Posted tagged ‘business’

The top mistakes for business blogs

November 5, 2008

How many times have you seen it.  Some business somewhere decides it’s a good idea to write a blog (probably about their steelworks, or maybe they have a new lint remover to sell…) to generate traffic to their landing page and generally make them a squillion dollars in profit.  However, we always see the same mistakes over and over again.  They are as follows:

– Assuming we are interested in posts JUST about their products and services:  Without interesting content to draw in your audience, people will stay away.

– Spamming hundreds of links all over the blog and Twitter profile:  Viewers will jump site the second they see several links in one post.  The same goes for Twitter, but on a larger scale.  Links on Twitter must be limited, but most importantly, of interest to your readers.  If they want to see your site, they’ll look on your profile.

– Weekly updates:  If you want traffic, employ an enthusiastic English graduate to write as many interesting and thought provoking blog posts each day.  Weekly updates just don’t cut it.

– One way information stream:  You’re not providing TV adverts anymore.  Your audience needs to be engaged, conversed with, treated well, have their opinions asked and just generally made to feel like they matter.  You need to have a flow of information to and from your audience, so use Twitter, Friend Feed, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr, and any other tool to keep in touch with your readers and encourage a two way information stream.

– Formal and rigid:  Finally, it’s important that you don’t sit at your computer writing blog posts with your business hat on.  Take it off, throw it away, chill out and and have fun.  Sure, you may be representing your business, but the medium of blogging allows (nay, requires) you to take more of an informal role.  People want to be chatted with, not presented to.

Harry Enfield

Blame culture

September 3, 2008

It’s become very fashionable these days to run an anti “Blame Culture” in many businesses.  It’s fashionable an AD to spout of “lets not jump on the blame train here guys..” and refuse to listen to any reasons for any mistakes that have been made.  I’ve never understood why blame is such a faux pas in business, as it is essential to know why things go wrong.  How can you plan for the future when your AD is telling you the new marketing budget was spent on useless banner adds rather than something useful, when they keep coming back with “it’s happened now, so lets not be blame pirates and forget about it” every time you ask for an explanation?  Fear of blame is nothing new, but I’m surprised it’s still a trendy management belief after so many years.  Therefore, I’ve looked into the reasons for the anti-blame culture and reasosn for why blame can, actually, be good.

The anti “blame culture” stems from our fear of publicly ranking one person above another (even though we can privately do this with pay, promotions, etc).  It’s not fair to be better than someone else, or to proove that someone else is not as good.  This runs alongside the fashionable idea that competition is unhealthy. When I was a kid at primary school, the head teacher banned football as it incited “competition” (spitting the words out like competition was a mongrel at Crufts).   in her mind, competition would turn all of these rosy cheeked cherubs into slathering thugs. Her rose tinted views of children was grossly out of proportion with reality, as we very quickly found other ways to be competitive (because we couldn’t play football, we took to games of “stinging Nettle fighting” which involved using an armful of Nettles as weapons to hit other kids with.. and then saying that “they started it!”…).

Anyway, after years of sports days with no prizes (just “I competed at sports Day!” certificates, like turning up and losing is something to be proud of…), we all turned into a group of THE most competitive teenagers in the history of Southern Oxford.  When you take competition away from people, they will always find other ways to be competitive, and to proove that they are better.

This brings me to my point regarding the blame culture.  If you take away all blame in a business, people will work harder at pinning mistakes on other people.   For your staff to be the best, they must work hard to avoid mistakes that could cost the company.  you want staff that are always thinking about their next action, and not sitting back unconcerned as they have no chance of getting picked out for their sloppy work.

I agree that we shouldn’t parade the mistake-maker in front of the office (possibly wearing, a big purple “dunce” hat, and tarred and feathered like a chicken) but it is essential that the leader of the team knows exactly what went wrong and why, so that in future they can ensure it won’t happen again.  Looking after your staff so that they don’t live in fear is important, but flatly refusing to listen to any reasons for errors made will lead to more errors.

Leadership and England Cricket

August 8, 2008

I’m going to be looking into leadership a lot more in the future, as I believe it is one thing that covers so many fascinating aspects of business, and is a skill that can be learnt as well as intrinsically possessed naturally, as many suggest. Anyway, this is just a really quick post. Stay with me.

