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Maximising The Value Of Star Performers And Dealing With Bad Apples

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As managers, our focus is invariably on keeping the team on track, aligned with one another and the mission. But overall performance can be strongly affected by certain individuals; either by outstanding individuals or by ‘bad apples’. These outliers are key to building the dream team and reducing risk.

So, how can these two extremes be managed to maximise success while eradicating pain points?

I don’t believe there are many real ‘bad apples’ – intrinsically most people want to do well. Traction, by Gino Wickman, approaches the problem in a more useful way. There are three types of underperformers: the wrong person in the right seat; the right person in the wrong seat; and the wrong person in the wrong seat.

Wrong person, right seat

These people might look great on paper, but in practice are a cultural mismatch. To avoid this, keep an eye out for warning signs, for example, staff taking other people outside for ‘chats’ or being negative. You need to confront the individual before it escalates. Negative behaviour can be toxic – your culture risks losing credibility with the rest of the team.

To tackle it, outline behaviours in reviews, providing examples and evidence. Most people will try and overcome this, or leave of their own will if they’re really not a good fit.

Right person, wrong seat

If someone fits the business, but not the role, there are three areas that might be holding them back; self-motivation, self-management, and skills. Often people can be promoted above their capabilities because they show talent in a different role – it’s known as the Peter Principle, that people tend to get promoted to the level of their incompetence. If they have the right motivation and attitude try to up-skill them with training.

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If that doesn’t work look at other roles within the company that would suit them better.

It can be tempting to leave your star employees to their own devices. But it’s just as important to help them develop and keep them motivated.

If self-management is the issue, try putting a work-in-progress board above each team member’s desk with all the things they’re working on plus updates. They’re forced to take responsibility for their tasks, and review them regularly!

Wrong person, wrong seat

If someone is wrong for the company and the role, and that doesn’t change, you might need to let them go. In these cases, the most important thing is to do things by the book and be generous to your leaver (with notice periods and so forth), for an easier exit in the long term.

It’s not just about the legal side of things either. Being decent to leavers and keeping them onside (as far as possible) is important for your brand. Disgruntled leavers can cause untold brand damage in the worst cases. When HMV announced mass redundancies to their employees, marketing staff took out their anger publicly on HMV’s own Twitter account.

Right person, right seat…

It can be tempting to leave your star employees to their own devices. But it’s just as important to help them develop and keep them motivated. You will need to invest time to understand the different individuals. I used to manage two guys, one of whom a good ‘talking to’ would always push them to prove themselves, whereas for the other it would cause the other to panic and break down!

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Developing goals for high-achievers is important for their development. SMART goals are one option or Traction uses the idea of Rocks with three to seven goals that must be achieved within three months (for companies, teams or individuals).

Continually monitoring progress is an essential part of that goal-setting process. We use Monthly Business Reviews, one-on-ones looking at highlights and issues from last month and defining objectives for the next, and Crucials, weekly actions crucial to the business.

Finally, great staff will need rewards to keep them keen and motivated. Feedback and praise are a huge part of that, but pay, bonuses and, perhaps most importantly, promotion, should also be considered. This is especially important for junior staff – if there’s no progression available, you will get leavers.

Develop a clear promotion framework with bands of salary – once an individual is at the top of their band, progress them to another responsibility. If someone has progressed as far as they can go in the framework, how about letting them manage key areas like a new product launch, giving them real independence and responsibility?

Where some underperformers can be ‘culture terrorists’, your star performers can fulfil the opposite role, illustrating what success looks like and inspiring others in the team.

Depending on your business culture, perhaps think about creating some friendly competition, for example, have screens showing people’s achievements against their targets.

In the end it’s all about culture and values, ensuring that your culture enables success, validates achievement, but also challenges underperformance. Both underperformers and high-achievers play a vital role in realising the culture that emerges in practice – as a manager it’s your job to make sure everyone’s moving in the right direction.

Bridget is our senior editor, she likes to write about web and marketing mostly. You can reach her at bridget@bigframe.net

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Best Practices For Project Management in the Modern, Connected Era

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Regardless of the type of business, you’re running or even the industry that you’re operating in, the core goals of project management remain the same. You’re still talking about the successful development of not only the initiation of a project but also the planning, execution, regulation and even closure.

The decisions you make in the early stages of project management can easily mean the difference between success and failure in terms of everything that you’re trying to accomplish. During the beginning of a project, you’re setting goals and agreeing on critical factors like scope, time, quality and even budget. Naturally, keeping everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction is of paramount importance.

Which, of course, is a lot easier said than done.

Project management can be difficult in general – to say nothing of how hard things become when more people are suddenly working remotely than ever. But it is still possible to use these early moments in a project’s development lifecycle to set the foundation upon which everything else will be built. You just need to keep a few key things in mind while you do it.

The Art of Project Management: Breaking Things Down

By far, the most important step you can take in terms of successful project management in the modern era involves making sure that you have the right tools by your side at the beginning of the process.

The types of project tools that you embrace need to give you access to a few core features, regardless of which particular piece of software you choose. For the absolute best results, your tools should:

  • Allow your users to create and store data almost entirely in the cloud. People should be able to be just as productive in their own home as they can be in the comfort of their office at work – especially these days, for obvious reasons. Therefore, any tool that you select needs to allow them to accomplish precisely that.
  • Your tools should also give real-time reports to project managers into the status of ALL projects, regardless of how many are in progress at the same time. This is the best way to make sure that everyone is keeping up with their duties. It also gives project managers a chance to stop a small problem now before it has a chance to become a much bigger one down the road.
  • Your tools should also streamline workflows in a way that project managers can see how EVERY person on the team is performing. Not only that, but they should also provide invaluable metrics so that you can see how projects are moving along. This level of insight can help make sure that if any adjustments are needed they can be executed immediately, all so that you don’t even have to worry about missing your estimated completion date.
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The point about the cloud is particularly important in terms of creative project management software, as so many people on your team will essentially be drawing from the same resources at the same time. By embracing a tool that acts as a centralized location for all project-related tasks, files and documents, you’re doing your part to help boost productivity as much as possible. Communications and discussions become easier than ever and collaboration essentially becomes a forgone conclusion. All of this will pay dividends as your project moves farther down the line towards completion every single day.

