Posted by: magnussonllc | April 21, 2010

Mind Maps

Mind Mapping is a useful technique that improves the way you take notes, and supports and enhances your creative problem solving.  By using Mind Maps, you can quickly identify and understand the structure of a subject, and the way that pieces of information fit together, as well as recording the raw facts contained in normal notes.

More than this, Mind Maps encourage creative problem solving, and they hold information in a format that your mind finds easy to remember and quick to review.

Popularized by Tony Buzan, Mind Maps abandon the list format of conventional note taking. They do this in favor of a two-dimensional structure. As such, a good Mind Map shows the ‘shape’ of the subject, the relative importance of individual points, and the way in which facts relate to one another. Mind Maps are more compact than conventional notes, often taking up one side of paper. This helps you to make associations easily. And if you find out more information after you have drawn the main Mind Map, then you can easily add it in.

Mind Maps are also useful for:

  • Summarizing information.
  • Consolidating information from different research sources.
  • Thinking through complex problems.
  • Presenting information in a format that shows the overall structure of your subject.

What’s more, they are very quick to review as you can often refresh information in your mind just by glancing at one. In the same way, they can be effective mnemonics: Remembering the shape and structure of a Mind Map can give you the cues you need to remember the information within it. As such, they engage much more of your brain in the process of assimilating and connecting facts, compared with conventional notes.

  

 To make notes on a subject using a Mind Map, draw it in the following way:

  1. Write the title of the subject you’re exploring in the center of the page, and draw a circle around it. This is shown by the circle marked 1 in Figure 1, above.
  2. As you come across major subdivisions or subheadings of the topic (or important facts that relate to the subject) draw lines out from this circle. Label these lines with these subdivisions or subheadings. These are shown by the lines marked 2 in Figure 1.
  3. As you “burrow” into the subject and uncover another level of information (further subheadings, or individual facts) belonging to the subheadings above, draw these as lines linked to the subheading lines. These are shown by the lines marked 3 in Figure 1.
  4. Finally, for individual facts or ideas, draw lines out from the appropriate heading line and label them. These are shown by the lines marked 4 in Figure 1.

As you come across new information, link it in to the Mind Map appropriately.

A complete Mind Map may have main topic lines radiating in all directions from the center. Sub-topics and facts will branch off these, like branches and twigs from the trunk of a tree. You do not need to worry about the structure produced, as this will evolve as you develop your mind map.

While drawing Mind Maps by hand is appropriate in many cases, software tools improve the process by helping to you to produce presentation quality Concept Maps, which can easily be edited, distributed and redrafted.

Improving your Mind Maps

Once you understand how to make notes in the Mind Map format, you can develop your own conventions to take them further. The following suggestions may help to increase their effectiveness:

  • Use single words or simple phrases for information: Most words in normal writing are padding: They convey facts in the correct context, and in a format that is pleasant to read. In your own Mind Maps, single strong words and meaningful phrases can convey the same meaning more potently. Excess words just clutter the Mind Map.
  • Print words: Joined up or indistinct writing can be more difficult to read.
  • Use color to separate different ideas: This will help you to separate ideas where necessary. It also makes your Mind Map easier to remember. Color also helps to show the organization of the subject.
  • Use symbols and images: Where a symbol or picture means something to you, use it. Pictures can help you to remember information more effectively than words.
  • Using cross-linkages: Information in one part of the Mind Map may relate to another part. Here you can draw in lines to show the cross-linkages. This helps you to see how one part of the subject connects with another.

 

Mind Mapping is an extremely effective method of taking notes. Mind Maps show not only facts, but also the overall structure of a subject and the relative importance of individual parts of it. They help you to associate ideas and make connections that you might not otherwise make.

Posted by: magnussonllc | April 8, 2010

The 7 Deadly Sins of Questioning

Service professionals basically have two responsibilities; gather customer information and use this information to create winning customer solutions. The reason we sometimes fall short during a customer needs assessment is that there is confusion between input and output. “What” we ask and “how” we ask it are critical for discovering and developing needs. The first thing we have to do is analyze what we currently do that does not work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Non-question

About 20 % of questions that we ask a client are non-questions. Sometimes we are more focused on expressing our opinions and observations than asking questions. Observations are output and output doesn’t give us any input. It often derails the conversation.

