Setting Deadlines for Your Team

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

Do You Ever Say No?

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

How to Properly Delegate

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

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at [phone link=”true”] to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Is Your Business Ready for 2015?

As 2014 is coming to a close, it’s time to consider “what’s your next step?” Is your business ready for 2015? This is usually answered by knowing whether you achieved your plans for 2014.

When I say “plans”, I am not referring to the numbers. I am talking about the plans to elevate your business strategically and operationally to new levels. Did you have business plans focused on elevating your business, and did you accomplish those initiatives? If you did, this would mean that you are now positioned to increase market share, expand your profit margins, and/or accelerate growth in 2015. If you didn’t, you have failed to ready your company for 2015, and now it is too late.

Most worthy and meaningful business-plan initiatives have their biggest impact in the following year. It takes time and money to elevate a business. So, if you failed to implement initiatives to fix your business-model problems, develop that new product, address your marketing issues, and so on, then you are now working towards 2016. Very early in 2015, you need to ask yourself, what are your next steps for elevating your company to that next level?

Action Plans Lead to Success

My article “Action Plans Lead to Success” discusses a primary reason why leaders fail to execute on those next steps. Does your team really have the commitment to see your plans through? Will they find a way to get your plans done in spite of their day-to-day challenges? Will you require that they develop action plans that create the road map to success? Will you and the other leaders hold each other accountable? Or will you leave plan achievement to the typical “hope and pray” method? In other words, will you and your leaders talk about what needs to get done and create a process to let you know whether or not the big priorities for elevating your business are getting done?

Aligning Your Organization

Everyone on your team should have the same priorities in mind. Of course people will disagree, but that’s what meetings are for. You need to get together and come up with a solid plan that everyone is comfortable with. In my article “Effective Meetings Have Conflict” I discuss how healthy conflict is good to have in meetings. You all cannot agree all the time, and you have to be able to create an atmosphere where your team is comfortable enough to share new ideas.

Think about your team now. Do you, your leaders, your employees and team members all have the same priorities to elevate your company to a higher level?

Many companies achieve their numbers and not their plans. If you need help elevating your business, please give me a call, Howard Shore [phone link=”true”].

Are You a Passive-Aggressive Communicator and Why that Matters

This article is a continuation from “Improve Decision Making by Using the Right Communication Style” where I identified 4 ways to communicate when discussions get difficult or uncomfortable. This article will help you identify whether you are passive-aggressive communicator and help you understand why that matters!

Why Your Communication Style Matters?

If you see that your meetings are ineffective; that few decisions are being made; that there is no follow-through on decisions that are made; that there are problems holding people accountable; that people are kept on your team long after it has been determined they should be let go, you have issues that require a change in communication style!

Who Is the Passive-Aggressive Communicator?

This is a combination of the two previously outlined in my previous articles communication styles. You often use sarcasm or “joking,” with that kernel of truth embedded to make a point. This leaves a sting or causes the other person to question the real meaning of your comments. It is passive, because your opinions, wants, or needs are not clearly stated — they are veiled. It is aggressive because when the opinions, wants, and needs are conveyed through biting sarcasm or flippant comments, they can be hurtful to the person on the receiving end. This form of communication can have both hazardous effects of passive and aggressive communication. It can make the receiver of this communication style feel as if they don’t really have a voice, and it can put distance in relationships because people become suspicious about the underlying meaning of the words they’re hearing.

Here are just a few examples of passive-aggressive communication strategies that leaders often use when they do not deal with their employees and their emotions head on:

  1. Not responding to an employee’s requests. Leaders may withhold information or say they are too busy to meet, leaving the employee stranded and unable to achieve his or her timelines. The leader might also criticize the employee for not getting the work done.
  2. Not giving positive feedback. Withholding praise or positive feedback is a way of controlling how employees feel about themselves. It leaves them unsure about how they are doing in their jobs, and feeling insecure and inadequate.
  3. Not attending meetings or arriving late. When leaders feel threatened by an employee, they find ways to devalue them. For example, they may decide to not attend a meeting their employee needs them at, causing the employee’s work to be delayed. On the other hand, they might arrive late, forcing everyone to wait for them.
  4. Sounding like they agree with or assent to a request. Responding to an idea an employee has by saying “That sounds like a good idea” or “Your suggestion has a lot of merit” can cause an employee to move to action only to be told later that the leader did not agree to anything. The employee may be berated for doing something without authority.
  5. Freezing out the employee. Leaders can use the silent treatment and leave an employee out in the cold. Leaders can make the workplace a miserable place when they deny the employee any type of interaction or involvement: ignoring the employee in meetings or not acknowledging him or her when passing in the hall.

