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Increasing Productivity

3 Characteristics of High-Performing Teams

Whether on the football field or in the corporate arena, the best possess similar characteristics that make them special and different.

Matt Mayberry

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When it comes to the best teams in the world, whether on the football field or in the corporate arena, they all possess similar characteristics that make them special and different than just the average or good teams that rarely make that jump to greatness.

Here are three characteristics that all high-performing teams instill within their organisations and never lose sight of.

1. High-performing teams are unselfish

You will never find a championship-caliber team at any level that doesn’t model unselfishness in everything that its members do.

Even though the star running back wants to break all the records and the employee wants to earn the big promotions, they put the team first in everything that they do. They fully understand that when the team is better, they will grow and become better as individuals.

Related: How You Can Manage Your Sense of Identity At Work

Amazing things begin to happen when you have a group of unselfish people that all come together for the betterment of the team. But a team that is completely unselfish is very rare these days because of the individualistic world that we live in.

It’s all about glitz, glamour, status and money for most. However, the thriving teams that year after year continually dominate know that those things will eventually come to them if they perform better as a team.

2. High-performing teams operate like a strong family

Mike Krzyzewski, in my humble opinion one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, once said, “When your organization operates like a strong family, you can’t be knocked out by one punch.”

Walk down the halls of companies such as Apple and it won’t take you long to figure out that they operate out of love in all they do. These institutions truly love their employees. The employees believe in and absolutely love the organisation they work for.

Operating as a strong family and truly loving and appreciating your teammates builds a healthy and thriving culture. Even if employees and teammates don’t hang out much outside of the workplace, they understand that putting the team first and appreciating each other is an absolute must.

Related: Team Effort Networking

3. High-performing teams listen

An underrated characteristic, but an absolutely crucial one when referring to building strong and powerful teams is the power of listening: Leadership willing to listen to employees within the organisation, employees having constant communication with other team members, and listening to the marketplace and current customers on where the company can grow and become better.

Being willing to listen shows that you care. One of the more powerful things that a leader can do to create an exceptional and healthy culture is to let everyone know that there is an open line of communication and he or she is willing to listen.

All high-performing teams not only communicate better than most teams, but they are willing to listen more than most teams.

There are so many different qualities and characteristics that make the top teams tick, but the above three cannot be ignored when looking to build a stronger organisation and team.

Just like anything worthwhile, the above characteristics are not easy and will take some time to successfully implement, but the long-term results and the culture that will be built will be well worth it.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Matthew Mayberry is a former American Football linebacker for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League. Matt is now an American motivational speaker and writer on the topics of success, leadership, motivation, and performance.

Increasing Productivity

5 Characteristics Of A Culture That Develops And Executes Breakthrough Ideas

Innovation happens by design. Build it in to your company, and it will show through in your results and relationships with customers.

Sonia Thompson

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Peter Drucker, the father of modern-day business management, noted that a business has only two functions: marketing and innovation.

Companies that have wholeheartedly embraced innovation – Amazon, Apple and Tesla among them – garner admiration, sales and additional marketing in the form of earned media.

And while businesses of all sizes know innovation is an important lever that will fuel their long-term success, many struggle to do it effectively. They get stuck in a rut of doing “what we’ve always done.” Others hop on the latest trends when they are forced to do so, rather than becoming pioneers in the space. No bueno.

Jeff Bezos credits a major part of Amazon’s massive success over the years to its people’s willingness to innovate. In his 2015 letter to shareholders, he explained the source of the $100 billion dollar company’s ability to innovate: “One area where I think we are especially distinctive is failure,” he wrote. “I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organisations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”

If you want a business where innovation is the norm, you’ve got to create the right environment – one that’s conducive to change and diversity of experience as well as opinion. No matter your history, you can build a company that delights your customers with your products, services and experiences on a consistent basis. Here’s how.

Related: 3 Ways To Find Ideas For A New Business

1. Create a culture of experimentation

Articles, books, and other resources give the same account: Failure is a precursor to success. When you accept failure as a part of the learning process that helps you achieve your goals, you get more comfortable with this concept.

The key to making failure work for you is conducting experiments that are small enough you won’t be left shirtless if things go south. Creating a company culture that experiments on a regular basis thrives only when you’ve also developed a consistent feedback loop. This crucial communication tool ensures you’ll have the clues needed to iterate and produce something remarkable.

2. Make idea generation a habit

Innovation begins with an idea. And to exponentially increase the odds of producing a winning idea for your business, quantity trumps quality. Of course, not every idea will be a great one. But a large arsenal of thoughts from which to choose makes it easier to refine your understanding of what your customers want from you.

Whenever I write a new article, I generate 25 potential headlines. Pushing myself to generate more ideas forces me to think beyond the obvious and stretch my mind to come up with more creative options.

Work to make idea generation a habit in your business. Encourage team members to bring forth their own suggestions, and create a system to catalog what is presented.

3. Diversify your experiences

diverse-experienceWhen it comes to innovation, realise that homogeneity is a liability. Steve Jobs knew this to be true. It’s why he encouraged others to branch out to take the road less traveled. “If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative … you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does,” Jobs said in 1982, as he accepted the “Golden Plate” award from the Academy of Achievement in Washington, D.C. He was 26.

