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.

 

 “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.

 

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.

Trying to Sell an Apple to Someone Looking for Chocolate?

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

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

Are You Answering the Right Question?

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

Have You Identified the True Problem?

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Trying to Convert the Heathens?

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

Conclusion – Ask Yourself… and Take Action!

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


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

The Importance of Defining Employee Roles

The dynamics of your employee teams are defined by many factors, all of which determine their efficiency and effectiveness. One of the most important factors, in my experience, is defining employee roles.

In my system for Human Capital Management (the process of managing employees from recruitment to retention), I place a huge amount of focus on defining the roles of each and every employee. This starts with the job posting and carries through into an individual’s day-to-day responsibilities. As a long-time management coach, I have seen first-hand how mindfully defining each employee’s role, responsibilities and success metrics creates more success on the team and within the overall company.

I read an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review last month that really drove this point home. The article summarized a study completed by the author, Tamara Erikson, on team dynamics at the BBC and Reuters. She found that successful collaboration was better on teams when each employee’s role was clearly defined. She found that defining individual roles impacted collaboration success more than spelling out the group’s approach.

Erikson noted, “Without such clarity, team members are likely to waste energy negotiating roles or protecting turf, rather than focusing on the task.”

Carry this idea over into employees’ everyday tasks. By clearly defining employee roles from the start, not only do we target and hire the best, most qualified candidates, but we also ensure their continued success by informing them exactly how that success will be determined and measured.

What Needs to be in Every Position Description

I have been a management coach for many, many years, and I can tell you that the biggest mistake that I see managers and recruiters make time and time again, is not clearly defining individual position tasks, responsibilities and success metrics. Increase your employee and team success rate by ensuring that for each position in your organization, you have a position description that includes:

  • Job Description: Collection of tasks and responsibilities that an employee is responsible for; includes an official title.
  • Job Tasks:  Unit of work or set of activities needed to produce some result (e.g., answering phones, writing a memo, sorting the mail, etc.).
  • Job Functions: A group of tasks is sometimes referred to as a function.
  • Role(s): The set of responsibilities or expected results associated with a job. A job usually includes several roles.
  • Competencies: Abilities (skills) and capacity required to perform the job successfully.
  • Performance Management: Defines how the position’s performance is measured and its impact from an organization perspective. All the components within the performance management perspective relate and provide context to one another.
  • Critical Success Factors (CSF): Provide focus on the influences that impact the performance of the job.
  • Key Process Ownership (KPO): Identifies the critical processes owned by the position.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPI): Provide visibility to performance through the use of metrics and established performance targets; thereby giving context to vague concepts.
  • Career History: The background experience typically required in order to have gained the level of knowledge and competency required for the position.

Without defining these extremely important position attributes, you are failing to tell employees what they need to accomplish, and without that direction your employees and your team will not deliver the results that they could be delivering.

Howard Shore is a business coach and founder of Activate Group Inc, based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to executive leadership. To learn more about management coaching through AGI, please contact Howard at 305-722-7213 or email him.

How Does Impatience Affect Leadership?

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

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

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

The Impatient Leader Tends to Be Aggressive Instead of Assertive

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

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

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

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

Coaching Can Help You With Negative Behavioral Tendencies

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

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

Do Your Team Members Trust You?

Do you believe your entire team trusts you? How do you know? If you could increase their trust level, would it increase business performance? If you pay attention, you will notice that you expect everyone to trust you all the time while you give only varying degrees of trust to everyone else. Interestingly, your team operates with the same principles. The higher up you are in the organization, the closer people watch your actions, looking for reasons not to trust you. To make matters worse, we all unintentionally do things that cause people to not trust us. Rather than remember all the times you did things to build trust, your team remembers the one time you destroyed it.

Trust is Critical to Performance

The feeling of having or not having trust affects behavior, critical thinking, creativity, speed, likeability, energy, and overall happiness. In other words, the trust levels in your organization may be dramatically affecting your culture or harmony, employee engagement, and employee retention, and if you have problems in those areas then I am certain you cannot be maximizing growth and profits.

Imagine that you are playing basketball. It’s the fourth quarter with 30 seconds left on the clock, and you are down one point. It is critical that you can count on the other members of the team. Envision a team where you can count on every player’s ability to make that final shot versus a team where you do not have confidence in anyone to make the final shot. And if you need to stop the opponent from scoring before you get the chance to take that final shot, you must be able to depend on your team to play tough defense and get the ball back. If trust-building issues are not dealt with, you cannot maximize the performance of your organization.

What Is Trust?

“Trust” starts with the premise that one’s peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be careful around group members. Once trust has been broken, its absence is hard to overcome.
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.

In addition, absence of trust in others causes people to create poor work behaviors. Instead of addressing the trust issue, they choose to do things themselves instead of delegating. Or, when others display a behavior they do not like or seem to not be delivering on promises, they take work away instead of addressing the issue at hand. Worse, they may even set lower goals so that they know they can achieve them without the assistance of others.

5 Questions That Indicate Whether You Have Trust

You obviously cannot assume everyone trusts you equally. A great way to find out is to survey your people. I am a big fan of Pat Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team Survey, which has five questions to evaluate how much team members trust each other. Here is a sample question from that survey to help you determine whether you team members trust you. For each of these statements, how would rate your relationship with an individual team member and their relationship to you (the rating system is (1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = sometimes, 4 = usually, 5 = always):

  1. Team members admit their mistakes.
  2. Team members acknowledge their weaknesses to one another.
  3. Team members ask for help without hesitation.
  4. Team members are unguarded and genuine with one another.
  5. Team members can comfortably discuss their personal lives with you.

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

The Most Important Conversation You Should Have

Throughout my career I have seen history repeat itself over and over again: leaders making important changes without having a conversation with their most important sources — their customers. You see, what leaders are looking for is data that supports the path they have always followed or believed to be the best strategy for their organizations, but when you look carefully you will see that what the data supports is the opposite.

Things Are Always Changing

What worked in business years ago does not work today. Times are changing. Customer wants and needs have also changed. Imagine twenty years ago, when some technologies didn’t exist, and customers’ desires were different than today. A great example is the fast food industry. The menus are constantly changing. They are always trying to keep up with what their customers’ needs are. Are you?

Change Starts With You Too

The obvious place to start is with your customers. Create solid questions to receive solid feedback. Analyze the solid facts. Most importantly, take what you have learned and implement it into fixing your current strategy. When Americans started eating healthier, McDonald’s reacted to it by including healthier options to their menu. Did the trend take anything away from them? No, because they now can have customers who became health-conscious continue eating at their establishments.

Don’t Go With Just Your Gut Feelings

With so much competition and new products and services coming out every day, businesses can no longer act on whims. There must be secure, solid systems in place to learn how to grow your organization. Leave the “I feels” at home and state the facts. Customers often shop based on emotion. Businesses do not succeed based on emotions. There’s a difference.

To learn how to start collecting solid customer feedback, check out my previous article “Business Strategy Based on Knowledge Instead of Belief.”

