Three Things To Expect From A Business Coach

As a leader and entrepreneur, I always knew I had more to learn. I always seek ways to accelerate and raise the bar to achieve success. A key to getting maximum results from your advisors is to have a vivid picture of the outcomes you want to change. This allows you to understand the type of advisor required. When it comes to coaching, there are so many different types of coaches: behavioral, accountability, productivity, business, career, life, and other specialty coaching (e.g., communication, sales, speaking, leadership, etiquette, and so on).

Please beware of the term executive coach because it is broad and can mean too many things. To get maximum results, you need to hire a coach that is an expert in the area required. The best coaches focus on one or two types of coaching, and none excel in helping you in all areas. I have focused primarily on behavioral and business coaching, the two areas in which I excel.

I am often approached by people that want to achieve better results and are uncertain whether business coaching is right for them. A business coach brings three things to you and your organization:

 

1. REPEATABLE GROWTH SYSTEM

Your coach must bring a structured and repeatable growth system. This is not a system for every facet of your business. It is a proven leadership system that facilitates working “on” the business rather than in it. It is not a system for every function. Your functions (e.g., sales, marketing, operations) require knowledge from an expert in those functions and how to address those issues in your industry.

Don’t assume all systems are the same. Our Business Acceleration System® is a repeatable framework designed to simplify the ease, speed, and confidence you have in growing your business. Driven by the CEO and delivered by your team, we help the team learn how to master and integrate six areas:  cash, team cohesion, culture, execution, human capital management, and strategy. Most systems are deep in one or two of these areas.

 

2. SYSTEM EXPERT

You need a coach who is an expert in the repeatable process and ensures the team has clarity of role and position while keeping it highly cohesive and focused on the team result. Often you presume someone is expert because they have received a certification. Don’t allow certification to fool you. Certification indicates you have learned and shown proficiency in understanding the methodology. This does not mean they have put in 10,000 hours to master implementing the methods. Reading about and applying methods are both essential to mastery.

It is best if your coach has proven successful in many industries and companies. Otherwise, your company is a test bunny. It takes most coaches three years (or longer) to master a methodology. After being a coach for approximately 20 years, I can tell you my work is far better when compared with my first three years.

 

3. A PLATFORM FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

A software platform that creates daily behavioral habits leading to more clarity and alignment and a higher level of accountability. This is separate and distinct from your accounting, operating, and marketing software. As we have learned, no one software addresses all our needs. You must have the right platform that keeps the leadership focused “on” the business.

 

In addition to evaluating your coach’s ability to deliver the system and platform, I recommend that you evaluate a coach for culture fit, business acumen, and style. A great coach in a wrong culture leads to problems. As for business acumen, there are a lot of people that make good executive coaches but lack business acumen. Don’t confuse business acumen with industry experience. And it would help if you had a coach whose behavior compliments the team. Too often, leaders hire a coach that is most like them. While this may feel comfortable, it may not be what you need.

 

Howard M. Shore, Founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc. is a bestselling author, serial entrepreneur and business coach specializing in liberating leadership teams from the barriers holding them back personally and professionally. Howard has helped create over $1 Billion of value and authored two best-selling books, The Leader Launchpad and Your Business is a Leaky Bucket. 

Twelve Questions Your Leaders Must Ask Now

Every leader knows when their business model is working. Revenue is growing, profits are high, customers are loyal, employee retention is high, and so on. However, getting ahead of the curve is important when market factors change. Often, leaders wait and see rather than face the brutal facts.

TEN ISSUES THAT WILL AFFECT YOUR BUSINESS

As leaders, we need to step out of the daily grind and monitor the factors around us. It is likely that you may be aware of what is going on around you and are not making the shifts necessary to thrive in the future.

The decisions we make and actions we take in business should not be made in a bubble predicated upon past circumstances. Instead, we need to monitor conditions, and when our assumptions about those conditions change, we need new decisions and actions. The following are the most common issues that need your attention when conditions change:

1. Growth rate percentage is shrinking
2. Gross and Net Profit Margin is Shrinking
3. Inflation is rising
4. Recession is coming
5. Wages are rising
6. Fluctuating Exchange rates
7. Pricing is contracting
8. Difficulty in finding and retaining people
9. Supply chain issues
10. Political unrest and war

Whether you believe we are in a recession or not, conditions have changed. As you review the list above, I am sure you can see that your business is likely affected by at least seven issues are affecting you today. It is a market Tsunami that should not be taken lightly. How you respond will determine your future success. There will be big winners, many losers, and little in between.

TWELVE QUESTIONS EVERY LEADER NEEDS TO ASK RIGHT NOW!

“We have the answers, all the answers. It’s the question we do not know!” – Anonymous

When any of the above factors change, your team needs to start asking questions, seeking answers, and, most importantly, taking appropriate action! Asking the right questions is the key to continuous success. Often you are answering the wrong questions. And, you are probably playing Whack-a-Mole to address the many issues cropping up. And entrepreneurs tend to solve easier problems quickly and may address a symptom instead of the problem. We often see factors changing and our conditions are changing but too slow to react. We often act but work on past principles rather than considering our new reality. The faster we can identify the right questions that solve our root problem, we can get the answers and make the proper adjustments to thrive or survive in any conditions.

At Activate Group Inc., our business coaches help CEOs and leadership teams grow their companies further and faster with less frustration, making what appears impossible possible! Over the last 20 years we have developed a database of hundreds of questions that our experts draw upon to shine light on our client’s Factors. I recognize no one has time to go through this many questions so I asked my team to identify the ten most important questions every leader must answer right now! Our secret is a repeatable compound growth system causing leaders to ask better questions sooner. The following are the questions we think every leader should ask today

CASH:

1. Have you done scenario analysis to determine if you have enough cash reserves or available credit to take you through should the worst case happen?

2.Do you have enough capital to take advantage of opportunities that may present themselves (e.g., acquisitions, acquiring talent, etc.)

3.Is your financial model deteriorating by slowing revenue growth, shrinking margins, and aging accounts receivables?

STRATEGY

4.How much and often should we be changing our pricing?

5.How are current and prospective client needs shifting, and does this require a modification to current or creation of new products and services?

6.How do marketing messages need to change to meet people where they are today?

PEOPLE

7.Is there anyone on your team you would not want to rehire enthusiastically, and do you have a plan to address them?

8.Do you have a repeatable talent acquisition routine used by all leaders that consistently fills your positions quickly with the right people?

9.Is your staffing plan tied to your forecasting process?

EXECUTION

10. What are the current broken links or potential problems in the Supply Chain?

11. Company have documented Contingency Plans in place?

12. Does every employee know the company’s goals and priorities, is it clear how each contributes and is the answer specific and measurable?

NEXT STEPS

“It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers.” ― Patrick Rothfuss

The above questions are the starting points. I learned long ago that the first question is not where our focus needs to be. We often have to ask several questions before we know the problem we are solving. For example:

    • Is there anyone on your team you would not want to rehire enthusiastically, and do you have a plan to address them? No, but we have not identified all of them.
    • Why Not? Because we don’t have a consistent process for identifying nonperformers.
    • Why Not? We are too busy and even if we did, we can’t afford to lose anyone right now.
    • Why Not? We can’t find enough candidates, and the ones we do are worse or equal to the ones we want to eliminate.
    • Why Not? Because we do not have a repeatable talent acquisition routine that is used by all leads that consistently fill our positions quickly and with the right people.

 

I will stop here as I can go on. Make sure you debate the real questions before running off and trying to solve the symptoms. Change is going to happen. Is your organization asking enough questions? How much confidence do you have that you are ready to thrive?

Howard M. Shore, Founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., is a bestselling author and serial entrepreneur. A business coach specializing in liberating leadership teams from the barriers holding them back personally and professionally. Howard has helped create over $1 Billion of value and authored two best-selling books, The Leader Launchpad and Your Business is a Leaky Bucket.

Business Coach Growth and Profit Tips

Three Issues Likely Disrupting Your Growth and Profits

Having worked with several Fortune 500 organizations and many fast-growing mid-market companies, I am alarmed by how inefficient and ineffective many have become. Often, the leaders were unaware of their inefficiencies and ineffectiveness; they acted like the large institutional companies they swore they would never become.

Consider this, the CEOs and leadership team rarely recognize they have a problem. They may feel that something may not be right, but it is usually worse than they imagined. Despite facts to the contrary, CEOs will indicate pride in their leadership teams and the organizations. Influenced by external circumstances, leaders justify their approach to decisions, overcomplicated processes, and bloated organizations. Meanwhile:

  • Revenue growth rates are inconsistent or shrinking
  • Headcount is growing faster than revenue
  • Overhead as a % of revenue is increasing
  • Turnover is higher than the industry average
  • Net profit margins are shrinking.

I will never forget a discussion I had with a $5 Billion CEO. Growth rates were lackluster, and profits were dismal. They were considered a leader in their industry, yet performance did not support the hype. Others in their industry grew far faster and had much higher profit margins. When I talked with the CEO, I identified two moves that would double their profits, eliminate four layers of management, and eliminate several contracts that represented 10% of their revenue. These moves were worth $200 million in net profit, could likely double or triple the stock price, and would remove a lot of bureaucracy. The CEO decided against it and was replaced 18 months later after the company failed to break through lackluster performance.

Are You Efficient but Ineffective?

Today’s world is full of rapid, unpredictable changes and complex inter-dependencies. Traditional organizational models built on efficiency and optimizing predictable systems are no longer suited for these challenges. In “Team of Teams,” General Stanley McChrystal presents a new way of thinking and leading that allows organizations to adapt and innovate nimbly in a complex world.

Team of Teams is about the General’s process of restructuring the Joint Special Operations Command and making it more adaptable. The military was efficient at fighting traditional wars but not effective against Al-Qaeda in Iraq. General McChrystal began questioning whether a rigid structure inhibited their ability to respond quickly to threats and meet mission requirements and objectives.

Modern military management originated with Frederick Winslow Taylor’s work at the 1900 World’s Fair. He believed that there is a right way to do anything, and he built reductionist processes to streamline how production employees work. In these schemes, employees focus only on their role and don’t have to communicate with other employees or ask their managers about the bigger picture.

Taylor’s ideas revolutionized the way people work. His ideas were implemented in soldiers’ lives through rigorous routines, uniforms and equipment, and a lack of communication and involvement with decision-making processes. This excessive compartmentalization between intelligence operators and analysts in Iraq contributed to the failure to prevent the 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

General McChrystal describes how he built his team of teams, inspired by the Navy SEAL training and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His core principles to create an efficient and effective team were awareness, empowerment, and a common purpose in an unpredictable environment, where hands-on command management styles are rewarded.

The general taught us that an efficient system is not necessarily effective. For example, if the output of a system doesn’t meet the needs of its users or it’s not using available resources effectively, it’s considered inefficient. To make an ineffective system more effective, you can sometimes reduce its efficiency by adding new features that improve performance and usability. To be more effective, we must create the right vision and empower people to make decisions at the front lines. We need to stop the need to run decision-making up the ladder to execute change, maximizing flexibility and agility.

A Bloated Workforce Equals Ineffective!

Many organizations use the wrong measures for determining how to manage human assets. Labor rates, turnover, and other commonly used measures only take you so far. In Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential, Greg Crabtree and Beverly Harzog introduce the Labor Efficiency Ratio™ (LER). LER is used to determine how well your company manages its human assets.

I like LER because it gets more to the heart of the matter. LER expresses labor as a multiplier, not a fraction. In simple terms, it helps quantify how many dollars in gross profit is returned to you for every dollar you spend on labor. When you begin to learn how to look at LER, you may start calculating how to increase your multiplier instead of looking at labor as a cost of sales. When you look at labor as a cost of sales, you can observe each person in a role, see varying returns, and understand why that return varies. It helps you get comfortable paying one person twice as much as another in the same role—you can see that you receive a more substantial return from one person than the other. LER is also a crucial tool in forecasting and planning scenarios and makes profitability analysis much more straightforward than other methods. LER is the ultimate measure for helping management determine whether they are optimizing labor properly or not.

Commonly, we view high performers as outliers and remove them from our calculations to determine the right Labor Efficiency Ratio™ for a position. My challenge to leaders is to gain an in-depth understanding of why the outliers perform as they do. Usually, these people do not have exceptional talents, do not appear to work harder, and are not smarter than the rest of their team members, but they are doing something different. If you can identify that difference and disseminate it as a best practice, you will increase LER for a function or role.

There are three general categories of labor efficiency: direct labor, sales labor, and management labor. Many leaders make the mistake of trying to use one overall LER calculation, which can be very misleading. One of my clients was trying to use the one-size-fits-all method. After breaking down the calculation into the three categories, they learned that they were overinvested in the management-labor area, masking that they were understaffed in indirect labor to handle growth. Had they not realized this, they would have instituted a hiring freeze and missed a big last-quarter surge in sales. Additionally, we find in the many organizations whose sales teams are not performing that instead of addressing the issue, they start cutting labor costs in areas such as customer service and product quality, unintentionally causing severe problems for those functions.

Are You Playing to Win or Not to Lose?

Emotions were running high in the last quarter of 2008, with the banking debacle, stock market meltdown, the soaring foreclosure rate, job losses, poor earnings reports, and dismal projections. Finally, the government, which had long denied the obvious, admitted that we were experiencing an economic recession.

Nobody wanted to use the word “depression” about the economy, but that’s the word best describing the country’s mood. The result: Businesses and Consumers put on the brakes. Most everyone started operating in a “playing not to lose” mindset. They stopped trying to win and completely went on the defensive. However, an opportunity had just knocked for a small group of well-informed individuals. They took advantage of the inexpensive real estate market, stole market share, acquired quality talent, and bought stocks and other investment products at bargain-basement prices. In the process, they ended up making millions of dollars. It reminds me of that famous Kaizen principle –

”Chaos, for those that are prepared, bring opportunity.”

Great leaders and strong businesses recognize opportunities and proceed accordingly. Their desire to win is so strong it overcomes their fear of losing. They do it through sheer will and the right balance of a positive attitude. I am hopeful your business does not find itself in the dire situation we experienced in 2008. Still, the absence of dire circumstances doesn’t mean attitude and desire shouldn’t remain like the small group of opportunistic individuals who took advantage of the situation. A “scared to lose” mentality can be costly for your career or business.

The mind does funny things when faced with adversity. Negative events result when people fail to look at their businesses and careers in an informed and critical manner. When you aim to preserve the status quo, it is not unusual to draw ill-advised conclusions. Below are five common bad decisions that are often enabled by a protectionist mindset:

  • Decide not to replace “B” and “C” players with “A” players, using cost as an excuse. This is a silly decision because “A” players can do the work of as many as three average players. “A” players are employees who consistently meet productivity requirements (performance standards) and consistently live your company’s core values. If you hire “A” players, your overall wage costs will be lower as a percentage of revenue because fewer people accomplish better results.
  • Stop advertising. This decision, in some circumstances, results in a threefold increase in the acquisition cost per client in the long run and dramatically reduces the leads that come to the sales force. In other words, you increase your costs and reduce your sales.
  • Fail to do the things that create a positive environment for your people and cut off training. Employees thrive on positive energy; when they lack it, they do not take on extra assignments, do not develop innovative ideas, and are not at the top of their game. In the end, your business suffers.
  • Management accepts external events as an excuse for not meeting targets and stops holding people accountable. Common logic leads us to conclude that most companies own less than 1 percent market share within their target market. Therefore, there is no reason not to grow and achieve targets.
  • Executives become very conservative and averse to any risk in their decisions. This usually means doing what they have always done. Following that logic, if you had a bad year last year, you know what you can expect this year. Also, you miss challenging your people to see the opportunities right in front of them

These practices can be very harmful. It may not be today, tomorrow, or even a month from now. But you will eventually feel their impacts and fall short of your potential.

I challenge you to determine how you allow negative people and your environment to prevent you from maximizing your potential. If everyone was playing to win within your value system every minute of every day, what would or could they be doing differently? What are the top one or two things you could be doing right now to make a difference for your company? Are you spending most of your time focusing on that? If not, can you say you are playing to win? Michael Jordan said, “I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.”  The same could be true for you and your business. You have to play to win. Its value is almost immeasurable. Creating a strong business plan and strategy, and finding the right balance between efficiency and effectiveness will help you maximize Growth and Profits. Maintaining an opportunistic attitude and even remaining open to assessing and taking a risk will help you win and maximize your potential.

