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Human Resources Today
Tuesday
Jul102018

Each Leader's Biggest Problem

We would like to share Lesson 1 of our most recent soft skills course, 3Strands Leadership. The lesson is called, Each Leader's Biggest Problem, and it's now on YouTube!

3Strands Leadership is the 15th course we have produced on business soft skills and emotional intelligence. Before diving into the three aspects of great leaders we wanted everyone to take a stern look at their current situation.

Being able to accurately perceive the strengths and weaknesses of your team and your organization is a huge asset. In fact, it's a necessary prerequisite to creating lasting change. If you don't know where you stand it is very difficult to take a step in the right direction.

We are very proud of this course and the others like it. Dave's Charm School includes access to all of the courses, plus monthly coaching webinars on various topics related to soft skills, management, and leadership (NEW!).

Start your 14-day free trial by visiting DavesCharmSchool.com.

A Valuable Resource

Your team needs regular training on soft skills. Everyone has them and needs to improve them. Soft skills are how you communicate, manage your time, avoid & resolve conflict, master meetings, and more.

With new content added every month at Dave's Charm School it is an incredibly valuable resource for you and your organization.

If you're interested, but have questions, contact us.

 

Tuesday
Jun192018

You're out of time

The young man was frustrated with the quality, service, or availability of his company's products. He felt he could do better. So he started his own company to design, develop, and sell his own version of the product.

He worked hard. Some days he worked very long hours. He risked his money. He built a small business and gained respect in the marketplace.

However, his revenue got stuck at a certain level. It was like a brick wall that he could not break through. He would run up against it and then revenue would fall off. He would build it back up. It might stay for a while, but he had to struggle to keep it at that level.

He felt he could do so much more, but alas, he was too busy to break bad habits and develop new, stronger ones.

He was stuck in a “bad habits matrix” of his own design.

He had a few ideas, and some were good. But there were too many of them for his small business and the ideas did not directly relate to his core business.

Years passed.

Decades passed.

He grew older. He retired. He made money. He positively affected people's lives. But until his dying day, he always felt he could have done more.

He was right, but his time was up.

Image credit: Mobile-Cuisine

Seth Godin in his book, The Dip, argues that this slogan "Winners never quit" is not true. Successful people quit all the time and often they quit before they even start something. 

However, starting something does not equal success or automatically move you from the beginner class to mastery either.

Successful people COMMIT

In The Dip, Seth presents his case that successful people carefully consider where they are going to invest their time and resources before they commit. Once they commit, they are aware of three potential growth curves that lead to different results.

However, starting something does not equal success or automatically move you from the beginner class to mastery either.

In The Dip, Seth presents his case that successful people carefully consider where they are going to invest their time and resources before they commit. Once they commit, they are aware of three potential growth curves that lead to different results.

#1 - The Dip

The first is The Dip. This is the gap between basic understanding and mastery of knowledge, skill, and ultimately results. It is the difficult work of learning, practicing, and becoming better over time.

Getting through The Dip is not like turning on a lightbulb. It takes time, tenacity, and course adjustments to reach your ultimate destination.

It's important to note there is progress as you are pushing through a Dip.

In my story above, progress stopped. The growth of his business hit a wall and never advanced beyond it, yet he continued to have his little business and it met the needs of his family. His business could be classified as average.

Getting through The Dip is about persevering through difficulties to move beyond average to extraordinary.

#2 - The cul-de-sac

Our protagonist above got stuck in the second potential curve and result that Seth refers to as a Cul-de-sac. His business could grow to a certain level but then no farther. He had driven down the road and all he chose to do was drive in a circle and go no further.

I think Seth could have provided a better analogy than a cul-de-sac. Instead, a better visualization would be a roundabout. 

Roundabouts were developed in Great Britain. A roundabout is a a road junction at which traffic moves in one direction around a central island, with the choice of 2-3 new directions out of the roundabout beyond the road from which you entered it.

Image credit: WPCO.com

The reason I prefer the term roundabout over cul-de-sac is because if you are pursuing a particular result and you get stuck, then you have more options than just to return from whence you came.

The hard decision is to leave the roundabout or cul-de-sac.

