Economic Recession Prevention Strategies for Business: Embracing MELT

In today’s uncertain economic landscape, businesses face an array of challenges that can threaten their stability and growth. To navigate these turbulent waters, it’s imperative to adopt robust economic crisis prevention strategies. A key framework that businesses can leverage is the concept of MELT, which stands for the costs of Money, Energy, Labor, and Transport. This concept was recently published by Dan Sullivan, author of “10X is Easier than 2X.” Following, we will explore how companies can integrate these elements to fortify their operations against economic downturns.

The Concept of MELT in Crisis Prevention

Money: Financial resilience is the cornerstone of economic crisis prevention. Businesses must focus on strengthening their cash flow management, reducing unnecessary expenditures, and securing diverse revenue streams. It is also crucial to maintain a healthy balance sheet with strong liquidity ratios to withstand financial shocks.  As the saying goes, the best time to get that bank line of credit is when you don’t need it.

Energy: As the cost and availability of energy can fluctuate dramatically, like in California, businesses need to optimize their energy consumption, implement backup strategies, and invest in sustainable energy sources. This not only reduces vulnerability to energy price spikes and outages, but also aligns with global shifts towards sustainability.

Labor: The workforce is an asset that requires investment in skills and well-being. During economic downturns, maintaining a skilled, flexible workforce is essential. Businesses should focus on training programs that enhance employee skills and productivity, which can be pivotal during recovery phases. In addition, in order to make the most effective and efficient use of labor, your critical practices and processes must be laser focused and tuned for optimum efficiency.

Transport: The efficiency of transportation networks affects a company’s ability to deliver products and manage supply chains. By investing in logistics and exploring innovative transport solutions, businesses can enhance their adaptability to changes in the economic environment.

Implementing MELT Strategies

To effectively implement these strategies, businesses should take a proactive approach by continuously assessing their operational vulnerabilities and addressing them through strategic planning. Here’s how:

(1)  Conduct Regular Financial Audits: Regularly review financial statements and cash flow projections to identify potential issues before they escalate.  If you maintain healthy cash balances, are your funds invested in low risk and quickly available accounts?

(2)  Diversify Energy Sources: Invest in backup systems and alternative energy solutions to mitigate risks associated with energy supply disruptions.  Look into leveraging government tax incentives to help fund your strategy.

(3)  Develop a Flexible Workforce: Implement training programs that adapt to changing business needs and technological advancements.  Further, tune those business processes to eliminate redundancies and excessive labor.

(4)  Enhance Supply Chain Resilience: Build strong relationships with suppliers and explore multiple transportation options to ensure supply chain flexibility.  For example, consider deliveries directly to job sites rather than to your warehouse and research technologies that mitigate in-person visits.

By integrating these strategies, businesses not only prepare themselves to face economic crises but also position themselves for sustainable growth and innovation.

Why MELT Matters

Applying the MELT framework empowers businesses to build a robust foundation that supports not just survival but also proactive growth. In an era where economic uncertainties are prevalent, the ability to anticipate and mitigate risks is invaluable. Businesses that prioritize these areas will not only navigate crises more effectively but also emerge stronger and be recognized as leaders.

 

About the Author: Mo Rousso is a Business & Executive Coach at Activate Group Inc. Mo has a deep understanding of the complexities facing today’s businesses. With a passion for helping leaders break through barriers and transform their companies, Mo empowers businesses to achieve exponential growth through strategic planning, leadership development, and execution excellence.

Mastering Leadership: Avoid These 10 Mistakes to Propel Your Team Forward

As a leader, have you ever wondered if there are blind spots in your management style that could be holding you and your team back? Let’s explore the ten most common leadership mistakes and how to avoid them, ensuring you lead your team to success and growth.

(1)  Setting Clear Goals: Are You Guiding Your Team Effectively?

Leadership starts with direction. Ask yourself, are your team’s goals well-defined and understood? Clarity in objectives is crucial for a team’s focus and productivity.

(2)  The Art of Communication: Are You Truly Connecting?

Communication is the backbone of effective leadership. It’s not just about delivering messages; it’s about ensuring they are understood and resonate with your team. Are you making sure that every team member is on the same page?

(3)  Valuing Team Input: Are You Listening Enough?

Innovation often comes from the ground up. Are you giving your team the space to voice their ideas and concerns? A leader who listens is a leader who learns.

(3)   Empower, Don’t Micromanage: Are You Trusting Your Team?

Empowerment fosters innovation and growth. Reflect on whether you allow your team enough freedom to explore and create.

(5)  The Power of Delegation: Are You Leveraging Your Team’s Strengths?

Delegating is not just about freeing up your time; it’s about trusting your team with responsibilities that play to their strengths. Are you delegating effectively?

(6)  Constructive Feedback: Are You Nurturing Growth?

Feedback is a tool for growth. Are you providing your team with the constructive criticism and encouragement they need to excel?

(7)  Embracing Change: Are You Agile and Adaptable?

The only constant in business is change. As a leader, are you adaptable enough to lead through change effectively?

(8)  Recognizing Achievements: Are You Celebrating Success?

Recognition is a powerful motivator. Are you taking the time to celebrate the successes of your team members?

(9)  Emotional Intelligence: Are You Attuned to Your Team’s Needs?

Emotional intelligence is vital in leadership. Are you aware of the emotional dynamics within your team?

(10) Addressing Conflict: Are You Proactive in Conflict Resolution?

Conflict, if not managed, can undermine team dynamics. Are you adept at identifying and resolving conflicts within your team?

 

Leadership is a journey of continuous learning and adaptation. By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can lead more effectively and create a positive impact on your team and organization.

Now, it’s time to reflect and act. Which of the above resonate with you? Identify them and start your journey towards more effective leadership today. Remember, the path to great leadership is always under construction.

 

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is a seasoned business coach and leadership development expert. With his extensive experience and insights, Howard has guided countless leaders toward achieving their full potential. He is the author of two influential books on leadership and business management, providing practical advice and strategies for success in today’s complex business world.

Vision, Values, and Victory: A CEO’s Blueprint for Organizational Clarity

One of the most critical roles of a CEO is to create and maintain organizational clarity. This clarity encompasses everything from the company’s vision and values to understanding competitors and defining clear expectations for each team member. Let’s explore how CEOs can effectively cultivate this clarity.

Defining the Organization’s Vision and Values

(1) Craft a Compelling Vision: Your vision should be inspiring and provide a clear direction for where the company is headed.

(2) Establish Core Values: These values should reflect the essence of your company’s ethos and guide every decision and action.

Understanding and Communicating the Business Landscape

(1) Know Your Business: Clearly articulate what your business does, its products or services, and its value proposition.

(2) Identify Your Competitors: Understand who your competitors are and how they impact your business strategy.

(3) Highlight Your Uniqueness: Clearly communicate what sets your company apart from the competition.

Setting Clear Expectations and Priorities

(1) Define Roles and Responsibilities: Ensure every team member understands their role and how it contributes to the larger vision.

(2) Communicate Your Priorities: Set and share organizational priorities so everyone is aligned and working towards common goals.

Leading By Example

Indra Nooyi, Former CEO of PepsiCo: Indra Nooyi is renowned for her role in redefining PepsiCo’s vision and strategy. She led a significant shift towards healthier products, aligning with emerging consumer health trends. Nooyi’s vision, ‘Performance with Purpose,’ aimed to deliver sustainable long-term growth focusing on more nutritious products, a smaller environmental footprint, and empowered people. Her ability to communicate this vision and drive organizational change was vital to PepsiCo’s success during her tenure.

Conclusions on Organizational Clarity

Organizational clarity is not a one-time effort but a continuous process. As a CEO, it’s your responsibility to revisit and reinforce these elements regularly.

Consider scheduling a coaching session to explore further how you can develop and maintain organizational clarity within your company.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is an accomplished CEO coach and the founder of Activate Group Inc. He specializes in assisting leaders to maximize their potential and build high-performing teams, drawing upon a wealth of experience and proven methodologies.

 

Leadership by Design: A CEO’s Strategy for Building a Winning Team

As a CEO, one of your most critical responsibilities is assembling and nurturing a leadership team to drive your company toward its strategic goals. This article provides insights and actionable strategies for selecting the right individuals and fostering an outstanding leadership team.

Understanding the CEO’s Role in Team Building

The CEO is not just a decision-maker but also a visionary who sets the tone for the team’s dynamic and performance. Your role involves identifying potential leaders, aligning them with your vision, and creating an environment where they can thrive.

Strategies for Selecting the Right Team Members

(1) Look Beyond the Resume: While experience and qualifications are important, also consider candidates’ alignment with the company’s values and culture.

(2) Diversity: Often, leaders like to hire people who are more like themselves. A diverse team brings varied perspectives and fosters innovation.

(3) Emphasize Emotional Intelligence: Leaders with high emotional intelligence can navigate complex interpersonal dynamics and foster a positive team environment.

Building an Excellent Leadership Team

(1) Foster Open Communication: Encourage transparency and open dialogue within your team. This builds trust and ensures everyone is aligned with the company’s goals.

(2) Develop a Shared Vision: Involve your leadership team in shaping and owning the company’s vision. This creates a sense of shared purpose and direction.

(3) Invest in Professional Development: Regular training and development opportunities help your team grow and stay engaged with the company’s evolving needs.

Consider how Satya Nadella transformed Microsoft’s leadership team, focusing on collaboration and innovation, which was key in revitalizing the company’s culture and business.

Conclusions for Leadership by Design

Selecting and building an exceptional leadership team is a critical and ongoing process. It requires a strategic approach, a keen understanding of people, and a commitment to nurturing talent.

For personalized advice on building your leadership team, consider scheduling a coaching session to explore strategies tailored to your company’s unique needs.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is an accomplished CEO coach and the founder of Activate Group Inc. He specializes in assisting leaders to maximize their potential and build high-performing teams, drawing upon a wealth of experience and proven methodologies.

Measuring a CEO’s Success: Beyond the Income Statement

Traditionally, a CEO’s success is evaluated based on hard financial metrics reflected in the income statement – revenue growth, profitability, shareholder returns, etc. However, this narrow focus can overlook critical aspects of leadership that significantly impact an organization’s long-term health and sustainability. This article delves into the often-overlooked areas of CEO performance evaluation: Culture, Human Capital Management, Team Cohesion, and the effectiveness of Strategy and Execution.

Evaluating Culture and Human Capital Management

The culture of an organization is a direct reflection of its leadership. A successful CEO nurturing a positive culture fosters an environment of innovation, collaboration, and employee satisfaction. But how do we measure this?

Employee Engagement Surveys: Regular surveys can provide insights into employee morale, belief in the company’s vision, and their perception of leadership effectiveness. We use Gallup’s survey around their renown 12 questions.

Turnover Rates: High turnover can indicate issues with the organizational culture. A successful CEO typically sees lower turnover rates, especially among high performers.

External Employer Ratings: Platforms like Glassdoor provide unfiltered employee feedback, which can be a valuable measure of a CEO’s effectiveness in culture-building.

Assessing Team Cohesion

The ability of a CEO to build cohesive leadership teams is crucial. Cohesive teams are more likely to implement effective strategies and achieve organizational goals.

360-Degree Feedback: Feedback from various organizational levels can highlight how well a CEO fosters collaboration and teamwork.

Team Performance Metrics: Evaluate the performance of key teams within the organization. Successful teams often reflect effective leadership at the top.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team Survey: We administer an assessment developed around Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book. It helps teams self-assess their effectiveness in the areas of trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and results.

Measuring Strategy and Execution

A CEO’s prowess in strategy formulation and execution is pivotal to organizational success. This is measured by:

Alignment of Strategy with Outcomes: Assess how well the CEO’s strategic decisions align with the outcomes. This includes looking at long-term growth, market expansion, and product development successes.

Innovation Index: Evaluate the company’s investment in innovation and its returns. This could include new product launches, patents filed, and market disruptions.

Adaptability and Crisis Management: How a CEO navigates challenges and unexpected market changes is a critical measure of their strategic acumen.

Measuring CEO Success Conclusion

While the income statement provides a snapshot of financial health, it doesn’t fully capture a CEO’s effectiveness. By incorporating measures of culture, team cohesion, human capital management, and the success of strategy execution, we gain a more holistic view of a CEO’s performance. These soft skills are as crucial as financial metrics in ensuring the long-term success and sustainability of an organization.

For organizations and boards, it’s essential to broaden the criteria for CEO performance evaluation. This comprehensive approach not only enhances the accuracy of performance assessments but also encourages CEOs to focus on these vital areas of leadership.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., a growth-focused coaching firm for business leaders. With decades of experience, as a CEO Coach and the author of The Leader Launchpad and Your Business is a Leaky Bucket, Howard is dedicated to empowering leaders to unlock their potential and propel their organizations to new heights.

Strategic Time Management for CEOs at Different Business Stages

As a CEO, understanding where to allocate your time is crucial, and this becomes even more complex when considering the stage of your business. The demands of a startup CEO vastly differ from those of a CEO in a scaleup phase. This article sheds light on this differentiation and provides actionable insights for CEOs to navigate these challenging waters.

The Startup Phase: Wearing Multiple Hats

In the startup phase, a CEO’s role is hands-on and multifaceted. Here, you’re not just a strategist but also an executor. Take the example of Elon Musk in the early days of SpaceX and Tesla. Musk was involved in everything from design to funding, exemplifying the all-encompassing role of a startup CEO.

Action Points for Startup CEOs:

– Be deeply involved in product development and customer feedback loops.

– Focus on building a solid team and establishing company culture.

– Prioritize securing funding and managing cash flow.

The Scaleup Phase: Strategic Leadership

As the company transitions to the scaleup phase, the CEO’s role evolves. Now, it’s about delegation, strategic planning, and maintaining company culture during rapid growth. Consider Sundar Pichai’s role in scaling Google. His focus shifted towards strategic initiatives, culture preservation, and global expansion.

Action Points for Scaleup CEOs:

– Delegate operational tasks to trusted team members.

– Invest time in strategic planning and long-term vision.

– Focus on maintaining company culture amid growth.

Transitioning Between Stages

The key to transitioning effectively between these stages lies in self-awareness and adaptability. Recognize when it’s time to shift your focus and how best to do so.

Whether you’re leading a budding startup or steering a fast-growing scaleup, understanding where to invest your time is crucial for success. For personalized strategies tailored to your business stage, consider a coaching session with us.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., a growth-focused coaching firm for business leaders. With decades of experience, as a CEO Coach and the author of The Leader Launchpad and Your Business is a Leaky Bucket, Howard is dedicated to empowering leaders to unlock their potential and propel their organizations to new heights.

 

The Paradox of CEO Leadership: Decoding CEO Success

In the ever-evolving landscape of corporate leadership, the role of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) remains pivotal and perplexing. Through my journey as a CEO Coach, I have encountered a spectrum of leaders who, despite their diverse approaches, have steered their companies with varying degrees of success. This article delves into the intricate maze of CEO leadership, debunking the one-size-fits-all myth and offering actionable insights for C-suite leaders.

The CEO’s Diverse Faces

The role of a CEO is not monolithic. I have witnessed CEOs who create a thriving company culture and others who lead successful organizations despite creating a toxic work environment. Consider the case of Company X, where the CEO’s narcissistic tendencies and singular focus on profit yielded significant financial success, albeit with a high employee turnover rate. Contrast this with Company Y, led by a visionary CEO, whose lack of operational finesse was balanced by a strong executive team, leading to sustained growth.

The Misconception of a One-Size-Fits-All CEO

Success as a CEO does not always follow a conventional script. Some leaders check all the traditional boxes of effective leadership – charismatic, empathetic, strategic – yet their companies struggle. This was evident in the case of Company Z, where the CEO’s exemplary leadership traits failed to translate into market success due to external factors like market volatility and competitive dynamics.

Team Dynamics and Leadership

A CEO’s approach towards team building and management can significantly influence a company’s trajectory. Some CEOs are disciplined in crafting exceptional teams and promptly addressing non-performance. Others adopt a more laissez-faire approach, leading to varied outcomes. The success story of Company A, where deliberate team optimization led to breakthrough performance, stands as a testament to the power of effective team management.

Actionable Takeaways

(1) Embrace Flexibility: Adapt your leadership style to your company’s unique context and challenges.

(2) Build Strong Teams: Invest in building a diverse and capable executive team.

(3) Focus on Sustainability: Ensure that success is not just a flash in the pan but sustainable over the long term.

As we navigate the complex realm of corporate leadership, it is essential to learn and adapt continuously. I invite you to reach out for a personalized coaching session to explore how you can enhance your leadership journey.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., a growth-focused coaching firm for business leaders. With decades of experience, as a CEO Coach and the author of The Leader Launchpad and Your Business is a Leaky Bucket, Howard is dedicated to empowering leaders to unlock their potential and propel their organizations to new heights.

The Art of Success: Why C-Suite Leaders Should Put Their Goals in Writing

Today, we will explore a practice that can profoundly impact your leadership journey – the simple act of writing down your goals.

This article will uncover the remarkable effects of setting and documenting your goals, supported by real-world case examples and insights from my previous works, including “Your Business is a Leaky Bucket.” However, the focus here is on the transformative power of goal setting.

The Magic of Putting Goals on Paper

Clarity: Shaping Vague Ambitions into Clear Objectives

Imagine embarking on a cross-country road trip without a roadmap or GPS. The journey would be fraught with uncertainty, and reaching your destination would feel like a distant dream. Similarly, leadership without written goals can become a meandering path without clear direction.

Consider a client engagement where a CMO faced the challenge of boosting online conversions. She realized the power of clarity by crafting a specific goal: double conversions within a year. This precision provided her team with a clear destination. The result? A focused team that achieved impressive outcomes.

Focus: Directing Energy for Maximum Impact

As C-Suite leaders, you’re constantly pulled in multiple directions. Without written goals, it’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of daily tasks, diverting valuable time and energy away from your strategic priorities.

In my book, “Your Business is a Leaky Bucket,” we explore the journey of a CEO who grappled with time management. His turning point came when he began consistently writing down daily goals. This simple practice helped him regain control over his schedule, allowing him to concentrate on high-impact initiatives that propelled the company forward.

Commitment: Turning Dreams into Tangible Pledges

At the core of any successful endeavor lies commitment. When you write your goals, you’re not merely expressing a desire – you’re making a promise to yourself and your team. It’s a commitment to take action.

Throughout my coaching journey, I’ve encountered countless entrepreneurs who dream of revolutionizing their industries. One remarkable individual stood out by writing down her audacious goals and openly sharing them with her team. This act galvanized their collective commitment and reshaped their industry together.

Motivation: Keeping the Fire Alive

The path of leadership is often filled with challenges and setbacks. During these moments, written goals serve as a constant source of motivation, reminding you why you embarked on this journey in the first place.

I’ve had the privilege of working with CEOs who faced formidable adversity. Their practice of regularly revisiting their written goals set the resilient ones apart. These goals provided the strength and determination to persevere, even in the most trying times.

Conclusion – Put Your Goals in Writing

In conclusion, the seemingly simple act of writing down your goals can be the key to transforming your leadership journey. It brings clarity, focus, commitment, and motivation to your daily actions. These aren’t just dreams; they’re the active steps toward your aspirations.

So, I challenge you to grab a pen and start documenting your goals today. Let them be the guiding stars that illuminate your path to success. If you’ve experienced the transformative power of written goals or have questions about implementing this practice in your leadership journey, feel free to reach out in the comments section. Let’s continue the conversation and inspire each other to achieve remarkable success!

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group, Inc., a leadership development and business coachingfirm. With over 25 years of experience coaching and advising C-suite leaders, Howard is passionate about helping executives unlock their full potential.

