Six Steps to a Successful Workshop

At The Growth Coach, our coaches do quite a few workshops around the world. And whether they are working with C-Suite business leaders or facilitating a teamwork session, they keys to a successful workshop are the same. Assuming your materials are in place and you know the content of your presentation, here are six ways you can wow at your next workshops:

Understand Your Audience

It’s easy to figure out who, generally, you are presenting to or working with at a workshop – executives, employees at a company, a group of managers, a small business network – but taking it a level deeper can make a real difference when it comes to working through your materials.

Assuming you have access to the names of your participants and the group is small enough, do some reconnaissance ahead of time. Look up your attendees on LinkedIn, research their companies, consider your first impressions and take notes. While this additional research will certainly help with discussions, it will help you build trust and have a warmer start to your workshop.

Set Your Goals

This one is tricky because it’s actually much more than setting your goals – it’s really about taking a step back, considering why each participant is coming to the workshop and then setting goals that are in line with what they are expecting to walk away with at the end of the day. In most cases, a workshop is more intensive than a keynote, so it’s should be more hands-on activities and learning than presentations and slideshows. Take a step back and ask yourself how your workshop is built around helping your participants meet their goals. If you’d done this presentation before, be sure to consider any feedback you’ve received previously and make adjustments if they make sense.

Create – and Stick to – an Agenda

An agenda might seem like something more relevant to a meeting, but when participants understand what to expect and can plan the day in their own minds, everyone is more likely to be on point throughout the workshop. For example, if you know you run out of coffee at 9:30am and there’s a coffee break slated at 10am, you can probably get through 30 minutes without leaving the workshop for more coffee. The same is true for email checks, bathroom breaks, lunch and even the end of the day. Setting an agenda is really about setting expectations and letting everyone know what to expect throughout the day. It also, of course, can help you keep track of time as well.

Build Trust

OK – we’ll say it – almost everyone dreads an icebreaker. But are they terrible because the activities are lame or because we don’t really want to open up to someone we don’t know? Icebreakers continue to be a go-to activity because they work. That said, we wouldn’t advise that you spend an hour of your day warming up the room and helping people get to know each other. We’d suggest that you have everyone do an official check-in, where they introduce themselves and talk about their personal goals for the workshop, and then do a quick icebreaker. By the way, if you’re going to build trust, you have to participate too!

Once the proverbial ice is broken, take some time to talk through your background, what makes you an expert, what you are hoping each participant will get out of the workshop and what’s on the agenda. Be sure to present yourself as the facilitator of the workshop, not necessary the leader.

Encourage Conversation and Documentation

Even people who hate talking in class will probably tell you that a class discussion is more helpful than a PowerPoint presentation. A workshop is supposed to be an engaging and educational activity – a 1 to 1 experience, not a 1 to many keynote. While some people might be excited to be part of discussion, as the facilitator, you might need to help encourage that conversation.

Also, whether you bring everyone a notebook, put activities onto worksheets or just give people time to take notes, it’s impossible to expect people to remember everything. Offer them the highlights either in a printed document or a follow-up email and encourage them to write down the things that might be helpful to have later.

Assess and Follow Up

Before you send your participants out the door, ask them to take a quick survey and then ask questions that will help you improve. For example, you can ask people how, on a scale of 1 to 10, they think the workshop went, but other than a batch of hopefully high numbers, you don’t have much to work with for your next presentation. Ask for things like, “What was your favorite part and why?” “What do you think you’ll use the most and why?” or “How could I improve for the next workshop?” It might be difficult to accept negative feedback, but it’s vital to make note of what you could be doing differently.

A few days after the workshop, if you have their contact information, at least email your participants to thank them for coming to your workshop and to solicit any additional feedback. If you have additional professional development opportunities – in person, online or through another avenue – or follow-up materials, this is a good time to make those connections as well.

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Being a Great Business Leader Starts with Being a Solid Communicator

While not every great entrepreneur is a great communicator, communication skills certainly come in handy in the board room, the break room and everywhere in between and, if you want to be a top-notch business leader – not just the ideas person – it starts with communications.

