Need to Jumpstart Accountability in a Flexible Workplace? Here’s How

Freedom and flexibility. These aren’t just buzzwords among today’s workforce–they’re highly sought-after commodities that can be used to attract and retain the best talent from around the world. Offering remote status and flexible hours can help your company tap into the global workforce while enhancing employee satisfaction. But how can you be sure your flexible staff is performing at the level you expect?   

It all comes down to accountability. When people can connect their daily tasks to the advancement of the company’s purpose and priorities, they feel personally invested in their job. However, fostering that connection can be rather elusive. Even huge companies with seemingly unlimited resources struggle with this issue. As one CEO put it, “We’ve been working for years on getting our people to take accountability for results, but we can’t get it to stick. And now we’ve got a third of our workforce working remotely or in some sort of a flex work arrangement.”

In a recent Global Workplace Accountability Study involving 40,000 employees in a broad range of industries, Partners In Leadership found that only 24% of people can link what they do every day to their organization’s key results–the deliverables most vital to success. Moreover, 74% of business leaders feel that their organization’s key results are not clearly understood or actively pursued throughout the organization.

These findings are particularly troubling for companies with remote and flexible workers who, without daily reminders in the workplace, are largely responsible for generating their own sense of accountability. And if they lead a team, they’re in charge of their team’s commitment to key results as well.

To increase workforce engagement, companies need to develop and communicate a crystal-clear definition of desired results, as well as a common language and framework for discussing accountability. And when employees are feeling ineffective or unsure about how to proceed, they should be encouraged to ask themselves the following questions:  

1. What do I need to See? What reality am I not acknowledging?

2. What must I Own? How am I contributing to the problem and/or solution?

3. How can I Solve the problem?  What else can I do?

4. What can I Do to make more progress? What do I need to do, by when, and with whom?

See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It®.

Accountability needs to be woven into the daily activities of everyone in an organization, regardless of how, where, or when they work. Those who feel a deep sense of personal commitment to the success of the team and the organization possess the conviction to get things done.

Here’s How Apple’s Joanthan Ive Would Redesign Your Products and Services

Four months ago, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, Jonathan Ive, resumed direct management of Apple’s design teams after a two-year hiatus. Apple has managed to keep details about his compensation heavily under wraps, but it’s certainly in the millions. And he’s earning every penny of it.

Having designed the original iPod, iPad, and iPhone, he is perhaps the most famous living designer of consumer products. His career has just been one hit after another.

I mention this because the principles that guide his designs aren’t only for designers of consumer products, they are for any business leader who wants to improve his or her company. You can use his philosophy of design as a framework from which to improve your own business.

Here’s how he described his design philosophy to the London Evening Standard: “Our goal is simple objects,” he said. “Objects that you can’t imagine any other way.”

If you’ve ever bought an Apple product, you’ll know exactly what he means. You encounter that simplicity of design before you even interact with the product itself. Whereas many consumer products have terrible packaging (I recently had to bust out wire cutters to open a toy for my son.  It literally took me ten minutes and I was fuming at the manufacturer every minute along the way), the iPhone’s packaging is beautiful in its simplicity. The delivery box is perfectly sized to enclose the iPhone box. And when you open the inside box, the sleeve pulls back to dramatically reveal the phone. Power on your device and you’ll discover that it comes pre-charged and pre-set to your iCloud account.

So simple. So intuitive. Don’t you wish your products and services were like that?

In this article, I’m going to share four simple steps to help you apply Jonathan Ive’s philosophy of simple design to your own products,services, and even your internal processes within your company.

Step #1: Start Keeping a  Design Journal

I want you to keep a “Design Journal” to record all of the things that you love and all of the things that you hate about the products and services that you interact with — from PTA meetings to grocery stores to online shopping and beyond.

And be sure to stick to what your passionate about — what you love and what you hate. For the time being you can simply ignore those things that you feel lukewarm about. I want you to pay attention to the two sides of your extremes – this is where you’ll find the richest design lessons.

I’ll give you a few examples from my own journal. I travel quite often (so should you by the way) so my journal has a lot of entries from my travels.

