Author Archives: Institute of Management

About Institute of Management

The Institute of Management is the leading learning and development partner for management and project management skills with practical approaches.

3 Leadership Tips Every Leader Must Know

There is a lot of emphasis on good leadership nowadays and we are never short of tips to take our leadership to the next level. A good leader knows how to take responsibility while at the same time empower their employees. He knows where he wants to take his people to in five years’ time.

Here are three other leadership tips less known, and yet very important to note.

leadership tips

1.     Help others

While it might be obvious that a leader or a manager’s job is to get as much profit as possible, it might be less obvious for a leader to actually help others, especially their own employees.

A leader who genuinely helps his team to grow and explore their potentials – not just for the benefit of the company but also for their own personal benefits – is more likely to create a strong, professional working environment.

2.     Don’t only learn from your mistakes, let others learn from them too

Even the greatest leaders make mistakes. Sharing your victories may motivate your employees to achieve higher standards but sharing your mistakes will also make them learn. Many leaders think that sharing their mistakes will make them look weak. On the contrary, employees who know that their leaders are not ashamed to admit and learn from their mistakes are more likely to do the exact same thing themselves.

3.     Correct them in person, praise them in public

When giving criticism, a good leader knows not to embarrass their employees. Yes, you might not think that way when you are correcting them in the middle of a meeting, but he might be feeling that you are attacking him. If he feels threatened, his productivity will decrease as well.

Praise, however, works in the opposite way. If someone does a good job, praise them in public as it will build their self-confidence and sense of belonging. Make a point that you value him and his contribution to the company.

Want to learn more about how to be a great leader? Visit our courses at www.im.edu.au.

5 Tips for Empowering Employees

Every leader wants empowered employees. Managers want people who take initiative in solving problems and completing tasks that are given. We want our employees to take control without needing us to guide them 24/7.

That said, despite the advantage of empowering our employees, many leaders do not invest significant time in creating an environment of empowerment. Here are five tips to make your company a place where people feel valued and ready to step it up.

empowering employees

1.     Make your employees believe they are valued

People are a company’s most valuable asset. If you have good business plan and yet no manpower behind the wheels to take your business from good to great, your business will suffer. Customers, clients and partners connect with people and not only your business brand, thus it is really important to remind your employees of their value in the business.

2.     Create an environment that encourages open communication

Companies that work on top-down management may cause employees to take little initiative in solving problems. They may feel like it is useless to give their opinions as it will be dismissed by their leaders. In such case, leaders need to constantly let their employees to work for solutions instead of just giving orders of what to do.

3.     Foster self-improvement

When an employee makes the wrong decision, many leaders would be hesitant to give them another opportunity. However, this will stop the person to take initiative or to try harder next time around. As a leader, tell your employee that making mistakes is natural, and provide the context on which his mistakes are made. Try to give other perspectives instead of just finger pointing that what he’s doing is wrong.

4.     Support their independence

Nobody likes a boss who looks over his employees’ shoulders all the time. Practise trust on your employees and give them some space to practice their authority in the field. Wait for them to surprise you. Most often, they will.

5.     Appreciate their effort

Say “Thank you,” to your employees. Take the time to visit their desks and say, “Great work on the project yesterday.” An employee who feels appreciated will put more energy to produce even greater work.

Want to learn more about how to empower your employees? Visit our courses at www.im.edu.au.

5 P’s for Planning Effective Meetings

Depending on your workload and the type of job you currently have, you may need to attend anywhere from two to 20 meetings each week. And yet many leaders agree that meetings are mostly a waste of time. They are ineffective and dragging, and most often they are spent talking about random things other than the actual agenda.

While we can’t always refuse to attend meetings, we can increase the quality and effectiveness of our meetings so that our time is managed properly.

Here are 5 P’s to help you plan better meetings.

planning effective meetings

1.    Purpose

Purpose talks about the reason of why this meeting is held in the first place. Ask yourself and your team – why are we holding this meeting? How will this meeting help me/the team/the project? If this meeting is not helping you to achieve your goals, perhaps those sixty minutes of your time can be spent doing something else.

2.    Products

Product here means outcomes or results. Here are the questions to ask beforehand: How will we know we have achieved our purpose? What specific measurable results do we want?