If being a great communicator isn’t in your genes, you can learn the skills. Here are three things to keep in mind as you move forward:

Actively Listen: To be a good communicator, you have to be an active listener. Actively listening and engaging in the conversation builds trust and respect. It also will help you truly understand the person, situation or need that’s being discussed, which will help you make better decisions and avoid miscommunication. So how to do you actively listen? Set down your phone, ignore your smart watch, stop looking at the clock and focus on what the other person is saying. If you are 100 percent committed to the conversation and actively listening, it will benefit you, the person you’re talking to, their team and, in many cases, the company, especially if you’re trying to diffuse a conflict or remedy a situation.

Observe: Chance are good that you’ve read – or sent – an email that wasn’t received the way it was intended. Why? There’s no inflection or body language in an email. Observing a person’s body language and facial expressions will help you figure out how you need you package your message, the inflection you need to use, the body language and facial expressions you need to be using and more. Humans are complex creatures and a true conversation is about much more than words. To be a good communicator, you need to be able to observe.

Ask Questions: Asking questions is important both for you and the person you’re talking to. Firstly, when you ask good, quality questions, you’re showing the person you’re talking to that you are actively listening and that you truly have an interest in what is being said. Whether you’re talking through a staff conflict or listening to report at a staff meeting, asking questions is vital. Also, when you ask questions, you might find that you’re able to learn new things about what your leadership or employees are doing, what projects are in the hopper and how you can help. Great conversations with good questions often inspire innovation and progress!

These three tips are just the start of the communications journey, but they will help you connect and build stronger communication skills. If you could use additional guidance, your local Growth Coach can help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

 

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What’s Your Recipe for Business Success?

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Almost everyone has had a pizza. Most pizzas have the basics – crust, sauce, cheese and toppings – but it’s how you make those basics, the ingredients you put into them and the way you serve it to your customers that makes the difference. Some pizza is great and some pizza is terrible, but most pizza is just OK. It’s enjoyable and filling, but it’s usually not memorable.

In many ways, a business is like a pizza – you have a product or service, your business systems, your employees and your business leadership. But if all businesses start with the same nuts and bolts, what makes a business great?

First of all, you have to start with great ingredients. If you’re putting all your energy and investment into the crust, but your toppings are gross, your customers may never take a bite. Likewise, you can’t present your customers with a beautiful slice of pizza that tastes terrible. You have to have great ingredients in every element of your pizza or you’ll end up with a mediocre experience. Think about that in a business sense – if you have a great product, but your business isn’t operating smoothly, you won’t be successful.

Secondly, you have to pair the right ingredients together. You can have an amazing thin crust, but if you try to top it Chicago style, it’s going to fall apart. When you think about your business systems and you’re building your employee team and your leadership team, you have to find people who can work well together and then provide the team building and leadership training to help them be their very best. The right ingredients with the right pairing can make even a simple cheese pizza an amazing experience.

Once you have the right ingredients and the right pairings, you still have to actually cook the pizza efficiently and consistently for every customer. What systems do you have in place to help your business get those five-star reviews? Does every employee know how the pizza gets made and are enough people cross-trained to help if you get really busy? Have you documented how much of each ingredient to put on the pizza, how high to heat the oven and how long to bake each size pizza? Systems help your business operate smoothly and, in the end, can help you grow.

Finally, you have to right delivery drivers or servers for your pizzas. The best pizza chef in the world might not be the person you want handing pizzas to your new customers. It’s important to give the customers not only the best pizzas of their lives – but also the best dining experience of their lives – if you want to build a truly great pizza company.

Yes, you might have to charge more for your pizza in order to make all these things come together and, no, it won’t happen overnight, but when you think about your business as a pizza, would you eat it? Or would you send it back? Would you post a photo of your best slice on Instagram? Or let it linger in the box?

