Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The Right Questions

Ten times a year I give myself the gift of a day of developing my business skills. As part of a fantastically powerful group called Association of Business Leaders (ABL), I have the benefit of being able to focus entirely on my business issues for a day, and share current issues, problems and suggestions with other members.

The impact of this peer coaching is surprisingly powerful given that the members are not professional coaches. What we are tapping into is the shared experiences and perspectives of a group of highly motivated people who understand the pressures of building a business. Although the industries, business sizes and specific expertise of every member is different, the common thread is the willingness to share knowledge, support a fellow member, and help each other grow in capability, and profitability. This is powerful stuff and every one of us is loathe to miss a single day despite our heavy pressures.

Our speaker this morning was Anne Miller, a highly knowledgeable and enormously talented author, inventor and entrepreneur from Cambridge. Anne has recently published her first book, The Myth of the Mousetrap, in which she unravels some of the critical barriers to getting new ideas adopted. For anyone attempting to build an innovative business, Anne’s book is an essential management tool.

It turns out, we learned from Anne today, that its really important, when gathering information to back up a hunch, or provide data as the basis of an important decision – to ask the right questions. So often, we miss some critical nugget of knowledge just because we forget to ask some of the more obvious questions. Anne’s example of NASA’s Challenger disaster is a poignant reminder of at least one instance where this critical step wasn’t included, with devastating results.

Clearly, in most situations, the consequence of asking the wrong questions (or omitting the right questions) isn’t catastrophic. But even in our discussion of business issues during our ABL sessions, effective questions provide greater clarity in the least amount of time.

Consider your teams and your organisation’s culture. Do you encourage lots of questions? Do you focus on asking the right questions to get the whole picture?

Ask yourself those questions.

The Female Brain

Andrea Learned writes about a newly published book on the female brain. The gender difference has been the focus of an increasing array of books, blogs, training programmes and conversations in the corporate world over the past decade.

The Female Brain covers aspects of development from puberty onward and, as such, isn’t specifically a business book. But it does talk about female buying behaviour. Reading the Amazon reviews I found a comment on the reason there are fewer females than males in scientific roles. (Hint: women have more affinity with roles that include a high degree of communication. Science-based jobs are more likely to be solitary)

Female working styles and buying patterns are clearly important topics for business. Diversity has become much more than just a buzz word these days. It isn’t just the subject of a good moan about senior management, it isn’t just an excuse for a training day out of the office, and it isn’t just about the glass ceiling.

We were recently asked to develop a Diversity Culture assessment to measure cross-gender attitudes and working relations. It has been commissioned and piloted by a major high street bank (which means this subject is being taken seriously by people who are serious about business). Ultimately, it will be companies like this that gain market share – not only because they are conscious of having to create a culture where women feel valued as employees.  If they recognise the key part women play in managing their business, they will have greater retention of women as employees and also as customers.

But this is just my view. If you’re interested in finding out more about women at work, the people to talk to are Eve-olution Ltd – our partners in developing the Diversity Culture assessment.