3.    Process

In your meetings, you need to specifically address the process – the methods or tools to achieve your goals. What methods will you use to attain your products, for example: brainstorming, structured problem solving? It is also important to try to stick to the agenda to avoid wasting time when discussions start to go off topic.

4.    People

The fourth P is People, which talks about the attendees and stakeholders. Through this meeting, can we identify the people who will be significantly impacted? Who has the essential information? Who needs to be involved in the decision making process? Who can sit in for the meeting when one of the invitees can’t attend?

5.    Preparation

The last P is Preparation, which is the most important P in planning for more effective meetings. Ask yourself: What can people who attend the meeting do before the meeting to assume success? Make sure you ask them to send you suggested topics to discuss prior to the meeting to ensure that everything important is covered.

This article is modified from the Institute of Management training module: Diploma of Project Management. For more information about the course, please visit our website.

 

Answering The Salary Interview Question – Part 2: Stating The Right Number

In Part 1 of this series, we focused on defining what a job interview really is. In this next discussion, we’ll cover why the salary question is a vital part of an interview.

Chances are you are at the very least a little bit uncomfortable when getting to the interview question “What is your expected salary?” But most often, this is the stage when you make or break the decision to hire you.

salary number in interview

The salary question

If you have reached this phase of an interview, it can mean: a) the employer wants to screen out the people who are under you and way out of their league; or b) the employer likes you and before he offers you the job, he wants to know if you are both on the same page.

So how should you answer the salary question?

While some experts suggest that to win the salary game (that is, not stating a number and if you must, not being the first to say a figure), others prefer you to honestly state your expectations (with smart ways of voicing this, of course). Before you get to that decision, here are several things that you need to remember:

1.    You are not there to “buy a house”.

The common perception of the interviewer/interviewee relationship is eerily similar to someone buying a house.

The buyer (i.e. the employer) wants to get it as cheap as possible and the seller (i.e. the interviewee) wants to get it for as much as possible. Walking in with this attitude is detrimental for both parties, as unlike a house sale, both sides need to live with each other for a long time after the negotiation is finished.

2.    “Whoever states the number first loses.” Not.

Negotiating your salary isn’t a poker game and it shouldn’t be one. That would suggest it is a win-lose situation and if you go into an interview with that mindset, it is possible that you are not eager to add real value to the employer either.

In some cases, it is not wise to state your number while in others, you can’t move forward with your offer without this being spoken. Thus, both parties will ideally approach salary negotiations as a win-win situation, and still maintain respect if the number is just not right for them.

What matters most in answering the salary question is not whether we state the number first, but if we actually state the right number.

And yes, stating the right number is an even trickier business.

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. In the third and final part of this series, we will give you the rules of thumb for how to state the right number.

Higher EQ, Better Job Performance

The trend is clear. Companies no longer hire employees based only on their brilliance or intelligence level. Today, companies put more emphasis on emotional intelligence to determine an employee’s effectiveness in the workplace.

Intelligence Quotient or IQ used to be the only acceptable benchmark to predict a person’s success in the business world. Back in high school, we were taught by our teachers that those high performing students with IQ 140 and above will be the future lawyers, doctors, and CEOs. Fast forward twenty years and suddenly we realise that IQ is not that important after all. The ones who make it to the top are the ones who have high EQ as well.

better EQ

What are IQ and EQ?

Emotional Intelligence, referred to as EI or EQ, is basically defined as a person’s ability to understand emotions, both our own and others. While IQ measures how intelligent a person is, EQ showcases your soft skills: communication, negotiation, empathy, understanding and self-awareness.

Why EQ can be more important?

We work with other people and many of the problems we encounter at work may be due to miscommunication or difference in personalities. Trainer and Consultant Bill Duncan says, “Emotional Intelligence can have a significant effect on the performance of a project, especially if you have a team of low EQ people. Overall it has a negative effect on teamwork.”

Research has also proven that higher EQ leads to better job performance.

For example, one study shows that a national insurance company found that sales agents who have low EQ sold policies with an average premium of $54,000. Sales agents who have high EQ, however, sold policies with an average of $114,000.

Improving our EQ

While research shows that our EQ level is developed during our early childhood and fairly stable over time, but fear not as it is not set in stone. Our EQ is not rigid, which means, everyone can change for the better. Your boss can learn to manage his/her temper and your colleague can become more understanding.

Change, however, takes time.