Make it a point to step outside your comfort zone. Accumulate new experiences for yourself both professionally and personally. As you look to build a rockstar team, be intentional about seeking talent that brings to the table diverse backgrounds, experiences and ways of thinking.

The observations, skills and expanded frame of reference you obtain as a result will prevent you from being satisfied with the status quo.

Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!

4. Encourage dissent

Want to improve the quality of your ideas? Encourage others to tear them down. A capable team of people whose opinions you value will generate constructive criticism to help make your idea better. You’ll produce a much better product or offering than you ever could have done alone.

Research backs up this principle. Data from UC Berkeley demonstrates that conflict improves the ideation process. A team whose members cosign everything you say can’t help you or your company become more innovative.

Consider setting up regular team meetings to solicit input on how to take an idea from good to great. Create an environment that assures team members their opinions are valued and welcomed. Once you do, they’ll feel comfortable enough to be more vocal about using their expertise to raise the quality standard for whatever your business delivers.

5. Obsess over your customers

Your business exists to serve your customers. The more value you provide, the more they will reward you with their loyalty. When you focus your efforts on knowing your customers intimately, you’ll gain a tremendous amount of insight into how to solve their problems like none other.

Talk to your customers every chance you get. Take the opportunity to walk a mile in their shoes so you can develop a deeper empathy for their issues. Seek out pain points at every step of their customer journey and brainstorm ways to improve the experience for them.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

Employees, Not Consultants Or Executives, Are Your Best Innovators

Hungry for the fresh ideas that come from a collaborative, team-driven approach to innovation? You’re ready for an EDIT.

Tania Fiero

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The insurance industry gets a bad rap as outdated and inefficient. But one insurance firm, CSAA Insurance Group, is bucking the stereotype with a strikingly modern approach to innovation.

This American Automobile Association-affiliated insurer caught the attention of the Harvard Business Review last August due to its all-hands-on-deck innovation strategy. As the article described, CSAA had harnessed the brainpower of its 4,000-person employee base to encourage systematic improvement at all company levels.

The results were astounding: Underwriters analysed the company’s call data to improve voice prompts and reduce misplaced calls… by 40 percent. Other employees jumped in to streamline online claims, improve the issuance of insurance cards – and more.

But CSAA’s approach wasn’t innovative just for the insurance industry. Top-down innovation has been tried over and over, and it just can’t hold a candle to the alternative: employee-driven innovation teams being used by companies like CSAA and my own human resources solutions company.  We like to call these teams EDITs.

Why an EDIT philosophy works

Industry insight and creativity aren’t exclusive to the C-suite, nor are they best purchased from industry consultants. In fact, they can be found in every employee, from the part-time package handler right on up the corporate ladder.

Related: Your Employees Are Your Greatest Asset – Manage Them Well

Sarah Miller Caldicott, author of Midnight Lunch (and great-grandniece of Thomas Edison), has been trying to tell this to the business world for years. So when I heard her speak at a conference a few years ago, I couldn’t help but try an EDIT at my own company.

All EDITs begin with a call from a leadership team sponsor who brings a business problem to the table. That person then invites volunteers to form teams of around eight employees each. Teams choose their own leaders, who then hold the rest of the team members accountable and ultimately deliver proposals to the executive team.

EDIT does more than make us a better company. Team members develop cross-departmental friendships; help boost everyone’s morale; and grow their own leadership, presentation and executive consulting skills. Rarely do non-managers have the chance to shine in leading roles the way they do with EDIT.

Another upshot of our EDIT? We began a new HR project, “Extending the Culture Beyond Our Walls,” in which we’re expanding our employee culture to our clients, contingent workers and broader community through employment branding.

The only down side? We wish we’d done this sooner.

Ready, set, EDIT

If you’re hungry for the fresh ideas that come from a collaborative, team-driven approach to innovation, you’re ready for an EDIT. Here’s how to get and keep the EDIT ball rolling:

1. Make the problem and ideal solution as concrete as possible

call-to-actionEvery EDIT begins with a problem outlined by someone from the organisation’s leadership team. Think of this like a call to action. What’s the problem or opportunity, and what type of action, process or technology will solve or capitalise on it? Be sure to also describe what resources the EDIT will have to work with, such as budgeted funds, fixed assets and subject matter experts.

The Arizona Department of Transportation, for example, was looking last year for faster ways to reopen Phoenix-area freeways after closing them for repair. ADOT workers designed a reverse stencil that protects painted surfaces from an asphalt finishing spray. For materials, they used just scrap metal and two trucks,

Now, a scrap stencil may not have been what leaders first envisioned as their “future perfect” solution, but ADOT’s employees certainly made smart use of their resources.

Related: 10 Ways To Make Your Employees 10x More Productive

2. Give diversity and inclusion space at the table

An EDIT is only as strong as its members are diverse. In other words, don’t assemble a team entirely of marketers, salespeople or denizens of any other one department. A study from Holton Consulting noted that people tend to come up with more interesting, exciting and unusual ideas when they’re not thinking about their own area of expertise.