Unlocking Team Success: The Imperative of a Leader’s Commitment to Meetings

In my years working with leaders, a recurring theme has emerged: meetings are seen as both a blessing and a curse. When done well, meetings can drive results. When done poorly, they can bring entire organizations to a halt. The key differentiator between these two outcomes? The leader’s approach.

The Heart of Leadership: Commitment to Their People

The number one job of a leader is to make time and be present for their people. Even though it is evident, leadership must be committed to participating and engaging in the established meeting rhythms for organization and team effectiveness. Commitment differs from a decision. We can decide to have meetings but not be committed. Commitment is the higher standard of dedication to meetings because it will improve communication, teamwork, and decision-making.

Meetings are not about you; they are about the organization and the team. Frequently missed meetings send a message that you care most about yourself and are not committed to being a vital team member.

The Power of Precedent – The Secret Sauce of Effective Teams

Let me share a story: Rachel, a senior executive, prided herself on her team’s agility. However, she frequently shifted meeting times, causing havoc in her team’s schedules. Over time, this inconsistency led to missed targets and a frustrated team.

Consistency of active participation from individual team members is critical. When consistency drops, so does priority focus, agility, and timeliness of decisions. Missing meetings unconsciously causes silos and reduces the effectiveness of the organization.

Top leadership has a higher burden to set the right example. Their actions set precedents and can often be the deciding influence between adoption, engagement, and success; or resistance, withdrawal, and disappointing results – the rest of the team takes their direction from them. Leadership must always be mindful to avoid the Do as I Say, Not as I DO trap.

When leaders aren’t consistent in their approach to meetings, focus wanes, agility diminishes, and the timeliness of decisions suffers. As silos build, the organization loses momentum.

Reframing the Meeting Narrative

Yes, there might be too many meetings. But the real issue? Too many bad meetings. Instead of eliminating meetings, focus on improving them. Engage the right stakeholders. Set clear agendas. And ensure each meeting serves its purpose.

Actionable Steps for Leaders:

(1) Evaluate Your Commitment: Reflect on your meeting attendance and engagement. Are you truly committed?

(2) Prioritize Consistency: Stick to scheduled meetings. Reschedule only when absolutely necessary.

(3) Set the Tone: Remember, your team is watching. Model the behavior you want to see.

(4) Seek Feedback: Regularly ask for input on meeting effectiveness and be open to making changes.

Conclusion: Your Call to Action to Unlock Team Success

Your team’s success rests heavily on your shoulders. But remember, you don’t carry that burden alone. Your team can and will thrive with a committed and consistent approach to meetings. It’s time to recommit, be present, and unlock your team’s true potential.

Activate your leadership potential and make every meeting count. The success of your organization depends on it.

 

About the Author:  Howard M. Shore, CEO of Activate Group, Inc., is an acclaimed leadership coach and author of “The Leader Launchpad.” With decades of experience in guiding leaders and organizations to success, Howard specializes in unlocking the full potential of businesses by driving actionable strategies and fostering effective leadership practices.

Inspiring Beyond the Transaction: Elevating a Value-Centric Workforce in Today’s Business Landscape

In an age where mere service delivery is no longer the golden standard, businesses across the board find themselves navigating a transformative shift. The challenge? Transitioning from transaction-driven operations to a holistic, value-centric ethos. So, how can modern organizations embed this paradigm shift into their DNA? Let’s explore.

Company Culture: The Double-Edged Sword

Every organization has its unique culture, the invisible thread weaving its ethos. While it’s the bedrock of all great companies, a misaligned culture can inadvertently become a straitjacket, stifling innovation and creativity.

Case Example: A client in the financial sector shared a tale of procedural rigidity preventing a groundbreaking solution that could have streamlined a complex customer journey. Instead of breaking boundaries, the firm’s culture erected them.

Actionable Step: Initiate periodic culture assessments. Pinpoint outdated or restrictive practices. Engage teams in suggesting areas ripe for rejuvenation.

Leadership: Pioneers or Gatekeepers?

Leaders wear multiple hats, from guides to decision-makers. But those who limit autonomy or appear unreceptive to diverse solutions might be unintentionally sidelining innovative strategies.

Case Example: In a prominent marketing agency, a newbie strategist proposed an out-of-the-box campaign. Instead of applause, she encountered resistance because she deviated from the “norm.” Such attitudes hinder more than they help.

Actionable Step: Leaders champion open-mindedness. Implement open-door policies and encourage individuals from all ranks to pitch their insights. Leadership isn’t about micromanaging but nurturing and igniting sparks.

Cultivating the Right Employee Mindset

To evolve from transactional thinking to value creation, employees should:

  • View each interaction as a steppingstone for stronger relationships.
  • Constantly scout avenues for refining processes and offerings.
  • Identify revenue potentials, even in seemingly mundane tasks.

Actionable Step: Host regular workshops emphasizing relationship building, critical thinking, and proactive problem-solving. Celebrate value-driven successes to foster a culture of recognition.

Revamping Role Descriptions

Critical thinking must feature prominently across all job roles to truly democratize innovation, not just the higher echelons.

Actionable Step: Reevaluate job descriptions to incorporate proactive problem-solving, critical thinking, and a commitment to continuous learning.

Compensation Strategies: More Than Just Money

While monetary rewards are effective motivators, it’s essential to understand that employees today value more than just their paychecks. Recognition, growth opportunities, and autonomy often outshine financial incentives.

Case Example: One of my clients introduced an “Employee of the Month” title. While the financial reward was symbolic, the esteem and recognition it conferred led to a marked uptick in proactive initiatives.

Actionable Step: Diversify your reward mechanisms. Engage with teams to understand what truly drives and inspires them.

To conclude, the business landscape, be it service or consumer-driven, is dynamically evolving. It beckons organizations to move beyond mere transactions and sow seeds of genuine value.

 

Call to Action: Are you geared up for this transformation? Let’s chart this journey together. Connect with Activate Group, Inc. for a strategy tailored to your organization’s aspirations.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group, Inc., and the voice behind “The Leader Launchpad.” A beacon in the realm of organizational excellence, Howard’s mission is to provide guidance and help sculpt companies that deliver and inspire.

The Triumphant Trio: Mastering Quality, Service, and Cost in Your Business Strategy

Today, we’re delving into a compelling business conundrum: the challenge of providing high quality, high service, and low price all at once. Traditionally, businesses are told to pick only two of the three – quality, service, and cost. Usually, offering a premium product or service implies higher prices, and low-cost providers often compromise on either product quality or customer service. So, is it possible to excel in all three areas? Let’s explore with real-world examples.

Amazon, Costco, IKEA, Southwest Airlines, Xiaomi, ALDI, Google, Zoom, Spotify, and Trader Joe’s have all notably disrupted their sectors by providing a balance of quality, service, and price that is typically considered unattainable. From cost-saving online distribution models to strategic partnerships and economies of scale, these companies have leveraged various tactics to buck the conventional wisdom.

The key challenges in simultaneously combining high quality, service, and low price arise from economic and logistical factors. Economically, premium materials and top-notch service typically come at higher costs, which must then be passed on to the customer. Logistically, managing a broad supply chain and maintaining a consistent level of service can be complex and resource intensive.

What if a company chooses just two of the three? This is indeed a common strategy. The choice largely depends on the company’s core values and the market segment it targets. For example, if your target market values high quality and superior service, and is willing to pay a premium, focusing on these two areas would make sense. Alternatively, suppose your audience is price-sensitive but still demands quality. You might choose to offer high-quality products at a competitive price, while keeping customer service at a functional, rather than exceptional, level.

Size and scale are vital in achieving all three—quality, service, and cost. Larger operations often mean economies of scale, allowing companies to purchase materials in bulk at reduced costs or spread operational costs over a larger output, lowering per-unit costs. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, as some smaller, agile businesses can also excel in all three areas through innovative approaches and efficient operations.

Contrary to popular belief, significant funding is not always required to achieve the ‘trifecta.’ While funding can accelerate growth and provide a safety net for experimentation, what’s crucial is strategic investment and smart resource allocation. For example, focusing on technological advancements can lower costs and improve product quality and customer service.

So, how can you apply these concepts in your business? Here are three actionable steps:

Identify Your Core Competencies

Understand what you do best and leverage those strengths to deliver exceptional quality or service while optimizing cost.

Innovate Your Business Model

Look for unconventional ways to manage your supply chain, deliver your product or service, or structure your operations to decrease costs without sacrificing quality or service.

Scale Strategically

Plan your growth to maximize your economies of scale and maintain your commitment to quality and service.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to deliver value to your customers. Whether that’s through quality, service, or price will depend on your unique business context.

For a more in-depth discussion on optimizing your business strategy, reach out to Activate Group, Inc. We specialize in helping businesses identify and overcome their unique challenges to achieve sustainable growth and success.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore, CEO of Activate Group, Inc., is a top business growth expert, serial entrepreneur, and author of The Leader Launchpad. He specializes in helping businesses create a culture of accountability and foster innovation to achieve sustained success.

Mastering the Art of Listening: The Hidden Power in Leadership

In today’s fast-paced business world, where an avalanche of emails, messages, and meetings fill every waking hour, an essential leadership skill is often undervalued and overlooked – effective listening. As leaders, we tend to dominate conversations with our ideas, unintentionally stifling innovation, decreasing morale, and blocking growth opportunities. Now more than ever, it’s time to revisit our understanding of the difference between hearing and listening and recognize the profound impact it can have on our leadership style.

Critical Listening Techniques: Refreshing Our Skills

Listening, unlike hearing, is an active process. It requires concentration, understanding, and response. It’s the difference between the chatter in a crowded room and a focused conversation. As leaders, we often find ourselves in the former scenario, hearing but not truly listening.

The first step to correcting this lies in mastering critical listening techniques. This involves creating an open and empathetic space for communication, where you not only hear the words but also understand the underlying emotions, concerns, and ideas. Critical listening also involves knowing when to keep silent, allowing the speaker to express their thoughts without interruption.

Overcoming Assumptions: The Pitfalls of Presupposed Knowledge

We, as leaders, often enter interactions with presupposed knowledge or assumptions. Whether it’s a matter of experience, expertise, or ego, we assume we understand the full scope of the issue at hand, and worse, we believe we have the correct answer. This approach hampers our ability to truly listen as we filter out any information that doesn’t fit within our preconceived notions.

We would ask many more questions if we approached daily issues like scientists, with curiosity and the willingness to challenge our assumptions. This open-minded approach could lead to innovative solutions and deeper understanding.

Ego, the Silent Saboteur

Our egos often get in the way of effective listening. We fear listening might be perceived as a sign of weakness or indecision. This is where we need to realign our perception of power. The real power lies in gaining the trust and respect of your team, which comes from being a great listener.

Let’s explore further how ego can become a barrier to effective listening and, ultimately, sound leadership. Our ego often manifests itself in a variety of ways, subtly undermining our ability to listen and obstructing our path to effective leadership.

(1)   Intellectual Superiority: Believing you’re the smartest person in the room is one of the most common ego-driven behaviors. This mindset is harmful because it assumes others cannot contribute meaningful or innovative ideas, which discounts valuable perspectives and stifles creativity. It also creates an environment where others may feel intimidated or undervalued, leading to resentment and decreased productivity.

(2)  Overconfidence in Our Ideas: Falling in love with our ideas can be another side effect of an inflated ego. We become so attached to our notions that we tend to disregard other viewpoints, even if they could enhance our idea or offer a more effective solution. This limits the diversity of ideas and makes us blind to potential flaws in our thinking.

(3)  Infallibility Complex: Sometimes, leaders, in their overconfidence, develop a sense of infallibility. They assume that their experience or status makes them less likely to make mistakes. This perception can lead to an aversion to feedback, a critical component of growth and improvement. When leaders fail to listen to constructive criticism, they miss opportunities to learn, innovate, and adapt.

(4)  Need for Control: An ego-driven need for control can also hinder effective listening. Leaders who feel they must control every conversation, decision, or situation often fail to listen to others’ input. They rush to give their opinion, advice, or solution, leaving little room for others to contribute.

(5)  Fear of Vulnerability: Our ego may also cause us to fear vulnerability, viewing it as a sign of weakness. We may close ourselves to others’ opinions or ideas to maintain an image of infallibility. This fear can lead to a lack of open-mindedness, hindering our ability to truly listen and understand.

Ego can be a significant barrier to effective leadership. However, by becoming aware of these ego-driven behaviors, we can actively work to control them, opening the door to effective listening, better leadership, and a more harmonious, productive work environment.

The Cost of Not Listening: More Than Just Hurt Feelings

When we fail to listen, people know. It’s demoralizing, damages relationships, slows progress, breeds resentment, and impacts the team’s overall productivity.

A classic example is the demise of Nokia. Despite being a leading player in the mobile phone market, the company’s leadership failed to listen to the emerging trends and consumer feedback, leading to a significant loss in market share, and eventually its sale to Microsoft. The estimated cost of this failure to listen was over 40 billion Euros in lost market value.

Practical Steps to Effective Listening

It’s time to make a change. Here are some actionable steps to enhance your listening skills:

(1)  Acknowledge and Adjust: Recognize your current listening habits and make a conscious effort to improve.

(2)  Engage and Ask: Encourage open communication. Ask open-ended questions and challenge your assumptions.

(3) Practice Empathy: Try to understand the speaker’s perspective. This shows respect and builds trust.

(4) Take Time: Dedicate quality time for active listening without multitasking. This might mean fewer meetings, but more meaningful ones.

(5) Give Feedback: Summarize what you’ve heard to confirm your understanding.

Conclusions on the Hidden Power of Listening

It’s time for a leadership paradigm shift – from dominating to facilitating, from assuming to understanding, and from hearing to active listening. It’s not just a change of technique but a transformation of mindset.

To achieve the highest level of success as a leader, make a commitment to practice these actionable steps for effective listening daily. If you need help or guidance, feel free to contact us at Activate Group, Inc. Let’s ensure we’re not just hearing but truly listening.

 

About the author:  Howard M. Shore is a successful executive coach, business growth expert, and the CEO of Activate Group, Inc. He is the author of “The Leader Launchpad,” a comprehensive guide to achieving sustainable business growth. With his wealth of experience and relentless passion for helping businesses maximize their potential, Howard is your go-to resource for all things leadership and performance.

Crafting Your Corporate Dream Team: Harnessing the Power of Advisory Boards and Boards of Directors

In the world of C-suite leaders, the terms Board of Directors and Advisory Board often come up. However, effectively understanding the difference and leveraging each remains a mystery to many. Whether you’re piloting a small startup or steering a multinational corporation, the value of a well-structured board cannot be understated. For any business, from thriving startups to established multinationals, there’s often confusion in the boardroom – specifically, between the roles of a Board of Directors and a Board of Advisors. Both serve crucial but distinct functions within an organization. Understanding these differences can supercharge your company’s success.

A Board of Directors carries formal authority and is legally responsible for governing your company, making binding decisions, and appointing key executives. They’re your organization’s guardians, meeting legal and fiscal responsibilities. Their role carries significant legal and financial implications.

On the other hand, a Board of Advisors is the mentor to your organization. They offer strategic advice, industry expertise, and potentially lucrative connections, but their recommendations are not binding. The Advisory Board’s role is consultative, often comprised of industry experts, experienced businesspeople, or influential individuals providing valuable insights.

Consider Lisa, the CEO of an emerging tech startup. Packed with tech veterans, her Advisory Board provided invaluable insights to navigate the industry’s competitive landscape. Meanwhile, her Board of Directors ensured the company stayed compliant and financially healthy during its aggressive expansion phase.

What is the Difference Between Boards of Directors vs. Boards of Advisors

While the Board of Directors and the Board of Advisors might sound similar, they have different organizational roles, responsibilities, and legal obligations.

Authority and Decision-Making:

Board of Directors: They hold formal authority in an organization and are legally responsible for its operations. They make binding decisions about the company’s strategy, appoint and remove key executives (including the CEO), approve budgets, and ensure the company meets its legal and fiscal responsibilities. In a publicly traded company, the directors are elected by shareholders. They have fiduciary duties to the shareholders, and their decisions have significant legal and financial implications.

Board of Advisors: On the other hand, this board serves in a more informal and advisory capacity. They provide strategic advice, industry expertise, and networking opportunities to management, but they don’t have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the company. They have no fiduciary duties, and their role is often consultative. They’re usually composed of industry experts, experienced business people, or other influential individuals who can provide useful insights and connections.

Legal Responsibilities:

Board of Directors: The members of this board have formal legal responsibilities and liabilities. They must act in the best interests of the company and its shareholders. They can be held legally accountable for their decisions, especially if they lead to financial loss or violate laws or regulations.

Board of Advisors: Since they don’t make decisions on behalf of the company, they typically have no legal responsibilities or liabilities associated with their role. They are there to provide advice and counsel, not to oversee operations or make binding decisions.

Structure and Formality:

Board of Directors: This board tends to be more structured, with formal roles (such as Chair, Secretary, etc.), scheduled meetings, and official minutes that are recorded and maintained. There are often legal and regulatory requirements about how the board is run.

Board of Advisors: This board tends to be less formal and more flexible. There may be fewer scheduled meetings, and the format of those meetings may be more relaxed. There are typically fewer regulations governing this board.

Selection and Tenure:

Board of Directors: Directors are typically elected by shareholders and serve for a specified term, which can vary depending on the company’s bylaws. They may be re-elected for additional terms.

Board of Advisors: Advisory board members are usually selected by the company’s management or the board of directors. They serve at the pleasure of the company and can be removed more easily. Their tenure may not be defined, or they may be appointed for a specific period.

Pros and Cons

Each type of board comes with its pros and cons. A Board of Directors provides robust governance but may also bring regulatory complexity. An Advisory Board offers strategic insights without legal complications but lacks decision-making power.

When designing these boards, consider their size, diversity, expertise, and dynamics. Carefully select members who understand your industry and complement each other and your management team.

When to Use Which: Directors, Advisors, or Both?

Smaller or early-stage companies might prefer an Advisory Board for their strategic insights without the formal responsibilities that come with a Board of Directors. As your company matures and the governance needs become more complex, a Board of Directors becomes essential.

High-growth companies with aggressive expansion plans might find the strategic decision-making authority of a Board of Directors particularly useful. Conversely, those with a niche focus might value the specialized advice an Advisory Board can provide.

Some companies combine their advisory and directorial boards. While this might seem efficient, it often leads to confusion over roles, potential legal implications, and governance challenges. Maintaining separate boards ensures clear delineations of responsibility and function.

Best Practices for Compensating Boards

When it comes to compensating board members, the best approach varies depending on your company’s size, sector, and the board member’s role. Generally, Board of Directors members receive a combination of cash compensation and equity. The equity part aligns their interests with the company’s long-term success.

Advisory Board members, in contrast, are often compensated with a smaller equity stake, with or without additional cash compensation. Since their role is consultative rather than decision-making, their compensation is typically less than that of Directors.

Remember that compensation should be competitive enough to attract top talent but balanced against your company’s financial capabilities and objectives.

Actionable Steps and Takeaways

(1)  Evaluate your business’s needs, size, and growth plans.

(2)  Define clear roles for each board type.

(3)  Choose board members based on their ability to fulfill these roles and the value they add.

(4)  Regularly review your board’s structure and performance.

(5)  Balance compensation to attract top talent while aligning with your company’s financial capabilities and long-term objectives.

In Conclusion

Understanding and effectively implementing Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards can give your business a significant strategic advantage. Remember, these boards are not static – they should evolve as dynamically as your business.

Whether you need the legal oversight and strategic decision-making of a Board of Directors, the tailored advice and industry expertise of an Advisory Board, or both, choosing the right board structure can drive your organization to unprecedented success.

