Your Philosophy Around Talent Makes A Difference

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

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

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

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

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

First Who Then What

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Are “A” Players?

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

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

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

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

Three Types of A-Players

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

There are three types of “A Players:”

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

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

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

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

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

(1) Have you adequately communicated expectations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 When Do You Keep “B” or “C” Players?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 – It will take much longer to hire people.

 – It is too complicated.

 – It takes too much workforce.

 – It can’t happen in our industry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Actions to Take

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

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

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

 Six Steps to A-Player Status:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Building A Winning Team – Making Decisions Stick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avoid Horrible Meetings

A client asked me to observe his weekly leadership team meeting and it was one of the worst meetings I had attended in a long time. Every leader in the room should have been upset because they essentially wasted 90 minutes. More concerning was the fact that leadership rated it a great meeting.

Might you and your leaders unconsciously fall into the same traps as my client? After all, the agenda and process for the meeting is common practice and is prescribed by EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) Implementers all around the world. The problem was not the process or EOS, it was the way it was being implemented. Let’s dissect what happened and then discuss what should happen in every weekly meeting.

Form Over Substance

The overriding problem was form over substance. The team followed a proven process and yielded the wrong outcomes. The meeting involved a standard agenda, covered the topics, engaged everyone, started on time, and finished on time. From a theoretical standpoint it appeared to be a well-run meeting. And my client rated it so!

Here are the primary reasons I would rate the meeting horrible:
1. Clarity of Purpose
2. Undervaluing time
3. Little (if any) conflict
4. Lack of accountability
5. Failed to address serious problems

Clarity of Purpose

Are your meetings more focused on purpose or process? Purpose focuses on intended outcomes and process focuses agendas, start and end time, checking the boxes, and having the meeting in the first place. The problem with process is that you can follow it flawlessly and not accomplish your purpose. The challenge with standard operating procedures is the presumption that conditions don’t change. When it comes to leadership meetings, we are always operating in turbulent conditions, so we need to have flexible standard operating procedures that adjust the process to accomplish our purpose.

The purpose of the weekly leadership meeting is to:
• Share key information across the team
• Break silos
• Keep focus on the top priorities
• Hold people accountable when they are off track
• Solve big issue(s) together

Agendas are typically designed to identify the key information that needs to be shared. Personal update, business update, customer feedback, employee feedback, priority status, to-do status, metrics update, and key company and department challenges. After providing this information the team identifies topics, prioritize, and discuss key topics, and agree on solutions. This is precisely what my client did. So, you are probably thinking, this sounds like they should have had a great meeting. What’s the problem?

Information was shared and after 45 minutes none of the key issues in the company were raised. Yes, they identified issues, but it was all small issues. This company had major issues and none of them were brought to the table. When issues were addressed, half the room would check out when it was not their issue. Leaders had opinions and observations that should be raised, and they did not. Worse, most of the issues discussed was a quick conversation between two people that should have happened and could have been resolved before the meeting. These people are all in the same building, are steps away from each other and clearly have not been talking.

Had this meeting addressed its purpose, the leadership team would have spent a lot of time discussing their number 1 issue, people. Certain vacant positions were causing the company to miss opportunities. Keeping the wrong people was costing them money. And, there was no confidence in how this would be resolved. Every leader has a hand in this obstacle and failure to address was costing this company over $1 Million in profit. This discussion should happen every week until results prove that the plan is in place that is showing the progress necessary to capture the $1 Million.

Key Observation: Focus on making major improvement to your business every week. Leadership meetings should limit the small stuff.

Undervaluing Time

If your week is like most leaders, time is always an issue. Time is finite and if we don’t use it wisely the company and performance suffers. When we have meetings, we are investing time just like we would money. When you allow for a bad meeting, one that fails to speed up taking advantage of big opportunities and eliminating your bottlenecks, it is costing you dearly. In the case of the people issue (identified above), it is costing the company $20K in profit each week.