Double-barreled question

Double-barreled questions are two questions asked at the same time. We are not asking two questions, we are replacing the first question with the second one. Doing this gives the customer the opportunity to choose the question that they find easier to answer. In most situations we actually want the first question answered but often added the second one. Because of pure excitement, a badly formulated first question, or simply lack of strategy. The problem remains, we leave it up to the customer to pick a barrel.

Overloaded Question

Think of questions like a pizza. In Italy, a country synonymous with pizzas, only a few ingredients, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and some parmesan cheese are baked on the dough. The same goes with questions. Don’t include too many details in a question. In an Overloaded Question the different ingredients compete with each other for the attention of the person answering it.

Charged Wording

Charged words can be very dangerous. You never know when they will backfire. These words sometimes lead to reactions by the client that will undermine the purpose of your discussion. When you use charged words you risk getting an emotional reaction that could radically decrease the customer’s willingness to continue the discussion.

Exaggerations

In our daily speech we use exaggerations: “I have a thousand things to do today”.These exaggerations are great for creating drama. However, when we want input from a client they don’t help. If we exaggerate too much in one direction, the client often tries to under exaggerate in the other direction. The answers we get will be non-authentic.

Closed-ended Questions

Asking open-ended questions is the way to get the client to open up and share information about their business and what’s important to them. There is no right or wrong answer – it is exposing their view. Good open-ended questions also direct and expand our client’s perspectives, getting them to think about issues they might not yet have considered. Closed-ended questions do the complete opposite. Their narrow focus implies that the service professional believes that there is only one truthful and obvious answer. Closed-ended questions in a needs analysis provides only extremely limited information.

Personal Comments

Often questions get sabotaged as soon as we include our expectations about the “right” answer. If the question doesn’t require you to include personal comments, avoid it. Questions are not a tool to tell the client what we know—they are a tool to determine the things we don’t know.

Posted by: magnussonllc | April 8, 2010

9 Block Vision Processing Model – Questioning Tool

The most important driver for change is pain. If we can define the customer’s pain points and communicate these throughout the project we are truly helping the client and will be perceived as trusted advisors who really understand their situation.

However, in most cases, there are three levels of customer needs:

  1. Latent Need
  2. Pain
  3. Customer vision of solution

It is important to realize that we are working from the customer‘s view point. When a consultant learns to distinguish between the three levels of need, the customer’s shifting concerns will become more apparent and we’ll be able to align our solutions more accurately.

There are different strategies for handling the three levels of need.

Level 1: Latent need

Most latent needs fall into two categories. Either the customer is unaware of the problem (the boiling frog syndrome) or concluded that whatever was available was too expensive, too complicated or too cumbersome. When the customer is having a latent need, one of the most successful strategies we can use is to give a reference story. In a reference story, we tell the client a story of another individual in the same industry, with an identical position facing the same situation and with our help was able to solve the problem they faced.  This is a story the client should be able to relate to. There is no risk in telling a reference story. If the client relates to the story we have helped them identify their pain or need. If they don’t relate to the story, we still looks to be the customer oriented company that we are.

Having strong reference stories and using them is a critical consulting tool in developing and finding customer needs.

Level 2: Pain

In a Level 2 need, the client recognizes a need or pain but does not know how to resolve it. Possibly the customer is unhappy with the existing situation or is uncomfortable with how things currently are. Transforming these pains into explicit needs will generate heightened customer awareness and prioritization.

One tool we can use is the 9 Block Vision Processing Model that is pictured below:

The words open, control and confirm signify the style of questions the consultant employs. Open questions invite the client to express himself freely. Control questions allow the consultant to keep control of the subject matter being discussed. Confirm questions summarize our understanding of client’s situation.