Here’s something I hate: At my small town airport, there are two security lines — one for TSA Pre and one for everyone else. But living in Jackson, Wyoming it is common for the Pre side of the line, with it’s it’s six or seven security employees to handle TSA Pre exclusively, to be completely empty, while the other side for “non Pre” to be packed.  We’ll just get Pre you say?  Can’t do your interview in Jackson, have to do it at a major airport.  Schedule an appointment when traveling to do it during a layover?  Well they have a backlog months long.  In fact, my Pre paperwork expired in the year I kept trying to get an appointment.  A totally broken process.

You know what else I hate? United’s website. It takes me about 25 minutes to buy tickets from United. I can buy a ticket from other third party travel websites  in a third of that time.

But you know what I love? Clearly-marked routes between airport terminals and car-rental lots, with lots of signs to breadcrumb the way. And airlines that post the current boarding zone up on a monitor so that you don’t have to ask the other clueless people gathering to board.

By journaling about experiences like these, you can train yourself to notice good design and spot opportunities for improvement.

Step #2: Journal About Your Own Industry

Now consider your own industry from the perspective of a client. Ask yourself what a client would love and hate about your industry in general.

To be clear, you’re not only journaling about your own business at this stage. You should be thinking about your competitors too. What do customers love and hate about the products and services in your industry?

From the point of view of the client, you might love that you can trust some of the service providers to just do the work for you. But you might hate that service providers in your industry take weeks to follow up.

When you spot what people in your industry love or hate, you’ll gain great insights that you can use to radically improve the value you offer your market.

Step #3:  Journal About Your Own Business

Now ask yourself: If I were a client of my business, what would I love and hate about our own products and services?

For example, you might love how easy your product is to use, but you might hate the packaging. Or, for a repair service, you might love the quality of the work, but hate the mess that the repair team leaves behind.  Again, it’s what you spot at the extremes that offers the greatest gold for you to mine from your design journal.

Step #4:  Journal About Solutions

Now that you’ve identified things that clients might hate about your products and services, ask yourself, What am I going to do about it?

Think back to Jonathan Ive’s goal — to build simple objects that you can’t imagine any other way. How can you make your products and services simple — so that they just work? How can you fix the things that drive people crazy?

I discovered this process while working on my own business. My company, Maui Mastermind, is one of the premier business coaching companies in the world. We’re really good at what we do.

But several years ago, a former client approached me during a keynote I was giving at his industry conference with some feedback. He said that he loved our approach and that he still used our tools and methodology to run his business. But he told me that there were two things that pushed him away from our business after only a year in our program.The first frustration was that his coach wasn’t a good personality match for him; his second frustration was that nobody other than his coach ever asked him for feedback. He owned that he could have called or emailed our office to talk with someone other than his coach, but it was poor design on our part not to proactively ask him and build in feedback loops outside of his direct coach.  I agreed.  While it was  painful to hear how we blew it with him, it was incredibly important to spot ways to improve the design of our core coaching service, which we did.

Since then, we’ve created the new  position in the company called Client Success Manager and this person’s role is to be a second point of contact with our company independent from the coach, and he or she checks in quarterly with our clients by phone, and more often via email.  This way we can regularly talk with our coaching clients to find out what’s going well and what we can do to create even more value. On the rare occasion that a client doesn’t connect with their coach, we can learn about that problem and solve it immediately.

By thinking carefully about how we could fix the things in our business that people hated, not only did we neutralize those negatives, but we actually managed to turn those negatives into positives. That Client Success Manager role has helped us form deeper relationships with our clients than we ever had before — relationships that transcend the coach-client dynamic.

Now it’s your turn.  By following these four steps, you can learn to find the rough edges in your business and sand them down. You’ll be able to identify how you’ve let down or lost clients in the past and how you can transform those negative into positives moving forward.

It’s that kind of analysis that has earned Jonathan Ive his multi-million dollar salary. His genius is that he fixes problems before we even realize we have them. By simplifying at every opportunity, he’s created products that we can’t imagine any other way.