Have you ever wondered why time is being squandered? I have given this significant thought and find two reasons to be the main culprit. First, we tend to avoid the elephants in the room. The elephants are the big problems. To resolve them is difficult, it can take considerable thought, requires conflict, and takes significant steps and time to address. As a result, we go after the small stuff. Second, it feels good to check items off the task list. As problem solvers by nature, we feel good when we solve a volume of problems. However, most of the problems would go away or be different if you addressed the elephants.

In the client example, it was considered important to finish and end on time. Because this occurred, the meeting was rated well. Based on the content and discussion, this meeting should have been completed in 60, not 90 minutes. Most weekly meetings, when focused, can be completed in 30 minutes. In my client’s case, the extra time was caused by taking 45 minutes for ideation and updates. Not only did they spend time focusing on minor issues, but they also spent too much doing it. I plan 60-minute meetings with a 30-minute buffer. While I expect to get done in 60 minutes, there are times when the issue is big and important. It is crucial that you finished discussing and prescribing a solution before leaving the meeting. Failure to do so adds a week delay in addressing important issues. In addition, it causes more time to solve the same problem because you lose momentum in the discussion.

Key Observation – Get better at increasing the value from holding meetings and have the discipline to get done in shorter periods of time. Reward the team with unscheduled time when this happens, and they will go back and get more ROI from their time. A key measure of a successful meeting is identifying and measuring the value of the decisions and actions from the meeting.

Break Silos and Encourage Conflict

I have participated in thousands of meetings. The difference between great and ordinary leadership team meetings is how leaders engage in meetings. In great meetings, everyone in the room is playing to win and there are no sacred cows. Everyone demands excellence, want to contribute value, and cannot stand for bulls#@t. If you get through a meeting and there is little conflict, your meeting suffered one of the following:

1. You are discussing insignificant items.
2. There is a lack of trust

Healthy conflict needs to be mandatory. If you are discussing a difficult issue, there should be varying opinions as to the definition of the issue, multiple ways to solve the problem, and rarely consensus on actions to take. It takes vigorous debate, challenging each other’s assumptions, questions about sources of information, and so on. While I am certain there are moments where this happens in your meetings, how often? What percentage of your meeting involves conflict?

In my experience, a lack of conflict occurs because of the highest-ranking person in the room. For conflict to happen, this person must be more curious, and listening rather than talking too much. After all, they already know their opinion. The job is to access everyone else’s brains. It is important to understand everyone’s perspective on a subject. Even when it is not in their area of expertise. Some of the best ideas and perspectives come from those people that seem the least qualified to contribute. In every meeting everyone should expect to share and contribute ideas. They should truly be part of the decisions. Our job in meetings is to co-create.

We also need to be vigilant about three types of circumstances:

1. Politics
2. Low Contributors
3. Negative Influencers

You can identify politics when people are not speaking their mind. Their body language, tone and past discussions on a subject indicate whether they are speaking up. When people are saying what others want to hear or staying quiet because they are avoiding going against the grain, this is politics.

Key Observation: By making people speak up you help them grow as leaders. You get more and better ideas and break siloed thinking. We want to not only hear everyone, but we also want to understand why they have come to their conclusions.

Lack of Accountability

We must hold the team accountable for achieving company and department priorities and goals. While this is obvious, it is not happening in most organizations and execution suffers. While my client presented the status of priorities and goals, it was a farce, and no one spoke up but me.

First, when leaders presented their metrics, almost everyone one of them was red. Red should be an indicator of poor performance. In an accountable organization when this goes on for too long someone should be fired. When I saw how many metrics were red, I asked “how long they had been red.” The team answered “forever.” Essentially their targets were not real expectations and did not represent reasonable expectations. Targets for the week, month, and quarter for every metrics must represent present conditions. Failure to adjust them accordingly leads to an environment where it becomes impossible to be accountable.

Secondly, this team recently set new priorities and had concluded that the old priorities were too shallow and would not drive needed results. Instead of updating their scorecards they reported on old priorities. Worse, since there were no clear milestones and due date for action steps it was impossible to know whether leaders were on track to complete their priorities. Thus, the priority status update was bogus.

Key Observation: When metrics and priorities are not properly developed it is impossible to hold someone accountable until it is too late.