Corporate governance isn’t a ‘set it and forget it‘ concept. It needs to be as dynamic as your business, evolving with every stage of growth and challenge.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore, founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., is a leading business growth expert. With an uncanny ability to help businesses unlock potential, Howard is your strategic partner in achieving exponential growth. He is the author of “The Leader Launchpad” and has worked with over 300 companies across multiple industries.

 

Breaking Barriers: Strategies for Middle Market Consumer-Based Businesses to Disrupt Traditional Industries

As a middle-market consumer-based business, it can be challenging to stand out in a crowded market and increase profitability. However, by adopting innovative strategies, these businesses can disrupt traditional industries, increase market share, and become more profitable.

One inspiring example is Thrive Market, an online membership-based retailer that offers organic, healthy, and sustainable products at affordable prices. They disrupted the traditional grocery industry by providing a unique value proposition to their customers.

Thrive Market achieved this by leveraging technology to reduce their operational costs and offer products at lower prices than their competitors. They also focused on customer experience by offering personalized recommendations, easy-to-use search functions, and a convenient online shopping experience.

Another way Thrive Market disrupted the industry was by focusing on social responsibility. They offer a free membership to low-income families, donate a portion of their profits to non-profit organizations, and source their products from sustainable and ethical suppliers.

So, how can middle-market consumer-based businesses apply these strategies to their business? Here are some ideas:

Leverage Technology

Look for ways to use technology to reduce operational costs, offer products at lower prices, and provide a convenient online shopping experience. Embrace innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation to stay ahead of the competition.

Prioritize Customer Experience

Focus on providing personalized recommendations, easy-to-use search functions, and a convenient online shopping experience. Build a loyal customer base by investing in customer service and support.

Embrace Social Responsibility

Develop programs that help your customers achieve their social responsibility goals. This could include sourcing products from sustainable and ethical suppliers, offering free memberships to low-income families, or donating a portion of your profits to non-profit organizations.

In conclusion, middle-market consumer-based businesses can disrupt traditional industries by leveraging technology, prioritizing customer experience, and embracing social responsibility. By following the example of companies like Thrive Market, these businesses can increase market share, disrupt the industry, and become more profitable.

Call to Action: If you’re a middle-market consumer-based business looking to disrupt the industry and increase profitability, consider adopting these innovative strategies. By doing so, you can break barriers and achieve new levels of success.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore founded Activate Group Inc., a consulting firm that helps businesses achieve their potential through strategic planning and leadership development. He is the author of “The Leader Launchpad” and has worked with over 300 companies across multiple industries.

Why Knowing Your Leadership Style is So Important

In today’s business world, successful leadership isn’t just about holding a high-ranking title and having your name on the door. It’s about your capabilities, your qualities, and, most importantly, your leadership style. As I often say, “You don’t want to be a leader who’s just filling buckets; you want to be the one who’s building pipelines.” Understanding your leadership style allows you to create these pipelines, leading to better team performance and overall business success.

What is Leadership Style?

Leadership style is the manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people. It’s how you communicate, manage, respond to crises, and make decisions. Each style has strengths and weaknesses; understanding your own can help you be more effective and impactful.

There are several recognized leadership styles, but let’s focus on two: transformational and authoritative.

Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their teams to exceed ordinary expectations and achieve extraordinary results. They’re champions of change, often challenging the status quo and encouraging innovation. Shore aptly describes these leaders in “The Leader Launchpad” when he says, “They build a culture where every team member feels they’re part of something bigger than themselves.”

Authoritative leaders, conversely, are clear, concise, and firm in their guidance. They set high standards and closely monitor their teams. They command respect, and their word often goes unquestioned.

Discovering Your Leadership Style

Identifying your leadership style can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. An executive coach can be an invaluable resource in this journey. They can provide an outside perspective, helping you see your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.

Working with a coach involves self-reflection, observation, and feedback. They’ll help you understand your behavioral patterns and how they affect your team. Once you know your style, you can refine your approach, aligning your leadership style with your organization’s needs and culture.

Case Study: From Good to Great Leadership

Let’s consider a real-life example. A senior executive at a leading tech firm, Jane was well-respected but struggled with team engagement and performance. She worked with an executive coach to understand her leadership style.

Jane discovered she was predominantly an authoritative leader, which, while effective in some situations, created a barrier between her and her team. Her coach guided her to incorporate elements of the transformational style into her leadership. She began to foster a more inclusive, open environment, promoting innovation and encouraging her team to take ownership of their work.

Over time, Jane saw remarkable improvements. Her team became more engaged, productivity improved, and morale skyrocketed. The combination of authoritative and transformational leadership was a winning strategy for Jane.

How to Apply These Concepts

Now it’s your turn to make a change. Here are three actionable steps to find and refine your leadership style:

Self-Assessment: Reflect on your behavior, decision-making processes, and how you interact with your team. Seek honest feedback from colleagues and subordinates.

Get a Coach: Consider working with an executive coach who can provide valuable insights and guidance. They can help you navigate your leadership journey.

Experiment and Adjust: Try out different strategies and observe the results. Not every technique will be right for you, but through trial and error, you’ll find your unique approach.

By understanding your leadership style, you can become a more effective, respected leader, leading your team to new heights of success.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc., a business and executive coaching firm. As a seasoned business executive and coach, he has helped countless leaders discover their leadership styles and unlock their potential. Shore is the author of two books, “The Leader Launchpad” and “Your Business is a Leaky Bucket,” providing practical strategies for business success.

Unleashing Leader Success: How Our Mental Models Shape Our Destiny

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “I don’t like that person very much. I must get to know him better.” This quote encapsulates the essence of our journey into the realm of mental models. Join me on this transformative exploration as we uncover the secrets behind achieving remarkable success in today’s fast-paced business landscape.

Mental models are the lenses through which we perceive the world around us. They are our ingrained beliefs, assumptions, and frameworks that shape our thinking, decisions, and actions. Like glasses, our mental models influence how we interpret information and make sense of our experiences. They act as a lens through which we interpret the world, influencing our thoughts, actions, and outcomes. Just like a sculptor molds clay into a masterpiece, our mental models sculpt our reality and determine our level of success.

Shaping Decisions and Actions

 Our mental models have a profound influence on our success. They determine how we perceive opportunities, navigate challenges, and make decisions. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs are trapped by negative mental models, limiting their ability to see possibilities and hindering their growth. They cling to the notion that what brought them success in the past will continue to do so in the future, only to find themselves hitting a glass ceiling.

Consider the story of Sara, a talented entrepreneur who had built a thriving business in the retail industry. However, her mental model was limited, focusing solely on the traditional brick-and-mortar approach. When e-commerce emerged as a disruptive force, Sara resisted embracing it, clinging to her outdated mental model. Consequently, she missed out on exponential growth opportunities that her competitors seized, ultimately leading to her business’s decline.

To overcome the shackles of limited mental models, we must be willing to challenge our assumptions and expand our perspectives. Start by identifying the mental models that govern your decisions. Are they empowering or constraining? Acknowledge that these models are not absolute truths but rather filters we can modify to align with our goals and aspirations.

Remarkable Success Stories

Let’s delve into the stories of three remarkable entrepreneurs who harnessed the power of reshaping their mental models:

Sara Blakely: The founder of Spanx, Blakely challenged the prevailing belief that shapewear couldn’t be comfortable and empowering. Her mental model of innovation and customer-centricity revolutionized the fashion industry and made her a billionaire.

Elon Musk: The visionary behind SpaceX and Tesla has disrupted multiple industries. Musk’s mental model revolves around the notion that “anything is possible.” His unwavering belief in the potential of sustainable energy and space exploration has propelled him to achieve groundbreaking innovations despite numerous skeptics and setbacks.

Oprah Winfrey: From humble beginnings to becoming a media mogul, Winfrey’s mental model centers around empowerment and authenticity. She embraced vulnerability, challenging the conventional wisdom that emotions have no place in business. This shift allowed her to connect deeply with her audience, build a media empire, and inspire millions worldwide.

Jeff Bezos: As the founder of Amazon, Bezos revolutionized the e-commerce industry. His mental model revolves around customer obsession and long-term thinking. Bezos understood that relentless innovation and a customer-centric approach would be the key to success in the digital age. By focusing on the customer experience and constantly reinventing his business, he propelled Amazon to become a global behemoth.

Reshaping Mental Models for Better Decisions

The good news is that we can identify and reshape our mental models to make better decisions and unleash our full potential. Here are some practical steps to help you on this transformative journey:

Awareness: Start by becoming aware of your current mental models. Reflect on the beliefs and assumptions that underpin your thinking and actions. Are they serving you well, or are they holding you back?

Challenge Assumptions: Question your existing mental models. Are they based on facts and evidence, or are they merely assumptions? Look for alternative perspectives and seek out diverse opinions to challenge and expand your thinking.

Embrace Growth Mindset: Adopt a growth mindset that values learning, improvement, and adaptation. Embrace the idea that your mental models are not fixed but malleable. Cultivate a curiosity to explore new ideas and be open to change. Engage in continuous learning, read voraciously, and surround yourself with a diverse network of mentors and peers who challenge your assumptions. Embrace failure as an opportunity for growth and experiment with new ideas to expand your mental horizons.

Conclusion – Why Mental Models Matter

Our mental models shape our destiny. We can reshape our mental models to make better decisions and unlock our full potential by challenging our assumptions, embracing new perspectives, and breaking free from limitations.

The time has come, my fellow leaders, to unlock the full potential of our minds and reshape our mental models for extraordinary success. It’s time to break free from the limitations holding us back and step into a future with boundless possibilities.

 

About the author: Howard M. Shore is a business growth expert who has helped numerous companies succeed in their industries. With over 30 years of experience in business growth and leadership, Howard is a sought-after speaker and advisor who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. He is the author of the book “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits.”

The Power of Focus: How to Achieve Maximum Impact with Less Effort

We live in a world that glorifies business. We often equate long hours and a packed schedule with productivity, but the reality is that being busy does not necessarily mean being productive. In fact, the key to achieving maximum impact is often to do less but do it better. In this article, we’ll explore the power of focus and how it can help you become more productive with less effort.

The Power of Focus

When we talk about focus, we’re talking about the ability to direct our attention and energy towards a specific goal or task. When we’re focused, we’re able to work more efficiently and effectively, which can lead to greater productivity and better outcomes.

One study found that people who were highly focused were 50% more productive than those who were not. This is because focused individuals are better able to manage their time and prioritize their tasks, leading to a more streamlined workflow and better use of their resources.

But how do we become more focused? It starts with identifying the one thing that we can do today that will have the maximum impact on all of our stakeholders.

Identify Your Key Objective

To achieve maximum impact, we need to know what we’re trying to achieve. This means identifying our key objective – the one thing that, if we were to achieve it, would have the biggest impact on our stakeholders.

For example, if you’re a salesperson, your key objective might be to increase revenue. If you’re a manager, your key objective might be to improve team performance. Whatever your role, there is always one thing that you can do today that will have the maximum impact.

Once you’ve identified your key objective, focus your energy and attention on achieving it. This means setting clear goals, prioritizing your tasks, and avoiding distractions that can derail your progress.

Case Example 1: The Power of Focus for Individuals

One example of the power of focus is the story of Tim Ferriss, author of the best-selling book, “The 4-Hour Work Week.” Ferriss was able to increase his productivity and reduce his workload by focusing on the key objective of automating his business.

By identifying the tasks that could be automated or outsourced, Ferriss was able to reduce his workload and free up time to focus on more important tasks. He was able to achieve maximum impact with less effort by working smarter, not harder.

Case Example 2: The Power of Focus for Organizations

Another example of the power of focus is the story of Basecamp, a software development company. Basecamp was able to increase its productivity while reducing the amount of time its employees worked by implementing a four-day workweek.

By focusing on the key objective of improving work-life balance for its employees, Basecamp was able to create a more engaged and productive workforce. Employees were able to recharge their batteries over the long weekend, which led to greater creativity and innovation when they returned to work.

In Conclusion

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of busyness. But being busy does not necessarily mean being productive. The key to achieving maximum impact is to focus our energy and attention on the one thing that will have the biggest impact on our stakeholders.

By identifying our key objective and focusing our efforts on achieving it, we can become more productive with less effort. This can lead to better outcomes for ourselves, our organizations, and our stakeholders.

 

References:

https://www.inc.com/john-rampton/the-power-of-focus-10-steps-to-sharpen-your-focus-today.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2020/07/27/how-to-identify-your-most-important-task-and-get-more

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is a business growth expert who has helped numerous companies succeed in their industries. With over 30 years of experience in business growth and leadership, Howard is a sought-after speaker and advisor who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. He is the author of the book “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits.”

Scaling Your Business: Strategies for Breaking the $50M Ceiling

In the world of business, growth is the ultimate goal. Every entrepreneur dreams of building a company that generates millions in revenue, employs hundreds of people, and dominates its market. But the harsh reality is that most businesses never make it past the $10 million revenue mark, and many end up selling in frustration before they ever reach that point. In this article, we’ll explore why this is the case, share some lesser-known case examples, and provide ideas on how a company can separate itself from the pack.

The Statistics on Scaling

Before we dive into why most businesses fail to break $10 million in revenue, let’s look at some statistics. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 32 million businesses in the United States, but only around 0.5% of those companies ever surpass the $10 million revenue mark. Even more startling, less than 0.1% of businesses reach $50 million in revenue. These numbers make it clear that the path to significant growth is challenging.

Reasons for Stagnation

There are many reasons why businesses struggle to grow beyond a certain point. One of the most significant factors is a lack of scalability. Many companies are built around a single product or service, which limits their ability to expand and diversify. They may also lack the infrastructure and systems necessary to handle rapid growth, which can lead to operational inefficiencies and customer dissatisfaction.

Another common problem is a failure to differentiate from the competition. In crowded markets, standing out and attracting new customers can be difficult. Businesses that fail to offer unique value propositions or exceptional customer experiences will likely struggle.

In some cases, businesses may be limited by external factors, such as regulatory barriers or a lack of available funding. However, more often than not, the biggest obstacles to growth are internal. Founders and leaders may lack the vision, skills, or resources to take their companies to the next level.

Some Case-Examples on Falling Short

While it’s easy to point to well-known companies that have achieved massive success, such as Amazon or Google, there are many lesser-known examples of businesses that have struggled to grow beyond a certain point. One such example is the DVD rental company Redbox. Despite achieving tremendous success in the early 2000s and expanding to over 40,000 locations, Redbox has struggled to compete with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. In 2020, the company’s revenue was just $564 million, far below the $2 billion it generated in 2012.

Another example is the grocery delivery service FreshDirect. Despite being one of the pioneers in the online grocery space, the company has faced stiff competition from Amazon, Walmart, and others. In 2019, FreshDirect’s revenue was just $752 million, well below the $1 billion mark it had hoped to reach by that point.

What Companies Can Do to Separate Themselves and Grow 

So, what can companies do to separate themselves from the pack and achieve significant growth? Here are a few ideas:

(1)  Build a Scalable Business Model: Companies built around a single product or service are unlikely to grow significantly. Businesses must be scalable and diversify their offerings to break through the $10 million revenue mark.

(2)  Differentiate from the Competition: Standing out in a crowded market is essential. Companies offering unique value propositions or exceptional customer experiences are more likely to attract and retain customers.

(3)  Develop a Strong Company Culture: A strong company culture can help attract and retain top talent, which is essential for growth. Companies prioritizing employee engagement and development are more likely to achieve long-term success.

(4)  Embrace Technology: In today’s digital world, technology is essential for growth. Companies that embrace technology and leverage it to improve efficiency, enhance the customer experience, and expand their offerings are more likely to achieve significant growth.

(5)  Focus on Customer Acquisition and Retention: Acquiring new customers is important, but retaining existing ones is equally essential. Companies prioritizing customer retention and loyalty are more likely to achieve sustainable growth.

(6)  Build Strategic Partnerships: Strategic partnerships can help businesses access new markets, technologies, and resources. Companies that develop strong partnerships with complementary businesses are more likely to achieve significant growth.

(7)  Invest in Marketing and Branding: Building a strong brand and investing in marketing is essential for growth. Companies that effectively communicate their value proposition and differentiate themselves from the competition are more likely to attract new customers and achieve significant growth.

In conclusion, while the statistics may seem discouraging, it’s important to remember that achieving significant growth is possible. By building a scalable business model, differentiating from the competition, developing a strong company culture, embracing technology, focusing on customer acquisition and retention, building strategic partnerships, and investing in marketing and branding, businesses can separate themselves from the pack and achieve their growth goals.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., a business consultancy firm that helps entrepreneurs and business leaders achieve their growth goals. With over 30 years of experience in executive coaching, leadership development, and business strategy, Howard has helped countless businesses achieve significant growth and success. He also authorizes two books, “The Leader Launchpad” and “Your Business Is A Leaky Bucket.”

Turbocharging Your Meetings: A Strategic Guide to Effective Preparation

Over the last 40 years, I’ve had the pleasure and sometimes the challenge of conducting and participating in thousands of meetings. I’ve seen firsthand that the difference between a productive meeting and an unproductive one often boils down to a simple factor: understanding the crucial distinction between being prepared and being informed.

When most people walk into a meeting, they have reviewed the provided materials and have a broad understanding of the topic at hand. However, this level of preparedness equates to merely being informed, and it doesn’t foster the strategic insights and critical thinking necessary for fruitful discussions and decision-making.

In a boardroom meeting with one of our prestigious clients, I recall a well-informed participant presenting an extensive report on potential business expansion strategies. The room was filled with nods of acknowledgment but also a tangible sense of confusion. The meeting concluded without a clear decision, and the team members felt disoriented rather than motivated.

In contrast, being prepared involves not just knowing the information but understanding the underlying decisions that need to be made, the necessary information for those decisions, and pre-thinking the questions that need to be answered. It involves challenging the real problem to be solved and reviewing the information to discuss interpretations, questions, and concerns, not just facts.

Imagine a meeting where all attendees have dissected the topics, pre-thought the questions, identified potential decisions, and critically analyzed the available information. The discussion would be far more productive, and decisions would have input and buy-in from all involved.

So, how do we ensure that meetings are not just gatherings of informed individuals but powerhouses of prepared minds? Here are some actionable steps:

Define the Purpose

Before every meeting, clearly define what decision(s) we want to make. Share this objective with attendees.

Identify Required Information

Once the purpose is established, identify and communicate the information required to make those decisions.

Encourage Critical Review

All attendees should review the information in advance, focusing on interpretation, questions, and concerns. Promote critical thinking over merely digesting the information.

Pre-think Questions

Invite participants to pre-think the questions that need to be answered during the meeting.

Challenge the Problem

Lastly, pre-challenge the real problem to be solved. Is it the most pressing issue? Is there an underlying problem that’s being overlooked?

In a similar boardroom scenario as above, but this time with the attendees well-prepared, the result was drastically different. The meeting led to a strategic decision on business expansion, with all participants clear on the reasons behind the decision and their roles in executing it.

It’s essential to remember that everyone’s approach to preparation will differ based on their behavioral style. Some people need more time to absorb information, consider alternatives, and research their thoughts before they are comfortable and willing to share their ideas. Others excel at thinking aloud and can be more fluid in discussions. Respecting and accommodating these differences will foster a more inclusive and productive meeting environment.

By implementing these steps, your meetings will become catalysts for action rather than mere information exchanges. And remember, the most valuable insights often surface in the meeting itself when people have come prepared.

Let’s eliminate post-meeting “aha” moments that lead to decision reversals. Let’s redefine our approach to meeting preparation and unlock the full potential of our collective intelligence.

Ready to supercharge your meetings and boost your team’s productivity? Dive into more insights and strategies in my book, “The Leader Launchpad.”

