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7 Tools To Boost Communication In Your Business

These range from the digital realm to the physical realm. Enjoy!

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I am a big fan of learning about and experimenting with new management tools, styles and techniques. I have found that one of the toughest issues I deal with at work is communication. It’s hard enough to get your team to communicate with each other, and when you add in partner agencies and clients it gets even more challenging!

I have collated a list of the tools I would recommend to boost effective communication within your organisation. These range from the digital realm to the physical realm. Enjoy!

Slack

slack-logo

Without a doubt, Slack is the best tool I’ve found for team communication. Combining the best features of email and WhatsApp (my secondary methods of communication), Slack allows you to communicate with various team members inside and outside the organisation, regardless of where they are located.

Its channel feature is a great feature to keep track of various projects without the confusion of mail trails. It also allows you to keep all your thoughts and collateral in a centralised location. Slack makes it easy to brainstorm remotely, get approval from team members, partner agencies and clients, and broadcast info to larger teams. When they get their voice and video calling working well, I don’t see any reason to use any other platform.

  • Link: https://slack.com
  • Price: Freemium
  • Platforms: All – the web, desktop app, mobile apps 

Related: Sharpen Your Communication Skills

Physical Colocation

In terms of creating that extra spark in a project, nothing beats face-to-face communication. Colocation allows a project- or client-centric mindset with easy osmosis of ideas. Valve talked about the great idea of desks with wheels in their employee handbook, allowing team members to physically co-locate when working on a particular project. At NATIVE VML, we employ similar methods.

Our client teams are co-located around the brand they work on to ensure the team chats to each other. We also create project areas dedicated to specific projects for the team to work together for the duration of the project. These are not new ideas by any means, but they work well in limiting the silo effect.

Google Docs

google-docs-logos

Google Docs has changed the way our teams work. Put simply, Google Docs is a free Microsoft Office replacement on steroids. Google Docs replaces Word, Google Sheets replaces Excel, and Google Slides replaces PowerPoint. Whilst there is a host of features and benefits to using Google Docs, the main bonus is the ability to collaboratively edit a document.

This makes collaboration a breeze. At NATIVE VML, we use this to collate campaign data from multiple agencies simultaneously, without the hassle of email trails and versioning. From here, we link the sheet to templatised slides that we have created, which will automatically show your results in graph format. This removes a ton of hassle from the reporting task and also allows you to create easy real- time dashboards for clients to track campaign progress. Definitely the most powerful tool in this pack.

Town Halls

Town Halls have been around for centuries, but tech start-ups have embraced them in recent years as a great way of getting everyone up to speed on company developments, as well as allowing a forum for team members to voice concerns.

Additionally, they are great for culture development, as they allow a space for rituals to develop in the company. Trello runs their town halls via video chat to ensure that the entire distributed team can be involved. They also use the space to celebrate their wins and the people in their team.

At NATIVE VML we use the time to update the team on the business performance, showcase campaigns going live, and celebrate team member’s achievements both in and out of the workplace. When done right, town halls can be viewed as a fun event rather than a hindrance to getting on with work.

InVision

invision-logos

InVision is a great tool for prototyping, as well as to simplify feedback and approvals on design work. It allows designers to easily share mock-ups with the team and client, where they can provide inline feedback directly on the design. This keeps all feedback and approvals on a centralised system (once again removing email trails and versioning issues).

The app also ensures your work is presented in as beautiful a manner as possible. If you are doing a lot of app prototyping or design work, InVision is a no-brainer. Check out more features here and here.

Related: 11 Skills That Will Make You Super Successful

Wins Boards

At NATIVE VML, we use a physical wins board in our office to have an always-visible proof of success for the team. It’s a great way to show progress and ensure we keep focused on the positive. We have a designated slot in our town halls to celebrate our wins by putting printed copies of congrats from clients up on our wins board (probably the only time I ever use printed paper!). Highly recommended, and easy to setup.

Trello

trello-logo

Last, but not least, is Trello. Trello is all about visibility and accountability. It is based on the Kanban system, which allows you to easily organise and visualise progress on projects. It also shows who is accountable, and how they are progressing with their tasks. The Kanban method can be used physically on any wall with a few post-its, but as I am paper-averse, I prefer using the online method. Enter Trello.

At NATIVE VML, we use Trello to run our always on Social media work, as well as our campaigns. As an internal system, it allows our project managers to keep track of a large quantity of work with ease. Combining the Trello system with morning stand-up scrums allows us to easily see where the bottlenecks in the work are, and how we can fix those to focus on getting work done fast.