If you enjoyed the ideas I shared, then I encourage you to download a free copy of my newest book, Build a Business, Not a JobClick here for full details and to get your complimentary copy.

Leveraging Stress to Be Productive

In the United States, over 80 percent of workers claim their job is stressful; however, half of that percentage affirmed that they truly need help in order to manage the stress. Many people speculate what kind of help overstressed workers need to be productive at their various offices. An interesting solution might be to apply paradigm shift in the way we define stress. We should consider stress as something that has the potency to fuel productivity.

Recent research carried out in the United Kingdom shows that some level of stress is actually helpful to make workers become productive. Your body would interpret that little stress a survival strategy, there improving your longevity as well as your cellular health.

Generally, too much of stress can have a serious implication on our health. It is capable of hurting your physical well-being; just the same way it will hurt you mentally. However, this new research has proven that it is capable of fueling productivity at work.

Here are some of the ways you can channel stress into productivity.

Improve Your Productivity

Have you ever wondered why coaches stress up athletes some few minutes to the game? The reason is not farfetched. Stressed up athletes would have much gusto compare to a relaxed athlete. Some level of stress is relevant to move faster. A stressful situation like meeting a target or featuring in upcoming presentations can be a motivator to get the best out of you. 

Strengthen Brain Power

Consider when you are in a middle of a stressful job. Do you throw in the towel or lay back? Obviously, your response is ‘no’. Put on your thinking cap and activate your mental wheel. Before you know it, the job would be perfectly concluded. Studies have it that some level of stress can trigger the brain for it to perform better and increase your productivity level.

Pursue Greater Learning

The way you consider stress is the determining factor. One study concluded that workers that applied paradigm shift in the way they think about stress performed better than their counterparts that had a negative mindset about stress. Stress made them push beyond the limit to learn more skills, thereby giving them more opportunity to handle larger projects.

Force new challenges

Stress is uncomfortable and pretty difficult; however, it is inherently laden with a potential to make you discover smarter ways of overcoming challenges in your workplace.

The next you face a difficult scenario and you are about to give up due to stress, channel the stress into productivity. Stress has it inherent benefits which you need to take advantage of. It can even result in a motivating force for you.

This 1 Skill Enables a 7 Person Company to Serve Customers in 192 Countries

Many companies have a desire to grow by winning customers in different parts of the world. But because of the diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and ideas of these multi-cultural customers, it isn’t always the easiest to make existing products, communications, or ways of operating work for them.

The companies who’ve figured out how to serve customers with varied backgrounds have fared well. Over the weekend the movie Black Panther crossed the $1 billion mark in worldwide sales after being in theaters for only a month. And Rihanna’s ultra-inclusive makeup line Fenty Beauty racked up sales of $72 million in its first month.

But having a mega budget, an all-star cast or a brand known worldwide isn’t a prerequisite for effectively reaching diverse customers. H&M, Dove, and Pepsi have each had major missteps they’ve all apologized for in the past year despite their enviable resources.

The key that separate the companies who win customers globally from those who don’t quite get it right comes down to mastering one simple skill: empathy.

How empathy helped a small startup better serve their customers in nearly every country in the world.

Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a seven-person startup that helps companies generate leads and grow sales using quizzes. Josh and his team serve customers in 192 countries. Even though they experienced plenty of frustrations doing it early on, once the team leaned into being empathetic, Haynam told me everything changed:

“We stopped thinking about things from our perspective and started trying to see things from someone else’s perspective for the first time…from a different country or wherever, not knowing how to use this. And it’s totally changed everything. Everything we’ve built since then is much more simple, easy to use. It’s got explanations built into it, there’s materials, there’s offers to do calls…It really was a groundbreaking thing to just see it from an outside perspective.”

When Josh and his team left their egos on the table with the intent to listen to their customers and to walk a mile in their shoes, it became clear that they could do a better job serving them.

You can do the same in your business, whether you want to reach more customers in your own country, or around the world.

Empathy is choice we make to extend ourselves to others. And the more you work to build a culture that exercises its’ empathy muscle on a regular basis, the easier it will be for you to expand your reach to win more diverse customers.