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

How to Delegate Work to the Entire Team

Employee Delegation Process

Your team grows and advances based on your leadership skills and direction. Every team has a group of individuals that excel over another. As a leader you need to learn to count on everyone on your team and to elevate everyone from the level they are at. You can start today by delegating new tasks – but before you do, make sure you incorporate these important factors on how to delegate work more effectively to the entire team.

1. Selecting the Individual Employee or Team

Are you going to the same employees over and over again when delegating a task or project? Is it possible you’ve become too comfortable with specific individuals or teams? Doing so may demotivate other team members in the organization and can even compromise the performance of your key players. Your key players usually depend on support from the rest of the organization to get things done. You do not want your team members to turn against one another, a situation that would prevent the entire organization from coming together to achieve its fullest potential. Learning to count on every employee on your team can help!

2. Remember Why You Are Delegating Work

When you need help, who do you approach? Most likely you turn to your best players. While that makes sense, you also need to involve and delegate work to the entire team at some point. With each employee, consider why you are delegating (motivation, growth, or time management) a task, and match the appropriate tasks to that person’s capabilities. Delegating isn’t only about getting the job done. It’s also about the three important reasons that leaders delegate.

3. Assess the Appropriate Level of Delegation

Are you using the same leadership style for every employee on the team? Once you realize that not everyone is the same, your level of delegation should be adjusted based on the intricacy of the task and the person it’s delegated to. Delegation is not about telling people what to do and expecting them to do it. The person who delegates the work must exercise many different degrees of supervision and involvement. The more experienced and reliable the other person is, the more freedom you can give. The more critical the task, the more cautious you need to be about extending a lot of freedom, especially if the company’s financial future or reputation is on the line.

As a business leader, remember that it’s your job to count on everyone in your team. When you do that, your team becomes stronger.

Improving Leadership

Want to learn more? Find out how to improve your ability to influence others and your effectiveness as a leader with the premier executive coaching services at Activate Group Inc.

Contact us today for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213!

Emotions and Motivation

Do you manage your emotions when communicating to others?

Most executives acknowledge that a person’s behavior and tone have a large impact on those people around them.  Research has shown that 8% of communication you use the other 92% is body language and tone.   For the purposes of this article, when I mention body language and tone, I am referring to a person’s emotions or emotional control. In other words the effectiveness of communications is predominately related to how you demonstrate and express your emotions in those communications.

The expression of emotion impacts organizational and leader effectiveness in the following ways:

  • Decision-making
  • Creativity
  • Turnover
  • Productivity
  • Trust
  • Teamwork
  • Loyalty
  • Respect

Over my career as a business owner, coach, and employee, I have worked with many different types of leaders. I have found that the best communicators have mastery over how they manage their display of emotion in communications. As applies to any skill or personal trait, we are not always consistent in our application, and strength can be a weakness at any given moment.  Each communication is a transaction. Some are successful transactions, and there are others for which we would love to have a “do-over”. Emotional control is a common issue I see among very smart entrepreneurs.

One emotion that I have found has the biggest negative impact on organization and leader effectiveness is anger.  A good friend once told me that when you get angry, angry gets you.  I have encountered quite a few hotheads in my career, and in the long-term they are usually the worst leaders.  Often when someone is angry they raise their voice, use obscenities, and use a negative tone.  When these circumstances occur, the typical results are employees losing respect for the leader and diminished productivity among those on the receiving end of the outburst. I have observed instances where productivity was forever retarded. In cases where I have watched leaders show anger on multiple occasions, there is high turnover, unless employees are over compensated, in essence being paid to take the abuse. If you want to achieve better decisions, more creative, lower turnover, increase employee productivity, improve trust and teamwork, build loyalty and earn respect, I recommend that you treat every interaction as a transaction and manage emotions appropriately.

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach and founder of Activate Group Inc., based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to executive leadership. To learn more about executive leadership coaching through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com , contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him

Leadership – Are You Too Trustful?

Many times I find that my colleagues and clients are mistaking trustful people as being too trustful. I found this topic to be of great importance because it is common knowledge that a team cannot function without trust, a sales person cannot get business if their prospects do not trust them, and it is very difficult to earn someone’s trust without giving it.

6 Common Beliefs About Trust

In John Maxwell’s “Monthly Mentoring” session entitled “Trust – The Foundation of Leadership”, he identifies research and data on 6 common beliefs about trust, and you may find the following conclusions remarkable.

  1. Contrary to popular wisdom, trustful people were no more likely than the mistrustful ones to seem gullible to their friends.
  2. Trustful people are more perceptive than mistrustful people of what others are really feeling.
  3. People with a poor opinion of themselves are less trusting than people with a good opinion of themselves.
  4. Levels of intelligence have no impact on how trustful a person is.
  5. Mistrustful people rely on others to direct their lives for them. Trustful people rely on themselves.
  6. Trustful people are more trustworthy than mistrustful people.

Trustful People Are Gullible.

Julian Rotter, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Connecticut, conducted a study to test this belief. When he compared the gullibility scores to trust scores of participants that knew each other well, he found that, contrary to popular wisdom, the trustful ones were no more likely than the mistrustful ones to seem gullible to their friends.

Trustful People Are Less Perceptive Than Mistrustful People of What Others are Really Feeling.

Ronald Sabatelli, psychologist, and two colleagues at the University of Connecticut tested 48 young married couples for trustfulness, using Rotter’s Trust Scale. The husbands and wives were secretly videotaped as they individually watched a slide show. Some slides were scenic, some sexy, some repulsive and some strange. Finally, each spouse was shown pictures of his or her mate’s expressions and asked to identify what the mate was feeling in each case. The results contradicted the popular belief. Those who scored high on trust were better than the mistrustful at interpreting their spouse’s emotions. The likely reason: If you can’t “read” other people well, it’s easy to be suspicious of them; if you can, it’s easy to trust them.

People With A Poor Opinion Of Themselves Are Less Trusting Than People With A Good Opinion Of Themselves.

This feels right, though many of us might not be able to explain why. Several studies show that people who score high in tests of self-esteem score high in trustfulness. The explanation, cited in a 1985 report by the psychologists John Rempel, John Holmes, and Mark Zanna of theUniversityofWaterlooinOntario, is that a person’s self-esteem contributes to the extent to which he or she is willing to take emotional risks. Or, more simply: Those with high self-esteem are more likely to think well of others; those with low self-esteem are less inclined to do so.

People with Lesser Intelligence Are Trustful; Smart People Are Mistrustful.

This is not true. Research by a number of psychologists at various universities consistently has shown that people with high college aptitude scores or high scholastic scores are no less trustful and no more skeptical than people with low scores. Evidently, being intelligent doesn’t necessarily make one mistrustful of others, nor does being dumb make one trustful.

Trustful People Rely On Others To Direct Their Lives For Them; Mistrustful People Rely On Themselves.

Exactly the opposite is true. Three different teams of researchers at theUniversityofConnecticutfound that people who feel controlled by outside persons and forces are relatively mistrustful. In contrast, those people who feel pretty much in charge of what happens to them tend to trust others.

