Are you a manager or a leader?

The roles of a manager and a leader can be blurred. Often people will declare themselves one or the other, but sometimes you have to wear both hats. However, the roles are very different.

Here are a few pointers to help you distinguish whether you are a manager or a leader.

A leader sets the goals and directions of an organisation, someone with the grand vision.

A leader looks for new ways of working, ways of innovation and challenging the norm.

Often a leader is someone who inspires others, motivates a team in order to strive towards the goals.

A leader can be persuasive; they will need to be influential in order to get what they need to achieve their goals.

A good leader is also someone that listens and can teach or coach others.

Leaders create teams.

Managers, on the other hand, are maintaining the status quo who aim to keep everything running smoothly.

Often they are managing teams or individuals in order to achieve goals. The manager is the person who has the responsibility to organise and direct assets –financial or people – in order to achieve the desired outcome.

The manager role is seen as to maximise efficiency so results can be achieved.

The managers’ focus tends to be on work and tasks. Some of the processes involved in this are planning, organising, coordinating, time management, budgeting.

A leader is someone that has people follow them; on the other hand, managers have people who work for them.

In business, both the manager and leader roles need to have their people on side in order to achieve the vision and goals.

Managers often react to a situation. However, leaders tend to be proactive and try and foresee problems arising in the first place.

Managers shift responsibility as they delegate tasks out and often the blame goes with it. Meanwhile, leaders take responsibility and aren’t afraid to admit mistakes and learn from their actions.

While differences in the roles can be drawn, it is also worth pointing out the similarities.

Whether communicating vision and direction or communicating actions and decision making, it is imperative that both leader and managers have outstanding communication skills.

Both roles need to have good team skills. The success of achieving a task or goal is never down to one individual. Teamwork is vital in order to achieve success. Therefore both managers and leaders need to be able to work well in a team. Keep the team motivated and inspired in order to get results.

When you’re starting out as an entrepreneur you are both a leader and manager. Which isn’t too bad when it’s just you. However, as your business starts to grow you’ll soon identify whether you’re a better manager or leader.

Let me know in the comments below what you think of when you hear the words leader and manager?

Leader or Manager? You're often both..
Leader or Manager? You’re often both..

Why you should mind map

Creating mind maps is a simple useful way of collecting your thoughts & ideas and putting them into one place that has an impact. The impact is caused by showing your ideas visually instead of a list or some sort of narrative.

There are a number of benefits of creating mind maps.

Firstly I find it helps cut out of some of the noise. Say for example you have an idea but as you think through the idea you miss parts or forget them. Minds maps help you focus on the key points, and helps bring order to your thoughts. If you find yourself being a bit scatty or struggle with some of your thoughts then mind mapping could benefit you.

I also find that mind maps help with memory. Yes, we can memorise lists but sometimes it can be difficult to recall. Mind maps help store and recall information as you have the ability to personalise the mind map, which helps reinforce the points to memory. You can use colours, images, different fonts – and in doing so aids the learning process.

Mind mapping allows you to brain dump your ideas and thoughts into one place. Let’s say you‘re planning on going on holiday but you don’t know where. So you shortlist 5 or 6 places, and then need to assess the pros and cons, the prices, the temperature, currency, flights times etc.. Before you know it your brain ends up turning into soup because it’s got so much to process. Put it in a mind map and gain clarity. You’ll also find your decision-making process a lot easier.

Mind mapping is accessible to everyone and anyone, from Chief Execs to school kids, it’s so simple to create a mind map and they take a little time to produce.

You can use mind maps in a number of different ways. Brainstorming is often the most common, if you want to pull ideas together on a topic and allow the creativity to flow then using mind maps can extremely beneficial.

If you study or read books you can use mind maps to summarizing the key concepts. This helps to break down the information into smaller chunks which help with understanding and revision.

Mind maps are also a great tool to use when planning. This could be a project, a party /wedding or even a strategy. Mind maps can capture the ideas in one place and can be arranged into a to-do list. Not only a planning tool but also a productivity tool as well.

When I create my mind maps I use an online software tool called MindMeister. There is a free package that allows you to create a limited number of mind maps. If you subscribe you’ll get additional features, such as exporting to pdf or PowerPoint, additional users, custom maps etc. The interface of the software is easy to use and creating mind maps are so simple – Go check it out.

What’s with the long sales page?

I’ve been on the receiving end of a marketing cycle a number of times now. This usually involves receiving up to 4 videos of content after which I get the “my course is now open for 10 minutes buy now” email.

The first thing I want to check out is the cost. How much is this course or product costing. And to find the answer I usually have to spend a few minutes trying to find it.

