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Saturday, May 31, 2014

What is your leadership style?

If you asked 10 entrepreneurs about which management style they found the most effective, you’d likely come back with 10 distinct answers, each as unique as the entrepreneur that provided them. While no one management style is ideal or applicable to every business, it’s important to be mindful of what management style is used in yours. Identifying your management style means taking inventory of how you approach your business, especially in regards to employee interaction and crisis management. Knowing your management type can help you change it if necessary, as certain circumstances may call for such a shift.

Below we discuss five of the most common types of managers. While most entrepreneurs might relate to one type, the ideal manager should be able to move from one to another as the situation warrants. Keep reading to learn which style is right for specific situations and when you should set some of your managerial habits aside and adopt a different one.

The Dictator


Dictators make all decisions, basing them on what they feel is best for the business. Rarely will they ask for input from their employees, and they may or may not make final decisions with their employees in mind. They will usually "go it alone" when establishing new product lines, creating partnerships or considering new ventures without consulting others in the organization. Dictators largely rely on their own experiences and knowledge to set agendas they feel best answer their business’ needs.

When being a dictator works: If you are faced with an immediate crisis or other urgent business matter, you will often need to step up and make the decision that is in the best interest of the business without consulting your team first. Sometimes quick action is critical, and asking everyone to weigh in or come up with solutions could waste precious time you just don't have.

When being a dictator may not work: While this management style often leads to efficient business operations because only one person is involved in the decision making, it can also lead to costly oversights and mistakes that wouldn't have occurred had frontline employees been consulted. Managers and executives, no matter how smart or well-reasoned their decisions, are still susceptible to errors in judgment.

The Collaborator


Collaborative managers are conscious of their entire organization and acknowledge the utility of feedback from employees, investors, partners and vendors used to reach business objectives. Collaborators will regularly call meetings to brainstorm ideas. They compel employees to offer feedback on business proposals and may even go as far as designating a “devil's advocate” to pinpoint problems with a plan.

When being a collaborator works: Involving employees in the decision-making process is almost always a good idea because you benefit from insight gleaned from different perspectives. Collaboration also boosts employee morale, as employees feel valued because their ideas are requested and respected. This also provides employees with a real sense of commitment to projects they are actively involved in. It’s also a great strategy when time is abundant, giving you plenty of time to hash out ideas. Just be sure you aren't using collaboration to stall when you are pressed to make an important decision.

When being a collaborator may not work: Collaborators can often be seen as indecisive or even weak because they spend so much time talking about ideas and not enough time executing them. Employees can become frustrated if all the discussion leads to nowhere. Also, beware of instances where an employee may not have enough knowledge about project details to provide relevant or useful advice. Bad advice can be costlier than no advice at all.

The Micromanager


Micromanagers need to control everything and feel it’s necessary to constantly be in the loop, even in seemingly trivial discussions. They check in with employees too frequently and expect constant updates on the status of projects. They operate with the expectation that each employee must complete every assignment exactly as the micromanager would. Employees have little freedom to be creative or to use their own intuition and knowledge to solve problems.

When being a micromanager works: When you have just hired a new employee, or you are trying to turn around the performance of a struggling employee, watching them closely is ideal. You want to ensure that they are on the right track and help them overcome any challenges before they exacerbate. Another time to micromanage is when you must follow specific rules or guidelines for regulatory, legal or compliance issues. Remember to let employees know that your constant attention is to ensure compliance and does not reflect a lack of trust in them or their abilities.

When being a micromanager may not work: As a result of working under constant dictation, employees may feel boxed in and controlled. This can have an extremely detrimental effect on morale, which increases turnover and breeds dissatisfaction. For those employees who have proved their competence and trustworthiness, ease up and give them the space to do their jobs the way they see fit.

The Delegator


Delegators take a hands-off approach and allow their employees to run the business. They divide and make assignments based on whom they think can best handle a given task, and they spend the bulk of their time generating new business and crafting long-term strategy instead of focusing on the minutiae of business operations. Because they have built a strong team trusted with managing the business, they can focus on generating revenue. Employees may also feel affirmed by the confidence shown in their ability by trusting them with these operations, which increases their commitment to the business.

