One Word that can Transform Your Business… And Your Life

29 11 2012

The year is winding down and for many companies thoughts start focusing on a new year.  Maybe you are taking the time to review where you have been, where you are and where you want to go.  Are you happy with the results?  Do you wish your business was improving?  If it is doing well, do you want to reduce the stress and challenges that growth creates?  Do you always want to improve?

The ability to be better, and happier, with our business, our people and our personal lives can be boiled down to one word: GIVE.  That too may be top of mind since we are in the holiday season.  However, giving should not just be limited to one time of year.  Giving has implications that lead to success and happiness.  While giving is often associated with money, there are other ways that can make an even greater impact.

  • Give your TIME – Spend it where it matters most to you.  Time is a valuable commodity that equates to more than money because once it is spent, we can never get it back.  Give time to a cause, spend it with family, even give some to yourself.  Make every minute count.
  • Give your ATTENTION – All of us are guilty of not being in the moment at times.  When you are with someone, do more than occupy the same room.  Give them your attention and they will give you theirs.
  • Give your WORK – Doing too much?  Probably.  Are there others who can do the task?  Almost definitely.  Leaders often take on too much with the notion that no one else can do things as well as they can.  Take some of that time and give someone the tools to potentially do it better.  They learn and in the future you will have more time to use the way you want.
  • Give a MEMORY – People have grown to expect the mundane.  Give them something they will remember.  Money fades, but an experience will provide memories that last a lifetime.  Your customers will appreciate it and keep coming back.  Your employees will love it and you will make them happier while keeping them longer.
  • Give your RESOURCES – Time.  Talent.  Money.  All can make a difference for someone else who has less.  Find a cause that has meaning to you.  The personal rewards will be great, and that impact can resonate for years.  The difference you make improves the community in which you live.
  • Give your KNOWLEDGE – Give someone a fish they eat for a day.  Teach someone to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.  Enough said.
  • Give THANKS – Many are wired into what is wrong.  Thank yous have become a rarity.  Thank people more.  Give thanks to someone for unexpected reasons.  When they do a great job.  For their dedication. For sticking with you during the tough times.  Showing gratitude to others will bring that gratitude back to you ten fold.
  • Give a PURPOSE – People want to matter.  They want to feel important.  Remind them why they are here and how they bring value to you, your customers, and your company.  Let them contribute in matters that impact sales and profits.  Let them take managed risks.  Embrace their strengths and mentor them to success.  Your influence could change the life of someone more than you know.

It has been said the more you give the more you get.  What you get cannot be measured by money alone yet it could make the difference between having an average year or a stellar year in 2013.  Need a better understanding of how to implement this?  GIVE me a call.

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The Only Constant Thing

5 11 2012

It’s remarkable how many people spend valuable time and energy fighting against change. I assume you know the people I’m talking about. If not, they’re relatively easy to spot: they treat new ideas with the same enthusiasm you and I would show for a root canal. Without Novocain.

Remarkable is probably not the right word insomuch as the word has a positive connotation. Consider how much change we go through in a relatively short period of time. In my adulthood (not my whole life, just adulthood, mind you) I’ve seen the following:

  • The music industry was nearly knocked out by a computer company.
  • Computers have shrunk to the size of a wallet.
  • Soda serving sizes have increased to the size of a small cooler.
  • Smoking has become just slightly more acceptable than hardcore drug use.
  • Airport security x-rays me more than my doctor and dentist combined.

Book writing switched to the computer. Then book shopping. And now, book reading is too.
The list could go on and on, but the point is that change is occurring at a pace that would have made our forefathers dizzy. And while I’m not well-equipped to accurately predict the next big change, I’m comfortable with the statement that the pace will only accelerate from here.

There’s basically two camps when it comes to change: the ones that love it and the ones that hate it. I fit into the first camp and that has some drawbacks. For starters, people who change too much are seen as unstable. That said, I think the second camp has a tougher road to travel.

So if you’re in that camp, or you have an abundance of employees there, you’re going to have to figure out how to embrace the constant change in chunks that aren’t overwhelming. One suggestion is to create a list like I did above. It’s amazing how much we’ve seen in the last 20 years, yet I rarely recognized the impact while it was happening. I just knew it was typically an improvement in some way. That makes me hopeful about the “next thing”.





The Biggest Barrier to Success

3 10 2012

How is it two people in very similar businesses can have two completely different outcomes?  Whether it is retail, service, manufacturing, or healthcare, we know a company that is growing rapidly while another is going out of business.  Some may argue it’s luck.  Others might say it’s location.  There are even others who would imply that the company was successful because of other outside influences such as political incentives and breaks.

Yet for every success there are ten failures.  These companies may be across the street from each other, or they could be on the other side of the world.  Regardless of the industry, location or political environment, one barrier is pivotal to the success of any business; the habits and beliefs of its leaders.  It is the deep rooted habits that drive the outcomes.  It is the belief system that drives a person to create their own realities.

