Sunday, September 10, 2017

Creating a Culture of Reciprocity

Reciprocity rings can help bring hidden resources to the surface and encourage a culture of generosity.

When Rui Kang, a December 2017 MBA candidate at INSEAD, arrived in Fontainebleau, France to start her programme, she worried about getting to see her fiancĂ© on a regular basis. He lives in Lille, two hours’ drive away and with no way to get there, Kang needed some help. But, as she quickly discovered, she was in luck.

INSEAD’s December 2017 MBA students took part in the inaugural round of “Reciprocity Rings”. The ring consists of a group of people who get together and ask for something they each need and cannot get or do for themselves. In addition, as each person takes a turn articulating their “ask”, the other members of the reciprocity ring are encouraged to think about the resources they might have to help the person asking for help and to make as many offers of help to others as possible. Even if they are not able to help personally, participants can also connect the person to someone in their network who might be able to help them. Reciprocity rings were introduced during the MBA Orientation Week to break down barriers and add to a culture of reciprocity at INSEAD.

When Kang, originally from China, asked to share transport with anyone heading to Lille on a regular basis, Ruxandra Tosun, a campus recruitment coordinator at INSEAD who volunteered to facilitate the Reciprocity Ring exercise during orientation, answered the call. Her partner, Maxence Torillioux, visits Lille almost every weekend to see his parents. Two days later, Kang was in the car with Tosun, Torillioux and their dog, heading to northern France. They struck up a friendship, learning things from each other and providing additional help. For example, Torillioux, a wedding photographer, gave Kang some ideas for her wedding.

Kang was also a valuable source of information for Tosun. “She gave me some insight into student life, what they were doing for the welcome week, what the students are talking about. For me, that was really amazing because we work with students all the time but if you have a good relationship, you can understand them better,” she said.

The friendship would never have come about if Kang hadn’t asked and if Tosun, a facilitator who wasn’t “officially” a member of the Reciprocity Ring group, had not been generous and volunteered to help.

Pay it forward

The reciprocity ring concept was developed by Professor Wayne Baker, a sociologist at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and his wife Cheryl Baker, CEO of Humax. It rests on the idea of generalised reciprocity, a powerful way to spread gratitude.

Generalised reciprocity is triggered when a person receives help from someone else, but instead of paying it back to the person who helped them, they help someone else or “pay it forward”. Take the “Kidney Chain” as an example. In 2009, Matt Jones from Michigan wanted to donate a kidney to a total stranger just because he could. Barbara, who lived in Phoenix, was dying from kidney disease. Jones’ kidney saved her life. Her husband Ron would have donated one of his kidneys to her but they didn’t have compatible blood types. However, he was so grateful that he donated one of his kidneys to another stranger, whose relatives were also so grateful, they did the same. And on it went to become the longest-running transplant chain, changing the lives of 20 people.

Creating cultures of reciprocity

According to Baker’s research, the simple act of helping someone else compels the person receiving help to help others. In the paper, “Paying it Forward vs. Rewarding Reputation: Mechanisms of Generalized Reciprocity”, he studied two ways of facilitating generalised reciprocity. One way was by rewarding reputation, i.e. peers monitor one another in their organisation, helping those who help others and refusing to help those who do not. The other method was the “pay it forward” mechanism, which naturally occurs when members of an organisation help third parties purely because they themselves were helped.

Baker found that altruism had stronger and more lasting effects than rewarding those based on their reputation. The most sustainable way of facilitating generalised reciprocity, therefore, comes from creating a “pay it forward” culture.

Paying it forward is an organic movement, but it needs a trigger. That trigger comes in the form of activities such as a reciprocity ring, a guided and structured exercise that can start the ball rolling. But there are a few considerations for facilitating an effective reciprocity ring.

First, it’s best for it to take place in person. Recent research shows that requests made in a face-to-face setting are 34 times more likely to be answered than those over email.

Second, participants need to have clear goals. We ask our students to come up with two SMART goals – one professional and one personal goal. These are specific, meaningful, action-oriented, real and time-bound. Meaningful goals can be incredibly powerful. When I took part in a reciprocity ring at the University of Michigan a few years ago, one of the most memorable requests came from a woman who got up and asked for help on behalf of someone else. Her friend had a very serious and rare disease and had to travel frequently between Michigan and Texas for treatment. Due to the expense, she simply asked all of us if anyone was willing to donate some frequent flyer miles to help him pay for the travel. Most of us who were able to donate our miles did so.

Third, small groups are best, with a maximum of 25 people. If any requests go unfulfilled, the request can go out to a larger or different group in the organisation. During our Reciprocity Ring exercise in January, in the unusual case that a request went unfulfilled, we put the request to all of the other groups in the room. In the end, all requests were met with resources from one or more people present.