Trustful People Are More Trustworthy Than Mistrustful People.

The ancient Greeks used to say, “He who mistrusts most should be trusted least.” Geraldine Steinke, psychologist, in her doctoral dissertation research at theUniversityofConnecticut, gave volunteers a test at which it was easy to cheat, telling them that the best performer would win a cash prize. What she didn’t tell them was that she had rigged it so she could tell if anyone cheated. Her finding: Low trusters cheated distinctly more often than high trusters.

Rotter explains: “If low trusters believe that other people cannot be trusted, they feel less moral pressure themselves to tell the truth. They may feel that lying, cheating, and similar behavior are necessary for defensive reasons — because everybody else is doing it to them.”

Why Myths About Trust Matter

Here is why these myths should matter to you:

  • Trustful people will be trusted more often.
  • Trustfulness complements intelligence and intuition rather than detracting from it.
  • You should help a team member that is low in trust to raise their self-esteem.
  • Being more trustful can lead to being liked by more people.
  • Being trustful and trusted leads to less distress and thus more productivity.
  • Trustful people will tend to be less stressed and thus in better health than mistrustful ones.
  • If you can’t “read” other people well, it’s easy to be suspicious of them; if you can, it’s easy to trust them.

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

Is Customer Loyalty in Your Strategic Plan?

In his book, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless:  Customer Loyalty is Priceless, Jeffrey Gitomer said, “Satisfaction is no longer the acceptable measurement of customer service success”. This is the reality of business today: No matter how satisfied you think your customers are, you need to make an emotional connection and develop a long-term relationship, or that satisfaction is ultimately worthless. You customer loyalty program needs to be part of your overall strategic plan.

Here’s why…

Great customer service is all about sending customers away happy and bringing them back for more. They need to be happy enough to pass along positive feedback about your business to others who may then try your product or service and hopefully become repeat customers themselves.

Why Customers Come Back

Customers will come back, with their family and friends, if:

  1. The experience at every touch point of the buying process was so strong that it left a mark on their memories.
  2. Your relationship with them is based on trust. You want your customers to seek your personal assistance, and be willing to pay for it.
  3. They feel you really care about their needs. Always put your customer’s interests and needs ahead of yours.

Here are some statistics that provide proof that emotional connections with customers matter:

  • A typical dissatisfied customer will tell 6-10 people about their bad experience.  A typical satisfied customer will tell only 1-2 people.
  • It costs six times more to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.
  • Of those customers who don’t return, 68%of themdon’t because they experienced indifference from the company or an individual.
  • About 7 out of 10 complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve their complaint to their satisfaction.
  • If you resolve a complaint on the spot, 95% of customers will do business with you again.

Pretty powerful stuff!

Do You Believe Your Customer will Recommend You

Ask yourself this question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely is it that your customers will recommend you to someone else?

If your answer is below seven, or you don’t know the answer, it is time to think about developing a customer loyalty strategy as part of your strategic plan and start creating the emotion in the experience with your business.

Howard Shore is a strategic planning consultant, business coach and founder of Activate Group Inc, based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to executive leadership. To learn more about strategic planning through AGI, please contact Howard at 305.722.7213 or email him.

The Risk of Cutting Corners

Are you cutting corners to save money or time? It’s an easy thing to do. You are preparing for a presentation on short notice, or trying to shave a few dollars from your marketing budget, and convince yourself that no one will see the difference. The truth is, if you notice the difference, then so will your clients. And that could cause serious damage to your brand.

The other day, we were preparing a last-minute new business proposal and I admit my team fell into the corner-cutting trap. We were so hurried in getting it done, that the almost-final presentation was littered with errors. It had inconsistent use of capitals and other formatting mistakes, and there were even a few grammar issues. When it was given to me for approval, I sent them back to the drawing board. I couldn’t let this presentation be the “face” of our company’s services.

Remember that old saying, “the devil is in the details”? It really is true. I am an avid reader of Seth’s Blog and read a recent post that inspired me to highlight this topic myself. In his post, he proposed a few business scenarios where missed details created a quality mismatch, or disconnect between the expectations of the brand and the delivery of the brand promise—what he says is the difference between a customer saying “hack” or “wow.”

The point that he and I are trying to make is this: every time you touch a customer, it reflects upon you and your brand. Every day, we make business decisions that impact the relationship with our customers. Your attention to detail and delivery of services are the building blocks of your brand. Each time you “touch” your customer, another block is added to their overall experience and relationship with your company—for better or worse.

When you create your next new business pitch, brochure, client report or meeting materials, try to look at them with new eyes. Be ruthlessly critical and examine every detail. You are building a brand so make it the best it can possibly be. And never, ever justify cutting corners by telling yourself “our customers won’t notice or care” because they most assuredly will, and definitely do care about the details when they are spending their hard-earned money on your product or service.

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

3 Steps to More Effective Communications

Communication is a skill that can make or break you in business, especially if you are in executive leadership. As a coach in this area, I focus my sessions heavily on improving communication skills for better negotiations, strategic partnering and referral opportunities.

Tips to Improve Your Interpersonal and Business Communication Skills

Here are three tips that will help you immediately improve your interpersonal and business communication skills.

Focus On Their Needs. Regardless of whether you are meeting new contacts or long-standing partners at the conference table (or coffee shop couch), you should focus on their needs and goals first, then think about how you can help them achieve those goals. The ultimate objective of any meeting should be to create a win-win situation or resolution.

Adapt to Different Communication Styles. Just like leadership styles, everyone has different styles of communication. Great communicators observe and note the stylistic differences of the people across the table and adapt to them. Some great salespeople even feed off these differences. Adjusting to their communication style makes them more comfortable and more willing to work with you.

Smile. It may seem obvious, but it is so common in the business world for people—especially executive leadership—to leave their humanity at the front door. People want to do business with people they like and trust. Keyword: like. Smiling, laughing and even a little joking can diffuse situations, make people feel at ease and create instant report.  So be likeable.

These steps are just the tips of the iceberg of tactics for more effective business communications, but they are a great place to start. The next time you have a meeting remember these steps and reap the instant rewards.

What other communication tactics would you add?

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

How to Make Your Company More Likable

The latest buzzword in our marketing vocabulary is “likeability.” There has been a noticeable shift in the way companies communicate with customers. Social media and a renewed focus on service put unprecedented word-of-mouth power into the hands of our clients and customers. Big brands across the country are refocusing marketing efforts on becoming more likeable. While likeability is a new buzzword, it certainly is not a new concept. It’s actually one of the most basic rules of sales: People want to do business with those they like and trust.

Becoming “likeable” sounds easy—and it is. Just think, in everything you do, “how can we add value to the customer?” Answer that question in new and creative ways and you will be liked and trusted by customers and potential customers. Being likeable is a crucial part of your marketing and strategic planning.

Here are a few ways to add value and be likeable:

1. Be generous. Customers and potential customers are always looking for added value, and in most cases you can deliver this through free advice, education, product add-ons or complimentary services (like consultation). All companies should provide great website content that educates people on the business, product or service, or related industry topics. This content shouldn’t be all about sales. Always think about how to add value to your customers’ lives. If you help them in some way, they will return the favor with their patronage.