When being a delegator works: If you have enough competent staff, it's almost always a win-win situation to delegate work to employees. Just be sure to regularly consult with employees about their workload and regularly confirm their comfort level before you unload new assignments on them. Also, be sure to step in from time to time to cover the grunt work and to show employees that you are still part of the team. Finally, make certain that employees fully understand how the work you do each day contributes to the bottom line.

When being a delegator may not work: Problems occur if there aren't enough employees to cover all the work, and employees become resentful as they struggle while the boss is out entertaining clients with golf, sporting events and lunches. It can also be extremely upsetting for hardworking employees to not get any credit for delegated work they completed; as such, be sure to always acknowledge all contributors when projects are successfully finished. And even though you may have a pool of employees to delegate to, they may not yet have the skills to handle that type of work. If possible, take time to train your potential delegate on the finer points of the job to ensure it’s done right.

The Coach


Coaching managers believe in a team-oriented atmosphere, where everyone contributes to the goals of the business. Because of that, coaches are committed to training employees and providing regular and frequent feedback. They praise employees when they deserve it and constructively correct them when they slip up. Much like the collaborator, they believe everyone should provide input and be involved in decisions that affect the team. Employees typically feel a great deal of loyalty to managers who invest so much time and effort in helping them succeed.

When being a coach works: Effective coaching of all of your employees helps them grow and advance their careers. However, don't forget to acknowledge your best employees. Rewarding employees who deserve it sets an example and motivates under performers. It also drives friendly competition that can raise everyone's performance.

When being a coach may not work: Because coaches want everyone to succeed, they'll often treat their lowest performers the same way they treat their stars. Top performers could resent that their outstanding efforts aren't setting them apart from the rest of the team, and they might either begin to perform at an average level or take their talents elsewhere, which can bring down productivity. Conversely, lower-performing employees might begin to see their subpar performance as adequate, which stifles productivity even further. If this is the case, make sure to temper your encouragement with pragmatism by specifying where an employee may need to improve.

Conclusion
Determining your management style is the first step to understanding its impact on your business. Knowing your management approach helps you recognize your organization’s strengths as well as highlight its areas for improvement in whatever situation may arise. It’s also worth noting that no one style is set in stone, and managers should feel free to implement and test a given style as they see fit.

How Can You Protect Your Intellectual Property?


IP GraphicAre you designing a new product? Have you written a book or produced a musical album? Without protection, your intellectual property could be used by others and exploited for commercial gain. The experts at Vannin Capital spoke to us recently to share the following advice;

Intellectual property – whether it’s the plans for a new technology, a film script or a computer game – is protected against unauthorised use, modification or theft by trademarks, design rights, patents and copyright.

While these four categories of intellectual property protection may seem similar to each other, they each serve a different purpose. Copyright protects creative works like music, literature or visual art from piracy and imitation.

Patents, on the other hand, protect new technologies and inventions from copycats to protect their original inventors. Images and phrases that represent brands can be  protected through trademarks, while unique designs are protected by design rights.

If you understand the differences between these categories and forms of protection, you may have noticed a question: What happens to intellectual property that’s both creative and technological, or a unique design that’s also a trademark?

Not all ideas and inventions fall into multiple categories, but some do. Whether you wish to protect a unique creative work or a new technology, the first step towards a form of intellectual property protection should be a conversation with a lawyer.

The most popular form of intellectual property protection is copyright. This form of protection covers creative works like visual art, literature and music. Although you may have heard that copyright needs to be ‘registered’, most art gains copyright as soon as it’s created and identified as the unique work of the original artist.

In order for an artist to identify themselves as the creator of their work – whether it’s a novel or a painting – they need to visually identify it using their name and its creation date. This provides 70 years of protection against unauthorised use or imitation for the original artist or rights holder.

When the period of copyright protection ends, works enter the public domain. You may have seen famous compositions or films on public domain websites. For music, it’s often just the score that enters the public domain – new performances of a piece of classical music, for example, are still protected by copyright.

Inventions and designs are protected against unauthorized use or imitation through a different process. Inventions, for example, are protected by patents. In order for an invention to be protected by a patent, it needs to be completely original and able to be created and implemented in a viable form.

