I have thought a lot about this; growing up I was always expected to go to university. My mum is an academic who saw education as a way to better yourself (my dad was a pop singer!). I therefore went to University in Leeds and had a ball, coming out with a BSC (Hons) in Business Computing. However, with hindsight, I am not sure if university was the right path for me and more importantly if I want my kids to go to university. Could they learn more and progress quicker through real life experiences?
- A lot of people talk about focusing on your weaknesses to improve them. My belief is that instead we should focus on our strengths. Improving your strengths can help you become exceptional, whilst putting in extra time to try and hone things you will never be great at could be a wasted opportunity.
- This ties in with the first point. Whilst it is important in a business to help people who are not performing and give them a chance of improving, in reality, your time is probably better spent focusing on and improving your best people. A lot of organisations do not give a lot of attention to their best performers, instead focussing on improving the people who are struggling (in an attempt to bring them up to the desired level). Think about it; if a professional sports coach did this, they would lose their job very quickly. Professional coaches naturally work with and improve their best players.
- Working long hours is not necessarily the best way. A great example of this is where Andrew Barnes, from Perpetual Guardian, introduced the 4-day work week (instead of the usual 5-day week). He did not reduce pay or expect longer hours on the 4 working days. Instead he simply gave away a whole day a week to his team; the results have shown greater efficiency and a happier and more productive workforce. Gold.
- In sales, saying less often achieves more. As a salesperson, it is natural to extoll the virtue of your products to potential customers (or anyone that will listen). However, in my experience, the best sales people are the ones that listen more than they talk. They pick up what the customer actually needs (their pain points) and deliver a solution based on what they have heard.
- There is nothing wrong with changing your mind. In a recent interview Jeff Bezos summed it up well;
“people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds. He doesn’t think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait. It’s perfectly healthy — encouraged, even — to have an idea tomorrow that contradicted your idea today.”
- Give stuff away. Don’t be afraid to actively share your industry secrets and how you do what you do. We produce regular instructional blogs, teach SEO at Unitec, the University of Auckland and The Marketing Association and I am about to have a book about SEO published by Penguin Random House. The more stuff you give away, the more of an industry expert you become and the more people come to you with their business (takes time though!)
Whilst a lot of these things sound counter-intuitive, they have all impacted considerably on both my personal and business growth.