Why? The roundabout is comfortable. There is a rhythm to your hard work and busyness where you come to believe what I call the Big Lie: “I'm doing everything I can."

In reality, you are not. You are stuck in a cycle of bad habits with a lack of focus on what's truly most important.

You have the capability to break out and achieve more, but you are unwilling to make the tough decision to drive away from your roundabout.

#3 - The Cliff

There is a third and final result that Seth recommends you consider with greater clarity: The Cliff.

A Cliff is something you have chosen to do that ultimately kills you. Seth’s examples are cigarettes and other at-risk behaviors that end in death.

I would take it a step further and encourage you to consider that in some people's lives a Cliff is being a workaholic, or not taking care of your health which leads to an early death, or simply being stuck. 

The man in our story had income, respect…  yet he lost his passion and personal fulfillment. Why? Too afraid to make the tough decisions to return to growth, meaningful work, and becoming the best he could be.

He procrastinated. For decades!

How long have you postponed your tough decisions?

Image credit: Medium.com

You're out of time

What can you do about it?

#1 - On your own, or with a coach or consultant, you have to challenge yourself to do things differently.

#2 - You have to focus on what's truly most important, what Gary Keller would call your ONE Thing.

#3 - You have to develop better systems for time management so your true priorities are getting your time and the fire drills, hysterical urgencies, and unnecessary drama are delegated or avoided altogether.

How do you get there?

You make the tough decision to choose what is great over what is good.

You commit.

You get accountability to follow through on your commitment. Don't ask someone who doesn't have the guts to be candid to hold you accountable. Don’t ask a friend or hire someone who is a “Yes-man” or “Yes-woman.”

You can do this. It starts with making the tough decision and the commitment.

You're out of time.

Thursday
Jun142018

When you fall: The story of Heather Dorniden*

*This is the story of one event in 2008. Heather is still running.

It was 2008 at a Big Ten indoor track event. Heather Dorniden, now Heather Kampf, was the favorite in her 600-meter race.

The race was three laps around an indoor track. As she moved into first place towards the end of the second lap, her heel got clipped by the runner she was overtaking and she fell.

One lap to go and she moved from first to last place, on the ground.

In her words, “I was making a move to pass Fawn Dorr of Penn State going into the last lap of the Big Ten 600m final, and probably just didn’t account for enough space for my long stride, because I felt my heel get clipped once, and then on the second time I knew I was going down.”

All her work. All her dreams. She fell.

Game over, right? Not quite...

Pretty awesome, right?

Everyone in the arena probably believed her race was over. The odds were in their favor. It was logical for her to give up. The facts supported it.

But Heather did not enter the race based on the odds, logic, or the facts. She was in the race to help her team win a championship.

Her race meant important points for her team.

Without hesitation she treated the situation like a second start to a race she remained committed to win. She launched from the track as though she was leaping from the starting blocks, and ended up winning.

What can we learn?

Heather's race can inspire us to never quit. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

But it's not always that simple. When you look deeper at your own situation, it is clear that there are some things you need to quit much more quickly than you do.

  • Poor performing employees might need to be let go
  • Toxic employees need to be shown the door immediately, or put on performance improvement plans with empathetic boundaries and real consequences
  • Unmet sales projections need action taken within weeks, not months or years
  • Unprofitable divisions need to be given an opportunity to turn around, or sold off or shut down

I like the following image by Sharanda Foster Douglas below:

When should we persevere?

You should persevere when your path is clear. Heather wasn't in a maze with multiple paths to choose from. She knew exactly what to do: Get up and run.

You can do the same. You should persevere when you're on the right path and a little more effort is required. Persevere when you can:

  • Identify a way to do things differently that will achieve a better result
  • Stop doing the things that are hurting you and/or your organization
  • Define, develop, and sustain new habits or processes to be better
  • Your leadership team supports an additional effort.

The CRT is low: The additional effort will be low Cost, low Risk, and takes a relatively small amount of Time to prove itself. 

You have the support of strong, wise advisors and mentors who have the guts to tell you where you're wrong and when you need to stop.