This means that modifications of an existing technology can’t be protected using a patent. Likewise, patents are only issues for usable technologies. A mathematical formula, for example, can’t be patented because it’s a concept that can be used but not created.

Not all inventions are physical. Numerous patents have been awarded for unique ideas for software or computer security, neither of which are physical objects. For any invention to be patented, it needs to be able to be created and used by people and/or machines.

Visual identifiers like the Nike logo or Mickey Mouse graphic aren’t protected by copyright, but by trademark law. Any visual design that’s used to identify a brand, product or business is protected from imitation or unauthorised use a trademark.

Finally, designs for specific products such as the form factor of a device generally aren’t able to be patented. Visual designs and schematics are protected by design rights, which allow designers to control the use of their creative designs.

The average consumer product may be protected by several forms of intellectual property protection. An iPhone, for example, may be protected by all four: it uses patented technology, contains copyrighted software, uses a protected design and comes in packaging adorned with trademarked graphics.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Unwanted social media comments could render employers liable for unlawful harassment!



The case of Otomewo v Carphone Warehouse Ltd, ET/2330554/2011 demonstrates that employers may be liable for unlawful harassment under the Equality Act 2010 if employees bully a colleague because of a protected characteristic on social media.

In the case of Otomewo v Carphone Warehouse Ltd, ET/2330554/2011 Mr Otomewo, who was a manager at a Carphone Warehouse store, had his mobile phone taken by two employees, who posted a comment on his Facebook status update as follows: “Finally came out of the closet. I am gay and proud.”

Mr Otomewo subsequently complained about the Facebook comment and was later dismissed by Carphone Warehouse because of (unrelated) allegations of sexual harassment that had been made against him. He subsequently brought an Employment Tribunal claim for sexual orientation harassment, direct sexual orientation discrimination, direct sex discrimination, and unfair dismissal.

Mr Otomewo – who is not gay and whose colleagues knew he was not gay – gave evidence at the Employment Tribunal merits hearing that he had been “embarrassed” and “distressed” by the Facebook comment as it could be seen by his family and friends. The Tribunal, in its Judgment, described the actions of Mr Otomewo’s colleagues as an “unnecessary and unwarranted intrusion into his private life on public space”.

The Employment Tribunal found that Mr Otomewo had been harassed on the grounds of his sexual orientation harassment as he had been subjected to unwanted comments related to sexual orientation which had (the Employment Tribunal accepted) the effect of humiliating him. Following on from the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Edwards v Thomas Sanderson Blinds Limited [2009] IRLR 206 CA, protection from harassment extended to persons who were not, and were not believed to be, of a particular sexual orientation where the vehicle for bullying that person was sexual orientation as the purpose of the relevant legislation was to protect persons being harassed on the grounds of sexual orientation (whether this was imaginary or not).

The Tribunal also found that Carphone Warehouse were liable for the harassing actions of Mr Otomewo’s colleagues as Facebook status comment had been made by his colleagues in the course of their employment (as it had taken place at work, during working hours, and involved Carphone Warehouse’s management staff).

Analysis

The case of Otomewo v Carphone Warehouse Ltd, ET/2330554/2011 shows that employers can be liable for acts of unlawful harassment under the Equality Act 2010 by their employees on Facebook or other social media (if that harassment relates to another employee, and is communicated at work during work hours). Although policing employees’ use of social media at work may seem to be a potentially administratively burdensome for employers, employers can protect themselves from liability for harassment through a “s.109 defence” – by implementing social media and equality policies at work, and training their employees in those policies. Employers should also take swift action to investigate any complaints of harassment that are made in the workplace and to produce quick and fair outcomes to these (as employers risk potential constructive dismissal claims if they fail to do so).

Summary and recommendations:

Sexual orientation harassment can occur even if those carrying out the harassment know that the victim is not gay
Employers should ensure that they have a comprehensive and effective social media policy that makes it clear that bullying through social media could result in disciplinary action
Employers should thoroughly train their employees in their equal opportunities policies
Employers should make it clear that discrimination on the grounds of a protected characteristic (such as race, religious belief etc.) could occur even if the victim does not have the protected characteristic alleged by the perpetrator, and the perpetrator knows this

Chris Hadrill is a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans Solicitors and the creator of www.settlementagreementuk.com

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What the frack is happening? Legal lessons from the US

[Fracking%2520law%255B4%255D.jpg]Fracking and the Legal Challenges: what can be learned from US precedents and practices
Fracking ventures here are several years behind such developments in the USA. As every country of the world struggles to produce energy resources that are both ethical and at the same time efficient, today is a salutary moment to consider what the UK can learn from the US example.