The Passive-Aggressive Person Can Be the Most Dangerous Person In the Organization?

The passive-aggressive leaders are the most dangerous to your organization, and they are everywhere. When someone has demonstrated a tendency to be passive-aggressive, it becomes necessary to set aside the words you are hearing from these people and instead observe their actions and the actions of the people reporting to them. Words from the mouth of a passive-aggressive manager cannot be trusted. They will always tell you what you want to hear and will always paint the picture of having everything perfectly under control. You have to take steps to enable their direct reports to share their concerns about leadership without any fear of retaliation. Short of doing that, you will remain clueless until problems become enormous.

Passive-aggressive behaviors are often subtle and certainly deniable. Some of them are hard to prove or confront. Leaders who practice these types of tactics need to recognize that they are a destructive force.

How Is Your Passive-Aggresive Behavior Viewed

Why would you accept a passive-aggressive leader? First and foremost, they never say no. They are considered great team leaders, good listeners, respectful to others, concerned about others, unselfish, and thoughtful, just like passive individuals. They also get things done for you at certain critical times. They have those moments where they are direct and to the point. Typically, the perceived positive traits of the submissive style are overshadowed by the more negative traits listed earlier. For this reason, you tolerate them while everyone else avoids them because they know they cannot be trusted.

If you are interested in learning about the other three styles please visit:

  1. Are You a Passive Communicator and Why that Matters
  2. Are You an Aggressive Communicator and Why that Matters
  3. Are You an Assertive Communicator and Why that Matters

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at [phone link=”true”] to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Are You an Assertive Communicator? – Why This Leadership Style Matters

This article is a continuation from “Improve Decision Making by Using the Right Communication Style” where I identified the 4 ways leaders communicate when the conversations get difficult or uncomfortable. This article will help you identify whether you are an assertive communicator and help you understand why that matters!

Why Assertive Communication Matters?

If you are frustrated by the ineffectiveness of many of your meetings, by finding that your team cannot seem to make seemingly basic business decisions, that the same issues continually resurface? Are some decisions made even though there does not appear to be real commitment to those decisions? Do you find out later that the people who did not speak up in a meeting raised issues about the topic, nullifying the decision you thought was made. As an executive business coach, I witness these issues to varying degrees on a daily basis in every organization I deal with. What I find frustrating is that leaders allow the dysfunction to continue. I have found that improving your decision making is as simple as using the right communication style. An assertive communication style rarely has the issues I described above.

Who Is the Assertive Communicator?

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

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

How You Handle Performance Problems

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

If you are interested in learning about the other three styles please visit:

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at [phone link=”true”] to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

7 Levels of Recurring Revenue

The most successful companies put tremendous emphasis on having recurring revenue streams. Are you looking at recurring revenue in the right way? Which type of recurring revenue drives increases your business valuation the most ? The higher the level of recurring revenue, the more predictable your revenue stream becomes. The more predictable your revenue stream, the better you scale your operations. The higher the level and greater the volume, the higher you valuation goes. Every company should be constantly asking “How can we strengthen our recurring revenue position?”

Not all recurring revenue is equal. Think of it as pyramid-shaped. The higher up the pyramid you move, the more valuable your company becomes. Think of the pyramid as a way to first increase consistency and predictability, then business scalability, and ultimately market-share dominance, where customers find switching providers more costly or problematic.

Level 1 – Basic Repeat Customers

At this level you have customers that like doing business with you and come back to you repeatedly even though there is no contractual obligation to do so. A good example is a supermarket or gas station. The problem with level one is the barriers and switching costs are usually limited. So, while having repeat customers is far better than not having them, your revenue stream remains risky because you can’t count on your customers sticking with you. Many firms in this mode have built loyalty programs or personally branded products in an attempt to create stronger brand preference and make their offers “stickier”.