If you need help solidifying your business systems, building your team, training your leadership or setting a higher standard for your products, services or customer service, The Growth Coach can help. Find your local coach at https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Cancelling Your Trip? Don’t Cancel Your Vacation

willian-justen-de-vasconcellos-D8XCVSn5L1I-unsplashWhether your flights are cancelled, the city you were going to travel to has been hit hard with COVID-19, the economy has you worried or you’re staying home to care for your loved ones, lots of people are cancelling their vacations this summer. But just because you might be having a stay-cation in 2020 – and even if you’ve been home for months at this point – do not cancel your time off. As a business owner or entrepreneur, taking a break is more important than ever.

We know a trip to the beach doesn’t take much convincing and it’s more simple to be checked out when you’re physically gone, but it’s easy to stay logged in, accessible and even working full-time during a scheduled vacation when you’re just hanging out at home. We are here to tell you to STOP. When you are done reading this blog, put down your phone and go play with the kids. Walk away from your computer and go for a walk. Close your study door break out the fire pit tonight. You deserve it and you need it, especially this year and especially if you’re not going out of town.

There are two sides to this coin – you need a break from your business and your business needs a break from you.

First of all, you need a break from your business. When was the last time you went a full day without checking your emails? When were you able to send your non-emergency calls to voicemail without worrying? Even if you’re lounging on the couch, if you’re working, then you’re working. That means you’re not giving your brain time to re-energize and you’re not going to be your best, most creative and most innovative self, which can lead to business owner burnout.

Before you take this vacation time, whether it’s a few days or a week or longer, try making one of your trusted team members your emergency contact and then setting your out of office. While you hopefully have systems in place so your team can run your business in your absence, if you set an emergency contact, you won’t feel obligated to check any voicemails or texts from anyone other than that one person.

Then, while you are on vacation, try to actually RELAX. Your brain, your body, your creativity, your innovation and your family depend on your ability to check out.

Also, remember that your business needs a break from you too. If you are always in charge, making every decision and not trusting anyone on your team to lead in your stead, then you aren’t giving your team or your business the best opportunity to grow. You should be out in the community making connections, thinking about the next growth opportunity, building better systems and more. If you are chained to the daily operations of your business, you, your business and your team are stifled. Preparing for a vacation is a chance to build systems – and trust – that can help your business be more successful in the future.

So whether your vacation is taking you to the beach, the mountains or your backyard, keep it on your schedule and don’t waste it. You need it and your business needs it.

If you feel like your business struggles to thrive without you, your Growth Coach can help you build those systems. Find your local coach at https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Facing Your Business Challenges During a Crisis

unnamedThe economy was strong. Unemployment was at historic lows. Sales were up. It was hard to find good help because there were so few candidates. For most business owners and entrepreneurs, 2019 was a great year and there was a clear path for business growth for 2020. Then COVID-19 hit the United States and, for many, it was like someone pulled the rug out from under them. But whether your business was forced to temporarily close, you changed your operation to serve a new world or you’re an essential business trying to keep your team – and the community – healthy, one thing is true: it’s hard to plan for an uncertain future, but you have to do it, and it helps to have a coach.

Depending on what your business is facing, we think there are three main approaches to facing your challenges and planning for the future. Remember that working with a third party like a Growth Coach can help, even if it’s on the phone or through a video conference.

Business is Open and Doing Well

If you’re the owner of a business that’s deemed essential and you’re continuing to be successful, that’s awesome, but we know you’re still feeling the strain of COVID-19. In almost every case, even most essential businesses are completely changing their operations to accommodate pick-up or drive-thru services, finding ways to keep staff members safe from shoppers and keeping shoppers safe from each other. Even businesses like vehicle repair companies are closing lobbies and asking employees and customers to avoid close contact.

There are a few challenges facing these businesses – not knowing when closures could happen, worrying about employees who could get sick, having concerns about employees whose family members could be laid off, finding ways to help maintain social distancing when you can or even looking for the best ways to support your community.

The important thing for business owners and entrepreneurs in this situation is to support their teams, make adjustments as needed to keep teams healthy, take precautions when you can and build a plan for what you’ll do if your business is forced to shutter. As the COVID-19 situation changes every day – and in every state – it’s important to have plans in place to keep your business on a successful path, even if it means just staying afloat for now and finding ways to grow in the future. None of us know what tomorrow brings.