Fracking is controversial. Its supporters cite its cheapness and contribution to economic expansion. Its critics emphasise its environmental negatives, especially the threat to local water contamination and increased heavy traffic disruption. Economists celebrate its contribution to economic growth and savings in US fuel costs. At this moment, the UK is years behind the USA in exploiting its potential shale gas/fracking resources. However, it seems likely that the same environmental and legal debate will follow the US precedent. This article will consider what lessons the UK might learn from the US precedent.

So why today to ask this question? Only because today it was announced that the latest fracking venture in the UK would be off-shore. Cuadrillo has been granted licences to start fracking off the coast of Lancashire. This might please environmentalists in that it would avoid potential pollution of local water supplies. Equally it might bypass the problems of acrimonious negotiations with concerned local councils, communities and landholders. Controversial cases running through the US courts have pivoted around these issues.

Where fracking ventures in the UK have been on land rather than off-shore, they have met with venomous opposition from local environmental pressure groups. Foremost of these was the example of Balcombe in Surrey in 2013. So strong was the opposition that the venture was abandoned. Also in Sussex is the site of Fernhurst in Sussex. Local residents worry about the pollution effects of increased freight transport on their local network. Residents fear the unknown. Water contamination concerns are cited. These environmental challenges conflict with capitalist and economic objectives. New and cheap energy resources are vital to all economies, be they developing or established. Western economies are searching new and innovative ones. It might be alright for eastern producers such as China to flout environmental concerns. The more sophisticated, established and mature economies of countries such as the USA and the UK cannot be so cavalier.

A survey of litigation and US legal cases about fracking is a large one. The plethora of such cases includes ones from Pennsylvania, Texas, Wyoming, Minnesota, Colorado, West Virginia.. Even an urban area like New York has faced the challenge. The challenge has not only been between environmentalists and growth economists, In the USA most cases have been tried by state courts. However, there have been conflicts between town and county laws, before cases have reached the Court of Appeal.

So what do we need to learn from the US precedent.. Certainly it will be political, especially with a general election pending in 2015 and energy bills looking to be a top manifesto issue. On the whole the Obama administration has supported the environmentalists in this dichotomy. Fundamentally the debate is between environmental and economic issues but politics will play its part. In the final instance the debate will be decided in the courts. Irish litigators will do well to learn from the plethora of US examples that have already explored these issues. However, they must not forget that for them in Ireland,  the precedent and rules for much environmental litigatuin are embedded in European law.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Traits of a value based Leader.

Values-based leaders are relatively a new breed of managers that break away from the more traditional 20th century leaders. These 20th century leaders are described as being all about the corporate game and conforming to the convention that overtook most companies as the economy globalized and grew, even if that meant abandoning their core values in the process.

What sets values-based leaders apart is that they are always trying to cultivate change in the business world by sticking to their values, despite the results-driven world around them. Obviously the goal is to make money and be successful, but that tends to be more of a necessary, secondary goal as opposed to the reason why they do what they do.

While values-based leadership may not be as profitable as the traditional style, what it can do is foster an environment of people that love working for a company that actually tries to do good in the world. Employees of these companies tend to be more satisfied, and stay at the company longer. There are certain principles that most values-based leaders have that set them apart from all other managers:

#1 – Maintain consistent self-reflection
The first step in becoming a great values-based leader is to figure out what your own values are. What do you truly stand for? What matters most to you? After all, it would be pretty tough to attempt to run a company based on values when you’re not even sure what they are.

One of the main objectives of self-reflection is to become more self-aware. In order to truly be a good leader, it’s imperative that you are aware of yourself so that you can work to constantly improve yourself. If you aren't aware of your own strengths, beliefs, and areas that could use improvement, then it’s going to be very tough to lead an entire company of individuals.

