Posts in Manager

How to Host a Better Brainstorm

March 9th, 2016 Posted by Business Plan, Manager, Objective, Strategic Planning, Strategy 0 thoughts on “How to Host a Better Brainstorm”

business is artGroup brainstorming was a revolutionary idea when it was introduced to the corporate world around 1940.  Developed by Alex Osborn, these “think up” sessions were designed to creatively attack problems by gathering spontaneous responses from different coworkers.

There were four rules that Osborn established:

  • No criticism allowed
  • Go for a large quantity of ideas
  • Build on each other’s ideas
  • Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas

In the brainstorm, there was no such thing as a wrong answer or a stupid solution.  There were only raw and beautiful ideas.

Though Osborn’s concept spread like wildfire, it was not without its fair share of criticism.  Today, brainstorming often carries a negative connotation in modern business and creative environments.  They see it as nothing more than a waste of time.

But it doesn’t have to be.  Done correctly, there is a time and place for a collective brainstorm.  To do so, however, you have to avoid the common pitfalls.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Brainstorming

Modern brainstorming sessions fall into a number of unhelpful tropes.

Often, one or two influential/talkative attendees will dominate the conversation, sharing far more than anyone else, even cutting others off, and ultimately oversaturating the room with their perspective.  In the meantime, others may forget their ideas or deem them irrelevant to the direction the conversation has gone.

All of this leads to a problem called “groupthink”.

Groupthink is an actual psychological occurrence that happens when people seek to conform to a singular outcome, even if it’s irrational or mediocre.

Alternatively, you may have a person in the group who simply spends their time shooting down everyone else’s ideas without offering a suggestion of their own.

That’s why you need some rules and strategy.

How to Brainstorm Better: Add Some Structure

Adding structure and additional rules to a brainstorming session might seem counter-intuitive, but hear us out.  By establishing some ground rules, you can consciously avoid the pitfalls of brainstorming.

When the session starts, make sure everyone has something to write on so they can jot quick thoughts down if someone else is already talking.  If there’s a fear that one or two voices will dominate the conversation, maybe the solution is to limit the amount of ideas that can by shared per person.

If you’re afraid a lot of your team won’t say anything, make it a requirement for everyone to share an idea.  You’ll be surprised by what a person might come up with when they have to come up with something.

And for those teammates who spend all their energy shooting down others’ concepts, you could establish a rule that you can’t reject an idea unless you have an alternative suggestion.

Looking to take it a step further?  Here’s one method we suggest:

The Sticky Note Brainstorm

At the start of the session, give everyone a sticky-note pad and a pen.  Then, present the group with a problem or question and tell them they have 30-60 seconds to write down as many solutions as possible.

When the time’s up, move to your next question or problem, and keep going until you’ve exhausted all of the topics.

Once that’s done, collect all of the sticky notes and start to arrange them on the wall.  As you do, you’ll begin to see patterns emerge and applicable solutions arise.  From there, you can discuss and refine as a group, knowing that everyone has had a chance to contribute to the discussion in a pure, efficient manner.

Knowing When It’s Time to Walk Away

If you’re having a brainstorming session and it’s not going anywhere, don’t hesitate to pause or post-pone things till a later time and day.  People, even in groups, hit creative walls.  The best solution for that is to simply break, decompress and comeback later.

Brainstorming can still serve a purpose in the modern conference room.  You just need to utilize some business leadership skills like awareness and planning, and you can set your team up for success.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a modern twist on brainstorming. The yellow sticky note approach may still apply but there are also online software tools that you can use just as effectively. In his book Will It Fly?, Pat Flynn discusses mind mapping in more detail.

Whether it’s mind mapping, brainstorming, ideation or anything else, the idea is the same – to get as many ideas out on the table as possible so that you can better define whatever it is you are creating or better attack whatever issue or challenge you are facing.

How to Build the Perfect Team for Your Business

December 23rd, 2015 Posted by CEO, Delegate, Employment, Leadership, Manager, Relationships, Strategy 18 thoughts on “How to Build the Perfect Team for Your Business”

pile of plastic toy menWhile you should rely heavily on strategic planning to get ahead in the business world, if you don’t have the right team in place to implement your business strategy, you are going to go nowhere quite fast.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re starting a new business or have been in your industry for several years, hiring the right people can make a huge difference in your chances for success.

But how is this done?

Building the perfect team, like running a business, is just as much of an art as it is a science. And it’s something that a lot of people struggle with, even if they have been running a successful business for years.

This is because a lot of people don’t really understand what makes a good business team. Is it talent, creativity, or something else?