Why? Because the answer is usually buried in a long sales page, and it’s so frustrating. I feel like I’ve spent a good hour (that’s how long the video series can be) getting to know this person and what they’re about only to find them being coy about how much their product cost.

Surely the sales page only needs to have enough copy in order to make a conversion or sale. Not a deluge of info that overwhelms the reader.

I can’t help but find it really bizarre that these pages are put out, because I for one don’t have the time to read it.

So the latest page I’ve come across has this format; An intro to the product (i.e what you’ll get out of it); the creators story (the journey); why doing this thing he’s teaching has helped him; details of each module; bonuses; evidence of profits; introducing the 3 packages and costs(premium, middle, basic) and what you get at each level; inspirational quotes / motivation; finally the “buy now” buttons; testimonials; FAQs; guarantees & refund policy; summary of packages and buy buttons.

Wow that’s a lot of info to read and digest.

I’ve spoken to people who see how long the page is before determining whether or not to read. And then there are the scanners – People who scan the page and read something only when they find something of interest.

The long sales page is designed to create hype get you enthused about the product, and if you’re selling a product for a high value the buyer will need more convincing to see if your product is worth it.

A longer sales page will also be required if you’ve marketed to people who don’t really know you. Again they will need more convincing that you are legit.

The purpose of the sales page is to agitate a problem so that we are compelled to buy. A longer sales page can tell more narrative and highlight more pain points

 

One possible reason is that I might not be the target audience for this product, hence why I lose interest quickly and move on to something else. People read what they are interested in, because I’m not interested that doesn’t mean other people aren’t.

Another possible reason why people put out these pages are that they are trying to answer every possible question you – the reader – may have about the product in order to make a buying decision.

Or possibly these sales pages are great and I sit with a small minority of people who hate them.

However if you are faced with a decision –long or short sales page – the answer is to test. Figure out what your audience –and ultimately what is converting best.

5 Tips to Find Business Ideas

Business ideas can come from anywhere so start looking at everything as an opportunity. However, If you’re stuck and want to get the wheels going on your entrepreneurial journey, but feel that you just can’t find an idea, here are 5 tips that can help you find your business gem.

1 ) Ask your network

If you have a following, or an audience you can reach out and ask how you can help them. What pains are they having? What problems can you solve? How can you help?

Your audience is an asset and can often provide you with a rich source of ideas.

Your job as the entrepreneur is to create the solutions to their pain points. This could be creating an eBook, a how-to guide, or could be a course or even a SAAS product.

2) Just start something.

Ok before you start crying cop out, this point is all about starting. Even if you have the tiniest spec of an idea – run with it. Bootstrap it and create it, don’t spend too much money or time on it but just focus on putting something out there. People will soon give you their feedback whether or not the idea is a good one.

The other benefit is the this gets your creative muscle working and while the idea you first set out on might not work out, it might lead to other ideas coming forward

3) Solve your own problems

Problems you face or have faced in the past can also be good ideas to explore as potential business opportunities. If you’ve faced a problem, chances are someone else will face the same problem as well.

You can teach others based on your experiences and help them avoid the problems you have been through.

Ask yourself “What have I had to overcome that may help others?”

People are willing to pay for something if helps them.

4) Start a side project.

Don’t focus on getting that one killer idea that will never materialize, instead, focus on something that interests you, and explore that. Let’s say for example you like baking cakes. You could upload a video every week showing how to bake a different cake. This will help you create a following, who you could serve.

Alternatively, you could identify something that interests you identify problems for the problem and solve them.

5) Find a quiet place and brainstorm.

Ok, this one is a bit out there. Find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted and brainstorm. I find using a blank piece of paper and a sharpie works best for me. Write down any idea you come up with. Or start to brainstorm things that you like, what annoys or frustrates you, write down what type of customer you’d like to work with, what are their problems. How could you make their life easier?

Before long you’ll have a list or words and idea that will hopefully give you some idea and where you could possibly go.

When you’re looking for ideas let me know in the comments below what you do.

Business opportunities are everywhere - just make sure you are looking for them
Business opportunities are everywhere – just make sure you are looking for them

Why I’m running a half marathon

On the 16th October 2016, I’m running my first ever half marathon. This will be the furthest my 30 year old legs will have taken me in one day.

I’ve been what you could describe as an occasional runner whereby I have been running on and off for about 5 or 6 years and the most I’ve ran is probably 4 miles. I’ve not really been that committed or had a goal in mind.

I would just run occasionally, it was more to do a bit of exercise than anything else.

Having a desk job isn’t the best for keeping fit, and sometimes you just need to get out and clear you mind. Burn some of that stress. Hence the running. Plus it’s free!!!