Across the top you’ll find the words: reasons, impact and capabilities. By remembering these types of questions, the consultant can comfortably and logically take the client through a diagnosis of the reasons for his pain (finding the true problem), explore the impact of the pain (understand the business and technical implications), and listen to the client’s take on a potential solution (being customer centric).

Each box consists of several questions. These questions can also work as a structure for workshops and project meetings when identifying reasons, implications or solution visualizations for clients.

Level 3: Vision of Solution

At level three the customer can see a vision of the solution. The client recognizes a need or pain, can describe need requirements, accepts responsibility for solving the problem, and can visualize the process going forward. The client is actively looking for a solution. When presenting our solution or approach we must make sure that we use the information we have learned from the client during the earlier stages. We must show that we understand the problem and that our approach can solve it. Many consultants present very technological solutions with an emphasis on the product and the features. This approach can alienate Business Decision Makers. We must present a value proposition that the client connects with. A value proposition has many purposes:

  • It defines our Unique Business Value
  • It is specific to the customer or the project
  • It creates a specific or measurable business and technical outcome
  • It sets customer expectations
  • It assures our ability to deliver
Posted by: magnussonllc | March 31, 2010

Kotter’s 8-step Change Process

Implementing change powerfully and successfully

Change is the only constant.
– Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

What was true more than two thousand years ago is just as true today. We live in a world where “business as usual” IS change. New initiatives, project-based working, technology improvements, staying ahead of the competition – these things come together to drive ongoing changes to the way we work. Whether you’re considering a small change to one or two processes, or a systemwide change to an organization, it’s common to feel uneasy and intimidated by the scale of the challenge. You know that the change needs to happen, but you don’t really know how to go about doing delivering it. Where do you start? Whom do you involve? How do you see it through to the end?

There are many theories about how to “do” change. Many originate with leadership and change management guru, John Kotter. A professor at Harvard Business School and world-renowned change expert, Kotter introduced his eight-step change process in his 1995 book, “Leading Change.” We look at his eight steps for leading change below.

Step One: Create Urgency

For change to happen, it helps if the whole company really wants it. Develop a sense of urgency around the need for change. This may help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving.

This isn’t simply a matter of showing people poor sales statistics or talking about increased competition. Open an honest and convincing dialogue about what’s happening in the marketplace and with your competition. If many people start talking about the change you propose, the urgency can build and feed on itself.

What you can do:

  • Identify potential threats, and develop scenarios showing what could happen in the future.
  • Examine opportunities that should be, or could be, exploited.
  • Start honest discussions, and give dynamic and convincing reasons to get people talking and thinking.
  • Request support from customers, outside stakeholders and industry people to strengthen your argument.

Step Two: Form a Powerful Coalition

Convince people that change is necessary. This often takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organization. Managing change isn’t enough – you have to lead it. You can find effective change leaders throughout your organization – they don’t necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy. To lead change, you need to bring together a coalition, or team, of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources, including job title, status, expertise, and political importance.

Once formed, your “change coalition” needs to work as a team, continuing to build urgency and momentum around the need for change.

What you can do:

  • Identify the true leaders in your organization.
  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these key people.
  • Work on team building within your change coalition.
  • Check your team for weak areas, and ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company.

Step Three: Create a Vision for Change

When you first start thinking about change, there will probably be many great ideas and solutions floating around. Link these concepts to an overall vision that people can grasp easily and remember. A clear vision can help everyone understand why you’re asking them to do something. When people see for themselves what you’re trying to achieve, then the directives they’re given tend to make more sense.

What you can do:

  • Determine the values that are central to the change.
  • Develop a short summary (one or two sentences) that captures what you “see” as the future of your organization.
  • Create a strategy to execute that vision.
  • Ensure that your change coalition can describe the vision in five minutes or less.
  • Practice your “vision speech” often.

Step Four: Communicate the Vision

What you do with your vision after you create it will determine your success. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the company, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do. Don’t just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. Use the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. When you keep it fresh on everyone’s minds, they’ll remember it and respond to it.

