Two Key Parts of Strategic Planning: SWOT and SMART

At the beginning of each year, business leaders will take time to review their achievements of the past year and plan for their growth in coming year and future.    Planning will include reviewing the company vision, mission, values, as well as setting goals and creating new projects.  Leaders will look for new products, acquisitions, services, process improvement, marketing, cost cutting, and other ways to improve the profits and placement for the company,  Human, technology, and other resources will be reviewed and future requirements considered to support meeting their new goals and strategic initiatives.  Two items hat can be very key parts of strategic planning include SWOT analysis and SMART goals.  

Knowing how to do all this requires brainstorming and mapping of ideas.   The SWOT process  (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) can help with looking at what was, what is, and what might be.  Doing a SWOT helps to align action with planing for growth and profit.  It creates an awareness of many issues and how to overcome them or build upon them.   This process may be done by the company leaders or a team they have give the task to.  Potential team members could be valued employees, technical experts, current clients, and interested stockholders.

Setting the annual strategy should be yearly process to develop SMART goals and create a plan for success.  Goals must be measured and reviewed during the year to make sure the path is still the direction that the company should be going and if it is, that the target is still achievable.  Celebration for reaching goals and recognizing those that contributed to the company;s success should also be part of the plan  

Ten Tips for Wonderful Webinars

Webinars are a great way to share knowledge or give presentations to multiple audiences at one time.  People from multiple locations can connect at the same time to hear your message without travel requirements or tie zone issues.  Consider webinars as an e-learning option for training and as a marketing tool for sales prospecting.  Below are ten tips to help you have a problem-free webinar.

10 Tips for Wonderful Webinars
  1. Select a webinar platform.  If the organization hosting the webinar does not have a webinar/virtual meeting provider, you will need to research ones that might fit your need.  Most platforms offer a free short trial period you may use to host a small webinar to get started.
  2. Alleviate technical issues.  Presenters should use a landline connection over WIFI option to prevent possible downtime. For the best voice sound, use a microphone headset rather than the mic inside your computer.  Turn off any pop-up notifications to prevent distractions during presentation.  Also be in a room where there will be no background noises or voices to interfere with the audio.  
  3. Have a technical assistant or moderator, if possible.  This allows the presenter to  concentrate on delivering content rand answering questions over clicking on the computer.  Verify with each other when the pre-webinar check-in time together will be , presentation expectations, and any post-webinar activities.
  4. Provide a short speaker bio, if you have a moderator who will be introducing the webinar.  This is especially important if there will be several speakers in a panel or webinar series.  It gives the moderator relevant data on presenter to share before introducing the current topic.
  5. Keep it short at 30-60 minutes, but no more than two hours.  People get tired of staring at a screen even if the topic is absorbing.  If your message requires more time, consider making it a multi-part series over a few weeks instead of a long session.
  6. Promote the webinar.  Webinars target to a specific group should be communicated via email to target audience.  Open webinars may be marketed via email and/or on social media.
  7. Have a photo of the presenter to include with bio and show on introductory/closing slides.  This way the audience knows what you look like.  This will allow you to skip having a presenter camera on you when you are speaking.  Presenter cameras are geared for emulating face-to-face meetings, not for presentations where speaker may be glancing down at notes or on-line ressonses.
  8. Prepare a slide show for display during the webinar that is interesting and informative.  Keep slide text as concise as possible, use appropriate statistics,  have relevant graphics often, and use animations/transitions to get attention.  In virtual presentations there is no eye-contact so you will need show more slides and spend less talking time per slide than if you awee doing a live presentation.You may want to give the audience the option of downloading a copy of the slid es to follow-along and make notes.
  9. Practice your presentation for attention-getting delivery and with your assistant for technical delivery.  With the technical practice session, include testing pauses for: audience to read statistics or graphs, taking polls, giving quizzes, and answering questions.  
  10. Consider recording the webinar so that people unable to attend the original virtual session or missed part of a series has the option of watching at a later date.  You may want to limit the amount of time the recording is available to eliminate the possibility of people seeing out-of-date information.

