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Ever gotten a group together to brainstorm and felt like it was a waste of time? Anne Byrne feels your pain. She provides some practical tips to banish the brainstorming blues and to make your next brainstorming session more effective and innovative. I have a confession to make: I hate brainstorming sessions. I often find them unproductive, a bit chaotic and leave me wondering – what was the point? I used to think this made me a lousy innovator. Surely, brainstorming was the epitome of innovating? Lots of people in a room, coming up with lots of ideas – that’s innovation, right? As time has gone on, and I’ve learned more about innovation, I’ve come to realise two things: Brainstorming isn’t innovation, but it is an essential step in the innovation process. Brainstorming isn’t bad; it’s often just not done right! So, here are my tips for better brainstorming, learned from my own mistakes and experience. Tip 1: I wouldn’t start from here... Getting lots of people in a room and writing down loads of ideas isn’t productive unless those people understand the problem at hand and user's needs. Too often we rush to brainstorm when we haven’t entirely defined the problem. We need to understand the issue at hand before we start. Next time you’re thinking about holding a brainstorming session, take a moment to think about whether it’s the right time to do so: do you and the team understand the issues and trends? Have you articulated the problem? Have you spoken to the impacted users? Sometimes it’s a matter of timing. If you can get the groundwork done first, you’ll find brainstorming more productive, relevant and engaging. Tip 2: Stay quiet! I’m one of those people who will rush to fill any silence in a room – but one of the things that I’ve learned is that sometimes I need to zip it. Silence in brainstorming is powerful. Five or ten minutes of silent thinking and idea generation at the beginning of a brainstorming session works wonders. It allows people who may be more naturally introverted to gather their thoughts and more actively participate, and for more ideas to be generated, and it avoids the group getting sucked into “group think” around the first few ideas thrown into the ring before anyone has fully thought them through. Tip 3: Bold is beautiful To be truly innovative, we need to be bold, to put forward the big ideas that seem a bit scary or silly. Many innovations sound ridiculous or unfeasible when first pitched. The innovation process is about taking the big, bold, ludicrous ideas and refining them to make it work. Sometimes, we filter ourselves, and therefore limit the ideas that put forward when brainstorming. We are afraid of being criticised or ridiculed, so we stay in the safe zone.The challenge is to silence that inner voice; the one that tells us to play it safe or stay quiet. Taking a bit of time at the beginning of a brainstorming session, or at the formation of an innovation team, to focus on establishing trust is essential. Simple measures, like developing a team charter of behaviours or conducting an ice-breaker designed to build trust, can make a big difference. Tip 4: Be ruthless! Too often I’ve left brainstorming sessions with a wad of post-it notes, but no real idea what any of them mean, and too many ideas to feel like I can do anything useful. Brainstorming is itself a process: step one is creating lots and lots of ideas free from constraints, but step two is to whittle these down and start to tease them out further. By narrowing down your ideas, you can focus on developing the strongest ones. Tip 5: Let go Letting go of ideas is hard, so how do we do it? Set some rules and limits, apply them in a fun way, and do so in an environment of trust. Fostering psychological safety in a group is a key factor for letting go. People need to understand that it is an idea that is being rejected, not the individual who came up with it. A team that can trust and let go together can also foster critique and challenge ideas constructively.  Anne Byrne is the GovLab lead in Deloitte.