Next Steps

Be self-aware and provide yourself with honest answers. Are you efficient but ineffective? Are you playing to win or not lose? Are you using the wrong measures for determining how to manage human assets? More importantly, are you asking the right questions to help your organization reach its full potential?

Most companies have a lot more growth and profit potential staring them right in the face. I have found that most executives are great at solving problems but are bad about asking the right questions. And, when they ask the right questions, they are not good at answering them honestly. This is where outside facilitation can help. They focus you on the right questions by providing the tools and processes to help you make better, more informed decisions, leading to more Growth and Profits.

If you want help unlocking your potential, don’t hesitate to contact us at activategroupinc.com or 305-722-7216.

Howard M. Shore, Founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., is a bestselling author and serial entrepreneur. A business coach specializing in liberating leadership teams from the barriers holding them back personally and professionally. Howard has helped create over $1 Billion of value and authored two best-selling books, The Leader Launchpad and Your Business is a Leaky Bucket.

Learn How to Make Better Decisions as a Leader

Leadership and Decision Making

How is Decision Making Affecting You as a Leader?

Do you consider yourself an emotional or a rational decision-maker? If you are like many leaders I have met in the entrepreneurial ranks, you’ll think you are both. Some of my clients would just argue that their emotions are rational.

Regardless, what I would like you to consider is that your decisions may not be as good as you think they are. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to use different approaches to your decision-making process.

Leadership Tendencies Affecting Good Decision Making

Do your tendencies get in the way? I find that many leaders are capable of making good decisions, but their leadership tendencies get in the way. This can include:

  • Proclivity towards intuitive decision-making
  • Bias toward action
  • Failure to listen to others
  • Listening to unqualified people
  • Looking for people that share their opinion
  • Failure to use available data
  • Not understanding the complete set of questions that should be answered in order to make the decision

Many outgrow these tendencies after they lose enough money and/or relationships. However, too often they don’t make enough adjustments, and many do not realize they have the above tendencies. The problem is we do not keep score of wrong and right decisions. Many times, it is impossible or too costly to find out whether a decision we made was the right one.

Revenue and Decision Making

Do not confuse your ability to earn wealth with good decision-making. I have encountered many wealthy executives that would be great candidates for reality television shows because of the way they go about decision-making on a day-to-day basis. They would have crowds laughing for days.

Picture an investment broker that advises you to purchase 10 stocks. Nine of those stocks lose money pretty badly, but one makes a lot of money, so the portfolio shows a profit. Would you want to keep that broker? My wealthy reality TV candidates would try to convince you they were great stock pickers because they made money.

Questions to Consider to Avoid a Bad Decision

In any given day, a leader makes many decisions. Here are some questions that I suggest you consider before you possibly make another bad decision:

  • What is the goal of the decision?
  • What are the consequences/costs of making a bad decision?
  • What should my role be in this decision?
  • Do I (we) have the expertise to make a proper decision?
  • What criteria should we use to make a good decision, and how will we rank and weight each item’s importance?
  • Are there proven tools to help us make this decision?
  • Who else should be involved in this decision, and what role should they play?
  • How much information is appropriate for this decision?
  • How much time should I spend on this decision?
  • How long am I willing to wait to make this decision?
  • How many alternatives should be considered?

Contact Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how a business coach can help you make better decisions and become a more effective leader.

Is Your Structure Evolving with the Growth of Your Company?

Is your structure evolving with the growth of your company? Is your structure properly designed to support both your internal and external strategy? In other words, do you have a structure best designed to serve your ideal prospects’ needs better than any of your competitors? Are you set up to acquire those ideal customers? If your business is like many of the companies I have seen, the answer is probably no to many if not all of these questions.

It Is Common to Underinvest in Administrative Functions

It is probable that you will not hesitate to invest in positions that you believe are critical to creating and selling your products and delivering your services. In fact, you may even overinvest in these functions. However, it is also likely that you underappreciate and underinvest in areas that are truly critical to your success. I often find companies will not have the right level of investment in functions and roles in human resources, finance, and technology. The last case is especially true where your business is not considered primarily technology related. You may justify that you only have a certain amount of resources and therefore have to make tough decisions. However, in many cases you are unable to see what not investing is costing you.

Not Investing in a Position can Cost you 26x the Salary

Too often you are so worried about how much a payroll is going to cost you that you do not realize what it will cost you not to fill a position. I had a client that had been reluctant to add the human resource function to their organizational structure. Their concern was that hiring the type of talent that would do the job well would cost as much as $75,000 in annual salary. Historically the function was absorbed as a secondary activity in everyone else’s job function. There was no one person accountable that could truly say they were one hundred percent focused on human resources. As a result, there was no consistent process for recruiting, the biggest issue for their company. Worse, with no one in the company that you could say was great at recruiting or selecting talent, the function was failing miserably. With everyone responsible and no one accountable, positions were not being filled, subpar talent would go unaddressed because of lack of ability to fill open positions, and a lot of strain was being placed on the management team.
This issue was a topic of discussion at every monthly and quarterly senior management meeting, and at each meeting it was concluded that a human resource person should be hired. However, the Chief Financial Officer carried too much weight in decision-making, was cost-oriented rather than growth-oriented, and the function organizationally reported to him. As a result, over the course of nine months the leadership team continued to allow this void to go unaddressed. Then, the perfect storm hit. Operations could no longer handle the sales volume it currently had, so sales had to start turning away business. The organization was now almost at a standstill because they failed to have the necessary people on the team. All of which could have been prevented had their human resources function been operating properly. The leadership team concluded that not spending the $75,000 cost the company about $2 million in cash flow.

Are You Unconsciously Stunting Your Growth?

It is common for leaders to unconsciously stunt their own growth by not evolving their structure to support that growth. You have to build it before and not after. Sometimes, you have the right structure but are not filling the positions with the right level of person or type of person. Continuing with the human resources role, one crucial mistake is not appreciating the role of Human Resource Manager and the many variations there are for this position. Not having the right person or people could stunt your growth. Many leaders either fail to fill this position with a competent trained professional, thinking of it as an administrative role, or they fill it with someone with the wrong skill sets.
In a firm’s early days, it needs someone that can increase the speed of recruiting, help avoid some critical miss-hires, develop the infrastructure for onboarding and training the new talent that is hired, and help build the systems for accountability. Having the right person in this function can accelerate your ability to grow and scale and takes a tremendous amount of pressure off the other leaders in your organization. Often organizations fail to hire because they do not want to make the investment. What they do not realize is that while there is not a financial statement line for failing to fill positions fast enough, failing to fill positions with the right people, and the cost of all the lost productivity in the organization from failure to fill this role, these are real liabilities with real price tags. Essentially having the right person can pay for itself at a minimum multiplier of 10. You can never recover the lost revenue and profit in the lost time from not adding the human resource person to your infrastructure in the first place.
Visit our business coaching page for more information or call  Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Your Philosophy Around Talent Makes A Difference

Your Philosophy Around Talent Makes A Difference… Having a company full of “A Players” does not guarantee success, but it significantly raises your prospects.

As a Business Coach, I have worked with many organizations and see the differences between the companies that produce short-term success, long-term success, and those that flounder. There is a vast difference in how the long-term winners build their organizations and their results versus everyone else. The factors that cause these results are known, often discussed, and rarely emulated. Your philosophy around talent matters!

Identify any company you consider great, and you will find that the greatness was 20 years in the making. You have probably heard revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, and cash is king. If you are producing high levels of success in all three measures, you should be proud. Not many companies can boast such performance. And still, you may not be built to last. What worked in the past may not work for the future. 

Most businesses will never be innovative, transformational, or trailblazers. However, all can have extraordinary growth in revenue and profits. An example most of us know is Southwest. They don’t have the most revenue (10th), largest fleet size (5th), or passengers flown (3rd). However, they broke the mold when measuring cumulative profit over 30 years. And, they copied and better executed another companies business model. 

As a business coach, I help companies build great companies and develop the best leadership practices to stay great. I help address organizational habits that cause growth ceilings. Or worse, your habits could lead to a decline or even failure. I see my job as a blind spot remover. One of the keys to your success is your leadership philosophy around talent.

First Who Then What

You can’t discuss enduring success without addressing the elephant in the room. Your business will only be as good as the people that operate in it. Jim Collins nailed it in “Good to Great, “first who then what!”

Many companies have a few great people, but few can boast the best talent throughout the organization. Most leaders will tell you that they are great at selecting people, but the data proves otherwise. Most companies don’t have the measures to know and only use their income statements as their measuring stick. The stark truth is that at least 30% of your employees are not performing and hiding in plain sight.

As I wrote in Your Business is a Leaky Bucket, even great leadership cannot overcome the limited abilities of “B” or “C” talent. Often, leaders can only go as far as those they lead. Think about it from a coaching perspective. You could have a world-class coach, but if you have a team of players with mediocre athletic ability, you’ll only get so far. The coach can draw up all the plays he wants, but the team has to execute them on the playing field. Players have to make split-second decisions and make the plays as the game unfolds. The players determine whether you win or lose. Business is no different.

Great leadership puts a person in a position to excel and succeed, but that person still has to do all the heavy lifting. It has been said that a great leader is like a gardener who plants seeds, makes sure that the soil has the right nutrients, and then nurtures the soil. The gardener cannot grow his crops, and he can only provide the right conditions for growth and plants the right seeds. 

Trust me when I say it is imperative to have A-rated talent to obtain optimal results. Then it takes leadership to keep them at that level. Now, don’t think of this as a process of rating people. Instead, it is about establishing the standards for every employee. Only after specifying measurable objectives can you hold your team accountable. Incomplete hiring and accountability practices, not putting people in the right seats where they can excel, failure to hold people accountable to key outcomes, and weakness in your culture represent poor leadership.

One of the biggest profit leaks in your company may be related to your philosophy regarding personnel. The highest cost in most companies is payroll; therefore, your biggest asset or investment is people. How seriously are you and your company taking this investment, and how disciplined are you in demanding that it produces an adequate standard of performance?

I have enjoyed coaching excellent teams and have experienced the pain of excessive numbers of wrong team members. It is no surprise that when the leadership team is weak, so is everyone else. An “A Player” will not survive a “B” leader or tolerate being surrounded by “B” coworkers. Birds of a feather flock together. We have looked at the success rate of our engagements, and Clients that put heavy investment in filling their organizations with “A Players” far outperformed the rest. Worse, companies with “B” leaders, particularly CEO, moved sideways at best. We would use the same process, same coaches, and double the effort to help the “B” team. We always fail to make sustainable progress with a “B” team.

What Are “A” Players?

 “A” players are employees who consistently meet productivity requirements (performance standards) and consistently live your company’s core values. Your productivity requirements should be set at a high bar and be readily achievable. Do not place the bar so high that it takes a unicorn to fill your position. Regardless of the role, strong performers can produce at two to three times the output of their peers. Many organizations, however, label the wrong people as their “A” players. You may be favoring people you can identify with more personally, that you have less conflict with, who have organizational tenure, who have the most institutional or industry knowledge, or that you consider loyal to you. They are not necessarily “A” players. If you are like many leaders, you may be giving more weight to only a few attributes or qualities you find important. Unfortunately, those may or may not be critical to the position’s real mission, purpose, or success.

I had a client who had an issue with his controller and was leaning toward dismissal. This was a sales culture, and the CEO favored outgoing and communicative people. He felt the controller did not fit his culture. The controller was reclusive and preferred to work in a quiet place to concentrate. Also, this controller was not afraid to tell the CEO when the company was wasting money, even if it was the CEO doing so. The controller was very focused on precision and getting things right. She often voiced concerns when other leaders exaggerated their points or made decisions with no supporting data.

The CEO failed to realize the issues he had with the controller were not related to her skills and talents. Instead, they were related to her behavioral style, which differed from the CEO. The controller’s behavioral style helped balance the leadership team and was essential to her being a suitable controller. Being the decisive and outgoing communicator that the CEO preferred was not a necessary quality for being a competent controller. The controller lived all of the core values of the business entirely. Moreover, everything produced by the department was helpful and accurate. Furthermore, she treated the company as if its assets were her own, protecting the owners.

So what causes someone to be categorized as a “B” or “C” player? A “B” player consistently lives all of your organization’s core values but is not meeting 100 percent of their position’s productivity requirements. A “B/C” player performs at the required levels but does not consistently demonstrate one or more core values. “C” players are failing to meet the performance and values standards. In all cases, anyone who is not classified as “A” should only be kept on your team if management believes they can become “A” players with proper training and coaching within an acceptable period. If not, the best thing you can do is replace them speedily.

Three Types of A-Players

Earlier in my career, I took over a new role and fired our top producing salesman. The owners thought I was nuts. We had about 20 salespeople and his book represented 20% of our revenue. What the owners were not seeing was how he affected everyone else. I spent approximately 5 hours a week dealing with issues presented because of this person, including a sexual harassment claim, which turned out to be a repeat offense. I stuck to my decision and fired him. In the end, our company, which had been declining in sales the three years previous to my being hired. After firing this toxic employee, revenue started growing immediately. Within 30 days of firing him, our largest client (representing 10% of revenue) called the President and said it was about time. They had been diverting business to our competition because they found him toxic. They immediately began ordering more from us.

There are three types of “A Players:”

A1 – They are great in their current position. We would hire ten more just like them. These people are not promotable, love what they do, and are passionate about their work.

A2 – Is someone you believe can be promoted 1 level. They have done very well in their current role and have the skills, desire, and ability to take on higher responsibilities. They can help produce more people just like them by sharing their knowledge and experience and representing your core values daily.

A3 – Is someone you believe can be promoted to two levels or more. They have traits, capabilities, and the desire to lead others.

One last comment about “A Players.” Too often, leaders create arbitrary performance standards. I have found this to be a large problem. The standards are set, and no one consistently hits them. When people miss them after giving 100%, they can be labeled as “not performing.” This leads to lower performance and eventually termination. I recommend you use much rigor in developing reasonably high-performance standards. Failure to do so costs you a lot more than you realize.

Eight Questions to Ask When Someone Does Not Perform at an “A” Level:

(1) Have you adequately communicated expectations?

(2) Has this person been an “A” player in the past? If so, what has changed?

(3) Does the person have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform his or her job at a high level?

(4) What training is required to get this person to peak performance?

(5) Has the organization created unnecessary barriers to this person becoming successful?

(6) Do you believe this person will achieve productivity within a reasonable amount of time?

(7) Does this person believe in your core values, and is he or she willing to live them?

(8) Which processes, if fixed, would lead to better success in the future?

Answering these questions will help you diagnose the issue(s). Sometimes team members are well past the rebound zone. That is, you simply cannot resurrect their performance. Other times, with a little redirection and emphasis on coaching, mentoring, or training, an underperforming person can bounce back. Either way, you have to determine the exact problem and then take great strides to address it.

Why is the “B” and “C” Performance Issue Not Being Addressed?

The primary reason employees are permitted to underperform is a lack of clarity in leadership. Leaders are often too busy doing their jobs to focus enough time and energy on what they want from their team. And when they have a good idea of precisely what they desire, often they do not adequately communicate it. Even then, performance is usually not being measured to allow a person to be held accountable.

Most sharp business owners do measure the performance of their businesses on at least a monthly basis. Still, they fail to relate that measurement to individual employee performance properly. By not requiring a specific level of performance, monitoring that performance, and holding employees accountable, you allow your employees to establish their performance requirements. Common sense tells me your employees will set lower work standards for themselves than you would.

You may be wondering how “B” and “C” performances can cost a company millions and go unnoticed and unaddressed. The primary reason: There is no financial statement line item to quantify the cost of the lost clients, lost productivity, mistakes, and lost opportunities attributable to these nonperforming players. This begs the question: Why would you ever even consider keeping a “B” or “C” player?

 When Do You Keep “B” or “C” Players?