I like the graphic from Jim Knaggs below:

There is no universal mandate to quit, or get up and run. Each time you fall will be different. But you will fall. Everyone does. And if you're on the right path, be ready to get up and start running again.

If you choose to persevere, then, like Heather, don’t hold anything back!

Monday
Jun112018

A new manager and a better leader

Cory Kaufman is a member of our current Certified LEADER class that concludes in two weeks. He has been with his company, Assured Technology Solutions in Lake Oswego, Oregon for 16 years. About two years ago he was promoted to Office Manager.

"As a new manager, the Certified Leader Course has been a blessing. Whether your team is large or small, the training and accountability is invaluable. Throughout the course I've grown not only in personal productivity, positive habits, and knowledge, but also in overall confidence to be the systematic leader I need to be in my current role.

"I looked forward to the one-on-one phone calls with David for accountability and advice. He genuinely cared for me and my development both personally and professionally. I look at this course as a milestone in my career, I cannot be more thankful."

Cory Kaufman

Office Manager, Assured Technology Solutions

 

Leaders love our Certified LEADER program because we develop their strengths, work on some of their weaknesses, and almost always enable them to create more time in their workday.

Our Certified LEADER program is often a lot of I.T. service managers (help desk, NOC, field service...), but we have also had owners, controllers, CFO's, VP of product development, operations managers, and other types of leaders gain valuable insight from the program too.

Leaders affect everything in your organization. The efforts of one leader inspires all of their direct reports to be more engaged, and more productive. Plus, the improvement of that team positively affects a lot of other things happening in your company.

Why not be your best?

Our next Certified LEADER program starts the week of July 9th. Learn more and sign-up here before it's too late. We only have a few openings.

Contact us if you have any questions.

Tuesday
Jun052018

Must-have Skills to Prioritize

Late last year a column in The Harvard Business Review asked: Start-ups - What skills should a founder prioritize?

What do you think?

If we look at your behaviors, the skills might be:

  1. Busyness
  2. Taking on too much
  3. Not developing staff systematically
  4. Not developing leaders

This is ugly. Let's stop there. What did HBR recommend?

Researchers surveyed 141 Harvard Business School alumni who had founded mostly venture capital-backed tech start-ups, plus 20 non-MBA founders.

The founders said you should be giving a "HIGH" or "VERY HIGH" priority to these four skills:

These four skills ranked higher than Selling, Marketing, Product Design, Strategy Formulation, Finance, and Engineering management.

You'll be quick to notice: 3 of them directly pertain to management, leadership, and company culture.

Develop Leadership Skills

Developing these skills is not an easy task. It takes work. But the benefits far outweigh the costs, because excelling in these four areas creates a ripple effect down the hierarchy of your workforce.

For example:
  • Do you want employees to take more ownership for results? Then train your leaders so your employees have better role models.
  • Do you want your employees to complete tasks on time, such as reports and time entries? Then train your leaders how to establish firm, yet respectful and encouraging boundaries.
  • Do you want to increase the skills of your employees? Start by training your leaders.

This is not rocket science. A team is only as good as the leaders it follows.

Stop Begging for Improvement

So stop kidding yourself, and stop begging people for improvement. Instead, take the time to train your leaders.

You can train them yourself, or you can sign them up for our 6-month Certified LEADER program, which has been very successful.

"The Certified Leader course taught me to understand my team and how they work and communicate and how I can be the enabler towards a more productive and efficient work space by listening to my team, our clients and the future that we are all rushing into headlong. I feel more prepared for what is coming and how to handle crises with a level head and a path forward while also providing my team the tools they need to help us all to not only survive crises but create opportunities."

Sandeep Nair

Service Manager, Solarus Technologies

 

Becoming an effective leader is not like turning on a light bulb - it does not happen instantly. This process takes time for you develop new habits.

The Certified LEADER program includes 6 months of training and coaching to help you develop new habits while you keep up with your workload.

In addition to working on the four top skills listed in the HBR article above, each participant is asked to define clear, measurable goals based on their leadership strengths and weaknesses.

A kick-off call at the beginning of the program is specifically designed to align your work with your needs.