Much of my work is spent with CEOs helping them understand how their behaviors influence their decisions, actions, and outcomes.  This is very apparent in companies that are caught in the money trap: wanting top dollar for your product but unwilling to spend more than the lowest possible price on anything you purchase.

Our habits attract people who are most like us.  If a leader is constantly haggling to get everything for the cheapest price possible on goods and services, they shouldn’t be surprised that their customers demand the same from them.  It’s the law of attraction.  Whatever you place your energy towards will grow.  Obstacles are visible because you are looking for them.  Opportunities exist but most people miss their chance because they aren’t looking for them.

Bottom line, your biggest barrier to success is often you.  When you accept that, and change your thinking, the right opportunities will begin to present themselves.

Action item:  Struggling with something?  First look to yourself and ask, “What am I doing to create this?”  Can’t figure it out?  Then ask someone else.  A friend, mentor, coach, or trusted advisor are your best options.





I Want to Thank You.

23 11 2011

Certain events throughout our lives trigger certain behaviors.  A wedding could make us reflect on love (though for some it may do the opposite).  A death might cause us to reflect on our own life while a selfless act may cause us to become more altruistic.  Holidays have the same effect.  This time of year there is a lot of talk about giving thanks.  Christmas is the season of giving.  New Year’s is remembering the past and looking to the future.  What if we did this more often?

Better relationships, better service and better communication could be part of our routine if we just did a little more  communicating.

  • Thank people more often.  Whether it’s your co-workers, customers, employees or family, your sincere thanks for their efforts can go a long way.  Let people know how much you appreciate them.
  • A random act of kindness.  Do something for others without expecting anything in return.  Do this daily.  Give your time.  Make someone else’s day better and see what it will do for you.
  • Reflect on the past.  Use it as a time to learn and grow not as a time to hope for what could have been.  When we learn from our past, we may avoid some mistakes in our future.
  • Look ahead for what is to come.  Start thinking big picture about your life, your business, your family or whatever is important to you.  Big picture thinking helps you paint the roadmap to achieve your version of success.
  • Remember.  Remember those who have helped you.  Who was your mentor?  Who shaped your life?  Appreciate what others have done for you.  And remember, somewhere out there you are influencing someone too.
  • Celebrate. Find a reason to celebrate.  Maybe it’s my college days talking, but there’s always a reason to celebrate.   Recognize the accomplishments both large and small.   Don’t worry, you can always read the local paper if you need something to bring you down.
  • Do something every day to improve.  Opportunities are missed because we aren’t reaady for them.  Find ways to inspire your own learning and development path so when that opportunity comes along you can take advantage of it.

Why wait for a special occasion to take action?  These actions can be done any time for any reason.  They may mean more to the ones you are connected to when it comes unexpectedly.





Ask Penn State if They Can Measure the Value of Culture

16 11 2011

“Integrity is how you act when people are watching.  Values are how you act when people aren’t”

Organizational culture is a hidden asset.  What I mean here is you can’t really see, taste or touch it yet its presence is always there.  When you nurture and develop it, the results often lead to very positive results.  I work with companies to define this intangible object and quantify it in real world value.  Because when you can quantify the influence of culture, it is easier to make an investment in its growth.

So what is the value of culture? Can things such as Vision, Mission and Values be quantified.  When things are going OK, it is easier to define.  When things go wrong, it can be blatantly obvious.  I have been a college football fan for a long time.  Since I am from Wisconsin, I like many others in this state are devout fans of the Badgers.  I remember going to games years ago when there would be 20,000 (I’m being optimistic here) in the seats to watch a game.  Nowadays games are sold out.  The stadium is packed and the Badgers often rank as one of the top teams in the nation.  University leadership created a sports culture built upon success and they have reaped the benefits.  The economic impact to the university has to be in the tens if not hundreds of millions over the past decade.  The indirect benefits have included other campus improvements for the university and a tremendous economic boost for the local community on any given home game for football, basketball or hockey.

What’s even more noticeable is when things go way wrong.  Penn State is going through that turmoil right now.  And it could have all been avoided if someone would have taken action.  Just in case you were under a rock for the past two weeks, a former member of the coaching staff for Penn State football was allegedly involved in a sex scandal.  The actions of this individual have been documented for the past decade along with the apparent cover up that led to the firing of key figures at the college and the dismissal of Joe Paterno.

At one time, Penn State represented a lot of the good things about college football.  Joe Pa was a well respected coach.  He had an excellent track record of finding talent that could also pass their classes.  Penn State was scandal free, avoiding issues of corruption that had plagued other large universities.  Joe Paterno and Penn State Football was an institution.  Unfortunately the institution had cracks in its foundation.  What the scandal exposed was a mis-alignment of values, vision and culture.  Penn State represented trust and integrity.  Yet at some point, leadership chose to betray those values to protect the image of the college over helping the innocent victims.  It is sad and unfortunate.  I have been to Penn State for a football game.  The hospitality was great and both students and alumni that I have met represent all that’s right with the college.  I am sad they have to go through this.  Unfortunately the majority suffer from the actions of a few.