Here are two ways to get started developing empathy as a strength.

1. Talk to your customers often. 

And when I say talk, I really mean listen. The Interact team has two team members who each do ten calls a day, five days a week. The time spent engaging with their customers gives them a front row seat into their challenges, common questions, and burning pains.

Interacting with your customers live as often as possible will give you and your team tremendous insights into their lives and what makes them tick. When I worked my corporate job, I made a point to get out with the sales force so I get close to our customers. The more I heard about and witnessed what their day-to-day was like, the better equipped I was to design solutions and materials that helped them reach their goals.

It wasn’t always easy to pull myself out of the office, but making the time to talk with customers on a regularly basis was always well worth the effort.

2. Seek to understand their challenges.

The key to getting the most out of the time you spend getting to know your customers at a deeper level is suspending your agenda and any preconceived notions about the way things ought to function.

Our thoughts, ideas, and goals are limited by our frame of reference. And if you don’t keep an open mind about uncovering the problems your customers’ experience, you’ll have a tough time finding the right solutions.

A while back I was a guest on an NPR radio program discussing the controversial Dove ad with the host and live callers. One listener expressed disdain for my and other customers’ negative reaction to the ad because she didn’t see how an advertisement could impact someone’s self-esteem.

But when you suspend your own experiences as the marker for how the world works, it allows space in your consciousness to better receive and understand the plight of your customers, Especially when they don’t mimic your own.

Technology has made it simpler to grow your business by engaging with customers all over the world. The degree of empathy you extend to them as you do will determine whether or not they feel like they belong with you. Choose empathy. Always.

Why Startups Need to Focus on Baby Boomers’ Needs

If I told a business owner that there’s a generation that controls more than half of all disposable income, is spending more every year, and is targeted by less than ten percent of all marketing, they’d probably start salivating. After all, how could they resist tapping such an underserved audience? But despite these numbers, many brands — and especially tech startups — lose interest when I tell them who those facts apply to: baby boomers.

Baby boomers, the generation that’s currently retiring, controls 70 percent of disposable income in the US, according to Nielsen. They’re expected to increase their spending by 58 percent over the next fifteen years. And they’re being ignored by most industries.

This group is becoming increasingly more interested in services — especially those related to the needs of aging and retirement — than they are in products. Because of this, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re most likely to spend significantly on improving their healthcare and quality of life. They’re also able to sniff out a company that’s solely interested in profits from a mile away, and won’t waste their hard earned savings on it. The winning angle will be to appeal to their desire to have great experiences, maintain their autonomy, and stay healthy.

Be mission driven to make a profit.

UK-based Cera is one of the few technology companies to focus entirely on the baby boomer generation, and they’re hoping that they can encourage more startups to serve those over the age of 50. This is especially critical, as, according to a recent report by LGiU, the senior population of the world is expanding, and only half of them rate their health care as “good” or better. Add to this that, according to the Journal of American Medical Association, almost 80 percent of those aged over 65 use a cell phone, but less than 20 percent use digital health tools.

“Our mission is to really empower older people to live as well and as independently as possible in the comfort of their own home. We’re trying to transform the elderly care market,” explains Mahiben “Ben” Maruthappu, Co-Founder and CEO of Cera. “It’s disorganized, very fragmented, and there’s very few technologies that serve it. Most companies still use paper, whiteboards, and manually updated spreadsheets to function.”

While Cera isn’t alone in targeting senior care (they contend with US based PointClickCare and HomeTeam, the market is far from crowded, especially on their side of the pond.

Look for disruption opportunities.

If you want to target baby boomers, the first thing to know is that you don’t need to invent something entirely new — there are plenty of industries they know and love that are in desperate need of a technology update.

When I last sat down with Maruthappu, he explained to me that “there are thousands of disconnected home care companies all over the country of various sizes and capabilities. With relative ease, we’ve created a tech solution that unites them to form a network that creates a win-win-win situation for everyone involved. They’re more profitable and run more smoothly, Cera continues to grow and thrive, and patients receive a superior and ever-improving level of care from their caregivers.” The company, which raised £3.2 million in 2016, has taken an approach to scaling that is unusual to a company so young: market consolidation.