Participants who successfully complete the program are given a certification test at the end. Passing grades earn the use of the Certified Leader logo for use on business cards, your website, LinkedIn profile, etc.

Interested? Learn more by clicking here.

SPACE IS LIMITED. Our next class starts on July 9th, sign up today to reserve your seat! Please contact us if you have any questions.

Friday
Jun012018

Above + Below The Line Exercise

Every leader has a slightly different path to move their career and team from one point to another, which qualifies as their definition of success.

How well have you defined your destination, path to get there, and are progressing towards it?

You are in one of two situations:

(1) You are demonstrating some level of mastery as you navigate the river rapids of your business adventure, rising and falling with the outcomes of your decisions powerfully flowing around and under you, while avoiding the rocks and not getting sucked into hole. Or…

(2) The river of your events is pushing and pulling you in directions and to destinations more than you are maintaining control, and piloting your way through it.

The rudder for mastery as a leader is how and when you make tough decisions that lead to your behaviors and create the results of your legacy.

Let me give you a discussion exercise you can use with your team to build their ability to make better decisions based on what you feel is important.

One good example for this exercise is your company values. These values define HOW everyone, and I mean EVERYONE (including you) should be behaving. If you have worked candidly as a team with wisdom to define meaningful values, then these core behaviors are great for this exercise.

For instance, let’s say you have INTEGRITY as one of your core values.

Question #1

What result as individuals and an organization are we trying to achieve by consistently demonstrating integrity?

Discuss and list outcomes of behaving with integrity. (Do NOT list the behaviors of integrity, but the results.)

INSTRUCTIONS

On a large whiteboard, or presentation Post-It pad list the Outcomes of Integrity.

Next, you are going to create two opposing lists. There are typically two ways to create a visual result of this part of the exercise. Below your list of outcomes, you can first list Dishonest behaviors below a horizontal line and Integrity behaviors on top of the line. Or, you can list Dishonest behaviors on the left or right, and Integrity behaviors on the opposite side, even writing directly opposing behaviors in the same row / line.

Question #2

Let’s make two lists to better comprehend the behaviors, and subsequent outcomes of demonstrating integrity at all times.

First, what are some behavioral examples of dishonesty, the opposite of our core value of integrity?

NOTE: Dishonesty is a soft skill failure. People who allow themselves to be tempted into dishonest behaviors lack training and accountability on the value of integrity. They have bad habits that need to be overcome with new, more powerful, good habits so they can live with integrity at all times.

INSTRUCTIONS

Have your team create a list. It should be at least five behaviors. It might be dozens or up to 100. Try not to limit people’s ability share their thoughts. Allow similarities because sharing specific behaviors expands people’s comprehension of how to apply the value in their every day decision-making. Make certain everyone feels heard, and their ideas respected.

Here are some examples of Dishonest behavior:

  1. Lying
  2. Stealing
  3. Cheating
  4. Breaking a promise to do something
  5. Missing a deadline
  6. Tardiness
  7. Slight exaggeration in an expense report
  8. Doing personal calls on work time
  9. Not doing administrative work you require of others (entering time…)
  10. Not enforcing performance boundaries – at all, or disrespectfully

Question #3

Now let’s list behaviors that are consistent with our core value of Integrity above the line (or across from the Dishonest behaviors if you chose that style of visual presentation).

These behaviors can be the opposite of each of the Dishonest behaviors. Again, there is no limit to the number of behaviors you list.

Here are some examples of Integrity behavior:

  1. Telling the truth
  2. Respecting other people’s property
  3. Protect
  4. Fulfilling a promise
  5. Meeting or beating a deadline
  6. Being on time or early
  7. Accurate, honest expense report
  8. Personal calls only during breaks or outside of work time
  9. Completing administrative work you require of others on time
  10. Enforcing performance boundaries equally for all

Discuss how the easy-to-identify Dishonest (evil?) behaviors affect outcomes. Here are some areas those failures may hurt:

  1. Time
  2. Financial – Revenue, Cost and/or Profit
  3. People
  4. Sales / opportunities
  5. Stress / health
  6. Relationships
  7. Reputation

Bring recent situations into the conversation as examples, either positive or negative. Do NOT call out the failures of anyone.