Jul 10, 2019
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Working hard to get to your leadership position has its perks, and sometimes those perks can be to your detriment. Patrick Gallen explains how to keep your focus on lifting those around you and not yourself. I am a great fan of the work of Rasmus Hougard and Jacqueline Carter in The Mind of a Leader.  One of the areas that they reference in follow-up articles is ego and how it is the enemy of good leadership.  This is worth reflecting on in more detail, particularly in the context of how close today’s leaders are to their people. If you're like me, you are not too old to remember the days of ‘Executive Only’ dining rooms and ‘Executive Lifts’ in buildings. You have to ask yourself how those leaders effectively engaged with their people or knew what was happening within the organisation. Having visibility of your people is critical to effective leadership.  It’s safe to say that the benefits of their position may have, in fact, been undermining their leadership effectiveness. Avoiding the board bubble What can you do about this as a leader? When you get promoted through the ranks of your organisation, your ego may get promoted, as well! The first thing is to recognise is that your inflated ego is a risk; not only for you but also for the senior leadership team. Being caught within an insulated ‘board bubble’ is very dangerous. You risk losing touch with your colleagues and clients, not to mention the culture of the organisation, much like the executives in their own personal lifts. Behaviour-breeds-behaviour and tone-from-the-top are critical in effectively leading any organisation. Hubris syndrome It is also important to recognise that the traits that gave you success so far may not get you to the next level. With leadership comes power and influence and with that, your team are likely to want to please you, by allowing you to take the lead.  All of these massage the ego.  Moreover, when the ego is massaged, it grows! For leaders who have been in power for a long time, there is the potential risk of ‘hubris syndrome’, a phrase coined by Dr. David Owen, a former British Foreign Secretary and a neurologist; and Jonathan Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University. After researching the medical history of UK prime ministers and US presidents, they identified symptoms and traits of hubris – a syndrome that befalls many who have substantial power over a length of time. A sample of the 14 symptoms identified by Owen and Davidson included using power for self-glorification, loss of contact with reality, excessive self-confidence, and contempt for advice or criticism from others. An inflated ego or sense of power may not itself undermine your leadership ability. In fact, some see it as a natural by-product of a successful leader. There is, however, a darker side to many leaders manifested in character traits can that can ultimately lead to impulsive and destructive behaviour. Leadership is about your people As a leader, you must recognise and respect that leadership is about your people, not your rewards and sense of entitlement that may come with your position. Maybe move out of your private office and eat lunch with your staff – it need not be lonely at the top. It might be better to encourage, develop and work with people who won’t feed your ego.  Hire bright people with the confidence to speak up and challenge you and the status quo. Patrick Gallen is Partner, People and Change Consulting, in Grant Thornton Northern Ireland.

Jul 10, 2019
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When you finally land that offer you really wanted, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the new job and take your eye off the old one, but the manner of your leaving matters. Suzanne Feeney gives you her step-by-step guide to handing in your notice. It makes good sense to resign from a job in the right way. Relationships are vital in any successful career, and you never quite know what the future holds, so it’s important to leave on good terms with your soon-to-be ex-colleagues and managers. These are people who already know and rate your work, and you never know when your paths might cross again, whether as future colleagues, managers, referees or just valuable business connections. Resigning professionally is just what professional people do. So here’s your step-by-step guide to doing it right. 1. Inform your employer It’s in both you and your employer’s interests to communicate that you have accepted a new offer as soon as possible. Face-to-face is obviously best. Set up a meeting to talk privately and plan what you are going to say and try to anticipate the questions your manager is likely to ask. Have a letter prepared to formally give notice of your resignation at the end of the meeting. Make sure you know what your contracted notice period is, as the subject of the best way to manage this period is sure to come up in the meeting. Always start by expressing thanks for the opportunities you’ve had in the current role. If asked about your reasons for leaving or feedback on your experience in the job, stay positive and professional. Don’t go into too much detail at this point. You can set up an exit interview later to give more detailed, constructive feedback. If a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible, Skype or a phone call is the next best option. Resigning by email is seen as a discourteous approach. Ask your manager when and how they’d like to communicate your news to the rest of the team. It’s a professional courtesy to put them in charge of this decision.  2. Address any counter-offer Employers would generally rather try and hold on to good people than start to hire all over again, so you could receive a counter-offer. While a counter-offer is flattering, our research shows that many people who accept a counter-offer go on to leave quite soon after. If you are considering staying, make sure your employer is prepared to commit to the counter-offer in writing, with all the details of the terms that have been offered you face-to-face.  3. Complete your notice period Once you hand in your notice, there is typically some negotiation over how much notice you are to work. Even if you don’t get your ideal outcome from this conversation, it’s vital to stay focused and see the period out. If you try to leave earlier without an agreement, you could jeopardise any termination benefits or future references. Your new employer will wait for you as they obviously think highly of you. 4. Handover After your notice period has been decided, it’s time to take proactive steps to hand over your role. Ask your line manager how you can best support them in handing over your work to other colleagues and/or your future replacement. Work out which projects and tasks need your urgent attention, and detail all those to which you can commit within the timeframe of your notice period.  Start preparing a detailed handover document which will allow others to pick up your outstanding projects and responsibilities. Find solutions for how the rest of your team can cover for you in the short-term. If there are specific client relationships or operational responsibilities you need to hand over, arrange some one-to-one meetings to go through these in more detail with the right person.   5. Keep in touch Think about the people you work with and those you want to keep in touch with after you’ve left, both socially and professionally. After resigning but before leaving, you can start putting steps in place to make sure you maintain contact. Circulate a personal email address where people can reach you. Link with and follow soon-to-be-ex colleagues via LinkedIn, Twitter and any other relevant platforms. Finally – stay calm and confident. Starting a new job can feel daunting, but remember that you were selected by your new employer out of many candidates as the best for the role. Remind yourself why you wanted to move on, and why this new opportunity appealed to you. Now all you have to do is get out there and make the most of it! Suzanne Feeney is a Director at Robert Walters.