That leads to the cost.  The impact of the scandal and cover-up go beyond emotional damage.  There will be a significant financial impact as well.  Paterno was responsible for bringing millions into the college.  Then there’s alumni donations which may take a hit.  Additional costs will also include the litigation associated with the scandal.  Also affected are college recruiting for both athletic students and regular academics.  While it is too early to measure the entire extent of the financial damage done, the costs will be well into the millions and impact the college for years to come.

While these are extreme examples from a large institution, each company has a direct financial impact created by their culture both positive and negative.  During challenging economic times the culture is often the first to be neglected influencing future success.  Do you know the impact your culture has on your business?  Have you measured it?  How will it influence your future?





How to Find Real Talent

17 10 2011

Believe it or not, there are still companies that are hiring.  As they seek out talent, there might be some things that surprise you.  I was reminded of this after viewing a recent article in the Wall Street Journal Small Business (http://on.wsj.com/best_recruits).  Our best talent often isn’t the person with the best technical skills.  Instead it is the person with the best attitude.

I am reminded of a client of mine who works in the banking industry.  He made it a point to tell me that when it comes to customer relationship areas of the bank, he goes out of his way to hire people who have no banking experience.  “Certain departments need that banking know-how,” he said, “but when it comes to relationship building, I look for attitude.  The rest can be taught.”  He’s right.  Almost anyone can learn the technical skills needed to do the job.  Changing behavior is much more difficult.  Other clients have experienced this challenge as well.

So when hiring, take the following steps to find the right talent:

  • Determine desired behaviors – Beyond the technical skills for the position, what are the attitudes you want the new candidate to exhibit?
  • Conduct interviews around past experience – Too often interview questions are based on the hypothetical.  “What would you do if..” allows the person to create the right answer.  It doesn’t mean that they have done it and it certainly doesn’t mean they will take that action with you in the future.
  • Using assessment tools – There are numerous personality and behavioral assessments in the marketplace today.  The right tool can help you qualify a candidate and determine how you can best develop that person to be productive in your organization.  It is another step to finding the right individual.  Though assessments can be highly accurate and effective, I recommend only using this to help validate certain facts or behaviors.  A hiring decision should not be made on the results of the assessment alone.  Take all factors into account.
  • Let them work with you – I have a client that will bring a candidate in to work with them for a day or two.  This gives the rest of the staff a chance to meet the person and see how they will fit in the team.  The person is paid for their time and valuable feedback can be gained through watching them interact with others on your team.
  • Look for measurables – Find out what results the candidate had a chance to influence in past roles.  Any new hire has an ROI.  Determine what this person has done in the past to generate value.
  • Establish strong communication – Communication is the biggest challenge in most organizations.  It is often directly tied to an under-performing new hire.  Set clear expectations up front.  Follow through.  Establish regular touch base meetings.  Keep lines of communication open.  Doing so will help improve performance.  Your goal as a leader should be to give everyone in your company the opportunity to be successful.   Make sure you are doing your part.

Hiring is a critical role in any business.  The key to success is making sure you are bringing in the best talent that aligns with the vision and values of your organization.  Taking the right steps early on will avoid a painful separation in the future.  While there are never any guarantees when hiring a new candidate, there are ways to limit your risks.





Creating a Legacy

6 10 2011

By now practically everyone is aware of the passing of Steve Jobs.  During the 56 years of his life, he changed the way we lived and worked.  Apple has been credited for creating the first personal computer.  The Macintosh with its all-in-one design and graphical interface changed the way we interacted with technology.  Later the iMac, Macbook, iPod, iPhone, and iPad came along.  These products were well designed, and almost intuitive to our needs.  Even if you aren’t a big fan of Apple, most other operating systems and interfaces mimicked those of Job’s company.

Mr. Jobs also changed the way we used entertainment.  Pixar changed how we saw animation and iTunes changed how we purchased music.  His passing only leaves us wondering what more could he have accomplished had he lived another 20 years.  The legacy he has created will influence us for generations.

This leads me to ask what legacy are you creating?  While many of us may never achieve the admiration that Jobs has, we all still have the potential for greatness in our world.  We are here for a very short time and each person we come into contact with we have the power to influence in a positive way.  When we understand our purpose and give it some direction, we can in our own way create a legacy to last the ages.

Do your little part to change the world.  Be active in your community.  Give your time and your resources to worthwhile causes you believe in.  Actively work to solve life’s challenges.  Be a good steward.  Most important, work to be your best at everything you do.  Making a difference involves showing up.  So whether you are trying to become the next Jobs, or are just trying to make life better for one other person, you have the ability to leave your own legacy.

When will you start?








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