Category Archives: Building a team

…watching my team in a meeting…

I am sitting on the side of the room, watching my team. That’s what I do most of….I watch.

Usually I watch as someone else talks (watching while talking is not the same thing) and I learn so much. Who is comfortable, who is passionate, who is concerned. For me to keep an eye on words, tone, body language and side conversations, I know exactly when to lean back, when to step in, when to steer and when to keep silent.

I was asked this morning what my secret leadership skill is. Perhaps it is this: my geeky interest in communication, skills and strengths.

I wonder how much more I get out of my team, because I can immediately do what I just did: sent a little WhatsApp to my PM, as I watched him spending longer than expected on his iPhone 🙂

Most of the time I watch a finely tuned machine — based on respect for individual people and their strengths, interests and experience.  The way the group collaborates and communicates, often broken up by joking and laughter!

Here is how we got to that and what you could do:

  • Be clear on roles and responsibilities, and make sure everyone is appreciated for their personal skills
  • Balance the agenda to make sure you build in parts of personal development and growth
  • Self insight: not everyone is a great people leader: if you’re not, don’t beat yourself up. Find someone who is, and concentrate on what YOU are good at.

 

Are staff retention policies outdated? I say Yes.

“Let me know how you will find your next skills, and how you can continue to grow , inside or outside the company?”

I lean back to let her think, before I speak again.

I am having a development meeting with someone in my staff, and my question makes her frown involuntarily. That warms my heart, and I have to stop myself from grinning. I like when people want to stay!

I can see I need to remind her what it means to work in this generous and people focused environment, built on striving for excellence and constant improvement; I spend a lot of effort on making sure I get the communication right; encouraging people to learn from outside doesn’t always mean I want people to leave!

We are not your average company 

I get that it is not common to be encouraged to look both inside and outside for your next learning and challenge. I know it is certainly not what you usually get from a manager who thinks you’re a top performer, in a company you’ve been told you are highly appreciated. But we are not your average company, and we certainly don’t aim for average growth and development for our staff. I am an Improver, in its truest form, and that is highly visible in my relentless push for finding talent and then making it better, brighter, faster.

We are a fairly young company, and as such, each and every employee is tremendously impactful on our small and tight knit team. We are growing fast, which means there are ample opportunities to grow both in role, as well as move to a new position. We have more chances of providing new responsibilities internally than most other companies – we are lucky that way. However, in 2017, that means very little. Let me explain.

Don’t get laid off!!

It used to be great to keep a job your whole life. The goal was to never get laid off, to learn on the job and to be as experienced as possible – that was the best way to increase your salary. But all that has changed: technology and innovation drives faster much quicker than ever before, and the most effective way to raise your salary is often to switch companies every two years. It is no Ionger suspicious to having have more than 3 employers in a lifetime, and certainly the pure REASONS for working has changed with different generations. We are no longer satisfied with doing something we are capable of, we also want to do something we love. And that is exactly it:

I hire smart people. I hire people who are clever, hungry, eager and driven. And then I give them a carefully balanced mix of support and opportunity, tailored to the individuals personality. So then, the inevitable happens: they grown. And learn. And they love it.

Which is maybe why they want to stay, and don’t get me wrong, that’s awesome. But it may not be what is best, neither for them, nor for the company. Continued and accelerated growth is better, and we get that from people bringing in new thoughts and ideas, new viewpoints, new skills and experiences. If we can keep a great balance between harnessing the talent we have, combined with the new intelligence we get in, while continuing to support the learning we see, we will be a hot, magical melting pot of brilliance, where the love of growth, learning and progress brings out the very best in all of us.

In my companies staff retention policy has changed to staff returning policy. Give it a go. You might learn something new!

Employees and employers: who has the responsibility for a successful employee?

Let’s say I hired the wrong person. Is it his fault, or mine? Did I have a thorough enough process, was I good enough in deciphering the codes that make up a new personality?

Or did he fake it? Without me seeing through the charade? Should I have been able to spot the liar?

As a leader, it would be very easy to blame someone else for the lack of success of employees, but I can’t push it aside. I don’t want to. The responsibility of our success is mine – my job is to match, lead, guide, coach and steer, so that we all work together like a well-oiled machine. Nobody is great at everything, so it is a leaders role to put the pieces together in the best possible way.