Keep a “B” or “C” player when you confidently believe they will become an “A” player within a reasonable amount of time. If you cannot define how and when that will occur, stop fooling yourself and cut the cord. With that said, you may have to keep a person on board until hiring their replacement. At times, prematurely forcing a vacancy will be too disruptive. Be careful. I find that keeping the wrong person is costing you far more than you ever imagined.

Leaders have many excuses for not replacing their “B” or “C” players. All of the reasons boil down to either leadership laziness or just plain poor leadership. Let’s again clarify the definition of the “A” player. They are not extraordinary. They are people who meet the requirements of their positions and fit your culture. Anything less, and you are overpaying for a position.

Every company leader I have met who had a cash flow problem or was unsatisfied with their growth or profits also had a people problem. Growth problems attributable to bad strategy are the result of people problems. Companies that choose the right people (including advisors, consultants, and coaches) are less likely to have strategy problems. Think about it. The employees of any business are like the cogs that keep a machine running. Doesn’t it make sense that the machine won’t operate at optimum performance when you have broken, incorrect, or rusty pieces inside of it?

It is rare to find a company that already had the processes in place to allow them to demonstrate that at least 75 percent of its employees were “A” players. In fact, most had 40 percent or even less. Many initially believed they had 75 percent or more, but that was a wish and a prayer, as they were not tracking any performance indicators to prove their people were performing.

Research shows that replacing even one “B” or “C” player with an “A” player has a significant impact on a business. Some companies misunderstand what could happen if they commit to doing what it takes to achieve A-player performance in every position in their company. They create walls or personal obstacles, some of which sound like this:

 – There are not enough “A” players out there.

 – It will take much longer to hire people.

 – It is too complicated.

 – It takes too much workforce.

 – It can’t happen in our industry.

 – I have to fire everyone who is a “B” and” C” player.

 – “A” players must be paid more than “B” and “C” players.

The truth is that these are all myths and limiting beliefs, allowing leadership to continue to justify poor hiring practices and maintain the status quo.

The Container Store provides one of the best examples of building an organization with “A” players. I was fortunate to hear Kip Tindell, founder of The Container Store, share his formula for making a great organization. He built his company from a small start-up to one of the most respected businesses around. By enforcing an “A” player mantra, his company grew 20 percent a year to well over $1B in revenue. His formula has five crucial keys to success:

(1) Pay – They paid 50 percent to 100 percent above the industry average. Tindell knew one great person could do the work of two to three ordinary people. “A” players pay for their “extra” salary threefold, so overall labor costs are lower than the competition. His people are incredibly proud to be part of the company.

(2) Recruiting and Retention – To win, he knew he must only hire great people. “A” players only like to work with other “A” players. They do not want to be surrounded by mediocrity. They would choose to be in his company to be on a great team. They wanted more of the best and brightest out of school. This means his recruiting process had to be phenomenal to find and select the right people and never settle. This resulted in less than 10 percent turnover in an industry that typically experiences over 100 percent turnover.

(3) Training and Onboarding. Tindell provides eighty-four hours of formal training in the first year compared to the industry average, which is eight hours.

(4) Real transparency and communication. Your leaders and managers can thrive with clear communication and transparency. If they don’t feel sufficiently informed, they feel left out, and their performance will suffer.

(5) Culture is everything. Free the employees to choose the means to the ends, but tell them the foundational principles to use in making those decisions. All employees will give you 25 percent of their efforts, considered the bare minimum amount of productivity required to keep your job. To get the other 75 percent, they have to love their manager and culture.

In each of these steps, you’ll quickly come to a singular conclusion: Great leaders invest enormous time and energy into their team. They create a culture that invites in “A” players and demands an A-level performance.

 Actions to Take

What steps can you take to build a high-performance organization? Just like any machine that takes proper maintenance and attention to run smoothly. Lack of timely care to problems leads to more costly repairs. So likely, we can all agree it is much more efficient and cost-effective to ward off those repairs. People already spend enormous amounts of time interviewing candidates. They need to learn the right techniques and processes to determine whether the people they interview are the right choices for the positions. The real challenge is instilling an organization-wide commitment to high-performance standards, and practice makes perfect.

There is no one-size-fits-all sort of remedy. Different companies require different solutions. Remember that you’re dealing with real people and problems, so do not remove the compassion from the equation. Classifying someone as “C” or “B” in their current role does not mean they cannot become an “A” player in another position or possibly in their existing position, with just a little more training.

It has been said, “That which gets measured gets done!”When measurement tools are in place, leaders are shocked by how many employees fit the categories of “B” and “C” players. This performance gap costs companies millions in profit leaks. However, you can take several steps to resurrect and improve your organizational productivity.

 Six Steps to A-Player Status:

(1) For each position in your company, identify two to three key performance indicators that the person in the position has direct control over and would prove they are performing well in their job. Establish a high but realistic standard for each indicator.

(2) Communicate these indicators and the standards to the person in the position and measure actual performance versus the rules you’ve set.

(3) Establish a process for continually reinforcing your core values with all of your employees.

(4) Every quarter, review how consistently each member of your team lives your core values and meets the performance expectations of their role

(5) Put employees who are not living your core values or meeting performance expectations on definite performance plans to direct them toward achieving the desired performance.

(6) Take immediate action to help employees who are not meeting their requirements. Those who cannot meet your standards should be replaced.

 

Howard M. Shore, Founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., is a bestselling author and serial entrepreneur specializing in liberating leadership teams from the barriers holding them back personally and professionally. During his 35+ year career, Howard has helped create over $1 Billion of value and authored two best-selling books, The Leader Launchpad and Your Business is a Leaky Bucket. Howard cut his teeth as the owner of several successful companies and executive for Fortune 500 companies like Ryder Systems, AutoNation, and KPMG. Howard has become a sought-after business mentor, executive coach, and keynote speaker. His clients work in family-owned, multi-national, public, and private companies ranging from $1 million to over $1 billion in annual revenue. With a 30-year track record of success, he guarantees any organization using his methods and systems will become more profitable, stable, and scalable.

Cost of Hiring New Employees

It is not often that I hear my business coaching clients use “hiring new employees” and “strategy” in the same sentence. In fact, before hiring me and beyond the typical tactical issues with employees, it was rare for human resources issues to be considered during strategic planning meetings. I recently met with one of my clients regarding challenges they encountered in recruiting sales personnel, and it became obvious that their tactical issues were really related to their strategic model for hiring employees. Worse even than their tactical issues was the fact that it was costing them a huge amount of money to hire new staff members.

Commonly Overlooked Costs Associated With Hiring New Employees

Before discussing the strategic issues of my Florida coaching client and how we wrestled them to the table, I want to clarify what I mean by the “cost of hiring new employees”. Here are some costs you probably do not measure, and they are the big ones:

1. Hiring Success Rate

The lower your hiring success, the more people you have to hire to get a full set of performers. For example, if you need to add 10 people, but your hiring success rate is only 25%, you will ultimately have hired 31 people before you have the 10 people that will perform at your required performance levels.

2. Hiring & Performance Standards

Most companies are lowering their performance standards rather than raising their hiring standards. They get frustrated by their inability to recruit the right people and take whatever they find available. The lower performance requirements result in excess employees, lower customer service, more mistakes, lost opportunities, and lost customers.

3. Leadership Time

Leadership has to divert significant time to interview extra people, manage superfluous people, and address the performance-related issues of substandard employees. This brings far less value to the company than the leadership activities they would perform otherwise.
Unfortunately, there is no separate income statement line item for the above. In every company I have visited, the financial statement impact is huge when we start trying to quantify the above numbers. This is what I am referring to when I am concerned about the cost of hiring new employees:

How Business Strategy Impacts the Hiring Process

As I was working with one of my customers in Miami, they were explaining to me that 2,000 candidates had applied for 10 open sales positions over a 6-month period. They ended up being very disappointed with their results. Very few candidates were qualified. They had tried hiring a few new employees, several of whom never showed up for the first day, and, of the ones that did show up, they were not pleased.
They were looking at all the time that was passing and how much money the employee hiring process was costing them. They were losing money on sales that were not generated by having an open position, sales that were not generated by people that could not perform, and the cost of management time applied for recruiting. After reviewing their situation, we realized the situation was a strategy issue.

Considering All Factors in the Employee Recruitment Process

When developing a strategy, you need to consider the people decisions related to that strategy. In every company, there are several key positions that must be filled quickly in order to grow your business. In my client’s case the need was for additional salespeople. If your business model requires a unique individual (in other words, someone with a skill that is very unusual, hard to find, hard to attract, etc.) and you will need a lot of them to grow to the levels you want, you have a bad strategy. The solution to this is to change the model so that you will be able to staff your model.
My coaching client and I looked at the cost of hiring problem and realized that he was not considering all the factors in the recruitment process and addressing them wisely. In their case, they wanted people to work on a commission-only basis, be highly experienced in my client’s industry, and be a seasoned salesperson. It should not have been a big surprise that none of their ideal candidates were biting. The people that were biting required different internal support systems, and the company was not set up to help them be successful.

Understanding the Costs of Hiring the Employees You NEED

So here is how we attacked the problem. We broke down candidates into 3 groups: No Experience, Sales Experience/No Industry Experience, and Sales Experience with Significant Industry Experience. We then discussed the implications of risk, internal system support, ramp-up time required, compensation systems needed, and search strategy. What we learned from the process was that they had 4 different sales positions, two of which could not be successful without significant industry experience. Compensation needed to be very different for these people versus the others. We concluded that the client’s current internal systems and processes to support the strategy they had chosen were severely inadequate.
These revelations were critical. Failure to identify and address them would certainly have resulted in continued frustration. By addressing the disconnect between how they were approaching people decisions, their operations, and their strategy, my client was in a much better position for success. This was a clear case where the cost of hiring new employees was much greater than they realized.

Improve Your Hiring Strategy

Howard Shore is an executive coach and founder of Activate Group Inc. based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver business coaching to improve executive leadership development. To learn more about executive leadership coaching through AGI, please contact Howard at 305.722.7213.

Identifying Time Management Issues and How to Fix Them

Do you Have a Time Management Issue?

You cannot manage time itself, but you can manage yourself and how you choose to use your time. These days we are under more time pressure than ever, and those little gadgets we use to make our lives easier may actually make our lives much harder.

Improving Time Management

Time is the great equalizer. Everyone gets the same amount of time: 24 hours in each day. You cannot buy more time. No matter how many people you know, they cannot give you more time. So the most important question you can ask daily is: “How can my team use time more wisely?”
One of the essential keys to maximizing success as an individual or an organization is to effectively determine where your time should go now and into the future. Where you used time in the past only serves as a guide and learning mechanism for your decisions as to where time should go in the future. One person in your group losing focus on congruent goals can impact everyone’s time, and even create a huge barrier for success.
Too often people search in the wrong places when trying to find out why they are not achieving their goals. They think there is something wrong with their time management program, so they buy a new one. They create long lists, and they eliminate certain things, only to find that they had no realistic effect on the organization. The real problem is not the process they currently use to manage or use time. Rather, it is the habit of thoughts or attitudes they use to decide how they will use their time.

How Belief Systems Influence Behavior

Belief systems lead to actions that cause results, which then impact your time management. If you or your people behave in counterproductive ways, try to identify the belief systems that cause that behavior. For example, let’s say you decide to exercise 3 days a week to improve your health. However, your primary belief system is that exercise is boring and painful. What do you think the chances are that you’ll exercise three days a week?
A common issue I hear from CEOs is that they spend little or no time on their strategic priorities. Instead, they spend their days putting out fires and dealing with their employee issues. They usually insist that this is just part of business as usual. However, a closer examination teaches us that there are people who like to put out fires and enjoy the immediate gratification of handling the daily emergencies, want to be the ones with all the answers, and have trouble telling others “No.” These habits directly impact their ability to effectively manage their time.
We seek immediate gratification in our society. The benefit of better health is a long-term goal. In the short term, a person avoids the pain of sore muscles and the loss of self-esteem that goes along with confirming one’s own bad physical shape by not going to the gym. In other words, they feel better about not going to the gym than they do about going. This is immediate gratification, even though the decision is a bad one for achieving long-term goals.

Identify Gratification Received From Bad Behavior

In order to change behavior, you must identify the immediate gratification you get from your bad behavior and the thought patterns that cause you to continue to practice it. Once identified, it is then necessary to find something more motivating to replace them. For example, many people would start to exercise if their doctor told them, “If you do not start to exercise tomorrow, you’ll have only six months to live, and if you do exercise, you will live another 25 years.” That is quite a carrot to dangle.

Tracking Time Spent

Most people do not have a good sense of where their time goes. At least once every six months, executives should track their time to see where they spend it. Once you have a solid understanding of how you spend your time, you can then try to increase the amount of time you control, or productively use your time by delegating activities to others, eliminating waste, and reallocating time to make it more productive.
Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Setting Priorities Starts With A Good Business Plan

The trademarks of a great operation are how well its leader and team use time and set priorities. Too often people confuse activity with productivity. Setting priorities starts with a plan. A good plan creates focus, sets goals, creates alignment throughout an organization, and provides a means for accountability. Have you reduced organizational activity down to the minimum necessary to achieve maximum results? Are anyone’s priorities working at cross purposes to those of the organization? Are the organization’s daily activities properly aligned toward its goals? You are likely emphasizing the wrong set of priorities to your team if you don’t address these issues.

Two Indications That You Have a Problem

As a Business Coach, one of my essential roles is to assist you in determining the key components of your business plan. My experience is that many companies do a poor job of creating their plans, costing them serious growth in revenue and profits. If you are like most leaders I’ve worked with, your annual planning process may need some fine-tuning. Often, I find leaders spend too much time focusing their attention on goals rather than on the components of their plan that will cause them to achieve those goals. Two indications that you have a problem are:

  1. You do not find the need to visit your plan weekly, monthly and quarterly with your executive team to make sure you are following it.
  2. You are not consistently hitting your revenue and profit numbers on a monthly basis. Or, you are hitting those numbers but because of reasons other than your plan. In other words, you are growing by chance rather than by planned actions.

Creating a business plan helps to find the simplest path for your company to follow to produce maximum results. Lack of prioritization is by far the most common issue preventing companies from reaching consistent performance. While most leaders like to blame external conditions, it is usually an internal shortcoming.

What are the 8 Key Components of a Business Plan?

In order to accomplish focus, prioritization, alignment, and accountability, your business plan should clearly answer the following 8 concerns:

  1. Why does your company exist (purpose)?
  2. How are you different (unusual offering)?
  3. Who is the core customer that you will build your business around?
  4. What are your goals?
  5. Which critical number(s) will you elevate this quarter?
  6. What are your 3 to 5 essential annual priorities? Remember, these are the difficult changes that need to be made in terms of products and services, systems and process, and people.
  7. What are the 3 to 5 quarterly company priorities that will drive the annual priorities?
  8. What are the 3 to 5 quarterly personal priorities for every leader that aligns with the company priorities and functional priorities?

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Planning Your Annual Initiatives

Setting Business Priorities

Setting business priorities starts with a plan. A good plan creates focus, sets goals, creates alignment throughout your organization, and provides a means for accountability. Have you reduced organizational activity down to the minimum to achieve maximum results? Are anyone’s priorities working at cross purposes to the company’s? Are your daily activities properly aligned toward your goals? You are likely emphasizing the wrong set of business priorities to your team if you don’t address these issues.

Planning Equals Prioritization

Planning requires prioritizing business initiatives. This will help you to send the right message to your team, and prevent time and resource loss. As with most business plans, I recommend there be no more than five annual initiatives (less is preferred). Once you have your Critical Numbers, you can determine which business initiatives are most important to undertake, maintaining at least one annual initiative focused on just your critical number(s).

After meeting hundreds of business owners, I find that most fail to create a good business plan. The secret is in the annual initiatives. Many leaders confuse budgeting with business planning. Others confuse action steps with business priorities or initiatives. Others are not thinking big enough when creating their plans. Are you finding it challenging to create a good business plan? How often is there a difference between the plan you create and the actions your team initiates? How big is the gap between expected and actual performance? In my experience, poor business planning may cost you serious growth in revenue and profits.

Strategic Business Initiatives

A good business plan should help you determine your business priorities. These are the 3 to 5 annual initiatives that should move your business forward. Many business leaders ignore their weakness in this area because they fear impacting their financial goals. Business priorities are usually strategic in nature or are items that do not show directly in the P & L, such as strategic initiatives that strengthen customer loyalty. The natural tendency is to worry about today, which is why most strategic business plans are never executed.