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group, Inc., a growth expert, renowned speaker, and bestselling author of “The Leader Launchpad.” Known for his practical advice and real-world experience, Shore has dedicated his career to helping organizations develop their leadership capabilities and cultivate high-performing teams.*

State of Expansion: Key Steps for a Successful Business Transition to a New State

As the CEO of Activate Group Inc. and author of “The Leader Launchpad.” As someone who’s seen the intricate mechanics of business growth from a unique vantage point, I’m here to share some indispensable steps for successfully expanding your business to a new state.

Understand State-specific Laws and Regulations

Before setting foot into a new state, it’s essential to understand its laws and regulations – employment laws, taxes, permits, and licenses. Failure to comply can lead to penalties and tarnish your brand reputation. For instance, I once knew a small technology company that made a rushed expansion to another state without fully understanding the employment laws there. They ended up with a lawsuit that cost them dearly.

Actionable Step: Hire a local attorney who specializes in business law and can guide you through the legal maze.

Market Research

Understanding the market landscape in the new state is critical. Each state has unique cultural, social, and economic factors influencing consumer behavior. Remember Target’s failed expansion into Canada? It’s a classic case of neglecting market research leading to misreading consumer needs.

Actionable Step: Conduct comprehensive market research to understand local consumer behavior, needs, and competition.

Consider Logistical Requirements:

Moving to a new state means dealing with new logistical challenges. This includes supply chain management, transportation, and warehousing needs. Underestimating these can lead to operational bottlenecks.

Actionable Step: Build a robust logistical plan considering the geographical and infrastructural realities of the new state.

Assemble a Strong Local Team:

A local team understands the market pulse and can provide valuable insights. They can also help in establishing connections and building relationships.

Actionable Step: Prioritize local hiring. If you’re moving existing employees, ensure they have the resources to adjust and settle in the new state.

Community Engagement:

Integrating your business into the local community can significantly enhance your brand reputation. I recall a retail brand that launched in a new state and won the community by sponsoring local events and contributing to community development.

Actionable Step: Plan for CSR activities or community events that resonate with the local community.

Conclusion

With careful planning and execution, expanding your business into a new state can be rewarding. As a C-suite leader, understanding and executing these steps can turn this daunting task into a successful business adventure.  I invite you to click on the following link and check-out the short video I created for one of our trusted partners and just posted.  It will provide you with more comprehensive content and perspective. Additionally, following are the links to the first two articles in this series of three; Recognizing the Signals to Expand and Evading Common Pitfalls.

If you found these insights useful and want more such strategies, please consider subscribing to our newsletter at www.activategroupinc.com. Remember, a successful business is built not just on big leaps but on meticulous steps.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc., a recognized authority on business growth, and the author of “The Leader Launchpad.” Howard has led countless businesses towards exponential growth with his unique insights and strategies. His passion lies in helping business leaders turn their ambitions into achievements, making him a trusted advisor for businesses on their path to success.

The Decisive Second Step: Evading Common Pitfalls when Expanding to a Second Location

Congratulations on the success of your first business location. With flowing revenues and a high-spirited team, an expansion is the next logical step. But as you embark on this exciting venture of opening a second location, it’s paramount to anticipate potential pitfalls and strategize to avoid them, ensuring a smooth continuation of your brand’s success story.

As the CEO of Activate Group Inc and advisor to many high-growth organizations, I am often asked how best to approach the opening of a new location. The second location may be harder than the first. And this decision usually takes longer to become profitable and is more costly than imagined. In this article, I share with you some crucial insights that could change the trajectory of your business expansion plans.

Pitfall 1 – Not Replicating the Success Blueprint

The first mistake businesses often make when opening a second location is overlooking the replication of the successful elements that made the first location thrive. A real-life case in point: A popular sandwich shop famous for its distinctive, homey interior design opens a second outlet in a bustling city area but neglects to replicate its unique ambiance. The regulars walk in expecting the same comforting atmosphere but are met with a stark, impersonal setting. The result? A downturn in customer retention and, ultimately, revenue.

Actionable Step: Document the key elements contributing to your brand’s success, like interior design, customer service approach, and product presentation. Ensure these elements are appropriately integrated into your new location while tailoring them to the local context.

Pitfall 2 – Overlooking Market Research

Second, never underestimate the power of thorough market research. Just because a concept worked wonders in one location doesn’t mean it will work in another. A classic example? Walmart’s failed venture in Germany. Despite being a big hit in the United States, Walmart couldn’t resonate with the German market due to cultural disparities.

Actionable Step: Invest time and resources in rigorous market research before you expand. Understand the local market dynamics, customer preferences, and competition. If possible, test your strategies through a pilot program.

Pitfall 3 – Spreading Resources Thin

Rushing into opening a new location without a clear evaluation of your resource capacity can lead to disaster. Both locations may underperform due to insufficient financial, human, and operational resources.

Actionable Step: Undertake a comprehensive resource evaluation. Develop a well-structured business plan, complete with budgeting and financial forecasting. Make sure you have a robust team to manage the new outlet.

Pitfall 4 – Ignoring Entry Strategies

The path to a successful second location also depends on the entry strategy. In the restoration industry, we’ve seen that companies who either entered with a strong client base or acquired an existing company with a client base and team have been most successful.

Actionable Step: Evaluate the pros and cons of various entry strategies. Whether you choose organic growth or an acquisition, make sure you have a strong foundation – a solid client base and an efficient team.

Pitfall 5 – Overlooking Talent Pool Considerations

Lastly, never underestimate the importance of talent pool considerations in your new location. A client once chose a location near his beach house, which though pleasing to him, failed to attract the right talent due to the long commute and unaffordable living costs relative to their compensation structure.

Actionable Step: Consider the availability of talent, commute times, and living costs when choosing your new location. Remember, a thriving team is fundamental to the success of your new venture.

In Conclusion

As a CEO, your primary goal is to make strategic decisions that drive sustainable growth. By steering clear of these common mistakes when expanding to a second location, you set the stage for continued success.

Expansion is a bold and ambitious step, but it needs to be taken with caution, planning, and foresight. I invite you to click on the following link and check-out the short video I created for one of our trusted partners and just posted.  It will provide you with more comprehensive content and perspective.

For more insights, strategies, and advice on growing your business, please consider subscribing to our newsletter at Activate Group Inc. (click-here).

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc., a seasoned business leader, and the author of “The Leader Launchpad.” With years of experience helping companies achieve exponential growth, Howard is passionate about sharing his insights to empower other business leaders to achieve their potential. His approach combines strategic analysis with hands-on, actionable steps, making him a trusted advisor for companies aiming for success.

 

Harnessing The Power of Purpose-Driven Networking: The Untapped Superpower for Transformative Impact

“Unlocking Potential, Enabling Results” is not merely a catchy slogan at Activate Group, Inc (AGI). It encapsulates the essence of our Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG): to impact 500,000 lives. We believe in bringing people’s needs to the forefront because we are fully aware of the transformative power that lies in genuine, purposeful networking. As a natural networker, I’ve recently been reminded of this superpower and its potency, which often goes unnoticed.

Expand Your Purpose for Networking

Many of us have yet to realize that networking shouldn’t solely be for personal gain. It is about more than just expanding our professional circle or scoring business opportunities; it’s about facilitating opportunities for others. The time we dedicate to creating connections isn’t just an investment in ourselves but in others and the community at large. As I always say, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” (The Leader Launchpad).

Why, then, don’t more people network this way? Misconceptions and personal inhibitions aside, if people realized the transformative power of purpose-driven networking, they would likely be more productive and might even work fewer hours. Last week, for example, I made 20 connections, each one a potential door opener for someone in need.

Purpose-driven networking has facilitated job seekers to find their dream jobs while assisting employers in filling essential roles. It has provided answers to pressing issues, allowed access to potential clients, and helped individuals find strategic partners. It’s like being a locksmith in a world full of unopened doors. Each key you provide could open up a world of opportunities for someone else.

Building a Networking Foundation

Integrating purposeful networking into our everyday routines can be simple and rewarding. Start by dedicating at least an hour a week. This could mean joining groups with like-minded individuals or inviting a new acquaintance for lunch or coffee. The idea is to expand your circle intentionally, aiming to be valuable to others.

Keys to Impactful Networking

Remember, the best kind of networking involves active listening and genuinely engaging with others. This, along with a little creativity, can lead to impactful connections. You could consider volunteering in community projects, joining online forums, or even attending local events. All these avenues give you an opportunity to connect with people who share your interests and values.

“Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge” (Your Business is a Leaky Bucket). Indeed, the ethos of purpose-driven networking is intertwined with the fundamentals of good leadership. By choosing to focus on others and their needs, we empower them, contribute to their success, and in the process, improve our communities and ourselves.

Take Action and Build Your Purpose-Driven Network

So, dare to unlock this untapped superpower. Let’s cultivate purposeful connections and create a transformation ripple beyond personal gains. Networking for the sake of others is not just a potent tool for social and professional success; it’s a profound way to leave a positive imprint in the world.

 

About the Author:  Howard M. Shore is CEO of Activate Group, Inc., and the author of the renowned books “The Leader Launchpad” and “Your Business is a Leaky Bucket.” An expert on business strategy and leadership, Shore is passionate about helping individuals and organizations unlock their full potential. His transformative insights continue impacting countless lives and propelling companies to unprecedented success.

 

Unfolding Opportunities: Recognizing the Signals to Expand Your Business to a New Location

I am Howard M. Shore, CEO of Activate Group Inc. and author of “The Leader Launchpad.” With years of experience strategizing and guiding businesses towards growth, I have gathered some key signals indicating it’s time to expand your business to a new location.

Consistent Business Growth

If your business has seen consistent growth over the years, it strongly indicates that you’ve developed a successful business model. Remember the story of Starbucks? They started with just one store in Seattle and noticed a steady rise in sales. Recognizing this as a sign of successful growth, they ventured into new locations and are now globally recognized.

Actionable Step: Conduct a thorough financial analysis to ensure sustainable growth.

High Market Demand

If you’re constantly turning down orders or your customers are traveling long distances to reach you, it’s a clear signal that there’s a high demand for your product or service.

Actionable Step: Conduct surveys to identify the demand in potential locations.

Healthy Cash Flow

Expanding to a new location requires a significant financial investment. If your business has a healthy cash flow and good profit margins, it might be time to consider expansion.

Actionable Step: Prepare a financial forecast to estimate the cost of expansion.

A Successful Team

 A confident, efficient team that can take on challenges is a great asset. If you have such a team and can replicate it in a new location, expansion could be on the cards.

Actionable Step: Evaluate your team’s readiness and willingness to expand.

Attractive Market Conditions

 If market research indicates favorable conditions—like a growing target audience, low competition, or advantageous real estate prices—in another location, it might be a sign to expand.

Actionable Step: Research and analyze the market conditions of the potential location.

 

In Conclusion...Recognizing and strategically acting on these signs can open new avenues of success for your business. As a business leader, it’s up to you to seize these opportunities and navigate the expansion journey confidently.

If you found these insights helpful and are looking for more business growth strategies, consider subscribing to our newsletter at Activate Group Inc. After all, recognizing the right opportunities at the right time is half the battle won in business.

 

About the Auther:  Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc., a celebrated author, and a seasoned business growth expert. With a keen eye for recognizing business opportunities and a wealth of strategies at his disposal, Howard has been instrumental in turning growth goals into reality for numerous businesses. He continues to inspire and guide business leaders, making him a trusted name in the world of business growth and expansion.

Innovative Strategies for Middle Market B2B Companies to Disrupt Traditional Industries

Staying relevant and profitable in traditional industries can be challenging for middle-market B2B companies. However, with the right strategies, these companies can increase their market share, disrupt the industry, and ultimately become more profitable.

One example of a middle market B2B company that disrupted the industry is LaSalle Solutions, a leading provider of technology lifecycle management services. They achieved this by redefining what it meant to be a technology lifecycle management company.

One of the ways LaSalle Solutions achieved this was by focusing on innovation. They introduced new services, such as IT asset disposition, which helped their clients dispose of outdated technology in an environmentally-friendly way. They also developed a cloud-based platform allowing clients to manage their technology assets more efficiently.

LaSalle Solutions also focused on customer experience, investing heavily in customer service and support. This allowed them to differentiate themselves from competitors and gain a loyal customer base.

Another way LaSalle Solutions disrupted the industry was by embracing sustainability. They developed a program called “GreenNurture“, which helped clients reduce their carbon footprint by donating used technology to schools and non-profits.

So, how can middle-market B2B companies apply these strategies to their business? Here are some ideas:

Focus on Innovation

Look for ways to improve your services and processes by embracing new technologies and exploring new ideas. Invest in research and development to stay ahead of the curve and cater to evolving customer needs.

Prioritize Customer Experience

Invest in your customer service and support to differentiate yourself from your competitors. This will help you gain a loyal customer base and increase your market share.

Embrace Sustainability

Develop environmentally-friendly programs that help your clients reduce their carbon footprint and achieve their sustainability goals. This will not only differentiate you from your competitors but also help you connect with customers who prioritize sustainability.

In conclusion, middle-market B2B companies can disrupt traditional industries by focusing on innovation, customer experience, and sustainability. By following the example of companies like LaSalle Solutions, middle market B2B companies can increase their market share, disrupt the industry, and ultimately become more profitable.

 

About the author:  Howard M. Shore is a business growth expert who has helped numerous companies succeed in their industries. With over 30 years of experience in business growth and leadership, Howard is a sought-after speaker and advisor who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. He is the author of the book “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits.”

From EOS to the Next Level: How an Advisor Can Help CEOs and Business Owners Achieve More with Less Effort

As a CEO or business owner, you may have already implemented the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) or similar approaches like Scaling Up and experienced significant progress in improving your leadership operating systems, meetings, metrics, and priorities. However, there’s always a next level, and you may wonder if there’s a better, faster, and more comprehensive approach to take your business to the next level of excellence.

At Activate Group, we believe that evolving as leaders, teams, and businesses is crucial to success. Growth is like software versions, and there’s always a better version that can produce more output with the same effort. EOS is a great starting point for smaller companies, but you need a more comprehensive approach to scaling as your business grows and becomes more complex.

You likely need a different approach to take your business to the next level. Thanks to Marshal Goldsmith for pointing out that what got us here won’t get us there. We must go beyond EOS execution systems and look at the broader business ecosystem. We must advance soft systems, such as culture, team cohesiveness, and human capital management. And hard systems such as strategy and cash. We believe leaders need to shape and evolve their business ecosystem to grow with the company.

A challenge for successful CEOs is that they usually perform well in two of the six systems: strategy, execution, cash, culture, human capital management, and team cohesiveness. They must work on the other four systems to achieve significant growth and profits. Unfortunately, overconfidence in themselves and their teams can cause them to miss this critical development aspect.

Many people fail to get results with advisors because they don’t invest in the right type of advisor. There are coaches, consultants, and trainers, each with unique strengths and approaches. To succeed we must combine all three aspects into a customized formula focused on outcomes instead of processes. This comprehensive approach helps identify and address the gaps in your business ecosystem and help you achieve your goals with less effort.

Choosing the right advisor can be challenging, especially with so many options. Referrals are an excellent starting point, but your advisor may not be the right fit for you. You need to tailor the approach to your specific needs and goals, ensuring you receive the support and guidance needed to succeed.

It is important to focus on the desired outcomes and not just the process. Often, we confuse activity with productivity. I see many leadership teams following the selected approaches and experiencing less than desired results. And many coaches and consultants focus on the mechanics of the process and are blind to the lack of outcomes. The right advisor will help you see your blind spots and challenge you to address them.

A great example was our helping a leadership team see that there was an opportunity to improve their business model through pricing. After some resistance, the CEO saw an opportunity to change his pricing structure. They have a recurring customer model that increases average monthly recurring revenue by 20%, ultimately improving his business valuation by approximately $40M.

In conclusion, while EOS and similar approaches can be a great starting point for smaller companies, successful CEOs and business owners must look beyond basic execution systems to take their businesses to the next level of excellence. At Activate Group, we provide a comprehensive approach beyond EOS to examine all aspects of your business ecosystem. Contact us today to learn how we can help you achieve your goals with less effort and drive significant growth and profits.

 

About the author: Howard M. Shore is a business growth expert who has helped numerous companies succeed in their industries. With over 30 years of experience in business growth and leadership, Howard is a sought-after speaker and advisor who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. He is the author of the book “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits.”

Coaching vs. Consulting: Which One Do You Need and How to Choose the Right Advisor

Are you looking for guidance to improve your business? There are two main approaches to consider: coaching and consulting. While both aim to help individuals or organizations achieve their goals, their methods and outcomes differ. Understanding the differences and choosing the right advisor can significantly impact your success.

Coaching empowers individuals and leadership teams to discover solutions to challenges and develop their potential. Coaches are trained to listen actively, ask powerful questions, and provide constructive feedback. They encourage self-reflection, self-awareness, and both personal and team growth. Coaches often work one-on-one with clients but can also facilitate group coaching sessions.

For example, a business owner who wants to improve their leadership skills may hire a coach specializing in leadership development. The coach would work with the client to identify their strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and create an action plan. The coach would then support the client in implementing the plan, providing guidance and accountability along the way.

Consulting, on the other hand, is more directive and focused on providing expert advice and solutions. Consultants are typically subject matter experts with specialized knowledge and skills. They analyze problems, identify opportunities, and make recommendations based on their expertise. Consultants often work with teams or entire organizations, and their work may result in tangible deliverables such as reports or action plans.

For example, a company that wants to implement a new technology system may hire a consultant who specializes in that area. The consultant would analyze the company’s needs and capabilities, evaluate options, and recommend a specific solution. The consultant may also support implementing the new system and training employees.

So, how do you know which approach is right for you? Coaching may be the way to go if you need someone to help you develop your skills, overcome challenges, or achieve personal growth. Consulting may be the better option if you need expert advice, specialized knowledge, or a specific solution to a problem.

Once you have determined which approach you need, and the answer may very well need to be a hybrid, the next step is to choose the right advisor. Here are some tips to help you find the right fit:

Expertise

Look for an advisor with expertise in your area of focus. An advisor specializing in your field or industry will better understand your challenges and goals.

Credentials and Experience

Check their credentials and experience. Look for advisors who are certified and have a track record of success.

Style and Approach

Schedule a consultation. Talk to the advisor and understand their advising style and approach. Make sure you feel comfortable with them and that they fit your personality and goals well.

References

Ask for references. Talk to other clients the advisor has worked with to get an idea of their experience and results.

In conclusion, coaching and consulting are both valuable approaches to improving your business. Understanding the differences and choosing the right advisor can make a significant impact on your success. By following these tips, you can find an advisor who will help you achieve your goals and reach your full potential.

 

About the author:  Howard M. Shore is a business growth expert who has helped numerous companies succeed in their industries. With over 30 years of experience in business growth and leadership, Howard is a sought-after speaker and advisor who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. He is the author of the book “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits.”

The Power of Networking: How Building and Nurturing Connections Can Skyrocket Your Success

In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, networking is crucial for career development, business growth, and personal fulfillment. And, likely, you are not doing enough of it. It is no longer enough to rely solely on our knowledge, expertise, or resources. We must expand our horizons, learn from others, and tap into diverse ideas and perspectives. Networking is an essential way to do this. Building and nurturing a network is not only a nice-to-have but a must-have skill that can significantly impact personal and professional growth. I have experienced this firsthand as a successful CEO and advisor to CEOs. My ability to build networks and maintain relationships has been a key factor to success, and I encourage everyone to do the same.

Networking is not just about meeting new people; it’s about building long-term relationships and creating a community of like-minded individuals. A robust network can help us in countless ways, from finding new job opportunities to getting feedback on our ideas, learning new skills, and expanding our knowledge. It can also provide emotional support, boost our confidence, and help us navigate challenging situations.

