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.





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?





You’re Dying From Cancer, But I Didn’t Tell You.

29 09 2011

Imagine not feeling well and going to the doctor to get things checked out.  The doctor looks you over and tells you there’s nothing to worry about.  The problem persists for several months, followed by several visits.  Each visit finishes with the same response until one day you are so sick and weak you now are taken by ambulance to the emergency room.  After a battery of tests the ER doctor comes into the room and tells you that you have been diagnosed with late stage cancer and you are probably weeks away from death.  Sad, fearful, and angry you call your regular physician and ask him why he didn’t catch this.  His response to you is shocking.  “I didn’t tell you because I was worried you couldn’t afford the treatment.”

Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.  First of all, this is an example.  I know a lot of doctors and they would never put the welfare of their patients in jeopardy.  Nobody in their right minds could believe a doctor would do such a thing.  What about businesses?

I take a great deal of pride in the work I do for my clients as well as those contacts who aren’t.  I have the strong belief that my role is to do what is right for the people and the business.  Because of this I may tell people things they don’t want to hear.  Some cases I have lost projects because of it.  Yet in most situations that is what gets me hired.  I tell leaders what they need to know.  If I am not the right resource I refer them to the proper professionals that can help them out.  While I am conscious of the client’s situation, I recommend the action they need to take and leave it up to the referral to see if they can help.  After all, if someone has a cancer in their business, I do not want to be the one who didn’t warn them.

So why do I bring this up?  My rant begins with a conversation that took place with a service provider who was talking to me about referrals.  To be clear, this was not a situation where i was asking him for referrals, but more of a discussion about the practice.  He said he was often aware of needs that his clients had, but was reluctant to refer to outside professionals because of what they might think.  Like the analogy of the doctor, he knows his clients have issues that could prove costly, yet he fails to act out of fear that they will balk at the idea or that they are unwilling to pay for outside help.  The difference here is there is no perceived malpractice.

I do not say these things because I desire more regulations or outside intervention.  I merely wish to bring up a point.  As a professional, you owe it to your clients and colleagues to help them be successful.  If relationships are built on a foundation of trust, I believe your clients and others in your professional circle will value what you have to say.  If you are concerned about it you may need to do a gut check on how solid your relationship is.  My clients are successful because they are told things they don’t want to hear,  but NEED to hear.  Because of this, many of these people are experiencing substantial growth when other businesses are struggling to make ends meet.  They set goals and act deliberately while their competition worries and unfocused action.  Many of my clients are building and expanding while others are shrinking.  All of my clients are through referrals.  In other words, they came to me because someone had the courage to say there is help available.

Whether you are a banker, accountant, marketer or even a coach, your actions towards your clients speaks volumes about your values.  That is why as professionals we build relationships of trust with other service providers.  We may not be doctors, but we do need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.  It is how we will grow and innovate.  So go out and build those relationships, check backgrounds, research and build your circle of professionals.  When you help a business grow, not only do you help that business, you help create jobs, and strengthen our economy.  Not to mention you have strengthened a relationship that will pay you back ten fold over time.  Be courageous, build trust, and create growth.





Seven Steps to Ending Disruptive Behavior in the Workplace

27 09 2011

Can a productive employee actually cost you business?  I am reminded of words that were shared with me some time ago; “People are hired for their technical expertise and fired for their behavior.”  That is just as true today.  I have noticed a trend on this subject recently.

After a morning meeting with a client, we discovered that a productive employee has cost her business around $370,000 dollars in lost revenue.  Yes, that is correct.  This lost revenue is because the employee in question has driven away even higher producing members of her sales team.  These people have gone to work for the competitor and have taken business with them.  The difference in the disruptive employee’s production vs. the people who have left works out to be $370,000 in gross dollars.  That is pretty significant.  And often these costs are hidden because we often don’t measure the impact of one person’s productivity against a group.