Improving our EQ does not happen overnight and it clearly needs dedication and hard work. Just like trying to quit smoking, improving our communication skills or being more open minded towards critics take practice.

How important is Emotional Intelligence in the success of a project? Is it equally important factor as cost, time or scope? Learn more at www.im.edu.au.

How to Answer The Interview Question: “What Is Your Expected Salary?” – Part 1

This article, and the two that follow, talk about how to approach the interview question “What is your expected salary?” In this first discussion, we’ll cover what a job interview really is.

According to 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement by SHRM, compensation or pay is the third most important aspect in job satisfaction (60%), right after job opportunities (63%) and job security (61%).

This report shows that being overworked and yet underpaid leads directly to job dissatisfaction. The catch is, unfortunately, this fixed amount of money you receive was usually set up when you sat in that first interview.

How should we approach this sensitive matter? During an interview, is it okay to state a number first, or should we persist in forcing the employer to give a range?

salary interview question

But first, the basics

What is a job interview? Basically, an employer has a vacant seat and he wants to find the right piece of the puzzle. The candidate brings their piece of the puzzle to the interview to see if it fits.

But most often, as soon as we walk into that strange room with strange people, we feel like a gazelle hunted by the lions on the savannah. Almost instinctively, we try to impress and please them as much as we can.

Here’s something your prospective employers never tell you: they are already impressed with you. Out of the piles of resumes, they specifically handpicked you for an interview. Now their job is to make sure that you are the right piece of the puzzle they’ve been waiting for.

And your job is to figure out if you want to be the right piece of the puzzle to complete the set.

The job interview paradox

In approaching job interviews, some describe them as a game, while others think of them as a talent show.

Such descriptions portray nailing that job interview as a plain win-lose situation, with our job being to mould ourselves to an employer’s liking and interest to win the prize called contract offer.

They show the job interview as a one-way street where the employer controls everything.

But that’s not true. On the contrary, a job interview is more like dating.

You have an interest in the employer already (if not, you wouldn’t apply for the job), and the employer has an interest in you (if not, they wouldn’t ask you for an interview). Meeting face-to-face is a way for them to see if you will fit their company culture, and if their company values are adjacent to yours.

So the next time you are preparing for a job interview, remember that it’s a two-way street, and the employer’s not the only one who holds the key to your next pay cheque – you do too!

Watch for Parts 2 and 3 of this series, where we will further discuss how to best approach the salary interview question and whether you should be the first to state a number.

The 3-Step Problem Solving Method

As humans, we face problems every day. Your client can suddenly file a complaint on that project or your boss can suddenly pick up on an error that has actually been there for months.

While addressing problems, we sometimes go into the fight with a hot head which can cause more damage than good. Here are the 3 steps to act as your guide when solving problems.

problem solving

1.     Acknowledge the problem

Even though it is obvious, many people find it hard to actually admit that they have a problem. When a project goes wrong, more often than not, they would try to save their own face for the moment by acting as if everything is fine, and when their manager finds the error, it has been weeks too late to repair the damage. Acknowledging and stating the problem with a cool head leads to better understanding of what’s at stake and thus better chance to find the resolution.

2.     Plan the next steps

When faced with a problem, it is best to sit down, take a step back and jot down all the pros and cons and plan the next steps with these in mind. If it is decided to go forward with this project, what would be the risks and how can they be minimised? If it is decided to drop the project, would it harm the company even more? Seek advice from the seniors if you must.

3.     Take action

Most people stop on the second step, which is planning. Even after weighing in everything, it is still hard to 100% predict the outcome. This can cause people to just wait and do nothing instead of taking real actions. Remember that the problem will still be there if you decide to not take action, and it may even go from bad to worse.

Want to get better at your career? Visit the Institute of Management website to find out more about our courses.

5 Why’s Approach to Problem Solving

As an employee, we will encounter some problems while trying to successfully deliver our projects.

At times, the solutions easily come to mind. At other times, we may need to consult our leaders on how to best address the issues at hand. However, there are times where we get stuck, as if there is no other alternative to save the project from collapsing.

Before we cry in self-despair and get scolded by our boss for failing that project, take a deep breath, grab a coffee, and go back to addressing the problem with a fresh pair of eyes.

Here’s one approach to problem solving that you can use to help you find the solution.