Staying Relevant and Informed

One of the key benefits of networking is that it can help us stay relevant and informed in our industry or field. Connecting with peers, thought leaders and experts lets us stay up-to-date on the latest trends, news, and insights. We can also learn from others’ experiences and avoid making the same mistakes they did. This can be invaluable in today’s fast-changing and competitive business environment. And having too narrow a network can have severe consequences.

New Ideas and Perspectives

Another benefit of networking is that it provides new ideas and perspectives. By connecting with people from different backgrounds and industries, you can gain new insights and fresh perspectives to help you make better decisions. I found that some of the best ideas come from people without experience in my industry or with my company. I often say that our ego is not our amigo and that we should be seeking as many ideas different from our own as possible.

Build Your Brand and Reputation

Networking can also help you establish your reputation and build your brand. Building relationships with people who respect and trust you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. This can lead to more opportunities and help you stand out. I am known for generously adding value to everyone I meet and am connecting with people daily. When introducing someone, I often hear, “If Howard says we should meet, I need to make time.” And, I find it much easier than colleagues to get key people to take my call.

Leaders with strong networks are more apt to be more effective, produce better results, and get things done faster. Networking can also help us expand our reach and influence. By connecting with a diverse group of people, we can increase our visibility, credibility, and authority. This can be especially beneficial for entrepreneurs, executives, and salespeople who must build a strong brand and reputation. A strong network can also provide new clients, customers, and partners access.

Be a Better Leader and Good Steward of Your Network

Another critical benefit of networking is that it can help us develop interpersonal and communication skills. By engaging in conversations, asking questions, and actively listening, we can improve our ability to connect with others, build rapport, and establish trust. These skills are essential for any leadership role, sales position, or collaborative endeavor.

Finally, networking can be a source of personal fulfillment and happiness. Building meaningful relationships with others can create a sense of community and belonging. We can also help others achieve their goals, which can be incredibly rewarding.

In conclusion, building and nurturing a network is an essential skill everyone should develop. It can help us achieve our goals, expand our knowledge, and create meaningful relationships. Networking is not just about meeting new people; it’s about building a community of like-minded individuals who can support and inspire us. Investing in our network can improve our career prospects, business outcomes, and personal fulfillment.

 

Howard M. Shore is an expert on building and nurturing networks. He has been advising CEOs and their teams for over 20 years and has helped numerous organizations achieve their goals through networking. Howard is the author of “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits,” a book that provides practical strategies for building a successful business.

Disrupting Traditional Industries: Strategies to Increase Market Share and Profitability

In the fast-paced business world, staying relevant and profitable in traditional industries can be daunting. However, it is not impossible. With the right strategies, any business can increase its market share, disrupt the industry, and ultimately become more profitable. This article will explore ways to change your business in traditional industries and make it stand out in the market.

Let’s take the example of WhiteWave Foods. This company started as a small organic farm in Boulder, Colorado, and grew into a leading food and beverage company with a market capitalization of over $10 billion. WhiteWave Foods disrupted the industry by redefining what it meant to be a food and beverage company.

With an increasing number of people becoming health-conscious, WhiteWave Foods recognized the need for plant-based alternatives that could replace dairy products. One of the ways WhiteWave Foods achieved this was by focusing on plant-based dairy alternatives. They introduced their signature almond milk, which quickly became popular among consumers. This move not only helped WhiteWave Foods gain market share but also disrupted the dairy industry.

Another way WhiteWave Foods disrupted the industry was by embracing sustainability. They became one of the first food and beverage companies to publicly commit to sustainability goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and waste. This helped them connect with consumers who prioritize environmentally-friendly products and gain a competitive edge in the market.

WhiteWave Foods also focused on innovation, constantly exploring new ways to improve its products and processes. They invested in research and development and introduced new products such as non-dairy yogurts, plant-based creamers, and coffee creamers. This allowed them to stay ahead of the curve and cater to evolving consumer preferences.

So, how can you apply these strategies to your business? Here are some ideas:

Focus on Innovation

Embrace new technologies and explore new ways to improve your products or services. Look for ways to add value to your customer’s lives and make their experience more enjoyable.

Embrace Sustainability

Become more environmentally friendly by reducing waste, using sustainable materials, and investing in renewable energy. Consumers are increasingly aware of the impact of their purchases on the environment, and are more likely to support companies that prioritize sustainability.

Offer Alternatives

With an increasing number of people looking for options and choice, consider offering alternatives to your products. This could open up new markets and help you gain market share.

Collaborate with Other Companies

Look for opportunities to collaborate with companies in your industry or related industries. This could lead to new ideas, products, and services you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

In conclusion, changing your business in traditional industries can be challenging, but it is not impossible. By focusing on innovation, embracing sustainability, offering alternatives, and collaborating with other companies, you can disrupt the industry, increase your market share, and ultimately become more profitable.

 

About the author: Howard M. Shore is a business growth expert who has helped numerous companies succeed in their industries. With over 30 years of experience in business growth and leadership, Howard is a sought-after speaker and advisor who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. He is the author of the book “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits.”

From Surviving to Thriving: How to Adopt a Growth-Oriented Mindset During Downturns

In times of economic downturns, many companies make the mistake of focusing solely on cutting costs. While this may provide short-term relief, it often comes at the expense of long-term growth. Adopting a growth-oriented mindset is crucial to thriving in today’s competitive marketplace, even during difficult times. In this article, we’ll discuss steps companies can take to shift from a cost-oriented approach to a growth-oriented one, using a real company example to illustrate our points.

First, it’s important to recognize that cutting costs alone is not a sustainable solution. In fact, it can even harm a company’s future prospects. For example, let’s look at the case of Kodak. When digital photography emerged as a major threat to its traditional film-based business, Kodak responded by cutting costs and reducing investments in R&D. This strategy provided short-term relief but ultimately proved disastrous. Kodak failed to adapt to the changing market, and the company eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Instead of focusing on cost-cutting, companies should adopt a growth-oriented mindset that prioritizes innovation and investment in the future. Here are some steps to help make this shift:

Reframe the Conversation

One of the first steps in becoming growth-oriented is to reframe the conversation within the company. This means moving away from discussions solely focused on cutting costs and instead emphasizing growth opportunities. This can be done by setting new goals and KPIs focused on innovation and growth rather than just cost-cutting.

For example, let’s look at the case of Amazon. In 2001, the company faced a major challenge when the dot-com bubble burst. Many companies were cutting costs, but Amazon took a different approach. Instead of focusing solely on reducing expenses, the company set a goal to achieve profitability by Q4 of 2001. This goal helped shift the conversation within the company and encouraged employees to think creatively about achieving it. Amazon ultimately succeeded in reaching this goal, setting the stage for the company’s future growth.

Invest in R&D

Another important step in becoming growth-oriented is to invest in R&D. This means dedicating resources to developing new products and services that can help the company stay ahead of the competition. While R&D can be expensive in the short term, it’s critical for long-term growth.

For example, let’s look at the case of Apple. In the early 2000s, the company faced a challenging market, with declining sales of its core products. Rather than cutting costs, Apple invested heavily in R&D, developing new products like the iPod and the iPhone. These products not only helped to turn the company around, but they also set the stage for Apple’s continued success in the years to come.

Focus on Customer Needs

A growth-oriented mindset also means focusing on customer needs. This means developing products and services that solve real customer problems rather than just trying to cut costs or maximize profits.

For example, let’s look at the case of Airbnb. When the company first started, it faced significant challenges in convincing people to rent out their homes to strangers. Rather than giving up, Airbnb focused on understanding the needs of its customers and developing solutions that addressed their concerns. This included developing a robust verification process to ensure the safety of hosts and guests, as well as building a community of users who could vouch for the quality of the service. This customer-centric approach helped Airbnb to overcome its early challenges and paved the way for its continued growth.

Embrace Risk-Taking

Finally, a growth-oriented mindset means embracing risk-taking. This means being willing to take bold steps to pursue growth, even if it means taking on some degree of risk.

For example, let’s look at the case of the clothing retailer Zara. In the early 2000s, the company faced stiff competition from other fast-fashion retailers. Rather than focusing on cost-cutting, Zara took a bold step and invested heavily in its supply chain and logistics. This allowed the company to dramatically reduce its lead times, meaning that it could bring new designs to market much faster than its competitors. This focus on speed and innovation helped Zara to become one of the world’s most successful clothing retailers.

In conclusion, while it can be tempting for companies to adopt a cost-oriented approach during economic downturns, it’s important to remember that this approach can ultimately harm a company’s long-term growth prospects. Instead, companies should adopt a growth-oriented mindset that prioritizes innovation, investment in R&D, customer needs, and risk-taking. By doing so, they can position themselves for success both during difficult times and in the future.

As Howard M. Shore said in his book “The Leader Launchpad,” “Leaders who understand the importance of growth over cost-cutting are the ones who will thrive in today’s rapidly changing business environment.” So let’s embrace growth-oriented thinking and help our companies succeed, even during the toughest times.

 

About Howard M. Shore: Howard M. Shore is a growth-oriented leader passionate about helping companies achieve long-term success. With over 30 years of experience in business leadership and entrepreneurship, Howard is a trusted advisor to CEOs and business leaders worldwide. He is the founder of Activate Group Inc., a consultancy that helps businesses across a range of industries to adopt growth-oriented strategies. Howard is also the author of two books, “The Leader Launchpad” and “Your Business is a Leaky Bucket,” both focused on helping leaders drive growth and innovation within their organizations.

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.

Building A Winning Team – Making Decisions Stick

Many leaders complain that they hate to go to meetings because they are non-productive. It is common to find that decisions taken at meetings do not stick.
Instead, group decisions at meetings become the subjects of post-meeting lobbying. Some team members call separate meetings to try to filibuster the decision. Others take a passive-aggressive approach, deciding to hope the decision goes away. In most organizations the latter approach works best because accountability is limited – by not doing your part, you might get a slap on the wrist in the worst-case scenario. In the end, the company loses precious time and money.

The above issues are found in varying degrees in every organization. Pat Lencioni has really captured this well in his book, “Five Dysfunctions of A Team”. This leadership fable identifies team behavioral factors that will reduce the results in your company. I think the book is a must-read for any organization that depends on teamwork to make money.
Company teams come in various forms. It starts with an executive team to run the company. Then it takes teamwork to: create loyal customers; deliver your product or service; manufacture your products; ship your products; execute a special project; and so on. The more employees and customers you have, the more complicated this gets because you need more teams, and each employee may have to play on more than one team.

I will give you a snapshot of the key issues I took away from the book, and then I want to encourage you to read the book for yourself. I believe that by addressing the five dysfunctions Pat Lencioni identifies, you will find that the decisions you make in your company will stick. The dysfunctions work in a pyramid, just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you have not addressed lower level need with an individual, it is futile to address the next level need. Pat’s five dysfunctions are as follows:

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

Absence of trust, the first dysfunction, is the hardest to overcome. It starts with the premise that one must have confidence among team members, believe that one’s peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be careful around group members. In most teams, too much time and energy, and too many good ideas are wasted trying to protect one’s reputation by managing behaviors, comments, and interactions because of a lack of trust that was created in previous interactions. People are reluctant to ask for help and to offer assistance to others, causing lower morale and unwanted turnover. To address this dysfunction, a leader must demonstrate vulnerability first, and make sure this is genuine. Leaders must encourage open dialogue in meetings, look for situations where people engage in behavior that demonstrates lack of trust, and bring it out in the open. They need to have everyone openly discuss the strength each team member brings to the team. They also need to describe the behaviors that lead them to be distrustful and get them to address those behaviors. No one, including the CEO, is immune from this exercise. One bad apple will spoil the batch.

Fear of conflict is the second dysfunction. Addressing the first dysfunction makes it much easier to address the second. If the first exercise succeeded, team members are mentally prepared to engage in passionate discussion without the fear of being perceived as vulnerable or the fear of reprisal. It means that one can speak up and not worry that someone is going to judge them, question their worth to the team if a particular comment is not one of their best, or interrupt them until they finish their thought. They know that while their idea may not be accepted, at least it will be heard. What is important here is to focus on discussion and resolving issues more quickly while avoiding personality-focused and mean-spirited attacks.

Many people have been trained to launch personal attacks when they are not getting their way. The leader has to make sure that this behavior is not tolerated, and that topics focus on the issues that need to be resolved. If everyone is not weighing in and openly debating and disagreeing on important ideas at your meetings, look for passive-aggressive behavior behind the scenes or back-channel attacks. What organizations find is that healthy conflict saves them a lot of time and leads to much better decisions. The role of the leader is to practice restraint and to allow for conflict and resolution to occur naturally.

The third dysfunction, commitment, is often missing in many organizations. As you can now see, it likely resulted from a lack of healthy debate in meetings, which led to false consensus and weak buy-in to the decisions. By having productive conflict and tapping into everyone’s perspectives and opinions, everyone can confidently buy in and commit. Even those who voted against the matter at least know their issues have been heard and considered. Now commitment is required.

Great teams know the danger of seeking consensus and certainty and find ways to achieve buy-in from the rest of the team. The leader’s role is to demonstrate decisiveness and to communicate awareness and acceptance of the fact that some decisions may turn out wrong. He or she must push decisions around issues, as well as adherence to schedules that the team has set. The leader must cascade messaging to key people in the organization to support follow-through on decisions so that everyone is clearly aligned.

The fourth dysfunction, accountability is also a team effort. Team members need to hold each other accountable in daily, weekly and monthly meetings when their behaviors and actions do not support the goals set by the team. Peer pressure is the most effective and efficient means of producing performance. A team should create clear standards, using leading indicators to enable each team member to know that they are doing their part. The more detailed the actions plans and the more specific the leading and lagging performance measures are, the easier it will be to hold people accountable. This is where many teams fall down. It is the leader’s role to demand these details and to allow the team to serve as the primary accountability mechanism. However, when the team does not serve this function well, there should be an external measure so that they team cannot run too far off course and eventually fail to achieve its goal(s).

The last dysfunction, inattention to results, seems obvious but is very hard to manage. This is where ego and self-preservation get in the way of company goals. If teammates are not being held accountable for their contributions to the collective results, they will likely look to their own personal or departmental interests and advancement. By having good measures in place to align an individual’s incentives with that of their team goals rather than their personal performance, an organization can produce better results. The role of the leader is to set the tone to focus on results. A problem will arise if team members sense that the leader values anything other than team results or demonstrates anything different in their own behaviors than what is expected of the team. It is important that a leader’s conversations with individuals are consistent with focusing on organizational results and not encouraging selfish behaviors.

Many organizations will find that they can significantly increase their results by improving the performance of their teams. Pat Lencioni has done a wonderful job of identifying these five areas that clearly compromise the efforts of most teams.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To contact Howard Shore please call 305.722.7213 or visit our business coaching page for more information.
Used the “Synopsis of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Randy Mayeax, of Creative Communication Network for www.15MinuteBusinessBooks.com as additional reference material.

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.

Leaders Get Out of Your Own Way

The CEO of a manufacturing company recently approached a business coach because he was frustrated by his organization’s performance. He knew it was underperforming, failing to achieve his objectives, had never had positive cash flow since he took the helm, yet he could not put his finger on why all this was happening. He thought that implementing a good leadership operating system would make all his problems go away. Little did he know that poor leadership was the cause and everything else was effect… Leaders Get Out of Your Own Way!

Without boring you with too many details, the coach facilitated a three-day retreat with the executive team, and it was clear why this company was having trouble. While this company did need a leadership operating system that could help guide them to make better and faster decisions, create winning strategies, limit focus on a few key priorities, align everyone, and hold people accountable, this company faced a bigger problem. The main issue was the dysfunction amongst the leadership team itself. Worse, the CEO could not see that his behavior was the center of it. He loved to argue every point, even when it did not matter, hated to lose more than he loved to win, belittled his leaders at every turn, and had to put his stamp on everything.

After several working sessions with the coach, the team came clean and told the CEO how they felt. Rather than taking this as an opportunity to grow and shift, the CEO’s ego took hold. He told everyone in the room that he did not believe he needed to change, and if they could not stand the heat they should find another place to work! As his coach tried to work with him to see how his people had become “yes” people, the opposite of what he told them he wanted, he became even more adamant that maybe they were just the wrong people. We call someone like this un-coachable. While the coach could help implement the leadership operating system, the effectiveness of the system was severely compromised by the inadequacy of the CEO, leaving an enormous amount of profit and growth potential on the table.

Are you concerned about how to get more out of your team? Have you wondered why one team functions better than another? Have you noticed that your team members are not contributing much in your meetings, but you know they have valuable ideas? Or worse, are you now questioning their capacity to grow.

I share this story right from the start because much of our success as coaches depends on how coachable our clients are. The tools and processes are only as good as the people we work with. Most companies have a lot more growth and profit potential staring them right in the face. Having a great team is right around the corner, but they can’t see it. Less stress, more control over the business, less drama, and happy customers can be more simply attained. The secret can be found in their “Leaky Bucket.” I discuss this in detail in Your Business Is a Leaky Bucket: Learn How to Avoid Losing Millions in Revenue and Profit Annually

The Leaky Bucket concept is very important. The leaks covered in the book will not be found in your financial statements. Yes, they impact the results, but not in ways that are easily measured. I used the Leaky Bucket as a metaphor to help you visualize cash pouring out of a bucket through lots of various sized holes. You can also imagine water flowing over the top because the bucket has not grown fast enough.

I mention my book because this whitepaper, goes deeper into the issues related to profit leak number 1, “poor leadership.” When you make allowances for poor leadership, you are deciding that a substandard leader has more to offer than everyone else put together, which is a fool’s bet. Your ineffective leader causes everyone else to perform at lower levels. You lose access to a lot of great ideas, and people are less apt to willingly give extra effort.

In this whitepaper, I want to address three issues that I have found that have the biggest effect on our ability to maximize success with a client. All three factors can be addressed through training and coaching as long as the “student” is a willing participant.

  • Ego Traps – It is obvious to most people that having too big an ego is not an appealing trait, and nothing good comes from it. Therefore, it is amazing how many leaders are unconsciously walking around daily suffering from an ego problem and inflicting harm to their careers, their team, and their organization.
  • Strength in Dealing with People – A lot more attention needs to be given to soft skills in the college setting. Too many people are walking around the workplace with little idea on how to properly work in teams, how to communicate effectively with others, and just practice simple people etiquette.
  • Learning How to Say “No” – I am sure you will agree that people are too conditioned to say “yes.” Learning how and when to say “no” is crucial to the success of your organization.

Ego Traps

After 35 years in the workforce, I am convinced that the number one hindrance to peak performance is ego. While you would no doubt agree with me, and are probably saying to yourself “duh”, ego problems are the least dealt-with issue and are the most severe the higher up we go in organizations. This is significant because leaders have more of an impact on their organizations than their subordinates. When you have a senior leader with an overinflated ego, business life is a train wreck!

If you have not read it yet, The Ideal Team Player, by Patrick Lencioni, must be at the top of every leader’s must-read list. In this book, Patrick recounts a story about leaders that discover the three virtues that are necessary to avoid having assholes working for them. Sorry for the language, but that was the story line. While it seems obvious in hindsight, he was right to identify that you are not an ideal team player if you do not possess humility, hunger, or common sense about how to interpersonally deal with people. I am going to deal with the last item later in this whitepaper. In his book, they describe people who lack humility and interpersonal skills as “bulldozers.” Imagine what this does to employee engagement, turnover, productivity, and so on. There is no way your organization could operate near its peak performance. Worse, it would be hard for you to recruit top talent or talent in general. Who wants to work for a “bulldozer?”