In conclusion, by having meetings that achieve their purpose, you will be able to grow your organization faster and with less effort. You must properly use time when you hold weekly leadership team meetings. Time is best used solving “big” rather than small issues. Your company would be better off solving one big issue rather than lots of small ones. The big issues relate to quarterly priorities and show up when metrics are below meeting a reasonably high standard. You know that you have hit gold, when you are having constructive conflict and rigorous debate. 

If you need further help, then head over to our business coaching page for more information.

Why is your business attracting the wrong clients?

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

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

Are You Answering the Right Question?

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

Have You Identified the True Problem?

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Trying to Convert the Heathens?

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

Conclusion – Ask Yourself… and Take Action!

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


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

Three Keys to Maximum Business Performance

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

 

The Difference Between Speed, Velocity, and Acceleration!

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

 

Every Business Has the Same Fifteen Leaks

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

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

 


 

The Three Primary Reason Business Leaks Occur

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

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

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

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

– The cost of keeping underperformers

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 


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

How to Remove OVERWHELMED from your Business Vocabulary

The CEO of one of my Business Coaching clients, let’s call him Joe, was very highly strung when I first met him. He was saddled with both working on the business and working in the business. He felt that his management team was inadequate for the job and had to step in and do the job for them constantly. As a result, he was always tired, impatient, and short-fused. His team members frequently walked on eggshells to avoid the fallout of Joe unloading from feeling overwhelmed and over-worked.

That was a year ago. I recently picked up a new executive coaching client, Mike, who was a referral from Joe. After going through some pleasantries in our first call, I asked him why he wanted to work with me. He told me that he has known Joe for years and has noticed a remarkable change in Joe’s behavior. He now found Joe much more relaxed, Mike continued, and it was fun to hang out again. Additionally, he noticed that Joe now appeared to be more focused and took the time to work on his business expansion, as well as made the time take a long overdue vacation with his family. Mike wanted that for himself, as well! He felt that he was facing burnout and needed to reverse that trend.

Many business owners and CEOs find that they, too, can feel overwhelmed and over-worked. Sometimes, they behave like Joe, and other times they just check out and disappear, trying to hide from the demands and the fatigue. These are all symptoms of burnout, just from different ends of the spectrum. It is always a big red flag when the CEO is the busiest person in the Company.

There is no magic formula for the CEO to change this dynamic. It’s about adopting new habits, both for themselves and their management team, to give them the freedom to spend more time working on the business. Here are the things you can implement to help not feel overwhelmed and burned out:

-1-  Create a Culture of Learning – The entire team was assigned a reading list and we did follow-on discussions and exercises. I curate the reading list to focus on gaps in the desired behaviors the team needed.

-2-  Create a Culture of Accountability – If you’ve read my previous blog, you learned that the lack of accountability typically stems from the lack of clarity. After all, it is hard to commit to something if you don’t fully understand it; and, if you’re not committed, you can’t subscribe to the need to see it through.

-3-  Prioritization – Implement a planning process (Strategic and Operational) that identifies the key priorities and aligns the management team’s members. Use a balanced set of metrics to provide both headlights and taillights so that everyone knows how they are performing.

-4-  Talent Scorecard – Implement a talent scorecard to determine if you have the right people filling the right seats. The scorecard is used to evaluate everyone in the Company, including the CEO.

-5-  Communications – Create a strong communication culture by implementing proper meeting rhythms and employs active listening.

-6-  Transparency – Fostered organizational alignment and improved operational velocity and effectiveness through clarity and accountability. Everyone in the Company knows what is going on and how you are doing. Everyone must understand the Company’s purpose and values, its priorities (for the quarter, year and beyond), and how success is measured.

By applying these six key principles, Joe’s Company is growing at a healthy clip and year-over-year profitability has improved by 20%. Also, employee turnover has dropped, and most employees think it’s a great place to work. Joe has developed and made his bench of managers stronger and more capable; and the trust in the leadership team is at an all-time high. He now has the freedom to focus on other higher-value initiatives and activities. Most of all, Joe no longer feels overwhelmed. He is working on growing the business and finds the time to spend with his family and hone his golf game. Joe is a happy man, and his team sees that too. He is still busy, but he is now only pursuing strategic business objectives and lives a balanced personal life.