But signing up to do a half marathon means I have to be committed and do the training in order to achieve the goal of running 13.1 miles.

Whereas before it didn’t matter if I went for a run or not, now it does. If I don’t put the training in I could fail. If I don’t get my body used to running for nearly two hours plus I could injure myself which of course I don’t want to do. Or even worse pull out of the event.

Therefore I train.

So why would I want to commit myself to this. Well there are a number of a reasons for this.

The first is that my running now has a purpose. This makes me more determined to succeed.

The second is that this is a goal I have always wanted to achieve but never had. I’ve never had the courage or believed in myself that I could put in what is required or see the finish line.

Even though now I’m conflicted about whether or not I can see the finish line, my mindset has changed to more of a “lets try it and see” mentality. I may succeed, I may fail but there is only one way to find out – and that is to run.

Running a half marathon would also demonstrate to me that I can achieve my goals. Often I start things and put them on the back burner – lose interest, but by signing up I’ve openly put it out there that I will run this distance.

I have accountability.

There are of course other benefits that running. My latest training run of 5.25 miles burnt over 800 calories. I feel less guilty eating a chocolate bar after running five miles.

The other benefit is to inspire others, I’ve managed to get others signed up to the same event as well. Also my partner is now running, she likes the competition but also we’re both now eating more healthily.

And the more I think about about it the more I realise that achieving a goal, any goal is more about your mindset than your ability. When I started on my running journey I didn’t think I could run 13.1 miles now at nearly half way there I’m starting to believe.

Hit me a comment below and let me know what goal you’re going for. (w/c 521)

This is supposed to be fun..
This is supposed to be fun..

The Queue Monitoring App [Business Idea]

Here’s a novel business idea that I’m putting out there it came to me while standing in a queue at Subway waiting for my lunch.

An APP that monitors the queue – let me explain.

When arriving at a store and the back of the queue you access the app, identify the store you are in and start the stop watch. Once you have finished queuing – in other word have paid for your goods and left the shop – you stop the APP.

As a side note the APP should vibrate or alert the user every two minutes or less so that the user doesn’t forget to stop the timer.

Once the user has stopped the time the information is then recorded. The user can share the experience on social media by tweeting or putting on Facebook that he or she has just spent (time) queuing at “store” the user can then rate whether they were happy with the time queuing or not.

Users can then use the information to make purchasing decisions. This might be if a store has a low rating they may decide to go elsewhere where they can get served quicker. If a store has a low rating, it means that users have queued for a long time therefore they could decide to got to a store with a higher rating where they would get served in a quicker time.

This concept could be also be user for online takeaways, or used in any environment where people have to queue (airports, themeparks)..

Ok, so how would this business idea make money? The key to monetising would be how you would use this data and for this I have a number of ideas:

1) The data could be sold to the companies – as they would get information about customer behaviour. For example how long customers are queueing, whether they are satisfied with this. The average rating etc. Stores could then use this information to adjust staffing levels, apply promotions outside of peak times etc.

2) The companies can offer targeting marketing. Lets say you queued in a store and found the queue too long and you got frustrated. The company would be able to see what store you were at and your rating. The company could then send out a targeting campaign to you :

a) “ We’re sorry we didn’t meet your expectations, we’ve recently made some improvements and would like to offer you a free/money off coupon”

b) “We’re sorry your recent visit to x store wasn’t up to your standard – we value your input and would like you to try out our z store – heres a money off coupon”

3) As well as target ads, there could also be generic ads like the ads you see when using apps, websites – although this could be more targeted for example all the user information is kept within the app allowing marketing to be specific.

This is just an idea but one I thought I would put out there.

Let me know what you think in the comments below? (511 words)

put your ideas out there

The Defenders of Earth… [Book Idea #1]

A small planet that orbits Earth is home to a race that are superior to humans. This planet and the inhabitants have the purpose to protect Earth, as Earth is viewed as a holy land as it is so rich and diverse where life is abundant. However humans are viewed as immature and their technology old and outdated.

The planet is ruled by an aging King, whose Son will inherit the throne that will see him become the protector and defender of peace on Earth.

The Kings wife, the Queen has the gift of being able to foresee future events. In a vision she sees her son becoming the King and taking control of the Kingdom. The Son becomes consumed of evil causing destruction on his own planet, leaving his people fearful of him.

In her vision the Queen sees her Son invading earth and destroying it and ruling it for himself. Causing mass destruction.

The King brushes off the Queens vision and vows to train and nurture his son until he is ready to become King. The King is blinded by love for his son and totally devoted to him.