Jul 10, 2019
News

After a bout of bad governance in charities and not-for-profit organisations in Ireland, trust in the sector is at an incredible low. For charities to continue their work, they need to build back the public's confidence. Diarmaid Ó Corrbuí explains how accountability and transparency can achieve that goal. Only 50% of the public trusts Irish charities, according to recent research by nfpSynergy. This is below the level of trust in our schools (74%), the Garda (62%), the EU (55%) and the civil service (53%). Some consolation might be taken from the fact that trust in charities was above that of the banks (41%), but our banking institutions are on the long journey of trust-recovery after the banking failures 10 years ago. Back in April 2012, charities were getting a trust score of 74% but they fell to a low of 43% in November 2016 after the fallout from the Console scandal, and upward progress has been ever since. Charities need to continually work on generating and building back public confidence. Major failures in corporate governance by charities, such as Console and not-for-profits like the Football Association of Ireland, are extremely damaging for the sector as a whole, particularly given the criticality of public trust for charitable organisations and their sustainability. Restoring the public trust To restore and build public trust, charities need to be strongly committed to the principle of accountability and transparency – one of the six core principles in the new Charities Governance Code. Grappling with change and implementation of a new governance code is not always easy, especially with limited resources. The Charities Regulator itself has said that 2019 will be a year of learning before registered charities are expected to fully comply with the Code in 2020, or report on it in 2021. Taking the steps to apply the six principles of the Code will make its implementation – and, in turn, building the public trust – that much smoother. Luckily, there is a good range of guidance available from the Charities Regulator that can assist, as well as a number of resources from other organisations (e.g. Carmichael, The Wheel, Chartered Accountants Ireland, etc.) that can help charities develop and embed good governance practices. Charities could also consider entering the Good Governance Awards. Investing time and effort in such an initiative can really build the public’s confidence while showing the charity’s commitment to improving its organisation’s accountability and transparency. The charity and not-for-profit sector has long been an important backbone of our society and communities across Ireland. The selfless desire to help others is core to what they do as trustees, volunteers and staff working in the sector. Through good governance and transparency, those within the sector will earn back the trust they deserve. Diarmaid Ó Corrbuí is the CEO of Carmichael. Carmichael established the Good Governance Awards for Charities and Not-for-profits in 2016. The 2019 awards are now open for entries, closing date 13 September. For more information, see the awards website at www.goodgovernanceawards.ie.

