7 Keys to Working Smarter and Being Highly Successful

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) Manage Your Thoughts

(2) Have a  Strategy

(3) Be Strategic

(4) Work a Plan

(5) Be Disciplined

(6) Resilience Rituals

(7) Build Wealth

Manage Your Thoughts

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

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

Have a Strategy

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

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

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

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

Work A Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Disciplined

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

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

Resilience Rituals

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

 – 1/2 hour of daily exercise

 – 15 Minute breaks between meetings

 – 15-30 of Meditation

 – 15 Minutes of Quiet reflection

 – Spending time with friends and family

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

 – Monitor and control my work hours

 – Weekly Massage

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

Build Wealth

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

In Conclusion

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


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

Trying to Sell an Apple to Someone Looking for Chocolate?

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

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

Are You Answering the Right Question?

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

Have You Identified the True Problem?

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Trying to Convert the Heathens?

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

Conclusion – Ask Yourself… and Take Action!

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

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

Three Keys to Maximum Business Performance

3 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 contact Activate Group or call (305) 722-7216.

How Do You Build a Valuable Business?

If you would like to learn how do you build a valuable business and get top dollar for your efforts, read further. Many business owners spend years building and working in their business with little or no thought about their value creation. One of my responsibilities at a Fortune 500 company was building one of its divisions through acquisition. While we successfully grew the division from $400 million to $600 million in revenue, I am most proud of the fact that we received almost $1 billion when selling it. This price was 38% higher than anything imagined internally or by investment banks we hired to explore alternatives. This had everything to do with how value was created.

There are a many factors to consider when building value. In this article I want to address the following:

  • What are motivations for selling and buying?
  • What can my business do without me?
  • What should I be doing while I am going through the process?
  • When is it the right time?
  • What do I do when I think it is time to sell?

What are motivations for selling and buying?

To build value it is important to understand why selling and buying occurs. This understanding can be the difference between receiving top dollar for your financial and “sweat” investment, selling in a position of need, or worst of all, getting nothing. For example, by positioning yourself to appeal to more types of buyers you can be more selective in your suitor and auction your company to a higher bidder rather take the only offer that comes to the table.

The top reasons to sell:

  • Lack of operating capital
  • Need for growth capital
  • Elimination of personal guarantees
  • Age
  • Health
  • Boredom/burnout
  • Liquidity/cash out
  • Perceived incongruence between risk and reward
  • Market opportunity

The primary reason people buy a business is for return on investment. The justification for a return will include:

  • Remove a barrier to entry
  • Eliminate competition
  • Strategic fit
  • Geography
  • Customer
  • Employees
  • Tangible and/or intangible assets

What can my business do without me?

Imagine going to buy a used car, and the existing owner wants to sell it to you for top dollar. There is a catch, you can only have it without the engine and the seats. In this scenario, it is likely you are going to look for a different vehicle. It is not that you cannot put a new engine and/or seats in the car, but why buy that car in the first place? If your business success is primarily dependent on 1 or 2 people, and you are one of them, you are going to have a very hard time selling your business, if you can sell it at all. It is common to find a business that has not invested in finding, developing, and nurturing the best talent.  As when buying a used car, you want to know that you are buying a reliable car that will run long after you take over the keys and title.

What should I be doing while I am going through the process?

For those of you who have children, have you had one of those moments where you took your eye off the baby, and he or she disappears? You felt fortunate nothing terrible happened. Well, watch your baby. Whether you have a strong business or one that is on life support, I recommend that you continue to run your business as if your life depends on it. On average, it takes 12 to 18 months to sell a business. Worse, sometimes they do not sell at all. Your competition, customer, and employee needs do not change or go away because you decided that you want to sell. The last thing you want is to lose a major customer or key employee while going through this process. In addition, some of the things you are going to be evaluated on include: how strong your growth potential is, customer and employee retention, strength of employees, and operating effectiveness. While they do look at the past, buyers will give more attention to today and will pay more when the trajectory is upward.

Most of us have gone house hunting and would agree that you are willing to pay more for a house that you think is going to appreciate more in value than others, has all the extras, is on a great lot, nice paint job, no clutter, good lighting, happy atmosphere, and great landscaping. Invest in your business like never before. I would invest in people development, brightening the atmosphere, team building, paint job, and signage. Hopefully you have been doing these things all along. If you haven’t, you are going to be pleasantly surprised by the results you have been missing.

When is the time right?

Sell when the market is ready. Waiting until you are ready can be a big mistake. The idea is to sell high and be careful that you are not overpaying to keep working. I attended a seminar offered by SmithBarney Citigroup, and they presented a very interesting analysis about paying for the privilege of working. The Geneva Capital Strategies group did an analysis of historical transactions and showed where owners were actually losing money by keeping their businesses. They actually would have been better off reinvesting the net after-tax proceeds from their sale into other investments and not working at all.

