November 14, 2018

5 Questions And Answers to Change Your Business For The Better

It is hard to believe that I have been coaching for ten years. It seems like a few months, because I so love the work I do and am really so happy when I see people succeed.

As the years have flown by, it is not uncommon for the same questions to pop up over and over again, and at the end of the day, my clients (CEOs, Company Presidents, Executive Directors) hire me to make their organizations stronger so that they can be more profitable. I also work with non profit organizations, and their goal is of course to raise more funds, recruit more volunteers and provide more and better services to their clients.

So, today, I want to leave you with five questions that I have heard most often and provide you with one strategy to answer each question. I want to remind you that I am not a consultant…I am a coach, so finding solutions to these challenges rests with the client..my goal is to bring those solutions out of the client and onto the table. While you probably have similar or better solutions than the ones I am listing below, I am simply sharing with you what I have seen has worked quite well in the recent past. These solutions are not fluff or blue sky thinking…they are practical and simple, yet not always so easy to achieve. These approaches require hard work, consensus and as a leader, your full commitment to seeing that the strategy/strategies are implemented and refined over time.

The 5 Questions and Answers to Change Your Business For The Better:

Question 1: What is it going to take for me to succeed as a leader and for our company to thrive?

Answer: To be as candid, direct and transparent as possible. Too many companies “talk around” tough or sensitive issues, which can waste time, energy and money. If you are not being candid, creativity is blocked, projects slow down and money is lost. Just consider the last time you postponed having a tough conversation or being open and frank during a project, and ask yourself what was lost as a result. While being candid is simple, it is difficult to implement, because employees are fearful of backlash if they are candid and open. According to Lee S. Rosen Miami, Being transparent, candid and direct should be encouraged, praised and rewarded, and your employees will trust that being candid is actually a success tool…not an approach that is going to cost them their job.

Question 2: How do I stay competitive in today’s business world?

Answer: Attract the best players and train the up on a regular, ongoing basis. You may have the most beautifully built company in the world, but the people who live inside that building are your key to staying competitive. If you attract top talent, and you then don’t have a world class training program (and I don’t mean sitting in the classroom), it will be very hard to retain your best people. When building a training program, it is critical to implement the following:

  • Planning: Your training programs need to be planned to meet the needs of a variety of learners and should be mapped out for each quarter of the year. Today’s workforce is made up of three generations, and their training needs will all be different. Consider the sub groups in your company and invest time with your HR Department to properly plan your training programs.
  • Mission Statement: I believe that all training programs require a mission statement. The people in your company who are being trained are more than likely sitting in their seats thinking “Why am I here?” A mission statement will clear up they fuzzy “why” questions.
  • Design: Your training programs need to be designed to meet the needs of your learners. If you are training a young, 23 year old woman in a classroom with a powerpoint presentation and a flip board, you won’t get very far. The best approach for this young woman would be to use short bits and bites of information while taking advantage of the use of new media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, You Tube), storytelling and experiential exercises. Why? Because this is how this generation best learns. Proper planning can make your training programs fly and build passion in your followers.
  • Measurement: This is a no brainer, but many companies do not measure the success of their training. The only way to improve on the next training is to measure success and ask for feedback.
  • Accountability through follow up coaching and mentoring: Once your training programs end, it is now time to implement the training into the real world of your company. A strong mentoring and coaching program can help your employees not only implement the steps learned but it can help your employees strengthen the skills they are learning along the way.

Question 3: Our company is going through a change, and I am having trouble getting people on board. What should I do?

Answer: Design and implement a strategy for executive level, management level and employee buy in. It is not uncommon for companies to implement a change in their company without thinking through a clear strategy on how to get buy in. There are multiple ways to get buy in (make sure to communicate the change in a clear, simple way; offer employees the opportunity to give you ideas through the use of an anonymous suggestion box; hold town hall meetings; allow employees a way to be heard), yet at the end of the day, as a leader, the skills you will need most during a change initiative are patience, listening and persistence. You will have some employees who jump right on the bandwagon with you while others will drag their feet or complain about the change. If you design a strategy for buy in, including a time frame to get everyone on board, the change initiative will go much more smoothly. Just remember this: Generally speaking, people don’t like change, and if a change is on the horizon, they are going to want a voice and a listening ear from their leader.