Another key factor that you’ll want to keep in mind ultimately comes down to the type of support documentation that you’re creating along the way. For the sake of example, let’s say your current project involves getting an upcoming product ready for launch. You and your teams have worked tirelessly for months on getting this right – now, you’re just a few short weeks away from unleashing it on the entire world.

Don’t wait until the end of the project to start thinking about the types of support documentation that your users will need to get the most out of their purchase. These materials shouldn’t be an afterthought – they should be a natural part of the project management and development process from as early as possible.

All of this is to say that you should use a pie chart maker like Visme (which I founded) to create those visual “help” documents that people are going to need while you’re still going through the project, not after it is complete. This will allow you to proactively answer questions and address potential concerns while they’re all still fresh in your mind – thus leading to more accurate information that people can actually use.

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Likewise, you should be going to sites like Respona on a regular basis to research the types of topics that the people in your audience actually care about. If you do this while the project is still in the development stages, it can actually clue you in on certain features and other benefits to embrace that will further act as your value differentiator in the market at large.

Think about it like this. Let’s say you and your teamwork on your upcoming product and it’s (thankfully) totally finished. Then, you head to Respona for topic research and find out that a lot of your potential customers have the same core problem that they’re trying to solve. You could easily include a feature that helps them meet that challenge… or you could have if you’d have learned this information while you were still knee-deep in development.

If you were conducting this level of research while things were still fluid, you definitely would have been in a better position to pivot and capitalize on an opportunity instead of allowing it to pass you by.

This is why it’s important to think of these things not as an afterthought, but as a critical element of what you’re doing. You never know where inspiration is going to come from and no matter what, you need to be in a position to listen to it and adapt to it whenever possible. This is the part of project management that far too many people don’t pay enough attention to until it’s too late.

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Finally, one of the most important elements of successful project management involves keeping scope creep in check whenever you can. Every project has constraints – regardless of how many people are working with you or how large your budget is. But if your scope begins to shift in the wrong direction, things will slowly begin to fall apart before you know it. If things change too drastically, you could be dealing with budget overruns and you could easily lose buy-in from the stakeholders you’re going to need when everything is said and done.

Therefore, you must make it a priority to manage scope creep in a proactive way. Don’t think about it at the end of each month or at the end of the week. Keep it in the back of your mind every single day and don’t be afraid to confront it when necessary.

If you’re able to keep all of these things in mind during the project management process, there’s truly no limit to what you and your colleagues will be able to accomplish.

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7 Reasons Why Its Important to Have a Niche

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A niche is a focused, targetable segment of the market. You are a specialist providing a product or service that focuses on the specific needs of an identified client group, which cannot or are not being addressed in such detail by the dominant providers in your industry.

But it is important to understand that there is, in fact, a difference between your identified niche and your target market.

Your target market is a specific identifiable group of people you work with, e.g. women in the city, technology start-ups, creative agency owners, small and medium businesses in a particular revenue range.

Your niche is the service you specialise in offering to your target market.

For example, standing desks are aimed at professionals who work in front of a computer for long periods of time. This is a well-defined niche.

Here are 7 reasons why it is important to have a niche:

To avoid spreading yourself too thin

Instead of the risk of spreading yourself too thin in saying that ‘everyone’ is your potential client, niche marketing will help you to focus on a specific grouping of people, and particularly on what their needs and wants are.

You will unlikely to be able to serve everybody, so it is important to focus on what you do best and aim it at a specific group of people who will likely buy what you offer.

It is important to find out what is important to them, what blogs they read, their beliefs and attitudes, who the main influencers in that network are.

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Having these insights means that you can develop products or services specifically aimed at this group, based on your thorough knowledge and understanding of what they are interested in.

It’s easier to identify and target potential clients and partners to work with

As the pool of people that exists for a niche is smaller than its mainstream equivalent, it will be easier to identify potential clients and partners to work with, as you can be much more targeted and laser-focused with your marketing efforts.

It’s easier to become an expert and well known in your niche

Niching means it will be much easier for others to understand ‘what you do’ and ‘for whom’, which will make it easier to position you as an expert in your field. As this group is more targeted and of a smaller size, you can rapidly become well known within this group of people.

Your profile and overall visibility will increase within this group. It is a small world after all!

More and better referrals

Since it will be easier for others to understand what you do and for whom, it, in turn, becomes much easier for them to refer more and better quality clients to you that fit the profile of your ideal client, as you have built up trust, credibility, visibility, and it is very clear as to what your specialism is.

The more unique you are, the less competition you will have

There will be less competition, as you will provide the specific services or create the specific products for the specific people you are seeking to help in a specific way that meets their needs. The BIG advantage of becoming more unique is that usually it can’t be easily replicated by your competition!

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Marketing becomes much easier

Effective niche marketing should really help with your marketing, positioning and branding as you will attract the ‘right people’ much more easily and quickly. People with similar interests tend to behave and are attracted to similar things. This means that many of your clients will do all the hard work for you as they will refer you more and more because your profile, credibility and influence are readily apparent within your tribe.

More repeat business

As you are able to provide an increasingly better service or product, based on your specific client’s needs, it is likely that you will get more repeat business – people will come back for more, and as an added benefit will often start spending more with you as your relationship grows with them.

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