Level 2 – Network Effect

What this means is that the more someone uses the company’s product or service, the more each individual customer gets out of the experience. This “network effect” creates a barrier to that customer leaving, namely, the perception that no other network is as good. Automobile Association of America (AAA) Membership or AARP are good examples. You may consider joining other networks, but for anyone who is already a member, it makes no sense to switch because their membership bases are so large that their value streams have pay their members back in multiples. With that said, the cost of switching is still low, and while you can differentiate who is in your network, everyone has access to multiple networks that can provide similar benefits.

Level 3 – Capital Investment with Consumables

In this case a customer has made an investment in a product, and now they need to keep buying consumables to support their investment. The longest standing product and stickiest product in this category is the copier. Later followers to take advantage of this strategy have been desktop printers and coffee machines. However, these later examples failed to really be as sticky because the price point to buy new ones at the consumer level is not high enough to prevent someone from jumping ship. And when it comes to coffeemakers, if they like your coffee, you still get to provide the consumables, just in a different machine. Consumables are usually a high-profit recurring revenue item.

Level 4 – Capital Investments – Subscriptions

Customers make a sizable investment in capital equipment and then pay subscriptions to use the equipment. In this case, they usually do not buy the equipment. They lease the equipment due to the significant expense for the equipment, software, maintenance, and upgrades required. Great examples are WestLawNext or Bloomberg which are staples in the legal and investment communities, respectively.

Level 5 – Sequenced Product Purchases or Service Subscriptions

The idea behind this approach is to create recurring income by encouraging your customers to consistently upgrade to new product and service offerings. Consider the example of Google Drive. It starts out as free. As you begin to use it more and more to store your data, you must pay to upgrade for more storage. Next thing you know, you are using Google Photos, and they have captured another revenue opportunity. Even if the company can convert just a fraction of its customers over to the premium service, it can create an extremely valuable recurring revenue stream. This revenue stream tends to be stickier because your customer prefers (knows how to use) your product, and the cost of switching in terms of time, effort, and costs outweighs the simplicity of staying with the current vendor.

Level 6 – Good-Until-Canceled Revenue

The best examples are bank accounts and credit cards. What makes this model powerful is when it’s based on an “opt-out” model where the customer has to terminate your relationship with them. For instance, I hate my bank. They send me a new credit card almost every 4 months because of their so-called “fraud protection” department’s suspicions. So every 4 months I have to change every recurring payment to come from the new account number. It is a nightmare! Plus, they send policy changes every 6 months, usually raising fees and reducing benefits. But do we change providers? No!, because of the trouble and loss of credit history. How often do people cancel their credit cards or close a bank account? Credit cards or bank accounts are an extremely powerful way of keeping customers over the long haul.

Level 7 – Longer-Term Contracts

The longer the contract the better! Think about the contract you signed when you got your new cell phone. I do not know about you, but I feel like when I signed on with Verizon I married the mob! Not only did you agree to pay a certain amount of money each month depending on the plan you select, you usually agree to keep paying for two years. If you are like me, each family member starts at a different time, so to get out gets prohibitively expensive, becomes a family debate, possible new phones get involved, and tons of time dealing with it. I just got chills thinking about it. This is an extremely valuable model because you can predict with a higher level of certainty what your recurring revenues will be both in the short-term, as well as over the longer term.

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at [phone link=”true”] to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Leadership and the Qualities of Steadfast Flexibility and All-Knowing Ignorance

If you read this headline and feel that the range of qualities covered tend not to meld well together, then please bear with me for a few minutes. The point I’m aiming to make is that an effective leader will not be all things to all people, but might be different things to different people at appropriate moments.

As we work our way through a presidential election campaign – and no, I’m not going to take sides or start arguments – whoever wins will need to behave differently, depending on the audience being spoken to, or with. At moments of trauma, a president will often need to be calm and measured to help assuage the public mood, but might be much more forthright within the walls of the Oval Office about how the nation’s actual response would be undertaken. So, let’s take time to consider the two pairs of qualities suggested in my headline.