Question 4: How can I get my employees to do the work they have been assigned to do and to get it done on time and with excellence?

Answer: The typical answers by many of the leadership gurus of our past and present (no…I don’t put myself in the leadership guru category by any means) is to design a strategy, develop a great plan, work the plan and then hold people accountable for results. Yet there is one piece that is usually missing from this puzzle: As a leader, you must be willing to delegate the project, back out of micro-managing the project and give your employees the permission to fail. I have said it before, and I will say it again…people learn more from failures than from being taught in a classroom or even shadowing a leader or manager. For most leaders and business owners, delegation and empowerment are scary propositions. You may be a leader or a business owner who has always managed every detail of a project, and now you are being asked to step back and let them possibly fail so that they can fly. As a leader, one of the best ways to change your business for the better is to trust your employees to the nth degree to complete a project and complete it with excellence. At the end of a project, debrief the project with your team to uncover new ideas which will make the next project better and stronger and one that will have a greater positive impact on your team and for your customers.

Question 5: I have an employee who has been so loyal to our company for years, and the company has outgrown her. She no longer has the skills we need, has no interest in learning the skills she needs, but I just can’t bring myself to let her go.

Answer: If you have offered additional training, provided coaching and have done everything you can for this employee, it is more than likely time for you to part ways. I have worked with clients from age 26-75, and the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is just not true. I have coached people over the age of 70 who have stepped up to the plate to learn new media, to learn new ways of doing business. So, if you have an employee who is simply not willing to learn new skills, you can either place her in a position that does not require the skill or let her go with compassion and appreciation for her loyalty and dedication to your company. I have also worked with companies who classes to terminated employees to help them find their next job. But, at the end of the day, if your company has outgrown a few of your employees, it is time to make that tough decision and do it sooner rather than later. If you continue to hold on to employees who are not helping your company due to an unwillingness to learn new skills, your company will not only not move forward, you will take multiple steps back…far away from your future goals.

In closing, I want to leave you one of my favorite quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Action should follow your goals. “Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.”

OctoFinder

5 Steps for Improving Accountability on Your Team

When is John going to get me that report?”

“What is going on with the marketing report? When are they going to finish that thing?”

“I can’t believe Mary is so late in making those phone calls.”

“Okay…who dropped the ball this time?”

“Hey…that’s not MY job.”

Does this sound familiar? If so, your small business team may be faced with a big challenge with accountability, which results in finger pointing, frustration and broken trust…both with your employees and your customers. Personal responsibility and accountability can put an end to the blame game, saving your business thousands if not millions of dollars by increasing productivity and overall job satisfaction, which results in very satisfied customers. These five basic approaches can support you in increasing accountability, which are simple, yet they require actually building a culture of accountability for your business.

1. Communicate the big pictureAccountability stands a better chance of succeeding if everyone in your business embraces a larger responsibility for the success of the entire company. Spend time talking individually with team members about how his or her project affects the vision and mission of the business. With this communication, people can make wiser decisions from the context of the “big picture” rather than from the perspective of what may seem to be a detailed and boring task.

2. State clear expectations- If one person on your team does not meet your expectations, the entire team can fail. It is important from the very beginning of any new project to state the expectations clearly and repeat them over and over again until your team really “gets it.” These expectations need to be crystal clear, including dates, who is responsible for what, the details of the task and how you want the finished product delivered. If your expectations are fuzzy or confusing in any way, your team can break down, and the fine and very important details can fall through the cracks.

3. Accountability work groups-One of the best ways to achieve accountability is to develop shared accountability among team members. Accountability within the team can be accomplished by what Morris R. Shechtman calls “accountability groups,” groups which give team members the permission to speak and listen in a way which is frank and open. This accountability group can include 2-5 people and can then serve as a small unit of people working together to confide in with struggles, weaknesses and insecurities. They can then find creative strategies to work together in the direction of the growth the team intends to achieve.

