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Seeing the Big Picture
Business acumen requires an understanding of finance, strategy, and decision making. Most managers and employees, however, are responsible for specific areas and they have little understanding of the impact their decisions have on other areas. When too much focus is placed on one aspect of the business, it is difficult to make decisions for the good of the company. In order to make effective decisions, it is necessary for you to examine the big picture.
Short and Long Term Interactions
When looking at the big picture, it is necessary to consider long term as well as short term interactions. Short term interactions are immediate, single exchanges, and they are necessary for the company to survive. Without looking at the big picture, however, short term interactions may hinder long term success. For example, you may damage a business relationship by using aggressive sales techniques, costing you sales in the future.
Long term interactions are processes or relationships that are essential to growth. Long term business success requires the long term interactions. The relationships with customers, vendors, and employees need to be carefully cultivated. Failure to cultivate relationships occurs when there is a lack of communication or communication is not respectful. Long term relationships help guide the future of the business.
Improving Long Term Interactions
- Build relationships: Relationships must be based on mutual trust, respect, and support.
- Use feedback: Request feedback and listen to complaints.
- Offer value: Provide value in product, services, and compensation.
Recognize Growth Opportunities
It is essential for every organization to recognize growth opportunities to ensure long term success. An opportunity is any project or investment that will create growth. Opportunities, however, can be overlooked when we do not pay attention to the big picture. Individuals with business acumen are constantly recognizing opportunities for growth. If recognizing opportunities does not come easily for you, there are steps to take that will ensure that you do not overlook growth opportunities.
- Identify market trends: Monitor changes in the market such as technological advancements.
- Actively research customer needs: Conduct market research and anticipate customer needs, which you will fulfill.
- Pay attention to competitors: Take advantage of a competitor’s weakness and learn from their strengths.
- Monitor demographic changes: Changes in demographics indicate potential shift in customer base or needs.
- Consult employees: Do not overlook employee ideas; encourage brainstorming.
- Monitor abilities of the workforce: Pay attention to employee skills. Offer training or hire new employees in response to growth opportunities.
For more on our Business Acumen course, please visit: https://corporatetrainingmaterials.com/course/Business_Acumen
What Is Customer Service?
Customer service is a general field that involves assisting customers in a range of issues, such as purchasing, troubleshooting, installation and even disposal of products or services. Customer service is designed to focus on the customer and how they can benefit from your product or service, so it’s important to do your part in the delivery.
In many companies, customer support and customer service are often mistaken for the same thing. While they are very similar, support and service do have some variations. Customer service generally refers to a type of service the customer received before, during or after a sale. This can include choosing a product/service, being the cashier and even packaging your items. It’s the service of the industry. But customer support goes beyond just the sale of the item, but focuses more on the customer’s selection, use and satisfaction of their product. Support aspects often include help with product selection, installation and handling any problems that may come up later. The term service is used more for employees that do something for you, such as taking a returned item. But customer support is designed to ask why you want to return the item, ask if they can do something to fix the problem, and then accept the return if nothing else can be done.
When it comes to customer support, everyone in the company participates. After all, customer satisfaction is up to everyone. Within every company, there is typically some form of employee process or chain of command to follow. Customer support often begins with a ‘front line’, or a set of agents a customer can reach out to for support at any time before, during, or after a sale. A common example would be agents in a call center or agents that speak with the customer over webchats and emails. If the agents are unavailable or unable to help, a team lead or customer lead can take over. If leads are not available, manager or directors can step in. No one is above providing customer support to customers that need it.
For more on our Customer Support course, please visit: https://corporatetrainingmaterials.com/course/Customer_Support
Before developing and implementing security measures to prevent cyberattacks, you must understand basic concepts associated with cybersecurity and what cyberattacks are. The method(s) of cybersecurity that a company uses should be tailored to fit the needs of the organization.
Cyberspace is the environment where computer transactions take place. This specifically refers to computer-to-computer activity. Although there is no “physical” space that makes up cyberspace, with the stroke of a few keys on a keyboard, one can connect with others around the world.
Examples of items included in cyberspace are:
- Information storage
As previously mentioned, cybersecurity is the implementation of methods to prevent attacks on a company’s information systems. This is done to avoid disruption of the company’s productivity. Not only does cybersecurity include controlling physical access to the system’s hardware, it protects from danger that may come via network access or the injection of code.
Cybersecurity is crucial to a business for a myriad of reasons. The two this section will focus on are data security breaches and sabotage. Both can have dire effects on a company and/or its clients.