Business is Open but Struggling

Some essential businesses are open, but operations – or needed services – have changed so much that it’s difficult to know what to do next. Even owning a gas station can be troubling right now when so many Americans are staying home. If you are in this situation, there’s a two-pronged approach.

First find ways to be as successful as possible given the ever-changing COVID-19 situation. Find ways to do no-contact deliveries, try doing store pick up orders, create 6-foot barriers between your customers and your staff… every business is different, but finding ways to serve your customers as easily and safely as possible is paramount.

Secondly, look at your business operations now and moving forward. If something is working – like delivery services – is there a reason those services can’t continue when the crisis is over? If something is costing you more than it should (like over-ordering inventory), can you cut back? Do you have the systems in place to keep your business afloat if certain team members were to get sick or require self-isolation? What can you do while things are slow to revamp your business plan, put systems in place, train employees, offer professional development opportunities or find other ways to promote future growth?

While it might seem challenging to think about business growth right now, we are more than a month into state-based stay-at-home orders, so it’s time to shift from crisis mode to planning mode, especially if your business is open, but struggling.

Business is Closed

In many cases, business owners suddenly went from having successful businesses to having empty stores, stagnant inventory and no way to serve customers. While pick-up and delivery services are great for people who sell products, that doesn’t work when you own a nail salon, a daycare or another service-based company.

In this case, it’s easy to go into full-blown crisis mode. Without customers, you can’t pay rent, you can’t pay vendors, you can’t keep employees… and, especially for small businesses, that’s an emotional situation.

If your business is closed – and you’ve exhausted potential ways you could serve customers, including hosting video conferences – it’s time to start thinking about planning for your recovery and finding ways to jump-start your business when you’re able to open the doors again. Does your business plan need fully revised? Are your business systems sufficient? If you can’t bring back your team members after laying them off, do you have a plan to hire and train new employees? Does your marketing need to be adjusted? How can you engage your clients now and keep them engaged for when you’re ready to reopen?

Regardless of where on this spectrum your business lives today, the COVID-19 situation is constantly changing and it’s a good idea to plan for the uncertainties of the future. It’s also helpful to bring in a professional business coach, like your local Growth Coach, to help you navigate the changes you need to make to be successful today and into the future.

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What Did You Want to be When You Grew Up? Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

moonAstronaut. Firefighter. Doctor. Movie Star. When you’re little and the world is a wide open field in front of you, the options for what do when you grow up seem endless. You think about your passions and you naturally set the bar high. So what happens over the course of your lifetime that keeps you from pursuing those big dreams?

Sometimes we grow out of those dreams naturally when we realize how many amazing career opportunities there are out there and where our talents lie, but, too often, we’re held back by fear. Fear of the amount of education required. Fear of the risks associated with the job. Fear of the competition. If you take a step back at where the journey of life has led you, are you happy with the paths you took? Or do you regret the fears that kept you from doing something more?

At The Growth Coach, we often talk to our clients about understanding your fears, overcoming them and using them to push your business forward in smart, sustainable ways. It’s hard – fear is part of our instinct to survive – but it’s possible. Here’s a simplified, three-step guide to get started:

  1. Identify Your Fears

The first step to overcoming your fears is understanding what those fears are and where they come from. Take the time to write down all the fears keeping you from taking that next big step. Are you worried about failure? Is your fear financially driven? Are you scared that you’ll let people down? Are you afraid of change? Identifying your fears can help you face them.

  1. Face Your Fears

Once you’ve figured out what fears are holding you back, it’s time to face them. Are your fears founded in reality (and, of course, some are) or are you immediately jumping to the worst case scenarios? We’ve found that, with our clients, it helps to walk through the worst case scenarios, the best case scenarios and then come to terms with something in between. Being able to figure out what’s driving those fears and then come up with counter-points or solutions to those fears can help you ground them.