4. Move to action-In order for accountability to work, people have to know that failure of completion will come with certain consequences, including written warnings, loss of a bonus or extra hours served on a week-end to complete the project on the table. Without consequences, your employees won’t take you seriously. They will think that they can use blame, justification and rationalization as a way to deviate from being responsible, because you have not followed through on what you said you will do if the tasks are not achieved.

5. Reward and recognition program-Employees need to know in a tangible way their efforts are indeed driving the company forward, and it is important for them to share in the fruits of their hard work. The offer of increased pay and benefits (vacations, time off and other perks) can keep accountability and morale high and can motivate employees to continue to strive for high levels of performance.

G Stands for Gasp

gasp: a sudden, short intake of breath, as in shock or surprise
Dictionary.com

Amazing Grace: Cape San Blas, FL

Amazing Grace: Cape San Blas, FL

I had the luxury of spending Thanksgiving week at one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life…Cape San Blas, Florida.  We arrived on Wednesday afternoon to Amazing Grace (right)  just in time to see one of the most breathtaking sunsets I have ever witnessed…and I gasped!  It literally took my breath away…the vivid mix of orange, pink and red on a canvas of blue with a gigantic sun shining as the centerpiece,  watching the big ball slowly dip below the horizon over  sparkling water.  I have seen similar views but nothing like this.  It truly made me stop dead in my tracks.   I so wish I had had a great camera at that moment.  I tried snapping a similar sunset two days later with my i-phone, but it just did not capture what I wanted to show.

Then, on Friday, as we were all watching the Alabama/Auburn football game (Roll Tide…I am a U. of Al. alum, but my brother-in-law believes that my Alabama degree should be taken away since I know absolutely nothing about Alabama football), the story about Tiger Woods car accident flashed across the screen, and I gasped.  I was in shock!  I heard he was in serious condition, and I felt worried and really just shocked, I instantly contacted a Dallas county attorneys specialized in accidents in case something like that happen to me or the people I love.  My son has played golf competitively since he was age 5, so we do follow golf closely here at the Fields house, and we do agree that Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer in the history of the sport and has forever changed the way golf will be played…he has raised the bar, has made golf a “sexy” sport (no pun intended…it was once thought that golf was a boring sport reserved for out-of-shape men who cannot run or pump iron) and has taught all golfers that being in strong physical and mental shape is critical to winning this game.

Tiger and Elin Nordegren Woods

Tiger and Elin Nordegren Woods

As the week went on with the rumors and stories of Tiger Woods alleged affairs, I gasped again, but my emotion quickly shifted from shock to skepticism to disappointment and a bit of anger that one of the most well loved and admired role models in the world of professional athletics is not exactly what we all believed he was…a man who talks openly about his commitment to family values.    So, the “gasp” and worry shifted into a few other emotions…and today, as I sit here and write, my emotions have shifted again to a great deal of compassion for the entire Woods family…for a man who obviously is missing something in his life or who has pressures that most of us will never experience in our lifetimes and for his wife, children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends and many fans who are probably more than likely feeling betrayed.

In life and in leadership, there are always moments that take our breath away to the point that they are forever etched in our minds.   For me personally, the moments in my life that were so inspiring, shocking and stunning that they caused me to gasp are:

  • The day my husband, Mike, proposed to me on the Gettysburg battlefield
  • The day my children were born and the first time I held them in my arms
  • September 11, 2001
  • The first time my employer called me in at age 22 to tell me that a physician had reported me to the medical review board for writing in a medical record about a possible food/drug interaction with a patient I was counseling.  I was a Registered Dietitian…not a physician, and I needed to stay out of discussing medications or ANY decisions made by the docs (this was the first time I realized that what I had been taught to do during college was not what the real world wanted and that most of what I had learned needed to be tossed and that to succeed in healthcare meant playing the game strategy designed by the docs)
  • The day my mother died
  • The day I heard one of the living legends of storytelling, Donald Davis…I never knew that one man with such a gift could inspire me so much that I shifted the way I thought about telling life stories and the impact they can have on others

You may be reading this wondering what in the world this blog post has to do with leadership.