Want to Learn More about Removing that Feeling of Being OVERWHELMED?

Mo Rousso is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving execution. To learn more about him or the firm, please visit our website at www.activategroupinc.com/contact or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

Lack of Accountability is an Epidemic – How to Improve Your Business Initiatives

Have you ever been frustrated because a colleague had failed to follow through on a critical priority? You are not alone. I have concluded that lack of accountability is an epidemic in most organizations. The good news, this is solvable.

I recently had a C.E.O., Rocky (not his real name), tell me that he felt his team wasn’t following through on the key priorities. Worse, they agreed to them! Rocky felt that maybe his team thought that what they chose to work on was more important than the agreed-to strategic initiatives. I found this puzzling and needed more context to diagnose and develop an action plan. After all, I knew his team members. All possessed high integrity and the required intelligence, and all worked hard. I doubted that any of them were willfully sabotaging the company, mainly since this was a group issue.

So, I asked if I could sit in on their next weekly meeting as an observer. What I found was eye-opening!

Rocky led the meeting with his entire team present, and they all actively participated. After the meeting concluded, I debriefed his whole team. I complimented them on their high energy and congeniality and asked if this was a typical meeting. They said it was. So, I pointed out that even though they all effectively worked together to solve a business problem, there was one key item missing from their meeting, and probably from their others, as well. All heads turned to me.

Now that I had their attention, I explained that not once did they discuss their key quarterly priorities and the corresponding key measures developed to provide headlights. In other words, Rocky wasn’t holding his team accountable for focusing on achieving their strategic initiatives. And, by extension, if Rocky wasn’t holding them accountable, I asked if maybe they thought that where they chose to begin wasn’t that critical? I saw a couple of heads nod. However, the most common response was that they didn’t fully grasp what they were supposed to do.

My colleagues and I at Activate Group, Inc. have been exposed to thousands of leaders spanning most industries in businesses ranging from start-ups to billions in revenue. We have learned that a lack of accountability typically stems from a lack of clarity. After all, it is hard to commit to something if you don’t fully understand it; and, if you’re not committed, you can’t subscribe to the need to see it through.

In his excellent book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni talks about how, for a team to get the desired results, it first needs to work its way up through four other levels. It starts with trust. This is the foundation required from which they can effectively engage. Next, a strong team will engage in constructive conflict and dialog to allow everyone to be heard, gain clarity, and consider more alternatives. After everyone is heard, it is crucial that you ask for and gain commitment from all stakeholders. It is at this point that engenders the necessity of accountability to drive results. When you skip any or all of the first three steps, you tend to lose clarity and commitment.

In my client’s case, it turned out they didn’t spend enough time engaging in constructive conflict. While they had developed a solid foundation of trust over the years, they didn’t spend enough time in having that constructive dialog so that everyone clearly understood the initiatives and could commit to supporting them as priorities.

The other mistake I found—and find often—is a lack of a clear accountability system. Within this system must be clear on who is accountable to make sure a particular thing gets done, what must get done, and when. In many cases, that assignment is left ambiguous, and, as a result, no one feels accountable.

I helped my client implement several steps that you can implement in your organization:

1- Leave plenty of time on the agenda to make sure that everyone was clear on the priorities.

2- Ensure that the priorities are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound—the useful acronym S.M.A.R.T.

3- Limit the number of priorities assigned to each executive to make sure you spend enough time in a constructive discussion (Specific, Measurable, and Relevant) and that they aren’t stretched to the point that they might drop some balls (Attainable) during the upcoming fiscal quarter (Time-bound).

4- Assign accountability to only one person. Others can help, so they can delegate responsibility for any number of tasks, but only one executive would be held accountable.

5- Create an Accountability Dashboard so that anyone could review it and understand the status of each priority. The Dashboard has to be updated before each meeting.