Those are my top seven tools for communication! I hope they help you out. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions – find me on Twitter @levonrivers.

Levon Rivers is currently Special Projects Director at NATIVE VML. He studied a BCOM at Wits and has an MBA from GIBS. He has been in the digital industry for 10 years - running large teams; developing products, apps, and major websites; as well as running award-winning creative campaigns. Levon is passionate about exploration - in business, tech and travel. Key projects include Standard Bank's #TODAY campaign, the bookly app, NATIVEOS CMS, the Kit-Kat Chocnology campaign, and the Isuzu Trail View campaign. He is committed to changing the world for the better, using his passion for technology to improve people’s lives.

Leading

Albert Einstein: An Influencer To This Day

Say the word genius and immediately Albert Einstein springs to mind. To this day his influence remains across not only science, humanity and education but popular culture too.

Glenn van Eck

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Albert Einstein had the same mentality as an entrepreneur; he was a discoverer, an educator, a revolutionary and incredibly creative. Below are some of the few more reasons why entrepreneurs can learn from him:

1. Even geniuses get it wrong

Einstein wasn’t always right. The best example of Einstein getting it wrong, was when he had trouble accepting that the universe is based on probabilities, not absolutes. In a famous Einstein/Bohr debate, Einstein stated, “God does not play dice with the universe,” with Bohr retorting:

“Einstein, stop telling God what to do!”

2. One should read

When you find the right book, at the right time, it can have an incredible impact on your mindset. I have learned so much from books, and many have helped me as an entrepreneur. Not only does reading give you quiet time and space to look after yourself, but it’s also exciting to keep discovering incredible insights, and being surprised by their impact.

Now I don’t think I will ever dream up a concept that will have world-changing implications like Einstein did, but reading can open new doors for you and your mind, and take you places you never thought possible.

Related: 10 Leadership Quotes From The World’s Most Influential Leaders

3. Enjoy the challenge

Einstein didn’t pluck remarkable theories out of thin air. He made many mistakes, he persisted and proved his theories worked.

Einstein would ask challenging questions and ask them in different ways. By doing this, he was able to address the unknown from different angles and eventually unveil some of the most perplexing universal secrets.

4. Your weaknesses are your strengths

Experts such have hypothesised that Einstein might have suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome; a condition where sufferers are described as socially aloof, emotionally detached and exhibit inappropriate social behaviour. But on the flip side, those with  Asperger’s Syndrome can display an obsessive interest in a single topic or object. So, while Einstein wasn’t the best at socialising, he relished solitude and made incredible use of his mind.

By embracing his playfulness, curiosity and laser-like focus, Einstein decoded the universe. Not so much of a weakness when you think of it like that, hey?

5. Find your tribe

His professors often criticised Einstein’s ideas; professors who were accustomed to conformity. It was only when Einstein worked as a clerk at the patent office that he made significant strides in his thinking within physics, mathematics and philosophy.  The point being, make sure you surround yourself with people who get your creative juices flowing and fuel rather than deplete you.

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Your Narcissism Is Killing Your Employees’ Productivity. How To Avoid The Pitfalls

The key is to understand how your narcissism is affecting others and actively work to adjust and adapt your behaviour.

Joel Carnevale

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Narcissism appears to be on the rise among today’s business and entrepreneurial leaders, if you read the business pages and academic research on a regular basis. And this isn’t always a bad thing: Narcissists can be compelling leaders capable of executing grand strategic visions.

But all too often they are described as highly self-absorbed individuals who believe they are superior to those around them.

And while successful entrepreneurs tend to have high levels of self-confidence and an intense drive for success, often they’ll fall prey to the problems associated with the darker aspects of narcissism: Specifically, they take unnecessary risks, hold too tightly to their vision when change is needed and fail to recognise the work and sacrifices of those around them.

In our new study, which was published in May in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, my research partners and I sought to gain a better understanding of just how problematic narcissistic leaders are, and what they might do to lessen the negative outcomes. We surveyed 262 employees and their (262) direct supervising managers over a four-week period at a large Chinese technology company.

Related: 14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity

Overall, we found the harmful consequences of narcissistic leaders to be wide-ranging.

Just how harmful is a harmful narcissistic leader?

We began by asking leaders at the tech company we targeted to complete a widely used Narcissistic Personality Inventory test. Employees, meanwhile, were asked to report on their organisation-based self-esteem, meaning the degree to which they felt they belonged in their organisation.

As researchers we were operating on the understanding that the need to belong is a fundamental human need and motivator, but that narcissistic leaders fail to satisfy this need among their employees because of their high levels of self-concern.