  1. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

In The Matrix, when Morpheus offers Neo the choice to take the red pill or the blue pill, he’s letting Neo decide whether to face the cold truths and reality of the new world (red pill) or stay ignorant (blue pill). Taking the red pill is hard because it means living in discomfort and finding ways to overcome challenges you might not have known you’d face. But the ability to do great things – and build great businesses – doesn’t start with the blue pill. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

So if you are thinking about starting your own business, scaling your business, trying something new with your company, taking a new leadership position at work or breaking into something new, don’t let fear hold you back. Focus on having a growth mindset, set your goals, create your plan and take action.

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Spring Cleaning Your Business

daniel-von-appen-QUHlPs4y8PQ-unsplashNo matter what kind of business you own or how successful you are, there’s one thing you can’t buy – time. If you are going to commit time to focusing on making big progress in 2020, you have to find ways to make more time for yourself. So how do you get started? With some major spring cleaning.

Declutter: The first step in spring cleaning your business is to declutter. Take a deep look at where you and you team are spending the most time. Are there things you are doing that could be simplified or cut? Where are you wasting the most time and energy? For example, if you are handling payroll and human resources yourself, could you outsource those tasks in order to spend more time focusing on business growth? Identify and remedy the clutter.

Scrub: Once you’ve figured out how to get rid of some of your clutter, it’s time to do a deep clean. Are there projects or tasks that you’ve continuously put on the backburner that you could get off your plate? Do your business systems need updated? Have you or your team taken on any unnecessary tasks that could be delegated elsewhere? It’s important to get back to the most effective baseline before you can make progress on a stronger 2020.

Organize: Now that you have a clear, clean picture of your business, it’s a good time to think about organization. How do you want your team to spend their time? What projects are at the top of your priority list? Are there equipment, software or hardware needs that could make your business more organized and efficient? Putting things “where they belong” can save your business – and your team – a lot of time.

Plan and Commit: Once you’ve spring cleaned your business, don’t sit back and let the clutter build up again. Take the bull by the horns and create a plan to keep things as decluttered, scrubbed and organized as possible. Then, schedule a meeting with yourself to plan for meeting and exceeding those big 2020 goals. If you need help creating that plan – or spring cleaning your business –your local Growth Coach can help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Business Owner: Are You Able to Unplug?

stefan-spassov-hkN2Zde2ga4-unsplashWhen was the last time you truly unplugged? Whether it turning off your phone to go to lunch with an old friend or setting a true out of office and taking a family vacation, being able to leave technology – and work – behind is an important part of being an entrepreneur. After all, you didn’t go into business to have nothing more than a really demanding job, did you?

In our world, being able to unplug actually means two things: (1) can you walk away from your email, turn off your notifications and enjoy your life outside of work and (2) can you unplug from your role as a business owner to go on a vacation, care for a loved one or take a mental break? Being able to unplug in both of those ways –at least some of the time – can protect you from business owner burnout, keep you innovative and help you build much-needed systems into your business. But in order to truly unplug, we at The Growth Coach think you need three things: the right systems, the right staff and the right mindset.

Systems

Having the right systems in place separates the strong, happy business owners from the ones who find themselves stuck deep in the business every day. You can’t be out marketing, building and innovating your business if you’re also the lead technician and the end-all solution for every challenge. You need to build systems into your business that would allow your staff to run the company without you – and then trust them to do it. Building systems will help you unplug, but it will also help you step back from the day-to-day operations of the company.

Staff

Once you have your systems in place, take the time to find, train and appreciate quality staff members. You need leaders who can be trusted with the overall well being of your company and you need team members who can follow the systems you have put into place to keep the wheels turning while you’re gone. When you are ready to help those staff members develop professionally, The Growth Coach offers team building and strategic manager coaching.

Mindset

Staying constantly connected to your business means you have the ability to maintain full control of every aspect of your business. Unfortunately, it also means you’re not learning to delegate and you’re heading toward major burnout. Your team shouldn’t have to call you to make normal, day-to-day business decisions, but that all starts with you being willing to give up some of that control, train your team and trust your staff to run the business. You can have all the systems and the best staff in the world, but if your mindset doesn’t allow you to accept that your business can live without you and that your team can handle it, you’ll never be able to unplug.