2. Be transparent. Be open about your process and your product. Obviously, you don’t want to give away your “secret sauce” or your entire strategic plan, but you can be transparent enough that your customers understand what you do and how your process helps them.

3.  Be social. Connect with people online in the right communities. For credibility purposes you may wish to have a company page on Facebook, but that might not be where your customers are talking about your services or products. If you are a B2B business, you should be on LinkedIn and connect with potential customers through targeted groups. If your industry has a lot of chatter on Twitter, or is an industry with rapidly evolving news and practices, Twitter might help you easily connect with new clients. At the very least, you should make all the content on your website and blog sharable with “share this” buttons.

4. Be accessible. Customers should have access to more than just sales reps when they need something or have questions. In larger companies, they should have access to a director or VP-level decision maker. In smaller companies, they should be able to call the business owner directly. Being accessible to all your customers tells them that they are important and ensures that their needs are being met at every level of the company.

Think about the brands you love. What makes them likeable?

Howard Shore is a strategic planning consultant who works with companies that need leadership development and business management coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic planning and management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about business strategy development through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com, contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

Why Phone Calls Are Better Sales Techniques Than Handshakes

Some salespeople swear by networking. They hang their hat on it as their primary sales technique. They go to every networking event they can find hoping to run into a few key decision-makers. Here’s the scenario:

They attend an event with 100 people, where there may be 10 good candidates. From this event, they usually walk away with zero meetings and maybe a few people to call about future meetings. From all those handshakes, one might be a real prospect. In those three hours, all they accomplished was marketing the organization and possibly setting one future meeting.

That same three hours on the phone has much more potential. Imagine how many people could be called and connected within three hours. Even if a large percentage of calls resulted in voicemails, all calls can be directed to a decision-maker in a target client company.

Conservatively, a cold-calling session could achieve 12 phone meetings and two or three prospect meetings. If they are all pre-qualified, those meetings are likely to result in new business.

In most cases, phone calls are the sales technique that yields far better results.

I’m not suggesting you stop networking. Your networks make you powerful. However, I am suggesting that you network better. Here’s how:

1. Network selectively. No more than 10% of your time should be spent networking. If you are in professional services and have to deliver, it should be no more than 5% in order to allow enough time to get on the phone to properly fill the pipeline and to attend meetings with prospects.

2. Network strategically. Stop spending time networking in the wrong places. Do not go to a networking event unless the majority of the people there are targeted prospects. And stop going to events consisting of a bunch of other salespeople.

Take a look at the networking events you attend regularly, and determine how much time you spend there. How many new prospects and new clients have you pulled from those events?

Howard Shore is a sales coach and trainer with expertise in sales techniques and sales force development. To learn more about AGI’s executive coaching, management consulting, and sales training, please visit his website at activategroupinc.com or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

What Advice Would You Give to a New Business?

If you were asked to give business advice to a new entrepreneur, what would it be? I’m asked this all the time, and find myself dolling out all sorts of tips and tirades—some quite original and others terribly obvious. But the thing that intrigues me about this question is that it sometimes becomes a very powerful reminder to myself on the lessons I’ve learned over the years; lessons I may have forgotten.

For example, I learned early in my leadership career that there is no substitute to sitting across the table from someone and looking them in face. But just the other day, as I was writing the longest email in the history of CYA emails, that I re-learned that lesson. I had gotten so addicted to the time-saving, butt-saving email that I forgot about my own Business 101 advice to new leaders. I promptly reminded myself, deleted the draft email and picked up the phone.

It did get me thinking though. What simple pieces of business advice would you give a new business owner? And have you remembered to heed it yourself?

Howard Shore is a business advice and growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential. To learn more about how an executive coach, management consultant, leadership training, or business coach can help your team, please visit his website at activategroupinc.com or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Regularly

After spending time with many business leaders, I’ve learned that knowing your industry, finding investment capital, and hiring good people is not enough to succeed. There are many keys to success, but one in intelligent introspection—asking the right questions. Asking and answering the right questions on a regular basis optimizes your business by ensuring that your answers are still relevant. As we enter a new year, this is a perfect time to ask those questions to make sure that we have the right foundation for success.

  1. Why does anyone need what we are selling?
  2. Who are our ideal customers?
  3. What is our strategy for winning our ideal customers?
  4. Are we increasing our market share?
  5. What are our competitors up to?
  6. What key capabilities need to be addressed in the next 3 to 5 years to stay ahead of our competition?
  7. What are the key initiatives that must be accomplished for financial soundness of the company while driving toward the long-term goals of the company?
  8. Have we filled all the key necessary positions?
  9. Do we have enough people to deliver the revenue and profits we want this year?
  10. Are we leaning on our employees too hard?

Do you periodically check in on your company with this type of questioning?

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 activategroupinc.com or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

Howard’s New Email Etiquette

It’s sad. Technology has created a world where it seems easier to put everything in email instead of having an actual conversation. Continue reading “Howard’s New Email Etiquette”

3 Lessons Learned from the Penn State Scandal

The Penn State scandal has been all over the news these past few weeks and it got me thinking. I wondered how such a respected and seemingly professional establishment could have allowed this situation to go so far. How did these secrets stay buried for so long and how could an organization with such moral conviction let these decades-long accusations fester in the dark without follow-up?

Looking from the outside in, I can only assume that the internal communications and processes for handling crises are severely flawed on many levels. Here’s what I think we as business leaders can all learn and apply to our own organizations after watching the Penn State scandal unfold.

1. The truth will always come out.

It’s the golden rule of public relations: attempting to hide a negative, potentially damaging situation within the company only makes it worse. By trying to bury the accusations against Sandusky, Penn State made the entire situation far worse by being exposed after it festered beneath the surface for years. I’ve seen it happen in many organizations. If someone in your organization—I don’t care who it is—is involved with something unethical or illegal, it must be dealt with immediately. Damage control processes need to be activated with your corporate communications folks and a crisis plan needs to be created. Because the truth will always come out, even if after many years in hiding.

2. The open-door policy must be lived, not just talked about.

Most companies have an open-door communication policy but many don’t live up to it. In the Penn State situation it was clear that Sandusky’s improprieties were witnessed and reported to superiors. Nothing was done about it. But something made the whistleblower stop there. Was he told to let it go? Was he made to feel like a detractor for blowing his whistle? Whatever the case may be, we can all learn that when an employee comes forward with something it must be taken seriously and there must be absolutely no element of discouragement or retribution for being the one that came forward. An open-door policy that is lived is one that instills a sense of comfort and safety for employees that need to bring bad things to light.

3. No one is immune from responsibility.

Joe Paterno is probably the most loved college coach of all time, and clearly a pillar of the Penn State organization—not just the football team. Yet even he is not immune from doing the right thing when faced with a difficult situation with one of his employees. All leaders should take this to heart. As a leader, you are responsible for the wellbeing of your company first. Personal relationships must take a back seat to the law.