 And when it goes wrong (it will. Of course it will. If you push people to grow and do new things, it won’t be all smooth. Don’t expect it to be.), it is a leader’s job to guide it forward in a smooth manner, ensuring individual and team growth, teaching, leading, coaching. Continue reading Employees and employers: who has the responsibility for a successful employee?

I’ve been on Holiday!!!!! My oh my…

Time out of the office

I am on an airplane, and next to me is a man in a suit. He just hung up the phone as we were pushing back, mid argument with what I am assuming was his partner. Apparently he works too much, isn’t focusing on the kids enough and hasn’t been with them on holiday for the last 5 years. I didn’t meant to eavesdrop, but it was hard not to hear – they were sort of agitated.

On my other side is my nine year old daughter. She is building something in Minecraft, her hair is tousled and her freckles are sparkling like stardust on her golden cheeks. She is in a grumpy mood, but I know it is just because she has absolutely loved our holiday, and doesn’t want it to be over, so I forgive her.

We have just spent a week in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and I haven’t worked a single minute. For the first time since I started company 1 (I have 3), I have taken a whole week off, and I have absolutely loved it …..once I figured it out, which took me about 24h. Turns out I forgot how to relax.

Interestingly enough, I always go on about work-life balance, and I am very good at it at home, I think. I spend a lot of time with my family, and I manage my work so that it doesn’t impact our daily lives too much. But…this whole holiday thing I have completely overlooked in the last 4 years.

So I have learnt two things this last week:
– Nothing fell apart while I was gone.
– I like holidays.

I think I will have to book another one. Who knew. (And how silly is it that I am actually slightly surprised by that?!)

(And You, Guy in suit next to me:
Hi. I am hoping you are reading this over my shoulder. (Or that youre already following my blog — then you’ll see it anyway)

I just wanted to remind you to make sure you are happy with your choices. I get that it is not always easy, and I don’t know your story. But I DO know that family and love ALWAYS comes first.
Happy to chat about it if you want to. Just ask about my vacation, and we can get started. ‘
key?)

 

Nobody* likes to feel naked in public

The professor in the back of the room is leaning back in her chair, arms crossed. She is tilting her head, eyes narrowing. I know I am in for a challenge, I can see it. The tension in the room is palpable.

I am 26 years old, and have been in the job for a couple of months. I represent a medical device company, and my customers and doctors, highly educated, are experts in their field. Decisions are made on facts, statistics and clinical data.

The professor asks me if I think the product I am talking about has better clinical trial results that the leading product on the market. 6 months ago I had never read a clinical trial. She is the lead author for over 250 publications in major journal across the world. There is only one thing to do: openly say that I don’t know.

This is a frequent occasion in my business, and rightly so. Medical device reps is on high turnover, often young, inexperienced, polished and smart, in for the career opportunities. In the good cases, there to make a difference, in the bad cases they are there to make a quick sale and move on.

Two things are imperative to do a good job in one of my companies;

Technical skills, and a humble approach to the knowledge of our customers. There is no way we can catch up with the 8 years of medical school. But we CAN be experts on one thing: our product.

I tell my team 2 things: don’t EVER try to diagnose and treat a patient. You will be asked to, and sometimes even pushed to. Stay away, and do not be flattered and dragged in, no matter how good your relationship with the doctor is. You are NOT trained and equipped to make such judgement.

Know everything there is to know about the product. Features, benefits, technical specs, clinical data, user experience, manufacturing process, origin, improvement history. Watch it being used. Listen, learn. Ask questions  of the users. My favourite one: Ask the user why she/he is using it. They will tell you better reasons than your marketing department can, with a lot more credibility. Know how it is used, in what applications. For us, anatomy is key, and I send my team on the same anatomy trainings that doctors attend. They need ton be extremely knowledgeable, so they can add value to the customer.

After all, it boils down to this: you need to earn the trust of your customer, and they will appreciate your dedicated. Few things can replace passion and dedication, no matter what field you’re in. And trust me…you can’t fake that.

And of my professor? I asked her to mentor me. We spent a couple of years with me tagging along every chance I got. Her patience and support benefits me yet to this day, and I thank her by paying it forward.

*Well, MOST people don’t like it.

 

We sit, we walk, we shout and we fika.

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We sit, we walk, we shout and we fika, all in the name of productivity.

Having spent many years in large corporate companies, massive giants with 50,000-100, 000 employees, I don’t even dare to estimate how many of my working hours were spent locked up in meetings, or my favourite part, preparing slides for meetings. Since I started my first own company, we don’t do that anymore. Ever!