5 Pitfalls to Setting Your Annual Priorities

Beware of the following common pitfalls while creating a good business plan and setting your annual priorities:

1. Poor Clarity 

A business initiative should be described with such clarity that a stranger would know what you are trying to accomplish and be able to hold you accountable.

2. Short-Term Focus 

Some business plans focus on initiatives that affect only the most immediate quarterly goals. Every business needs to make money and cover its expenses, but the problem occurs when you are so focused on the short-term that you are not able to spend time making the changes that are necessary for making quantum leaps.

3. Ignore the Trends 

I see companies that continue to ignore the fact that the traditional ways in which their customers purchase their products and services have changed. Blockbuster didn’t recognize these trends and has been replaced with forward-thinking companies like Netflix.

4. Accepting Your Weaknesses 

Knowing that you have weaknesses is not the same as doing something about them. Every company should make it a priority to seriously address, if not eliminate, at least one weakness per year.

5. Over Ambition 

Too often leaders see all the things they are unhappy with and try to turn initiatives into priorities. Generally, it is good practice to have 5 or fewer annual priorities. I prefer 3.

Contact Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

How to Set Business Goals

Many organizations set goals and fail to reach them. Others achieve some of their goals by accident. There are some leaders that question whether setting goals is a valuable exercise at all. You can even find much written on why goal-setting is a farce. Adam Galinsky, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and one of the authors of a Harvard Business School report called “Goals Gone Wild,” argues that “goal-setting has been treated like an over-the-counter medication when it should really be treated with more care, as a prescription-strength medication.” His position is that goal-setting can focus attention too much on the wrong things and can lead people to participate in extreme behaviors to achieve their goals.

I am of the position that goal-setting serves a critical purpose in helping to provide direction, clarify priorities, cause important discussions, influence positive behavior change, and stimulate focus. Goals are an essential part of the time strategies equation. Like anything else in life, when developed in an unsound way, misdirected, overemphasized, and not used in context they will not serve their purposes and can cause more harm than good.

Often I find people do not put enough thought into their goals and thus have an incomplete set of goals. I have one client that was so focused on achieving a sales goal every year that they neglected every other priority. They never came close to reaching their target. It was not until we had a complete set of goals that they ever achieved real sales progress. When focused correctly, goals take into account customers, employees, shareholders, vendors, operations, sales, profit, and record keeping.

I have seen goals rally an organization to reach extraordinary results. A great example is a company that I have worked with for a number of years. This highly successful organization needed to refocus their organization around their core customer. After growing their business for years they realized that 75% of the accounts they serviced did not represent their core customer. They had built a business model that was better suited for the other 25% of their customer base. The smaller base of customers actually represented 60% of revenue and 80% of their profit. The owner refocused the organization to double the number of core customers. They want to achieve in 5 years what previously required 25 years to accomplish. This focus changed the course of the company. Without divulging their strategy, which is unfolding, this singular focus on core customer changed the leadership structure, sales organization, marketing, product and service focus, and operations of the company. Last year was so successful that the company far exceeded any 2 years combined in terms of adding number of core customers. This year my client is on track to double last year and should meet their five-year goal. If their projections are correct they will more than double company revenue. More importantly, profit and firm value will triple or quadruple.

I have also seen the opposite occur when an organization focused too much on the wrong goal. Usually that wrong goal is sales growth. The thought process behind this choice is that sales solves all problems. The problem with this line of thinking is that not all sales are equal. Goals can lead to extreme behaviors and if misdirected can be destructive. In many cases transactions and customers can be unprofitable. People who try to make it up on volume and do not focus on profit typically lose. One common mistake in staying focused on sales growth and combining that with nearsightedness is discounting products and services to close deals at the end of a quarter to earn bonuses. Putting this into context, you pay someone extra to earn you less money! Ironically, if you are the owner you have cost yourself in four ways:

  1. You made less profit in the long-term. You probably could have closed the same transaction for more by waiting. The time value of money is in your favor, even if you use that money to pay debt. Say you have a 10% loan. You probably save only 1% or 2% on the money by paying earlier. I bet the your discount offer is much greater.
  2. You are teaching your customers that your pricing is not firm. If they wait until quarter-end they can squeeze lower pricing out of your sales people. Worse, they have learned that you are always negotiable.
  3. You are not training your sales people to maximize margin at every turn. So in the end you will sell more but make less.
  4. You paid commission and bonus on a lesser deal.

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

7 Keys to Working Smarter and Being Highly Successful

 

After observing thousands of leaders in companies from startups to over $20B in revenue and helping create over $1 Billion in business value, I noticed one superpower in highly successful people. They worked smarter, not harder, and derive much higher results in less time than almost everyone else. These very successful leaders tended to value highly the Management Strategies and Learnings obtained through Business and Executive coaching channels.

For clarity, I deem someone to be successful if they can accomplish three times more than their peers,  have more joy and happiness, and do all of this in less time.  Now, I have to draw a line as many of us are highly ambitious, driven, and are classic workaholics. Most workaholics do not commit to reducing the hours they work and find work exhilarating. Regardless of your view, it would help if you wanted to achieve three times the results and earnings in less time. What you do with the extra time is your business.  But everyone should want to work smarter and not harder.

I am often exposed to CEOs in the same industry and have always been amazed at how varied leader’s approaches are.  To me, the right approach is the one that produces three times the results with a similar effort.  Let’s take the restoration industry.  I have met many CEOs who started their business 20 years before and are stuck at $5M in revenue or less. Also, I have met others that were in the industry for just a few years and had revenue over $5M.   I do not only find revenue disparity. I also find profit and time gaps.  While the average company earns a net profit of 5% of revenue, we have helped companies generate over 20%.  Would you rather be a $10M company that produces $500K of net profit or a $5 Million company that produces $1M in net profit?  That was a trick because you should want to be the $10 Million company generating $2 Million profit, expecting the growth and the profits.

The most successful CEOs build far larger companies, have higher growth rates, have more free time, and have 3x the net profit margin. And, yes, there are other measures of success. I want you to consider that working more hours than everyone else, regardless of what you earn, is a fool’s choice! All I want to do is challenge us to work smarter continually.

Which leads us to the big question: “How can we make it easier to achieve our success goals faster?”  How can a person make far more, achieve their intended impact, and work a lot less? Not only is this possible, but others are already doing it. After watching these leaders, I noticed they were not necessarily smarter, more creative, lack ethics, or privileged.  I have met many highly successful people, some ultra-wealthy, and found that they were formerly homeless, living in trailer parks, had no college degrees, and so on. I am sure all of us are capable of high levels of success.

Achieving success is simpler than you think but not easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it.  The strange part is that we are familiar with the concepts but not living them. Here are the principles you must follow to work smarter and not harder:

(1) Manage Your Thoughts

(2) Have a  Strategy

(3) Be Strategic

(4) Work a Plan

(5) Be Disciplined

(6) Resilience Rituals

(7) Build Wealth

Manage Your Thoughts

There are three dimensions to managing our thoughts: awareness, intention, and perseverance. Our mind is a potent tool. How you think will change your outcomes for better or worse. Thus you need to be aware of what you are thinking. For example, if you make up your mind that someone cannot do their job, your words and actions will differ from those based on the premise they are capable of. Your thoughts need to be congruent with your intentions. If you intend on accomplishing something and focus your thoughts on contrary purposes, you will fail. Imagine you plan to have a good day but your spend most of your day angry about something. 

Once our thoughts and intentions are in unity, we need to have perseverance. When was the last time you set out for something new and challenging, and it worked out exactly as planned? Most often, we find we run into unforeseen difficulties and roadblocks.  If you allow your mind to waiver from the finish line, you may not get there in a practical manner.

Have a Strategy

Too often, I find driven people are in constant motion. They confuse activity with productivity. When they see a problem to solve, they are off to the races.  Often leaders are solving the wrong problems or not taking the best route to solve their problems.  By doing so, you may feel better in the short term, but it could have long-term negative consequences.

I recently witnessed a senior leader get angry with a subordinate because he felt they were taking advantage of the company.  He immediately launched into attack mode and let the employee know how he felt.  While the concern was merited and the employee course-corrected, there were longer-term consequences.  You see, the leader was so busy being right that he lost one of the highest-performing people in the industry. That employee decided to quit his boss.

In the end, the leader was not strategic.  Had he been, he would have waited until he wasn’t angry and would have developed a strategy to course-correct the employee in a manner that was okay for both parties involved. Instead, he may need two people to do the work the one accomplished, and his reputation may cause other competent people not to want to work for him.

While I used a personal situation, the same goes for taking on projects, lofty goals, and conquering the competition. One thing we have all learned is that there are many ways to accomplish an objective. Being strategic requires you to consider achieving the ideal outcomes, choosing what “not” to do, using the least amount of resources, and within the desired time frame. It is usually best to consider expanding your options before choosing a path.

Work A Plan

We are working on a plan ties to being strategic.  However, the critical difference is that the strategy is the vision of where you want to go, and the action plan charts your course from beginning to end—many of us are big picture people. We can see what is possible and have a “can-do” attitude.  The problem with visionaries is they believe everything is simple and underestimate what it takes to achieve the outcome.  Taking the ball down the field is usually someone else’s problem.  To achieve grand visions, I recommend the following project management techniques:

(1) Be specific – The objective has to be clearly stated so that anyone could step in and know what needs to be done.

(2) Make it Measurable – Identify the measurable milestones and deadlines that indicate you are on track.

(3) Action Steps – Identify the action steps necessary to achieve each milestone.

(4) Monitor Progress – There must be processes and systems in place to monitor progress.

(5) Course Correct – When progress is insufficient, it is essential to revisit your plan to get back on track.

Be Disciplined

Whether you are working on getting healthy, achieving your sales goals, accomplishing a major project, it takes disciplined action.  Too often, we like the idea of the outcome but are not disciplined enough to achieve it. Think about dieting. If I eat healthily and eat the right amount of calories for three days a week but overeat unhealthy foods the other 4, it will take a lot longer (if ever) to lose the weight. Where if you ate properly every day, that takes discipline.

My brother Matt is the President of Steven Douglas, one of the fastest-growing recruiting and staffing agencies in the US.  Matt has been a top producer every year since he entered the industry almost 20 years ago.  Most people in his industry only dream of producing his revenue production.  Matt shared with me that he has hundreds of employees, and none of them produce as much as he does. Given that he is President, he spends far less time than full-time salespeople. This caused me to ask his secret. Matt has a list of 300 key contacts he calls every sixty days.  He does this by setting aside one hour daily for outbound calls.  This single disciplined activity has helped him achieve more in 5 hours a week than others can produce in 60 hours.  Successful people are willing to commit to such discipline. I have shared this technique with at least 100 people over the years, and none has had the discipline to implement it.

Resilience Rituals

The airlines taught us a very important less when they told us that we must put our oxygen masks on first before helping others. I have found that highly successful people have a regimen of activities that they use to recharge themselves.  Here are my resilience rituals:

 – 1/2 hour of daily exercise

 – 15 Minute breaks between meetings

 – 15-30 of Meditation

 – 15 Minutes of Quiet reflection

 – Spending time with friends and family

 – Take 4-6 weeks off on vacation throughout the year.

 – Monitor and control my work hours

 – Weekly Massage

It would be best to have the same level of committed discipline to your resilience rituals as your business routines.  For example, if you work out 4 hours in one day, it will not have the same effect as 1/2 hour per day.

Build Wealth

Too many of us are so busy working that we don’t spend the right amount determining how to build wealth. Every very wealthy person I met has at least three streams of significant income.  It is essential that you identify, develop, and give enough attention to your various income streams.  Most people will tell you that the most significant part of wealth came from income streams outside of their day job.  The day gave them the financial start in investing in other activities. Still, many of those activities require learning about and developing strategies and plans to develop each stream. 

In Conclusion

While you can be highly successful without practicing the above activities, it does not invalidate them.  However, by managing your thoughts, being strategic, working a plan, being disciplined, practicing resilience rituals, and building wealth consistently, you will find your path to success with less friction.  Now I challenge you to determine how to use these principles to work smarter and not harder, so you have more time to do the things that are most important to you.

 


 
Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm, please visit his website at Activate Group Inc or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

 

Why is your business attracting the wrong clients?

Recently, I facilitated a meeting for one of the most innovative companies I work with. The leadership team is one of the smartest I have ever worked with, and there is a clear vision about solving gaps in their market. Moreover, they arguably have the best SAAS platform to serve their target segment. Yet, they have struggled to grow.

Have you ever wondered why some companies seem to grow with ease while others don’t? I have pondered this question because I have seen far too many organizations struggle to grow. For the SAAS Company, the secret showed up in a strategy session I recently facilitated. The conversation centered around one key question, “Why is this SAAS company finding it so difficult to acquire new customers? The answer was not what you would expect.

Are You Answering the Right Question?

Often, leaders are trying to solve their growth issues by centering on the wrong questions and problems. Typically if you asked the question, “How do we increase sales faster,” you would hear answers like:
• We need more revenue.
• We need more leads.
• We need higher quality leads?
• We need better salespeople.
• Our sales manager is not doing her job.
• We need better marketing.
• We need more marketing.
• We need more salespeople.
• Our customers don’t understand why we are different.
• We have failed to articulate our value proposition well.
• Our salespeople need a better process.
• Our salespeople need better training.

Have You Identified the True Problem?

While the above may be components of solving your growth issues, it is likely not your problem. I often see companies spend significant money and time addressing all the above. After years of frustration, they find themselves right back where they started from. They find other companies in their industry growing far faster, and some started much later and far larger. Your company has likely developed great products and services, cares about your employees and customers, works very hard, and has many loyal customers. In addition, your company might have implemented best-practice execution processes like EOS and Scaling Up, and yet the growth outcomes are not getting much better. What gives?

The right approach is to change your question. In my client example, we changed the question from “how do we increase revenue” to “why is it so difficult to acquire new clients ?” I asked the leadership to answer the question with a question. We brainstormed for 10 minutes until we complied with enough inquiries related to the initial question. Here are some of the questions they came up with?
• How do we remove sales friction?
• What would we need to do to increase market share dramatically?
• Why can’t we sell product “A” to our target market?
• Why is there so much friction in acquiring new customers?
• Would it be easier to sell a product that is on par with our competition?
• What do we need to shift in sales and marketing?
• Who is our real target customer?
• What is the evolutionary path for customers?

After developing 25 questions, I asked the team to narrow down the list to one critical question that would address almost all of the questions. The answer was, “why can’t we sell product “A” to the masses?”

By using the new question as a focal point, we were able to discover their real problem. The market was desiring a product they were not offering. Worse, they had the perfect product, and it was bundled into their more sophisticated product. In the long run, their product was more complete and would better serve their target market. The problem, most companies were not ready to consider their full suite, and they were trying to force it on them.

While there is a lot more to this story, I was hoping you could recognize that these extremely smart leaders were essentially trying to sell an apple to people looking to buy chocolate. When the prospect did not see the chocolate, they moved on to the competitors. We realized that we had to metaphorically get the customer into the supermarket and sell them chocolate before they were willing to consider the apple. Chocolate was their primary need. Once they loved our chocolate, we could take them down more isles and sell them more of what they needed.

Stop Trying to Convert the Heathens?

Are you guilty of ignoring the market? This is a common mistake. My client was a great example. They had the perfect product but were so enamored with their complete solution causing them to ignore the market expectations. While they are correct, their product can and will solve bigger, more complex problems, there were too few leaders that were aware and ready to solve them. They were getting ahead of themselves. And, like a good priest or rabbi, they were delivering sermons to inspire and convert the heathens. The problem was that the disciples were not listening. When this occurs, the sermon is white noise. Their best approach was to get the easy win, earn the customer’s trust, and use that as a platform to cross-sell later.

Conclusion – Ask Yourself… and Take Action!

If you are like many leaders, you know that your company can and should be growing much faster. Have you found the right question to answer? Do you know the primary problem? Are you spending enough time facing the brutal facts?


 
Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about Howard Shore or the firm, please contact Activate Group or call (305) 722-7216.
 