Making Meetings Effective and Inclusive

In other meeting posts, I have stressed the importance of pre and post meeting A's in order to have  efficient and focused meetings.  More on these A's can be found in my meeting management book.
  1. Prior to the meeting, provide a written Agenda so everyone knows what to expect.  It is also important to quickly review the agenda at the beginning of the meeting as a reminder and to make shifts in timing of items if necessary to accommodate others schedules or topic urgency due to situational changes.  
  2. After the meeting, send out an email with Actions that need to be completed with the names of the people who will do each item and when it is due for completion.  
You may also remember the meeting management podcasts on the A's and the R's from the book, which stand for Roles and Records.  Or perhaps you remember the process form the meeting wizard book, read related meeting management articles, or saw the meeting management infographic?  This time, I want to share new R's for making meetings more inclusive while keeping them effective at the same time.
  1. Respect others in the meeting by paying attention when they are talking.  Listen to their words rather instead of planning your reply or preparing your next suggestion.  Show interest with eye contact and nodding or smiling as appropriate.  
  2. Rephrase what you think you heard someone say in the meeting starting with "I think you are saying ,,," to avoid confusion.  Doing this let s the other person know they were heard and allows them to correct any misinterpretation.  It not only clarifies for the group, it can help to calm an emotional situation.
  3. Raise your hand if you have a question or concern when someone else is presenting rather than interrupting their flow.  This is a visual cue to them that they need to pause and give clarification before continuing.  If they will cover the information you seek later in the presentation, they can let the group know.  Chances are that someone else had the same concern so if you wait until presentation is done, you may miss the opportunity for valuable information.
That makes five R's for meeting management.  Another A for you to think about for meeting inclusivity is using All  words like "us" and "we" instead of "I" and "you" when appropriate.  This fosters a unifying sense of team, which is important for meeting productivity.   Now we have three A's for meeting management!

Ten New Leader Assumptions

Whether a person is hired or promoted into a leadership position, they are expected to have certain skills.  If they are experienced, they will have many of the skills and talent required of good leaders.  Those with experience will know they need continuous learning to become great leaders.

However, people who are new at leadership may fell they have to jump right in and do rather than learn.  Or they may be afraid to ask for training or mentoring as it may make them appear "not up to the job" they have been entrusted with.  Either idea is a false assumption.  Bad leaders choose not to learn, good leaders choose to gain what is need as it is need, great leaders seek to learn continually.  Below are some false new leader assumptions that can be improved with appropriate mentorship, by reading good books on the topic, or through formal training.

10 New Leader Assumptions
  1. Leaders know how to communicate with their followers.
  2. Leaders can facilitate effective meetings.
  3. Leaders know how to inspire and motivate others.
  4. Leaders have excellent time management skills.
  5. Leaders know how to solve problems and make decisions.
  6. Leaders understand vision, mission, and objectives of the organization.
  7. Leaders know how to discipline and reward their employees.
  8. Leaders are technically competent.
  9. Leaders know how to get necessary resources.
  10. Leaders have ethics and are trustworthy,

Nine Tips for Leading by Example

Managers and team leaders, who want certain qualities in their employees and teammates, must provide an example for their followers.  If examples are not provided, any rhetoric encouraging certain policies or attitudes will seem hypocritical to those observing management behaviors and company reward systems.  It is important to remember good examples can have great influence.

"Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It's about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.
- Robin Sharma

Below are 9 tips to help leaders provide an example to their followers.
  1. Respect others by showing up on-time for meetings, whether you are the meeting planner or an attendee.  Do not make them wait for you.  Managing your time and acknowledging the importance of the time of others shows a mutual respect.
  2. Listen actively by asking questions to increase understanding, engagement, and involvement.  Showing that you are listening encourages dialogue, problem solving, and mutual commitment.
  3. Delegate appropriately by giving assignments to people who have the necessary talents and knowledge.  But be aware of people who want to gain skills and pair them up on tasks with a skilled persons willing to train them.
  4. Build trust by taking joint responsibility for team failures rather than trying to assign blame.  Perhaps they did not understand your directions or assumptions were made about what was expected.  If you want them to be accountable, you must also be.
  5. Take risks in your work and what you expect from your followers.  Reward their courageousness while acknowledging that current failure may lead to improvement and better problem solving in the future. Do not be afraid of change and teach others not to be as well.
  6. Provide options for doing a job or resolving a problem rather than giving step-buy-step instructions.  Allow your team to find creative methods that solve their problems or get the job done well and quickly.
  7. Be consistent in how you communicate and appreciate.  Use company rewards liberally to acknowledge team jobs well done.  Use punishment rarely, instead acknowledge what was done wrong and what type of improvement needs to occur.
  8. Remove barriers and do not be a barrier to your employees and teams getting their work done.  Make sure your employees and teams know you are there to help them move forward and improve any situation that come up. 
  9. Work hard and let your team see you doing it.  If you are unwilling to help out when the going gets tough, how can you expect your employees to do so.
For more ideas, review the following articles:

Six C’s for Holding Others Accountable

In organizations today, everyone seems s to be having problems holding others accountable for individual job performance or group work processes.  Supervisors, managers and other leaders wonder how they can make their employees more accountable for finishing projects on-time or improving their overall job performance.  Teams wonder how they can make that certain team member more willing to take responsibility for their actions or lack thereof.  Below are six things to consider to help get others to be more accountable.