#2 – Maintain an open mind
One of the biggest downsides of the older, more traditional style of doing business is that leaders tend to be very narrow-minded. Whenever new ideas or suggestions arise, the response tends to be, “But this is the way we always do things.” Values-based leaders, on the other hand, understand the importance of looking at multiple perspectives and genuinely considering new ideas.

Chances are as a leader you will have great ideas of your own that you think will be the right way to go. Nevertheless, values-based leaders know that balance is the key to any good business, and that others may indeed have an idea or improvement that works better.

#3 – Have confidence in your choices
Values-based leadership can only be successful if the leader in charge truly believes what he or she is doing is right. It’s important to recognize where you excel in business and as a leader, and where your shortcomings are. More traditional leaders are generally seen as the perfect boss (despite being sometimes heavily flawed) whereas values-based leaders are constantly striving to improve themselves. It’s important to understand that you are not perfect, but also to be fine with that and commit to your choices.

#4 – Never forget where you came from
Your values are constructed through the experiences in your past, so it’s vital not to lose sight of where you came from. When traditional leaders get to the top they tend to give off the impression that they've been at the top of the ladder all of their lives and that they’re in a higher class of person. Values-based leaders on the other hand recognize the positive influences of their past and appreciate the journey that they took to get to where they are.

What are Key Performance Indicators?

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are tools for performance measurement that help organizations define and evaluate progress toward goals or objectives. These quantifiable measures are used to gauge or compare performance in terms of meeting these goals.

KPIs vary by industry and company, depending on what criteria is being measured. They are also sometimes referred to as key success indicators, or KSIs.

Strategic and operational goals must first be established before KPIs can be chosen. For example, growth in the company may be measured by revenue (i.e. 5 million dollars in revenue for 2014) or other industry-wide standards. Goals must be specific and quantifiable to be measured by KPIs. “To have the best customer service in the state” is not a measurable or specific goal. Instead, a company can strive to have a specific percentage of customer complaints resolved within 24 hours. This type of goal can notably be achieved or monitored.

Characteristics
KPIs must have certain qualities and do not change often. KPIs may change as goals change or are achieved. KPIs can be marked progress toward strategic or operational goals. Choosing good KPIs requires a good understanding of what is important to the organization.

Key performance indicators must be:

Quantifiable measurements
Accurately and precisely definable
Clear and specific
Agreed upon beforehand
Reflective of the critical success factors of an organization
Relevant to long-term considerations
Small in number (to retain everyone’s focus on achievement)
Result-oriented and achievable
Time-sensitive
Indicators
KPIs define the measurements and values required to summarize necessary information. These values are called indicators, which are identifiable and can be broken down into these categories:

Quantitative indicators: Measured with numbers
Qualitative indicators: Not measured with numbers
Leading indicators: Can predict an outcome
Lagging indicators: Presented as success or failure after the process
Output indicators: Results of the process
Input indicators: Resources used during the process
Process indicators: Measures the efficiency or productivity of the process
Directional indicators: Specify whether the organization is improving
Practical indicators: Interface with existing processes
Financial indicators: Looks at an operating index
Actionable indicators: In an organization’s control to affect change
Benefits
Once KPIs are defined and measured, it is important to use the results as management tools. These measurement devices give everyone a clear view of goals and give employees motivation to work toward this set of common standards.

KPIs also allow for easy review of company or department performance by compiling evidence of progress toward specific targets. KPIs should be evaluated on a regular basis (quarterly or at least semi-annually) in order for people to track their progress based on these indicators. Planning for the future will also be easier when you have the numbers and the results to back you up.

Examples
Once a company has analysed and defined goals, measuring progress toward these goals may be done in a number of ways. Some examples of these key performance indicators are:

A school may measure success by graduation rates or test scores.
A retail operation may measure the percentage of income that comes from repeat customers.
A company can analyse a goal of customer service improvement by measuring a percentage of calls answered in the first minute.
A business may measure reduced turnover rate by the number of voluntary resignations divided by the number of employees at the beginning of the period.
Manufacturing companies may measure customer satisfaction by reducing the number of units rejected by quality control.
Customer relationship improvement can be measured by the percentage of bad debts collected.
IT operations can improve processes by measuring the average time of repairs.

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