Have you ever faced a difficult legal or ethical situation in your professional life? How did you choose to deal with it?

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 activategroupinc.com or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

I have been assessing where the biggest problem is in most organizations, and it is communication! People are meeting, but they are not communicating about the real issues. They are meeting, but not with the people they should. They are meeting, but not often enough with the most important people. They are talking, but not about the difficult issues. When they talk about the difficult issues, they are not deciding anything. When something is tabled, there is no decision on when the issue will be addressed and resolved. As a result, trust breaks, relationships fray, respect degenerates, and productivity drops.

If your business partnership, leadership team, project team, and/or organization are not operating at full capacity, poor communication processes and skills are certain to be part of the problem. If every person in your organization is not in a daily huddle with someone, and you do not have a good rhythm of well-run weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings in which everyone in your organization participates, you have a communication problem that needs to be fixed immediately.

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 contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

3 Lessons from Parenting and Leadership

As I have become more experienced as a leader and father I am finding a lot of similarities. There are three important lessons learned from both of these roles.

The first lesson is less is more and simplicity rules. If it is not memorable and a child won’t understand it, then neither would your employees.  If you cannot make your point in just a few words than you do not understand it well enough yet. When someone comes with an idea and tries to indicate it is so complex that most people cannot comprehend it, what they are really saying is “I do not know this well enough to explain it to others.”  Something we have learned in the ages of text messaging, Twitter and search engine marketing is that you need to be able to capture your audience in a few words or you have lost them.  People have always captured messages this way and we failed to realize it. Or maybe we did? When you go back in time we have used themes, formulas, equations, and acronyms to get people to remember what might otherwise be something hard to remember. The general rule of thumb should include, if your children cannot understand it and remember what you want to bring across to your employees then you are not ready to communicate your point.

Second, do not have too many steps or rules.  If you have too many rules it probably means you have the wrong people. If you find yourself creating a lot of rules stop and ask why? What one usually finds it is because they are not making tough people decisions and rules have to be created to compensate. This starts with core values. There should only be four to six values that are essential. These are the ones that if someone consistently violates they will be fired and you will be willing to take a financial hit for. By focusing the organization around 4 to 6 values you increase the likelihood of adherence and you decrease complexity. The same goes with process steps. While there may be many steps to complete a task, there are a few that are the most important to the success or failure to the end result. If you give too many instructions to one person you increase the likelihood of failure.  You have to minimize the number of steps you define for each person to the ones that matter most.

Third, repeat yourself often.  Greg Brenneman, Chairman of CCMP Capital (a large private equity firm with over $12B under management) stated properly to our audience at the Fortune Leadership Summit in Houston, “You should be tired about talking about repeating your business plans over and over again.” This goes with anything you want to have done. You need to repeat yourself daily, weekly and monthly until it what you want to accomplish is done. What gets measured and discussed gets done. You can apply this to include process steps, values, and goals.

One example that I think exemplified this relates to one of my clients in the healthcare industry. They realized that there was one box that their doctors were overlooking on a form. Failure to check the box that ought to be checked was costing millions in reimbursement from insurance companies.  This was occurring because the box was misunderstood and buried in multipage forms. So my client has created a program called “check the box.” Doctors are reminded daily, training was provided, and it is measured and discussed in management meetings. Anyone can remember “check the box.”

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 contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

New Way For Professional Services to Get Customers

Today’s technology has changed the landscape as to how commerce happens in all industries. People communicate differently and have access to more information. Employees telecommute, and it is easier to do business globally. Customers choose their products and services differently.

Amazingly, one industry segment that seems to offer the most advice and appears to be the slowest to make changes is professional services. While making suggestions to their clients about embracing technology, trying new things, working on their business and not in it, working smarter and not harder, and so on, most professional service firms are themselves doing business the way they always have. They violate most of the very advice they give their clients. Their typical excuse for maintaining the status quo is that the advice they give cannot possibly work for their business. Ironically, this is the same excuse their clients use for not implementing their recommended changes.

How does this new commercial landscape impact the methods you use to build your customer base? The traditional manner of joining a board, organizing meetings with other professional service firms from which you can share leads, and going to a lot of networking meetings is proving to be very inefficient in today’s environment. While I am not suggesting you quit all boards, stop seeking centers of influence, or quit networking, I do suggest that you need to increase your use of some of the more modern ways to build business and reduce some of the more traditional activities because you are probably wasting a lot of time.

Every person in professional services needs to create a personal brand and must separate that brand from their firm. They must ask themselves what they want that brand to represent, the reason that someone should call you instead of someone else? What are you the expert at? How can you stand out? The key to building your personal brand is to make it clear, unique, and specific. It is all about “slight edge.” If you build a slight edge over the competition, you will get more phone calls and more people will take yours.

Once you have identified your personal brand, you are ready to use modern-day tools to get it out there. There are many, and they are easy to use. Even better, most are cheap or free. Use a blog, LinkedIn, newsletter, article syndication, websites, Facebook, and Twitter to help you build your brand and create a loyal fan base. It sounds scary, but there are many books or resources ready to help you use these tools, and it is much easier than you think.

Failure to use these tools in a world that expects that you have these things will give your competition a slight edge over you. Just as people expect experts to have a college degree, they now expect them to be using social media, and these expectations will only grow with the new “connected” generation. This is their way of learning about you, deciding if they can work with you, and how they determine whether they will respect you. This is the new world. You are either going to get on the bus, or it will pass you by.

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 learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

“That’s Interesting” Means What?

Dave Kurlan, my friend and colleague, hit the nail on the head with this latest blog post Top 5 Interesting Sales Tips. He brought up an issue about communication that is often overlooked. The issue relates to whether or not people are really listening during a conversation. This pertains to everyone and can be fatal in sales situations. For example, when your salespeople explain your technology, methods, or other key points of interest to their prospects, and the prospects respond with “That’s interesting!”… are your salespeople really listening?

What your salespeople really need to be considering is what does the other person mean? For example, they might be thinking:

  1. These guys might be on to something.
  2. This is so much better than what I’ve seen elsewhere.
  3. This is interesting – I’d like to learn more to better understand it.
  4. I do not understand, but I’m embarrassed to ask a question.
  5. I hate this, but I don’t want to hurt the salesperson’s feelings.

Many of us have learned that we need to be careful when hearing the two words “that’s interesting.” Too often it means either reason # 4 or #5 above! I’ll bet that I hear “Interesting” at least once per day from someone.

The only way to truly know is to ask, “Can you help me out? You just said this concept was interesting, and I’m not exactly sure what you mean. I know that sometimes when I hear “interesting,” the person really hates it … what do you mean?”

If you want to make sure that your salespeople don’t fall victim to happy ears, make sure that they clarify the use of words that can have multiple meanings, words that are vague and can be easily interpreted the wrong way.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies and people that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

How to Innovate for Success

It is my strong belief that the only two sustainable competitive advantages left to most businesses today are; creating an organizational culture of innovation and extreme customer focus — both of which are driven by finding and keeping only the best people on your team.  In other words, you need to be a connoisseur of talent and encourage your bright and skilled team members to be highly innovative and deliver consistently superior customer service.  In this article I like to share with you a few quick ideas about how to foster a more innovative culture in your organization.

