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.





Giving Thanks and Giving Back

2 11 2011

It seems like some time since I made my last post, and it has been.  Trying to keep up on blog posts can be challenging especially when you are busy doing many other things.  I am happy to say the things we have been doing are good.

Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful for what we have.  But it seems like every year around this time, we become more reflective on these things.  As I look back over the past year I wonder how it flew by so quickly.  I continue to have the opportunity to work with great people.  There have been some challenging times.  I have worked with some businesses in a transitional phase and assisting with those turnarounds can be both rewarding and stressful.  It is always good when you hear they are in a better place now than they were before.  Some have made the turn and some are in the process.

There are also several highly successful companies I have helped out.  Working with these business owners and executive teams, we have worked together to create better organizations, happier employees, and incredible growth.   In both cases, the turnarounds and the growth companies, there is great satisfaction when you can help ease some burden and get people to enjoy their business again.

Some of the most rewarding work often comes from the places you least expect it.  Over the last twelve months I have been proud to associate myself with several not-for-profits.  Three of them: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County, The Clean Lakes Alliance, and Madison MAGNET are all special to me because of their leaders’ passion for the work that they do.  We have worked together on business planning, event marketing, and leader development to help get these companies focused and growing in a difficult financial climate.  There is still work to be done, but with their leadership they will succeed.  It is great to be able to give back to the community and I encourage all business owners to give a contribution to what they believe in.

There are many not-for-profits out there that need our help.  All doing great work for the community.  Find those that you can align yourself with and seek ways to contribute.  While money is important, sometimes volunteering your time and services is just as critical.  I am a big believer in karma.  What you do for others will reflect back on yourself.  So take the time this year to find those organizations that have special meaning for you.  What you do will pay back ten fold in goodwill and personal satisfaction.





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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