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Top tips for delivering upward feedback

Giving your boss feedback, commonly called upward feedback, can be a tricky process to master. However, if offered correctly and thoughtfully, your insight can not only help your boss, but also improve your working relationship. Here are some tips to consider.

The relationship comes first. The ability to give and receive upward feedback is dependent on the relationship and level of trust between you and your boss. Before giving feedback, you need to gauge whether your boss will be open to what you have to say. If you know that your boss is unreceptive to feedback, is likely to react negatively, or if you have a rocky relationship, it’s better not to say anything. However, if your boss is open-minded and you have a good relationship, you owe them the straight talk. As with any feedback, your intentions must be good and your desire to help your boss is paramount.

Ask first. If you’re unsure if your boss is open to candid feedback, ask them. Feedback can result in learning, and everyone should be open to learning, no matter his or her position. Hopefully your boss will say yes, and that will make giving the feedback a little easier. If you get the feeling your manager isn’t wild about receiving upward feedback, look for anonymous ways to share your thoughts, such as a 360-feedback process.

Make your feedback timely. Ideally, you want to give feedback as soon as you can and in an appropriate setting after something has happened. After that, details can get fuzzy. If you can’t get together to talk soon after the situation, write down what happened - in detail - so that when you are able to meet, you can quickly recall events accurately.

Be specific. For feedback to be effective and have an impact, make sure it’s specific. For example, “When you brief me on a project, it would be more helpful to give me the goals and desired outcomes instead of a list of tasks you want me to complete. I can figure those things out on my own,” is better than saying, “I don’t like how you give project briefs.” The second isn’t actionable and doesn’t give your manager insight on how to change or improve.

Choose your delivery method carefully. Although email or instant messenger is tempting, it’s best to talk face to face when giving feedback. It might be awkward and more difficult than just typing up your suggestions and hitting send, but having a real conversation will ensure the message you want to deliver is the one received. Body language often says more than spoken words; if you go into the meeting with a smile and relaxed manner, you can start things off with the right tone. And if you see your manager getting tense, you can adjust your tone and clarify your words so that the conversation stays meaningful. 

When your boss bites back. No matter how thoughtfully you’ve prepared and delivered your feedback, your boss may get upset or be defensive about the feedback you’ve given. If you were asked for the feedback, you should hold your ground and explain that you were doing what was asked of you. Sometimes reframing the feedback can help. Often feedback is more easily received if you frame it in terms of what your boss cares about. 

When in doubt, hold your tongue. If you’re not sure if your boss wants to hear feedback or if the subject of the feedback is a sensitive one, it’s almost always better to not speak up. There is no reason to risk your working relationship or your job, unless you feel your boss’s behaviour is putting the organisation or your unit in jeopardy. Instead, look for opportunities to give anonymous feedback, such as a 360-degree feedback process.

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How to reach your business goals

There are business owners who continue to grow their business and always seem to go from strength to strength. Then there is everyone else who is well intentioned but struggle with the time to manage their business, let alone set goals and then work on achieving them.

It is a proven fact that most small to medium sized organisations do not have a written business plan. No documented business plan means that objectives and strategies are not captured, resulting in a business that lacks direction. In addition, an organisation without a business plan will often lack the confidence to solve their business issues. When business issues remain unresolved they can adversely affect cash flow, revenue and profitability.

The truth is that this lack of formal business planning is one of the major causes of business failure.

A business plan sets out what a business proposes to do and how it proposes to do it. Here are few practical steps to help create a powerful business plan to drive the success of your organisation.

Step 1 – Look at the strength and weaknesses of your competitors. By researching your competitors you are better equipped to understand why clients are attracted to your competitors (i.e. their strengths) and what gaps or niches exist in the market place (i.e. their weaknesses).

Step 2 – Outline the strengths and areas for improvement in your business.

Step 3 – Define the vision for your organisation.

Step 4 – Define your goals. These are areas you want to improve. Typically objectives tend to be financial, operational, business development, staff and IT related. Objectives should be quantifiable by an absolute amount, a percentage and have a specific timeframe for achievement.

Step 5 – Create the strategies which will deliver performance improvements, i.e. how your business will get there.

