While many of my clients are mentioning how tough the current trading environment is, everyone is exceptionally busy!  There seems to be a lethal combination of short deadlines making everything urgent, top customers becoming even more demanding, restrictions on recruitment and tempers getting frayed.  Yet you can only achieve more by doing less . . .

The knock-on effects and hidden costs of all this busyness – if not properly managed – are more mistakes, misunderstandings and lower-quality services.  In today’s competitive environment having good relationships with your top clients is critical.  In fact ‘good’ is not enough.  Our relationships need to be excellent. 

The immense pressure from all angles is taking its toll.  The charity Relate, which supports people experiencing difficulties in their personal relationships, has seen a significant increase in enquiries because the pressures of work – or the lack of work altogether – are overflowing into the home.

A few of my clients are reporting that previously-loyal customers are going elsewhere because the bean-counters are demanding cost reductions.  What this really means is that the buyer who may have a good relationship with you is not equipped to explain and justify your products and services to the people whose jobs depend on providing evidence of cutting costs.  The tragedy is that if you don’t have excellent relationships with your clients the ‘Added Value’ and longer-term benefits you provide will not even be noticed, let alone explained to others.

The New Business Era
I like the quote from Richard Lambert, the CBI’s director-general: "There are important questions around how businesses are going to invest in the future. And in a more collaborative, less transactional world, closer relationships with customers, suppliers, employees and shareholders look like becoming the new norm." 

If we fail to build effective relationships with our prospects, clients and staff our competitors will.
More than ever we need to be able to get under our customers’ skin, identify their biggest concerns and support them at a level that our competitors ‘simply cannot reach’.  This requires an excellent relationship.

But, as with all the good things in life, developing excellent relationships takes effort, courage, and often means stepping out of your comfort zone.  However, the most frequent excuse I hear is;  “But I don’t have the time!” 

Saying that is a bit like the swamped and overwhelmed manager who complains that he doesn’t have time to do his course on Time Management, or is too busy to do appraisals and then complains about the performance of his people.  The quality of your relationships within your team has a direct correlation with the levels of performance they are able to achieve.  This ultimately impacts on what you can achieve. 

Can You Afford Not To Invest?
There are some things that are simply too expensive not to invest in, and relationships probably come top of the list.  But what we need to address before focusing on how to build extraordinary relationships is that “Something has got to give . . .” 

Isn’t it funny that all the books, seminars and audio programmes always talk about what you need to do more of, but nobody ever tells us what we should do less of!  “Sounds great” I hear you say    “. . and how exactly are we going to do that?”
It’s the easiest thing in the world to create an exciting new expectation, to add another ‘to-do’ to the list, to make the plans . . . but then ‘reality’ takes over and another 3 months go by without getting to all that ‘important’ stuff.

So looking ahead to 2013, the question is perhaps not so much “What do you want to do?”, but “What will you want to say No to?”
After all, if we cannot say ‘No’, what value does our ‘Yes’ have?

What Do You Want To Do Less Of In 2013?
Here is a menu of 21 options that might be helpful. If a conversation about implementing any of them would help, you are welcome to contact Gloria at admin@InspiredWorking.com to arrange a call.

I appreciate the choices involved are not always easy ones.  But making lots of tiny changes will often produce a bigger and longer-lasting positive result than attempting one perfectly-executed grand gesture.  Taking a small step with 10 of the following will produce a greater effect than doing one completely.
1. Holding shorter, more focused meetings
2. Deleting more emails, perhaps via someone else, or an automated filtering system
3. Answering fewer emails, perhaps only in the afternoon
4. Minimising travel, working more by phone
5. Not writing proposals until you are certain you have the business or you are at least down to the last two
6. Holding fewer speculative meetings, until there is a clear-cut budget and timescale
7. Allowing more elapsed time for projects that are important but not urgent, e.g. writing, brochures, web-site changes etc.
8. Dropping difficult, demanding, unappreciative clients
9. Simplifying administration e.g. charging a one-off fee up-front
10. Getting someone else (virtual assistants?) to do things that are not getting done now e.g. admin, arranging appointments, website additions, planning projects, compiling case studies, filing, making travel arrangements, etc.
11. Culling one marketing initiative: the one that is bringing in least results
12. Performance Managing non-productive team-members, so there are real consequences for them
13. Automatically deleting any emails more than one month old (they will be in deleted-items if you need them, but check your settings first!)
14. Giving yourself time-limits to make decisions
15. Having your Laptop completely mirrored onto another machine, so that you lose no time if it crashes or slows down
16. Asking “if this is a real priority, what can I displace to accommodate it?”
17. When asked for comment or feedback, doing so verbally in 10 minutes rather than taking hours to read or write a detailed critique (or use a voice recorder)
18. Reprimanding “waiters” i.e. those who, when asked what they are doing about x, reply that they are “waiting” for someone else to do something first. Waiting is not an action, and “waiters” increase the burden of real do-ers
19. Putting up a barrier to distractions, e.g. having some “focus time” every day when you can get some real work done
20. Saying no to all form of energy-drainers: whether fatty foods, critical people, complainers, poor lighting, inadequate space or an untidy environment

If there are any more things you think should be added to this list please mention them by leaving a comment below.

Ultimately, our actions are driven by our motivation and our motivation is primarily driven by our desire for pleasure or our avoidance of pain.  If the pleasure or pain are great enough we will change our behaviour.  But most of this motivation is below our conscious awareness so you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
– What will happen if I did the activity?
– What will not happen if I did the activity?
– What will happen if I did not do the activity?
– What will not happen if I did not do the activity?

The more honestly you answer the more you will clarify your thinking and be able to make wiser choices about what you do less of so you can achieve more.

Get Committed
Once you recognise that ‘good relationships’ are not enough and you really commit to developing ‘excellent relationships’ it is often surprising how you notice new opportunities, and it becomes easier to implement more of the list above. 

Consider this . . .
“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love.  The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation.  To commit is to remove your head as a barrier to your life.”  Anne Morriss

– What are you currently committed to?  

– What are you actually spending your time doing and what is not getting done?

– Are you doing the things that only you can do?

– Are you doing the things that only you should be doing?
(Or are you failing to delegate or perhaps mopping up for others because they are letting things slip?)

– What do you really need to be committed to in 2013?

– What are your opinions on achieving more by doing less? 

I’d be very interested to hear some of your thoughts and ideas . . .

Remember . . . Stay Curious!

With best regards
David Klaasen