Data security breaches can compromise secure information such as:
- Names and social security numbers
- Credit card and bank details
- Trade secrets
- Intellectual property
Computer sabotage serves to disable a company’s computers or network to impede the company’s ability to conduct business.
In simple terms, a hacker is an individual or group of individuals who use their knowledge of technology to break into computer systems and networks, using a variety of tools to gain access to and utilize other people’s data for devious reasons.
There are 3 main types of hackers. They are:
Grey hats: These hackers do so “for the fun of it”.
Black hats: These hackers have malevolent reasons for doing so, such as stealing and/or selling data for monetary gain.
White hats: These hackers are employed by companies to hack into systems to find where the company is vulnerable, with the intention of ensuring the safety of the data from hackers with ill intentions.
For more on our Cyber Security course, please visit: https://corporatetrainingmaterials.com/course/Cyber_Security
Four D Model
Appreciative inquiry opens whole new doors for us and opens our eyes to a new way of thinking. With positive thoughts and attitudes, we can discover new ways of reaching our goals. We can be free to dream new ambitions and set ourselves up for success. After a plan is made, we can design how to reach that goal and deliver the end result to us. Yes, we can accomplish all of this if we just believe that we have the skills and confidence to do it.
Discovery is about finding what type of processes, organization and skills work for you and will help you along your way. It is also a process of learning to appreciate what has been given to us and using it to our benefit. Employees often discover some of this information by speaking with other employees and learning about what has worked for the company in the past. This can lead employees to feel more appreciative about their role in the company and what they can do to make meaningful contributions.
- Conversing with other employees about their experiences
- Asking managers what methods have worked in the past
- Observing your past actions that have been successful
The dream phase focuses on what would work for yourself and the company in the future. This ‘dream session’ can be run in a large group conference or can be done with a few peers. Either way, it should allow everyone to open up about what they want to see from the company and any ideas they may have for improvement. The idea of the ‘dream’ part of this model is to use positive energy to create a vision for the future, while creating goals and accomplishments that will help you, and the company, reach that point. Dream up the ideal and perfect situation.
- “Would this work in the future?”
- “What do I want to see happen?”
- “What would be perfect for me and the company?”
The design plan is all about how you and the company plan to reach the goals and dreams that are lined out in the discovery and dream phases. This part of the model focuses on what needs to be done to reach these goals and reach the progress needed. Generally this part is carried out by a small group of members that concentrate on how to move forward, but it can be done with larger groups as well. Anyone in this group is encouraged to remember to use positive language and encourage their coworkers to think positive in their work.
- “What do we need to do to make this happen?”
- “Will things needed to be changed or altered?”
- “Do we need to introduce a new element?”
The delivery phase, sometimes called the destiny phase, is the final stage of the Four D model, and focuses on executing the plans and ideas that were thought out and developed in the previous phases. In this part of the model, employees need to take the necessary actions to progress toward change and positively obtaining their goals. A plan isn’t worth the paper it is written on if it doesn’t have a dynamic team behind it to carry it out.
- Implement any changes needed
- Remove elements that no longer work
- Assign tasks and duties as needed
What is MLearning?
Mobile learning, or MLearning, is defined as the delivery of learning, education or training on mobile devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops or PDAs. MLearning allows training and support to be taken anywhere, making it flexible and convenient for companies to use. Many businesses are taking advantage of this new technology to educate employees and clients more efficiently.
MLearning is most commonly used for training and education purposes. The majority of training or learning in the workplace occurs on the job. However, it can be costly and time consuming to require employees to attend meetings, conferences or other training sessions away from work. Recently, many businesses have begun to implement MLearning, which allows employees to stay in the workplace to acquire additional training or knowledge. With MLearning, employees can gain new knowledge faster and be more up-to-date on any changes or company additions.
MLearning has also become a helpful tool in training new employees, since it allows for the company to reduce group or individual training sessions and allow the employee to learn on their own terms. Not only does this allow the company to save on training hours, but allows the training manager to evaluate which employees are ready to begin work and which ones may need more help before starting on their own.
The MLearning environment refers to the manner in which information is available for a particular session, such as how it is organized, what information is available and how it can be accessed. The environments in MLearning are different with every use and can be customized to a particular learner’s needs. The environment should be flexible and adjustable among different devices – meaning what can be seen/accessed on a mobile phone should also be accessible on a tablet or laptop computer. If the MLearning environment is not user-friendly or if the information is hard to read or download, the learner won’t be able to gain anything from their session, which cancels the point of training at all.