I’ve been watching with interest the success and failure of the England Cricket team for some years. I was talking to my brother yesterday about Micheal Vaughan’s retirement from the England Captaincy and Kevin Pietersen’s promotion. So Justin had a small bet with a good friend that KP would be England captain for the Test side within 2 years, and his friend vehemently denied his chances, stating nationality, lack of experience, lack of composure and lack of leadership as reasons to keep him out of the captains job. This really got me thinking. Vaughan was a fantastic captain, with a great strategic brain and strong leadership skills, yet he wasn’t performing with the bat. Although Vaughan was a very good captain, he was dropped because his non-captains role of batsman was letting him down. In business, if a CEO was a great leader with strong ideas and a level head, would he be fired because his sales skills weren’t that great? Now then, KP is a fantastic batsman and a talisman for English Cricket, yet has no experience for captaining a test side. Yet he was made captain? I fully agree with him leading his team, but it really makes me wonder what makes someone captain material. Is it his performance at his role BEFORE he was picked, or should it be his potential in the new role?

It just goes to show that sometimes you can be the best in your business, yet you’ll always have pressure from some flashy sub-ordinate. The grass is always greener on the other side of that fence, so it’s always a challenge to perform. Ok, onto my point: How many times have you started a job, been the golden boy for a few months and then slumped as you have become bored? It’s incredible to see the effort put in by so many people in the early months of their job, yet they ALWAYS slacken off and lose their edge. The learning behind this? Promotion, even perceived promotion, is a great way to get people performing. Even if it’s giving them another role to look after, or shifting roles between your workforce every few months, it keeps people interested and keeps them performing. After all, they are trying to impress you, so why not give them something to impress you with. And remember, the quiet ones who have lost their edge are a drain on your company, but so is training up new staff. Find those bored workers, and get them new and interesting jobs and let them SHOW you that they have the talent. After all, that’s what we all want. To look the best…

So, what’s this got to do with KP? He was given a chance, an outside shot, by England. Look where he is now.

Sorry to my American readers for all the cricket talk. I promise to write a post on Hockey or Football (American) next time. But not BBall. I hate anyone who is taller than me…

The key to business success, Part 1: Attribution

August 5, 2008

To give this blog a proper kick start, I thought I’d begin with some ideas I’ve had (both through my experience in business and from theories that I have developed whilst at University) regarding attribution. Attribution is the reasons you give, externally to your staff and your clients and intrinsically to yourself, for success and failure in business, sport and life in general. I feel attribution is the keystone to successfully learning from each experience and to building strong relationships with staff and clients. I understand that psychological theories are about as much fun as finding a severed finger at the bottom of your pint of beer, but bear with me. You might just learn something…

Ok, just for a second imagine you’re a top sports star (easy for most from my experience at the 5-aside football pitch…). To get to the top, you have to keep learning. The facts show that professional sports star become skilled “experts” at their sport after a minimum of ten years of competition. Through every situation, they are learning. Ten years is a long time to maintain your thirst for knowledge, but they do. Every strategy, every play, every dropped pass, every kick in the teeth or black eye, the sportsman are learning. However, it’s not just about remembering that it’s a bad idea to wink at second row forwards (or linebackers for our American readers) after you stood on their crown jewels in a ruck (hence the kick in the teeth. Rugby’s a tough sport, and has always dealt heavy doses of karma to guys like me..), it’s about giving yourself psychologically correct reasons for your actions and the success and failure of the outcome. For example, if a footballer loses in a one on one sprint, he doesn’t say to himself “damn, I’m so slow”. That is negative reinforcement, and next time he’ll end up pulling out of the foot race early as he already knows he’ll lose. What he should say is “right, I need to put a bit more time in on the running track. I can beat this guy, lets just figure out how.” It’s all about giving yourself a reason to do better next time, rather than a reason for failing.

Lets translate this into a business sense. When talking to your staff, do you ever tell them “you’re not very good at this…” or “that campaign failed because we haven’t got the web knowledge” etc? Do you ever think “no way can I get that client, I haven’t got the confidence” or “they are just plain better than us!”. The problem here, is you are admitting there’s is a problem (which is essential to do, better than covering things up) but you aren’t giving yourself room to improve. If the reasons for failure are out of your control, your staff’s heads will drop and they won’t try to improve. After all, there’s nothing they can do! You’ve already said that things are unchangeable, and you’re the boss. If you say we can’t get better, then why try? However, if you say “we missed out here because we didn’t react quickly enough” or “Ok we are a little small, so lets be more flexible next time” you are providing positive reactions to negative situations. If your staff think that there is a way forward, they will follow that path. Like sheep. Only with more urgency. And less wool…

So, in summary, always attribute success and failures to reasons that are in your control. If you can control them, you can improve them for next time.