Once a caregiving facility is added to the platform, Cera performs a total upgrade of the technology in place, from internal operations to the devices that caregivers use with patients. This creates a situation where workers able to streamline their work days, while simultaneously increasing the value of their services. In fact, by rolling out wearables and in-home sensors, caregivers that work in Cera’s network are able to give their patients a greater sense of autonomy without any lapse in supervision or care. By combining this sensor information with daily log activity, Cera’s automation and analytics engine is able to flag patients at risk for becoming ill, so that care and intervention can be done immediately.

Prioritize your goals and team, and the money will follow.

If you want to succeed as a startup, you can’t solely be in the business for the money. You must be in it because you want to improve some aspect of your customer’s life. If you’re just doing it for the paycheck, get a job, don’t found a company.

“Startups are, by definition, quite challenging. They’re a blank canvas that exposes your shortcomings just as much as it give you an opportunity to demonstrate your strengths,” explains Maruthappu. “As you grow, prioritize hiring people who excel at your weaknesses.”

“Put those two key principles together, and you’ll naturally come to a third: the biggest problems come from misplacing priorities and getting distracted. Whenever we’ve felt that Cera’s growth was stalling, it’s been because we allowed ourselves to get distracted with too many priorities. My rule: pick three things you want to accomplish as a company, and work on those. Any more and you’ll be setting yourself up for trouble.”

Why Startups Need to Focus on Baby Boomers’ Needs

If I told a business owner that there’s a generation that controls more than half of all disposable income, is spending more every year, and is targeted by less than ten percent of all marketing, they’d probably start salivating. After all, how could they resist tapping such an underserved audience? But despite these numbers, many brands — and especially tech startups — lose interest when I tell them who those facts apply to: baby boomers.

Baby boomers, the generation that’s currently retiring, controls 70 percent of disposable income in the US, according to Nielsen. They’re expected to increase their spending by 58 percent over the next fifteen years. And they’re being ignored by most industries.

This group is becoming increasingly more interested in services — especially those related to the needs of aging and retirement — than they are in products. Because of this, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re most likely to spend significantly on improving their healthcare and quality of life. They’re also able to sniff out a company that’s solely interested in profits from a mile away, and won’t waste their hard earned savings on it. The winning angle will be to appeal to their desire to have great experiences, maintain their autonomy, and stay healthy.

Be mission driven to make a profit.

UK-based Cera is one of the few technology companies to focus entirely on the baby boomer generation, and they’re hoping that they can encourage more startups to serve those over the age of 50. This is especially critical, as, according to a recent report by LGiU, the senior population of the world is expanding, and only half of them rate their health care as “good” or better. Add to this that, according to the Journal of American Medical Association, almost 80 percent of those aged over 65 use a cell phone, but less than 20 percent use digital health tools.

“Our mission is to really empower older people to live as well and as independently as possible in the comfort of their own home. We’re trying to transform the elderly care market,” explains Mahiben “Ben” Maruthappu, Co-Founder and CEO of Cera. “It’s disorganized, very fragmented, and there’s very few technologies that serve it. Most companies still use paper, whiteboards, and manually updated spreadsheets to function.”

While Cera isn’t alone in targeting senior care (they contend with US based PointClickCare and HomeTeam, the market is far from crowded, especially on their side of the pond.

Look for disruption opportunities.

If you want to target baby boomers, the first thing to know is that you don’t need to invent something entirely new — there are plenty of industries they know and love that are in desperate need of a technology update.

When I last sat down with Maruthappu, he explained to me that “there are thousands of disconnected home care companies all over the country of various sizes and capabilities. With relative ease, we’ve created a tech solution that unites them to form a network that creates a win-win-win situation for everyone involved. They’re more profitable and run more smoothly, Cera continues to grow and thrive, and patients receive a superior and ever-improving level of care from their caregivers.” The company, which raised £3.2 million in 2016, has taken an approach to scaling that is unusual to a company so young: market consolidation.