Three Keys to Maximum Business Performance

While people have been impacted by globalization, technology, and other circumstances, achieving business success has not changed. Over time, you will need to discuss changing conditions and have a robust operating system maneuvering these issues. But I have concluded that while most entrepreneurs pride themselves on their speed in getting things done, I see them running in circles. More creative entrepreneurs may make lots of rapid right turns instead of circles. Still, they find themselves in the same place and with the same problems as the people running in circles, never achieving acceleration.

 

The Difference Between Speed, Velocity, and Acceleration!

Acceleration in performance should be the goal of all leaders. Most people use the words speed, velocity, and acceleration interchangeably. However, these are three different outcomes. Speed defines how much distance has been covered in a particular timeframe. Velocity is the rate of change of distance in a particular direction concerning time. And acceleration is the rate of increase in velocity. Great companies achieve far greater velocity than “good” companies.

 

Every Business Has the Same Fifteen Leaks

As I wrote in my first best-selling book, Your Business is A Leaky Bucket, there are fifteen ways every business is leaking growth and profits. The bigger the business, the bigger the leaks. No business is immune. The odd part is that you likely already know you have the leaks. And, all fifteen leaks had a centering cause…leadership. They result from poor leadership. These leaks individually and collectively slow velocity, and large leaks can cause demise in your business. My book helps you identify and quantify the leaks. More importantly, I prescribed how to address each leak. Average companies achieve speed, good companies achieve velocity, and great companies achieve acceleration. The latter spend specific leadership time narrowing the fifteen leaks.

Leaders I work with are stunned when they realize how easily they can improve a business. But are often surprised by the dollar value in the improvements. However, easy does not equal simple. It takes discipline to work on the business rather than in it. It takes perseverance to stick to your plans and focus on a limited number of objectives while saying “no” to others. It takes rigor to drive excellence.

 


 

The Three Primary Reason Business Leaks Occur

There are three primary reasons why those leaks continue to recur throughout the life of your business:

1. Mediocrity—You know your organization and people are capable of more, but you allow average to become the standard for your business. Sometimes, this happens because you attempted but failed to raise the bar in the past. There is also a tendency to compare your business to industry norms and become comfortable if it’s doing better than the industry average—even if that industry average is a massive bottleneck in your business. Accepting the lower standard may be common in your industry, so you accept it, too. For example, high turnover has become the accepted norm in certain positions in some industries. But excessive turnover is a significant drag on a company’s ability to grow and scale. Ask yourself, how often have you taken too long to replace someone you know is not capable of doing his or her job? These are examples of accepting mediocrity!

2. Mastery—It takes discipline and perseverance to continually improve and address the issues that cause slower growth, lower profitability, and cause leaders to be tied to their work. Let’s be honest; when you started your career, were you thinking, “I am going to be a master craftsman at culture, team cohesiveness, strategy, people, execution, and cash systems?” Each of those areas requires skills and knowledge, continuous learning, and continuously increasing your level of mastery. However, as your business grows, so do the challenges in these areas. The typical leader would prefer to focus on industry knowledge, serving customers, and making better products and services rather than think about, discuss, and address those other, less tangible issues. In reality, culture, team cohesiveness, strategy, people, execution, and cash are the business operating systems that you use to run your business.

3. Invisibility—Financial statements do not capture the substantial costs of the weaknesses in your business operating system. Generally accepted accounting principles are only designed to capture actual transactions, assets, and liabilities. There is not a place in accounting principles to capture the cost of mediocrity and lack of mastery. Like most leaders, you do not go out of your way to quantify these costs. Here are some examples of mediocrity that should be monitored and will not be found in your financial statements:

– The cost of keeping underperformers

– The cost of lost sales because of mistakes in the sales process

– The cost of customers who left because of their disappointment with your quality and bad processes

– The cost of a bad strategy leading to higher customer turnover or slower customer growth

 

There are no financial statement line items for these costs, yet they exist in every business. Such losses are much more significant than you want to face, so you don’t! You are complacent with being good enough, especially if you are growing rapidly and profitably.

To succeed in business, leaders must have a business operating system and toolkit that help them work on the business in a way that allows their team members to make clear decisions and act regardless of the noise. Success is the result of your commitment to that system and how well you use the tools that support it. For the past 100 years and into the next 100, you will find that business challenges are the consequence of how effectively leaders handle these six operating systems:

(1) Culture
(2) Team Cohesiveness
(3) People
(4) Strategy
(5) Execution
(6) Cash

 


 
Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about Howard Shore or the firm, please visit our business coaching page or call (305) 722-7216.

Team-Building

STOP…wasting money on team-building exercises and retreats that, in the end, fail to bring about the desired results anyway. A significant reason that team-building initiatives fail is that too much emphasis is placed on the misconception that team-building should be fun. The purpose of team-building is to improve the performance of a work group, thereby creating better outcomes. This requires change, and for most people change is not fun … it is hard work. Team-building can be fun… if the members of the work group enjoy the learning process and relish the opportunities that change will bring. This is where a business coach plays a vital part in successful team building that brings results.

Key Elements For Driving Team Performance

If you want to improve teamwork and performance in your organization you have to look at the four core elements to driving team performance: relationships, goals, roles, and rules. All four of these elements must be executed well for the organization to flourish.

Focus on Improving Relationships LAST

Ironically, improving relationships is probably the last area you should focus on. Yes, the area that most leaders spend most of their time addressing is usually the symptom, not the problem. Almost every organization that has team-building issues will find their root of their problems in goals, roles, and rules. In my experience, when we address goals, roles, and/or rules, many of the relationship problems disappear.

State Your Goals

The first step toward achieving success as a team is to state your goals properly. You know your goal is well stated when anyone who reads it knows exactly what you are trying to accomplish and in what time frame. The better a person states the goal, the easier it is to create the action plan. An acronym commonly used for stating a goal properly is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistically High, and Time-based).

Understanding Your Roles

In order for a team to function properly it is important that every member of the team understands specifically the actions and/or activities assigned to them. This is not as simple as some make it out to be, which is why this is usually an issue for team. There are two different types of roles: task and maintenance. The “task” roles relate to driving the desired outcome of a team. The “maintenance” roles relate to managing team processes and relationships among people on the team.

Rules Must Apply to Everyone

Rules are a very important component of teamwork. This is one of those areas many leaders, particularly in entrepreneurial and family-owned businesses have the biggest concern with. Everyone is fine with rules as long as they apply to others. You cannot have one set of rules for some people and another set for others.

Contact us if you need team-building ideas.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert and business coach who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at 305-722-7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Is Lack of Financial Discipline Hurting Your Business? Financial Tips For Success in Business

It will blow your mind if you know how your business is being hurt just due to the lack of financial discipline. Do you have someone that helps you stay financially disciplined both in your business and personally? Do you listen?

Financial Questions to Consider

  • Have you used cash flow forecasts to determine how much money is needed to fund your growth?
  • Do you know how much of that you need to fund before banks and other external sources will agree to contribute?
  • Do you take money out of the business before considering how it will affect your growth?
  • Do you know how much cash you must leave in the business to cover taxes?
  • What is your reputation with vendors?

Financial Tips For Success in Business

As you can easily imagine, the client I’ve recently been writing about who lost millions in the sale of his business did not have good financial discipline. Fast facts to consider:

1. Raising Money

Fancy presentations, fast talking and nice smiles will not hide that you have bad personal credit, pay your creditors slowly, leave no money in the business, and overpay yourself. In general, good investors do their homework and recognize poor fiscal management in a business.

2. Leader Resentment

When partners and fellow leaders see you draining money from the business (and they will), they lose momentum because they feel that their hard work is going to waste. This then develops into an entitlement issue: the aggrieved parties demand much higher salaries, which either turns into further dilution of cash or further loss of productivity. Either way you lose.

3. Budgets

If you create budgets and don’t adhere to them, they do not really exist. With rare exceptions for outstanding individual contributions, there should be no raises unless the company is growing. If the company is growing less than forecast, raises should be commensurately lower.

4. Balance Sheet

Pay particular attention to your balance sheet. Cash is king. Cash is where you build your ability to grow and handle unforeseen circumstances.

Maximize Business Growth & Profit

If you are interested in speaking to a business coach and maximizing your growth and profits, let’s schedule a time to further discuss your business. Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation 305-722-7213 or contact Activate Group, Inc. today.

Meeting Length vs Effectiveness: Effective Meetings Require Time

Meeting Length vs Effectiveness

Meeting length vs Effectiveness has a huge impact on how you should engage within your organization. Do you find that your organization faces the same problems and challenges year after year, with no resolution? Do you discuss the same issues concerns, people, and customers month after month? Do you find that right when you are getting to the heart of the matter in the middle of an important debate or topic, your meeting is over and you have to postpone for a later date? Do you create goals and plans that do not come to fruition?

These are typical results when you do not spend enough time meeting with your leadership team.

Cons of Not Setting Aside Time for Effective Meetings

Have you considered the amount of time, productivity, and growth you have lost by not setting aside enough time to properly make decisions, to debate and resolve issues, to align priorities and to hold leaders accountable? By avoiding meetings, critical decisions do not get made or are made poorly.

Failure to debate priorities and work through issues can bring organizations to a standstill while leaders wait until the next meeting or for a final decision, allowing your competition the opportunity to thrust forward. While it is counterintuitive to most leaders, spending more time in meetings could actually double or triple company productivity.

Optimal Meeting Lengths

The key to an effective meeting is a commitment to setting aside enough time. Assuming you know how to run an effective meeting (and experience says you probably need help), the executive team should be allocating the following time blocks to work on the business, to debate issues focused on strategy, accountability, setting priorities, new opportunities, evaluating your people, challenging the business model, etc.:

Daily Meeting Length:

10-Minutes a Day for a Huddle with Your Direct Team

Weekly Meeting Length 

1 Hour per Week

Monthly Meeting Length 

1 Full Day

Quarterly Meeting Length 

2 Full Days (1 Day is Strategic)

Failure to have these meetings and to focus on the right topics robs you of significant growth and profits. Contact Activate Group Inc. for a FREE consultation or give us a call at 305-722-7213 to see how a business coach can help you run a more effective organization.

Learn more about effective meetings:

  • Effective Meetings Start On-Time
  • Effective Meetings Focus on Decisions
  • Effective Meetings Require a Purpose
  • Effective Meetings Have Conflict

How is a Consultant Different From a Coach?

Difference Between Business Consulting and Coaching

One of the hardest decisions for a CEO, owner, or other senior executive is whether to retain outside assistance with matters that will help strengthen themselves and their business. There are different types of advisors that can assist you. Do not assume they are all pretty much the same thing! There are similarities among the choices, but don’t be fooled. There are big differences between coaching and consulting and between business and executive coaching. It is important that you choose the right type of advisor for your situation.

I created the following table to help you understand the difference between a business coach and business consultant:

Business Consultant vs. Business Coach

 Consultant

Coach

Works with more than one person, often in a department, function, or team. Work on a one-to-one basis or with a team.
Is an “expert” who is hired to solve a specific problem. They fill a void in technical expertise in terms of knowledge, process, and experience your internal team does not possess. The Coach is an “enabler” who provides process that helps empower and hold you accountable to solve problems and cause more ideal outcomes.
Structures projects for specific deliverables or results. They may work directly with your internal team, but it is the consultant who is accountable and responsible for the outcomes. You solve your own problems using a process or framework provided by the Coach. The Coach helps challenge you to think and act in new ways, to find your blind spots. You are accountable and responsible for the outcomes.
Closes the gap for your team’s weaknesses. Builds on and unlocks the team and individual strengths.
If behavior change is needed, consultant generally does not get involved in it. A primary focus on individual and interpersonal dynamics designed to cause behavior change.
Gathers data and reports on what needs to be done. You gather the data and reports, and Coach facilitates the meetings and process.
Time-limited; generally short-term and project-oriented results. Occurs over a period that many times involves renewable contracts; focused on long-term results.
 Transactional Self-discovery leads to behavioral and mind shifts and can be transformational.
Requires limited commitment from you to implement. Maximizes your commitment to implement solutions.

 

Coaching is a personal thing. The fact that you are here and that you’ve read this far tells me that you want and/or need a Coach. However, finding the right Coach isn’t easy. That is why I am offering a FREE, no-obligation consultation to see if we’re a good match. There is no hard sell. This is my gift to you. If you feel we’re a good match, we can discuss working together. If not, I will leave you with enough value that it will be more than worth your time. That is my promise.

3 Common Concerns of Hiring a Business Coach

Hiring a Business Coach and the Common Concerns:

You may be in the process of deciding whether to hire a business coach at this time. After speaking to many leaders over the years, I have found that there are three common reasons given for why a business investigates hiring a business coach and then does not hire one. All of them are really excuses rather than good business decisions.

1. TIME

“I don’t have time!” It is common to believe there is a better time in some distant future — once you change a few key people, complete that big transaction, finish a big project, or arrive at some other natural business crossroad. The reality…when was the last time you thought you had plenty of extra time on your hands? The answer is probably never, and if you did, you were in denial. That better time never occurs.

The right business coach works on getting better results from activities that you are already doing. A business coach helps you reallocate how you go about doing those activities. In the long run we help YOU find more time, by helping YOU figure out how you are wasting time, how to work less, and how to get a lot more results from time worked.

2. COST

You might think cash flow is too tight or that the cost of the program equals that extra headcount you would like to add. The reality is that for every day you do not hire the coach, you lose a lot more money than you realize. The reason is that every business has leaky buckets. “Leaks” are the places where your potential revenue and profits are not fully being captured.

In my blog post, “Are These 8 “Leaks” Undermining your Business Success?”, you can learn about some of the most common leaks that I see in businesses today. These leaks are costing your business far more than a coach will ever charge, so your return on investment can be huge.

In our process, your team’s first retreat is designed to help you identify the “leaks” in your business bucket and determine what those leaks are costing you. Your business coach will help you identify simple ways to practically increase your cash flow so that you can quickly yield an increase in your return on investment. We have many success stories where clients were able to increase cash flow by more than $1 million, and they had not realized the opportunity existed.

3. SELF-CONFIDENCE

You may be thinking “why can’t I do this without you?” This is a fair question. After all, you know your business better than anyone, and the practices we use are commonly known best practices. The fact is, you know you could have gotten better results and did not. You could have implemented those practices and did not. Your situation will not change without a catalyst like a coach. Even if you effected some change, why would you not want to get the best results possible? The right business coach has the 10,000+ hours of practice in helping companies like yours implement programs that work and can accelerate the process. Every week and month is significant in terms of growth, cash, and stress that you can never recover once you have lost it.

Trust the Coaching Process

You may be asking “what if this process does not work?” Business coaching is different from consulting. As long as you hire a business coach that is bringing proven business operating processes, concern about it working is the equivalent of saying “what if I inhale and air does not fill my lungs?” In our experience, the process succeeds to the degree that you commit to it and do the work. Not doing the work means you’re willing to allow the “leaky bucket” to continue leaking every day. Everything we offer as a business coach has already been proven in thousands of companies to close your leaks and help you prosper. They are the business fundamentals that everyone knows, but many don’t do.

Hire a Business Coach

Let’s identify your company goals and begin drawing your roadmap to success. With the executive business coaching services at Activate Group, we’ll help you identify current business leaks, improve your strategy, and increase your effectiveness as a leader.

Maximize your success by contacting us for a FREE consultation to learn the benefits of business coaching and how we can help your organization thrive.

Finding Your Critical Numbers

Business Planning Tools

As a Business Coach, I have created and reviewed hundreds of annual business plans. I find many companies do a poor job of creating their business plans, which seriously diminishes their growth in revenue and profits. On the surface, these plans look like they have the right ingredients for success. However, a closer look shows that the leaders inadvertently led themselves astray. They then lose valuable time and energy, creating a profit leak.
As a certified Gazelles Coach, I help clients implement the concepts found in Scaling Up by Verne Harnish. The “One-Page Strategic Plan” is a key tool that everyone looks forward to using in our annual planning process. Whether your company uses this business planning tool or something else, the issues you must consider are the same. Only the presentation of the business plan is different.