First, we’ll look at steadfast flexibility

Many people, when criticizing their boss, will tell you that they feel a real sense of annoyance if they simply don’t know where they stand. Ineffective leaders change their mind with the wind, and are not steadfast. Members of a company, or individual teams within it, should be quite clear about what the leader expects from and of them on a day-by-day basis. The individuals should know exactly how that leader will behave when a set of circumstances occur, based on their ongoing experience of similar situations. In other words, their leader will be steadfast, particularly if the currents are strong and the shoreline rocky.

Equally, frustration grows with a leader who will never change their position, even when circumstances have clearly and substantially altered the situation. Simply doing what has always been done is neither steadfast, or even leadership. It’s stubbornness, and that’s a polite term for such behavior. Flexibility is shown in a willingness to take new ideas and changed situations on board, and then to deliver a new position from which that leader can, once again, be constant and steadfast.

Which brings us to all-knowing ignorance

This is more tongue-in-cheek, yet with a serious point. The ignorance is about those moments when, quite frankly, it’s best for a leader not to want to know. This isn’t about repeated and escalating situations, it’s about simply noting what has happened, not reacting in a way that can make that moment worse, and then keeping it perhaps to be referenced at a more optimal time. Which, of course, covers the all-knowing component! The other way that all-knowing is not to be taken literally is that no-one really expects their leader to know everything about everything within their workplace environment. All-knowing might be termed ‘enough-knowing’ – a position from which the right questions can be asked, an accurate assessment considered, and practical guidance delivered.

About leadership juxtapositions

John C Maxwell, such a prolific writer on the subject of leadership, once said: ‘A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way’. I entirely agree and have merely aimed to point out here that sometimes the way changes, as, when appropriate, will the attitude and actions of an effective leader.

The How and Why of a Great Business Plan

Too many young companies are too eager to dive in head first, without first considering where they are going and what they hope to accomplish. While enthusiasm is certainly an asset, there is also something to be said about the importance of planning and having an organized set of goals you are striving for. Business plans are the foundational tool that allows emerging businesses, or established businesses thinking of taking a new direction, to get a grip on their company’s trajectory and build a clear understanding of the steps they need to follow to reach their goals.

Why a business plan?

Business plans come with a wide range of different benefits that will make themselves apparent in the short and long term. Before starting out, consider a few of the following, and understand how today’s planning can lead to tomorrow’s success. Some of the most important benefits business plans offer are:

Clarity

As we know, sometimes putting goals into writing is the best thing we can do to gain a firmer understanding of them.

A strengthened commitment to goals

A well-made business plan will not only clarify outcomes, but increase your sense of attachment to the process.

Process-building

Laying out the entire process will let you find details and potential problems that you might otherwise have missed.

A new perspective

Taking the time to really look at the strengths and weaknesses of your company will let you understand it in ways you hadn’t previously considered.

Results

The end goal of a business plan is to create a more functional, more efficient business.

Important techniques

Building a strong business plan is a task that takes both dedication and experience, however there are a few simple tips that you can keep in mind to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible, and leaves you with a promising result.

The first technique is to think carefully about what your company is, what unique services it offers, what kinds of customers you are catering to, and how this all plays into your future goals. It’s all about identity, and getting a clear view of where you are now is the only way to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

The second involves tying your hopes, goals, and aspirations to concrete numbers. This could mean setting specific income goals, website or social media hits, client growth, or any number of things. The key is finding ways to measure your growth, so that you can track your success month by month.

And last is following through and tracking your success. Ideally, you’ll be able to boast about having met each of the goals you set, but sometimes we reach different outcomes than we expected. If you didn’t reach your numerical goal, ask yourself: what kinds of new growth did my company experience in the past months? This is the perfect time to set new goals, and find better ways to tweak your business plan.

How to Find and Fix the Biggest Leaks in Your Business

Even the most successful leaders and entrepreneurs can have holes, or leaks, in their business model or strategies. That means that there are components of their business that are being slowed down, or aren’t running as efficiently as they could be.