6-  Change meeting agendas so that time is allocated to priorities and key measures first, and other topics are addressed as time permits. The Dashboard now becomes a tool to be reviewed.

7-  Create a powerful meeting tempo for each week to allow the team to stay current with all key aspects of the business and get help with their stuck priorities.

The above changes have become ingrained in the company, and the level of team engagement has far exceeded Rocky’s expectations. As a result, by driving clarity and, thus, accountability, the company has managed to grow during the three most recent quarters, all during the pandemic! They grew sales by 20% and increased their profitability by almost 30%!

Want to Learn More about Accountability?

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

How Do You Find Your Purpose?

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

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

5 Lenses of Purpose

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

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

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

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

How Does Impatience Affect Leadership?

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

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

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

The Impatient Leader Tends to Be Aggressive Instead of Assertive

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

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

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

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

Coaching Can Help You With Negative Behavioral Tendencies

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

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

How Strong Is Your Leadership and Management Team?

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

Leadership From the Bottom to the Top

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

EVALUATING MANAGEMENT

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

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

Are They A Strong Team?

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

Characteristics of Strong Leaders and Managers:

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

How to Improve the Leadership and Management Team

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

How Do You Measure The Success of A Meeting?

Measuring the Effectiveness of Meetings

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

Do You View Your Meetings in the Wrong Way?

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

How Should You Measure Success of A Meeting?

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

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

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

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

Are You In Denial?

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

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

How Can You Improve Internal Customer Service?

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

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

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

Business Strategy Based on Knowledge Instead of Belief

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

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

Knowledge vs. Belief

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

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

Communicating With External Sources

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

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

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

Start Improving Your Business Strategy With Customers

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

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

Collecting Unfiltered Information From Your Customers

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

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

Customer Feedback

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

Questions to Ask Customers

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

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

Need help improving your business strategy?

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

Are You Leading For Approval Ratings?

Seeking Approval and Validation

Are you generally a nice person? Does your need to be liked by others sometimes affect your ability as a leader? The challenge for everyone is that when positive qualities are overextended, they can work against you.

The reality is that everyone has “need for approval” to a certain degree. The question is: do you have too much? If you do seek a high-level of approval and your natural style is also to avoid conflict, you can be flirting with disaster as a leader.

How This Affects Leadership

In several of my recent articles, I referred to a business owner who sold his business prematurely. He lost about a quarter of its value – approximately $5 million because he could not obtain external financing to keep it afloat. This was one just one of the areas that led to this sad result. Another area was his lack of financial discipline. A third facet of his self-destruction was that he wanted to stay in everyone’s good graces, even with employees and vendors who were taking advantage of him.

What Type of CEO Are You?

Do you spend a lot of time trying to be the fun CEO? Are you creating fun meetings and all kinds of outings so that everyone is happy? Do you find it hard to have tough discussions with the people you like? When it is time to fire people that are failing to perform, do you do it yourself or do you send someone else in to do the deed? When big issues come up in the company, such as problems with your partner, do you try to get someone else to handle it? Are you guilty of putting off tough discussions that should really be addressed immediately? Do tough decisions get drawn out because you do not want to push for the decision when consensus was lacking? Have you been guilty of waiting and hoping that a people problem would somehow disappear? And when it didn’t disappear and things got out of control, did you then overcompensate by making a rash decision because you felt close to the person?

Weaknesses Can Backfire

Well some of your people are noting these weaknesses and will capitalize on them later on. While your company may be doing well right now, you should learn to lead differently. If you are interested in learning how, let’s schedule a time to further discuss your business. Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 or contact Activate Group, Inc. today.

Monsters University Leadership Lessons

I watched Monsters University with my younger son and could not help wondering  how  many leaders could benefit from two key lessons in the movie. The premise of the film was that two monsters are both attending the university to be “scarers.” Complete opposites, they meet by chance at the beginning of the movie, and are forced to help one another after each causes the other to be removed from the “scaring” program.