Business leaders need to protect themselves against what I call disruptive behavior which is when an individual, or group, negatively impact the productivity of the rest of the workforce.  Steps to correct behavior may be taken too late or dealt with incorrectly.  In a few cases, the negative behavior is ignored which creates critical problems that are difficult to correct.

If you are experiencing disruptive behavior, you should take the following actions:

  1. Address the problem immediately – Take action now instead of waiting to see if the problem will correct itself.  When issues aren’t dealt with right away, they send messages to your good employees that you don’t care.  This can lead to frustration, anger, lost productivity, poor service, and poor quality.
  2. Keep emotion out of the discussion – Taking corrective action when you are angry or upset will only lead to an argument.  Handle the situation rationally and stay focused on the facts.  Address examples of the behaviors observed  and focus on the desired behaviors.
  3. Act as a coach, not a disciplinarian – Sometimes we may come across like the scolding parent.  If you know how well your kids listen when you act like that, imagine how an adult will be.  Open a dialog, ask questions, enroll the individual in how they can be part of the solution.
  4. Get both sides – Find out what is going on with the employee that might be leading to their disruptive behavior.  Are their actions caused by their own frustrations?  Is there something personal going on that is reflecting in their work habits?  Understand their side of the problem and help them come up with their solution.
  5. Keep it positive and keep it real – Maintain your focus on desired outcomes.  Keep the conversation as positive as possible yet don’t let people off the hook or make excuses for bad behavior.  The moment you make the poor performance acceptable, you can expect to see more of it.
  6. Establish follow up and accountability – Often bad behavior continues because no action is taken past the discussion.  When dealing with behavioral issues, it is not possible to make immediate corrections to someone’s attitude.  Continued follow up is needed.  Check in with the person.  Make sure they are continually working towards change and they know you are there to support them.  Reinforce desired behaviors over only recognizing poor ones.  Catch them doing good things because most people only hear when they screw up.  Whatever you place your focus on will grow.
  7. Encourage open dialog between staff members – Though this takes time, building trust and open communication between team members is an effective way to prevent performance issues.  Consistent leadership and positive behavior on your part will reinforce the culture and the group will start self-policing their own actions.  Trust people will do the right things and in most cases they will.  Just don’t forget to follow up and verify the right actions are happening.

Taking these steps can increase the performance of your workforce and reduce the time you spend dealing with disruptive issues.  Make sure you do your part as a leader to not only make this the best customer environment, but also the best work environment.





The Impact of September 11

12 09 2011

Yesterday marks 10 years since the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington DC, and the failed attempt which led to the crash of flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Over the past week, many of my friends and colleagues have reflected on this event and how it changed our world. Like many, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news first broke. In the weeks following the incident, we became a unified nation committed to overcoming our differences and moving forward through our pain. Ten years later, life has moved on. The pain and grief are still there though more subdued compared to a decade ago.

Though our world changed, we still enjoy a good quality of life here and we owe much to those who have given their lives for the freedom we sometimes take for granted. Today we face new challenges with mounting debt and a sluggish economy. These too can be overcome if we commit to the same resolve we had on that fateful day. It involves each of us taking an active role in growing this nation. We must be accountable. We must be responsible and we must use our strengths to innovate and compete on a global scale. I hope we can learn how to come together to get things done much like our grandparents did in World War II. They sparked a growth in this nation that continued a generation of prosperity. We too have to tap into that work ethic and provide direction and leadership not only for this generation, but future ones as well. Remember September 11. Remember how it unified us towards a common cause and let’s apply that to the other challenges we now face.





Short Week Equals Short on Writing. So Here’s an Article From a Friend.

7 09 2011

Believe it or not I took the holiday weekend off and spent time with family.  Now with the short week I have been playing catch up on work so until my posts start again tomorrow, I invite you to view an article from a friend and colleague of mine.

John Ingrisano is a fellow consultant and he puts out some pretty good stuff.  I liked his recent article and think it is well worth sharing.  Read and enjoy!