Embrace the idea of “kaizen.”  This is a Japanese term made famous by Toyota that describes the idea of “continuous and never ending improvement.”  The interesting thing about kaizen though, is you don’t have to completely reinvent the way you do business, you simply strive to find someplace in your organization that you can improve by 1% every single day.  If you come up with something highly innovative and game changing, great!  But the real power comes from disciplined pursuit of incremental improvements, every day, I every employee.  As an example, the typical employee at Ford gives management contributes an average of 1.4 suggestions for improvement each year.  A typical Toyota employee contributes an average of 44 suggestions for improvement each year.  Imagine the improvements your organization could make if annually everyone was giving 40 or 50 of their best ideas for how to improve the company.

If you want innovation, make it part of everyone’s job.  In companies that highly value innovative thinking, such as Google or Gore, they make it part of every employee’s job description and assign a percentage of every workweek strictly for experiments, brainstorming, and creative thinking about new ways to innovate and make the company better.

Expose your people to innovative thinkers.  Once a month, or once a quarter bring in an actor, artist, poet, inventor or some other such creative thinker and let them share their philosophy of innovation with your team.  Most companies are far too insular, the only look at their company, their industry, their direct competitors.  Innovative companies look everywhere for creative ideas that they can swipe and adapt to their organization.

Create clear and specific innovation targets.  Organizations that make innovation a priority do so by building innovation into the strategic plan and operational objectives of the organization.  For example, one company I worked with set a strategic innovation target that a minimum of 30% of current products must have been developed within the last year.  When an innovation target is this precise and challenging, people throughout the organization have no option but to consistently look for ways to innovate and improve the business

Lavishly reward those who are innovative.  What gets measured and rewarded for… gets done even better!  Every few months have your employees give a presentation on their top three innovative ideas for making the company better.  Pick the best ones, implement them, and then if they are highly successful share part of the wealth with the employee that contributed be innovative idea.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be huge check, it might be a day off or contribution to their favorite charity or some flex time… but the point is to hold that person up as an example to everyone else in the company that innovation is important and will be rewarded.

If every employee in your business spends serious time and effort thinking exploring ways to find even a 1% improvement in productivity, innovation, teamwork, efficiency or customer service — and then you effectively implement the very best ideas, soon you will see your business achieving higher and higher levels of success.

John Spence is an accomplished businessman and a leading authority on strategic thinking, advanced leadership development, and many other building blocks for successful businesses. He ranks highly among the most sought-after executive educators and has conducted workshops for numerous Fortune 500 companies.

Thanks Steven Slater and Jet Blue

I have been reading about Jet Blue’s flight attendant’s meltdown, and whether or not Steven Slater started the affair or the passenger did, it still highlights something that we can all probably agree on. People in general have lost their manners, and society needs to get back to basics. Whether we are on the road, in an airplane, in the workplace, shopping, or at home, people are not treating each other properly and in many cases are just downright rude and disrespectful.

I could never talk to my parents the way I hear kids speak to theirs today. The quality of communications among people has declined thanks to e-mail, text, twitter and other reasons not to talk face-to-face. Texting and e-mails have caused more strife between people than ever could be imagined. People do a poor enough job expressing themselves in person.

Even without the messaging problems, the basics have just gone out the window. For some reason, it seems that as generations go by, people think that it is okay to be disrespectful. Common courtesies have gone out of fashion like clothing. For example:

  • How often do all the ladies leave the elevator first?
  • How often are people holding the door open for people or just rushing in?
  • In South Florida I do not think anyone is ever on time. When someone is late, they are showing lack of respect for the people waiting for them.
  • When someone cancels a meeting at the last minute, they are showing disrespect for the other person’s schedule.
  • How often does someone see someone else carrying something heavy and pretend not to see them instead of offering assistance?
  • People do not return phone calls, e-mail, or invitation responses.

So after pondering these thoughts, I was considering some of the companies in the world that are known for their customer service. These customer service techniques are rooted in good manners. Saying thank you and you’re welcome, holding open the door for people, and other basic good manners.

I recently visited Aruba and was amazed at how friendly everyone was. I do not care who it was. You could talk to anyone, and they were helpful. The Aruban economy is clearly dependent on tourism, and the small country totally gets it. Compare that to say, Miami, which also heavily depends on tourism, and I would say half the hotels are not nearly as friendly and helpful as some of the street people were in Aruba. There was no surprise that in Aruba they have 2% unemployment, low crime and what they call a “happy island.”

So maybe if our state and federal governments want to spend money on something useful to improve our economy, they should require every American to attend good etiquette and customer service training. This alone might put our economy back on track and give us a competitive advantage over other countries.

If the government cannot see the forest through the trees, business owners must. If your company does not have a large loyal customer base, take a look at how well the staff treats each other and its customers. If you do not think they are setting an example in how well they treat people as human beings, I am sure it is having a negative impact on your top and bottom lines.

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 learn more about him or his firm please or contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Is your approach Self-Centered?

Too often managers, mentors and colleagues sound very much like parents talking to children. When you want them do something differently you tell them a story about yourself.  In the business world feedback may sound like this:

“You should have done “X” because that is how I would do it” or “Back in the day this is how we did things.”

This self-centered approach to giving feedback has the same effect as when parents tell their children “when I was your age.”  People shut down. They hear nothing that is said after that. The reason is that they are feeling like a victim as their self esteem is being attacked.  No one likes to feel like they are a bad person, that they are less than anyone else, or to be spoken to like someone who thinks they are better than anyone else. These are all feelings that generate when conversations begin from a self-centered frame of mind.

If you want someone to do, think or act differently it is important to approach them from their perspective. You need to ask questions instead of give directions. Help people think through their solutions rather than think for them. This may take a little longer and require you to be creative but the results will be much better.

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 learn more about him or his firm please or contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Face or Phone Time To Fill Your Sales Pipeline?

Have you noticed that the higher up people move in their organizations or the longer someone has been in a sales role, whether it be in professional services or a traditional sales role, the farther away they move from the daily regimen of outbound prospecting calls to schedule appointments to increase their sales pipeline?

Furthermore, they are typically not in the top 25% of sales volume producers for their industry group, which means they could be producing a lot more but have allowed themselves to get complacent. The only people that do not need to set aside time for daily prospecting calls and potential networking are the people who generate enough of a consistent sales pipeline to put them in the top 25% of all producers in their industry segment. Everyone else has to find a way to develop their pipeline either through networking and making phone calls.

For everyone else, aside from company leads and people calling you unsolicited, there are only two ways to build your pipeline: getting out to network and using your phone. After studying this for some time, I am convinced that people do what is comfortable for them, but not what is best for them. What is comfortable for most people is getting out of the office and meeting people.