Sharing her vision with her trusted advisor – a monk – he advises her that her options are to either kill her son or to give birth to another in hope her child can prevent her vision from coming true.

Knowing that she cannot kill her own son, giving birth to another child is her only hope.

Giving birth to a daughter, she sends her baby and the monk to live on Earth, where the monk is to train her in the hope that she will be able to save earth from her brother.

On their own planet the monks train individuals in magic, manipulation of the elements, in order to fulfil the role of protectors. While they also train combat, they lack the strength to stop a King.

The daughter lives on Earth and trained by the monk. Her powers develop over the years. She learns the fate of her home planet and Earth rest with her. The monk watches over her as she develops in a warrior and as she interacts with Earth.

Her mother makes infrequent visits to Earth, but only observes from a far. He heart is filled with sadness and sorrow being parted from her beloved daughter.

Years pass and the Son becomes the King. He declares he wants to be ruler of Earth as well as his home planet.

On invading Earth, he is soon confronted by the planets artillery. However the weapons and machinery and no match for the new King. His power and skills are far superior to anything they can throw at him.

The new King and his sister are reunited and a battle ensures. The fight displays the strength, power and skills these two warriors have developed. However after a long fight, the exiled daughter defeats her brother.

On doing so she is reunited with her mother and claims the throne to the kingdom ensuring peace is restored to both her own planet and to Earth.

(w/c 513)

Stargazing

Are you inspired by the Olympics?

It’s pretty hard to avoid the Olympics at the moment, and more difficult to not get swept up in the buzz of the games. After all, the event only happens every four years. Which makes the appeal of the Olympic Games even more special.

However it got me thinking, the athletes that take the podium positions –well all the athletes really- have had to earn their success. Really earn it. They have had to be dedicated, made huge sacrifices and let’s face it endured a gruelling training program. They deserve their success. It wasn’t handed to them on a silver plate

Day in day out they’ve had to train their bodies. Physically, by hitting the gym, training for their event as well as being put on special diets. Mentally they’ve got to be tough, keep going and never give up. I’m sure its very easy to hit snooze on the alarm clock on a cold November morning at 4.30am, knowing that getting out bed results in a punishing swimming routine.

And being put on a special diet or a nutritional plan doesn’t sound a barrel of laughs either. No casual takeaways for these guys. No let’s have a Chinese or a pizza tonight. Their diet is closely monitored to ensure they’re at their peak performance.

If you listen to any post event interviews with the athletes, they talk about sacrifices they’ve made to get where they are. Whether this is being away from their families for training or competitions, or sacrificing time with friends – It must be pretty tough seeing friends go out enjoying themselves and your body is fatigued

While I enjoy the Olympics, I now look at these athletes and respect them for the commitment and sacrifice they have had to undertake to be successful. The lessons here are obvious. There are no short cuts to success.

They’ve not been born successful, they’ve forged it. They’ve made it happen by consistently showing up and doing the training, listening to coaches, learning from others, putting themselves through competitions and being patient.

They deserve their successes.

Four years is a long time, but for some unknown reason as we get older time seems to get faster (might just be me…), and before you know it we’ll be watching the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Some athletes will have retired (Usain Bolt L) while others will be putting themselves back through the grind to achieve Olympic success.

The questions to ask yourself are;

Where do you see yourself in four years’ time? Will you achieve your goals? Or will you still be dreaming but be four years older.

Or somewhere different? – you’ve taken action and accomplished your dreams and goals.

What are you will to commit to day in day out? Can you be consistent and stay focused?

What are you willing to sacrifice? TV time, facebook, takeaways? – we only have 24 hours a day you need to make time to achieve success, sometimes we have to give something up to chase what we really want.

You’ve got the power to achieve your dreams and goals, So to all the Olympic athletes, I applaud you.

Be Inspired

The 500 words for 10 days Challenge [Launch]

Writing 500 words seems a lot, an awful lot. Especially when you’ve not written much before, or have no idea what to write about. Panic sets in.

“500 words? Wow! Blimey! I’ll struggle to come up with anything that I could write about for 500 words”

Well in fact five hundred words isn’t that much really. If you break it down, it could be five paragraphs of 100 words each, or it could be 10 sentences of fifty words each. By breaking it down it starts to make the task more surmountable.

However, you may be in the other camp. The camp that says “500 Words? Easy, I talk a lot therefore getting my opinions out there is easy” But is it? Can you be concise?

Our attention spans are diminishing by the day. When was the last time you focused on just one thing? I mean nowadays I’m watching TV, checking to see what people are saying on twitter, checking my emails hourly (god knows what I’m expecting to see in my emails but I feel the need to check it regularly), and being a Brit I compulsively need a cup of tea on the go as well. So with all this going on, I need people to get to the point and quickly.