I have learned through the years that mediocre life and leadership events do not create true or lasting change.   If we are leading our lives or others through ho-hum activities, there won’t be enough of a jolt or inspiration to create true change in others or the world.  Shocking, gasping, inspiring life events most often drive change, and unfortunately,  catastrophic events seem to create the greatest catalyst for change, because they trigger pain and heartache.  And…most humans will make a drastic change if they are faced with anything which threatens their security or life.   The Tiger Woods events of late will indeed result in something life changing (maybe for Tiger, maybe for his family and friends and possibly even for the world of golf…we won’t know until the future unfolds).

Does this mean that as a leader, you should deliberately set out to create chaos, problems and shock?  Possibly.

Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy by Joseph a. Schumpeter

Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy by Joseph a. Schumpeter

In 1942, Joseph Schumpeter wrote the book Capitalism,  Socialism and Democracy, and in the book he describes a process of creative destruction that can revolutionize the economic structure of a company from within by destroying much of what worked in the past to allow new, fresh, creative ideas to emerge.  One modern day leader who relentlessly practiced this concept of creative destruction is Jack Welch.  Although he is no longer at the helm of GE, Welch practiced creative destruction by knowing when to pull a product or service (even if it was working) if the product or service was “behind the changes in the market.”  With these radical changes came shock, the loss of employees and people scratching their heads in disbelief over Welch’s bold moves, but he is one of the most studied and celebrated CEOs of the last four decades.  And…there are no lukewarm feelings about Welch.  You either love him or despise him.   Welch even has been quoted as saying:

“Willingness to change is a strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while.”

And

“If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside the end is in sight.”

On the same note, as a leader, you must be willing to create true “inspirational experiences” for your company.  This takes leading out there on the bleeding edge and being willing to shake up the norm to bring in something that is going to disrupt the coherency a bit.  If people are just plodding along, doing their job to get a paycheck and there is nothing exciting to have them dance out the door each morning, then you are not doing your job as a leader.

The Michael Scott-Esque Leader in the Mockumentary for BearingPoint

The Michael Scott-Esque Leader in the Mockumentary for BearingPoint

One story that has come across my desk recently is the story about Russ Berland, the Chief Compliance Officer for BearingPoint.  One of his first tasks when he was hired for this job was to redesign the company’s ethics-and-compliance training program.  He could have gone the traditional route of holding boring  internal trainings and reading out of a policy manual, but he chose to do something quirky.  He latched onto the series The Office to create a film series that would highlight the activities of a single IT consulting engagement team to get the point across about ethics and compliance.   You can watch one of the six films on Fast Company in the article How to Make Corporate Training Rock.

As you read this post today, I would like to ask you to consider these questions:

  1. What are you doing that is radically innovative enough to cause your employees to gasp and become inspired?
  2. What products and services do you need to destroy so that you company can actually thrive in the future?  And…do you have the right people on the bus and are they sitting in the seats that will help your company stay competitive in the marketplace?  Maybe it’s time to look closely at the effectiveness of the people in your company.  Are they truly making the impact your company needs for the future?
  3. When you consider the  marketplace today, how far ahead or how far behind is your company?  If you are behind, what plans do you have for 2010 to get out of your same old, ho-hum way of doing things to shake things up so that you can stay competitive in a world that is in chaos?
  4. Think about the Tiger Woods story for just one moment.  On a scale of 1-10, how much are you living in integrity as a leader?  By integrity, I mean living true to who you are, doing what you say you are going to do and not just speaking about what you value but living your life according to those values?  Are you doing anything at all that could damage you and/or the reputation for your company?  If so, snap out of it and make things right!
  5. Are you communicating your vision and your story to your employees in a way that has them dancing out the door each morning?  If not, maybe it’s time to start working on just that!