It is very common to find people who go to every networking meeting available, hoping to run into a few decision-makers. If they attend an event with 100 people, there may be 10 that would be good client candidates; however, they may or may not meet any of those 10 people. By the end of this event, they are likely to walk away with zero meetings and, best case, perhaps some people who would take a phone call about future meetings. Of these, maybe 1 is a real prospect. Including travel time, attending the event was a 3-hour decision and time commitment. So all you accomplished was marketing your organization, introducing yourself to some new people who now know you exist, and possibly setting one future meeting, if the person you met ever takes your call.

Now let’s take that same 3 hours and use the phone. The average person starting out may not have a very large contact list and may need to do a lot of cold calling. But a seasoned salesperson and partners in a professional services firm should have amassed more than 2,000 contacts willing to take their call. The people being called also know people, and may be willing to give referrals. So, imagine how many people could be called and connected within 3 hours. Whether cold calling or warm calling, it is reasonable to expect a large number of outbound calls. Even if a large percentage of the calls result in leaving messages, all calls can be directed to a decision-maker in a company with which you want to do business. Conservatively, depending on the nature of your business and the level of the person you are calling in the organization, you should achieve 12 phone meetings and 2 to 3 prospect meetings scheduled for new business opportunities. If you are good at pre-qualifying your meetings, at least one of those meetings is likely to result in new business within your sales cycle. This is a much better result than attending the networking meeting above. In essence, you networked, but you did it over the phone. These results can be achieved whether you are calling people you know or cold calling a list of good prospects from a purchased list.

I am not suggesting that people do no networking. I believe that your networks make you powerful. However, I am suggesting that most people are making 2 mistakes with networking.

  1. Too much time is allocated to networking. No more than 10% of a salesperson’s time should be spent on networking. If you are in professional services and have to deliver, it should be no more than 5%, in order to allow enough time to get on the phone to properly fill the pipeline and to attend meetings with prospects.
  2. Too much networking in the wrong places. Do not go to a networking event unless the majority of the people there are the people that you would normally sell your product or service to. Do not go to events consisting of a bunch of salespeople from other companies. An exception is a networking group like Business Networking International (“BNI”), providing that you regularly get referrals from the other people you are meeting with. These relationship-based groups can be valuable if you are surrounded by the right people.

Another distraction of networking is board involvement. While this is can be a rewarding and important activity, it should not be confused with a productive sales activity. When you compare the amount of time it takes to sit and play the role on a board with the number of people on the board, amount of interaction with those people, and the amount of business received, a person would be better served taking the phone call route. So when someone decides to sit on a board, it should be a community involvement decision rather than one to help them make their sales production numbers. Many times I have seen people’s board involvement significantly detract from their production. They will develop business from their involvement, but it is far less than these people would produce had they chosen more productive networking venues and/or called on their rolodex to find business.

The key take-away is use of time. We must be careful not to confuse what makes us feel good with what is best for generating business. Most people do not put the time into making phone calls because they do not view this as an exciting part of their day. Because it does not fit their self-image, they avoid the most effective use of sales time. If everyone put as little as an hour per day, or five hours per week into filling their pipeline with meetings, they would always have a full and productive pipeline and find themselves in the top 25% of their peer group.  Many people have found that they complete the whole sales process without ever leaving their desk.

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.

Think Before You Communicate

So often verbal communications do not work out the way people want. They cause a completely different outcome from their intended purpose. The challenge is not just the words one uses. It is the tone and body language of the delivery. Research tells us that words make up only 7% of the communication we receive. Body language accounts for 55%, and tone 38%. Meanwhile, people spend the majority of their time thinking about the words they want to use. I would suggest that not enough thought is given to timing and method of delivery.

The more prominent a person’s role in an organization and community, the more important it is for them to be a master communicator. Their prominence results in their communications touching and impacting larger audiences of people. For example, let’s look at Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. His comments after LeBron James announced his decision to go to the Miami Heat will have a profound impact on his organization and his community. In case you missed it, he denounced the player who won MVP in the league for the last 2 seasons and carried his team to the playoffs for the last few seasons, making statements publicly that included the following:

  • Heartless and callous
  • Shocking disloyal
  • Shameful display of selfishness
  • Cowardly betrayal

Mr. Gilbert then went on “to personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled former “King” wins one. You can take it to the bank.”

The consequences of these remarks served little purpose other than to embarrass Dan Gilbert and his organization and to hurt his community. It put the team in a position where LeBron might never consider returning to play in his home town, Cleveland, regardless of what trades they made. Gilbert violated the rule of “never burning bridges.” Had the Miami Heat or Alonzo Mourning done something so foolish back when he had health issues, Alonzo might not have returned to play a critical role in helping the Heat win the NBA title. There are many cases where players have returned to a former team later in their careers and played crucial roles.

In addition, the people in the city also should have thought before they burned their LeBron jerseys. All of these people acted in a shockingly disloyal and selfish manner toward a player who brought them incredible baskeball for the last 6 years and donated a lot of time and money in their community. Many stars continue to support their home towns after leaving for another team. Now these shortsighted people are alienating him. What are the chances that he will want to continue to give back to this community? What purpose is their communication serving?

The lesson here is that one must think before communicating. I would bet that many communications would never happen because they serve no useful purpose. They are often just an outlet for some to free their anger; as above. In the process they hurt themselves and others. There are only two proper purposes for communication: 1) to transfer information, and 2) to encourage others to behave or act a certain way. You know you achieve that goal when the information has been transferred properly or the other people are behaving or acting the way you desired. If this is not the case, you failed in your communications. If your purpose with communication is to hurt someone or to cause anger, it usually acts as a boomerang.

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 learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Conflict Avoidance Hurts Teamwork

A great way to tell whether you have a strong team is by the amount of regular, healthy conflicts that occur in meetings when decisions are being made and if decisions are really being made at all. It is often said that if everyone agrees than someone is not needed. This may be true but the real issue may be that the team dynamics in the organization has been broken. This breakage may be causing key people that can be contributing to stop contributing.

There are many leadership missteps that may be killing and destroying teamwork and cause conflict avoidance. Here are a few examples of when a leader can destroy the team.

  • Stopped being curious and really does not listen to people when issues are raised in meetings.
  • Intimidating or threatening so subordinates have fear of reprisal so they do not want to speak up.
  • History of judging people in the room (and voicing those judgments) when opinions differ from theirs or are not strong and thus people do not want to be vulnerable.
  • Appears to only be self interested.
  • Tendency to interrupt other team members before their idea may be completed.
  • Makes personal attacks when they are not getting their way.

According to Pat Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunction of Team, “fear of conflict” is one of the five dysfunctions that are critical to teamwork.  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 better decisions. The role of the leader is to practice restraint and to allow for conflict and resolution to occur naturally.

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 learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Making Lofty Goals Realistic

Many organizations set goals that are not realistic and are in the habit of not meeting their objectives. Others achieve some of their goals by accident, and some could achieve a lot more. The first questions is, “Are your goals mandatory, or are they something you set out to try?” If they are mandatory, then I suggest you make sure that you are planning for success instead of failure. Many organizations set their goals without considering the obvious reasons they may not be achievable. By addressing these reasons up front, an organization can dramatically increase the likelihood of success or know that they must adjust them to something more realistic.