It is typically not a good idea for you to sell your business when it is down, or if you think that prospects are not good. Buyers see the same things you do and rarely buy what the seller thinks he is selling. Even if they don’t agree, buyers are usually going to try to take advantage in terms of price. It is always best to sell when business is good (e.g. market share and sales are growing, margins are expanding, and business climate is strong).

What do I do when I think it is time?

Do not try to go this alone. I can tell you from first-hand experience that people who hired the wrong type of advisors or none at all cost themselves 20% or more in sale price. There are reasons why people make a living in this arena. For example, structuring your deal incorrectly can cost you 20-50% of the cash in your pocket. In addition, it is very important to get assistance to bring multiple qualified buyers to the table and to have someone very experienced at negotiating the sale of a business. There have been cases where sellers have been able to more than double their price by bringing in competitive parties and having a seasoned negotiator working on their behalf. Just because you have good negotiation skills does not make you qualified to sell your business.

The following are some of the different advisors that can help you to build your valuable business and you should consider contacting when selling:

  • Business Valuation Experts – Independent of any business intermediary, hire a valuation expert to determine what your business is worth. Contrary to common opinion, there are no rules of thumb that can be used to determine worth. Every business is different, and you need to know what you are worth before you get into the emotions of the process.
  • Business Consultant – Before you hire someone to market the business for sale, you should do all you can to increase value. Bringing in a consultant to look objectively at how to increase profits and strengthen your team can yield huge dividends. Depending on how the buyer is valuing your business, every $1 you increase in profit through revenue growth or cost savings may multiply by $10 in sales price.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions Experts/Investment Banks – They will help you at every step of the acquisition process. They will help develop your offering circular, develop a selling strategy, identify potential suitors, provide advice on pricing, packaging and positions, and most important give your business maximum exposure in a confidential way. They typically have ready and qualified buyers, access to the right people, highly qualified staff, and excellent negotiation skills.
  • Business Brokers – In the case of smaller deals, a business broker can help you market the sale of your business. You are not going to get the same quality as Mergers and Acquisitions or Investment Bank experts. You want someone that is going to bring you multiple buyers and negotiate effectively on your behalf. Many in this industry are not working on this full time and act very much like real estate brokers. However, the good ones can bring a lot of value, help you dramatically reduce the time it takes, and increase the value you get for your business.
  • Accountants and Lawyers – Obtaining good legal and accounting advice is a must. However, many people place too much trust in their accountants and lawyers to consult on value creation, finding the deals, and evaluating the deals. These are not their areas of expertise, and they are not best suited to help you in these areas. In some cases your lawyers can be helpful in negotiations, but that depends on their practice specialty.

Review our website at to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you build a valuable business, or contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”].

Evidence Sales Management is Hurting Performance

If you have low turnover in your organization right now, it may be the result of bad management rather than stellar performance. How many of your salespeople regularly provide acceptable returns on investment for the organization? Do you have a healthy turnover in your sales organization? Does the average person stay long enough to provide a return on investment? Are you regularly increasing your sales force because you know it will add value?

Dave Kurlan of Objective Management Group recently issued his white paper, The Science of Sales Turnover, and he issued statistics to show that sales managers are not managing their people. By definition, good sales managers hold their salespeople accountable, are good recruiters, motivate, coach, and mentor their employees. That is how they should spend roughly 80% of their time.

According to Kurlan’s study on turnover, more often than not, turnover is voluntary, and the employee resigns when income, culture, degree of difficulty or management practices are not to the salesperson’s liking. Involuntary turnover occurs less often because most sales managers are too patient, accept mediocrity, and avoid confrontation, especially potentially uncomfortable terminations. Kurlan’s statistics show that:

20% of sales managers have need for approval issues – the need to be liked – and shy away from confrontation.

30% of sales managers accept mediocrity, and tolerate poor performance.

61% of sales managers aren’t inclined to upgrade their sales force.

60% of sales managers have less than 65% of the attributes of accountability. 

If you are not getting the proper return on investment from your sales department, look no further than its management. If it’s not performing properly, get help! There is no other department that can pay for itself more quickly than a high-performing sales organization.

Contact me if you want to receive the entire white paper at shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Are You Really Coaching Your People?

There is a big difference between having conversations with people on a regular basis and coaching. Coaching is not giving advice, pointing out to someone that they did something wrong, or showing them how to do something. It is also not giving your people face time. So what is coaching?