So which side of the fence are you on?

500 words seems like a mountain to climb? Or

500 words – I’ll crush it easily.

The premise of this challenge is simply, for 10 days you need to write 500 words. That’s it. You can write about anything. Any topic you like. The key focus is on writing and writing consistently.

You can write about what you’ve done today, you can write 10 short stories, you could even step in to someone else’s shoes. You could write pros and cons of various business ideas you have, or you could you write a daily piece to help someone; for example each day I’ll write a piece for people who want to run but have never done so.

Ok, you may be thinking why would I want to take on this challenge? The simplest answer is writers write. If you have any ambitions of becoming a writer or just want to improve your writing, you need to write. And the only way you’ll improve is by writing.

You wouldn’t wake up one and run a marathon without putting in a lot of practise. Therefore you can’t expect to wake up one day and be a writer.

Plus you get your creative muscles working. You’ll find that writing will throw up some different ideas or different ways of thinking, helping you avoid that feeling of being stuck and not moving forward.

This 10 day sprint is a way of starting, taking action and being productive. And after the 10 days you’ll have something to reflect on, something to assess. Something to be proud of.

Each post needs a title and you’ll notice the square brackets give a bit of info about the piece.

Good luck, have fun & turn up. (wc 513)

7 tips to help you become a leader

We often dream about reaching the dizzy heights of leadership. Being that one person who makes the decisions, that person in charge. But what traits do we need to embody in order to get us there?

This post hopefully sheds some light on what some of the ideology behind making it to the top.

Tip 1:

Become familiar with obstacles and uncertainty. If you’re someone who doesn’t like change and prefers a set routine, then becoming a leader isn’t necessarily the right fit. As a leader you’ll face obstacles and uncertainty, that’s pretty much what you’re therefore – steadying the ship. You are the one that guides people, they look to you for the answers and often those situations are in times of uncertainty.

Tip 2:

Are you self-aware? High achievers and leaders are self-aware individuals. They understand who they are, what their likes and dislikes are, what their strengths and weaknesses are. They know what their strengths are, and aren’t afraid to develop these skills further, often leading to an unequal skill set whereby they don’t focus so much on their weaknesses. This can potentially lead to a competitive edge whereby others tend to seek an even skill set.

Tip 3:

Being able to create relationships is also a key skill that leaders possess. They have the ability to connect with others by either engaging with them by being taught, teaching others and through communication. Leaders are able to establish genuine trust and caring relationships which help lay the foundations for future roles.

This ability to network and create relationships enables them to get noticed, which in turn can allow them to learn about new roles and opportunities

Leaders often exhibit a humble and friendly persona, and they often have strong ethics in that the believe people should be treated right, this can often be displayed in that they treat people the way they would like to be treated themselves.

Tip 4:

Having a strong work life ethic also allows people perform better and get ahead. The family and friend network provides grounding for individuals and often gives perspective. Family and friends give a psychological comfort and stability, and allows you to focus on your day-to-day role.

In fact many top CEO’s when asked who aided their success and rise to the top, they often give credit to their spouses.

'it doesn't matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop' - Confucius
‘it doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop’ – Confucius

 

Tip 5:

Start taking opportunities and realise your potential. Spotting opportunities is a key skill to develop as leaders need to be able to spot them for future growth of the business. Leaders often have a knack for creating opportunities for themselves.

This doesn’t necessarily mean saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself but taking opportunities that can further your advancement. This might be a promotion or taking on an extra role or responsibility to gain knowledge. In the knowledge that the benefits of obtaining such info may help you at a later point.

Tip 6:

Leaders spend their careers gaining broad functional expertise, and aren’t work shy. These traits avoid becoming pigeon holed in to one area and develops good working knowledge of how the business should run.

Leaders strive to be the best in their field, and they do this by constantly learning and doing. By gaining a broad range of functional expertise this positions them well for future progression and promotions

Tip 7:

Often leaders acknowledge that taking the easy route is not always the best choice. Yes a decision might make sense short term, but long term would you decision make the most gains. If you gave everyone a large pay rise you would have a happy work force for a couple of months, but you’ve now got no money to invest and risk going bankrupt.

Larger more complex problems often have solutions that are complex or take a while to form, leaders have the ability to tackle these problems and not settle for the easy route. They have the willpower and the ability to focus in order to see out a complex issue.

 

There are many leaders out there and they all have their own a unique leadership style. Hopefully next time when you listen to a leader you can identify some of the traits that has helped propel them to where they are.

Write in the comments below a key trait you’ve identified in a leader you admire.