Here is a common list of possible circumstances that cause organizations not to achieve their goals:

  • Has consideration been given to the capacity of the target market (growing-shrinking) and what a realistic share of the market can be?
  • If revenue levels were achieved, considering seasonality effects, what is the ability of the organization to deliver the products and services at the optimum level while keeping its brand promises?
  • Can the company finance growth; should it grow faster than its ability to self-fund?
  • What advertising or marketing support will be needed to support the goals, and are there finances in place to support it?
  • How will competition respond to your strategic moves, and are your marketing and sales forces well prepared to properly differentiate the company?
  • What is the performance track record of the people that need to deliver, and will your new goals require a significant increase in performance?
  • Are there enough sales and sales support people based on: the amount of time to make the appropriate amount of sales calls; the number of meetings it will take to close a deal; how many proposals one has to write; the time it takes to process a deal, given the normal sales cycle, based on the average close ratio, the average size of deals closed, and travel time?
  • Will you need to introduce new products, by when, and how much of your sales volume depends on it?

Lofty goals require a regular regimen of adjusting your resources (time, people and money). As an organization answers the above questions, inevitably they should be considering upgrading some people, increasing some resources, moving some around, refocusing time, etc. Significant goals, those that require growth rates and increases in profit margins that are large improvements over prior years, need refinement on a monthly and quarterly basis. As we are trying things, we will make mistakes and/or see more opportunities for growth. The great leaders are the ones that are making these adjustments.

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 learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

How Effective Are Your Meetings?

Do your meetings result in everyone feeling good after they leave? Does very little get done in your meetings? If so, your meetings function like most, and they are probably worthless!

Most often leaders are concerned with there being too many meetings, or meetings being too long, or some other wrong measurement. I would like to suggest that you change your measurement systems. For example, a good leading indicator that something important is being discussed is conflict. Other indicators of good meetings are the number of decisions made and the number of people held accountable for decisions made at the prior meetings. These are real indicators that your meetings are worthwhile. If you have a really good meeting, then everyone leaves feeling uncomfortable because there is so much more to be done, and they have a stake in it!

There are 7 critical factors that when managed correctly result in great meetings and top results for organizations:

  1. Conflict

    Conflict is a necessary part of good meetings. There should be good healthy conflict in every good meeting, and people should feel pressure. When there is a lack of conflict, it is an indication you are not talking about anything that requires any real discussion, failing to emphasize the hard-to-achieve goals and key performance indicators, not holding people accountable, not talking about the “elephants in the room” or the real issues going on the in company. If you are not having this type of regular conflict, you have a problem with your “team,” and I recommend reading “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. The lack of conflict can be an indication that the foundation of a strong team, trust, is missing. .

  2. Purpose

    Every meeting should have a purpose, and you should define that purpose before you enter the room. By the end of the meeting you should answer the question “Did we achieve our purpose?” For example, if your purpose was to decide whether or not to do an acquisition, you need to determine if a decision was made. If there was no decision at the end of the meeting, you need to determine the specific action steps needed to make that decision, and what alternative decision deadline is acceptable. You need to determine how often your meetings fail to achieve their purpose and why. If this is a regular occurrence, you need to challenge your team to identify whether it is a failure in preparation or some other symptom causing the organization to be ineffective. Do not allow yourselves to get off the hook.

  3. Time

    There are two elements to time. Making sure that you schedule your meeting on a day and at a time when you will get the team’s undivided attention is very important. You want to get as many people physically in the same room as possible. You also want to make sure that you schedule plenty of time to support your agenda. For example, I know of a company that regularly schedules a monthly meeting with an insufficient amount of time to cover the their agenda. As a result, they fail to finalize decisions, think through all the issues going on in the company, and hold people accountable for past decisions. The result is definitely showing up in the income statement, cash flow, and stress level. If you have covered all that you need to, it is okay to end a meeting early. If you did not cover all that you need to, you need to extend your meeting or reschedule the remaining items for a later time so everyone does not feel stressed because you are running over.

  4. Preparation

    All participants should know what is going to be covered in the meeting and what needs to be prepared in advance. This will allow for a more productive meeting.

  5. Interruptions

    Whenever possible, it is recommended that your monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings be done off-site. This will reduce and/or eliminate interruptions as much as possible.

  6. Responsibility

    Make sure that the responsibility stays in the room, and you do not play the blame game. Your meetings need to be about solutions. Leave excuses to the rest of the world.

  7. Accountability

    It is critical to agree on who is the one person that is accountable for each item, and to make sure that person is held accountable. Review key developments, assignments, and deadlines regularly until an assignment is completed.

We help clients achieve quick, efficient and profitable growth through the easy implementation of proven methods. Contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com to find out how a business coach, our consultants and trainers can help you accelerate your success.

Do You Have Meeting Rhythm?

It may be a surprise, but in most organizations there are not enough good meetings. You might be saying there is no time for any more meetings, but when properly executed, good meetings will save you time and will make you more money!

This article focuses on how to develop good meeting rhythm in your organization in order to save you time and money. When you conduct a series of meetings that build upon each other, they allow management to see patterns that will help them to make better and faster decisions. In addition, by communicating in focused, structured, and organized fashion, you cut a lot of the inefficiency out of the organization.

The meetings every organization should have and their purposes should be as follows:

  • Annual Meeting – Discuss progress on last year’s goals, and set and get alignment among your management team around the goals you plan to achieve for the next year.
  • Quarterly Meetings – You measure progress toward your year-end goals and discuss what you need to do in the next 13-week race to stay on track.
  • Monthly Meetings – Focus on monthly learning. These are opportunities for the management team to start developing the next levels in the organization. This should be a two- to four-hour meeting for the extended management team to review progress with everyone, discuss financial results, and to make appropriate adjustments. It is also a great time to do an hour or two of specific training.
  • Weekly Meetings – These are issue-oriented meetings and strategic gatherings. At these meetings you discuss progress toward the top 5 critical initiatives in the organization (you have identified these right?), look at leading key performance indicators, customer and employee feedback, and spend 30 minutes on one single big issue. A big mistake made at weekly meetings is covering everything every week. As a result, weekly meetings tend to be too shallow. It is recommended that the management team pick a focus for the month or quarter to be the priority for your weekly meetings. By moving that one large priority for the month or quarter, you make a big impact on driving your business forward.
  • Daily Huddles – These are 5-15 minute stand-up meetings for everyone in the company, but not necessarily everyone in the same meeting. The purpose of these huddles is to help make sure that everyone is focused on the right activities, identify where people are stuck, create peer pressure to achieve key deliverables, and create daily contact among all team members. Companies that do huddles have found that it has made their days much more efficient and weekly and monthly meetings much more productive.
  • Specific Purpose Meetings – These meetings only include those people necessary to get something done, remove a bottleneck, and/or are designed to make a decision.

We help clients achieve quick, efficient and profitable growth through the easy implementation of proven methods. Contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com to find out how a business coach, our consultants and trainers can help you accelerate your success.