Don’t worry if one EDIT has four people and one has 10. Team size doesn’t matter nearly as much as the diversity of backgrounds, departments and skill sets. With that said, do your best to not exclude willing participants. To this day, our company has never turned away someone who wanted to contribute to an EDIT initiative.

3. Provide structure, but avoid rigidity

Give your EDIT space to work, but don’t let it fly blind, either. Have the EDIT take its cue from agile development or the scientific method, whichever its members are more familiar with. Encourage the EDIT to hypothesise solutions, test them, iterate and then evaluate them against the “future perfect.”

When our company’s EDITs meet for the first time, they always begin with a brainstorm. From there, they test ideas in low-risk, low-resource experiments. For example, a team suggesting a casual dress policy might survey or visit other companies with such a policy: The point would be to see whether changing acceptable workplace attire affected productivity.

The goal? To get real-world feedback on potential solutions, narrowing them down until the only top performer is left standing.

In our industry, there’s no greater cliche than “Your employees are your greatest asset.” But nothing has driven that point home for us, like EDIT. The soon-to-be-released enterprise-resource planning system that our employees spearheaded is proof that these people are, indeed, our strongest innovators.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

The Entrepreneurial Case For A Co-Working Space

Morné Stoltz, MiWay Head of Business Insurance shares the benefits and competitive advantage of co-working business spaces.

Morné Stoltz

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South Africa’s small business sector continues to grow, with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report for 2016/17 indicating that SMMEs now account for over 36% of the country’s GDP. Yet these numbers do not reveal the many challenges faced by local entrepreneurs, many of whom are unable to sustain their business operations due to limited support and countless administrative hassles.

Many entrepreneurs also suffer as a result of reduced opportunities for collaboration and networking, with many working from home or out of small offices that leave them with little exposure to other like-minded business owners, whilst their larger counterparts are able to build networks and push the boundaries of innovation by tapping into a wider spectrum of human capita.

Related: Workplace Evolution 2.0: Are You Ready For The New Era?

Entrepreneurs have been largely left to fend for themselves, leaving them at an obvious disadvantage in the marketplace.Yet, with the recent emergence of co-working spaces, this pattern is slowly starting to shift, with small business owners now beginning to band together in the absence of appropriate support from those able to give it.

Why you need collaborative spaces

Not only do these collaborative spaces expose entrepreneurs to others facing similar challenges, but they also facilitate networking opportunities and much needed interpersonal interaction without a hefty price tag. In these 21st century workspaces, entrepreneurs are able to feed off one another’s energy, discuss and find solutions to administrative challenges and share resources so as to preserve that all-important cash flow.

Some co-working spaces also host regular presentations and events attended by industry luminaries, enabling business owners to up their expertise and connect with relevant big players in their respective fields.

Could this new way of working be the answer for the South African economy, which relies heavily on SMEs to sustain its growth? Sadly, the massive administrative and psychological challenges faced by small business owners are unlikely to be completely overcome without the necessary investment from government and the private sector. Inevitably, businesses need both money and time to survive and it is usually only the former that frees up the latter.

Co-working spaces offer a lifeline to new business

Nonetheless, there is certainly an entrepreneurial case to be made for the co-working space. While it might not be a complete entrepreneurial elixir, it does nonetheless offer up a lifeline for new businesses, affording them access to the people and networks that can elevate emerging enterprises from good to great.

Related: The Workspace And MiWay Announce Entrepreneur Competition

That being said, not all co-working spaces are created equal and it is important that entrepreneurs seek out locations that best suit their businesses and working styles. Here are a few key things to look out for when embarking on the search for the perfect space:

Search for synchronicities

It is not simply enough to be around other entrepreneurs – if you want your business to thrive rather than simply survive, you will need to find a space populated with others in similar fields.

Naturally, you do not want to be sitting across from your biggest industry rival, but it is not going to do you much good if you are a marketing guru surrounded by a group of architects. So look for places typically frequented by those with complementary skills – it is the perfect kick-off point for great network building.

Do your research

Everyone has different working styles, so it is important that you find a co-working space that best suits yours. A loud, boisterous environment might be invigorating for some, while others prefer a quieter, more laid-back tone. By setting up camp in a space that facilitates productivity and energy, you’ll be far better placed to succeed.

Buy into the right benefits

Co-working spaces come in many shapes, sizes and price ranges. Ensure that you pick one that offers you exactly what you need without breaking the bank. While you’ll want your space to be adaptable in the event of growth, you also don’t want to have to invest in more square meterage than entirely necessary. By all means think big, but also preserve your bottom line for the time being.

Related: Lifestyle-Focused Work Environments Are Not Just For Millennials

You’ll also want to look into the other perks offered by your local co-working spaces. Many offer secretarial services, administrative assistance and other similar amenities, which are like gold dust for entrepreneurs who’ve started up their operations based on skills rather than savvy.

For other business owners, networking events and seminars might be exactly what’s needed to fast track your growth trajectory, so carefully weigh up the benefits and costs based upon your specific pain points and potential areas for improvement.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)

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