Tips for MLearning environment:
- Keep information organized
- Ensure all information is easily accessible on all mobile devices
- Always have a contact for technical support
Technology has changed the way we receive information. Computers have replaced reference books when it comes to learning new material, and now mobile devices are changing how we access information that has already been digitized. One of the key aspects of MLearning is using these mobile tools to access new information for education and training purposes. These MLearning tools allow learners to access the information needed from anywhere and at any time. Many of the devices used have become a common household need, such as mobile phones, notebook computers and even MP3 players. With technology on the rise, employees are more than likely to own at least one mobile learning tool they can use for future MLearning.
Common MLearning tools:
- Mobile phone
- MP3 players
- Notebook/laptop computers
- Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)
The prospect of MLearning has created a long list of the advantages it can bring to a company. One of the most obvious advantages is the flexibility and convenience of using MLearning and accessing information at any time – anywhere. But MLearning also allows the content to be customized to the learner, and can benefit different types of learners (i.e. visual learners, auditory learners, spatial learners, etc.). Since people take their mobile devices wherever they go, MLearning allows users to make use of their spare time, or ‘dead time’, such as while standing in line at the bank, waiting for the bus or even in between meetings/projects.
- Convenience and flexibility
- Customized learning
- Makes good use of spare time
- Tailored to different learning styles
- Larger access to information
Using Proper Phone Language
Every environment we enter requires a different form of ‘language’. For instance, we wouldn’t enter a team meeting with the same type of language we use in the break room. The same is true for the telephone. Telephone language is different than our everyday language and can take some time to get used to its flow. But with the right tools, it can be easy to adapt in no time.
Please and Thank You
Using good etiquette is a way to show respect and consideration to those we interact with. Some of the basic essentials of proper etiquette are phrases such as “Please” and “Thank you”. When asking the caller for something, such as their name or account number, always follow with “please”. After the customer has given something to you or says something polite, follow with “thank you” to show your appreciation for their help. Using “Please” and “Thank you” when speaking with a customer allows the operator to remain professional while still showing courtesy and respect.
- “May I have your name, please?”
- “Please hold for one moment, Mr. Smith.”
- “Thank you for your time today.”
Do Not Use Slang
Slang is typically defined as a type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal and are used in everyday speech. Common examples include “Yeah”, “Y’all”, “I guess so”, and “ain’t”. Slang is not appropriate to use on the telephone and should not be used, even if we know the caller. Slang language implies inconsideration and disrespect to the caller and can make them feel as though you do not want take your time to help them. It is important to always use professional and courteous language in order to convey to the caller that you are there to help and can get the job done.
Avoid Using the Term “You”
When speaking with someone on the telephone, it can be easy to get lost in speaking with the caller and letting them know what they may need to do on their end. However, it is important for the operator to avoid using the term “you” excessively. When we continuously use the term ‘you’, in reference to the caller, it sends the message that everything is their responsibility and that the person on the other end of the line is not there to help them. If we continuously tell them they have to complete a task before we can help them, the company not only looks unprofessional, but unwilling to do business with them.
Avoid phrases such as:
- “You will need to call back tomorrow.”
- “You have to take your bill to the other office.”
- “I need you to come into the office for that.”
Emphasize What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t
When we are speaking with someone on the phone, for any reason, it can be hard to communicate what the caller wants or needs from the operator. Sometimes the operator is quick to tell the caller that they cannot complete a certain task or that they cannot help them at all – but this type of attitude does not build relationships. Flatly telling someone you cannot do anything for them shuts the door on negotiations and portrays a negative light on the company. Instead, emphasize what you can do for the caller. Offer ‘favors’ or alternate tasks you can do for them to help them get what they need. If you’re genuinely not able to answer their questions or do something for them, it’s alright to let them know that, but offer an alternative action for them, such as finding someone who can help.
- “I can help you with that.”
- “I’ll be happy to transfer you to the department.”
- “I can take a message if you’d like.”
- “I don’t know the answer, but let me find someone that does.”
For more on our Telephone Etiquette course, please visit: https://corporatetrainingmaterials.com/course/Telephone_Etiquette
Formatting a Team Building Plan
Like any other key initiative, team building needs a plan. Take the time to format a solid team building plan so that you know where you’re going. This helps you keep your team abreast of what’s happening, what they can expect, and what they need to do. Create your team building plan with input from your team, as well as your own research. Create a plan that is manageable and realistic, yet diverse and fun.