Often, these leaks are not obvious just by the debit and credit statements of a business, which can make them potentially dangerous. The biggest challenge for business leaders is to create a system that allows them to properly identify the leaks so that they can discuss and address the best way to fix them. For many businesses, fixing the leak can mean opening the door to a whole new set of opportunities for growth and productivity.

So what are your potential leaks?

The most important step towards maximizing the potential of your business is figuring out in what areas that potential is being wasted. Once you identify the leak, you can take the proper steps to address it and start reaching your full potential as a business. Take a look at some of the most common areas where businesses falter, and ask yourself if your business is leaking potential profit:

1. Are your employees as productive as they could be?

You should always be hiring exclusively “A” players. Hiring “B” and “C” employees may seem like a money-saving opportunity at the time, but they will end up wasting time and resources to produce less effective work. To solve this problem, you should cut the cord and replace your inferior performers with those who can do the job more efficiently, rather than waiting it out to see if your poor performers can improve. “A” players are those employees that achieve reasonably performance standards and live your core values.  There is no reason why all your employees cannot be one.

2. Are you motivating your employees enough?

Sometimes it isn’t a question of mediocre employees, but rather poor leadership. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to keep your employees engaged and motivated in their positions. On their own, only 30% of employees will go above and beyond. The other 70% require the work environment and management systems that will lead them to success. If you know you have employees that could be giving you consistently higher performance focus on the leaders.

3. Are you losing focus on the end goal?

It is very easy to get lost in the weeds of a business when short-term issues and unexpected obstacles start to get in the way of your ultimate priorities. For this reason, it’s important to have a long-term strategy to accomplish your goals and to encourage your employees to set their sights on these goals as well, rather than spending all of their energy on tactics that only solve day-to-day problems. This attitude will help streamline the energy of your workforce, so that people are being productive rather than busy just for the sake of being busy.  When everything is important…nothing is!

4. Are vacancies leading to lost performance?

If you have empty spots on your team, it’s important to devote some resources to finding strong employees to fill them. Vacant positions will cause other employees to have to pick up the slack, which will lead them to be overworked and unmotivated — whereas hiring someone strong and effective will end up saving your company money.

5. Are you having trouble retaining employees?

Retention issues are an obvious problem, because every time you lose an employee you have to waste more resources on finding and training a replacement, instead of retaining a happy employee who could have been helping you profit during that time. Employees leave for a variety of reasons, such as work environment, compensation, poor benefits or poor leadership. One of the best ways to handle this problem is to ask your employees what is important to them, and create an environment where they feel respected and valued.

6. Are you missing out on profitable opportunities?

A good business strategy is the key to maintaining an edge over your competitors. Figure out what difference your products, services or other offerings provide, and find the best way to demonstrate that to your target customers. If you’ve found your hook, new and more loyal customers won’t be far behind.

7. Are you creating a loyal customer base?

Sometimes it isn’t always about finding new customers, but rather keeping the customer base you already have. When you devote some resources into keeping these customers happy and active, they will not only continue to buy from you, but they will be more likely to recommend you and be brand ambassadors as well, which is essentially free marketing for your business.

8. Are you making the same mistakes over and over?

If you take a step back and analyze the processes that drive your business, you will be able to figure out which mistakes, if any, can be avoided. If you’re seeing the same mistake being made over and over again, maybe there is a flaw in the system that can be addressed to prevent the mistake from occurring in the first place.

One thing to remember when coming across leaks in your business. There is nothing wrong with finding them. All businesses have leaks to varying degrees. The important thing is taking action and plugging them up when you do find them.

Howard Shore’s Interview with Square Peg Round Hole

In this interview with Square Peg Round Hole, Howard shares an essential framework to ensure your business moves forward in this rapidly changing and competitive economy. He talks about the three guiding elements – strategy, execution and people – to finding success in your business and how if you’re not paying attention to these then you’re probably “leaving significant money on the table.”

Howard tells Matt and Dan the story of a $10 million company with a negative $200,000 in cash flow on the verge of bankruptcy, whose leaders were unaware of how bad the situation really was. He turned into a $12.6 million company with a positive $2 million in cash flow in 6 months using his three guiding elements.