What if your debtor lived on the moon? In order to out-perform the competition you must create superior ideas. In order to accomplish this you must think “out of the box”?

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How do I think “out of the box”

First, we must define the meaning of thinking “out of the box”. Most organizations use traditional methods to solve traditional problems. Thinking out of the box is the term used for people who use untraditional methods to solve traditional problems. The term is used to describe any method that is not previously been used to solve the problem currently at hand.

Most thinking out of the box is actually intentional brainstorming to solve a problem. Usually percentages of the unconventional solutions are the vision of someone involved in the process.

Can my group be trained to think “outside of the box”?

Not all people are visionary or able to see solutions to everyday problems. Most employees are far too en- grossed in the daily affairs of their position to spend any time trying to make it easier to accomplish. They do their job and exactly as they were taught, without questioning whether it is the best way to perform the task. Yet some employees always see a better way to accomplish every task. These employees are generally able to over- produce their coworkers by improving the processes within their own job parameters.

People can be trained to think in a diverse manner but it will always be easier for those fortunate employees who have the vision to do so. As a manager, it is imperative to deploy the right people (the visionary employee) in the right situation. Using visionaries to help create new ways to solve old problems is a win/win situation for the employee, the business, and you. By using creative thinking, you can strengthen the skills of your visionary employees and help develop this skill in those that have not yet been exposed to the visionary method.

One of the most common tools used in brainstorming in the Six Sigma methodology is the use of “what if?” in this exercise after defining the problem you asked, “what if the problem existed, on the moon, underwater, below freezing temperatures, within a culture of cavemen? Or any other off the wall suggestion. This exercise may bring many answers that will not be helpful to solve your current problem but employees will begin to think about the problem in a different manner. This is essential to thinking out of the box.

Creating a culture of visionaries

So how can you create a culture of visionaries? It will proba- bly be difficult to create a complete culture of people who are forward thinking but with the deployment of the proper personnel to the projects, you’ll be able to come up with ideas that are “out of the box”. As this culture is formed it will slowly grow, the non-visionaries will see what the visionaries have been seeing for sometime, and they will learn to think in unusual patterns. This is when all problems within the culture will be approached with an “out of the box” solution.

Is your group in the driver’s seat or in the back seat?

There will always be room for traditional solutions to traditional problems but visionaries who see solutions no one has thought of will be the ones who succeed at business. The debt collection industry is full of people who have been doing the same job the same way for decades. Technology is the only major transformation in the debt collection process in decades. In recent years though, many entrepreneurs are coming into the collection industry with new ideas and new ways to skin the same old cat. New Methods are emerging and the cats are becoming a lions.

Will your team be ready to face the future of the collections industry?

How Coaching Leads to Sustainable Innovation

Successful and sustainable Innovation cannot be achieved without proper training and coaching from the leaders of an organization. Employees should be given the basic tools in the form of knowledge in order to create and improve their skill set. Any business can be optimized with the right Innovation coach to motivate and mediate employees. The ideal coach possesses a superior skill set and experience, a deep understanding of the innovation program’s goals, and they must be self-disciplined and a great communicator in order to reach all members of an organization in both group and one-on-one settings. Complementing and supporting the CEO or Chief Innovation Officer. When all the criteria are met, the ideal innovation coach develops employees into future leaders – and that is what sustains Innovation.

The most important job of the innovation coach is to create a holistic innovative environment, of “total” innovation and a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness among employees. It is their duty to motivate and to create an atmosphere of camaraderie where ideas are welcome. By giving employees just the right amount of support and motivation, an innovation coach can push the team towards their maximum performance.

Think about the amount of time throughout the workday that employees spend on their day to day duties versus how much time they spend on brainstorming new concepts and perspectives. When a team member does think of a new idea, do they follow through, or is it lost in the shuffle? That is why choosing the ideal coach is so important as part of the new product development process. An Innovation coach can implement structured repeatable processes that a team needs to sustain innovation, as well as provide feedback and support to all members of the team. In order to accomplish that, here are some coaching tips.

Share the joy. As well as the frustrations – communicate what is working and not working with your team.

Newbies count. Ensure that newcomers to the team, as well as new managers, are included in all training/coaching programs. Keep everyone on the same page.

The one-on-one touch. Individual coaching provides the privacy and attention that breeds success. Generally, discussions about areas of improvement are much better received when done privately and away from the ears of co-workers. These private coaching sessions can be invaluable in developing future team leaders

The Most Important Question a Manager Can Ask

When is the last time you asked the group you manage, and the individuals in it, this simple question:

What can I do to help you be more effective?

What question could be more central to being a good boss? If you want to manage and lead successfully, you’ve got to know what the people doing the work need. So why not ask them? But the truth is, this question is not asked by bosses nearly enough.

You’ll get a variety of answers, especially in the beginning — including non-answers (“Gee, nothing. Keep doing what you’re doing.”) and requests you can’t do much about — personal problems, company policies you can’t change, complaints about colleagues who make this person’s work life miserable, as well as personal requests you can’t or won’t address (such as “Raise my pay” from someone whose performance is mediocre). Take everything under advisement, if you can’t respond immediately. Promise to take action when you think it’s warranted but resist efforts to “delegate up.”

You will also get answers that are implicit or even explicit criticisms of you. Respond to these by explaining yourself, but don’t argue or react defensively. Admit mistakes, if appropriate. At the least, respond with, “Let me think about that. Thanks for telling me.”

Discuss, listen, explain, educate, and, above all, understand what the person or group is saying. Be caring but candid. If you can’t change company policies or pay grades, explain that. If you disagree with what you’re hearing, talk about that respectfully. These are opportunities for both or all of you to learn.