Critical Numbers in Business

At the bottom of each of the “priorities” columns of the One-Page Plan is the “Critical Number” section. I have found that selecting the Critical Number may be the single most important decision in the planning process. The Critical Number is a key performance indicator that you have identified as the essential leading indicator for any given planning period.
Whether you are planning the year, the quarter, or your personal priorities, it is essential to pick the one or two Critical Numbers that must be achieved to drive all of the other desired outcomes. If you are not sure which Critical Numbers to select, you’ll find some clues by asking yourself questions like:

  • What is the key weakness in our business model?
  • What is the biggest weakness in our operations?
  • What is causing us not to gain customers?
  • What is causing us to lose customers?
  • What is causing our cost structure to be out of line with that of our competition?

The most common business number clients want to use is revenue. However, this is not a good choice for a “Critical Number.” If growth is an issue, you need to go deeper and find the leading indicator at the root of that problem. For example, are you not able to generate enough leads? Do you generate enough quality leads?

Example of a Critical Number

A great example of failing to identify the correct Critical Number is with a technology company that recently ran into trouble. This company had been mildly successful for years, achieved moderate revenue growth, and had great profit margins. But, this company always experienced inconsistent performance in its sales team. Revenue had always depended on a yearly home-run sale. There was no predictability in the sales performance. However, the company recently found that sales were more challenging and customers now preferred the products of competitors. After deep consideration, the company found it did not meet its number-one brand promise.
I had challenged this client a few years ago to put more specific measures around their brand promises. They had failed to do so, and this was now coming back to haunt them. In this case, believe it or not, their most important promise was that their product could do what it was supposed to do. My client failed to “get it right.” So we developed a way to measure the “% of known issues unsolved” within their technology. That became their Critical Number.

Does Your Business Need a Second Critical Number?

Once you find your Critical Number for your business, ask the question, “If we focus too much on this Critical Number, what could go wrong in the company?” If the answer is nothing, then you only need that one Critical Number. However, if you find focusing on that number hurts other areas of business, you’ll want to balance the first Critical Number with a second one. This will prevent you from unintentionally injuring your progress. In the case above, the company had a cash concern. They responded by focusing the sales team on closing a minimum number of quarterly transactions. They broke that number into 20 qualified leads that were already in the pipeline and needed to be accelerated in the sales cycle.
As with all plans, we recommend that there be no more than five annual initiatives. Once you have your Critical Numbers, you can determine what the most important initiatives are to undertake. A good rule of thumb is for three or four of those five annual initiatives to focus on addressing your critical number(s). If it does not take at least two or three, you have probably not challenged yourself enough in finding the right critical business number or are not focusing on the right annual priorities.

Improve Business Growth

As an executive business coach, I can provide you with practical business solutions to accelerate your business growth. Once you have completed your business plan, ask the following two questions to determine whether or not your job is done:

  1. Have you identified the one or two Critical Numbers that will improve next year’s results, and what is the measure that tells you that you’ve succeeded?
  2. If you complete your annual initiatives, how confident are you that you will have achieved number 1?

To learn how to improve your growth potential, contact Activate Group for a FREE consultation or by giving us a call at 305.722.7213.

How Do You Find Your Purpose?

If yours is like many organizations, you and your competitors are trying to serve a similar purpose to your respective clients. That is true if you look only at the surface. It is how you see the challenge of purpose that counts. Most times I find leaders trapped in a box. That box revolves around existing products and services and does not consider the problems and challenges of people they want to serve.

By finding your organization’s unique purpose, you can move with the changing needs of your customers and evolve your products and services. Too often business leaders are trying to force the external world to buy what they want to sell. What they fail to consider is whether what they want to sell is a real need, and whether there is already too much supply solving that need. If the need is already well served or over served, then pumping more supply into the market without identifying and addressing a new critical need for their buyers will surely result in a painful journey for them and their colleagues.

5 Lenses of Purpose

When working with leaders to assist in their strategic planning session, we work on defining purpose. A common challenge is to help the leadership team find and articulate their purpose. You may wonder how purpose is discovered. I believe you can find your purpose by looking through 5 lenses:

  1. Disrupt an Industry – Airbnb changed the lodging industry forever. They made a very cost-effective and easy way for anyone to list their space and to book unique accommodations anywhere in the world. By doing so they made traveling more affordable and accessible for many people.
  2. Uncommon Service – Provide service at a level that goes beyond your competition in a way that is essential to your target customer. The traditional companies I think of are Ritz-Carlton and Nordstrom. In a less traditional sense, think of Amazon, where you know you can go to their website and find almost anything, 24/7, at the lowest possible prices and have it delivered to your doorstep, in many cases the same day as you ordered it. And all of it done with a few keystrokes. Most vendors on their side will allow you send your purchase back for free if you are not satisfied. The challenge with service is that it is like an escalator that is always going down. Once you have delivered something considered extraordinary the first time, it becomes standard the next time. So you have to keep trying to improve your service levels every year to stay on top.
  3. Change the World – We have so many large societal and natural problems that you can address as a for-profit or not-for-profit. I am proud Board Member and Red Jacket Society Member at City Year, where we believe education has the power to help every child reach his or her potential. We recognize that children in high-poverty communities have external obstacles that can interfere with their ability to both get to school and be ready and able to learn. City Year helps with these challenges. On the for-profit side you have entrepreneurial mavericks like Elon Musk, who is trying to prove through Tesla Motors that electric cars could be better than gasoline-powered cars. The impact of such an innovation will have profound impact on issues like global warming and use of natural resources like fossil fuels.
  4. Excellence – There are always ways to change the features of products — increasing their speed, beauty, functionality, etc. No company is going to get it right with every product, but Apple, Samsung, Ikea, Dyson and 3M are companies that have produced products that have really stood out from their competitors in specific categories.
  5. Information and Communication – Technology has caused this category of purpose to explode over the last 10 years. Dominant in this conversation is Google, but you also have to consider Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp, and the myriad of others that allow people to share information, find anything or anyone, share knowledge, discover and communicate.

I recommend that you look through these five lenses and determine which of the five you are really passionate about. Then ask “what purpose can we serve within that lens” within an industry or across industries that is not being served to the level that you believe it could or should be served. The key is to think big! Consider your purpose to be a pursuit rather than a destination. It will be a mantra that you and your organization will need to constantly improve and perfect.

Head over to our business coaching page or call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

How Does Impatience Affect Leadership?

Every leader has a behavioral style that defines how they are seen by others. No matter what that behavioral make-up is, you will find that it has positive and negative traits. Some of those negative traits can have a significant impact on one’s ability to lead others. One trait I have found prevalent among people that need to get results quickly is that they also tend to be impatient with others. If you know yourself to be impatient you may want to read further as you may also have some other leadership traits that are holding you back as a leader and having severe consequences to your organization.

You might be thinking that there are positive aspects to being impatient. In December 2014, there was an article to that effect in Forbes: For Entrepreneurs, Impatience Might Just Be A Virtue. Many entrepreneurs believe it is their sense of urgency that causes them to succeed. By instilling this sense of urgency in others, they are able to push others through barriers in ways that otherwise might not have happened. This “just do it” mentality causes people to not overthink decisions and have a penchant toward action rather than inaction. After all, isn’t action better than no action? While there is some truth that we need this sense of urgency to move forward, it is only an ingredient, and when overused (and it often is) it causes far more damage than good.

Many of the CEOs I work with use high urgency as a management tool. They are the organizational “drivers” that push others to get things done. They are also known to get things done themselves, which in many cases has been a key factor in achieving success. There is no challenge they feel they cannot conquer, and they sometimes take things on themselves when they feel like the game is on the line because they relish the challenge. They are highly driven, bottom-line oriented, have high expectation of their people, and have vision that many of their team members lack. They get things done that others believe it is impossible to do. So you might be wondering what’s the problem?

The Impatient Leader Tends to Be Aggressive Instead of Assertive

Often organizational drivers tend to be impatient and have been known to be aggressive instead of assertive when communicating with others, not understanding the critical difference between the two styles. The key difference is that an aggressive communicator is perceived as someone that is more concerned about their own feelings and show no regard for the other people they are communicating with. They will enter a conversation or meeting with a specific agenda and will make that agenda happen regardless of the ideas, opinions or feelings of the others. Ironically, they may realize afterwards they have done this, but the damage is done.

When you communicate aggressively toward colleagues, their reaction (and of others who witness the exchange) is usually negative (resentful, angry, hurt, etc.). You may even go back to them and ask if they were okay with your aggressive style, but do not expect to get an honest response. If they did not address you at the time of the exchange, they are either passive-aggressive or passive communicators and just want to avoid a confrontation with you, particularly if your position of power is superior to theirs!

The aggressive-style leader will almost always get compliance from subordinates, but often at the expense of long-term loyalty, enthusiasm, creativity, extra effort and motivation. In extreme situations, a highly aggressive leadership style can result in other negative outcomes, such as passive-aggressive behaviors, resentment, alienation, dissatisfaction, high turnover rates, sabotage, and in some cases litigation (e.g. hostile work environment).

When you have a direct report that is not performing and you are in aggressive mode, the initial response is to be sarcastic, hurtful and/or use threatening comments. You believe that to motivate people you should show them that you and others are better than they are, tell them that the work they did was inferior, give them crazy goals that no one would be able to accomplish, and tell them they will not make it at the rate they’re going. Nothing you tell them is helping them understand how to perform or indicating that you want them to succeed. In fact, they most likely believe you are going to hurt their career and cannot possibly succeed if they stay on your team.

Coaching Can Help You With Negative Behavioral Tendencies

As you can see, someone with positive behavioral attributes needs to be careful because they also have negative behavioral tendencies. It is important to note that everyone can learn to adapt their behavioral styles to different settings to overcome their natural negative tendencies.

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Are You Targeting the Right Market Segment?

The predictability and consistency of your revenue growth rate are important measures of the health of your business. A key to driving your growth is targeting the right market segment. Positioning your company in a growth industry, market segment, or sector is crucial to the continued success of your company. In order to have future growth, regardless of how you are doing this quarter or year, there must be a market out in front of you that your products/services are focused on and that is growing.

Why Should You Care Which Market Segment You Choose?

When you are in a growth market running the business is much easier in many ways. Here are a few reasons for you to want to be in a growth market:

  • Employees – It is easier to attract, keep and grow the right employees.
  • Customer Acquisition – It is easier to be a winner in a growing market than in one that is declining or stagnant. All boats rise with the tide.
  • Capital – It is easier to attract and lower your cost of capital.
  • Margins – There is a better chance of earning larger profit margins.
  • Operations – Predictable revenue allows you generate cash and to plan and invest properly in the support structure of your business to properly serve your.
  • Shareholders – Higher returns on investment for shareholders.
  • Valuation – Buyers pay more for businesses that are in growth markets.

How Do You Find Your Market Segment?

By focusing time on a specific customer segment you can become the dominant player in that segment. A segment is a group of customers with common characteristics that influence how they make decisions. In every industry you can group potential customers into many possible segments.

Your leadership team must examine the marketplace and cluster people and organizations into groups, separating them based on common needs, behaviors, or other attributes so that they can be better served. Once you have isolated different groupings, you can look for ways they may be underserved today in terms of products and/or services. You do this by asking questions such as:

  • Do they deserve a distinct offering? How well do the current offerings meet their distinct desires and needs?
  • Are they reached through different channels? How well do the current channels work for this grouping?
  • Does this unique set of people or organizations require different types of relationships?
  • How does profitability differ, and could it differ for each grouping? What would need to change to change the game?
  • How much would each grouping be willing to pay for different aspects of the offer?

How Do You Know You’re In A Growth Market?

Failure to identify segments destroys time allocation in your business. I find that this is more obvious when your company is small and time constraints are more serious. In most cases, we consider whether or not a prospect can afford to do business with us, rather than the likelihood of their doing business with us.

However, you know you are in growth market when the following signals are apparent:

  • You can consistently grow at least 20% per year. More would be preferable.
  • Acquiring new customers seems to be easy, and your current quarter compared to the same quarter in the previous year is either the same or growing. Any quarter that shows a dip is a warning sign that an adjustment may be needed.
  • Profit margins appear to be holding steady with volume increase. There are obvious exceptions to this rule as you hit different steps in expansion.
  • You are finding more and more competition in your space. This is why you have to move swiftly and grow quickly when you find a hot market.
  • You can find news media, analysts, and industry experts talking about the trends you are taking advantage of. Follow them for signs in trend shifts.

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Is There a Difference Between Innovation and Disruption?

The Technology Leader Awards Committee of the Greater Miami Chamber, of which I am the recurring chair, met the other night. We were establishing the categories for this year’s awards when a great question arose. Is there a difference between innovation and disruption? It stimulated a spirited discussion among the committee members, and I realized that it’s a very important discussion to have when considering the strategy for your business. While we used the terms disruption and innovation in the context of technology, they can be looked at in broader constructs such as your business model. While one could argue that there is a difference between the two, my position is that disruption is a higher form of innovation. The reason is that all disruptors are innovations, but not all innovations are disruptors. The more disruptive the innovation, the higher the stakes and the value you can create in your business.

What Is Innovation?

In simple terms, innovation is just finding a new way of doing something. If you are running a business, it is developing ways to provide a product or service better, faster or cheaper. It is about improving every process with fewer defects, requiring less labor, increasing throughput, etc. It is about changing the usefulness of a product or service. From an even more important standpoint, it is about creating new demand and fulfilling a need that no one else is currently fulfilling. For example, our phones now go everywhere, serve as computers, calendars, watches, and many other things. It is about changing your online experience so that now you can order many products and get them delivered same day. Innovation is about seeing possibilities that others cannot see and making them happen.

Sustaining Innovation versus Disruptive Innovation

When we were discussing categories in my committee, we should not have been asking if there is a difference between innovation or disruption. The real question is “what is the difference between sustaining technologies and disruptive technologies?” While both are innovative, there is a huge difference and advantage to having both.

Sustaining technology improves a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically changing designs to address different consumer sets or by allowing a lowering of prices in more mature markets. A disruptive innovation helps create a new market or value chain and eventually disrupts an existing market. Disruption is much more substantial than sustaining innovation because it changes how we think, behave, do business, learn, and go about our day-to-day. Harvard Business School professor and disruption guru, Clayton Christensen, says that a disruption displaces an existing market, industry, or technology and produces something new and more efficient and worthwhile. It is at once destructive and creative.

Not All Disruption is Created Equal

The innovators’ dilemma is that not all innovation is created equal. There has been much innovation that has turned out to be worthless. In 2010, Time Magazine published a list of The 50 Worst Inventions Of All Time, here are few of my favorites:

  • The Segway – Give inventor Dean Kamen this: he’s a master of buzz. A closely guarded secret that was supposed to change the world upon its release in 2001, the Segway never brought about its promised revolution in transportation. Though the technology is pretty cool — very expensive gyroscopes make the thing nearly impossible to tip over (though George W. Bush found a way) — the Segway’s sales far underperformed vs. Kamen’s predictions. It lives on as the vehicle of choice for mall cops and lazy tourists, but the Segway’s best contribution might be as the vehicle of choice for failed.
  • New Coke – Marketers should have known — don’t mess with consumers’ sentimental attachment to a product. Especially when it’s 99-year-old Coca-Cola. The “newer, sweeter” version, introduced April 23, 1985, succeeded in blind taste tests but flopped in the real world. Phone calls, letters and rants from Coke die-hards flooded in and just three months after its debut, New Coke was removed, and the word Classic was added to all Coke cans and bottles to assure consumers they were getting their first love.
  • Airbnb – When disruption goes your way it can be enormous, such as the Airbnb.com story. Airbnb.com has changed the landscape for people that need a place to stay around the world. Airbnb is a website for people to list, find, and rent lodging. It has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Founded in August 2008 and headquartered in San Francisco, California, the company is privately owned and operated and booked more rooms than Hilton last year.
    Airbnb figured out how to enter the vacation rental marketplace without owning any rooms. Unlike traditional hotels, Airbnb scales up not by scaling inventory but by increasing the hosts and travelers and matching them with each other. It has no need for all of those employees and is not held accountable for the customer service problems you find in hotels, such as waiting in long lines for check-in. Its model runs on a marketplace platform where it enables transactions between hosts and travelers, all online. This is definitely an innovation you can categorize as disruption.