Coaching is a process whereby you bring out a person’s potential so that they can overcome obstacles to achieve their goals. The role of the coach is to provide a process of discussion using the subject’s own goals and recent experiences to help the person uncover their constraints to greater success. It takes time and patience to help them discover what they might not be seeing.

Many times the coach can immediately see the issue but has to patiently allow the person being coached to discover it for themselves by asking questions and probing. The coach also has to be careful to leave out personal bias and not make any assumptions. By doing so, the person being coached is permitted to develop the thought patterns necessary to go it alone when similar circumstances arise. If you circumvent this process by giving them the answers you run the risk of avoiding some key factors they must process before the learning process is completed. The end result is a much more lasting advantage. It becomes co-creation, and the coach and the person being coached will be able to achieve significantly better results together than either could have achieved alone.

Here are five key questions that indicate whether you are really coaching your direct reports or not:

  1. Can you finish most of your coaching sessions with them by answering their questions with questions?
  2. Do you give your direct reports your undivided attention for at least ½ an hour twice per month to talk about whatever they want to that you would call just coaching?
  3. How much time do they talk during the session versus you?
  4. Who develops their solutions and answers when you meet one on one?
  5. When you finish a coaching session do you ask the question, “what did you take away from today and what are you going to do about it?”

You should know whether or not you are being a good coach to your people by answering the above.  Coaching takes time, but its benefits are huge.

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 [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Making Lofty Goals Realistic

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Watching the Right Score?

Too often management focuses on lagging rather than leading indicators. Lagging indicators are revenue, profits and other measures that you find on your income statement and balance sheet. While it is important to keep track of lagging indicators, it is more productive to understand which leading indicators drive those lagging indicators. By identifying and focusing on leading indicators, management can control its own destiny.

Sales is the easiest area to provide an example. Let’s say you have a sales goal of $5 million dollars, and an individual salesperson is supposed to drive $1 million of that goal. You need to break that number down into the average sale. After you have figured that out, you want to manage your salesperson’s number of phone calls connected, meetings held, and proposals presented. After a while, you will see that there is fairly predictive pattern of how many connected phone calls lead to a meeting, how many meetings lead to a proposal, and how many proposals lead to a closed sale. These numbers will vary by salesperson because not all salespeople are created equal. By managing these leading indicators, you will be able to predict whether or not your salesperson will achieve that $1 million goal and determine which people need training and coaching and which ones are not capable of doing the job.

You can find leading indicators for every line item on your income statement. You must break down the end numbers into the activities that produce the results and place the ideal measurements that cause the results that you want. These leading indicators are what you want to measure and improve.

The mistake leaders make is spending too much time looking at the lagging indicators and failing to recognize cause and effect. By inspecting and improving the items that cause the desired results, one can make business more predictive and successful.

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 [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Conflict Avoidance Hurts Teamwork

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

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

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

According to Pat Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunction of Team, “fear of conflict” is one of the five dysfunctions that are critical to teamwork.  The leader has to make sure that this behavior is not tolerated, and that topics focus on the issues that need to be resolved. If everyone is not weighing in and openly debating and disagreeing on important ideas at your meetings, look for passive-aggressive behavior behind the scenes or back-channel attacks. What organizations find is that healthy conflict saves them a lot of time and leads to better decisions. The role of the leader is to practice restraint and to allow for conflict and resolution to occur naturally.

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

Commitment Is Rare

Many people think that making a decision is the same as making a commitment. This could be the farthest from the truth. Actually, the hardest decisions oftentimes have the weakest commitments, particularly the larger the group size.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? More than a year is spent thinking about something; maybe even a committee is created to evaluate it. Consultants are hired; friends and colleagues are conferred with. Money is spent for market research, and finally an affirmative decision is made. The project, system, process, or other decision is placed into action, and all of a sudden the inevitable happens – problems arise – big problems, little problems, and attitude problems.

What happens to most people’s level of commitment when faced with these problems? Rather than addressing the problems, they ignore all of the thought that went into making the decision and allow emotion to take over. Their commitment to the decision it took them a year to make crumbles, and with it the chance of following through on the decision.

Commitment is often missing in many organizations. Many times it results from a lack of healthy debate in meetings or because a leader or leaders discourage opinions that differ from their own. Many decisions are the result of false consensus and weak buy-in. 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.

Another issue that arises and hurts commitment is consensus building. 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 adhere 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 leader must not show weakness in making decisions and take action when fellow leaders show a lack of support.  Particular attention should be given to those people that take passive-aggressive approaches to undermine decisions. I have low tolerance for this type of behavior, because for me, a failure to strongly support the decisions of your leaders is the equivalent of helping the competition and is a form of dishonesty. If these people want to help the competition they should go work for them.


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 [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.