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Your People – The Best Investment You Can Make

The bottom line: investing time in developing your people is the best investment you can make ~ bar none. Your people are the heart and soul of your organization, and when they get better you get better, and your organization gets better. Your product and services improve and profitability goes up. Investing in their development is a “no brainer”.

Here’s why ~ everyone knows that having a coach opens up possibilities that wouldn’t open up if working on your own. When working with a coach you can often see something that you couldn’t see before, which often leaves you being more effective and more productive. A coach instructs, guides you in the areas you can’t see or figure out for yourself. Perhaps you’ve tried to teach yourself to play an instrument, get your finances in order, or to get yourself in shape. Most people discover that you can only go so far on your own. When you hire a coach, you have someone that has the skills and expertise to teach you those skills and guides you. Having a structure or program to develop yourself is a worthwhile investment. Your progress will become smoother, go faster, and be accomplished less painfully.

A good example of this is Aaron Judge of the NY Yankees. Judge is one of the most exciting, new baseball players on the scene today~ and while he is just a rookie, people are talking about him as though he may become one of the greatest players ever. He has already hit the most home runs as a rookie in history at the half way mark to date. In addition, he’s currently on pace to beat Joe Di Maggio’s rookie home run record. When he was interviewed at this year’s All Star game on how and why he became so effective, he said that the previous season his batting average was 179. He wrote down the number “179” and kept it on display on his phone. He kept it in front of himself to remind him to work harder each day. He also immersed himself in a specific coaching structure to help him improve. He used the coach to help him work on improving. Today his batting average is 329. His performance is directly connected with hard work, good coaching, and determination ~ he is a baseball phenomenon.

In business when you invest in your people, you are committing to develop them into successes. If you were going to build a house, you’d hire an experienced contractor, construction expert. You wouldn’t do it yourself. When you are developing your staff, your employees, take the same approach. Whether you are introducing a new technology into your organization or learning the latest techniques and strategies, hire an expert to teach your people and do it right from the start. This will ensure that your people take the new training seriously while simultaneously committing to having the results be long-lasting. The trainer you’ve hired is the expert and has the knowledge, skills and experience to train your people accurately and efficiently.

Companies sometimes opt for postponing employee training and development with outside trainers and coaches to contain costs. Later they might determine if an employee is worth investing in after they’ve proven themselves. This can easily backfire, particularly with millennials who have a desire and need for development. If the opportunity to grow and develop is not there it usually leads to attrition. Studies have shown that 40 percent of under-trained employees will leave their positions before the first year is over due to a shortage of skills training and development opportunities. Well-trained employees are more likely to be productive, experience greater job satisfaction and therefore, grow with the organization. Though training and developing a new employee requires a financial investment, not training them and having to go through the process of recruiting and re-hiring can be far more expensive. The Return on Investment in training and developing your employees is one of the best investments you can make in your organization.

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Five Reasons Why Most Strategic Initiatives Fail

Here’s the harsh reality: 70% of strategic initiatives fail in implementation. These are the large, “critically important” programs that leaders champion. They launch such campaigns to great fanfare, but most die a silent death, fading away with barely a mention (or sometimes crash).

According to Ram Charan, author of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, “70% of strategic failures are due to poor execution… it’s rarely for lack of smarts or visions.”

But five fundamental actions can turn this situation around. In our experience, 70-80% of such initiatives succeed when a company follows these principles:

  1. Explain your vision until employees actually understand it. Most programs fail for the simple reason that employees don’t understand what their leaders are trying to do. Stating your vision is not the same as making sure employees understand and absorb it.

People need to fully comprehend the vision. You need to give others a picture, both literally and figuratively. Show them: this is where we are going, and this is how we are going to get there. (Many leaders skip the second part.) For example, you might explain that “we are going to invest in our sales force, put in a much more robust CRM, and increase our marketing.”

Finally, explain why you are doing this and why there is a sense of urgency. Show all what you are asking them to do.

  1. Get people aligned. Posters, speeches, and company-wide email blasts are not nearly enough. Connect with your people, face-to-face. Get them to see that this is possible, that together you can actually achieve or surpass your goals.

Together, address questions such as:

  • What would it look like if we were successful in this initiative?
  • How would people act differently?
  • What would each of us change?

For example, what does it look like when you raise the level of customer satisfaction? It looks like National car rental, where every employee asks, “How was your car? How was the service?” when you return it… and they actually listen to your answer.

  1. Explain their role in delivering the vision. Every person and department should understand the roles and responsibilities that they own. They also need to understand the plan through which they will deliver the promised results.

In the absence of clarity, people tend to make stuff up. When this happens, chaos and inconsistency seeps into your business. Your description needs to be specific and vivid.

The more general the explanation, the greater the odds that things will go south. Companies like to skip training and explanations, but this is where you can cut chaos and confusion off at the pass.

  1. Have a scorecard! Walk into a well-run paper mill and you’ll see a sign that shows how many safe workdays that plant has operated in a row. It should also have daily and weekly production results on a whiteboard.

Well-run businesses are filled with employees who know how they are doing, both collectively as well as individually.