So whether you are setting down your phone to enjoy dinner with your family or jet setting to Europe, being able to unplug, both from technology and from your business, is an important part of building a strong company and a balanced life.

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Three Tips for Managing Personality Challenges

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Don’t let challenging personalities negatively impact your company’s culture.

People are all wired differently and, in many cases, that wiring makes people good at their particular jobs. So what do you do when the challenges of one of your employees starts to create rifts in the team? And how do you help those people – who are sometimes top performers – be successful without negatively impacting the other people who work for you? Here are three tips to get you started:

Stop, Look and Listen

As a business owner or a manager, it’s easy to feel like you know your team or to know you have the answers, but whether you’re caught up in the day-to-day operations of your company (time to call a Growth Coach!) or you’re out of the office helping your company grow, the world you live in as a company leader is often not the world your employees know. When your gut – or your team members – tells you something is wrong, it’s time to stop, look and listen. Is the issue with a person or something else, like an operational policy or a schedule? If the issue is a person, take the time to look at everyone involved in the issue, listen to the challenges they are facing and work to create a solution that works for all of their different personality types. Once a potential solution is in place, be sure to check back in intermittently to make sure things are still running smoothly, especially if it’s a personnel issue. Remember that your team is the face of your business!

Find the Hidden Need

Often the people who are the most challenging have needs that aren’t being met – it’s as true for kids in school as it is for members of your team. Is that difficult person not feeling challenged, or appreciated, or like they are doing their best work? Are they just not meshing with the team or are they struggling with the work? In other cases, it might be simpler – could a different piece of equipment or software help them to be successful in their individual job? Knowing you have a great employee who just needs something a little different, and then taking action to fix the issue, can help you retain talent and improve your company culture.

Don’t Feed the Beast

It’s easy for leaders to praise their top performers or to notice the people who boast about their accomplishments, but it’s important to make sure that their success isn’t built on the backs of an unappreciated team or that they aren’t the only ones being recognized. Those top performers, often because of their performance-drive personalities, can be the most challenging to work with and constant praise can make your team bitter. As a leader, it’s important for you – or at least your managers – to have a finger on the pulse of your team overall so you can give credit where credit is due and help those with difficult personalities be successful without having a negative impact on your company’s morale.

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It’s OK to Say No (and How to Do it)

SayNoBeing able to say no is tough, especially when you’re a business owner. You want to be liked, you want the sale, you want happy employees, you want return customers… but never saying no will lead to major burnout. It’s important to understand both when to say no and how to say no.

Saying yes is easy as long as you can follow through on whatever you’ve agreed to, but everyone would rather get a no up front, than get a yes that turns into a no later on. It’s tough to say no, but before you say yes, slow down and think about how saying yes will impact you and the projects you are already working on. If saying yes is going to create challenges you aren’t willing to face, then it’s time to say no.

When you say no to something, remember that you are saying no to the request, not the person. It’s not that you never want to help in the future or that you don’t want to work with that person on other projects, it’s just that you can’t help with their particular request right now. Understanding what you are actually saying no to will help you communicate it most clearly. And, once you’ve decided to say no, it’s helpful to be polite and appreciative while still being firm and confident.

Sometimes a no is a hard no – a project you won’t undertake, a business trip you can’t go on, a speech you’re not willing to do – but sometimes a no is a soft no. It’s important to know the difference. Is your no something you’re ready to stand behind or would you be willing to come around to a yes if the circumstances change?

People are pushy, especially when they want your help, and they may adjust their request to get a yes. Prepare yourself for those changes in the original request: Can you say yes if the timeline changes? Can you say yes if another project comes off your plate? Can you say yes if you have help? Having those roadblocks to a yes identified in your mind will help you negotiate if necessary. And, if your no need to be a consistent hard no, it’s important to be OK with that.

If you need help creating priorities, setting boundaries and putting systems into place, your local Growth Coach can help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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