Discuss the power of habits. Bad habits, the Dishonest behaviors, never go away. How can we as an organization and individuals develop new, better habits of Integrity to overcome bad habits and temptations to be Dishonest, even in a small way?

ZINGERS

The examples above are straightforward, black and white, yes and no. However, life doesn’t always work that way.

Leaders have to skillfully navigate the gray areas of life.

Question #4

What situations come up where we can demonstrate integrity legally or by our policies, but actually the decision lacks integrity or outright violates the heart of our integrity value?

For example, let’s say a customer subscribes to a service. They have a free trial for 30 days and then are automatically charged. 11 Days after the charge, the customer contacts you asking for the subscription to be cancelled and a refund on the first month’s charge because they did not use the product/service.

Option #1: You can confirm they did not use the product/service. What do you do?

Option #2: You cannot confirm whether they used the product/service. What do you do?

You see, if you want to have your people demonstrate the best possible integrity, then everyone has to do so when:

(1) No one is watching.

(2) The letter-of-the-law supports one decision, but true integrity and consistency with your values requires you to demonstrate grace. And, the person joyfully, sincerely, and/or empathetically chooses grace.

Decisions are easier when you discuss the “zingers” and interruptions that may occur, and decide together how your organization responds to them in advance.

Develop your leaders to avoid doing what is comfortable when that decision is actually not right.

Friday
May112018

It Wasn't The Plan

Ask any 6 year old about their dreams or what they want to be when they grow up.

None will say, “I want to be homeless, begging for money, and addicted to drugs.”

Yet... that’s reality for some people.

It wasn't the plan.

What was your plan? Was it your plan to…

  • Have your business be basically the same size it was 25 years ago?
  • Still be responding to texts, emails, and phone calls on evenings and weekends?
  • Be in a business partnership that is frustrating, stressful, and/or abusive?
  • Still have so many bad habits that hurt your effectiveness as a leader?

None of us defined any of the areas above as a goal we wanted to achieve in life. I'm sure each of you have some other regrets you could add to this list.

How do we initiate a turning point in our lives so WE NEVER GO BACK again to the bad habits that are currently holding us down?

We each need a plan that builds on our strengths, overcomes our weaknesses, and enables us to experience the fulfillment of being our best.

The starting point

If you are a leader, then I suggest the place to start is twofold:

#1 – Get an accountability partner or professional coach. Someone who helps you set clear, meaningful goals, not let you fool them with excuses, challenges you candidly, and respectfully holds you accountable.

#2 – Get certified. We are about to start our second and final 2018 class of Certified LEADER. This is 24 weeks, alternating live online training and 1:1 coaching with me. (You get coaching and an accountability partner in one!)

NOTE: Our current Certified LEADER class that started in January was oversold, so we are currently doing two group classes. 

Learn more and sign-up at www.MANAGEtoWIN.com/certified-leader-program. Space is limited because I only have so many hours each week for coaching.

I have had owners, top executives, and plenty of mid-level and new managers participate. All of them have been hungry to learn how to be a great leader and willing to work on their bad habits.

If you look at our Certified LEADER page and still are wondering whether it is right for you or one of your managers, then just email us or click here to schedule time to talk about it.

What is your plan?

If you feel stuck, or stagnant, and if you have felt this way for quite some time, you need to make a change. The good news is you are not alone, a lot of leaders are in the same situation.

However, that is not really good news for you or the world. Refuse to maintain your status quo, and make a choice.

Your clock is ticking and time is passing that you will never have again.

Wednesday
May022018

7 Things I learned from running and selling my business

Last week I received an email from a friend, Brad Wilson of IRIS Solutions, telling me they had just finalized the sale of their business and told their employees.

I asked him if he had any business lessons to share. He had this to say:

"You know David, that's a good question. Over the years I have juggled multiple roles, including Tech, Supervisor, Manager, Engineer, and Business Owner. I should also include Business Partner in that list.

After 17 years at IRIS, I probably have a hundred business lessons I could share with you. At the moment, however, there are a few that stand out.