So how do we make sure everyone is informed, is up to speed and delivers a stellar performance? With a few simple house rules around respect and integrity, and three key important methods:

1. We Fika – The Swedish coffee break where my employees and I (often across companies since several of the companies I own operate from the same address) have coffee and tea and eat cake. It is an informal break to the day, and it is usually spontaneous.

It doesn’t happen every day, but it is a simple way to stop and reflect on the day in a relaxed environment. It helps us talk things through and get each other’s input, it gives a relaxed place to iron out potential misunderstandings and it fosters communication, sharing, understanding and collaboration. And we get to eat cake.

2. Group brain exercises regularly. Just like any employer who promotes employee wellbeing, we encourage fitness and healthy lifestyles, but we also encourage exercising the brain. After all, that is the body part we use the most in our job. We have training sessions several times a week, and work both individually and as a group.

A great example last week was when our marketing assistant needed to work on her tone of voice to become more assertive when discussing with suppliers. We spent 20 minutes using body language, observing each other, making physical adjustments and shouting at each other to learn how the body position influences the voice. Loud shouting and then loud laughter. Good for everyone!

3. Walking meetings – going for a walk instead of sitting down to talk; These work best with only two or three people. It helps with energy levels, concentration and clarity. It is more difficult to get frustrated and angry while walking than while sitting in a chair so it can really take the edge off any challenging or sensitive topics that you may have to discuss with your team.

Lie to me. But do it with some EFFORT.

6 ways to impress me

There are a several people whom I have the utmost respect for, and then there are people who have impressed me. The difference is important. I have had the (debateable) pleasure of coming across people who have impressed me, but that I don’t respect at all. I still learned from them, and I wouldn’t want to be without the experience. Sometimes NOT learning from a situation is the best lesson of all. Here is how to impress me:

  1. Be true to who you are

Like the guy at Johnson & Johnson who didn’t give a rats about the fact that his spiky hair and colourful socks made him stand out from the rest of the ambitious crowd. Over 10 years ago, this was quite a talking point in corporate and conservative blue chip companies. He told me to never ever let work change what I liked about myself. Good advice that I wasn’t always strong enough to follow, but now something I won’t ever compromise on, and certainly never forget.

  1. Do good

If you can do good, you should. Simple as that. I don’t care in what format: give someone change for the supermarket trolley, compliment a stranger, build a children’s hospital, found a charity, give your time and knowledge. Pay it forward, and you’re my hero. Teach your children (or someone elses) the joy of giving.

  1. Work hard at what you have committed to

There are a LOT of things that will make you great at what you do, and talent is only one of them. Be on time, study your topics, be polite, be coachable, keep deadlines, look for solutions, help your colleagues. If you’re unhappy, get out.

  1. Be brave

Are you afraid? And still doing it? Then you rock. I am not saying that those who just do things without being worried about it aren’t brave – I am sure they have areas where they have to be courageous as well. I am just of the firm belief that true bravery is best proven by those who are terrified…and do it anyway. I met an inspiring woman called Marta on Thursday who told me her next meeting was to donate blood; her way of getting over her fear of needles!

5. Lie well
I can’t stand bad liars. I know this is a weird one…most people don’t being lied to, but I actually don’t mind. People lie for all sorts of reasons, and it would be arrogant of me to think that I deserve honesty that may be uncomfortable or painful for people to share. That’s fine. But I do have one request; if you’re going to lie to me, put some effort in. Half ass lies that are easy to spot, where the liar really has neither skill or finesse. See Point 3.
6. Find your element
When I see someone who is passionate, knowledgeable, engaged, excited and “in the flow”, I always need to take a deep breath. It is SO powerful to see someone who have found their place, their space in the universe. Nothing is as attractive as when you watch that magic happen, and the force coming from individuals like that is pure power. “Find something more important than you are,” philosopher Dan Dennett once said in discussing the secret of happiness, “and dedicate your life to it.” How you arrive at your true calling is an intricate and highly individual dance of discovery. See Point 4. Last time I saw someone do it was when I watched a candidate in an interview with me last week. I think I may have to hire her.
Thanks for reading.
Angela
Angela Spang at BBF UK Reception at The Compleat Angler
Angela Spang at BBF UK Reception at The Compleat Angler