Don’t be afraid to ask

Another important role of a reciprocity ring is having people get over their fear of asking for help. They don’t want to appear weak and often grossly underestimate how willing other people are to help. In a paper by Frank Flynn of Stanford Graduate School of Business and Vanessa Lake of Columbia University, the researchers found that people underestimated by 50 percent the number of people they expected to ask to get a certain number to agree to a request. The researchers also found that asking for a favour verbally was more effective than handing out a flyer with the same request.

As a result of the introduction of reciprocity rings at INSEAD, students used their new-found connections and resources to form tutoring groups for students keen to brush up on finance, mock interview groups in preparation for recruitment, a wine club and even a band.

Kang became more confident about helping others when she saw how generous people could be. “Maybe I won’t pay back Ruxandra directly, but if someone needs my help, I would be happy to give it. Since the exercise, I’ve offered help to my peers when they needed explanation of some concepts we learned in class. I’ve offered to introduce my personal contacts in the automotive industry for those interested in a career in that industry. I’ve also helped organise some student events. I am certainly inspired to continue this once I become an alumna,” she said.

It is for these reasons that organisations should try, where possible, to facilitate an asking culture. Such an approach could also help companies start to address gender disparities. Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University shows in her research that men are more likely than women to ask for what they want. Levelling the playing field with a universal “asking” culture could make women more likely to step forward.

For the ever leaner corporation and for those facing new challenges and opportunities, a reciprocity ring can be a low-cost method of uncovering unknown resources and helping to connect the many dots between employees and other stakeholders. Reciprocity is about both offering and asking for help and, at INSEAD, we are using reciprocity rings to help us unleash the diverse resources and generosity of INSEADers.

Schon Beechler is a Senior Affiliate Professor of Leadership and Organisational Behaviour. She is also the Academic Director of the MBA Programme at INSEAD. Follow Schon on Twitter at @ProfBeechler.

Follow INSEAD Knowledge on Twitter and Facebook.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Trying to capture the essence of why I love what I do

Michael Perkins talking about the future of the Professional Firm and the need for collaboration at the BBG Mastermind Lunch series on " Beyond the Future of Work" 

Quotable Comment about the event
Quotable Gem you got from the event
Very thought provoking for the future of collaboration between professional advisors
Need to keep reinventing yourself
I am, I do , I fit => Collaboration approach
TREAT  - BSI Values - trust, respect, energy , adventurous, , team First 
Like Minded energised audience 
Collaboration is Key
Interesting & Informative. Reminds us to plan properly for the future.
Focus on Collaboration
Trusted Network
Generated Value - around the client
Great insight into the practices of modern workplace
Personal Mastery
Give yourself time to learn before you earn
The concept of collaborative professionals under one formal legal company.i -  a common system - a market provider through collaboration
Time to learn=Time to Earn

Develop collaboration and resources
Collaborate,Build,Co-operate Trust
Future of Work is here
Reflective Solution for building collaboration in a workplace
Collaboration and referrals are most important
Good for B2B Collabration
A platform to know Business People
Felt event names/details didn't describe event well
Needs more polish as presentation
Inspiring and Informative
Collaboration Diagram     I am I do I fit 
Very Interesting for family owned businesses
Excellent & Informative

Holistic Customer Service

A clear description of how collaborative business models should operate
Collaboration is a discipline

3/4 of supreme court actions are contesting wills-shows importence and social value of estate planning for families
Referron App for networking

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Great "BBG Knowledge Share" on Outsourcing by Martin Conboy

Working with a virtual assistant.

When people say "virtual assistant," (VA) they might mean different things. For the purpose of this paper we're talking about remote administrative help, and assume the following three things:

1. They work remotely. Your VA will not be sitting next to you in your office or someplace near. All your communication will be online or on the phone, and you may never meet your VA face-to-face even if you work with them for years. A remote working relationship has its own quirky challenges.
2. They're global. That is, they don't live and work in the same state or country as you. The customs, laws and standard business practices they know may be different from the ones affecting you.
3. They're generalists, and not domain experts. For the purpose of this paper, we'll assume your VA is not a domain or industry expert. They provide administrative help, not specific consulting.

Now that we're on the same page about what a VA is and isn't, let's drill down

1. Establish your workflow early.

Do you expect your VA to be available at certain hours of the day, everyday? (I.e. The Philippines is two hours behind East Coast Australia in the winter and 3 hours behind in Summer) Or can they mostly work on longer tasks and just give weekly updates? Set expectations for when you want to be online and available to reduce the frustration from not being able to reach your VA when you need them the most. Its always a good idea to have a regular (i.e. weekly ‘work in progress ‘ (WIP) meeting.