Here are the 7 most important things I have learned during this process:

1. Hire for what you don't know

I am a good tech. I can adapt to changing situations. I develop reliable, scalable solutions that positively impact our clients. I am comfortable and effective in pre-sales. However, I am sort of limited when it comes to marketing, employee goals and plans, business accounting, and knowing the best way to operate efficiently.

A good MSP business can make money. We can make it by quoting one price and performing the task for less. Often we are able to do tasks for a consistent ~X% of quoted price. When you make money, you can sustain the growth of the business.

Yet each jump in sales adds to the level of complexity. I learned I needed outside counsel to meet the growing needs of our business. I was fortunate enough to be able to hire some excellent consultants to help.

In this order I would recommend the following types of consultants (with a shout-out to the ones we worked with):

  • Efficiency and Operations - You need someone to help you build a standardized process using your tools to make you the most efficient way possible. Sea Level Ops was our go-to in this area. They have MSP service delivery down cold. 
  • HR and Employee Productivity - Don't think that employees will just blindly follow you. They leave each day knowing they have a job to come back to. You need to have them leaving each day hungry to achieve their goals. MANAGEtoWIN was an essential ingredient to our success in engaging our people. 
  • Marketing - Simply put, hire somebody internally that you trust to do the work who has the experience, or outsource it. Don’t try to learn this portion of your business. You can do it but you don't want to learn a skill where you are not able to maximize your time. 
  • An Ethical Accountant - They can prepare tax returns for you, but it is your name on the bottom line. 

2. Focus on the business and the goals.

My goal was always to grow the business, but there is more to it than that. I thought for a long time that growing meant signing more clients. In reality, growing the top line is not as important as increasing the bottom line. The last full year before we sold the business we jumped 9% in profits. We did this because we created goals that were based around efficiency and not just more clients. We became a better company because we stopped chasing our tails.

We learned to create goals for the company from the top level, and make sure each individual has goals that support the company goals. 

3. Not everyone is going to have an ownership culture

Try as you might you are an owner and you look at things differently. If a potential client calls in at 3PM on a Friday, you think about how to capture the revenue. Employees typically think about how to capture the revenue on Monday. It is the nature of the game.

You have to learn how to promote the company brand in such a manner that allows employees to have an impact. To do this, we created a group bonus based on service revenue. Another option is to create profit-based goals.

Good employees are easy to come by, while great employees are hard to find. But all employees can be motivated to support your business if they are incentivized properly.

Extra tip: Build goals for each person that they can see their career path.

4. Learn to ask questions and listen, not direct and expect

My biggest lesson was that not all people think like me. I was expecting them to be my clones, a kind of “Mini-Me,” and then was disappointed when they were not.

Now I have learned each person has behavioral patterns that they follow based on habits and values. We have learned how to work with people differently based on their profiles, particularly in the way we communicate through written, verbal or non-verbal language.

If you have not taken a MANAGEtoWIN Talent Assessment, stop reading right now, do not pass go and do not collect $200. You can email Dave for a free one. Just go get this test and take it, and consider having each of your employees take it too. The assesments were extremely helpful in helping me learn this particular lesson.

We had a team discussion a few weeks back where a junior supervisor said to another employee, "Well, just tell me how to tell you when you make a mistake."

I just stopped him cold, because it was obvious he had not studied the employee's assessment summary report MANAGEtoWIN provides. If he had, then he would have seen the statements highlighted by the employee to explain their communication preferences.

The supervisor took a step back from the conversation and studied the employee's assessment summary. He learned that the employee in question communicates well when he is presented with questions or comments in advance of a conversation.

The result? The two of them agreed to meet in two days. The supervisor said he wanted to discuss five specific things. He gave the tech time to review the material and formulate a response. When they had the meeting the tech was able to articulate clearly what he was thinking.

5. Learn to love the Metrics

How can you expect a tech on the help desk to go faster if he does not have a goal? How can you expect an inside salesperson to sell to more clients without some type of measurement?

You should learn to love the metrics of your business so you can effectively influence the others around you. Of course, we all want more, but sometimes more can never be reached, or at least not today. If you want the help desk to move faster, they can, but does that really help if they start to miss items?

