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Communications for CHANGE

Change requires high performance strategies...not just in communications, but in planning, inspiring, and follow through. Big change requires our very best, our strongest and our most proven strategies. What are they for you?

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Change Leadership Tips by Carolyn Allen

Problem:Solution

Problem: The future is uncertain. Business is more challenging than we've ever seen it. What now?

Solution: Practical leadership solutions.

Understanding and accepting the new reality

President Franklin D. Roosevelt led during the USA’s darkest financial crisis by acknowledging "all we have to fear is fear itself" and leading the way out of that twisted pathway.

"By accepting uncertainty and focusing on how we can capitalize on the opportunities it provides through different or new solutions we, too, can experience personal and organizational breakthroughs in our changing world," says Dr. Michael O'Connor, in Training Industry.

Change ALWAYS brings fear of the unknown - not knowing your future. But then, so do good times. The difference is the size and number of variables that change at any one time. And we're facing a wide variety of variables -- local economies, national and global economic shifts. As well as industry innovations, new regulations and compliance processes. And shifting consumer behaviors.

It's like America is a "fixer upper" project that we're living in -- with no where else to move! Now what?

We are all on edge waiting to hear the decisions beyond our control. But "waiting" doesn't have to mean passive waiting. It can also provide us with the golden opportunity to "act". To research, plan and build a better future for our company, our department, and our industry. Big challenges provide big headaches, to be sure -- but they also provide big opportunities for self-determined change.

Times of big change give leaders the opportunity to show their true leadership metal. Their wisdom. Their skills. Their connections. Their creativity. This is the time to build a stronger, re-energized mission and workforce. This is the time for "entrepreneurial" or "intrepreneurial" action. The time for innovation. The time for sharpening best practices.

Taking a collaborative approach

Some people are good at tasks, others are good at relationships. Most entrepreneurs have to develop both strategies, but they are still stronger at one than the other. Know your strength...and then shape your strategy based on your strength.

By strengthening shared commitment, you share the challenge, the work, and the future rewards. Rewards may vary in size and scope: sometimes they are keeping a job. Sometimes they are profit sharing or stock options. But shared commitment ALWAYS requires both giving and receiving.

During tough market times, getting over financial difficulties can include a strategy of employees at all levels voluntarily reducing their own compensation in line with typical raises during good times. If employees are given choices -- such as taking a temporary reduction or laying off members of their teams -- they just might understand that cutbacks will not only harm their friends totally, but put more work on their own plates...and they might vote to reduce their salaries or hours instead of choosing layoffs.

This is a great time, a fertile time for considering and adopting employee suggestions. Creativity's greatest strength is DIVERSITY. Multiple voices represent multiple elements of the task at hand. More eyes and ears are helpful in dealing with a fluid world. The challenge is to ask the right questions. Synthesize the wisdom being shared. And then apply innovative discipline to take needs through innovation and into implementation.

Your game plan for successfully overcoming this change

That innovation process can be applied to change management as well as to product development.

Here are some questions for your employees to brainstorm and contribute observations and suggestions regarding:

  • Niggling customer problems
  • Customer requests
  • Who your best customers are
  • Who your most underserved customer categories are
  • New technologies that customers are using and asking questions about
  • New trends in your field
  • New and looming compliance parameters
  • Companies and gurus to partner with
  • How you would LIKE to see the world improved

Brainstorming can be simple or complex, depending on the scope of your core competencies. But your employees and supply chain members know a lot they haven't told you because you haven't asked them the right questions! Now's the time!

Taking a proactive role to build your new future is like a general who leads from the front, not the rear. Leading to a new vision builds trust and confidence in your leadership. When you combine inclusiveness with an organizational commitment level -- such as allocating time and money to the rebuilding, you create a fertile field from which new products and services can sprout.

On the other hand, self-protection shrinks your fertility. When you isolate your plans, your company, your people from their challenging future, you don't tap into what can BECOME. And you get stuck in last year's fading crop.

The intensely disciplined approach

Some leaders have simple business strategies. Buy products and sell them. Take calls and deliver service. Those kinds of business models can benefit from the intensely disciplined approach.

"Practical action plans can be focused on the immediate goal of business survival that builds toward sustained success," says Dr. O'Connor.

These coping strategies can be selected for their ability to be executed quickly, thoroughly and correctly.

  • You can tighten time management.
  • Reduce wasted materials.
  • Reduce wasted mileage.
  • Carry postcards for sharing everywhere you go.
  • Make twice the number of phone calls.
  • Make half the phone calls and twice the personal sales calls.

But simple isn't always more effective...just some of your strategies will actually be beneficial. Other trails will fail. So it is also important to monitor changes -- even changes to your Web page -- and monitor results tightly -- and adjust in ways that strengthen your success.

Know your key metrics. For example. If you close 20% of the phone calls you place to a GREAT list, and only 2% of cold call lists. Your key metric is using GREAT lists. If sending out news releases gets you twice as many leads as an ad in the paper, your key metric is News Releases.

Communicate what is being done and achieved. Your customers need to know what you are improving. Your employees need to know what is working best so they can pitch in and support these successful strategies. Your suppliers need to know what you're looking for. Your neighbors and friends need to know what you're doing and what you are proud of accomplishing. We need to know! We're curious critters and we get excited when we know enough details to tell a story...so feed us anecdotes and facts and help us tell YOUR story. We, the people in your world want to care -- help us care.

Leaders help people get excited. That's how change is crafted. And a better future is built.

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| leadership | change management | management |

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