Marketing and Business Tips

Marketing and Business Tips

How to Have a Difficult Conversation

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One of the key differentiators between the exceptional business owners and the average business owner is the ability to navigate difficult conversations successfully. As a business and executive coach I see this frequently.

Whether it is a conversation with a customer, a vendor, a partner, or an employee, from time to time we all find ourselves in the middle of a difficult conversation. This becomes even more acute when we have family members working in our businesses. We must know how to have a difficult conversation when the time arises.

One of my favorite tools for coaching business owners and the executive on this subject is the book Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler. Today, I hope to share some insights and tips from my experience and from this excellent resource to help you as you engage these situations.

What Makes a Conversation Difficult?

For now let’s identify what makes a conversation difficult and what immediate steps we can take. The authors of Crucial Conversations suggest that there are three factors that make the conversation difficult.

First, opinions vary. For example, you and your team have to solve a sensitive customer service problem but everyone has a different perspective on what needs to happen. You need them to be a part of the solution but everyone sees the issue differently.

Second, the stakes are high. You know that if this customer service problem is not handled correctly you will lose a very large account that will effect your bottomline.

Finally, emotions run strong. Some of your team members have been at odds with one another and you’re at the end of your rope with them. Worse yet, this valuable customer has expressed in no uncertain terms their disappointment with your service.

Typically when opinions vary, stakes are high, and emotions run strong you are headed for a train wreck. So what do you do? How can you guide the conversation to make sure this has a good resolution?

Look at Yourself

The first thing you need to do is to step back for a minute and ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. What is it that is creating anxiety for me in this situation? Identify the exact source within yourself and let that go for a few moments.
  2. What is it that I want – what do I want for me, for my customer, and for my team?
  3. What action can I take that will acknowledge what’s going on right now and move us toward a positive outcome for all concerned?

This may not come easy at first but practice these 3 questions until you master them. A key aspect of being a successful businesses owner is knowing yourself and your mindset.

Learn to Observe

The next step in handling a difficult conversation is to learn to observe.

Once you gain some emotional detachment by stepping back and looking at yourself, then look at the situation. Look for both content and conditions. By content I mean look at what is actually being said as well as what is NOT being said. By conditions I mean to look and see if everyone feels “safe” to talk about the real issues. If there is not safety there will not be dialogue. Do you see any “flight or fight” taking place?

When “flight” is taking place, you might observe withdrawal, avoidance, or masking behavior. When “fight” is taking place you might observe attacking, labeling, or controlling behaviors.

Most important, be sure you are watching for these types of behavior in yourself. The better able you are to observe this in yourself, the better able you will be to observe this in others.

Keep the Dialogue Going

The goal is to keep all parties engaged in constructive dialogue. But dialogue is NOT debate! Dialogue is characterized by listening and sharing honest perspectives, not defending. The moment we start defending ourselves or our positions, we have moved away from dialogue. In dialogue we must suspend judgement and learn to listen objectively and openly.

Bottomline, when a conversation turns “crucial” the tendency is to become defensive which typically leads to flight or fight. The dialogue is over.

As a business and executive coach, I encourage my clients to first look at themselves, and then to learn to observe. Watch for safety problems and work to maintain dialogue.

Annual Business Plan: 7 Key Processes

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Your annual business growth plan is critical to the consistent, healthy growth of your business. I hope you will overcome the barriers and go into the new year with a solid plan for growth.

I have already identified the 3 Parts of an Annual Business Growth Plan. They are: Your Marketing Plan (with particular focus on your Marketing Calendar), Your Budget (or Financial Plan), and Your Organizational Improvement Plan. Here I want to look more closely at Your Organizational Improvement Plan.

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5 Components of a Turnkey Business

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I want to share with you today about how to create a turn key business, and specifically, I want to talk about the 5 Components of a Turn Key Business.

Great business leaders build great businesses that can run without them. That’s what I encourage all the business owners I work with to work toward. To create a business that can function and perform consistently and predictably, without their constant presence and their constant attention.

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How to Create An Operations Manual for Your Business

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At the heart of a turn-key business is the operations manual. It is the authoritative source for defining how things are done in your company. This tool provides your employees with the guidance they need to operate your business with confidence and independence. It is the single-point reference for everything your employees need to know. Thus it should be the first thing that new employees are trained on. It should also be the source for ongoing reminders and training within your organization.

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How to Create an Annual Business Plan to Grow Your Business

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The number one reason most businesses do not grow is because they do not have a plan! Tweet This

It is critical for every business owner to plan annually for consistent, healthy growth! There are several reasons why owners do not plan but the fact remains you must do it to grow your business! The question is “How?”

In this post I want to give you a simple outline to follow as you create your business plan for the coming year.

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How to Organize Your Small Business

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There are 3 levels of work in your business: a Leadership role, a Manager role, and a Technician role. The Leader’s job is to clarify the vision, set the direction, and build the systems. The Manager’s job is to maintain, refine, and measure the systems. The Technician’s job is to do the specific work of the business – e.g. work the systems. How do your organize your small business to achieve maximum results?

Now, I understand that most small business owners wear all three hats! However, to be strategic and grow your business you MUST learn to spend more time on Leadership and less time on the Technical work of the business. Where most of us struggle is that we do not spend enough time “leading” because most of our time is consumed with “doing.”

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3 Factors That Create a Powerful Customer Experience

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In this post I want to go deep into the 3 factors that create a powerful customer experience. Remember, your first priority should be to market to your existing customers. So it’s important to make sure they have the right experience!

As I’ve mentioned before, what differentiates us from our competitors usually has less to do with our products or services, and more to do with how we treat people! The best companies in the world get this and place a major emphasis on the customer experience.

Here are the 3 most basic components for creating a “Wow” experience” for your customers.

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