Monthly Archives: September 2013

Don’t Predict the Future – Invent it

crystal-ball

The Great Recession hangover still exists in the minds of many investors, employees and business leaders. People I talk with indicate they are still taking cautious steps forward with their businesses. Whether we don’t believe the recovery is real, or don’t trust the folks in Washington not to mess up any economic momentum we currently have, or just want to lick our wounds and are a bit gun-shy, I see many leaders waiting on the sure thing.

There is no sure thing anymore

The last “sure thing” I had cost me $2 and was the last horse to cross the finish line. In a global economy, a 24-hour news cycle, and information (often conflicting) moving in nanoseconds, we no longer have a clear path to success. Because of these changes to the business environment, we no longer have the “right way” and we surely have no reasonable vision for five years down the road. So, what can we do to create a successful future for our businesses?

Research, research, research

Because we are in the information age, it has never been easier to gather information without leaving our offices. The art of research in the modern economy is sifting through the overwhelming amount of information and determining what the right information is. When you locate information you feel is accurate about where your industry is heading, dig deeper. What is the credibility of the source? Where did this information come from? How current is this information?

Once you have gathered enough credible information about where your industry is heading, ponder the information before forming your action. One of the biggest missteps I see executives make today is to get caught up in the pace of business and apply it to their significant decisions. Top executives of successful companies are taking thinking time each week to consider the possibilities in front of them before forming their future vision and then taking swift action.

Get passionate about making your chosen future a reality

Because many people are still fearful for their jobs at every level of an organization, they are hesitant to fully get behind an idea with great passion for fear it could be the wrong idea and they then will lose employment. It’s the ultimate in playing the political game, hedging your bets, and trying to play safe.

Seldom does significant change, growth or improvement happen without a dedicated passionate leader driving the shift in a positive direction. I ask audiences when was the last time you had 100% passion about accomplishing a goal, and the most common answer I heard was, “Getting my spouse to marry me.”  And of course, one guy in the back offered his greatest passion was in getting a divorce from that spouse! You can accomplish great things with a full passion commitment.

The modern economy requires courage and resiliency

The old saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats” was true in a rapidly growing economy where business leaders could watch and coast on the rising tide of profits a vibrant economy will deliver. It has been at least 6 years since we had an economy that was “easy.” Many would argue it’s been since the last century since the business environment was easy. No one would argue that the current economy is not for business leaders who want to be spectators.

To create the future for your business you have to design it, drive it, be fully passionate with making it successfully happen, and be courageous. Without taking risk and simply going with the flow will cause your business to ride the rising tide, or be left high and dry beyond your control. The future you want for your business will not just happen, you must invent it.

5 Ways to Reach Success Faster

 success

I am constantly amazed how financial companies work so hard to get results yet refuse to do the simple tasks that would speed up their results immeasurably.  These 5 ideas, when accomplished will create greater success in a speedier time with less effort. I wish I could call this a “secret formula for success” But there are no secrets here. It’s just not that hard, yet people struggle to get these direct steps accomplished.

By putting in to practice these practices to work as a significant part of your agile culture you will see how the road to success suddenly has fewer obstacles allowing you to achieve results faster.

1. Have honest conversations

Wow, that is a staggering revelation isn’t it. No? If not, then why does it seem so difficult for open, honest conversations to happen frequently in corporate settings? We are fearful of saying the politically incorrect thing, which in extreme cases could cause legal action. Because we are choosing our words so carefully we tend to get lost in the spin control of the message. If a leader has a resistance to confrontation difficult conversations are avoided completely allowing problems to persist.

Honest conversations need to be a private one on one discussion that leaves as much of the emotion out of the room as possible. The agile leader sets this tone for the conversation and has to be resistant to being drawn into an emotional battle. Leaders must initiate, direct and maintain the focus of honest conversations in an agile organization.

2. Address the elephant in the room

No longer can managers address the entire team for the faults of the one. If one person is a consistent violator of policy then it is time for the honest conversation previously mentioned one to one. The team knows who the offending person is frequently better than the person who is the actual problem being addressed. These communications will fall on deaf ears.

What are the reasons managers tend to avoid addressing the “elephant in the room” directly? A particularly delicate situation, such as, the offending party being a family member, a sacred cow policy that must be changed, the offending party is explosive and the conversation gets nasty, loud and unnecessarily hostile, are all reasons leaders tend to dance around the issue.

Leaders who don’t address the “elephant in the room” will be perceived as condoning the behavior that is preventing other to achieving their success. Put it on your agenda. The biggest obstacle to success I am not dealing with is…I will directly face this situation by…

3. Have a can-do attitude

Ever know people who see the negative side of everything? We have developed into a country of nay-sayers, critics and whiners. I have a friend I will no longer recommend a restaurant to, because no matter what happens he will find something wrong to complain about; every single time.

Being critical and focusing on the negative does not make you an expert, does not make you have high standards, and does not make you easy to work with. It makes you a pain. Agile leaders are can-do people looking for the positive side of events and focusing on the positive accomplishments of the company as opposed to the negatives that need corrected. This is not to say they are being Pollyanna or ignoring the areas in need of improvement.

It simply means, creating a positive approach to accomplishments, and focusing on what can be done, makes for a better leader who is easier to follow into the challenges that await any business trying to succeed. This is not something that can be faked. It is at the core of a person on how they view their existence.

4. Gather buy-in within the company

If companies spent as much time and money marketing to their employees as they do to their customers, they would have little need for marketing to the customers, because the employees would be the best marketing machine a company could ever wish for.

Can you tell whether the employee you are encountering has bought into the company? Does their attitude impact your customer experience? Do employees who love what they do go to extra efforts to improve the customer experience? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES!

Agile leaders know this equation for success; therefore, they spend countless hours a week encouraging, coaching, inspiring, and developing employees to “get it.” Because, they know once an employee has buy-in to what is trying to be accomplished they become part of the experience the customer is buying. Most consumers buy emotionally and justify the purchase logically. Customers remember how the felt during the purchase experience longer than they remember the value of the product they bought. Employees who “get it” are a key to that customer experience success.

5. Remove the baggage keeping you from success

In leadership seminars I will ask managers to name the four people who are holding back the team from accomplishing greater success. I could give them two minutes to answer the question, but the majority in the audience have that question answered in fifteen seconds. My follow up question to this exercise: If they are so easy to identify, then why are they still working for you?

This is when the excuses come pouring in. I can’t find a replacement, the employee does provide some benefit, and we’ve had enough disruption.  My favorite response: I don’t have time to deal with it right now. Every one of these answers say far more about the manager than the situation he or she is dealing with.

Removing baggage that is an obstacle to success is a hard, unfun, necessary evil of making decisions as a leader. Hard decisions don’t always have a win/win result. Like technology, attitudes and work habits can also become obsolete. In order to upgrade the talent on your agile team requires a continuous improvement approach to the organization. This is why training is so prevalent in the agile organization. From the CEO to the front lines everyone should be working to improve skills which sadly leave behind some employees that are being carried and eventually become ballast to success. As even the best teams cut players year to year, so must the evolving organizations on the path to improvement and greater agility.