A popular metric in our business is "time to touch" and "first touch resolution." We have metrics for these items and when they start to fall out of standards we find out why. If we exceed standards we might have Whiskey Wednesdays at the end of a business day. 

Just wanting more always leaves you wanting more, but it doesn’t change things. Setting a clear, measurable goal and achieving it is how you get there. Recognizing success as a team is fun and encourages more success. 

6. You need a backup for your backup

NOPE, not data backup. You need to recognize your key positions and have backup plans for them.

You need to learn what the different functions of your business are and how each person can do them. If you are large enough (>10 people) you will have attrition. When people leave there will be a gap in the work that they were doing. You need to plan on them leaving and who can fill their shoes.

In reality you can probably do the job yourself, but you should be focus on running the business not doing all the task work. Spreading yourself thin is not scalable.

I learned this the hard way when our senior project manager had a death in the family and for two weeks I had to fill in. Nobody else could do the work because they were not trained in the process.

You should know how to do most all the roles inside of the company and as you grow you hire people to do them for you. Just keep in mind that you should have some cross training to confirm more than one person can do any role. Otherwise in a crisis you have to carry too much on your own.

7. The business acquisition process is complicated

The process of selling our business was long and complicated. You should reach out to a business advisor.

There are firms who specialize in seller and buyer representation and you need someone in your corner. Our purchase agreement had over 65+ pages of legal-ease and, to me, it read like gibberish. I could much easier understand PowerShell scripting.

We worked with George Sierchio at Cogent Growth Partners. I would recommend them to anyone.

Conclusion

It’s been a good run.  I’m very thankful to Chris, my business partner; Sarah, our CFO; every person who works at IRIS Solutions, and those who have worked for us in the past."

Wednesday
May022018

Leadership is a choice between two roads

Decades ago the poet Robert Frost wrote a wonderful poem, The Road Not Taken. It begins by describing a choice a traveler must make when faced with a fork in the road. Frost’s poem begins with:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

It's a wonderful poem, and it illustrates an important type of choice presented to every leader. Namely, to stick with a well-worn path, or try something different. As the key decision makers, we move from one “fork in road” to the next every day. 

Leadership is all about decisions.

One challenge, and often the most seductive fork in the road, is choosing between reacting or responding to information.

Both a reaction and a response are normal, but which is more productive?

It depends on the situation.

Reactions

Reactions occur quickly, often instinctively, with limited prior thought or consideration of consequences. If we are not careful, many of us have emotionally-fueled reactions based on wounds, rather than chiseled wisdom.

We come to a “fork in the road” that requires a decision and we instantly make a choice.

The resulting joy or pain from our choice affects our relationships, productivity, and profits.

Responses

In contrast, responses are reactions delayed so information can be processed. 

A leader delays words or actions to ask questions, gather facts, consider the nuances of the situation, and formulate a choice of the best path to take at a fork in the road.

Knowing the difference

Reacting often leads to mistakes based on assumptions. In contrast, responses connect past, present, and future data to validate or replace assumptions. The result is often a much better road to travel.

Be especially wary of stubbornness or what can be called “strongholds". These are situations where we allow partial-truths to embed themselves in our brain as habitual reactions to certain types of situations and people. 

Strongholds lock us in, blind us to the truth, and emotionally force us to choose the wrong road.

Our true destinations can only be reached when we develop good habits that give us balance in life, such as owning our own mistakes and weaknesses. 

Examples

Are you reacting to problems or responding to them? Usually when I pose the same question to a leader, they already know the answer.

If you're not sure, here's a few examples. Ask yourself, are you trying to:

  1. Be a role model by sacrificing integrity, taking shortcuts, and rushing every decision?
  2. Build someone up by tearing them down?
  3. Heal wounds by being judgmental, bearing grudges, and seeking revenge?
  4. Serve others by focusing primarily on your own wants?
  5. Consistently be your best when you are mostly spontaneous?
  6. Experience deep meaning by being led by your desires rather than serving a cause greater than yourself?
  7. Develop relationships and commitment through hate and/or neglect?

This is a "Road of Reactions", all too often chosen by leaders unaware of their bad habits. This leads to a lot of unnecessary drama, lost productivity, wasted time, millions in losses, stress, and other damage.