Discuss your potential task list with your VA. Hopefully, you already did this during the vetting and hiring phase, but it helps to go through the list again with your VA after you've hired them. If you're hiring a service provider, the VA assigned to you may not be the same person you talked to while interviewing the service provider. By giving your VA an idea of the work coming down the pipe, they can better prepare for it. When you're dealing with a service provider that might means getting sub-VAs that specialize in the tasks on your list.

Ask them to send you a weekly (or daily or monthly, depending on the number of hours you've booked) breakdown of tasks they've done and how long it took each task.

Preferred communication. Your VA will be able to handle whatever communications medium you prefer. It may be by phone or Instant Message (IM) or email. While you're at it, tell them how you prefer to be reached, at what times and for which problems. You don't want to have your VA sending you an email when they should have called about a question on a time-sensitive project, and conversely, you don't want them calling you at all hours of the night for trivial questions.

2. Try different tasks in the beginning to gauge your VAs strengths and weaknesses.

During the vetting and hiring phase, hopefully you found a VA that specializes in the tasks you will be assigning. However, and this is especially true of microbusinesses that have few people doing a large variety of work, you may have a range of tasks that require different skillsets. For example, sending you an email and responding to responses requires people skills, whereas data entry requires being very detail oriented.

When you first start working with your VA, don't be afraid to try different tasks. You may find that your VA can accomplish more than you hoped for. If that's the case, you may assign this VA higher-level tasks that require some thinking, and choose to hire a lower cost VA to do the data entry work.

3. Give very detailed instructions.

When writing instructions, assume nothing and be as specific as possible. At least until you know your VA's ability to "read between the lines" and/or "anticipate your needs," make sure your instructions contain step-by-step explanations. Do not assume that your VA will be able to infer anything. They work on many types of tasks across all industries, so unless you hired a specialized VA, don't assume they can fill in even the smallest holes in your instructions.

Show an example of the finished task if possible. Or give them an example to follow. When assigning a task that involves filling in a spread sheetgive them the spread sheet with one or two rows already filled out.

Marked up screenshots are a great way to explain a task. The Firefox plugin FireShot makes it really easy to create a screenshot and add annotations to it.

If the task is more involved, you can also use a video screencast. Follow OPEN Forum contributors;Mashable has a list of great screen casting software  (i.e. CamStudio) and a very comprehensive guide to making video tutorials

4. Communicate using the appropriate tools.

A good VA will be able to use your preferred communications medium, whether it's voice calls, instant messaging, video conference, (i.e.GoToMeeting) or email.

Keep in mind that speaking is about seven times faster than writing, and about four times faster than typing.  So once you have a good workflow going with your VA, and you're confident they understand your needs so you can have less detailed instructions, try to integrate faster communication methods into your workflow. However, for longer project-like tasks, written instructions are better so your VA can reference it.

Email is good as the primary medium. It's good for giving initial instructions and getting delivery of work. For more immediately communication, use IM and sometimes voice calls (using Skype makes international calls free). IM is especially good for asking quick questions while doing the task.

5. When you assign the task, ask the VA to verify that they understand the task. (Active Listening is the most valuable skill a VA can have) 

For example, you can add one or more of the following into your instructions:

• Tell me exactly what you're going to do to accomplish this task. (Basically, ask them to explain the task back to you.)
• What is your estimate for how long this task will take?
• Is anything I said unclear at all? Do you have ANY questions?

What you're looking for is verification that your VA understands the goals of the task and your instructions for accomplishing it. By asking for this verification up-front, it lessens the chance your VA will waste the time you've paid for doing the wrong thing.

The key: make sure your VA acknowledges and understands the task before they start working on it.

6. Check in on the task about 10-20% of the way in.

If you expect a task to take 10 hours, ask the VA to come back after 1-2 hours with their progress. This will allow you to:

1. Check their work to make sure their interpretation of the task jives with your expectations,
2. Update instructions to streamline the task, or
3. Cancel the task if it turns out to be a bad idea.

7. Allocate two to three times more time for the task.

If you can do the task in an hour, expect your remote assistant to take 2-3 hours.

In the beginning, when you guys are just getting used to each other, it might take 3-4 hours. Once you've gotten into a good working relationship, and have found the perfect assistant for the set of tasks you tend to assign, it may only take the 1-2 hours.

But regardless, they will never be as fast as you. Even if you hired locally, the smartest college student you pay minimum wage won't be able to complete your tasks to your specs at your speed. So don't expect miracles.

8. Significant savings comes with volume (and trial and error).

The first month you work with your virtual assistant, it might actually take you more time to accomplish the task.  By the time you write up instructions, vet candidates, get used to working with the remote employee, send back work with more instructions, and spend your time fixing mistakes in the final product, it might take considerably more time than if you had done the task yourself.

Some folks will try hiring a VA and give up quickly. Their rationale is "if it takes them as much or more time as me, I'll just do it myself!" But experienced small business owners will take the long-view and realize that even if the VA is not as fast as them, outsourcing low-level work frees them up to accomplish higher-level (higher profit) work.