It’s also important to “walk the talk.” What you do is far more important – and believable – than what you say. Demonstrate the kind of behavior that you want from others.

What you can do:

  • Talk often about your change vision.
  • Openly and honestly address peoples’ concerns and anxieties.
  • Apply your vision to all aspects of operations – from training to performance reviews. Tie everything back to the vision.
  • Lead by example.

Step Five: Remove Obstacles

If you follow these steps and reach this point in the change process, you’ve been talking about your vision and building buy-in from all levels of the organization. Hopefully, your staff wants to get busy and achieve the benefits that you’ve been promoting. But is anyone resisting the change? And are there processes or structures that are getting in its way?

Put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.

What you can do:

  • Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.
  • Look at your organizational structure, job descriptions, and performance and compensation systems to ensure they’re in line with your vision.
  • Recognize and reward people for making change happen.
  • Identify people who are resisting the change, and help them see what’s needed.
  • Take action to quickly remove barriers (human or otherwise).

Step Six: Create Short-term Wins

Nothing motivates more than success. Give your company a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short time frame (this could be a month or a year, depending on the type of change), you’ll want to have results that your staff can see. Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress.

Create short-term targets – not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each “win” that you produce can further motivate the entire staff.

What you can do:

  • Look for sure-fire projects that you can implement without help from any strong critics of the change.
  • Don’t choose early targets that are expensive. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project.
  • Thoroughly analyze the potential pros and cons of your targets. If you don’t succeed with an early goal, it can hurt your entire change initiative.
  • Reward the people who help you meet the targets.

Step Seven: Build on the Change

Kotter argues that many change projects fail because victory is declared too early. Real change runs deep. Quick wins are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change. Launching one new product using a new system is great. But if you can launch 10 products, that means the new system is working. To reach that 10th success, you need to keep looking for improvements.

Each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right and identify what you can improve.

What you can do:

  • After every win, analyze what went right and what needs improving.
  • Set goals to continue building on the momentum you’ve achieved.
  • Keep ideas fresh by bringing in new change agents and leaders for your change coalition.

Step Eight: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organization. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your vision must show in day-to-day work. Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organization. This will help give that change a solid place in your organization’s culture.

It’s also important that your company’s leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and new leaders who are brought in. If you lose the support of these people, you might end up back where you started.

What you can do:

  • Talk about progress every chance you get. Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear.
  • Include the change ideals and values when hiring and training new staff.
  • Publicly recognize key members of your original change coalition, and make sure the rest of the staff – new and old – remembers their contributions.
  • Create plans to replace key leaders of change as they move on. This will help ensure that their legacy is not lost or forgotten
Posted by: magnussonllc | March 23, 2010

Speedreading

Speed Reading can help you to read and understand written information much more quickly. This makes it an essential skill in any environment where you have to master large volumes of information quickly, as is the norm in fast-moving professional environments. What’s more, it’s a key technique to learn if you suffer from “information overload”, because it helps you to become much more discriminating about the information that you consume. The most important trick about speed reading is to know what information you want from a document before you start reading it. If you only want an outline of the issue that the document discusses, then you can skim the document quickly and extract only the essential facts. If you need to understand the real detail of the document, then you need to read it slowly enough to gain the full understanding you need.

You will get the greatest time savings from speed reading by learning to skim excessively detailed documents, although the techniques you’ll learn will help you improve the speed of all the reading you do.

Even when you know how to ignore irrelevant detail, there are other technical improvements you can make to your reading style which will increase your reading speed.

Most people learn to read the way young children read – either letter-by-letter, or word-by-word. As an adult, this is probably not the way you read now: Just think about how your eye muscles are moving as you read this. You will probably find that you are fixing your eyes on one block of words, then moving your eyes to the next block of words, and so on. You are reading blocks of words at a time, not individual words one-by-one. You may also notice that you do not always go from one block to the next: sometimes you may move back to a previous block if you are unsure about something.