Value of Disruption

In today’s fast-paced world, disruption seems to be short-lived. It is critical that you do not go bankrupt trying to create your innovative idea and that you have plenty of capital behind you to take advantage of your position once you have the opportunity. Speed is also essential. Take the Airbnb example. Given that that the primary key to their success was a website to match hosts and travelers, scaling up quickly to have the largest inventory on a global basis with a lot of traveler traffic to their website was essential. Moving early and fast allowed them to build their brand and presence with no marketing budget. They built their entire empire through social media. The value of their innovation and how they approached is the exception and is what all disruptors should seek to accomplish.

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

How Strong Is Your Leadership and Management Team?

When evaluating your company’s ability to grow and to really scale itself, there is one question you must first ask yourself. How strong is your leadership and management team? Depending on your size, you may only have one level of management. As you grow, there will be multiple management levels to monitor. No matter the number of levels in place at this moment, your ability to grow will be dependent on leadership and management strength. Would your competition be jealous of your leadership and management team?

Leadership From the Bottom to the Top

“A fish stinks from head to tail.” Too often I hear the management team complaining that their company would be so much better if they had better people. If this problem is occurring in your company, start scrutinizing leadership. If you have the wrong team, you likely have problems at the top. The problem at the bottom will not be fixed until you fix the problem at the top.

EVALUATING MANAGEMENT

Do you have the right people in the right seats? “The right people” refers to company culture. Does each of your leaders and managers exemplify your company’s core values? If not, they are creating the wrong standard of behavior for the rest of the team and will infect your business culture.

“The right seats” refers to performance. Does the person you have chosen to perform in a leadership or management position produce the outcomes required of that position? In many cases, leadership is not held to the performance standards required of lower-level employees. If I were to ask you which top 2 to 3 key performance indicators are used for each leader on your team as standards for good and bad performance, would I get the same answer from you and each subordinate? If not, how do you know you have the right people in the right seats? How do you know whether any part of your organization is suffering because its leader is underperforming?

Are They A Strong Team?

Here is where things are usually the most difficult. Do you find it hard to get people with different personalities, experiences, beliefs, and functional skills sets to work together? Do you find imbalance in how much of the leadership weight is being carried by various leaders? Do you find it strange that people who are supposed to be working together work at cross-purposes? It is frustrating how seemingly smart people can spend so much time putting out fires rather than addressing the issues that would prevent the fires in the first place. When I have met strong leaders this is what I find:

Characteristics of Strong Leaders and Managers:

  • People that never stop learning.
  • Smart and talented people who have humility.
  • Answer-seekers that ask a lot of questions.
  • Knowledge and experience combined to co-create.
  • Balance in contribution from team members in meetings.
  • All team members seek each other’s opinions on various issues.
  • Healthy conflict and debate on key issues.
  • Alignment on the priorities.
  • Decisions made and commitment from all team members.
  • Team members hold each other accountable.
  • They get the most important priorities done and consistently achieve their goals.

How to Improve the Leadership and Management Team

Understanding the necessary qualifications of a strong leader and building a strong management team takes experience and dedication to the employee. Sometimes an executive coach is needed to help increase the effectiveness of leadership and improve management skills. To learn more about how an executive coach can help your leadership and management team, call Howard Shore – one of the top executive coaches in the United States – for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 or contact Activate Group Inc. today!

What Does an Executive Coach Do?

An Executive Coach Helps You Write Your Business Story

Do you ever wonder what an executive coach does? I get this question all the time. An executive coach’s job is to help you write your story. What do I mean by this? Whether you want to improve your business, career, or personal circumstances, the executive coach’s role is to provide a forum and process to help you maximize your potential. In other words, as your story is unfolding, your coach’s job is to help you to write your best story, a great story. It is important that you work with someone that will help keep bias out of your story creation. Your story starts today, and you want to have unlimited possibilities. During your story you will gain new wisdom and will need course corrections. Everyone’s story has surprises, and your coach is there to help you through and to stay accountable as you reach your full potential!

The Roles of Executive Coaching:

  • Improve leadership skills and effectiveness
  • Improve your ability to positively influence others
  • Improve the likelihood of new managers being successful
  • Increase employee engagement
  • Improve relationships in business and your personal life
  • Create higher levels of self-confidence
  • Increase self-awareness

A Good Executive Coach Enters Your Story Without Bias

Your coaching relationship is one where you are given space to create. A good executive coach enters your story without bias. They are not there to judge you, do not have expectations of you, and their only stake in the outcome is helping you achieve the goals of the engagement. While most everyone else in your life has good intentions they usually also have bias. This bias causes them to consciously or unconsciously steer you in a direction that may not be in your best interests. Here are some examples:

  • They may try to protect you by guiding you down safer paths because that is where their life choices have taken them.
  • They may suggest a different path because they think you are not capable of traveling the ideal path.
  • They may steer you in a different direction because of selfish motives. You will find even your closest colleagues to be selfish.

An Executive Coach Allows You to Realize Your Full Potential

An executive coaching relationship brings you a blank canvas to work with. This does not mean you need or want to start over. It just means you should consider that your business, career, or personal circumstances should be whatever you want it to be. People mistakenly start from where they are rather than where they want to be. This thought process will always limit your possibilities. This is why working with people that know you well can be so limiting.

So if you story starts today, think of your possibilities. With the wisdom you have today, what you want your business to look like? What would you want your career to look like? How would you like your personal story to unfold? As your executive coach helps you write your story, they will first help you create a clear picture of what you want that story to be. This is hard work because it is not always easy to articulate and define what is you want. This may take some time and need to be refined over time.

Closing the Gap Between Where You Are and Where You Ought to Be

Once you have developed a clear picture of your story, you need to create an action plan. The action plan looks at long- and short-term objectives that need to be attained in order for your story to unfold. You do this by identifying the gap between where you are and where you capable of being. Your executive coach will help develop a series of 90-day goals that help lead you to reach your full potential.

Like any worthy story, you will encounter surprises and obstacles. Your executive coach is there to help you work through these challenges. They help you identify the midcourse corrections that are needed and help you stay accountable to your lofty goals.

Hiring an Executive Coach

Call Howard Shore, one of the top executive coaches in the United States, for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 or contact Activate Group today to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business and become a more effective leader.

How Do You Measure The Success of A Meeting?

Measuring the Effectiveness of Meetings

How do you know whether or not your meeting was successful or effective? Do you measure the success of a meeting by the fact that it started or ended on time or by the fact that you completed its agenda? Many times you can cover your agenda and fulfill the time constraints and yet accomplish nothing. Often I see leaders judge their meetings successful because there was lively discussion. Or people got animated. Or they had fun. One leader showed me long lists of items they talked about during one of their all-day meetings. I suggest that you set much higher standards for measuring the success and effectiveness of your meetings.

Do You View Your Meetings in the Wrong Way?

Are you concerned about the number of meetings you attend or the length of those meetings? If you are leading a business and see your job as working on a business rather than in it, you should expect to be in lots of meetings. So I would get over the number of meetings and length of meetings and instead concern myself with the quality and success of those meetings. In my experience, most organizations are not having too many meetings. They are having too many “bad” meetings.

How Should You Measure Success of A Meeting?

I suggest changing the measurement system to look at meeting effectiveness. For example, a good leading indicator that something important is being discussed is that there are different opinions —conflict— and that most of the people in the room are engaged in the discussion. Other indicators of good meetings are the number of critical decisions made, new actions developed, number of new ideas created and accepted, and increase in percentage of goals achieved. These are real indicators that your meetings are worthwhile. If you have a really good meeting, then everyone leaves feeling invested in the decisions that were made and aligned as a team! If you run your meeting well the participants should leave feeling stretched but not stressed.

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

7 Ways to Serve Your Internal Customer “The Employee” Better

In my previous article, Are You Failing the Most Important Customer: “The Employee?” we addressed the question, “If you considered the people that worked for you as your largest and most important customers, would you behave toward them or see them any differently than you do today?” I addressed two issues I think all organizations face to some degree. In this post I want you to consider 7 ways to serve your internal customer better.

Are You In Denial?

You may be thinking, we treat our employees well. However, according to Gallup, Inc. and their well-known State of the American Workplace Report., essentially 70% of today’s workforce is being paid to be “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” A staggering 52 percent of employees are “not engaged”, meaning they essentially do just enough so they won’t get fired, but not more. The remaining 18% who are “actively disengaged” employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.

What is clear by findings, leadership is causing the 70% who are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” The evidence is supported by the fact that the 70% was not spread equally across companies and there also were differences within the companies. The primary difference was to whom those employees reported. This is important because when employees you have invested in are not engaged, you get less return on your investment.

How Can You Improve Internal Customer Service?

Consider your internal organization as your best and most important customer and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is my strategy for employee retention?
  2. How well do we communicate “with” employees rather than “at” employees?
  3. What is our interdepartmental strategy?
  4. Does it take an act of Congress to get something done around here or are we fast on our feet?
  5. How are we going to identify and nurture talent?
  6. How do we create career opportunity even though we are a small business?
  7. What types of leadership and management development do you offer your people on an ongoing basis?

The decision is up to you! Find and polish your gems today, or spend lots of your organization’s valuable time and money salvaging and finding new internal and external customers. Review our website to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business, or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7213.

Is Your Business Ready for the Challenges of the New Year?

Do you have a plan to grow or a wish to grow? Too often, it is the latter for most businesses! The reason is that the leadership has failed to properly think through what is possible, what is required, and how they will overcome the obstacles. In business you must grow or your company cannot survive. If your business grows and that growth does not turn into cash, you have a bad business model. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, numerous things are always changing, making it more difficult to keep your existing customers happy, get new customers, and increase profits. Many companies want to grow but are simply not ready for the challenges of the New Year.

What Do You Want To Achieve?

For starters, do you have a clear set of goals for the next year? Is there substance behind how you derived these goals, or did you just pick numbers based on past performance or some other arbitrary basis? Do you know what it will take to achieve those goals? Do you know which business levers will have the biggest impact on cash flow? Do you have price or volume of cost issues right now? Do you have the right people in the right seats doing the right things? There are so many possible questions that can be asked, but the bottom line is that you need to create a clear picture as to how you will achieve your goals. Start with these questions:

  • What are your goals for the year?
  • What has been your biggest obstacle in the past year to growing revenue faster? How are you going to address and overcome that obstacle?
  • What has been the biggest frustration for your customers in the last 12 months? How are you going to address it?
  • What is the biggest change you could make this year that would lower your cost of doing business?
  • What are the most important changes you will make that will elevate your business to a new level by the end of the year?

What Needs To Get Done In The Next 3 Months?

Three months comes and goes pretty fast, and unless you are already 100% on track toward accomplishing something specific, you will find that 25% of the year has passed you by. For starters you need to really think of realistic goals and initiatives that can be achieved within this time-frame. Many times you can only complete parts of a major initiative. It is important to know how far you expect to go by the end of each quarter so that you can hold people accountable. You cannot say you want a whole new sales force when you haven’t even set up the recruiting systems and created the onboarding processes. Start with small steps. Create achievable goals. Then slowly work towards the big goal.

Would You Rehire Your Leadership Team?

Think of a pyramid. You are the top. The next step down is your leadership team, and next down are your employees. Is your leadership team leading, or are your employees operating on autopilot? Are your employees more capable than your leadership team? Are your employees engaged and motivated? Your leadership team represents you, and if they are not performing at a peak performance, then it is time to move on and replace them. You can never achieve goals if the people you are expecting to perform the tasks required to achieve those goals are not engaged.
Once you have this all in place everything will come together. Wanting more is normal in every company. You will not achieve your goals if you do not have a realistic plan of action and the leadership team that can drive that plan to fruition.

We can maximize your team’s success. Contact us for a free consultation to learn how Business Coaching can help your organization, or check out the testimonials page for stories from other leaders we have coached.

Business Strategy and Delivering Unique Value Proposition

As I mentioned in my previous article, “Are You Ignoring a Bad Business Strategy?,” your business strategy is a determining factor in whether your sales “will” or “will not” grow faster than your competition’s. Two key questions you need to ask annually as part of your strategic planning discussion are:

  1. Does your business strategy encompass a clear value proposition that would be considered an “unusual offering” and is critical in your target client’s buying decision?
  2. Are you delivering on the promises embedded in that offering?

The answers to those questions may be the primary reasons your sales force is not achieving their quotas.

Unique Value Proposition

A key to the growth of your business is your ability to develop a business strategy that includes an unusual or unique value proposition, and becoming the best in the world at delivering on the promises in that value proposition. While every business owner recognizes the importance of “unusual offering” in helping a small business grow, many do not have one of their own. Many confuse “unusual offering” with marketing and positioning. A common mistake many owners make is to create their marketing before they really develop an “unusual offering.” Worse, some develop an “unusual offering” on paper that they cannot back up through operations. It should work in reverse. Once you develop and master your unusual offering, your target clients will easily choose you over your competition. Then you can create marketing campaigns that make it easy for people to notice you, and have salespeople that can convert the core clients as they walk into the sales process.

So How Do You Create An Unusual Offering?

In order to get your business strategy right, your unusual offering may not need to be a dramatic change from your current offering. You may already have an unusual offering that you have not isolated. You want a good bundle or aggregation of products and services that help solve clients’ needs in a special way that totally fits their situation. You may have the same mix of elements as your competition, but you can combine them differently or decide to add or subtract items from your offering in untraditional ways. You should also consider what your potential clients’ options are when configuring your bundle.

Elements That Add Value To An Unusual Offering

Depending on your core client and the options available to them, you need to consider how the following elements add value to your unusual offering:

  • Price  What is their total cost today? Do they know what their total cost is? What would additional features, benefits, or services be worth to your prospect in terms of time, value to their clients, the growth of their business, reducing their stress, etc.? If you added new features, services, and benefits would they pay more for it, or would you just be increasing your cost of doing business?
  • Cost/Risk Reduction  How can you modify your offering in a way that can substantially reduce client costs? How can the design of your product or service reduce risk for your client?
  • Trends  What industry-wide trends are occurring technologically, economically, and environmentally that call for a new advancement in how your product or service is sold, delivered, distributed or marketed?
  • Performance  What performance enhancement to your product or service is most valuable to your client? Would your client pay more for this enhancement? Would you lose clients to a competitor that made the enhancement while you did not? Is this enhancement necessary to keep up with minimum expectations? At what point does the performance improvement no longer make a difference in the client’s buying patterns?
  • Customization  To what extent does customization to a product or service significantly enhance value?
  • Design  To what extent does design make a difference in the usability of your product or service? Can design make your product more appealing or usable?
  • Brand/Status  To what extent does brand or status influence the buyer?
  • Accessible  Is there a way that you can make your offering more accessible to your target client?

Activate Group Inc. helps business owners all throughout the United States create unique value propositions and perfect the way in which the value is delivered. We can maximize your team’s business strategy. Contact us for a free consultation to learn how Business Coaching can help your organization, or check out the testimonials page for stories from other leaders we have coached.

Are You Ignoring a Bad Business Strategy?

Are you ignoring a bad business strategy? Your business strategy is a determining factor in whether your sales “will” or “will not” grow faster than your competition’s. Does your business have an “unusual offering” that is critical in the buying decision of your target customer or not? Most businesses either have an “unusual offering” that their prospects don’t know about, or they don’t have one and are not facing it. Key components to a successful business strategy and your ability to grow sales are how well you understand your core customer, that you have an unusual offer for this customer, and that your strategy focuses on being best in the world at delivering that offer.

Great Sales People Cannot Erase a Bad Strategy

Are you evaluating how to grow your sales in the right way? When sales are not growing, it is usually the result of a bad business strategy. Most companies fail to recognize and address inadequate sales growth as a strategy issue. First sales management and the salespeople are blamed. This can go on for years. Salespeople come and go with no change in result! Next someone will decide it is a marketing problem. “We just need to do a better job of getting our name out there, learn to better leverage the internet to get leads, and everything will turn around.” When that fails, the economy becomes the culprit —too much competition, and so on. In most situations, the real dilemma is that leaders continue to ignore the fact that what they are offering the market is inadequate, and the marketplace has spoken.

Is a Bad Strategy Causing High Turnover?