The benefits of outsourcing come once you've found a good remote employee that is well suited to the type of tasks you assign, and when you've learned how to efficiently communicate and work with your virtual assistant.

The takeaway: keep the long-term benefits in mind, and don't give up after the first few tasks. The first 100 hours of working with a remote employee is going to feel like an expensive waste. But if you stick it out, you'll see significant cost savings over the next 10,000+ hours.

9. Learn from other people's experiences.

The Four-Hour Workweek

 - Tim Ferris' book and site has done more to grow the virtual assistant industry than anymore else in recent memory. Follow Tim's blog to learn about his lifestyle of automating as much work as he can, so he can travel the world and live the life he wants. Especially useful links:

 Describes the processes Tim uses to have his VAs be his frontline email corresponder.

 - When you trust someone else to do the work you know you can do really well, some bad things will happen. As Tim says, "oftentimes, in order to do the big things, you have to let the small bad things happen." And as the owner, you're the only one who can do The Big Things, so it's necessary to let some small things slide.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Lessons in building your personal brand in business

Author: Liz Haywood


Humans thrive on stories.  We find stories are a wonderful and interesting way to learngain a deeper insight and shift our perception.

We all have interesting stories to tell, journeys of success, adventures down the wrong path, perhaps mishaps that turned positive.  These stories can be inspiring and powerful, more memorable ways to communicate your message.

Charles Fairlie, publisher of 50 Unsung Business Heroesknows the power of these stories and how they can become a tool to create a moving message for others.

The idea for Unsung Business Heroes began when Charles’ father was featured in a book of boat builders, and thought this could be a powerful way for a business person to tell theirstory and build their brand.  

Unsung Business Heroes is more than a book, it turns your story into a profitable conversation. Removing the overheadsof publishing, time constraints and distribution issues, the service provides a personal brand package to create and tell your story, to engage with your audience on multiple mediumsand devices.

Charles’ presentation to our Business Builders Group, Sydney CBD chapter event in July 2017, opened our eyes to how powerful other peoples’ stories are, and how they can be used to build your personal brand.

The presentation didn’t just focus on this amazing book, it was about the lessons he had learnt along the way in his business.

What Charles learnt to do

These were the aspects of his business that had the biggestimpact on building his personal brand in his business 

1. Build a website

Charles needed to build a central point to house all his content, and from which his prospects could find him.  After many tweaks, and a whole lot of time, he had a website which featured all the information his prospectsneeded to know.  This became the anchor for his business.


2. Create and build your social media platforms

Charles started new accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to build an audience.  These platforms became the brands voice.   As content is fed through these mediums he is connecting in a positive way with businesses and the people who may influence them.

3. Build a team

Pulling together a team to make it all work, Charles formed a professional team to support his activities and sales.  This added credibility to the business and assisted him in the skills he personally did not have.

4. Define the service proposition

Charles created a whole package of branding to go with each person’s chapter in the book. From web, videos, podcasts, blogs and events.  This ensured value for the customer, ongoing brand support after the book has been published and source of easy to use content for their personal branding activities.


5. Add impact statements

Charles sourced testimonials from his customers.  Theseare a powerful ally for his business, as they restated the value others have received from his servicebuilt trust and credibility.  These customers became advocates for his business.


The lessons Charles learnt


We all have many lessons that we learn daily, here are Charles top lessons in building your business-


What to do

1. Know your market – do your homework on your target audience, there may be different types of buyers.
2. Build your plan – double your estimates as goals will take twice as long to achieve than you perceive.
3. Estimate your revenue each year – then half it!
4. Build a good team – a talented, hard-working team will help you attain success.
5. Work the dream – be clear about your vision, it makes decision-making easier.
6. Monitor your progress and adapt your offering – keep a check on how the business is really going (not how you think it is going). Use reports and numbers for real facts.  Be flexible, as the business environment is always changing.


What not to do

1. Don’t listen to people who kill your dream – stay focussed on your goals, refer to the plan when you go off track.
2. Don’t ignore feedback from prospects – your prospects will give you valuable feedback about your offering or services, especially through their objections.  Listen hard and validate them if appropriate.
3. Don’t avoid research – research the market, your competitors, your prospects, and any information that will make your business better.
4. Don’t quit too early – all successful businesses take timeto gain momentum.


At the conclusion of Charles’ presentation, most of us said we learnt a lot from his insights, whether it was something that resonated with us or information that we could use in our own business.  


As part of the Business Builders Group (BBG)  foundation to know, like and trust each other, Charles business story allowed us to know, like and trust (KLT)  him and his business to refer suitable business contacts to him.

And as Charles said ‘There is an unsung hero in all of us!’.