For example, the old Continental Airlines once set out to improve customer satisfaction. They decided that achieving more on-time departures was the single best way to impact customer satisfaction. One way they did this was by installing countdown clocks at each airport gate to track how much time remained before the plane needed to pull away from the gate on time, and the clocks publicly documented how the gate crew was doing.

  1. Hold people accountable. When things don’t happen as planned, you need to have a culture that figures out what happened and holds people accountable for the results, or lack thereof. This doesn’t mean being overly harsh; it simply means recognizing that a problem exists and fixing it.

In failed projects, accountability often slowly fades away. People just stop trying, until eventually everyone does.

***

When you apply these five principles, you will start making solid progress. But it’s not magic. It’s a product of taking effective and consistent effort. If you go to the gym everyday and follow what the trainer tells you, in not much time you will gain muscle mass and lose weight.

None of the above principles are a secret, but collectively they represent a healthy discipline.

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Hiring the Right People – A Trim Tab

The Trim Tab metaphor was used by Buckminster Fuller ~ an American philosopher, systems theorist, architect, and inventor. I met him years ago.  He shared something that has impacted me ever since ~ The Trim Tab Effect.  It provides access to the possibility of making something happen more efficiently without exerting more effort.

Bucky said: “Think of the Queen Mary—the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, call me Trim Tab.”

Consider your hiring process. Face it, you’re not going to be happy if you hire the wrong person. Anyone who has done so knows exactly what we’re talking about here. It takes a lot of time to recognize that you’ve hired the wrong person. Then, a lot of time to admit it to yourself, to try to adjust to it, and then to attempt to fix the problem. After all that it usually takes a lot of time to make the decision to fire that person. And after all that you have to start the process over again ~ more time, more energy and more money. Have a process that makes something happen more efficiently without exerting more effort. Trim Tab.

Here’s the process we designed to ensure a good hire:

  1. Start with good, qualified candidates. We hire a good placement firm.
  • The candidates will be pre-screened for skill level. In our firm it is essential that the right hire is competent in all Microsoft processes.
  • The placement firm will pre-test and pre-qualify candidates before referring them.
  • They will also conduct a thorough background check ~ don’t underestimate the value if this. I have and it has backfired on us.  Trim Tab.

 

  1. Conduct a thorough interview process. This means more than one interview with several people interviewing each potential hire. Sometimes there is the right “chemistry” with one person, but another manager may not experience the same. We conduct three interviews: the initial interview. the call back, and a final interview.  Simultaneously the firm is interviewing several other candidates in the process, rather than a linear process. This will expedite things significantly. Trim Tab.

 

  1. Test their skill. Give the potential candidates a TASK to complete. We do a lot of presentations with our clients so it is essential that our employees are facile with generating Power Point presentations. The assigned task is to provide a 14-page presentation ~ “Tell us why we should hire you.” The document should represent who you are and what you are about. The purpose of this Power Point is to present yourself in a way that represents you as the best person for the job.  This will give us a chance to find out more about you; give us a sample of the kind of work you do and the quality of the work you do; give us a better sense of how you think of yourself, how you think and approach a situation and how you think you might fit in with Leadera.  (We then give examples slide by slide of how the person might complete the task.)

PROVIDE SIMPLE, CLEAR DIRECTIONS: “Complete the following assignment and send it back within 24 hours.”  Following directions is a “must”. I’ve learned a lot from this step as well ~ how a person follows directions is essential to the successful fulfillment of work flow in the firm.  Trim Tab. 

 

  1. Trust your instinct. Recognize the difference between what’s “on paper” vs. what your “gut” is telling you. Some candidates have all of the right qualifications, but something about them tells you they are “not quite right”. Determine the difference between their credibility vs how they “show up” for you in person.  Trim Tab.

 

  1. Bring them into a public setting. We’re looking to discover what it’s going to be like working with this person ~ what they’re like in real life. We take them out for a lunch or dinner meeting. There we can see how they interact with people ~ reveals much more than how they behave in an interview. How do they treat the wait staff?  How do they place their order ~ are they ordering from the menu or requesting the chef design something specific to them? Are they easy to interact with socially? Where is their attention focused ~ on themselves or on others?  Trim Tab.
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Making Tough Decisions – NOW

So often we become aware of a problem, or a business issue, or having the wrong employee in a role, or some other business mistake. For some unknown reason we put off dealing with the issue in the moment that we become aware of it. In hindsight we can all clearly see that when in previous times when we’ve waited to handle these issues, things got worse. We all know this and we know what to do about it.  In each case it seems that the issue got exacerbated. Did we think it would resolve on its own?  No of course not. It never does. Never.  So why do we wait?  What does it take to deal with something with a sense of urgency?

Everyone knows that when you deal with the issue completely, it gets resolved and you feel better. You lighten up ~ freedom of expression returns, integrity is restored, taking actions becomes easier, the alignment of action is restored.  Things start working again, when the company’s core values are alive and well again.