Beyond such answers, however, you will hear ways you really can make people more effective. Finding that may require discussion, careful listening, and respectful probing, and a willingness on your part to hear hard things and to change. Perhaps you really do need to step back and let people do their work; or, perhaps you should get more involved. Perhaps some group work processes need to change. Perhaps you need to talk to a colleague who heads another group about how uncooperative her people are. These things are often easy to do and can make an immediate difference.

Once you start these discussions, you’ll find they don’t take much time, except when they deserve more time. And they pay dividends. They build trust, they help people work together better and do better work, they identify and remove obstacles.

They also make you more effective because they reveal what’s on people’s minds. Like it or not, what people think is what they think, and you need to know what that is. Above all, you need to know what people expect from you, the boss. If you don’t know what they expect, and their expectations are unreasonable, you can’t negotiate new ones and you’ll go on disappointing them.

In many organizations, expectations are assumed to flow in only one direction — down. In fact, they flow up as well, though few organizations pay much attention. Too bad. Being a boss is a two-way street. People are more likely to rise to your expectations if you try to understand and rise to what they expect of you.

Linda Hill & Kent Lineback

Imagine if you created a company on a foundation made of sand

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Imagine if you created a company on a foundation made of sand. You just hired people to fill spots, and didn’t take the time to find out if they were right for the position, or for the company. Over time, the waves would slowly erode your delicate foundation, and wash your company away.
I have spent hours researching ways to make sure your staff fits your culture. . I would rather you take extra time to fill a needed position, and allow it to sit vacant, than fill it quickly with someone who might not be right for the company and your culture.
I want to show your companies just how we do business, including how great culture fits are recruited. In the ARM industry there has always been a high turn over rate but I believe that with a better-fit and clear defined company culture this can be eliminated.
Hiring the wrong people costs companies a lot of money and lost productivity every year, so why not take a little extra time to find the correct fit.
So I ask you, are you building you company on a sand foundation, or are you building you company on a concrete one?

Why Does Criticism Seem More Effective than Praise?

When you coach someone or conduct a performance appraisal, where do you tend to focus? Probably on “opportunities for improvement,” right? Sure, you mention some positive things, but we’ll bet you spend much more time talking about faults and shortcomings.

If you do, you’re only human. Paying more attention to what’s wrong isn’t wrong-headed or perverse. In fact, you could say you do it because, in your experience, criticism produces better results than praise. Criticism is more often followed by improved performance; and praise is often followed by performance that’s not as good. Hence, you think, praise might be nice and you need to do some of it, but when it comes to improving people’s performance, criticism is the best tool for the job.

Unfortunately, this is one of those areas where the lessons of experience aren’t obvious — and can even be misleading. Your observation that criticism is more often followed by improvement is probably accurate. But what’s going on isn’t what you think. In fact, it’s something called “regression to the mean” and if you don’t understand it, you and your people will be its victims.

Human performance is never completely consistent. That’s true of a violinist, a gymnast, a university lecturer, and it’s true of everyone who works for you — and of you, too. No one performs at their best or worst every day. We all know this and it’s why we assess the true greatness of, say, a soccer player not by her performance in a single game but over a full season or even a playing career. In other words, we look at that player’s average performance over time — or, to use the statistician’s term, her mean performance.

If you track someone’s performance task by task, you’ll discover that a great performance, one that’s far above the person’s average or mean, is usually followed by a less-inspiring performance that’s closer to the mean. It works the same the other way. A terrible performance is usually followed by something better. No one’s making or causing this to happen. It’s part of the variability built into human activity, especially when doing something even moderately complex.

The problems and misperceptions arise when we forget this. Why would we forget something so obvious? Because even when we know performance can vary widely around a mean, we tend to give greater weight to someone’s most recent performance. Unconsciously, we consider it a better indicator of overall capability than what happened two days ago or last week. Our minds tend to overrate the importance or accuracy of the latest, most easily available, or most prominent information.

When you put these two together, you can see why criticism seems to work better than praise.

Consider some important and moderately difficult task performed regularly by someone who works for you. Let’s say you can rate his performance on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best, and that his average performance over the past months has been only five. So you begin monitoring his work and giving him either positive or negative feedback, criticism or praise, after every performance.

Consequently, when he performs worse than average, since performance naturally varies around a mean, he most likely will perform better the next time even if you say or do nothing — because his performance will naturally regress or move toward his mean or average level. However, since you criticized his performance, you will (mistakenly) conclude that he improved because of your criticism, and you’ll be convinced of this because his latest performance (the latest information you have) will receive great weight in your mind.

In the same way, when your person performs above his mean level, he most likely will perform worse the next time even if you say or do nothing — because, again, his performance is regressing to the mean. Yet, because the poorer performance followed your praise, you’ll conclude it was caused by praise.

Even if you don’t notice these apparent connections consciously, you’re aware of them intuitively. And the most likely consequence will be that you criticize far more than you praise.

Unfortunately, that’s a poor recipe for reaching your goal — improving someone’s average performance. A lot of evidence suggests that positive reinforcement — identifying and building on strengths — will produce better results than a relentless focus on faults. This is important. To improve, people need positive feedback. It’s just as important to recognize and reinforce their strengths as it is to point out where they’re falling short. And you need to understand why praise can seem dysfunctional, so you don’t withhold it.

Don’t be misled by experience. Its real lessons aren’t always obvious, and finding them often requires thought, reflection, and analysis. Only when you’re fully aware of what’s happening, and why, can you make the best choice. In this case, that means giving praise as quickly as you criticize.