If You Do Not Have It, It Cannot Be Taught

The first lesson in the movie regards Mike. Mike was a cute little monster shaped like a ball. He was committed, disciplined, determined, and passionate about being a great “scarer.” He studied night and day and could not be distracted. He knew every technique and could even teach the other monsters what to do. However, with all of his know-how, he just was not scary. He did not have the talent to be scary. The headmaster recognized this and removed him from the program. This was a great decision by the headmaster, one that most leaders fail to make fast enough. The reality is that the university should never have let Mike in the program to begin with.

Are You Putting People in the Wrong Positions?

Too often leaders ignore that a person clearly does not have the qualities and talents to be successful in a role and put them in that role regardless. There are all kinds of excuses: they are family or friends; they were successful in another job; I have nobody else, etc. These are all poor excuses that only put the leader and the “misplaced” person in a bad position. If the person is not “scary” they will never be “scary.” You cannot turn a duck into a chick, a turtle into a rabbit, or snake into a bird. Unfortunately, I see leaders attempting to win this struggle on a regular basis and not understanding where they went wrong. Worse, they take it out on the poor person they put in the wrong position.

Finding the Right People to Motivate Your Unmotivated Workers

Lesson number two was related to Scully. Scully had amazing talent, looked scary, was huge, and had a tremendous natural roar. However, he refused to study, had no discipline and little work ethic because he knew he was naturally good. He lacked the qualities (core values) required by the “scarer” school, so they cut him. While on the surface this seemed like a good decision, it masked the real issue. The fact was that the school lacked the talent to manage people like Mike and to show them the way to being productive.

Raw Talents That Require Different Training

There are many raw talents like Scully who require a bit of different training. Because they are so talented, they see the world differently than others. Naturally gifted people operate through a different lens and need to be managed through a different lens. This is a hard pill to swallow, but just look in the sales departments of most companies. Look at the top sales people. It is rare to find a sales person that performs at exceptionally high levels that is not difficult to manage. The training, support, communications, etc. needed with them is different. If you do not have a manager that comprehends that, you lose your star and a lot of sales.

Is Your Organization Equipped With Good Managers?

So the real lesson with Scully is that most of the time, organization is not equipped with good managers. They do not know how to convert raw talent into great employees. Great managers can help take difficult employees and help them work in the overall organization. To be a great company, you need some very talented people and many times that comes with some counterbalances.

Law of the Lid

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Law #1 of 21: The Law of the Lid

In John Maxwells book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership he identified “The Law of the Lid”, which states that, “leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness. Without leadership ability, a person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership. If a person’s leadership is strong, the organization’s lid is high. But if it’s not, then the organization is limited.”

Leadership Ability

I have spoken with three CEO’s in the last week that I am confident are causing a lid on their organization. All were reasonably successful and suffering from a clear case of “what got you here will not get you there.” We have found that the leaders that are able to take their companies to great heights are committed to identifying and addressing the changes necessary to take the business up a notch.

They realize that those changes begin with changing themselves and permeating that change throughout. As a general rule, the lid is a byproduct of employee expansion and reflects a leader’s ability to gain follower-ship among a greater number of employees. The first major lid happens from between 50 and 60 employees, and the second lid we find around 150 employees.

Leaders Evolution of Growth

It is important to note, that if you have no one following you, you are not a leader. To get more people to follow you (because they want to) you have to become a greater leader. And, the more people you have, the more easily one can see leadership effectiveness. It is all too easy for successful people to get full of themselves and believe they have arrived. In business and success, you never arrive. It is an evolution of growth.

Breaking Through Leadership Lid

Only one of those three leaders mentioned above has positioned themselves to break through their current lid. The biggest difference was her desire to break her personal lid. She has strong self-awareness, self-grounding, and foresight to hire a third party to help with her transition. This person deserves a lot of credit as she runs one of the most profitable companies in her industry sector.

She realized that her company was not growing as it should over the last few years, despite having a better strategy than the competitors. In initial meetings with her coach, she has recognized that she is going to have to learn how to work through an extra layer of management, communicate more proactively and clearly, and to shift her role from top producer to head coach.

Improve Your Leadership Ability

Contact Activate Group, Inc. for a FREE consultation or give us a call 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.