Hire Based on Your Needs

Every year, around the beginning of November, something quite amusing happens: the NFL trade deadline comes and goes.

It’s a time when most fans closely watch news outlets, looking to see who made what moves for which players. It’s also a time when you see diehard fans pulling their hair out because their favorite team’s general manager just traded away their best wide receiver for a couple of draft picks two years down the line.

But once the tears fade away, you can usually see why the trade was made.

Perhaps the receiver was struggling with an injury, or perhaps he was getting older, his contract was about to end or he was costing too much money.

Or maybe the team didn’t need him because they have several other receivers who are putting up great numbers.

The point is: the best hire is not always the best hire for you.

You have to identify what your team needs. You can’t just indiscriminately scoop up the most talented individuals in your industry. You have to focus on building a well-rounded team that can handle every situation.

Take a good hard look at your team. What type of person do you need based on your key performance indicators?

Remember, your main goal is to build a team, not a roster of talented individuals.

Hire Based on Culture

A good business culture makes a great business team.

While hiring based on qualifications is all well and good, you want to make sure to build a team that is passionate about your vision and the culture in which you want to build within your organization.

If you are looking to maintain a team-based environment where people bounce ideas off one another, you shouldn’t be looking to hire a person who prefers to work alone in the corner of the room.

The most important step in doing this is to clearly outline your business vision. If your employees don’t understand what you are trying to accomplish, they cannot help you get there.

Once everyone is one the same page as you, involve them in the hiring process. Let them sit in on interviews with potential employees and ask them for feedback on every candidate. You want to hire the most qualified candidate who also fits best with your team.

Remember, a team that is happy, works well together and is passionate about your vision is the most productive team.

Moving Forward

Once you have your team built, you want to make sure that they stay with you for the long run. Although this is another topic for another day, here are a few quick tips to keeping your team happy and productive:

  • Challenge them.
  • Reward them for their accomplishments
  • Listen to their wants and needs.
  • Give them the tools that they need to succeed.
  • Show them that you care.
  • Don’t just hire someone that can do the job today, hire someone that can change as the job changes.

While these tips can help you get started, so much goes into building and maintaining a great team that it would take an entire book to tell you everything there is to know. Thankfully, the Business is ART book is available for you to purchase (you’re welcome), and in the meantime, you can satiate your appetite for success by checking out our Freebies section of the website.

As a leader you are always on display

December 21st, 2015 Posted by Behavior, Business is ART, CEO, Engagement, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Manager, Owner, Relationships, Significance 0 thoughts on “As a leader you are always on display”
Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Portions of this post appear in the book Business is ART. The post in its entirety previously appeared at the former Business is ART Blog site on November 4, 2014. I was recently reminded of it from a post by fellow consultant and blogger Matt Monge (@MattMonge) of The MojoCompany and thought it bears repeating.

As a leader, you are on display at all times.  How you behave sets the tone for your business or organization. This goes for general behavior as well as momentary behavior.

Always be cognizant of how others are reading you; because they are.  Every second of every workday, your employees (and clients) are reading you.

One morning, after having had a significant disagreement with someone in my personal life, I let that disagreement influence my workplace behavior.

When I got to the office, instead of the usual, “Good morning.  How are you?” type of greeting to which people had become accustomed from me, I entered the break room with a scowl on my face.  I didn’t look at or engage with anyone. I simply poured a cup of coffee and hurried back to my desk.

Later, one of the most trusted members of my leadership team, and someone I am proud to still call a friend, knocked on my door and suggested that we needed to talk in private.

He closed the door and asked in a very concerned tone, “Are we going to announce layoffs?”

The question stunned me. We were growing. We were profitable. I didn’t know where this was coming from.

“No.  Why?”

“There’s a rumor going around.”

“How did THAT get started?”

“Some employees were in the break room this morning and said you wouldn’t even look them in the eyes, so, they started speculating on what was wrong.  Then they concluded you couldn’t look them in the eyes because you are going to lay some of them off.”

I started the rumor.  I did.  Not knowingly or intentionally, but, because I was not paying attention, it led employees to speculate as to what was causing my “unnatural” behavior, and they “naturally” concluded I was about to chop some heads…probably starting with anyone lounging about the break room!

The good news was, we dramatically cut back on the cost of coffee that day. The bad news was, we lost a lot of productivity due to gossip and worry.  Worse, I lost at least some degree of the faith and trust of some of my employees.

That is a very, very hard thing to win back.  Who knows how long after I tried to assure everyone that cuts were not on the horizon had they assumed I was not being honest with them?

It was probably a long time.

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