I encourage you to take the “Road Not Taken” by most leaders. Develop habits of wisdom chiseled through your life experiences. Whenever a problem or a crisis rears its head, take some time to think critically about the situation as a whole. Only then will you choose the “Road of Responses” more often and reach your desired destinations easier, faster, and in more fulfilling ways.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost in its entirety is:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

You are choosing one road or the other constantly every day.

The question is: Are you choosing to respond calmly and reasonably, or are you reacting based on bad habits?

Thursday
Apr262018

A Simple Exercise to Measure Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Do you want a real assessment of your performance?

Here is a simple exercise to get a glimpse of your current leadership strengths, weaknesses, and impact of your company culture. It takes less than 5 minutes.

First, jot down each list by hand, on your mobile device, computer, or print this and fill-in the blanks.

What are the 7 most important “things” one employee – a superstar, average, or struggling team member - wants from you, her/his manager, and/or your company, listed in order of priority?

List them below in order of priority. Place an "X" next to the frequency each one typically occurs.

Although they may share similar desires, each employee probably wants different things. When you focus on one person, it helps you consider how best to engage that individual. If you prefer, make a list for all of your direct reports, everyone on a team, or all employees in a group.

Now, flip the equation

How are you, their manager, and/or your company, fully engaging this individual or group of employees in a meaningful career?

List the 7 most important things you do for them in order of priority. Place an "X" next to the frequency each one typically occurs.

What are we looking for?

HOW you are engaging employees is equal to or greater than WHAT they want from their boss/employer.

In order for this to work, you need to remove all of your assumptions about how engaged your people are and list the real ways you, your leaders, and company are meeting their work-related needs.

Now, find out if your lists are correct

Your lists are probably inaccurate, but don't worry, there's a simple way to check. Simply ask the employee or group of employees to do the same exercise.

Do NOT share with them the two lists you wrote above before they write their own versions.

Ask them: What are the 7 most important “things” you want from me, your manager and/or our company, listed in order of priority?

Again, flip the equation

How am I, your manager, and/or our company fully engaging you in a meaningful career? List the 7 most important things we do for you in order of priority.

Compare your assessment to those of your employees. There will be differences, however, the key is to resolve them.

Understand the Differences

Differences between managers and employees is a common theme in troubled companies. They are most often due to a lack of Systematic Power, my first strand of 3Strands Leadership. Systems and processes are likely missing, broken, or need updates.

These systems are what I work on each week with Clients, as individual leaders or as an entire organization.

Here are some common gaps in an organization’s Systematic Power:

Inconsistent accountability

Leaders are often poor role models and they don't realize it. They have good intentions without a solid game plan, and it prevents positive results. This leads to excuses, and the ensuing drama kills any opportunities for consistent, sustained growth. Furthermore, any lack of integrity can magnify this problem until the company implodes.

Different standards

Many companies have competing internal standards. The result is an “us vs. them” mentality, whether it is between management and staff, or different work-groups. It destroys productivity, progress, and the ability to make tough, fair decisions in a reasonable time-frame.

A poor or non-existent hiring system

A poor hiring system cascades poor performance throughout a company. People are hired who do not match the needs of the position, or your culture, and it costs time, money, stress, and lost opportunities.

Lack of regular training, starting at the top

Companies often fail to train their employees on a regular basis in hard skills and soft skills. The result is a flourishing of bad habits throughout your organization. Poor productivity not only thrives, but is defended or accepted as reasonable.

What's the solution?

The solution to these problems is to first understand the areas in which your company is currently struggling. Use the surveys above to get started.

A little employee feedback can go a long way.

Once you have a measurement of your strengths and weaknesses you can take action. Expand on your strengths, while minimizing your weaknesses.

Do your employees love your pay-for-performance plan? Awesome. Do a quick review to make sure it is working properly, and confirm it's effectiveness with your team.

Do your employees want more feedback from management on their performance? Implement it. Get on a schedule of providing regular feedback to your team. Whether it's regular reviews, or a weekly habit of brief conversations, give them the feedback they need.

Take one step in the right direction and you'll be ready for another one.

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