Step 6 – Identify a timeframe and owner for the achievement of each strategy.

The process of creating a business plan is more important than the document itself.

The process of business planning is beneficial because it gives you:

  • A chance to stop, reflect and learn from past mistakes or wins in your business.
  • An opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas with members of the team.
  • A forum to think critically about goals, e.g. revenue and profit, and this results in targets being set which motivates the team to improve.

High-achievers in the small-to-medium size business sector admit that the turning point in their business was when they prepared their business plan.

Once you have created a sound plan, it is then essential to implement the plan with the support of the right process and people resources. In addition, it is essential to identify intervals for the review of performance against all objectives e.g. monthly, quarterly, annually. This will give feedback as to whether your strategies are working and give you an opportunity to change strategies if need be.

A well thought out business plan is the key to the long-term success of any business. Whether you are just starting a business, buying one already established or perhaps in need of extra finance for expansion you will need a business plan.

If you have questions or want to talk further click here to get in touch with us today.

If you want to re-used this article in part or whole, we are happy for you to do that. All we ask is that you reference us either within the article or in the footnotes, with a link that points back to our article.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Business planning is one of our most popular services as it is such an important part of driving business success. The following case study demonstrates the benefits of developing and executing a business plan.

What gets measured – gets managed and done!

One of our clients had been in practice for over 10 years and he had developed a successful business, but worked long hours and felt his overall return in profit and salary was not commensurate with his effort and time invested. He was also concerned that the hours he worked impeded spending quality time with his family. When he first contacted us his revenue was not increasing and his profitability was in decline.

When Best Practice Consulting began working with him, his plan was in his head and he informed us that he wanted: 'to deliver excellent service to his customers, have a well run and efficient practice, to make more profit and spend more time with his family'.

This information was used to develop a concise two page business plan which had measurable objectives and specific strategies.

With the assistance of some of his key staff, we implemented the strategies in the business plan and we have seen a dramatic change in his business revenue which increased 49% (or $845,508) and a substantial growth in operating profit - up 48% (or $229,305) over last year.

This is a great example of using a business plan to bring focus to the practice and deliver the saying 'what gets measured - gets managed and done!'

If you have questions or want to talk further click here to get in touch with us today.

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Execute your strategies or expire

"Don't fall short of your goals and discover how to address the SEVEN killers of successful strategy implementation"

Why is it that so many businesses fail to achieve their full potential? Our experience and, indeed, recent research for a book on eleven high performing Australian companies entitled 'The First Eleven' (by Huddard, Samuel, Heap and Cocks) shows that efficient and effective implementation of strategies leads to outstanding long term business performance.

Given that an organisation has a business plan and has developed the strategies to achieve the agreed objectives, there needs to be a desire to effectively and efficiently implement key activities. However, typically there are seven killers of successful strategy implementation:

1. Management inattention – Management develops the strategy but does not allocate adequate resources and processes, and does not follow up on progress.

2. A lack of documented processes – Management fails to document the processes to show how tasks need to be carried out.

3. Inadequate communication – Management often fail to clearly communicate what is to be achieved and what is required of staff. This can mean that staff do not understand the benefits of change and consequently can resist change. In addition, without a regular communication with management staff often stumble at various roadblocks and progress halts until advice is eventually obtained.

4. Poor project management skills – Essential tasks need to be broken down into a series of related projects with specific timelines.

5. A lack of performance goals and measures – Often there are inadequate means of measuring progress, and one cannot judge whether tactics need to changed to deliver the desired outcome.

6. Internal resource conflicts – Staff get diverted onto other activities, due to staff shortages and urgent requirements within the business. In addition, delays can occur when staff members do not work harmoniously together on a series of tasks.

7. A lack of skilled staff – Staff may not be trained and / or skilled in actually carrying out the implementation.

High performing businesses do implement their strategies well by addressing each of the above seven killers of successful implementation.

Achieving the desired goals will only be accomplished through careful planning, thoughtful strategy development, enthusiastic implementation and appropriate measurement.

If you have questions or want to talk further click here to get in touch with us today.

If you want to re-used this article in part or whole, we are happy for you to do that. All we ask is that you reference us either within the article or in the footnotes, with a link that points back to our article.

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