Are You Even Aware That Your Ego is Causing a Problem?

You may find this difficult to believe but many people do not recognize when their egos are clouding their judgment, swaying decision making, causing favoritism, inciting organizational strife, stifling teamwork, and causing high turnover rates. They refuse to consider the ideas of others, and in many cases, do nothing because they are afraid to be wrong. Ego is a blinder and a form of self-sabotage. It stops them from processing information and seeing the world as it is. In some cases, they are more concerned about themselves and blinded by the beauty of their names in lights that they fail to realize that it is not all about them, that others contributed to the results, that others are not there to serve the leader’s greatness, and that their job as the leader is to bring out the best of others.

“Being average means, you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.”John Wooden

The number one job of a leader is to make their employees’ jobs easier! I recently had breakfast with a CEO I am coaching, and he had mentioned that the COO seemed overloaded. He had wondered if he had hired the wrong person. As we talked, it became clear that they had never established clear priorities together. In other words, everything was important! When I started asking him questions about what he believed the top priorities where for this person in the current quarter, he paused. It was obvious that he was unsure. A great example of setting a good clear priority was an advertising agency that had too much complexity in its client intake process. It took two weeks and six different people to onboard a new client! After proper focus and attention, that was reduced to one hour and one person. That could not have happened had they not focused on a clear priority and de-emphasized other things to get that done.

You Can Reduce Complexity by Saying “No.”

A great example of a company that benefited from saying “no” is Southwest Airlines. They say “no” often. If you want reserved seating, you do not fly Southwest, because their boarding process does not allow for it. Southwest Airlines, unlike most of the competition, does not charge for bags. All of their planes are 737s. This simplifies their fleet, reduces the time it takes to train mechanics, and drastically improves inventory management. In addition, they do not provide onboard amenities. Also, you will notice they fly to just 101 destinations. They choose airports with lower gate fees. Additionally, you can only book flights on their website. The culmination of these “no” decisions is that they have remained one of the most profitable airlines in the industry. As of this writing, they are second only to Delta Airlines in market capitalization with approximately half the number of employees.

Saying “No” Will Simplify Your Life

Typically, leaders push back on the concept of saying “no”. To that end, make it a priority NOT to schedule any meetings or calls in the first three hours of each day. Use that time to work on one key task to move the rocks (your main priorities) out of your way. If you finish in less time, use the leftover time to go after the gravel, sand, and water tasks in that order, the lesser priorities that also fill your daily bucket. This ensures you are working on at least five key motivators each week. You have been trained since you entered the workforce to please your customers and your bosses. They make you feel as if you always have to go the extra mile and exceed expectations! The problem with this mentality is that by trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. You set yourself and others up for failure. You might think it takes courage to say “no”. In reality, it takes brains to say “no”. And the better practice is to prioritize your time commitments and always put thoughtful productivity at the forefront of your mind.

In Conclusion

Strong leadership is essential to maximizing the success of your organization. Failing to address a poor leader in your organization is the equivalence of leaking money out of your bucket. I encourage you to coach each leader in your organization to check their egos at the door. We all falter. When you notice colleagues faltering, reach out in a positive manner to help them see it so that you can all grow as leaders. Don’t assume that just because someone has poor people skills that it must stay that way. Recognize that they have never been taught or required to be any different. Take responsibility to help them see a new way of interacting with the team. Work hard as a leadership team to say “no” more often. Help everyone see what is most important and get better at letting the rest wait. In the end you will find an organization that will grow more profitability with a lot less drama.

 

Howard Shore is a 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, contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

 

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”John Wooden

Our society is notorious for seeking immediate gratification. The benefit of better health is a long-term goal. In the short term, however, a person is apt to avoid 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 long-term goals.

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, you must find something more motivating to replace them. For example, many people would exercise if their doctor told them, “If you do not start to regularly exercise tomorrow, you’ll have only six months to live. If you do exercise regularly, you will live another twenty-five years.” That is quite a carrot to dangle.

An additional aspect of using time is that 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 really spend it. Once you have a solid understanding of how you spend your time, you can redirect time you control and use it more productively by delegating activities to others.

Are You Chasing Revenue Everywhere?

A key area where leaders have the hardest time saying “no” is when it comes to revenue.  This is critical. Not only is this a critical strategic conversation, it is also an issue that can destroy a significant amount of your organizational resources; both time and money. Not all revenue is good revenue. In addition, the more market segments target, geographies you try to conquer, product and services you offer, and distribution channels required, the more resources required. It is important to be prudent in how you go about building your revenue. It is very important to know when and how to say “no”!

Your strategy will help you consider the best type of revenue to target. 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, not aiming to be all things to all segments. You might love pie, but you’d likely not be feeling too well if you ate the entire pie at one sitting. The same is true regarding the health of your business. You must pick the right slice and exercise moderation. Targeting every source of revenue can leave you spread thin, the proverbial jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Profit leaks result from not focusing your efforts on the most valuable and sensible avenues for revenue.

What does this have to do with saying “no?” Positioning your company in a growth industry, market segment, or sector is crucial to the continued success of your company. To have future growth, regardless of how you are doing in this quarter or year, there must be a target market that your products/services are focused on and that is regularly growing. When businesses mistakenly chase revenue anywhere it leads them, they wind up with less of it. Great companies quickly learn that by segmenting the marketplace, they can perfect their business model around owning their segment or slice of the pie.

Without Saying “No”, Everything Is Equally Important

You set your employees up for failure by saying yes to everything. When everything is important, nothing is truly important! Perfection does not exist. Simple math dictates that the more things you randomly throw on someone’s plate, the less time they have to spend on each thing. Overloads cause leaks in company buckets.

A domino effect occurs when leaders cannot say “no” to anything. Let’s take the people ramifications. The more complicated your service model, the more talented your service staff has to be. They have to be smarter than the average employee in the marketplace while also maintaining specialized skills to handle your customers. That said, when you overload them with responsibilities, you’ll find they cannot reach all your original projected goals.

“Being average means, you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.”John Wooden

The number one job of a leader is to make their employees’ jobs easier! I recently had breakfast with a CEO I am coaching, and he had mentioned that the COO seemed overloaded. He had wondered if he had hired the wrong person. As we talked, it became clear that they had never established clear priorities together. In other words, everything was important! When I started asking him questions about what he believed the top priorities where for this person in the current quarter, he paused. It was obvious that he was unsure. A great example of setting a good clear priority was an advertising agency that had too much complexity in its client intake process. It took two weeks and six different people to onboard a new client! After proper focus and attention, that was reduced to one hour and one person. That could not have happened had they not focused on a clear priority and de-emphasized other things to get that done.

You Can Reduce Complexity by Saying “No.”

A great example of a company that benefited from saying “no” is Southwest Airlines. They say “no” often. If you want reserved seating, you do not fly Southwest, because their boarding process does not allow for it. Southwest Airlines, unlike most of the competition, does not charge for bags. All of their planes are 737s. This simplifies their fleet, reduces the time it takes to train mechanics, and drastically improves inventory management. In addition, they do not provide onboard amenities. Also, you will notice they fly to just 101 destinations. They choose airports with lower gate fees. Additionally, you can only book flights on their website. The culmination of these “no” decisions is that they have remained one of the most profitable airlines in the industry. As of this writing, they are second only to Delta Airlines in market capitalization with approximately half the number of employees.

Saying “No” Will Simplify Your Life

Typically, leaders push back on the concept of saying “no”. To that end, make it a priority NOT to schedule any meetings or calls in the first three hours of each day. Use that time to work on one key task to move the rocks (your main priorities) out of your way. If you finish in less time, use the leftover time to go after the gravel, sand, and water tasks in that order, the lesser priorities that also fill your daily bucket. This ensures you are working on at least five key motivators each week. You have been trained since you entered the workforce to please your customers and your bosses. They make you feel as if you always have to go the extra mile and exceed expectations! The problem with this mentality is that by trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. You set yourself and others up for failure. You might think it takes courage to say “no”. In reality, it takes brains to say “no”. And the better practice is to prioritize your time commitments and always put thoughtful productivity at the forefront of your mind.

In Conclusion

Strong leadership is essential to maximizing the success of your organization. Failing to address a poor leader in your organization is the equivalence of leaking money out of your bucket. I encourage you to coach each leader in your organization to check their egos at the door. We all falter. When you notice colleagues faltering, reach out in a positive manner to help them see it so that you can all grow as leaders. Don’t assume that just because someone has poor people skills that it must stay that way. Recognize that they have never been taught or required to be any different. Take responsibility to help them see a new way of interacting with the team. Work hard as a leadership team to say “no” more often. Help everyone see what is most important and get better at letting the rest wait. In the end you will find an organization that will grow more profitability with a lot less drama.

 

Howard Shore is a 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, contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

 

“You are not a failure until you start blaming others for your mistakes.”John Wooden

The Multiplier has a completely different way of handling people. Where Diminishers cause people to underperform, Multipliers can get the very best out of people and some believe exceed expectations. They are considered “liberators” as they create an intense environment that requires people to tap into their best thinking and work. They are considered “challengers” as they define an opportunity that causes people to stretch rather than the directive that limits the outcome. The Multiplier wants to make sound decisions, so they encourage vigorous debate on important decisions, usually staying quiet during the debate. After all, they know their own opinion. They really value the opinions of their team. They are “investors” as they invest in people to take ownership of results and are invested in their success!

Learning How to Say No!

In my book, Your Business is A Leaky Bucket, profit leak number 12 is dedicated to “being allergic to saying “no”. Rarely do I meet someone that tells me that they have mastered the use of time! If you are one of those people, you primarily work only those things that will contribute the biggest impact to your organization and role, and you are good at deferring, delegating, or discarding the rest. As a leader, you are communicating well, and you are emphasizing messages you really want your team to hear. Most importantly, you are clear on the right type of opportunities you expect your team to aggressively pursue and those you want them to defer, delegate, or discard. To a very large degree, your success depends on it.

Do You Use Your Time or Does Your Time Use You?

You cannot manage time itself, but you can manage how you choose to use your time. We are under more time pressure than ever, and those little gadgets like cell phones may make our lives much harder than easier.

Time is the great equalizer. Everyone gets the same amount of time: 24 hours in each day. You cannot buy more time, and no one can give you more of it. Thus, the most important question you can ask daily is: “How can I and 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, a learning mechanism for your decisions as to where time should be used in the future. One person in your group losing focus on congruent goals can impact everyone’s time and even create a huge barrier to success.

Too often people search in the wrong places when trying to understand why they are not achieving their goals. They think there is something wrong with the time management program they’re using, so they buy a new one. The real problem is not what program or process they currently use. Rather, it is what habits of thoughts and attitudes they use to decide how they will use their time.

To do that, you must pick and choose which opportunities and tasks to undertake. Time and priority management is a skill few people master, but every person needs. One of the greatest mistakes many leaders make is to say “yes” too often. In many cases, time management is more about what you decide not to do, rather than what you do. Does your leadership team fail to say “no” often enough? Or does it choose to chase fires rather than identify and address the real issues staring them in the face? While there is no exact percentage, you should be passing on at least 25 percent of the opportunities and responsibilities that come your way. Otherwise, you will find yourself spending far too much time on tasks you never should have agreed to take on in the first place.

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 what the belief systems are that cause that behavior. For example, let’s say you decide you should exercise three days a week to improve your health. Your primary belief system, however, is that exercise is boring and painful. What do you think the chances are you’ll implement that “decision” to exercise three days a week?

Commonly, I hear CEOs complain 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 are usually insistent this is just part of business as usual. However, a closer examination teaches us that some people like to put out fires. They enjoy the immediate gratification of handling the daily emergencies, want to be the ones with all the answers, and have trouble saying “no” to others. These habits directly impact their ability to manage their time effectively.

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”John Wooden

Our society is notorious for seeking immediate gratification. The benefit of better health is a long-term goal. In the short term, however, a person is apt to avoid 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 long-term goals.

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, you must find something more motivating to replace them. For example, many people would exercise if their doctor told them, “If you do not start to regularly exercise tomorrow, you’ll have only six months to live. If you do exercise regularly, you will live another twenty-five years.” That is quite a carrot to dangle.

An additional aspect of using time is that 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 really spend it. Once you have a solid understanding of how you spend your time, you can redirect time you control and use it more productively by delegating activities to others.

Are You Chasing Revenue Everywhere?

A key area where leaders have the hardest time saying “no” is when it comes to revenue.  This is critical. Not only is this a critical strategic conversation, it is also an issue that can destroy a significant amount of your organizational resources; both time and money. Not all revenue is good revenue. In addition, the more market segments target, geographies you try to conquer, product and services you offer, and distribution channels required, the more resources required. It is important to be prudent in how you go about building your revenue. It is very important to know when and how to say “no”!

Your strategy will help you consider the best type of revenue to target. 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, not aiming to be all things to all segments. You might love pie, but you’d likely not be feeling too well if you ate the entire pie at one sitting. The same is true regarding the health of your business. You must pick the right slice and exercise moderation. Targeting every source of revenue can leave you spread thin, the proverbial jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Profit leaks result from not focusing your efforts on the most valuable and sensible avenues for revenue.

What does this have to do with saying “no?” Positioning your company in a growth industry, market segment, or sector is crucial to the continued success of your company. To have future growth, regardless of how you are doing in this quarter or year, there must be a target market that your products/services are focused on and that is regularly growing. When businesses mistakenly chase revenue anywhere it leads them, they wind up with less of it. Great companies quickly learn that by segmenting the marketplace, they can perfect their business model around owning their segment or slice of the pie.

Without Saying “No”, Everything Is Equally Important

You set your employees up for failure by saying yes to everything. When everything is important, nothing is truly important! Perfection does not exist. Simple math dictates that the more things you randomly throw on someone’s plate, the less time they have to spend on each thing. Overloads cause leaks in company buckets.

A domino effect occurs when leaders cannot say “no” to anything. Let’s take the people ramifications. The more complicated your service model, the more talented your service staff has to be. They have to be smarter than the average employee in the marketplace while also maintaining specialized skills to handle your customers. That said, when you overload them with responsibilities, you’ll find they cannot reach all your original projected goals.

“Being average means, you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.”John Wooden

The number one job of a leader is to make their employees’ jobs easier! I recently had breakfast with a CEO I am coaching, and he had mentioned that the COO seemed overloaded. He had wondered if he had hired the wrong person. As we talked, it became clear that they had never established clear priorities together. In other words, everything was important! When I started asking him questions about what he believed the top priorities where for this person in the current quarter, he paused. It was obvious that he was unsure. A great example of setting a good clear priority was an advertising agency that had too much complexity in its client intake process. It took two weeks and six different people to onboard a new client! After proper focus and attention, that was reduced to one hour and one person. That could not have happened had they not focused on a clear priority and de-emphasized other things to get that done.

You Can Reduce Complexity by Saying “No.”

A great example of a company that benefited from saying “no” is Southwest Airlines. They say “no” often. If you want reserved seating, you do not fly Southwest, because their boarding process does not allow for it. Southwest Airlines, unlike most of the competition, does not charge for bags. All of their planes are 737s. This simplifies their fleet, reduces the time it takes to train mechanics, and drastically improves inventory management. In addition, they do not provide onboard amenities. Also, you will notice they fly to just 101 destinations. They choose airports with lower gate fees. Additionally, you can only book flights on their website. The culmination of these “no” decisions is that they have remained one of the most profitable airlines in the industry. As of this writing, they are second only to Delta Airlines in market capitalization with approximately half the number of employees.

Saying “No” Will Simplify Your Life

Typically, leaders push back on the concept of saying “no”. To that end, make it a priority NOT to schedule any meetings or calls in the first three hours of each day. Use that time to work on one key task to move the rocks (your main priorities) out of your way. If you finish in less time, use the leftover time to go after the gravel, sand, and water tasks in that order, the lesser priorities that also fill your daily bucket. This ensures you are working on at least five key motivators each week. You have been trained since you entered the workforce to please your customers and your bosses. They make you feel as if you always have to go the extra mile and exceed expectations! The problem with this mentality is that by trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. You set yourself and others up for failure. You might think it takes courage to say “no”. In reality, it takes brains to say “no”. And the better practice is to prioritize your time commitments and always put thoughtful productivity at the forefront of your mind.

In Conclusion

Strong leadership is essential to maximizing the success of your organization. Failing to address a poor leader in your organization is the equivalence of leaking money out of your bucket. I encourage you to coach each leader in your organization to check their egos at the door. We all falter. When you notice colleagues faltering, reach out in a positive manner to help them see it so that you can all grow as leaders. Don’t assume that just because someone has poor people skills that it must stay that way. Recognize that they have never been taught or required to be any different. Take responsibility to help them see a new way of interacting with the team. Work hard as a leadership team to say “no” more often. Help everyone see what is most important and get better at letting the rest wait. In the end you will find an organization that will grow more profitability with a lot less drama.

 

Howard Shore is a 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, contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

 

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”John Wooden

The degree of assertiveness you use in dealing with people provokes fairly predictable reactions by others, which in turn help determine how effective you are as a leader. Assertive communication is characterized by honesty. It enforces rules, requires results, and is a direct approach that shows concern for yourself and others. It communicates the message that “you are both okay.”

This communication style could be construed as treating all the individuals involved as equal, each deserving of respect, and no more entitled than another to have things done their way. You feel connected to others when you are speaking to them, and you are trying to help them take control of their lives. You address issues and problems as they arise and create environments where others can grow and mature.

The reason assertive communication is so effective is that it combines the positive dimensions of both aggressive and passive communicators. The assertive communicator is goal-oriented and direct, and at the same time is a good listener, considerate, and thoughtful. Thus, the assertive leader bridges the most positive aspects of the two other styles of behavior while at the same time avoiding the negative aspects of those two styles. The assertive style is both a good human relations style and a good team-building style for any organization. The assertive leader is viewed as someone who is strong, energetic, and is both able and willing to fight for resources needed by the department. Further, the assertive leader does not appear to play favorites, since he or she does not bend rules or fail to enforce rules in an effort to be liked by others. This leadership style is most admired by team members and employees.

Leadership Biases

As I mentioned above, there are some biases that I believe leaders have that severely hamper their interactions with people. While there are many I could discuss, there are two biases that cause some significant lost opportunities in organizations.

God Complex

I have met too many leaders, particularly founders, who believe everyone in their company exists to serve them. While it is true they started the business, and at one point you could say they were the business, at some point the organization must grow up and operate as a business, not a bunch of serfs working for their master. Everyone in a successful business, including the founder, exists to provide products and services to customers.

Each person in the organization has a role in the process of providing products and services. As a team, we help each other to do a better job than our competition so that we can operate more profitably, and thus enable everyone to earn their fair compensation and the business to expand and create more jobs. The leader’s job is to make the subordinate’s job easier so that all are in a better position to serve our customers well. Not the other way around!

I have witnessed servant leaders on average get two to three times the productivity of those that have the god complex. Their employees give extra effort, work efficiently, and spend extra time looking after the customer. Ironically, they spend more time looking after their leaders than subordinates of leaders with a god complex. I believe the reason is that the latter secretly resent their boss and do the minimums to stay out of trouble.

Leaders with this complex cause everyone else to be inefficient. Employees spend their days readjusting their schedules from best serving customer to best serving the leader, resulting in severe organizational inefficiency. Such leaders misuse resources and do not even recognize it because they are so selfish.

Others Will Not Figure Things Out Without Me

In a world where most jobs require people to use their brains, and each situation is a little different, most roles are filled with knowledgeable workers. Ironically, many leaders do not treat them as such. In Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Liz Wiseman identified the difference between leaders who access and revitalize the intelligence in the people around them (Multipliers) and those whose view of intelligence is based on elitism and scarcity (Diminishers). The Diminishers believe that intelligent people are a rare breed and that they are one of those few smart people. They then conclude that other people will never figure things out without them.