A skilled reader will read many words in each block. He or she will only dwell on each block for an instant, and will then move on. Only rarely will the reader’s eyes skip back to a previous block of words. This reduces the amount of work that the reader’s eyes have to do. It also increases the volume of information that can be assimilated in a given period of time.

A poor reader will become bogged down, spending a lot of time reading small blocks of words. He or she will skip back often, losing the flow and structure of the text, and confusing his or her overall understanding of the subject. This irregular eye movement makes reading tiring. Poor readers tend to dislike reading, and they may find it harder to concentrate, and understand written information.

Speed reading aims to improve reading skills by:

  • Increasing the number of words read in each block.
  • Reducing the length of time spent reading each block.
  • And reducing the number of times your eyes skip back to a previous sentence.

Here are 11 tips on how to improve your speed reading skills:

1. Have your eyes checked. Many people who read particularly slowly do so because they have an undiagnosed vision problem. Even if you think you have perfect vision, if you haven’t had an eye exam recently, there’s no time like the present.

2. Time your current reading speed. It is important to find out how fast you read now so that you can track your improvement through subsequent timings. Not only will timing help you to tell if you’re improving, but it will also keep you motivated. You can break out a book and a stopwatch and either time how long it takes you to read a certain number of words on a page or find out how many words you read in a given amount of time.  An easier way to time yourself is to take an online reading speed test. There are a plethora of these available: just enter “reading speed test” in your search engine. Many of these have reading comprehension tests, as well, so you can see how well you’re understanding what you’re reading.  Regardless of how you decide to time yourself, be sure to read at your normal speed during the timing, and time yourself on a few different pages – the average of your times should approximate your average reading speed.

3. Get rid of distractions. Even if you think you read better when you have music playing or when you’re in a crowded coffee house, you can probably increase your speed if you reduce distractions to a bare minimum. Try to find a solitary place to read, and turn off the TV, radio and cell phone. Even being in a room of people talking is distracting. If no solitary place is available, try using earplugs to block out any distractions around you. In order to maximize comprehension while reading quickly, you will need to focus on the material at hand as closely as possible.

4. Adjust reading speed depending on the material. Often, we must trade off comprehension for speed, so an important part of increasing reading speed is deciding how thoroughly you need to comprehend a particular piece of writing. So before you even start reading, decide how fast you intend to go. If you’re reading a newspaper article, chances are you just want to get the main ideas, and you can skim through the passages quite rapidly. If, however, you’re reading a mathematics textbook or a demanding philosophical treatise – and you need to fully understand the material – you do not want to rush.

5. Learn to separate the wheat from the chaff with pre-reading. No matter what you are reading, there is frequently a lot of “filler” that you can read quickly through or even skim over. With practice, you will be able to identify the most important parts of a book as you skim through it. When you get to such a passage, slow down. Before you begin a chapter or book, look over the entire piece very quickly. Try to find patterns of repeated words, key ideas, bold print and other indicators of important concepts. Then, when you actually do your reading you may be able to skim over large portions of the text, slowing only when you come to something you know is important.

6. Train yourself not to reread. Most people frequently stop and skip back to words or sentences they just read to try to make sure they understood the meaning. This is usually unnecessary, but it can easily become a habit, and many times you will not even notice you’re doing it. One exercise to help you avoid rereading is to take a sheet of paper or index card and drag it down the page as you read, covering each line once you’ve read it. Try to drag the card in a steady motion; start slowly, and increase your speed as you feel more comfortable.

7. Stop reading to yourself. As you read you probably subvocalize, or pronounce the words to yourself. Almost everybody does it, although to different degrees: some people actually move their lips or say the words under their breath, while others simply say each word in their heads. Regardless of how you subvocalize, it slows you down. (You are concerned with speed reading here, not reading to practice communicating the material verbally, which can be done later if you find it necessary.) To break the habit, try to be conscious of it. When you notice yourself pronouncing words to yourself, try to stop doing it. Practice visualizing a word at the moment you see it, rather than confirming the word in your mind and then visualizing it. It may help to focus on key words and skip over others, or you may want to try humming to yourself or counting “1,2,3,4” repeatedly in order to prevent subvocalizing. One exercise to stop your lips from moving is to put a finger on your mouth and keep it there while you read.

