As consultants, we interact with many varied businesses and lots of people operating at different levels, from blue collar workers to CEOs. Maybe that is nothing remarkable on its own, but what makes us special at Penmark is we don’t just interact, we get fully stuck in. We ‘get our hands dirty’ and notice things that others wouldn’t.
Whether these are risks that go unspotted by others, low engagement levels from seemily happy employees or processes that have become the ‘norm’ but could benefit from being updated, we can take this newly gained knowledge, mix it with our years of experience and formulate a great strategy for helping businesses be better and achieve more.
Over the years we have discovered some of the key elements that go beyond the standard ‘be better’ guides that focus on telling you how to ‘set goals’ and ‘get organised’. Don’t get me wrong, these are very important things to do and we certainly advocate on those, but they will only get you so far. Penmark wants to take you several steps further into the realms of reflection and understanding, not just knowing roughly what to do.
First thing’s first: seek feedback. I have benefitted from feedback at countless points in my life, mainly because I ask for it. I’m sure you have, too. My question is, though, have you truly received honest feedback? The kind of feedback where it is brutal enough to almost hurt, where office politics are not involved, and you don’t hear what you want to, but rather what you need to hear. If you have been fortunate enough to receive this kind of feedback, did you truly reflect on it and grow from it? Or did you take offence and spend too long brooding over what was said? For me, although receiving honest feedback was sometimes hard to swallow, it has often been essential in breaking me down in order to enable my growth into a stronger, better, business-minded consultant.
The only way we can develop in business is by really understanding ourselves and our own drivers and barriers. Most importantly you need to know how your drivers and barriers are perceived by others. You might think your confidence is great for getting a sales lead, for example, but others could perceive this trait as arrogance.
Reflecting on personal feedback is one thing, however, reflecting on feedback about the wider business can also be valuable. Regardless of what level you are in the business, this is a useful way to help you be better and achieve more in your own specific role. When considering all of this, it is worth being aware of what the competition is doing. Note that I said ‘be aware’ of what they are doing, rather than trying to emulate it. You are not the same business, and trying to copy exactly what they are doing will get you nowhere. If your customers wanted exactly what the competition were offering, they would be working with them already. You should focus on your business and use what you know about the competition to ask yourself, “how can we do better?”
Get out your comfort zone
Have you ever been at an external business conference or event where you overhear a conversation between other people discussing some brilliant ideas? You realise this is your area of expertise and your curiosity is peaked. But you do not want to step in the conversation and bother these people as it’s not your place, or because of social protocols dictate you should not be eavesdropping. Well I can tell you that curiosity did not kill the cat, and by stepping in politely it could be the best move you make for several reasons:
- Introduces you to some new connections
- Will showcase your confidence in the best possible light
- Could lead to new business
- Gives you insight into some great ideas you can take back to your own busines
So, when the next opportunity presents itself in the form of an overheard conversation, politely step in, join the discussion, and represent your business in the best light that it deserves.
We all make mistakes, but do we learn from them? Mistakes are a normal part of business and some of the best companies readily admit to making them. In fact, this could be what makes them the best companies in the world – they see their mistakes as opputunites to improve. It is how the business handle their mistake that is the key, and that is more often than not built into the culture.
Ask yourself whether your company ‘fire fights’ and moves on, or whether it stops to investigate the ‘fires’ to ensure that there are measures in place to stop them happening again. There is a difference between knowing what you did wrong and learning from your mistakes. As a business, you must strive to make your work mistake-proof but this will not happen overnight. Consider any mistakes you mkake along the way as beacons of light guiding you towards doing better.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to being aware of your surroundings, really knowing your business and seizing opportunities as they come up. Never sit still for too long because the business world moves too fast for that.