3 Things Great Leaders Never Do

Great leaders have a lot in common. I have been reading Great by Choice (Jim Collins), which discusses the personality traits common among the most successful CEOs in the country. Things like goal setting, creativity and healthy paranoia are highlighted. As a business coach and leadership trainer, I have worked with many successful CEOs. Based on my experience, I’d like to add to the conversation with three things that the great leaders would never, ever do:

  1. Pass the buck. The buck stops with the leader. That’s what they are getting paid for, and if something goes wrong within the team they innately understand that it is their responsibility and no one else’s. Great leaders never blame others. I think this is especially important for young managers and mid-level team leaders to remember. Great leaders at all levels don’t play the blame game.
  2. Say, “I’m too busy.” A leader’s primary responsibility is to set their employees up for success. Period. If employees need help, have questions or want to share their ideas, great leaders always have time and an open door.
  3. Spend, spend, spend. Great leaders understand that spending company money is a highly visible responsibility, and that they set the example for everyone else. I’ve seen leaders and company owners spend money like drunken sailors and guess what? So do their employees. And at the end of the year when accounting shows them the damage, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Howard Shore is an executive coach and leadership trainer with expertise in leadership coaching and human capital management. To learn more about AGI’s executive coaching, management consulting, and leadership training, please contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

What Are Your Leadership Training Plans in 2012?

I don’t necessarily mean what classes HR is going to mandate for your employees. What are you working towards? How will you improve in 2012?

In my experience, successful leaders are always antsy. They are always looking forward, constantly working towards something, training to become better, more advanced. As a leader, your training is just as important as anyone else’s. So what training could help you become a better leader?

One of my CEO clients used to be deathly afraid of public speaking. As you can imagine, this is not good for the CEO of a public company. Speaking engagements abound when you’re CEO. He decided that if he wanted to be a better leader he needed to become a better speaker. So he took acting lessons. I assure you, standing in front of a group of your peers and doing silly improve exercises really does help you get over the fear of standing—and speaking—on a stage.

What type of training would help you overcome your fears, shortcomings or weaknesses?

Be honest and creative…and have some fun with it.

Howard Shore is a business 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.

Setting Examples Helps Employees Care About the Bottom Line?

As a leader in your company you are the foundation of the company culture. Like many business leaders, you may be struggling with how to build a sense of fiscal responsibility within your team. It’s a challenging thing to try to get entry-level employees to care as much about the bottom line as you do. The number one way to get employees on board with penny-pinching?

Set the example.

Spending money is a responsibility. And it is public, whether you want to believe it or not. When you spend the company’s money, employees make mental notes. If you are spending money frivolously, employees will get the impression that the company is rolling in dough. And when they see company leaders spending money left and right on non-essentials, they usually believe it’s okay for them to do the same.

I’ve seen CEO’s spend thousands on employee outings, perks for management, personal trips and entertainment, gadgets, etc. Not only do employees see this as a sign of prosperity and therefore excess, but also they see it as selfishness and favoritism. Giving certain employees (like yourself) valuable perks and excluding others is favoritism and a huge demotivator for the rest, which equates to less work effort overall.

By not controlling your company spending you are sending two very bad messages to employees:

  1. Spend money carelessly because I do.
  2. Only special employees get perks…and you aren’t one of them.

Double whammy on your bottom line.

The good news is that setting a good fiscal example is pretty easy. All it takes is discipline and prudence. Here are three easy tips for controlling your spending:

  1. Set an annual client entertainment budget. When it runs out, that’s it.
  2. Set an annual employee recognition budget. This could be spent on things like an Employee of the Month program and/or annual team party. Again, when it’s gone it’s gone until the next fiscal year.
  3. Instead of handing out individual perks to management or “favorite” employees without context, hold some kind of internal performance contest and reward the winners. Prizes should come out of the employee recognition budget.
  4. Never pay for personal perks or entertainment out of company coffers. As the company founder/leader you many feel entitled to reward yourself, but resist it because the message this sends is: “I worked hard and deserve a personal perk on the company dime.” You don’t want your employees thinking that way, do you?

