials Realized
Toll Free: 1-866-217-1960
Email: jennifer{at}potentialsrealized{dot}com

Monday, January 14, 2008

5 Tips for Effective Virtual Team Meetings

5 Tips for Effective Virtual Team Meetings
Copyright 2008 - Jennifer Britton. All Rights Reserved

Is one of your new years resolutions to ensure that your virtual team meetings are more effective? Today’s post includes 5 tips for Effective Virtual Team Meetings. Perhaps you work with in-person teams - not to worry, many of these ideas will apply to you as well.

Tip 1 – Establish Ground Rules or Ways of Working for the Group

This is an essential for any group process. Spend time at the start of your work together to develop common ground rules or ways of working to frame how you will work together. These should be written down and circulated to the group as a reminder.

Number one rule -- Don't assume! It's very dangerous to do when you are in a room together, and even more so for when you are working across time, geography and cultures!

Some examples of ways of working for a virtual team might include:
* Start and end calls on time
* Rotate call times to meet the needs of different team members in all time zones
* Respecting all team members ideas and perspectives (which does not mean agreeing with all of them, rather respecting them)
* 100% Focus on the meeting at hand (and not surfing the net, reading other materials, sending emails during the call)

What else would you include in your group’s groundrules?

Tips 2 and 3 – Be respectful of time
A major challenge, and opportunity, of holding team meetings across distance and timezones, is that participants may be calling in at different times of the work day (or even before or after work). Some team members may be gearing up for the work day, others may be winding down.

Virtual Team meeting management requires respect of time on two levels:
1. Start and End the meeting on time. If the meeting is set to 60 minutes, make sure that the meeting is 60 minutes
2. Set calls at times convenient to the group -- for example, setting a 10 am call Toronto time, would mean 7am for someone in LosAngeles, 4 pm in Germany, and midnight in Japan. Take a look at where your team members are located, and if necessary, rotate call times to make the convenience equal for all members. If a majority of members are based in a similar time zone, ensure that the call has enough leverage and substance to warrant different time zone team members calling in in their pyjamas.

Tip 4 – Have an agenda - and one that works!
A really common pitfall for most teams today is the Death by Meeting syndrome, so wonderfully captured in Patrick Lencioni's book of the same name.

Lack of an agenda or roadmap for in-person meetings can be deadly, and for virtual teams exponentially so!

Some quick tips for virtual team meeting agendas include:
* Circulate the agenda a day or two before the call (keeping in mind the impact of weekends in different time zones)
*Recap at the end of all calls: agreed action points, who will be accountable, next steps
* Time at the start of meetings for a short update from all callers
* Ensure that there is enough time for all essential items to be covered. If you find that meetings consistently go longer than 60 minutes and you just can't squeeze it all in, what about going to a 75 minute, or 90 minute format?
* Circulate the key meeting points or a recap next steps as close to the end of the meeting (within hours,not days of the meeting end). A simple template approach can be quickly used for this.

Tip 5 – Build connections outside of the meeting
Virtual Teams often start off with great gusto and energy. The lack of face to face meetings can make it difficult for some teams to sustain the inital energy over time.

Wherever possible, create opportunities for team members to build connections outside of the meeting. Whether it is holding formal face to face meetings on an annual basis (strongly recommended, and in great frequency than every year!), or creating informal virtual networking functions outside of the usual team meetings, time spent by the team outside of the formal meetings can help to support the team's development and sustained performance.

There's a lot more on building connections outside of the virtual environment, so please stay posted.

Hope that 08 has started off great for you and your teams! As always, I welcome your comments.

Warm regards

Jennifer Britton, PCC
email: jennifer{AT}potentialsrealized{com}

PS - What's your team's stretch going to be this year? What do you want to look back on in December of this year and say "Wow! We did it!". What support do you need to make that happen?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! And welcome back to the Biz Toolkit blog. I hope that you each had a wonderful holiday and got some well deserved rest. Are you ready to make 2008 great?

For those of you who like New Years predictions, I've come across some great blog posts that are already out there including:

Amit over at How to Manage Human Resources : 60 HR Predictions for 2008

Queen's University's (Canada) Predictions for 2008

What other posts have you read about New Year business predictions that you've liked? What are yours? Feel free to comment below.

Do you want to make 2008 great for your business?

If you are looking to make the new year great and you are a business owner, I hope that you will consider joining me for the 2008 Biz Success Virtual Planning Retreat. If you haven't had the chance to do your business planning for 2008, here are three chances to join me for a six hour structured business planning retreat by phone.

No need to leave your office and all your resources. Each hour we will meet for 10 -15 minutes by phone as a small group to focus in on a new area of business planning, and then we will spend the remaining part of the hour offline doing our own work on our own business. This program will be of interest to new and experienced business owners -- anyone who wants to ensure that business will be great in 2008! See my earlier post on December's programs here.

You have three sessions to choose from:

BVR-081: Saturday January 5 (10 - 4pm EST) OR
BVR - 082: Sunday January 13 (10 - 4pm EST) OR
BVR - 083: Thursday January 17 and 24 (7-10pm EST both evenings)

In addition to the retreat, each group will have a follow up call, and each particpant will receive the Biz Success Planning Manual by email. This is a resource for the retreat and for the year ahead.

Your investment - $150 US or Canadian. Space is limited for each virtual planning retreat so email me if you'd like to reserve your spot. You can also call me toll free at 1-866-217-1960. Download a registration form here.

Have a wonderful start to the year!

Warm regards,
Jennifer Britton, PCC, CHRP, CPT
Potentials Realized
Toll Free: 1-866-217-1960