A is for Accountability

Tardiness. Bickering. Indecisiveness. Blaming. Irresponsibility.

Does this sound familiar? If so, your team (or family) may be suffering from a clear lack of accountability.  While I realize the “A” word is used and overused, I am going to continue talking about it, because I believe a clear accountability process is critical for companies, both large and small, to be able to thrive in the future.

Here is what I experience with many leaders I coach.  One of the first questions I ask is this “Tell me about your accountability and decision making process.  How does it work?”  Approximately 93% of the time, the response is “Uhm, well…er…we don’t really have one.”  As I begin to talk more with the leader about how an accountability process might work and how it can…

1) Save time

2) Stop team conflict

3) Improve decision making

4) Make more money

5) Reduce a stalemate

and so forth, their eyes light up.  They get so excited.  I then say “So…tell me about how you feel about being the role model for an accountability process by giving your team permission to start calling you on your stuff?”  Guess what happens?  About 93% of the time, the leader decides against implementing an accountability system or process, because at the end of the day, they say they just don’t know that they can go through this.  They really aren’t ready to hear feedback from their team members and feel as if this approach would weaken her authority and diminish her credibility.

The opposite is actually true.  When a leader steps up and says “I am going to start being more efficient, more punctual, more open to your suggestions and am going to start being a better listener, and I need you to call me on the carpet when I’m out of line”, your team will be shocked, amazed and your credibility as a leader will dramatically increase.    Once the leader sets the stage for being held accountable, your team will “get it”, and then you and your team can sit down and hammer out a true accountability system which meets the needs of your company.  At the end of the day, with a solid accountability process…one that works…your team will feel much more secure about their role on the team and about you as a leader.

One idea on the topic of accountability is to start by identifying one tiny problem that keeps popping up on your team.  This could be tardiness to staff meetings, lack of follow through, not returning phone calls, clutter, dropping the ball, finger pointing or any type of team breakdown that gets in the way of your efficiency.  Start with one problem, and look at all of the reasons (at the root) which are contributing to the problem.  Acknowledge that the problem exists, discuss it with your team and then design an accountability system for that one problem, and give your team 3 months to get it worked out.  As much as I would love to give you a true formula for this (example…a 3 strike rule…3 strikes and you are out), I cannot…your team has to be the group to sit down and come up with a creative way to get people to correct a deficiency or problem, because trust me…one system does not fit all.  There are multiple approaches which include both consequences for falling short and rewards for success.  Sit down and come up with as many solutions as possible and then write out what your process will be and then follow it to the nth degree.

If you start today by addressing the accountability challenges in your company, your team will stand a much better chance of success in the future…trust me…I’ve worked with teams on this issue multiple times, and accountability processes do work, but only if you are willing to be the first to take the hit..

When Talented Teams Fall Apart: 5 Things You Can Do Today To Rebuild Momentum

Over the last year, I have coached multiple teams.  I have also watched a number of teams from the board perspective and have observed a few athletic teams.  It always amazes me to see a talented group of people…who are supposed to be a team…fall apart at the seams.  It’s just sad to watch.

So, today, I want to leave you with five things you can do…not tomorrow…not next week…but today to rebuild momentum so that your team (corporate, business, athletic, volunteer or family team) can become energized and get back to winning…at whatever game you are playing!

1) Provide structure and accountability.

Leaders often think that their teams need to just “do their own thing and get the job done.”  I have never seen this work.  Teams need structure…they need a dependable process to follow, and they need to be held accountable to that process.  Hmm…I wonder if Coach Roy Williams of the UNC Tarheels basketball team just let his team “do their own thing” this year.   I wonder if he said “Hey guys…just go play some basketball, and I’m headin’ over to Dairy Queen to get a soft serve cone…let me know how you did when I get back!”   I would bet $1,000.00 that this was not the case…I bet this team had a structure, a system and a process to get the job done.  This team went on a mission this year to win the NCAA championship, and I have heard through the grapevine that this team has structure, discipline and a strong accountability system.  They commit, and they follow through…and here they are…national champs of 2009.