Have you ever rewarded yourself on the company dime?

About the Author

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.

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.

Delegation Success

Have you ever noticed that great leaders are also excellent delegators? Delegation saves time, develops and motivates people, and makes an organization more productive. Therefore, it is fair to say that this is one of the most critical skills for any leader or manager to acquire. For this reason, I encourage every leader to become a master delegator.

There are Seven Steps in the Delegation Process:

  1. Defining What to Delegate.
    There are really three reasons to delegate work: to better control our use of time, to build our people, or to motivate our people. So the first question you will need to answer is: why are you delegating?
  2. Selecting the Individual or Team.
    While I think we should always give our most important projects to our best players, we need to involve and delegate to the entire team at some point. With each person, consider why you are delegating (motivation, growth, or time management) a task, and match the appropriate tasks to that person’s capabilities.
  3. Assess Appropriate Level of Delegation.
    Typically, leaders delegate using the same style for every person on their team and this is a mistake. The level of delegation should be adjusted based on the task and the person being delegated to.
  4. Communicate Tasks In Specific Terms.
    This is where most delegation fails. If you want something done a specific way, tell them. If you are not clear about what you want, take the time to brainstorm with your colleague before they start working.
  5. State Measurable Results.
    Explain how a task fits into the overall organizational picture, describe the measurable results you are looking for, and let them know how you will rate their performance.
  6. Agree on Deadlines.
    The deadline is the most underappreciated part of delegation. Too many leaders give people tasks without asking what else they have on their “to do” list. This is a motivation killer. When you delegate a task, you must sit with the person you are delegating to and make sure that realistic deadlines are being created
  7. Follow-up and Feedback.
    It is essential that you have a feedback system in place so that you know that things are on track. In the end, you should take the blame for failure and pass on the credit for success.

Delegation is one of the most important tasks as a leader. When done correctly, it develops your succession, increases your personal productivity, and motivates your people.

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.

Commitment to Change

Just like the people who work for them, CEOs and leaders come in all different sizes, shapes, styles, and backgrounds. As you can imagine, those variations influence how their people behave, who they hire, the systems and processes they use, and the strength of the team they have around them, etc. Dave Kurlan of Objective Management Group put together a list of 10 ways some CEOs react to recommendations he makes about their sales force. They are exactly the typical answers we’ve heard from the CEOs and seniors regarding unsuccessful projects of all types:

#1 – “Thank you for your advice. I’m not comfortable with that.” Who says that you have to be COMFORTABLE? You have to do the right thing for your company!

#2 – “I’m not quite ready for that. How about if we do that in six months?” This is a less honest version of #1 – at least be straight with me!

#3 – “Whatever you say. You’re the expert.” This tends to work out a lot like #1. Yes, they agree with whatever I say but are no stronger with management than with me and can’t drive change.

#4 – “This is B*ll S*it. They’re just going to have to do what you say, right now, or they’re gone.” That’s the spirit, but it isn’t driving change. You can’t pound people with a sledgehammer to drive change; you have to inspire them to change.

#5 – “Let me see if I can get some consensus for this.” Oh-oh, this isn’t going to work. You never get consensus from people who don’t want change in the first place!

#6 – “OK. Let’s talk about how we’re going to accomplish that, given our challenges.” Much better! At least we’re going to talk about how we can implement…

#7 – “Great – can YOU deliver that message for me?” This is even worse than #5!

#8 – “I’m not going to drive this. One of my senior managers will have to drive this.” OK, how many years are you willing to wait to find a genius who finds value in this AND isn’t threatened by it or me?

#9 – “Why aren’t my people doing what they’re supposed to do?” Because you have to be strong enough to tell them that it’s a condition of continued employment rather than quietly sitting there, not saying a thing, and expecting something to change!

#10 – I don’t want to do it your way. I think it should be done my way instead.” Ah, excuse me, but isn’t that the same way you were doing it for the last 10 years – and it didn’t work then either?

Remember, your people won’t be committed to change if leadership isn’t.

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.