5 whys to problem solving

5 Why’s approach

Let’s have an imaginative problem: The car will not start.

  1. Why? –  The battery is dead. (This is the first why.)
  2. Why? –  The alternator is not functioning. (This is the second why.)
  3. Why? –  The alternator belt is broken. (This is the third why.)
  4. Why? –  The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and has never been replaced. (This is the fourth why.)
  5. Why? –   I have not been maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule. (This is the fifth why, a root cause.)
  6. Finally,  establish why? –  Replacement parts are not available because of the extreme age of my vehicle. (This is the sixth why, optional footnote.)

After you have answered all 5 Why’s, make a conclusive solution to the problem:  I will start maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule.

By asking yourself 5 Why’s every time you encounter a problem, you will be more likely to determine the root of the problem, which will then increase your chances of finding the right solutions.

This article is modified from the Institute of Management training module: Diploma of Project Management. For more information about the course, please visit our website.

 

4 Practical Ways to Improve Your English Skills

For many non-English background speakers, communicating in English (whether in the form of listening, reading, writing, or speaking) can be quite a challenge. And yet, in this growing global era, English has become the universal language that you need to  master in order  to move to the next level.

Managerial positions now require the applicants to be fluent  in both their native language and the English language. Even fresh graduate entry roles require sufficient English skills to apply!

4 practical ways to improve English

So here are some practical ways to hone your English language skills, no matter what level you are at now:

1.    Watch your favourite Hollywood movies without subtitles

Try watching your favourite Hollywood movies again, but this time, without the subtitles. It takes practice to make our ears accustomed to listening to English conversations, but the more you  are exposed to them,   the quicker your listening muscles will be developed.

2.    Forget translated books, start reading in English

Pick a book that is suitable for your own reading pace. If you feel that  taking a Harry Potter novel is too daunting, grab another one. Start reading online news, articles, or blogs in English.

3.    Write 300 words daily

Noted, writing is not everyone’s forte but in order to survive the emails and reports, writing in English has become a major requirement.

The quickest way to master the art of writing in English is to write every day, consistently. Note that the keyword here is to be consistent in your writing, which means don’t write 10,000 words in one day and take a break for a week and start writing again.

4.    Speak English often. Still self-conscious? Speak even more!

Approach those native English speakers and communicate with them. Make a pact with your friend to have ‘English-only’ time. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and most importantly, don’t be self-conscious in your learning.

Practice makes perfect

You’ve done everything, so now what? Clichéd as it sounds, practice does make perfect. The more you practice in listening, reading, writing, and speaking in English, the quicker you will master the language.

Starting 2014 The Right Way

It’s been days since the New Year and the initial hype of celebration has died down. Christmas decorations have disappeared and work certainly replaces our holiday mood early, demanding attention once more.

Before you are drawn into a series of deadlines, however, it’s best to first write down your New Year’s resolutions, or the goals you have for your career in the next year or two. This time, however, instead noting down, “Get a raise,” or “Break my bonus record,” let’s try things differently.

Let’s start by defining your ideal outcomes.

Begin with the ideal end

The best leaders always have this one thing: vision. People with vision create opportunities, and to create this vision, the first thing we need to do is to begin with the ideal end in mind.

Ideally, what results would you create for your organisation? Are there specific outcomes you want for your customers and your business? What would make you feel incredibly successful and fulfilled in your career?

Let’s begin by filling in table below:

Stakeholder Desired Results
Your customers My customers come back again to use our services.My customers tell their friends and families about their experience using our products.
Your organisation My organisation achieves $X profit.
Your manager A good relationship with my manager, being able to trust each other and create bigger goals together.
Your staff My staff exceed my expectations and empower them to improve each time.
Your colleagues We achieve a great number of sales and projects together.
You Get a raise.Improve my skills not only in sales but also in management.

Table 1. Example of your ideal outcomes

Now fast forward to the end of 2014 and imagine you have ticked all the boxes for these results to happen. How would you feel? Would you feel happy? Inspired? Excited?

Remember those feelings, and now with your desired results in place, write the specific steps you need to achieve each of them (by clark at dhead). For example, in order to have your customers come back to use your products and services again, you must exceed their expectations. This means going the extra mile and delivering outcomes before the deadline.

Let’s start 2014 with a smile on our face and inspiration in our head!