8. Read with your hand. Smooth, consistent eye motion is essential to speed reading. You can maximize your eyes’ efficiency by using your hand to guide them. One such method is to simply draw your hand down each page as you read. You can also brush your hand under each line you read, as if you are brushing dust off the lines. Your eyes instinctively follow motion, and the movement of your hand serves to keep your eyes moving constantly forward. Note, however, that many speed reading instruction books warn off using a tracking member in speed reading as it inhibits the process.

9. Practice reading blocks of words. Nearly everyone learned to read word-by-word or even letter-by-letter, but once you know the language, that’s not the most efficient method of reading. Not every word is important, and in order to read quickly, you’ll need to read groups of words – or even whole sentences or short paragraphs – instantaneously. The good news is you probably already do this to some extent: most people read three or four words at a time. Once you make an effort to be aware of your reading style, you’ll discover how many words you read at a time. Now you just need to increase that number. Using your hand as a guide may help, as may holding the book a little further from your eyes than you usually do.

10. Practice and push yourself. While you may see some gains in speed the moment you start using these tips, speed reading is a skill that requires a lot of practice. Always push yourself to your comfort level and beyond – if you end up having to reread a section, it’s not a big deal. Keep practicing regularly.

11. Time yourself regularly. After a week or so of practice, time yourself as in step two. Do this regularly thereafter, and keep track of your improvement. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back every time your reading speed increases!

You will be able to increase your reading speed a certain amount on your own by applying these speed reading techniques.

Posted by: magnussonllc | March 11, 2010

15 Characteristics of a High Performing Team

Almost all high performing teams have certain key characteristics in common. Continuously analyzing and evaluating the team based on these criteria is critical in order to keep the team dynamic and effective. Here are the top 15 key characteristics of a high performing team:

1. Clearly stated vision, mission and goals

A team requires a clearly stated purpose and goals; not just an understanding of what needs to be done at the moment, but an understanding of the overall focus of the team. Shared goals and objectives leads to commitments. Members of high-performing teams share a sense of common purpose. They are clear about the team’s “work” and why it is important. They can describe what the team intends to achieve and have developed mutually agreed upon and challenging goals that clearly relate to the team’s vision. Strategies for achieving goals are clear. Each member understands their role in realizing the vision.

2. Operates creatively

 Experimentation and creativity are vital signs of a dynamic team. Dynamic teams take calculated risks by trying different ways of doing things. They aren’t afraid of failure and they look for opportunities to implement new processes and techniques. They are also flexible and creative when dealing with problems and making decisions.

3. Focuses on results

The ability to produce what is required, when it is required, is a true test. A dynamic team is capable of achieving results beyond the sum of its individuals. There is a commitment to high standards and quality results. They get the job done, meet deadlines, and achieve goals. Members have developed strong skills in group processes, as well as, task accomplishment. Team members continually meet time, budget and quality commitments.

4. Clarifies roles and responsibilities

A dynamic team clarifies roles and responsibilities for all its members. Each team member knows what is expected, and knows the roles of fellow team members. A dynamic team updates its roles and responsibilities to keep up with changing demands, objectives and technologies. Team leaders ensure that each is cross-trained in other responsibilities so that everyone can support each other when needed. The team leader makes sure that individual job responsibilities are fulfilled, but, at the same time, works to help individuals develop a common language, processes and approaches that allow them to function as a team.

5. Is well-organized

 A high performing team defines protocols, procedures and policies from the very beginning. Structure allows a team to meet the demands of any tasks it must handle. Information is easy to access and available at all times for the team members.

6. Builds upon individual strengths

Leaders of high performing teams regularly catalog their team’s knowledge, skills and talents.  Team leaders are aware of their members’ strengths and weaknesses, so they can effectively draw upon individual competencies. There is an appreciation for individual style differences, natural gifts, and personal experience. The members of the team are encouraged to use the language of acceptance and appreciation, rather than criticism and judgment. The team leader consciously hires team members who bring complementary skill sets, unique experience, and diverse perspectives.