Here is the rub! We are all Multipliers and Diminishers. The questions are how often are we multipliers and with whom? Leaders that have huge ego problems are most often Diminishers. I know of one CEO that terrorizes the leadership team and other employees daily with emails micromanaging their every activity. This CEO’s team loses tremendous daily productivity in order to respond to those emails, provide reports to show what is being asked for, and attend update meetings so the boss can show them what to do.

Diminishers have other traits that cause them to get far less productivity than their people are capable of. The “tyrant” creates a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capability. We have all been around that leader who loves to debate everything, hates to lose, and loves to win. It takes too much energy to get our own points across, so we just don’t even try.

Another Diminisher is the “know-it-all” that gives directives that showcase how much they know. Then there is the “decision-maker” who makes centralized, abrupt decisions that confuse the organization.

“You are not a failure until you start blaming others for your mistakes.”John Wooden

The Multiplier has a completely different way of handling people. Where Diminishers cause people to underperform, Multipliers can get the very best out of people and some believe exceed expectations. They are considered “liberators” as they create an intense environment that requires people to tap into their best thinking and work. They are considered “challengers” as they define an opportunity that causes people to stretch rather than the directive that limits the outcome. The Multiplier wants to make sound decisions, so they encourage vigorous debate on important decisions, usually staying quiet during the debate. After all, they know their own opinion. They really value the opinions of their team. They are “investors” as they invest in people to take ownership of results and are invested in their success!

Learning How to Say No!

In my book, Your Business is A Leaky Bucket, profit leak number 12 is dedicated to “being allergic to saying “no”. Rarely do I meet someone that tells me that they have mastered the use of time! If you are one of those people, you primarily work only those things that will contribute the biggest impact to your organization and role, and you are good at deferring, delegating, or discarding the rest. As a leader, you are communicating well, and you are emphasizing messages you really want your team to hear. Most importantly, you are clear on the right type of opportunities you expect your team to aggressively pursue and those you want them to defer, delegate, or discard. To a very large degree, your success depends on it.

Do You Use Your Time or Does Your Time Use You?

You cannot manage time itself, but you can manage how you choose to use your time. We are under more time pressure than ever, and those little gadgets like cell phones may make our lives much harder than easier.

Time is the great equalizer. Everyone gets the same amount of time: 24 hours in each day. You cannot buy more time, and no one can give you more of it. Thus, the most important question you can ask daily is: “How can I and 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, a learning mechanism for your decisions as to where time should be used in the future. One person in your group losing focus on congruent goals can impact everyone’s time and even create a huge barrier to success.

Too often people search in the wrong places when trying to understand why they are not achieving their goals. They think there is something wrong with the time management program they’re using, so they buy a new one. The real problem is not what program or process they currently use. Rather, it is what habits of thoughts and attitudes they use to decide how they will use their time.

To do that, you must pick and choose which opportunities and tasks to undertake. Time and priority management is a skill few people master, but every person needs. One of the greatest mistakes many leaders make is to say “yes” too often. In many cases, time management is more about what you decide not to do, rather than what you do. Does your leadership team fail to say “no” often enough? Or does it choose to chase fires rather than identify and address the real issues staring them in the face? While there is no exact percentage, you should be passing on at least 25 percent of the opportunities and responsibilities that come your way. Otherwise, you will find yourself spending far too much time on tasks you never should have agreed to take on in the first place.

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 what the belief systems are that cause that behavior. For example, let’s say you decide you should exercise three days a week to improve your health. Your primary belief system, however, is that exercise is boring and painful. What do you think the chances are you’ll implement that “decision” to exercise three days a week?

Commonly, I hear CEOs complain 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 are usually insistent this is just part of business as usual. However, a closer examination teaches us that some people like to put out fires. They enjoy the immediate gratification of handling the daily emergencies, want to be the ones with all the answers, and have trouble saying “no” to others. These habits directly impact their ability to manage their time effectively.

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”John Wooden

Our society is notorious for seeking immediate gratification. The benefit of better health is a long-term goal. In the short term, however, a person is apt to avoid 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 long-term goals.

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, you must find something more motivating to replace them. For example, many people would exercise if their doctor told them, “If you do not start to regularly exercise tomorrow, you’ll have only six months to live. If you do exercise regularly, you will live another twenty-five years.” That is quite a carrot to dangle.

An additional aspect of using time is that 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 really spend it. Once you have a solid understanding of how you spend your time, you can redirect time you control and use it more productively by delegating activities to others.

Are You Chasing Revenue Everywhere?

A key area where leaders have the hardest time saying “no” is when it comes to revenue.  This is critical. Not only is this a critical strategic conversation, it is also an issue that can destroy a significant amount of your organizational resources; both time and money. Not all revenue is good revenue. In addition, the more market segments target, geographies you try to conquer, product and services you offer, and distribution channels required, the more resources required. It is important to be prudent in how you go about building your revenue. It is very important to know when and how to say “no”!

Your strategy will help you consider the best type of revenue to target. 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, not aiming to be all things to all segments. You might love pie, but you’d likely not be feeling too well if you ate the entire pie at one sitting. The same is true regarding the health of your business. You must pick the right slice and exercise moderation. Targeting every source of revenue can leave you spread thin, the proverbial jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Profit leaks result from not focusing your efforts on the most valuable and sensible avenues for revenue.

What does this have to do with saying “no?” Positioning your company in a growth industry, market segment, or sector is crucial to the continued success of your company. To have future growth, regardless of how you are doing in this quarter or year, there must be a target market that your products/services are focused on and that is regularly growing. When businesses mistakenly chase revenue anywhere it leads them, they wind up with less of it. Great companies quickly learn that by segmenting the marketplace, they can perfect their business model around owning their segment or slice of the pie.

Without Saying “No”, Everything Is Equally Important

You set your employees up for failure by saying yes to everything. When everything is important, nothing is truly important! Perfection does not exist. Simple math dictates that the more things you randomly throw on someone’s plate, the less time they have to spend on each thing. Overloads cause leaks in company buckets.

A domino effect occurs when leaders cannot say “no” to anything. Let’s take the people ramifications. The more complicated your service model, the more talented your service staff has to be. They have to be smarter than the average employee in the marketplace while also maintaining specialized skills to handle your customers. That said, when you overload them with responsibilities, you’ll find they cannot reach all your original projected goals.

“Being average means, you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.”John Wooden

The number one job of a leader is to make their employees’ jobs easier! I recently had breakfast with a CEO I am coaching, and he had mentioned that the COO seemed overloaded. He had wondered if he had hired the wrong person. As we talked, it became clear that they had never established clear priorities together. In other words, everything was important! When I started asking him questions about what he believed the top priorities where for this person in the current quarter, he paused. It was obvious that he was unsure. A great example of setting a good clear priority was an advertising agency that had too much complexity in its client intake process. It took two weeks and six different people to onboard a new client! After proper focus and attention, that was reduced to one hour and one person. That could not have happened had they not focused on a clear priority and de-emphasized other things to get that done.

You Can Reduce Complexity by Saying “No.”

A great example of a company that benefited from saying “no” is Southwest Airlines. They say “no” often. If you want reserved seating, you do not fly Southwest, because their boarding process does not allow for it. Southwest Airlines, unlike most of the competition, does not charge for bags. All of their planes are 737s. This simplifies their fleet, reduces the time it takes to train mechanics, and drastically improves inventory management. In addition, they do not provide onboard amenities. Also, you will notice they fly to just 101 destinations. They choose airports with lower gate fees. Additionally, you can only book flights on their website. The culmination of these “no” decisions is that they have remained one of the most profitable airlines in the industry. As of this writing, they are second only to Delta Airlines in market capitalization with approximately half the number of employees.

Saying “No” Will Simplify Your Life

Typically, leaders push back on the concept of saying “no”. To that end, make it a priority NOT to schedule any meetings or calls in the first three hours of each day. Use that time to work on one key task to move the rocks (your main priorities) out of your way. If you finish in less time, use the leftover time to go after the gravel, sand, and water tasks in that order, the lesser priorities that also fill your daily bucket. This ensures you are working on at least five key motivators each week. You have been trained since you entered the workforce to please your customers and your bosses. They make you feel as if you always have to go the extra mile and exceed expectations! The problem with this mentality is that by trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. You set yourself and others up for failure. You might think it takes courage to say “no”. In reality, it takes brains to say “no”. And the better practice is to prioritize your time commitments and always put thoughtful productivity at the forefront of your mind.

In Conclusion

Strong leadership is essential to maximizing the success of your organization. Failing to address a poor leader in your organization is the equivalence of leaking money out of your bucket. I encourage you to coach each leader in your organization to check their egos at the door. We all falter. When you notice colleagues faltering, reach out in a positive manner to help them see it so that you can all grow as leaders. Don’t assume that just because someone has poor people skills that it must stay that way. Recognize that they have never been taught or required to be any different. Take responsibility to help them see a new way of interacting with the team. Work hard as a leadership team to say “no” more often. Help everyone see what is most important and get better at letting the rest wait. In the end you will find an organization that will grow more profitability with a lot less drama.

 

Howard Shore is a 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, contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

 

 “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”John Wooden

Do you easily compliment or praise teammates without hesitation? Do you easily admit mistakes? Do you easily take lower-level work for the good of the team? How easily do you defer credit to the team for accomplishments? Do you easily acknowledge and seek help for your weaknesses? Do you offer and accept apologies graciously? If your colleagues do not indicate that for each of these questions you “usually” act in that manner, you have an ego problem.

There are Two Types of Ego Issues

There are two primary ways in which Ego manifests itself. The first is when someone thinks too highly of themselves. This person spends a lot of their time making sure everyone knows how great they are, making sure they get their time on stage. You get to hear their incredible opinions, taking all the credit for success, posting their picture every two minutes on Facebook and Instagram to show you everywhere they are, who they’re with, and their latest recognition. We will refer to this as false pride. The second type, is fear or self-doubt, which is when you think less of yourself than you should and are consumed with your own shortcomings. In many cases, these people can be more damaging than the false pride folks as they can significantly erode their effectiveness or the effectiveness of their departments.

One of the hardest challenges for leaders is to remain grounded in the face of their success. When everyone defers to you, it must be tempting to start believing your own press releases. It must be easy to think: I am smarter, more charismatic, and more powerful than everyone else. As leaders reach a point where they believe their opinion matters more than yours, they stop listening. And that means they stop learning.  Leaders dominated by false pride are often called controllers. Even when they don’t know what they are doing, they have a high need for power and control.

As an Executive Coach, I’ve encountered many controllers who really believe their people cannot possibly decide without them. They act as bottlenecks to their organizations because everything has to flow through them. They honestly believe they are right every time; every change they make to a document was crucial to its success; they are the best at selecting new employees; and they are expert at every function in the company. This is, of course, buffoonery, but they cannot see it. They can see everyone else’s mistakes but their own. The organization ends its days cleaning up their leader’s messes, doing double and triple the work, and keeping their ideas to themselves because there is no way around it.

At the other end of the spectrum are the fear-driven managers, often characterized as do-nothing bosses. They are described as never around, always avoiding conflict, and not very helpful. They often leave their team members alone, even when these individuals are insecure and need help.

Do-nothing bosses don’t believe in themselves or trust their own judgment. They value others’ thoughts more than their own, especially thoughts from those to whom they report. Thus, they rarely speak out and support their own team members.

Solutions to the Ego Barrier

The great thing about the “ego” trap is that it is a coachable issue. Now keep in mind, one is only coachable if they desire being coached and want to change. If not, you can stop reading because the person you’re dealing with is not going to change.

In The Ideal Team Player, Lencioni suggests we make the three virtues mandatory in our organizations. If someone is not willing to be coached and does not address their humility problem, I would remove them from the organization. In the long run, such people will cost you far more than they can possibly be worth. They cause everyone else to be less effective, and no one person is worth more than the many. If you happen to be a subordinate of this person, and there is no chance they will be replaced (because they are the owner or CEO), then my recommendation is to leave. You will never receive the appreciation you deserve. They will always cause unnecessary drama for you and other teammates, and there will be more pleasurable places to work. Life is too short, and you deserve better!

Now if you want to address the ego barrier here are some practical suggestions for developing your humility:

  • If you suffer fear or self-doubt, it is important identify the cause of your insecurity. I would work backwards in time to discover when it started and how it manifested. Whatever the cause, it is often helpful to share your issue(s) with teammates and manager and ask them for help to overcome it/them. While this seems counterintuitive, it is often liberating when you share with others. You will often receive a lot of empathy and support, and it makes it easier for others to coach you through it when they realize you are aware of your issues and want help.
  • Practice giving credit to others. Giving credit to others helps break your habit of taking credit for everything. A great exercise every leader should practice is to find a least one genuine compliment you can give to at least one employee daily. Keep track and see how many times you give praise versus criticism daily. It is instructive. Leaders that lack humility really struggle with this one at first. I can remember one client with more than 60 employees that refused to do this exercise after their culture survey came back indicating that employees felt they rarely if ever received praise from any managers in the company. In this person’s mind, it was the equivalent of giving everyone a trophy for showing up to work. The CEO felt that it was not appropriate to compliment someone for doing their job. You will not be surprised to know that this organization receives very low employee engagement scores every year and has a serious problem recruiting new employees.
  • Be vulnerable. People cannot relate to superheroes. Recognize and acknowledge your weaker points. On a piece of paper, identify the skills you are weak at. Identify the behaviors that get in your way. Next, I want you to draw 4 squares on a piece of paper. In Square 1, list the activities in the company that you love to do and are great at. In Square 2, list the activities you do that you are great at but don’t like to do. In Square 3, make a list of the activities that you are involved in that you are not good at but like to do. In Square 4, list the activities you are involved in that you are not good at and don’t like to do. If you do not have a fair number of items in 2, 3 and 4, you were not brutally honest. Now sit down with your team and share with the team what you have learned. Show your humility and immediately delegate everything in boxes 3 and 4 to others because there are people who can do those items 5 to 10 times faster and better than you. Stop meddling. Ask your teammates if they agree with you in terms of your strengths in boxes 1 and 2, and be willing to hear them out. Anything that you should have put in boxes 3 and 4, delegate to others. Then figure out what from Square 2 you can give to someone else.
  • Seek mentorship. Find three people you trust to serve as mentors. Choose mentors you can trust to tell you the truth even when it hurts. Make a commitment to listen to their opinions with an open mind.

Strength in Dealing with People

The second most crucial issue I see holding back organizations is how leaders treat their people. In Lencioni’s The Ideal Team Player, the essential virtue of “smart”, which he describes as a person’s common sense about people and their ability to be interpersonally appropriate and aware in individual and group situations. I agree with Patrick that this is an essential component in teamwork and being a leader. However, there is another dimension I want to address, namely the leader’s biases toward how they view subordinates and colleagues in general.

Let’s first address the leader’s common sense about people. Much has been written about emotional intelligence, but not enough has been done to apply it. Let’s face how most leaders have been selected in your organization and others. The people that are the hardest workers, with the most industry knowledge, highest technical acumen, people you may feel comfortable with and have been with the company the longest are usually given the most attention. Soft skill qualities are usually identified as important but, let’s face it, are usually considered secondary.

After all, how often have you seen people in companies that are horrible communicators, cause tons of drama, directly cause the most turnover, and survive year after year because they deliver results or are coveted for the reasons I described above. They are considered irreplaceable because of their customer relationships, contacts, institutional knowledge, etc. In the end, they are horrible with people and are severely holding your company back because you have decided that this one person is more valuable than the many they are infecting.

Worse, once you have tolerated one person treating other people badly, you are telling others that being a jackass is okay. You are indicating to all your employees that treating people with dignity, respect, and character does not affect results. You are indicating that we should not care about the feelings of others. Just focus on results because that is all we care about. If you deliver results, you are untouchable.

The Key Is Assertive Communication

You probably wondering where I was heading with the above. I am sure if I audited your company, I would find at least one leader that has poor emotional intelligence, and you are tolerating it. As an executive and business coach, I witness this issue daily in every organization. What I find frustrating is that leaders allow the dysfunction to continue. I have found that improving your decision making, leadership team chemistry, and organizational effectiveness

can be achieved simply by helping that leader understand how to use the right communication style. An assertive communication style rarely has the issues I described above.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”John Wooden

The degree of assertiveness you use in dealing with people provokes fairly predictable reactions by others, which in turn help determine how effective you are as a leader. Assertive communication is characterized by honesty. It enforces rules, requires results, and is a direct approach that shows concern for yourself and others. It communicates the message that “you are both okay.”

This communication style could be construed as treating all the individuals involved as equal, each deserving of respect, and no more entitled than another to have things done their way. You feel connected to others when you are speaking to them, and you are trying to help them take control of their lives. You address issues and problems as they arise and create environments where others can grow and mature.

The reason assertive communication is so effective is that it combines the positive dimensions of both aggressive and passive communicators. The assertive communicator is goal-oriented and direct, and at the same time is a good listener, considerate, and thoughtful. Thus, the assertive leader bridges the most positive aspects of the two other styles of behavior while at the same time avoiding the negative aspects of those two styles. The assertive style is both a good human relations style and a good team-building style for any organization. The assertive leader is viewed as someone who is strong, energetic, and is both able and willing to fight for resources needed by the department. Further, the assertive leader does not appear to play favorites, since he or she does not bend rules or fail to enforce rules in an effort to be liked by others. This leadership style is most admired by team members and employees.

Leadership Biases

As I mentioned above, there are some biases that I believe leaders have that severely hamper their interactions with people. While there are many I could discuss, there are two biases that cause some significant lost opportunities in organizations.

God Complex

I have met too many leaders, particularly founders, who believe everyone in their company exists to serve them. While it is true they started the business, and at one point you could say they were the business, at some point the organization must grow up and operate as a business, not a bunch of serfs working for their master. Everyone in a successful business, including the founder, exists to provide products and services to customers.

Each person in the organization has a role in the process of providing products and services. As a team, we help each other to do a better job than our competition so that we can operate more profitably, and thus enable everyone to earn their fair compensation and the business to expand and create more jobs. The leader’s job is to make the subordinate’s job easier so that all are in a better position to serve our customers well. Not the other way around!

I have witnessed servant leaders on average get two to three times the productivity of those that have the god complex. Their employees give extra effort, work efficiently, and spend extra time looking after the customer. Ironically, they spend more time looking after their leaders than subordinates of leaders with a god complex. I believe the reason is that the latter secretly resent their boss and do the minimums to stay out of trouble.

Leaders with this complex cause everyone else to be inefficient. Employees spend their days readjusting their schedules from best serving customer to best serving the leader, resulting in severe organizational inefficiency. Such leaders misuse resources and do not even recognize it because they are so selfish.

Others Will Not Figure Things Out Without Me

In a world where most jobs require people to use their brains, and each situation is a little different, most roles are filled with knowledgeable workers. Ironically, many leaders do not treat them as such. In Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Liz Wiseman identified the difference between leaders who access and revitalize the intelligence in the people around them (Multipliers) and those whose view of intelligence is based on elitism and scarcity (Diminishers). The Diminishers believe that intelligent people are a rare breed and that they are one of those few smart people. They then conclude that other people will never figure things out without them.

Here is the rub! We are all Multipliers and Diminishers. The questions are how often are we multipliers and with whom? Leaders that have huge ego problems are most often Diminishers. I know of one CEO that terrorizes the leadership team and other employees daily with emails micromanaging their every activity. This CEO’s team loses tremendous daily productivity in order to respond to those emails, provide reports to show what is being asked for, and attend update meetings so the boss can show them what to do.