Are you experiencing constant turnover in your sales force, followed by leadership complaining about how the salespeople keep failing? A bad business strategy results in sending good salespeople out to get slaughtered. In my experience, when you have a good strategy, even a bad salesperson can sell your product or service. When you have a good strategy salespeople line up at your door to work for you. Too often leaders are hoping and praying that hiring great salespeople will magically make a bad strategy disappear. So the real question is “what is the ‘unusual offering’ that the sales force can offer that will attract the customer segment you’ve defined as your prime target?” What is that offering that will get prospects to recognize you and say, “It is about time someone understands my needs. What forms of payment do you accept?”

What is an “Unusual Offering”?

“Unusual offering” is most commonly referred to as a “unique value proposition” — how you differentiate your product and services from those offered by your competition. I’ve chosen the word “unusual” instead of “unique” for a reason. While the difference between “unusual” and “unique” is subtle, I find the standard for “unusual” is much more achievable for most businesses. Unique offerings are very difficult to create and almost impossible to sustain for very long. However, the best businesses have mastered consistency in unusual offerings. For example, everyone in the fast food industry knows they are supposed to deliver consistent quality in food, fast, and yet they don’t. McDonald’s has a better track record in terms of moving customers through lines than other fast food restaurants. When it comes to customer service Nordstrom has been able to set themselves apart from competitors who claim high-quality service as their differentiator.

Why Your “Unusual Offering” Needs to Change

It is important to understand that your unusual offering needs to change over time with the market. For example, FedEx used to focus its business differentiator on when you “positively have to have it tomorrow at 10:00.” This is no longer a business differentiator because all of the competition caught up, and now customers expect that level of service. Even the post office can consistently deliver on that promise.

In my next article I will discuss how to develop your unusual offering. If you want help with fixing a bad business, strategy please contact us for a free consultation to learn how Business Coaching can help your organization, or check out the testimonials page for stories from other leaders we have coached.

Business Strategy Based on Knowledge Instead of Belief

Is your business strategy based on knowledge instead of belief? If you are like most entrepreneurs, you are not collecting enough external data when making your business decisions – and it will cost you millions over your lifetime. It may even cost you your business.

“Why?” you might ask. The answer is that too often we make decisions based on “belief” instead of “knowledge.” There is a very important distinction between knowledge vs. belief.

Knowledge vs. Belief

Knowledge is indisputable “fact”. Belief is your opinion about what result any given course of action will produce, and much of what you believe about your business many times is wrong.

Are you acting on facts that are no longer valid, or on beliefs that you have held for a long period of time despite contrary evidence all around? In my experience as a business coach, you probably are. Worse, when people present you with facts, you may be doing everything you can to hold onto your erroneous beliefs by finding any random inconclusive data to support them.

Communicating With External Sources

I spend more than 100 days per year conducting planning sessions. I watch leaders make decisions without collecting data from customers, prospects, or past customers. Even when they have collected data, they are not looking at and analyzing that data. Many times they are looking only for data that supports their existing opinions. Often the data they collect does not help them with their decisions because there isn’t enough, or what they have is anecdotal or too generic.

Are you collecting information on a weekly basis about people that have chosen not to do business with you, people that are customers, and people that you want to have as customers to really analyze why you lost customers? You will notice I chose “people” and not businesses, clients, customers, or any other word. You do business with people. They have needs, wants, problems, concerns, opinions, challenges, biases, etc.

The world is constantly changing, so these factors are always shifting, thus causing the need to continually collect the information to keep your offering competitive and relevant. Failure to do so results in business strategy based on “belief” instead of “knowledge.”

Start Improving Your Business Strategy With Customers

The obvious place to start is with your customers. You are probably thinking, “I know my customers” because you do business with them every day. It is a common mistake to confuse a system for collecting information with daily exchanges. Without a systematic process you will fail!

In your daily exchanges, you are concerned with delivering your product or service, and the customer is focused on receiving it. At best, you get anecdotal information and only focus on problems and challenges. During daily exchanges, your front-line staff is not thinking about the company’s business strategy or worrying about what data you need for making future business decisions. In many cases, a staff member who receives what could be useful information may filter it or not report it at all.

Collecting Unfiltered Information From Your Customers

Collecting unfiltered information from your customers should be a priority for every company. This is usually easier than you think, and the only reason it has not happened is that you have not made it a key priority. Benefits you can expect:

  1. Identify reasons to charge existing customers more for existing products and services.
  2. Identify new products and services to offer.
  3. Increase retention of customers that you did not know were at risk.
  4. Turn existing customers into a referral engine.
  5. Strategize based on knowledge instead of belief.

Customer Feedback

A great historical example of how this can work for you is when IBM had its top 200 managers talk to 5 customers and employees every week and review the information every Friday. This was an incredibly simple way to collect live market data weekly and then share it with key leaders in IBM. It helped increase sales, overcome customer roadblocks, and also added energy to the teams.

Questions to Ask Customers

We recommend you and each leader on the leadership team have at least one conversation each week with a key customer. We have found these four questions will provide you will a wealth of information:

  1. How are you doing?
  2. What’s going on in your industry?
  3. What do you hear about our competition?
  4. How are we doing?
  5. (Bonus Question… when appropriate) Do you know of anyone else that would like to be as happy as you are?

Need help improving your business strategy?

We can maximize your team’s business strategy. Contact us for a FREE consultation to learn how Business Coaching can help your organization.

Setting Deadlines for Your Team

Setting deadlines is the most painful and underappreciated part of delegating a task. Too many leaders give employees tasks without setting a deadline or asking what else they have on their “to do” list. This is a motivation killer. You must keep in mind that even though the task you are assigning is of great importance, your employees have their tasks too.

Do You Ever Say No?

Most people are trained to never say “no.” They have been wired to say “yes,” even when they know they already have too much on their plate. Often times, the delegator already knows this, but chooses to take the position of “not my problem.” In the long run, this can destroy trust and respect for the delegator and decrease employee morale, organizational productivity, and profitability.

How to Properly Delegate

When you delegate a task, you must sit with the person you are delegating to and make sure that realistic deadlines are being created. It is your job as the delegator to help your people be successful and not set them up for failure. If you are delegating to someone who has a history of over-committing, it is important to help reconcile commitments to make sure that the most important things get done first. Always make it clear that you are aware they have other tasks so want to make sure they are available to meet your deadline. Also always make sure the deadline is a realistic one. After all, when your employees succeed you succeed!

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Effective Meetings Focus On Decisions

Does your team look forward to each and every meeting? Do your meetings effectively drive your business? Or are your meetings really status updates, rehashing the same issues over and over again, full of too many agenda items, and never seem to accomplish much? When most leaders are honest, they tell me their meetings really need improvement. Often I see unrealistic agendas and too little time set aside to discuss anything in depth. In my experience, less is more, and more is less! What I mean by this is that you probably need to have more of the right meetings and in those meetings talk less about the wrong agenda items.

Do You Conduct and/or Attend Too Many Bad Meetings?

As pointed out in Pat Lencioni’s book Death By Meeting, most people conduct/attend too many bad meetings. Is it your habit or preference to meet people one-on-one to get their ideas on major issues? Experience shows this to be very ineffective because you wind up discussing the same issue without really creating the right debate, fluidity, and speed appropriate to the matter. When you do meet in a group, do you find that the agenda is packed with so many items that it is hard to get deep in to discussing, debating, and really addressing your critical issues? What percentage of your meetings consists of status updates and presentations by various people versus constructive and vigorous debate that involves everyone in the room and thrusts the business forward to higher levels? Is it possible that you have run poor meetings for such a long period of time that you are actually just wasting a lot of leadership time?

Scheduling Frequent Meetings Helps An Organization Become More Effective

Highly effective organizations have learned to schedule a good series of daily huddles and weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings that can be carefully designed to get all of the right people together at the same time. Each meeting is assigned a purpose, which is built around specific decisions that need to be made. The agenda is then constructed to facilitate making those decisions and encourages the dialog necessary to reach those decisions. The outcomes of these meetings then become policies and actions that need to be taken as a result of those decisions.

 

Failure to conduct and lead effective meetings is robbing you of significant growth and profits. Contact Activate Group Inc. for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how a business coach can help you run a more effective organization.

 

5 Ways to Increase Employee Satisfaction

I’m working with many companies as a leadership development coach and have noticed that many of them lack good strategy in one key area: employee satisfaction. At Activate Group Inc., we use a system called Human Capital Management to effectively manage employees, and ensure long-term growth and satisfaction of “A” players. This process starts with hiring the right people and ends with maintaining employee satisfaction. As you probably know by now, it costs so much more to replace a great employee than to simply keep them happy.

How to Keep Employees Happy

Here are five ways to ensure your best employees stay happy, stay productive, and stay with you for a long time:

1. Hire Right.

The best way to ensure long-term employee satisfaction and success is to hire the right person for the right job in the first place. Too many companies hire “blindly” by simply scanning resumes, getting a few recommendations and hiring quickly. Using assessment tools to screen for people with the right skill sets for open positions (before you even look at resumes) is one of the easiest methods to increase the number of candidates that are a good match for the job and the company.

2. Regular Affirmations.

Show your people appreciation by saying it regularly. Recognize when someone goes above and beyond, even if it is something small. Thank them when they coach others. Here is a fantastic list of motivating phrases from the Bud to Boss blog.

3. Onboarding Plan.

When you bring a new employee onboard, you need to do it the right way. A detailed plan for the first 90 days for every new employee is a crucial tool in getting them off to a positive start with the company. Many employees who have a negative onboarding experience (no training, no expectations, no coaching, etc) end up leaving the company — and that costs you money.

4. Employee Recognition Program.

Every company should have an employee recognition program, even small companies and even if it’s just a simple program. Recognizing and rewarding employees for going above and beyond the call of duty is super-charged positive reinforcement, and is also highly contagious. A word of caution: avoid rewarding employees for simply doing their job. After all, they are being compensated for doing their jobs and achieving certain milestones. Rewards work best when they are reserved for special effort.

5. Job Satisfaction Survey.

Once a year (or every couple years) you should ask employees to fill out a simple survey about their experiences with the company. Keep it confidential and keep it relatively short — try for 20 questions or less. Ask them about their career development, relationship with their manager, team environment, and if they feel like they are contributing to the company goals. All of these things are essential to job satisfaction.

How to Keep Employees Motivated

How high is your employee satisfaction? Do you know or are you guessing? Here are a few more tips on how to motivate employees from one of my earlier articles.

Howard Shore is a leadership development coach who works with companies that need executive development and strategic business coaching. Based out of Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group Inc., provides management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about leadership development coaching through AGI, please contact us at 305.722.7213 or email Howard today.

A Business Network Makes You Powerful – Article 3

As I mentioned in Article 2, your success will grow in proportion to your network. At some point (like the Internet), it can just explode, and the growth of your net worth – both personally and financially – can be 20 to 50 times your network. One of the qualities that can accelerate one’s network is magnetism. The more magnetic you are, the more people are drawn to you.

Positive vs. Negative Magnets

Before we get into this more deeply, let me explain what I mean by magnetism. Like magnets, people have positive and negative or attracting and repelling abilities, respectively. In other words, using your positive abilities draws people to you. When a leader is positively magnetic, employees are motivated and more productive. When sales people are more magnetic, they have more prospects and thus more sales production. As an individual, you make more friends. When we exude negative energy, people are repelled, and the opposite happens.

Magnetism Evolves From Things We Do or Do Not Do

Regardless of your career path, one skill you should always be working on is to improving your positive magnetism. While some people seem to have been born people magnets, it is really the environment they were raised in that has helped them to be more magnetic than someone else. Magnetism is something that evolves from things we do or do not do.

Filling Up vs. Emptying Your Bucket

In the book How Full Is Your Bucket by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, there is a simple but profound analogy of a dipper (or ladle) and a bucket that captures the essence of how to be more magnetic. It looks at every communication or interaction with someone else as an exchange where you are filling or taking away from someone’s bucket. In other words, is it emotionally a positive or negative exchange from the other person’s perspective? If it is positive, you fill their bucket and thus fill yours. If it is negative, you take from their bucket, but you are also emptying yours. When you fill someone’s bucket, you are being magnetic, and when you empty their bucket, you are losing your attractiveness or magnetic power.

Your Mindset As to How You Respond & React to Situations

The key here is a mindset to choose how we respond and react to situations, and to make a mental choice to try to fill other people’s buckets as often as possible. The more buckets we fill and the more frequently we fill them, the more magnetic we are and the stronger our network will be.

Positive Magnetism

Here are some simple ideas you can do to fill other people’s buckets:

  • Smile more
  • Relax more and help others do the same
  • Be more helpful
  • Find others doing things right and compliment them
  • Do not be a critic
  • Do not talk negatively of other people (even if you are right)
  • Do not talk about other people behind their backs
  • Stay out of the blame game
  • Stay out of wrong and right conversations

More Magnetic You Become, the More Successful You Will Be.

The more magnetic you become, the more successful you will be. To be more magnetic, you have to identify the behaviors that are causing you to detract from your magnetism and work on those behaviors that will create an environment where you are more magnetic. If you do, you will see your success skyrocket.

Review our website to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business, or contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or .

A Business Network Makes You Powerful – Article 1

The Importance of Business Networking

There are three key accelerators to a person’s success: integrity, knowledge and network. While there are other things that are important to success, these are key drivers. However, you are powerless without a personal network! The larger and stronger your business network is, the more powerful you become. Most people focus their attention on integrity and knowledge. However, the highly successful business people have figured out that building their network is essential to promoting their uniqueness as well as furthering a higher degree of success. You cannot build empires alone. Nonetheless, even if you are not trying to build an empire, it is always simpler to accomplish things with many people’s help than to try to go it alone.

Learning to Network Should Be Taught In Every University

I am very involved at Florida International University, my Alma Mater. As a member of a group called the Alumni Circle of the College of Business Administration, I helped a special committee called Business Readiness whose function was to work with the college’s Deans and staff on a special project to determine how to help graduates become “business ready” upon graduation. One of the areas that surfaced in our study was that college students did not how to effectively network. The school has subsequently created a series of seminars on business networking, in which I was proud to be included as one of the keynote speakers.

Network With Every Department

Business networking is not just for sales people. From the day you enter your first job, you need to start getting to know everyone you can. Inside your organization, learn what the other departments do, who does what, and take a genuine interest in your co-workers. Have weekly lunches with people in other departments. You want everyone to get to know you and to be on the same team. This may not be important today, but as you advance in the organization, these other people may become critical to your success. They may even become your bosses and/or subordinates. In addition, the higher you advance in the organization, the less important your technical skills become and the more important your people or soft skills become. Start developing them immediately!

Network Outside of Work Too

You need to work on networking outside of the organization as well. The different ways to build your network is covered in a later article, but even if you are not in sales – building your network is very important. Many compensation and other business opportunities occur because of reputation built in a network of people. You will find big promotions inside or outside your company when a large group of people are acknowledging your assets. On a less happy note, many good and talented people have been laid off from a job because of things like company relocation, company being sold, or some other situation that has nothing to do with job performance. The higher you are on the totem pole, the more important the role your network may play in quickly finding new work.

Utilizing Your Network Saves Time & Money

Business networking also provides resources quickly and efficiently. During any given week, we all need information, products, services, and people. I would much rather go to people I know and trust to find such important needs than to the Google search engine or some other unknown source. While these sources may provide leads, there is still a lot of due diligence work one must undertake to check out those leads. After all, just because a company has a big ad or is a first hit, it may only mean that their web developers were smart or that they had a lot of money to spend to get that position. In contrast, when our own network provides the needed resource we can feel comfortable that proper due diligence was undertaken. Utilizing our business network saves us time and money.

Business Networking Benefits You No Matter What Role You Are In

So if you want to increase your success, expand your network. Business networking is important for many reasons and can benefit you no matter your title, rank, or function in an organization. You need to nurture your network just as you do knowledge. You need to work at business networking daily, and continue to build it over time so it is abundant and diversified.

Need help with business networking?

Activate Group Inc. helps business leaders and entrepreneurs develop their networking skills through executive business coaching. Learn more how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business, or contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or for a FREE consultation with one of the top business coaches in the United States.