7. Supports leadership and each other

Dynamic teams share leadership roles among members. Such teams give every member the opportunity to “shine” as the leader. Team members also appreciate formal supervisory roles, because the formal leaders of a dynamic team support team efforts and respect individual uniqueness.

8. Develops team climate

A high performing team has members whom enthusiastically work well together with a high degree of involvement and group energy (synergy).  Collectively, individual members feel more productive and find that team activities renew their interest and spirit. Such a team develops a distinct character of its own.

9. Resolves disagreements

 Disagreements occurs in all teams. It’s not necessarily negative or destructive. A dynamic team deals openly with conflict and try to resolve it through honest discussion tempered by mutual trust.

10. Communicates openly

Members of a dynamic team talk to each other directly and honestly. The team is committed to open communication and members feel they can state their opinions, thoughts, and feelings without fear. Listening is considered as important as speaking. Differences of opinion and perspective are valued and methods of managing conflict are understood. Each person solicits suggestions from other members, fully considers what is said, and then builds on their ideas. Through honest and caring feedback, members are aware of their strengths and weaknesses as team members. There is an atmosphere of trust and acceptance and a sense of community in a team. Group cohesion is very high.

11. Makes objective decisions

 Dynamic teams have well-established, proactive approaches to solving problems and making decisions. Decisions are reached through consensus; everybody must be able to “live with” and willingly support decisions. Members feel free to  express their feelings about any decision. Team members clearly understand and accept all decisions, and they develop contingency plans.

12. Evaluates its own effectiveness

 A team needs to routinely examine itself to see how it’s doing. “Continuous improvement” and “proactive management” are operating philosophies of dynamic teams. If performance problems arise, they can be resolved before they become serious.

13. Facilitates productive meetings

 A high performing team has effective, productive, well-managed meetings that efficiently use team members’ time. Every meeting is focused, timely, necessary, and is used to solve problems, make decisions, disseminate information, and enhance team member skills.

14. Recognizes and celebrates success

In a high performing team, individual and team accomplishments are frequently recognized by the team leader, as well as, by team members. The team celebrates milestones, accomplishments and events. Team accomplishments are also noticed and valued by the larger organization.

15. Takes pride in teams work

Members in high performing teams are enthusiastic about the work of the team, and each person feels pride in being a member of the team. They are confident, committed and optimistic about the future. There is a sense of excitement about individual and team accomplishments, and the way team members work together. Team spirit is high.

SQ3R is a useful technique for fully absorbing written information. As professionals we often have to read memos, reports and other written documents and are expected to absorb the data quickly. The tool helps you to create a good mental framework of a subject, into which you can fit facts correctly. It can help you to set study goals. It also prompts you to use the review techniques that will help to fix information in your mind and you will remember the data for a longer period of time 

By using SQ3R to actively read a document, you can get the maximum benefit from your reading time.

How to use the tool:

The acronym SQ3R stands for the five sequential techniques you should use to read a book:

  • Survey:
    Survey the document: scan the contents, introduction, chapter introductions and chapter summaries to pick up a shallow overview of the text. Form an opinion of whether it will be of any help. If it does not give you the information you want, discard it.
  • Question:
    Make a note of any questions on the subject that come to mind, or particularly interest you following your survey. Perhaps scan the document again to see if any stand out. These questions can be considered almost as study goals – understanding the answers can help you to structure the information in your own mind.
  • Read:
    Now read the document. Read through useful sections in detail, taking care to understand all the points that are relevant. In the case of some texts this reading may be very slow. This will particularly be the case if there is a lot of dense and complicated information. While you are reading, it can help to take notes in Concept Map format.
  • Recall:
    Once you have read appropriate sections of the document, run through it in your mind several times. Isolate the core facts or the essential processes behind the subject, and then see how other information fits around them.
  • Review:
    Once you have run through the exercise of recalling the information, you can move on to the stage of reviewing it. This review can be by rereading the document, by expanding your notes, or by discussing the material with colleagues. A particularly effective method of reviewing information is to have to teach it to someone else!
Posted by: magnussonllc | March 1, 2010

The Business Card Quality Test

Your business card is often the first impression a potential client has with your company. The business card design and message will ultimately determine whether it gets thrown in the trash or filed for contact later.