Define the Goal
The most important step is to define the goal of your team building plan. Just saying you want to “build a team” isn’t enough. What needs to change or improve on your team? This will help you focus your team building efforts. Also take into account the circumstances of your team. Are you spread out over many office locations? How large is your team? What special considerations are there, such as remote employees or heavy travel schedules?
Some common goals for team building include:
- Improved interpersonal communication
- Improved collaboration
- Higher morale
- Greater camaraderie
- Integration of new team members into an existing team
- Motivating the team
Based on your goal or goals, choose activities that best support what you are trying to achieve. Be sure to evaluate your plan regularly in case your goals change.
In addition to an overall goal for your team building plan, it is key to define a goal for each team building activity and clearly articulate it.
Consult Team Members
Your team members are your best source of information when you plan team building activities. There is no sense in scheduling social gatherings, for example, that no one comes to! Take the time to ask your team what kind of activities they’d like to engage in and what they would like to do. Also ask them what they think could be improved about your team and how you might go about making those improvements occur. Taking time to consult your team shows that you want to create a team building plan that works for them, and that you are invested in what they care about and have to say. Check in with your team often about different activities. Also encourage your team to come to you when they have new ideas for team building activities.
Research and Create Structure
After you’ve consulted your team, research their suggestions. Look at what industry leaders and your colleagues are doing in terms of team building. Spend some time surfing the Internet, which is a wealth of team building ideas, as well as looking at books of team building activities and games. Figure out what types of activities are possible and practical for you to do. This may include creating a budget, contacting outside vendors and consultants, and otherwise examining the logistics of various activities. Then create a structure. Decide in what order you will do activities or what goals you will address first. Determine whether you’ll have monthly, bimonthly, or more/less frequent team building activities. If possible, start putting these on a calendar. Then communicate with your team what this schedule will be like. Let them know what to expect. Having a structure in place helps make it easier to consistently implement your team building activities and plans.
Keep It Fun
Perhaps the most important thing when creating a team building plan is to keep it fun! If team building is a drudgery, your team is not likely to benefit from it. Find ways to keep even meetings and trainings infused with a sense of fun. Balance more task-oriented sessions with fun activities. Have a sense of play. Make note as you research of ideas for infusing team building with levity and fun. This will help ensure that your team gets the greatest benefit from your plan. And don’t be afraid to revise your plan if you start to implement is and realize that no one’s having any fun!
For more on the Team Building For Managers course from Corporate Training Materials, please visit:
Why Are Some Customers Difficult?
While many of your interactions with customers will be pleasant and positive, you inevitably will have to interact with customers who are difficult in some way. Keep in mind that just as all of your emotions communicate to you so you can assess your situation, this is also the case for the difficult customer. Regardless of why they are angry or upset, their feelings are valid. Understanding the different reasons behind their behavior can help you to resolve their difficulty.
They Have Truly Had a Bad Experience and Want to Vent
Venting swing emotions such as anxiety and anger can be a useful strategy towards slowing down thoughts and reaching a more calm emotional state. When customers want to vent, they want a solution, but what may be more important is that they feel that they are heard, that their concerns are valid. Listening actively with empathy can help customers who need to vent in order to de-escalate their emotional state to a less aroused state.
“Empathy is the faculty to resonate with the feelings of others. When we meet someone who is joyful, we smile. When we witness someone in pain, we suffer in resonance with his or her suffering.”
Want Someone to be Held Accountable
Customers looking for accountability feel anxious and angry. Will anyone resolve their problem? Keep in mind that being accountable is not the same thing as accepting blame. An Adult mode assessment of reality might understand that you personally did not cause their problem, but a Parent mode assessment might perceive everyone at your business as incompetent as evidenced by the customer’s problem. Customers who are looking for accountability may speak in terms of blame and fault. This however is not truly being accountable. To be held accountable is to acknowledge that you can be responsible for where things go from here. When you take responsibility, you are saying that you are able to respond to the situation rather than saying the situation is your fault. Often when you reassure a customer that you are going to help them, and you offer a specific strategy on how you will do so, this helps the customer feel less anxious. By providing specific information, you help customers to de-escalate their anxiety. By showing a willingness to take responsibility you speak to the customer’s Parent mode response, and shift them back into Adult mode.
They Have Truly Had a Bad Experience and Want Resolution
When customers express that they are looking for a resolution, they are operating in the Adult mode. Even if they are angry or expressing frustration, they can quickly de-escalate when they know that you are working towards a resolution. Sometimes conflicts can arise when the resolution is not what the customer wants or expects, including the idea that a complete resolution may take time. In this case, being honest and offering multiple options can help a customer accept the range of resolutions being offered. Remember that the emotion of frustration tells us that something isn’t working. Providing multiple options to a customer can let them know that you are looking for a solution that will work.