Awhile back I made a big mistake in hiring someone ~ I hired the wrong person. The mistake I made was not following the process I have in place for successful hiring.  Because I knew the person, I made an exception to what I know works and didn’t follow our process as we’d been friends for many years.  It was a very costly mistake ~ it cost a six-figure dollar amount of salary and well over a year’s worth of productivity in our firm. Worse ~ it cost me, and the people in our firm our freedom, our creativity, and our time. In my weak attempts to deal with the issue by doing anything other than what I knew I had to do, I was literally avoiding dealing with it and not communicating about it.  This is the opposite of the design of our company’s culture and I know better. The impact of tolerating this became pervasive. And even though I knew, and the employee knew, I had made a really bad choice, I couldn’t seem to let it go. I kept hoping it would correct itself; trying to fix a situation that would never work.  At the time I didn’t realize how much I had begun to accommodate the person’s poor work habits. After some time, I began to notice that there was cloudiness in the firm (a lack integrity). It was affecting others in a negative way. Having things work began to take an enormous effort.

Jack Welch, who was the CEO of General Electric, ran the most successful company in the world at one time. Welch classified managers in four “types”.

Type I: this person shares our values; makes the numbers—sky’s the limit.

Type II: doesn’t share the values; doesn’t make the numbers—gone.

Type III: shares the values; misses the numbers—typically, another chance, or two.

Type IV: is the toughest call of all. This is the manager who doesn’t share the values, but delivers the numbers; the “go-to” manager, the hammer, who delivers the bacon but does it on the backs of other people, often “kissing up and kicking down” during the process.

At some point I became aware that the person I had hired fit Welch’s Type II description of a manager ~ they didn’t share the values, and they weren’t producing results.  The person seemed to operate with an entitlement mentality ~ “what’s in it for me” or “what’s the minimum I can do” seemed to drive their actions.  Once I acknowledged the truth about the situation, my choice was clear. They had to go. But it took me awhile to take action.  BIG MISTAKE.

So what is it that keeps us from acting now and making the tough decisions? Maybe what’s at play here is hope ~ the imaginary lure that something might intervene without our efforts ~ that the problem will solve itself.  You and I both know that that’s not going to happen.  What is required is powerful and decisive action.

Running a successful business requires making tough decisions. Effective action takes honesty and courage. It’s usually uncomfortable.  It’s usually hard to do. But that’s what it takes. I once heard that Colin Powell said that “Bad news is not like wine ~ it doesn’t get better with age.”

Make the tough decision – TAKE ACTION. You’ll be glad you did it.

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High-Performance Teams

Seventy percent (70%) of all strategic program initiatives fail.  That is a brutal fact that is well documented and proved. Having worked with hundreds of organizations we have discovered that much of the problem occurs in the way people work together ~ the way they communicate to and from each other; the way they support one another.  The level of integrity that’s present amongst the team and in the project, as well as the way they each regard one another ~ it’s in all of those elements that the success of an initiative exists.

We have developed five essential practices for building High Performance Teams:

1 ~ Authentic Listening.  This is way easier said than done as most people think they are a good listener ~ not true. Authentic listening requires the ability to get in another’s world ~ not just their words, but the place from which they are speaking, as well as understanding what they are intending to say.  Two good habits to develop this skill are: 1) give the speaker your undivided attention and, 2) repeat back to the person what you heard and what you think their intention is in what they said.  This gives the speaker an opportunity to confirm or correct your feedback.

2 ~ Talking Straight. This means getting things up on the table that are difficult or uncomfortable to address ~ and to do that in such a way that people are left respected, honored and empowered.  At the same time, it’s essential to get the issue, (the elephant in the room), dealt with head on. It’s a fine line between confronting something that is difficult to talk about and doing so with the sensitivity it requires ~ this takes courage and grace at the same time.

3 ~ Working as a Team. Watch any professional sports team that is working successfully and this becomes apparent. It requires a “pit crew” mentality.  Each person on the team backs up, supports and empowers the others.  Their win belongs to each of them. “Your win is my win.  Your loss is my loss.” They work together in such a way that extraordinary results take place.  They back each other up and they support one another in difficult situations and circumstances. No one gets toppled by little things. Nothing gets in the way.

4 ~ Honoring Your Word.  If this one doesn’t happen, you can forget the rest.  This is simply working toward doing what you say you will do.  It’s doing what you know to do, what’s expected, and what you know is right.  And everybody knows how to do this ~ the question is, do they do it? Fundamental to this is cleaning it up when you don’t do what you said you would do. Clean it up immediately and move on.

5 ~ Being Complete. The practice of being complete means that you don’t step over the trash.  If something needs to be said, dealt with, or cleared up, it gets dealt with right away. The team understands that when you operate on top of issues, resentments and things unsaid, everything comes to a grinding halt. So this one’s about getting things complete so they get clear and there is a level of appreciation maintained by developing the practices of doing so.  In sports you see the guys in the dugout or on the court high-fiving each other with each little win throughout the game.  This is no different than validating success.

By having these five practices in place you can build a high-performance team.  We’ve seen that when teams have these five components working actively, the likelihood of success turns around dramatically from 70% likely to fail to 85% likely to succeed. We have a proven track record for successful project implementation when these five principles are utilized and present.