Once a caregiving facility is added to the platform, Cera performs a total upgrade of the technology in place, from internal operations to the devices that caregivers use with patients. This creates a situation where workers able to streamline their work days, while simultaneously increasing the value of their services. In fact, by rolling out wearables and in-home sensors, caregivers that work in Cera’s network are able to give their patients a greater sense of autonomy without any lapse in supervision or care. By combining this sensor information with daily log activity, Cera’s automation and analytics engine is able to flag patients at risk for becoming ill, so that care and intervention can be done immediately.

Prioritize your goals and team, and the money will follow.

If you want to succeed as a startup, you can’t solely be in the business for the money. You must be in it because you want to improve some aspect of your customer’s life. If you’re just doing it for the paycheck, get a job, don’t found a company.

“Startups are, by definition, quite challenging. They’re a blank canvas that exposes your shortcomings just as much as it give you an opportunity to demonstrate your strengths,” explains Maruthappu. “As you grow, prioritize hiring people who excel at your weaknesses.”

“Put those two key principles together, and you’ll naturally come to a third: the biggest problems come from misplacing priorities and getting distracted. Whenever we’ve felt that Cera’s growth was stalling, it’s been because we allowed ourselves to get distracted with too many priorities. My rule: pick three things you want to accomplish as a company, and work on those. Any more and you’ll be setting yourself up for trouble.”

Google Employees Dedicate 20 Percent of Their Time to Side Projects. Here’s How it Works

Google has long encouraged its employees to devote 20 percent of their time to side projects, which is one reason why it remains one of the most innovative companies in the world.

For companies that invest in side project initiatives, the outcomes can be incredible: Gmail, Google Maps, Twitter, Slack, and Groupon all started as side projects.

My company is young, and our resources are not limitless. So while we aren’t yet able to give our team members the green light on the 20 percent rule, we have tried alternatives such as hackathons, side projects, and business case study competitions. Here are the three most important lessons I’ve learned:

1. You should encourage employee choice and strengths.

As part of our annual all-company retreat, we wanted to do something that would bring team members from different departments together. Our very creative engineering team had heard of hackathons and so we broke up the company into four groups and gave them a full week to come up with an idea, work on it, and present a finished product to the entire company. The winners would get cash prizes and bragging rights for a year.

What went well: The creativity and the camaraderie built among teams. There were some hilarious team names and one team created the framework for what would become our extensive and proprietary dataset.

What we learned: Not all job functions were required to help the team and not everyone performs well in high-stress, competitive, group activity environments. There were team members that were completely left out due to the highly technical nature of their group’s project and some folks that simply hated the competitive nature of the event. 

Our best version of side projects was when we made it a collaborative instead of a competitive experience and let employees choose which idea to work on. People are most engaged and do their best when they get to work on things that interest them.

2. Ideas require intentional effort and oversight to become solutions.

Our first three iterations of side projects were ideas that had been created by employees and worked on by teams without leaders. The end result, while fantastic ideas, were often not aligned with our business objectives. 

We’ve found having assigned business leaders who give teams their prompts and objectives works well. Everyone plays their best when they know the rules of the game and have a coach to show them how to win.

This year, we provided a team with the objective of creating Employee Resource Groups at our company. We assigned an executive sponsor and a team leader. After just a few hours, the team gave an awesome presentation, started our first ERG complete with leaders and members, and created a process for how to start one in the future.

3. Cross-department collaboration fosters trust and innovation.

In every iteration, our team has named side projects as one of the best things our company does each year. They tell us that they love getting to know colleagues from other departments and learning about what they do and how they do it. Everyone finds common ground and feels closer as a company after side projects.

Because the teams are intentionally cross-functional, we end up with ideas that never would have come about in a typical workday environment, like a completely new and automated way to connect with our customers. Some of these ideas have become game-changers for our product, our service, and our team — directly impacting our bottom line.

You don’t have to be a company with resources like Google to implement and benefit from side projects. We devoted about eight hours as a company in January of this year and we’ve already seen the benefits of the solutions and camaraderie that came out of side projects.