Reach in your wallet and pull out your business card. Learn if your business card will pass or be trashed.

Size: Does your business card conform to the traditional size of 3.5″ by 2″? Anything greater will not fit in wallets or most business card holders.

Paper Quality: Is your business card design of professional quality or is it flimsy with perforated edges? Cheap cards are trashed.

Ink: Drop some liquid on your business card. If the ink runs, it’s in the trash.

Color Test: Colorful cards can add to your professional image. Too much color can be detracting. Trash your card if it is black and white or has more than 3 colors unless it’s a photograph.

Message Design: Your business card should clearly tell people what you do and offer a meaningful benefit. No message adds confusion so your card ends up in the trash.

Image Match: Your business card design should match your business image. If you’re a designer, then the card should be creative. If your card is out of synch with your image, time to toss it.

Font Size: Is your card crammed with information? White space on the card will make it easier to absorb your message. If you have a lot to say, add it to the back of the business card. Is the print so tiny you have too squint to see it? This one is heading for the trash.

Contact Information: Your clients or potential clients should have as many means as possible to contact you based on their preference. Your business card design should include: voicemail, phone, fax, email, and website. Lack of contact information puts your card in the trash.

 

You only have one chance to make a great first impression. Make sure you invest in the best business card design you can afford. The business card is your introduction to a client, for the low cost per card that is money well spent

 

Posted by: magnussonllc | February 4, 2010

Being Accountable

There are two key dimensions of practicing accountability. The first is to hold yourself accountable, the second is to hold others accountable. Leaders who generate trust do both. Accountability is an important thing. Unfortunately, for many people the focus is on fixing the behavior of others. While this might be true, this is the wrong place to put the focus, at least at first.

Take a Look in the Mirror

 If you want greater accountability around you, start by being more accountable yourself.  If you want to engender and create greater accountability in those around you, you have to start by being a good role model. You can be 100% accountable yourself. Being accountable is about figuring out how you can make things better. Other people’s actions aren’t in your control, and many events aren’t in your control either, but your response to these situations and events is completely in your control. You can choose to be 100% accountable and responsible for your response. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my role in this situation?
  • What am I doing (or not doing) to promote the situation as it currently exists?
  • What about this situation is in my control?
  • What am I thinking?
  • What are my beliefs?
  • What can I do to have an impact?
  • What can I do differently to change the result?

 

Asking these questions takes courage, because it takes away your ability to blame others. Asking these questions may be a change of your habits. Asking these questions may be hard, because the answers may require work. Accountability can have a powerful practical value to achieving our goals and or overcoming problems or issues.

Being accountable takes a tremendous amount of character, courage and honesty, especially if you seek an accountability partner for a goal you desire to achieve.

Posted by: magnussonllc | January 29, 2010

How to Say Yes!!

Mastering the art of saying “No” is compulsory in many cases. We do have to learn how to say it without offending the other person and still getting what we want. Appropriately saying “No” can really save our butt from a tricky situation and that’s why mastering our “No”’s is so important. Sometimes though, saying yes is simply unavoidable.

 

Here are some techniques to use:

  •  Tell the person you can agree to their request this time, but ask how the two of you might plan better for the next time.
  • Tell them yes, but remind them they owe you one. For example, they might cover you for a shift next time you need time off.
  • Tell them yes, but take control by saying you’ll come back to them with a timetable. For instance, say, “I expect I’ll be able to do that for you by the end of the week.”
  • Put a tough condition on your agreement. “If it would only take an hour, I’d be able to help, but I can’t give you more than that.”

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