Six C’s for Holding Others Accountable:
  1. Communicate expectations in advance.  This means what the goals and deliverables (finished product, service, or assignment) are and when they should be completed (phases and milestones help make it easier to meet final deadlines).  Write these expectations down so you can track progress against what you agree to later on.
  2. Connect often to check progress and determine if additional resources or information is needed..  If you established phases and milestone deliverables early on, then both parties know when to verify if all is running smoothly or if additional help or training is necessary.
  3. Critique based on facts not feelings.  Give honest feedback, whether it is praise for a job well done or expressing a need for improvement.  Be specific about what was done right or wrong and why.  What goals were met or deadline missed?  Do not wait until the end of the project or assignment – be respectful of others by doing this as needed when connecting and coaching.
  4. Coach as needed to close gaps in understanding or knowledge to keep things moving along.  If leaders are not coaching, then their team members cannot become winners.  Accountability must go both ways, otherwise things will go nowhere and little will get done.
  5. Consequences for not meeting expectations should be explained up front and reinforced.  If not doing a job on-time and correctly will cost the company something, the person(s) being assigned the work need to know this.  They are interested in what rewards they may personal get, but they also need to know how failure will personally affect them and their job(s).
  6. Commitment will be achieved only if initial communication and continued support happens.  Clear expectations and follow-though are keys to everyone understanding their responsibilities and increasing individual/team credibility for actions. 

Over Two-Dozen Ideas for Continuous Learning

Continuous learning (aka Lifelong Learning) has been touted as a management must before the dawn of quality improvement programs.  Why has this remained key to business success when other management concepts have come and gone?  It is important to continue to grow to keep up with changes and motivate people.  Whether the changes are economical, environmental, societal, or technical - to remain successful leaders must keep up with what is going on, not just in their industry but across many areas.

Knowledge is power? No. Knowledge on its own is nothing, 
but the application of useful knowledge, now that is powerful.” -  Rob Liano

So how do you make continuous learning happen in a company or as an individual?  There are multiple method to incorporate the continuous learning concept.  These can include some or all of the below methods for increasing knowledge.  

  1. Ask questions or for help on a new or difficult task
  2. Observe how others do tasks to experience new ideas or learn different ways to do things
  3. Watch videos/DVDs on relevant subjects
  4. Listen to professional podcasts
  5. Subscribe to relevant blogs or e-newsletters
  6. Get feedback from others and work towards improving as needed
  7. Join a professional association/society and go to some of the meetings for networking
  8. Work with or as a coach or mentor - learning experiences are gained on both sides 
  9. Develop a skills matrix, create a goal plan, and track progress
  10. Read books or skill-specific magazines/journals
  11. Find relevant on-line articles, case studies, research, or white papers
  12. Complete workbook exercises, or team-building activities, or computer-based/on-line quizzes
  13. Hold leadership reading clubs or business book discussion groups
  14. Look for on-the-job training (OJT) opportunities
  15. Go to internal training classes and/or external workshops
  16. Participate in or lead seminars or webinars  - learn by sharing time with others
  17. Take part in Continuing Education Unit (CEU) courses
  18. Get a higher degree in your field or another degree in a different or related field
  19. Enroll in a certification program that increases skill-levels
  20. Benchmark/visit other companies or department within your organization
  21. Knowledge share with others via virtual meetings or a computerized database
  22. Volunteer for projects or teams that allow stretching current skills or learning new ones
  23. Check out leadership and educational programs on public television (PBS)
  24. Attend or facilitate presentations, face-to-face meetings, and Lunch N Learns - learn in a short time with others
  25. Plan quarterly, biannual or annual strategic meetings or team-building events
  26. Check into conferences, trade shows or product showcases
Continuous learning not only benefits leaders and other individuals by making them more knowledgeable, it benefits companies as well by providing better equipped and flexible employees.  Remember for one to truly learn something, an opportunity to apply and use the gained knowledge is also necessary.  So be sure that the new skills can be practiced on-the-job,  Knowledge is information, however wisdom/expertise is only gained in the application of knowledge.

See also The Business Journal article 5 Steps to Developing a Continuous-Learning Culture.

Gender Diversity: Women in the Workforce

Gender diversity usually refers to an equitable ratio of women and men in the workplace. This does not mean you must have a 50/50 split of females to males within every position within your company. You should still hire/transfer/promote the best person for the job, however you need to plan for a fair representation of both sexes in both job roles and organizational hierarchy.

Why is it important for your company to have women in the leadership positions?  A 2016 Survey by PIIE "suggest that the presence of women in corporate leadership positions may improve firm performance." Another plus for more women in leadership positions is improved problem-solving and increased idea generation that comes from the different perspectives of a more diverse workforce - gender and race.  Leadership not only happens in corporate hierarchy, but also in teams and individual performance in every department!

Leadership is not the only place this is important.  It is important to consider the possible benefits of women in all positions.  For example, your sales department will need women since your customer base most likely includes many women.  How do you know that there are more women buyers out there?  Per Statista Demographic Report, women make up more than half of the USA current population and this trend is expected to continue.

So consider gender diversity in your recruitment and hiring process, as well as transfer and promotional opportunities.  This will set your company as a preferred place to work as you not only adhere to federal laws, you demonstrate that you value diversity in all forms.

For ideas on how to create a gender divers workforce, see SHRM article 10 Tips to Fight Gender Discrimination.  For suggestions for improving hiring processes, see article Write Better Job Postings in 7 Smart Steps.