2) If you are the leader, take 100% responsibility for your team falling apart, and start changing your leadership behaviors NOW!

I hear this everyday “Well…Susan is not doing her job. Or…gosh…we really don’t have much leadership on our team.”  This is just plain ridiculous and lame.  If you are the leader, and your team is not doing their job, and you are lacking leadership, look in the mirror…right now!  Go stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself “What am I doing or not doing that is causing this team to fall apart?”  As I have said multiple times, s— does not flow upstream.  It flows downstream.  If your team is falling apart, they are probably following your lead as a leader.  Your team is probably feeling like you are the one not stepping up and that you have basically given up on your team.  It’s  time to step up and change your life…change your leadership…start taking command, and get in there and fight for your team.

3) Sit down with each person on your team immediately and map out a plan for the next 6-12 months.

This one step is almost never done.  Each person on your team has a role to play…and it’s time to sit down and map out a plan for development for each person…an individual developmental map of what the next 6-12 months is going to look like and what you expect.  What skills does this person need?  What does she need to improve?  What managerial skills are missing?  What are both the hard and soft skills needed so that your team can win?  Sit down, and write out a 6 month plan…a plan which focuses on strengths and how to use those strengths to pull up the shortcomings.

4) Be a MAN or a WOMAN…TAKE COMMAND!

There has to be a leader in command (not sitting by in idle mode) when your team is falling apart.  The old saying “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” is such a worn out cliche,  but it is so true in this situation.   When you take command, you have to be willing to take full responsibility for making the change,  take tough stands and keep your cool.  You have to be energized by tough challenges and not give up.  You have to get in there, roll up your sleeves, and tell your team “We are going in this direction…either get on the bus or off the bus!”  You have to know your cutting line, and you may have to go head to head with another person on your team to get the group moving in the right direction.   If you are sitting and waiting for the wind to take you where you need to go, you are not a leader…you are a follower.  If this is your approach, and if you can’t come up with big ideas, new strategies and to convincingly voice your opinions, then get out of the way, and get a new leader on board.  It may be time when you look into the mirror to just say “I can’t lead this team.  I’m just not the right person for now!”

5) Include some fun along the way.

I don’t believe that the fun should be 75% of this equation.  I am totally into fun, but let me tell you…the teams that “win” are working hard will tell you that it is not all fun and goofing off..  However, they will tell you they are having the time of their lives, because they are winning.  They work, they perspire, they get in there with grit and get the job done, and at the end of the day, they celebrate.  Sit down with your team and brainstorm on how to get stronger by using creativity and how to make it fun. Companies like TheGreatEscapeRoom.com exist today specifically to create fun team-building events for corporate environments. Most leaders never sit down and talk about how they are going to get better and have fun doing it.  When the fun stops, teams fall apart.  They lose their spirit. So, get in there, and work hard…and play hard!

If you are a leader, and your team is falling apart, please contact me today for a coaching session.  I am 99% confident that I can get you AND your team back on track..

Milwaukee Bucks Coach Skiles Reprimands Villanueva for Tweeting From the Locker Room

“Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva got a talking-to from Skiles after the coach learned Villanueva posted a message to his Twitter feed — a “tweet” — from his mobile phone during halftime of Sunday’s home victory over the Boston Celtics.”

You have to read this article. There are two sides to this…a coach who thinks one of his top players is not serious, because he’s on Twitter in the locker room during halftime.  The other side of the story…in his post, Villaneuva (who goes by the screen name CV31) committed publicly to “step it up” in the second half, and he did.

As someone who works every day with leaders on accountability issues, there is something to be said for making a public commitment to thousands of people that you’re going to “step it up” or take on a big action.  You have that built-in accountability that is stronger than most types of “motivation.”  The embarassment factor of not fulfilling the commitment is huge, and I am sure Villaneuva knew that he was going to have to step it up or have major egg on his face from his Twitter followers.

So…if you’re having trouble reaching a goal…try making a public commitment to your Twitter network and see if your results improve..