To Survive the Recession, Ditch the Hunker-In-The-Bunker Mentality





When is OK No Longer OK?

31 08 2011

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of young professionals about leadership. During the discussion, the group brought up complacency. Their observation was that many people were just fine where they were at. One person recognized that people take into account what they hear in the news. “If we hear the economy is bad,” he concluded, “then I should be happy where I am at.” I can relate that to comments I hear from some business leaders who are happy to be doing as good as the market is. While they are not seeing growth, they are happy to at least be holding their own.

However, this satisfaction is not reflected in the news we hear. Confidence is at an all-time low. We point our finger at whichever political party or country we believe to be at fault. In the end we accept things for the way they are and move on. So when did OK become the norm?

In order to improve our outcomes, we must never settle. We must always strive to be better, both personally and professionally. When times are good, it is easy to hit cruise control. “Just keep the pace,” we say. When business drops off we wonder why. Fortunately there are leaders that say OK is not good enough. They continually strive to be better. That is what I saw in this group today. They were active, engaged and motivated. Their willingness to share ideas and be part of something bigger is exciting. In fact, their energy could help motivate others. For them, good enough isn’t good enough.

What about your organization? Are you utilizing the best talent to grow? Or are you willing to settle? You have the power to change the situation you are in. Accept the challenges around you and do something about them. More importantly, if you are unhappy or complacent about your current situation, only you can change it. Becoming settled is unsettling because if you are not willing to change your outcomes, someone else will do it for you.





The Forest of Success is Hard to See With All These Darn’d Trees in the Way

23 08 2011

I came across this article about how tactics used to find jobs during the depression would be just as effective today. (http://on.wsj.com/wsj_jobs)  The article points out that while most jobs are found through personal relationships, people choose to use technology to seek employment. Instead of networking they post resumes on the internet and spend their days surfing the employment sites for the next opportunity.  During the depression if you didn’t leave your house to find work you didn’t get it.

It is human nature to seek out the path of least resistance.  “After all,” says the job-seeker, “I can send out 100 resumes instead of meeting three to four people.”  We all want the magic pill.  The thing that will produce the greatest result with the least amount of work.  Unfortunately we have to be aware of the unintended consequences.  For the job-seeker, it is greater isolation and actually MORE difficult to find a job.  For the business owner its relying on the next new marketing thing to generate increased sales.  Yet everything requires effort.  So is your effort well placed?  Whether you are looking for a job, or just seeking to grow your business, you need to follow these steps.

  • Know what value you bring – It doesn’t matter whether you are looking across town or on the other side of the world.  Understand your value to your customer.  What is unique about how you solve problems vs your competition.  Know why people hire you.  What unique traits do you possess that will attract clients to you.
  • Know your customer – Not everyone is your customer and yet we often use a very broad brush when describing who our customers are.  The broader the audience the more general the information you use to reach them.  If the information you use doesn’t resonate, you potentially lose a new client.  Define who your best clients are.  Only seek out those who best align with your business.
  • Know your experience – I am not talking about experience in terms of technical skills.  Experience is related to the outcomes you create.  Outstanding customer experiences are something worth talking about.  So are negative experiences.  Anything in the middle is a wash.  What type of experiences are you creating?  Don’t know?  Work with your best clients to figure it out.
  • Seek organic growth in addition to marketing growth – Imagine acquiring a new customer cost about $100 using traditional marketing.  How much is the cost of a referral?  Often is is significantly less.  Keep your current customers happy so they will want to stay with you.  Help your happy customers refer you new people.  The chance a referral becomes a customer is much higher than when you spend money on traditional advertising.  Use that marketing to strengthen your exposure and create awareness.
  • Everything involves effort – Success requires effort.  Nothing worthwhile is free.  Do what you need to do to be successful  Invest your time wisely and always look for ways to work “smart”.  If someone promises you an easy route that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

 








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