Diminishers have other traits that cause them to get far less productivity than their people are capable of. The “tyrant” creates a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capability. We have all been around that leader who loves to debate everything, hates to lose, and loves to win. It takes too much energy to get our own points across, so we just don’t even try.

Another Diminisher is the “know-it-all” that gives directives that showcase how much they know. Then there is the “decision-maker” who makes centralized, abrupt decisions that confuse the organization.

“You are not a failure until you start blaming others for your mistakes.”John Wooden

The Multiplier has a completely different way of handling people. Where Diminishers cause people to underperform, Multipliers can get the very best out of people and some believe exceed expectations. They are considered “liberators” as they create an intense environment that requires people to tap into their best thinking and work. They are considered “challengers” as they define an opportunity that causes people to stretch rather than the directive that limits the outcome. The Multiplier wants to make sound decisions, so they encourage vigorous debate on important decisions, usually staying quiet during the debate. After all, they know their own opinion. They really value the opinions of their team. They are “investors” as they invest in people to take ownership of results and are invested in their success!

Learning How to Say No!

In my book, Your Business is A Leaky Bucket, profit leak number 12 is dedicated to “being allergic to saying “no”. Rarely do I meet someone that tells me that they have mastered the use of time! If you are one of those people, you primarily work only those things that will contribute the biggest impact to your organization and role, and you are good at deferring, delegating, or discarding the rest. As a leader, you are communicating well, and you are emphasizing messages you really want your team to hear. Most importantly, you are clear on the right type of opportunities you expect your team to aggressively pursue and those you want them to defer, delegate, or discard. To a very large degree, your success depends on it.

Do You Use Your Time or Does Your Time Use You?

You cannot manage time itself, but you can manage how you choose to use your time. We are under more time pressure than ever, and those little gadgets like cell phones may make our lives much harder than easier.

Time is the great equalizer. Everyone gets the same amount of time: 24 hours in each day. You cannot buy more time, and no one can give you more of it. Thus, the most important question you can ask daily is: “How can I and 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, a learning mechanism for your decisions as to where time should be used in the future. One person in your group losing focus on congruent goals can impact everyone’s time and even create a huge barrier to success.

Too often people search in the wrong places when trying to understand why they are not achieving their goals. They think there is something wrong with the time management program they’re using, so they buy a new one. The real problem is not what program or process they currently use. Rather, it is what habits of thoughts and attitudes they use to decide how they will use their time.

To do that, you must pick and choose which opportunities and tasks to undertake. Time and priority management is a skill few people master, but every person needs. One of the greatest mistakes many leaders make is to say “yes” too often. In many cases, time management is more about what you decide not to do, rather than what you do. Does your leadership team fail to say “no” often enough? Or does it choose to chase fires rather than identify and address the real issues staring them in the face? While there is no exact percentage, you should be passing on at least 25 percent of the opportunities and responsibilities that come your way. Otherwise, you will find yourself spending far too much time on tasks you never should have agreed to take on in the first place.

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 what the belief systems are that cause that behavior. For example, let’s say you decide you should exercise three days a week to improve your health. Your primary belief system, however, is that exercise is boring and painful. What do you think the chances are you’ll implement that “decision” to exercise three days a week?

Commonly, I hear CEOs complain 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 are usually insistent this is just part of business as usual. However, a closer examination teaches us that some people like to put out fires. They enjoy the immediate gratification of handling the daily emergencies, want to be the ones with all the answers, and have trouble saying “no” to others. These habits directly impact their ability to manage their time effectively.

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”John Wooden

Our society is notorious for seeking immediate gratification. The benefit of better health is a long-term goal. In the short term, however, a person is apt to avoid 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 long-term goals.

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, you must find something more motivating to replace them. For example, many people would exercise if their doctor told them, “If you do not start to regularly exercise tomorrow, you’ll have only six months to live. If you do exercise regularly, you will live another twenty-five years.” That is quite a carrot to dangle.

An additional aspect of using time is that 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 really spend it. Once you have a solid understanding of how you spend your time, you can redirect time you control and use it more productively by delegating activities to others.

Are You Chasing Revenue Everywhere?

A key area where leaders have the hardest time saying “no” is when it comes to revenue.  This is critical. Not only is this a critical strategic conversation, it is also an issue that can destroy a significant amount of your organizational resources; both time and money. Not all revenue is good revenue. In addition, the more market segments target, geographies you try to conquer, product and services you offer, and distribution channels required, the more resources required. It is important to be prudent in how you go about building your revenue. It is very important to know when and how to say “no”!

Your strategy will help you consider the best type of revenue to target. 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, not aiming to be all things to all segments. You might love pie, but you’d likely not be feeling too well if you ate the entire pie at one sitting. The same is true regarding the health of your business. You must pick the right slice and exercise moderation. Targeting every source of revenue can leave you spread thin, the proverbial jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Profit leaks result from not focusing your efforts on the most valuable and sensible avenues for revenue.

What does this have to do with saying “no?” Positioning your company in a growth industry, market segment, or sector is crucial to the continued success of your company. To have future growth, regardless of how you are doing in this quarter or year, there must be a target market that your products/services are focused on and that is regularly growing. When businesses mistakenly chase revenue anywhere it leads them, they wind up with less of it. Great companies quickly learn that by segmenting the marketplace, they can perfect their business model around owning their segment or slice of the pie.

Without Saying “No”, Everything Is Equally Important

You set your employees up for failure by saying yes to everything. When everything is important, nothing is truly important! Perfection does not exist. Simple math dictates that the more things you randomly throw on someone’s plate, the less time they have to spend on each thing. Overloads cause leaks in company buckets.

A domino effect occurs when leaders cannot say “no” to anything. Let’s take the people ramifications. The more complicated your service model, the more talented your service staff has to be. They have to be smarter than the average employee in the marketplace while also maintaining specialized skills to handle your customers. That said, when you overload them with responsibilities, you’ll find they cannot reach all your original projected goals.

“Being average means, you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.”John Wooden

The number one job of a leader is to make their employees’ jobs easier! I recently had breakfast with a CEO I am coaching, and he had mentioned that the COO seemed overloaded. He had wondered if he had hired the wrong person. As we talked, it became clear that they had never established clear priorities together. In other words, everything was important! When I started asking him questions about what he believed the top priorities where for this person in the current quarter, he paused. It was obvious that he was unsure. A great example of setting a good clear priority was an advertising agency that had too much complexity in its client intake process. It took two weeks and six different people to onboard a new client! After proper focus and attention, that was reduced to one hour and one person. That could not have happened had they not focused on a clear priority and de-emphasized other things to get that done.

You Can Reduce Complexity by Saying “No.”

A great example of a company that benefited from saying “no” is Southwest Airlines. They say “no” often. If you want reserved seating, you do not fly Southwest, because their boarding process does not allow for it. Southwest Airlines, unlike most of the competition, does not charge for bags. All of their planes are 737s. This simplifies their fleet, reduces the time it takes to train mechanics, and drastically improves inventory management. In addition, they do not provide onboard amenities. Also, you will notice they fly to just 101 destinations. They choose airports with lower gate fees. Additionally, you can only book flights on their website. The culmination of these “no” decisions is that they have remained one of the most profitable airlines in the industry. As of this writing, they are second only to Delta Airlines in market capitalization with approximately half the number of employees.

Saying “No” Will Simplify Your Life

Typically, leaders push back on the concept of saying “no”. To that end, make it a priority NOT to schedule any meetings or calls in the first three hours of each day. Use that time to work on one key task to move the rocks (your main priorities) out of your way. If you finish in less time, use the leftover time to go after the gravel, sand, and water tasks in that order, the lesser priorities that also fill your daily bucket. This ensures you are working on at least five key motivators each week. You have been trained since you entered the workforce to please your customers and your bosses. They make you feel as if you always have to go the extra mile and exceed expectations! The problem with this mentality is that by trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. You set yourself and others up for failure. You might think it takes courage to say “no”. In reality, it takes brains to say “no”. And the better practice is to prioritize your time commitments and always put thoughtful productivity at the forefront of your mind.

In Conclusion

Strong leadership is essential to maximizing the success of your organization. Failing to address a poor leader in your organization is the equivalence of leaking money out of your bucket. I encourage you to coach each leader in your organization to check their egos at the door. We all falter. When you notice colleagues faltering, reach out in a positive manner to help them see it so that you can all grow as leaders. Don’t assume that just because someone has poor people skills that it must stay that way. Recognize that they have never been taught or required to be any different. Take responsibility to help them see a new way of interacting with the team. Work hard as a leadership team to say “no” more often. Help everyone see what is most important and get better at letting the rest wait. In the end you will find an organization that will grow more profitability with a lot less drama.

 

Howard Shore is a 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, contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

 

Use Metrics to Propel Business

Several years back, I was the Business Coach for a mid-sized company in the healthcare industry.  When I first started working with the leadership team, the company grew rapidly and was on the path to insolvency. In nine short months, we were not only able to accelerate their growth but turn them into a highly profitable company with plenty of cash in the bank. The company did so well that it sold for a high multiple only 18 months after our initial meeting.  The secret to the turnaround was found in how we used metrics to propel the business. The turnaround happened so quickly and easily that one of the senior leaders insisted that I had played with numbers.  He could not comprehend how we so quickly turned the company around. I want to share with you how you can use the same steps to ignite the growth and profitability of your company.

In Your Business is a Leaky Bucket, I identified how small improvements could lead to huge improvements in the bottom line. I identified 15 ways (I refer to as leaks) to improve your financial results in the book. I provided an example whereby improving revenue, cost of sales, and overhead each by 1%, a client could improve profit by 42%.  That client made three seemingly small moves that increased their bottom line from 3% to 20% of revenue in one year. Proving that small moves good lead to big results.

HOW WELL DO YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR FINANCIAL STATEMENTS?

One of the keys to achieving higher results is understanding your financial statements better. Most accountants produce financial statements and fail to help you determine how to propel your business forward. This is a big weakness among the leadership team. And you don’t have to be a Certified Public Accountant to learn how to understand them in a highly impactful way for your organization.

One fact that does not get talked about often is that those financial statements, while important, are missing some of the most critical information for you to build a better business. Your financial statements are not wrong. They are just limited because they only capture financial transactions. They don’t capture the metrics needed to help understand the cost of the organizational missteps. In most organizations, the costs of these missteps usually can triple your net profit.

Generally accepted accounting principles don’t help you measure the business leaks happening in plain sight. For example, there is no financial statement line item measuring the costs of keeping poor performers, deals that you lost because of inept salespeople, margin lost because of poor pricing, and so on. It would be best if you used the metrics to propel your business.

BUSINESS METRICS DEFINED

Before I take you through the thought process that will help propel your business, I want to clarify some terminology. There are several terms used in business that represent different types of metrics. Metrics include goals, targets, critical numbers, and key performance indicators. Business metrics allow you to determine how well each employee and the company perform. Metrics help measure whether you are on track to achieve annual and quarterly priorities. There are many metrics (profit/loss, balance sheet, departmental, people, process). It takes discipline and skill to find the smaller number of metrics that make the most significant difference to your organization.”

While we recognize all metrics as important, the “critical number” designation means this metric is the main priority for the company. We must not have more than two. We need two for balance—if we are too focused on performance indicators, we may damage our relationships, and vice-versa. This metric(s) should help you focus on the biggest obstacle(s) to achieving your goals.

What is a key performance indicator (“KPI”)?  KPIs are either leading or lagging metrics identifying activity, inactivity, and effects of accumulated decisions.

  • Lagging indicators are metrics that portray the performance of the past.  Examples of lagging indicators include revenue, gross margin, net profit, cash in the bank, and turnover.
  • Leading indicators are those metrics that help us forecast and predict future results. Leading indicators are those measures that focus on today’s actions that impact the lagging indicators.  For example, all businesses have revenue goals.  The starting point to generate revenue is interacting with a potential customer. Leading indicators for revenue include the number of qualified leads, number of appointments, dollars in the pipeline, etc.

Many metrics can be leading or lagging indicators.  For example, I had a Business Coaching Client that recently missed their revenue goals for the last two months.  When evaluating why the goals were missed, they concluded that they failed to use their marketing budget fully or misallocated what was spent. While the marketing costs were a lagging indicator on their financial statements, how and how much was spent on marketing led to insufficient leads and fewer sales.

Business goals describe what a company expects to accomplish over a specific period. Goals might pertain to the company as a whole, departments, employees, customers, or any other business area. Goals are metrics and key performance indicators. Targets are the long-range metrics we aim to achieve. Targets are a little more difficult to forecast than 90-day and 1-year goals and metrics.

Goals and targets are the terminology used in business planning and priority setting. While you could use these terms interchangeably, I consider goals well-developed metrics that we feel confident in achieving. You should not call something a goal unless you are committed to achieving it.  Not reaching a goal is a failure in performance.  On the other hand, targets are typically lofty goals with much lower certainty, and we have not determined how to achieve them.  Targets are helpful because they stretch us to develop new strategies and tactics to improve our business model.  Falling short on targets is not necessarily a failure.

There are three primary ways we use metrics to propel a business:

  • Goal Setting
  • Perspective
  • Momentum

IS YOUR GOALSETTING PROCESS BROKEN?

My first objective with many business coaching clients is to shift them from arbitrary to well-thought-out goals.  An arbitrary goal has little basis. Just because you grew 30 percent last year does not mean you will continue to grow at that rate.

Learning how to develop goals does not require a Ph.D. in quantum physics.  It requires the leadership team to identify key metrics, the assumptions that need to be considered and establish metrics expectations.

A key sign that you will likely miss your goal, or achieve it for the wrong reason, is when there is little debate.  I often find the goals could be set much higher, but the leadership team is too focused on how they have been doing things rather than how things could be done. The secret is in debating the assumptions and asking questions like what must happen and be true to achieve the goal.

Let’s use my client that failed to achieve their goals for two months. To develop their revenue goal, they need to make assumptions about the following metrics:

  • # sales people
  • Dollars spent in marketing
  • # leads generated
  • # of leads converted to appointments
  • $ of appointment converted to clients
  • Average $ earned on each client

Each of the metrics has a range of potential outcomes. For example, how many of the salespeople will meet their quota?  How many will leave or be fired?  How many do we have to hire and by when?  Can we hire that many people at one time? And so on?  How can we influence each of these assumptions? Where do we like confidence? How can we mitigate risk?

I agree that this seems like a lot of hard work, but it is necessary. All of the issues will be faced during the year.  You will have a higher success rate if you plan to improve the right steps in the process rather than wing it and hope that you will make the right moves.  Hope is not a strategy. Through discussing these assumptions, you will find the key success factors that need to be addressed in your business plan.  You will have established the foundation to propel your business by prioritizing and addressing success factors.

IT IS NOT THE BUSINESS METRIC…IT IS WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

Consider evaluating the effectiveness of you are using metrics to propel your business.  I often find that leaders are using metrics but from the wrong perspective. If you are one of our business coaching clients, you evaluate metrics when creating your budgets and forecasts. The metrics used to create them are based on what you have learned from daily, weekly, and monthly reviews of leading and lagging metrics.  It is not only possible but probable that you are going through these rituals and missing the majority of the value of the process.  When done properly, you drive continuous improvement, debunk flawed assumptions, and increase momentum in your business. This all happens through continuous improvement, not a once-a-year budgeting process. By debating and discussing your metrics, you can make more of the right moves to improve your results faster.

It starts with budgets and forecasts.  A common mistake is not to include the entire leadership in their development.  Your financial function can lead the process and construct the financial model, but the functional leaders own the inputs.  We want a leader to own and know their numbers.  When taken seriously, developing functional contributions to your forecasts causes the leader to consider improving their metrics in the coming periods.  And, you want the leaders developing their targets considering and company-wide view.  You need to bust siloed thinking. Doing this helps leaders understand how they and their functions contribute to the overall numbers. When done well, the forecasting process leads to continuous improvement.

You must use a widget-based approach to budgeting and forecasting.  A widget is a primary input that drives your business model. The widgets are leading indicators to success, such as # of Leads, # of Clients, # Jobs, and so on. Why widgets? The lagging results, such as sales, are important, but you cannot manage sales. A key to optimal success is driving the inputs that cause sales. A widget-based forecasting approach allows the leadership team, not just the CFO, to own the forecast. Using widgets as inputs, you can improve forecasting accuracy and easier forecast cash.

Depending on the nature of your business, many widgets should be developed and tracked weekly.  You might be thinking, what is in it for you? We have found that prioritization and focus get much stronger. One of our software-as-a-service business coaching clients focused all their energy on building better software.  While this was important, looking at metrics from a holistic standpoint, the leadership team recognized that their marketing and sales functions were performing poorly.  This was perplexing because they had built one of the best platforms in their industry segment. Using the key marketing and sales metrics, we focused on why the metrics were below expectations.  This led to a deep discussion that you can learn more about by reading my blog post Trying to Sell and Apple to Someone Looking for Chocolate.  That discussion led to substantial changes to their go-to-market strategy, and I am proud to say that momentum changed almost immediately.

IS YOUR BUSINESS GAINING MOMENTUM?

One of my all-time favorite books is Good to Great by Jim Collins.  In that book, Jim discusses the Flywheel effect. The following is an excerpt that can be found on his website.

No matter how dramatic the result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. There is no single defining action, grand program, killer innovation, solitary lucky break, and miracle moment in building a great company. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough and beyond.

Picture a huge, heavy flywheel—a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds. Imagine that your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible. Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first. You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn. You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns … four … five … six … the flywheel builds up speed … seven … eight … you keep pushing … nine … ten … it builds momentum … eleven … twelve … moving faster with each turn … twenty … thirty … fifty … a hundred.

Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn … whoosh! … its heavyweight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each flywheel turn builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort—a thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward with almost unstoppable momentum.

Now suppose someone came along and asked, “What was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast?” You wouldn’t be able to answer; it’s just a nonsensical question. Was it the first push? The second? The fifth? The hundredth? No! All of them were added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction. Some pushes may have been bigger than others, but any single heave—no matter how large—reflects a small fraction of the entire cumulative effect upon the flywheel. Here’s what’s important. We’ve allowed the way transitions look from the outside to drive our perception of what they must feel like to those going through them on the inside. From the outside, they look like dramatic, almost revolutionary breakthroughs. But from the inside, they feel completely different, more like an organic development process.

As a business coach, I have witnessed companies that can show you excellence in their processes but have little to no momentum.  I recommend you develop your flywheel and measure momentum.  Using metrics in conjunction will help the leadership better understand creating momentum. There is a direct correlation between developing and analyzing metrics and the flywheel effect.  When constructing your metrics and priorities, you need to consider how this will help momentum in your flywheel faster.

CONCLUSION

When leveraged properly, metrics lead to propelling your business forward. Metric development and review is a critical skill that all leaders must master. It takes practice, practice, and more practice like any other essential skill. You can only get better at forecasting and using metrics with commitment, discipline, and continuous improvement. And the Finance department is not solely accountable for forecasting. Instead, it is a process that requires input from everyone. All leaders need to help develop the metric targets related to their departments. It is also helpful to run the standards by the employees that must deliver on them. The feedback is where the gold lies.

The review and discussion process as results are occurring is crucial to having a predictable business gaining momentum. By critically reviewing actual versus planned results, you help everyone see where the critical leaks are in the budget. Not only do you need to identify the leaks, but you must also address them.  You must identify the few big leaks that are slowing momentum. Once identified, discover the problem that is causing the metric.  Be relentless in truly addressing the issue by ensuring that you have company initiatives that will remove the bottleneck.

With practice, I believe every leadership team can produce highly predictable results. Each time you evolve a new forecast, you will learn new ways to improve performance and strengthen accountability in your organization.

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 contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

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.