Jul 05, 2019
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While cybercrime tends to hog the headlines in this digital age, low-tech fraud continues to be a risk for most organisations, says Teresa Campbell. Virtually all business owners encounter fraud at some stage. While technology enabled scams like invoice redirection and telecom fraud tend to grab the headlines, traditional low-tech scams have not gone away. Here are some common examples of low-tech fraud, along with some tips on how to guard against them. Payroll fraud Payroll fraud can be very costly, especially if issues go unnoticed for a long period of time. Some examples of payroll fraud include: Staff members lying about hours worked or commissions earned; Payroll operators keeping a former employee on the payroll and diverting the salary to their own account; and Staff members asking for a pay advance and not repaying it. Having good internal controls with robust approval procedures that are consistently applied, along with checking payroll reports to verify payments, can help protect your organisation against payroll fraud. Expense account fraud There are various ways in which a dishonest employee can fiddle business expenses – from submitting forged receipts to double-claiming for expenses, or staying in cheap accommodation but submitting expenses for an expensive hotel. Again, the best way to protect against this type of fraud is to implement appropriate checks and approval procedures before reimbursing employee expenses. Theft Theft doesn’t always involve loss of cash. Misuse of company facilities such as photocopying or taking stationery for personal use, inappropriate use of company vehicles, theft of customer information, stock or intellectual property are all examples of theft that can cost your business money. Regardless of whether it’s situations like these, or stealing from petty cash or messing with accounts, theft by employees can be very difficult and time consuming to deal with. As is always the case, prevention is better than cure. Strong policies and good communication can help prevent problems arising. Employees should be aware of your expectations regarding honesty and integrity, your disciplinary code, and the consequences of failing to adhere to company policies. Supplier fraud This can occur where a supplier invoices for an amount in excess of the agreed price for a product or service. Supplier fraud sometimes involves collusion with an employee. For example, where VAT is paid to a non-VAT registered supplier or an employee accepts an inducement from a potential supplier. Implementing robust procurement procedures is the best way to protect your business against these types of fraud. Customer fraud Customers can attempt to defraud your business by claiming that a delivery has not arrived or that a product is faulty, returning a product that they did not purchase from you or even attempting to return a product that they stole from you. While it is difficult to eliminate these types of fraud, policies such as requiring receipts can help to protect your business. Other ways to protect against low-tech fraud Depending on your business, there are various other tactics you can use to spot problems and defend against fraud. These include: Daily/weekly bank reconciliations; Robust approval/authorisation procedures for payments; Security training for staff; Shredding confidential waste paper; and Controlling visitors entering your premises, e.g. requiring them to sign in at reception. Think about where the fraud opportunities exist in your business as this will help you work out what protective measures need to be put in place. It’s a good idea to seek professional advice as there can be potential pitfalls in areas such as breaching privacy rights or failing to comply with legal requirements. Teresa Campbell is the People and Culture Director at PKF-FPM Accountants Limited.

Jul 05, 2019
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With Brexit on the horizon, should Ireland rely on the UK for corporate governance guidance, or should we take responsibility for our own framework? Now that the Brexit train wreck is well under way with no end in sight, it poses the question from a corporate governance point of view: should Ireland still rely on the UK for future corporate governance guidance, or should work with the other 27 EU member states to take responsibility for charting our own corporate governance? Ireland’s current approach to corporate governance could be described as a patchwork quilt of codes made up of: Financial Reporting Council – The UK Corporate Governance Code April 2016 as modified for Ireland by the Irish Corporate Governance Annex; Corporate Governance Code for Credit Institutions and Insurance Undertakings; Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable Organisations Charities Governance Code; and Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies 2016. All the above emerged from different but well-intentioned sources, which have helped raise the awareness of corporate governance in Ireland. However, the UK Corporate Governance Code only applies to a relatively modest number of plcs on the Irish Stock Exchange. Ireland has no codes for SMEs or, indeed, FDI organisations who may have to adhere to their own corporate governance codes or rules from their country of origin.  Framework for Ireland’s economy We need to stand back and take a good hard look at what type of corporate governance framework and codes are appropriate for an economy that relies on SMEs, FDI, a small number of plcs, a large number of micro-businesses, voluntary organisations and, of course, the State. Our ambition should be to have a corporate governance framework that is pro-business but also strikes the right balance between holding directors and companies accountable and an overly burdensome compliance regime. Europe does not have an EU Federal Governance code as of yet. It has relied on the UK’s ‘comply or explain’ soft-law approach. Whether this will stand the test of time remains to be seen. EU regulators may question the voluntary nature of the ‘comply or explain’ approach and seek to move to a more rules-based system as they use in the US. (It should be noted, though, that the US’s rules-based approach did not prevent the Enron scandal.) Ireland must take the lead Above all, Ireland should not stand around and wait to see what happens. We should take the lead on this and work with the EU to ensure that we create a fit-for-purpose corporate governance framework supported by the appropriate codes and rules that work for Ireland Inc. A government-led initiative will send a very powerful message to organisations in Ireland, Europe and the world of inward investment that we are seeking to create a corporate governance framework that is cohesive, structured, coherent, consistent and strikes the right balance to support the economy. David W. Duffy is founder of The Governance Company and author of A Practical Guide for Company Directors and A Practical Guide to Corporate Governance.

Jul 05, 2019