They are Generally Unhappy
Customers who are generally unhappy people can be exceptionally difficult. When you ask what is wrong, they can launch into an entire laundry list. Often unhappy people pursue negative rewards in their interactions. Consequently, they may want you to slip into a Child or Parent mode to complement their corresponding Child or Parent mode, because this confirms their negative view of life. Destructive labeling is a common distorted thinking pattern that you’ll find with this type of customer. When dealing with generally unhappy people, you can help them by refocusing their attention on the here and now and the problem at hand. Rather than asking what is wrong, you can ask, how can I help you today, or look for specific steps you can take to resolve a specific issue. Remember that the way to counteract destructive labeling in yourself is to focus on specifics. This focus on a specific and resolvable problem in your impossible-to-please customer can aid in counteracting their destructive labeling. You may find that they continuously resist and try to lure you into a Child or Parent state. If possible, you may have to call a time out to regroup yourself. The most important step in dealing with generally unhappy customers is to remain authentically positive and in the Adult mode. Dealing with this type of customer can be a source of frustration, so be prepared to reframe the problem when you identify this emotion in yourself or your customer.
For more on this course available from Corporate Training Materials, please visit:
Using Business Cards Effectively
Networking is not complete without receiving or giving a business card. The business card is a way for you to follow up on the people you have met. Likewise, it is a way for them to contact you for further meetings.
More than that, your business card is a way to brand yourself. Professional-looking business cards send the message that you’re professional. Adding your company motto or tagline in your business advertises you and what you’re all about.
5 Tips on Using Business Cards Effectively:
- Never be without your business cards! (Make sure there’s always a stack in your office desk, and in your wallet. You’ll never know; even a trip to the grocery story can present an opportunity to network.
- Follow the protocol on hierarchy. Cards should not be given to senior executives that you meet, unless they’ve asked for one.
- Time the presentation of your card. Don’t just hand over your business card at any random moment. Handing a business card in the middle of a discussion can be an interruption, as parties would need to take a moment to give it a look. You also want to make sure that your card is perused at point when the other person can give it his or her full attention. The best moments to hand a card is when you’re asked for one, when you’re asked to repeat your name, or when someone offers to send you something.If the two organizations that you represent are well-known to each other, although you haven’t met your host before, offering your card is probably best left to the end of the meeting. If your host is unfamiliar with your company, offering your card at the beginning of the meeting is good practice.
- Accompany your business card with an explanation of what you can offer them. When you hand another person your card, give a brief “action recommendation.” This can increase the likelihood of them contacting you again. For instance you may say: “I think I can help with your PR concerns, Mr. Johnston. Here is my card.” You may also ask for referrals. Invite the other person to send your contact details to anyone they know who can use your services or products.
- When receiving a business card, show the other person that you value their
card. Look at the business card for a few seconds. Comment about the card. Let them see that you take care in storing their card as well, instead of just jamming it in your pocket.
For more information on our Business Etiquette course, please visit:
Guidelines for Managing Ethics in the Workplace
Managing ethics in the workplace requires certain tools. Every organization needs a Code of Ethics, a Code of Conduct, and Policies and Procedures, which is discussed within the CTM Business Ethics course. These tools direct the organization as leaders attempt to manage ethics.
Guidelines for Implementing and Managing Ethics:
- Give it time: Managing ethics is a process-oriented activity that requires time and constant assessment.
- Focus on behavior: Do not give vague requirements; make sure that ethics management has an impact on behavior.
- Avoid problems: Create clear codes and policies that will prevent ethical problems.
- Be open: Involve different groups in ethics program and make decisions public.
- Integrate ethics: Make sure that all management programs have ethical values.
- Allow for mistakes: Teach employees how to behave ethically, and do not give up when mistakes happen.
Roles and Responsibilities
The roles and responsibilities necessary to effectively implement workplace ethics will vary with each organization. A manager should be in place to oversee the ethics program, but he or she will need the support provided by other positions. Smaller organizations may not need to fill all of the roles listed below; determine what your company needs before executing an ethics program.
- CEO: The CEO of every company needs to support business ethics and lead by example.
- Ethics committee: An ethics committee will develop and supervise the program.
- Ethics management team: Senior managers implement the program and train employees.
- Ethics executive: An ethics executive or officer is trained to resolve ethical problems.
- Ombudsperson: This position requires interpreting and integrating values throughout the organization.