Those high levels mean leaders like these ignore the feelings of others. Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, for example, was often described as highly self-absorbed and inconsiderate of others. She was often criticised for being habitually late to meetings and dismissive of her constituents’ ideas and suggestions.

elon-muskElon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, is also said to be highly abrasive, and to tend to berate employees who fail to live up to his impossibly high standards. One former engineer at the company referred to critical interactions with the SpaceX CEO as an “Elon ass-kicking” and said some employees felt “crushed under the weight” of those interactions. Not surprisingly, both Musk and Mayer have been recognised as some of the most narcissistic CEOs in the tech industry.

Our study found that 51 percent of employees with narcissistic leaders disagreed or strongly disagreed with statements asking if they felt valuable in the workplace. Moreover, this diminished sense of belonging had wide-ranging consequences on these employees’ behaviour. Specifically:

  • 34 percent of employees surveyed disagreed or strongly disagreed with statements asking if they helped other group members with their responsibilities
  • 31 percent of employees disagreed or strongly disagreed with statements asking if they spoke up to their leader about their own improvement-oriented suggestions
  • 37 percent of employees agreed or strongly agreed with statements asking if they badmouthed their leader to their coworkers
  • 18 percent of employees agreed or strongly agreed with statements asking if they intentionally tried to disrupt task completion by ignoring their leader’s requests.

Such behaviours are troublesome enough for established companies, but for start-ups – whose survival depends on quick action and cooperation from all employees – the consequences can be dire.

Related: 5 Work Productivity Hacks Used By Rockstar Entrepreneurs

How can narcissistic leaders avoid the pitfalls of their personalities?

We asked employees to report whether their leader consulted with them before making decisions. While this kind of consultation is an influence tactic leaders use to gain employee support, it can also signal to employees that their contributions are valued.

We found that among narcissistic leaders, 27 percent frequently consulted with employees while another 43 percent consulted with employees to some extent.

Importantly, we found that when narcissistic leaders consulted with employees, the detrimental outcomes stemming from such leadership were not simply reduced, but eliminated completely. Here are three takeaways:

Actively listen

Active listening means that you concentrate on the message being communicated; you don’t just passively “receive” the message. Unfortunately, most narcissistic leaders have difficulty focusing on what others are saying and often ignore their advice.

One classic example of a narcissistic leader who altered his behavior to more attentively listen to others was Steve Jobs. Much of Jobs’ success upon returning to the helm at Apple in 1997 was attributed to the drastic change in his interpersonal behavior from his prior tenure in 1985.

Not only was he more willing to listen to his employees, but he was described as someone who “seemed to relish other people’s ideas.” Our research indicated that employees are likely to discount their narcissistic leaders’ more abrasive qualities when those leaders take the time to actively listen to their suggestions.

Invite involvement

Don’t just listen. Invite employees’ involvement in the making and development of decisions. Our study demonstrated that when narcissistic leaders invite employees to participate in leadership processes, those employees experience a sense of ownership in the process that can help alleviate the leader’s more harmful tendencies.

In particular, such behaviour signals to employees that their narcissistic leader is not only willing to listen when they, the employees, have concerns or suggestions, but actually desire to receive those employee contributions.

Related: 7 Productivity Beliefs That Get You Nowhere Fast

Be accessible

According to Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, the best leaders “make a religion out of being accessible.” Likewise, our research emphasised the importance of narcissistic leaders making themselves accessible to individual employees.

Despite his narcissism, Welch often sent personal notes to his executives and met one-on-one with employees at all levels. Such behaviours were part of the programs Welch instituted to enhance employees’ “feelings of ownership and self-worth” in the GE culture. We found that the individual attention employees receive when they’re consulted provides the interpersonal interaction they crave, but rarely receive, from their narcissistic leader.

Due to the dynamic environment of the typical entrepreneurial venture, communication and cooperation from employees is a necessity for continued growth and survival. Although entrepreneurial leaders may be more narcissistic than their counterparts in non-entrepreneurial vocations, the pitfalls associated with their tendencies may be avoidable.

The key is for such leaders to understand how their narcissism is affecting others and actively work to adjust and adapt their behavioir.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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How Can Scholars Prepare Themselves For The World Of Work?

Make A Difference – Young Leader’s Launchpad.

David Hatherell

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The narrative that we have expanded on over the past few weeks has highlighted the importance of considering the fundamental principles of entrepreneurship and not the general definition of just “starting a business.” Furthermore, we have emphasised that South Africa is fortunate to have a diverse range of perspectives and skill sets that we can use to benefit society, and allow the youth of this country to take a leadership position despite their age, circumstances or financial means. Through the various topics that have been discussed, we have hoped to expand on your knowledge through a range of insights, perspectives, and lessons learned. Which leads us to the topic of what it takes, as a scholar, to prepare yourself for the world of work.

Make A Difference Leadership Foundation (MAD Leadership Foundation), in partnership with their fellows, have launched a diverse initiative which aims to prepare our scholars for the world of work in the general sense. We will expand on some of these learnings below, highlighting the four key lessons we feel are most applicable.

Work Becomes Our World – Lessons Learnt

Lesson one – Create a Community of Support

When entering the working world, it is easy to get caught up in the pressure of your nine to five position. This may mean that you leave your dreams behind and focus all of your attention on the role you have within the company you are working for. Creating a supportive space, with your peers, where you can discuss your dreams and/or goals which are not directly linked to your workspace will continue enforcing a sense of achievement in your private life without neglecting your work. In creating a community of support, it will allow you to explore your “dreams” in a way that will make them feel more achievable and obtainable.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

To encourage this concept of a supportive community the MAD Leadership Foundation fellows have implemented a concept called Dream Enabler. This initiative aims to select a “dream” or initiative that the MAD Leadership Foundation scholars would like to pursue. We review these dreams and find ways to convert them into actions for the next year. The initiatives chosen are presented back to the alumni forum and implemented in the year after each Annual Leadership Summit.

A little collaboration will go a long way in giving each dream that little something extra.

Lesson two – Bring Focus to Different Aspects of the World of Work

The working world can be subdivided into three broad sectors which include those who enter the workforce, those who start their own businesses and those involved in the creative arts or cultural sectors. You can focus on these different sectors by creating two main archetypes, letting your goals fall into two broad categories:

  • The Career Driven Professional
  • The Independent Creator

By highlighting the importance of both archetypes, we can develop into well-rounded individuals. For example, an actuary in the corporate field may grow by focusing equally on his/her career as a “career-driven professional.” Once qualified, he/she may benefit by attending workshops aimed at the “independent creator” archetype. It is essential for scholars who are soon to be entering the working world to allow themselves the flexibility of focusing their attention on both archetypes and to strategically plan their time given to each respective archetype.

Lesson three – Learn to Face Failure

Many individuals are funneled into a particular career path and then experience challenges that they would have never thought of. That being said, every challenge brings an opportunity, and every failure has a learning curve. The compilation of these challenges and failures will form our world of work. It is important to consider these failures as an integral part of your journey through the working world. If you are not failing are you genuinely pushing yourself? The MAD Leadership Foundation alumni have learned that vulnerability is a strength and that you will show the most growth by failing and trying again.

Lesson four – Fail in a Safe Space

Highlighting failure as an integral part of your journey to success doesn’t mean that you should throw yourself into unplanned, risky ventures. This just means that when you are entering unknown territory, you are bound to encounter some failure. This is a testimony to you having the wherewithal to push yourself. However, there are some areas you can explore further, and find out more information on, with your community of support, to allow your journey to run a little smoother. Areas to consider further:

  • Financial and Time Management
  • Building and Maintaining Your Personal Brand
  • Influencing Others
  • Knowing Your Value and Making Your Environment Work for You.

MAD Leadership Foundation has created a safe space for their scholars, through the creation of a simulated gaming and learning experience. Where scholars can explore the concept of failure by addressing potential hurdles in their day to day lives, and how these would impact them personally, professionally and otherwise. Together as a cohort, they can address these hurdles and how they would overcome them, with the support of the experienced alumni. This helps to ensure that we are prepared and aware of some common pitfalls that one may encounter when leaving university.

Earning money and supporting yourself is tough and many experience difficulties in getting up after each failure. For this reason, it is important to create a culture of “failing forward” in that you need to learn from your challenges and continue on a path to your dreams and successes.

Related: The Kindling Of The Entrepreneur Spirit

Bringing It Together

These core lessons will allow you to have the foresight to plan and prepare for the world of work. Many might be known or assumed, but until you delve into each lesson, you might not be as ready for this journey as you might think.

We aim to prepare our scholars as best as we can with the knowledge, ability, and power to enter the working work as prepared as possible. Many youths, however, do not have the structure that MAD Leadership Foundation offers, and we, therefore, encourage you to be that support structure to each other. Lean on your peers and share insights through shared learning and support, through this the youth of South Africa can be assured of their readiness for the world of work.

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