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Affecting Change – 1st “REAL” Vacation in 15 Years!

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

A couple of months ago I came upon a client, who as far as I was concerned, was making great progress following my initial strategic alignment & planning workshop with them at the end of 2008. Together we had set their One-Page Strategic Plan and they seemed to be getting much better at focusing on the top one or two areas of their business that would turn out to be fundamental pillars of a great 2009 ahead. All was going according to plan, until I was asked to come back for their mid-year planning session.

This was the point in the year when we were to look back at the first half of 2009, evaluate the pro’s & con’s, and leverage the key learning’s toward making some adjustments in areas we hadn’t explored previously. You see, when you fix an organization that’s been struggling to accelerate growth, with the ensuing success that follows you quickly recognize other areas that have fallen short of effective planning. With this client there wasn’t any on-going coaching or mentoring, just the annual & now semi-annual alignment, planning & strategy workshop, so I only got brief “snap-shots” for me to formulate further recommendations from. This is a new world business, with some old world thinking, so some of the processes didn’t take-hold at first and needed more time to develop into familiar habits. This time I came upon a business that was growing at a pace of 50%, but didn’t have their logistics area in the necessary shape to support the growing revenue stream.

The summer holiday period was about to come up, and the Director of Operations was frightened by the current overload, as well as the thought of yet one more summer holiday interrupted be worries back home, or fires that would need to be put out. Fortunately the challenges weren’t as overwhelming once I started to delve into the root cause. An outsider’s perspective, emotion removed & a host of previous best practices from other organizations, quickly put things into manageable perspective. We found some immediate quick fixes, and the next day, with strategy in mind, as a team we brainstormed 7 hot issues and came up with more immediate actions to get things under control.

From afar, I could only monitor that the revenue numbers were growing & the profit margins were holding, so this was a good sign, but it wasn’t until the Director of Operations came back from holiday & gave me the exciting news that I could sit-back and celebrate one more empowering moment. She told me of her month long holiday through Europe on the back of a motorcycle, a month in which her phone didn’t ring, a month in which she didn’t have to reply to any urgent short messages (sms or text), and a month in which things worked like clock-work without her. She was all smiles, and had just enjoyed her first real vacation in 15 years.

What were the key things she had put into place weeks before going on holiday?

  • Extended the One-Page Strategic Plan to another layer within her organization
  • Initiated Periodic Performance Reviews highlighting the individual impact members had on results
  • Leveraged unrecognized purchasing power with suppliers to negotiate automated out-of-stock alerts
  • Improved communication through implementation of Daily Huddles & pulse checks
  • Published the 3-4 key performance metrics that would have her staff keep focus

All of these things were implemented in less than 60 days & they resulted in the most relaxing holiday of her life. What can you learn from this experience? How much do you empower your team to be able to “lead in your absence”?

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Do what you love & the money will follow..

December 27, 2009 Leave a comment

I had just posted “Passion as a Profession” when I came across this amazing story on the morning news.. “YouTube short lands budding director $30M movie deal”. After reading more about this story, I have to borrow another great belief from my wife.. “Do what you love & the money will follow”!

And so my question still stands.. How much of your life seems to feel like work? How much of the time you’re spending on work, do you feel is contributing to your “living”? What are you going to do differently in 2010?

Passion as a Profession

December 27, 2009 1 comment

Question; Have you ever done anything that you just weren’t that passionate about? How did it turn out? Not your proudest moment.. I’m willing to bet. When I read John Hagel’s article on “Passion” in the Network Age in the The Social Customer Manifesto, I came across his reflection “We have to make our passions our professions. If we don’t, this [the economy] is going to be uglier and uglier, and we’re going to feel more and more stressed.” and that in turn inspired this post.

I’ve seen and heard from too many people that seem to just be going through the motions! And trust me, it doesn’t look like much fun! Point in contrast is the case of some friends back in Barcelona who recently created an experience for a dear friend of theirs. Now talent aside, my mates Piero & Ana are an example of people squeezing as much as they can from life. They are a great example of living on-purpose & blending a healthy dose of life, love & laughter into that formula. You see, when you dare to challenge the status-quo, and do something you love, then it’s all happy days ahead. 🙂 Sure life will still through you some challenges, but that’s what life’s all about, great learning opportunities.

A few years back, during a research phase I was doing for a client of mine, I came across the following 10 Core Principles of The Dream Coach Process which helped me gain allot of perspective on my own desires, and how to design a business that was conducive to the life that I desired.

Summary of the 10 Core Principles The Dream Coach Process…

  1. Set An Intention – Objective: To understand the power and importance of intention and for you to set an intention such as find a new job or career, or get a promotion.
  2. Maintain Integrity – Objective: To learn how to live with integrity by removing incomplete actions and keeping agreements with yourself and others. It is essential that you remove or clear up anything from your past that might be in the way of you having what you want.
  3. Live On Purpose – Objective: To understand the meaning and importance of purpose in order to live more aligned with your purpose. Dreams without purpose, even a job without aligning to your purpose, can be unfulfilling. We can take steps to avoid this.
  4. Access Your Dreamer – Objective: To create a dynamic relationship with the Dreamer inside of you, and a dream you are passionate about. No matter how realistic you may be, there is a part of you that knows what will make you happy and what you want.
  5. Learn From Your Doubter – Objective: To create a powerful and dynamic relationship with the Doubter inside of you, and to learn from the lessons this part of you offers. Left unattended, this is part of us that often sabotages our dreams. This does not need to happen.
  6. Believe In Your Dreams – Objective: To create a belief as a solid foundation for making your dreams come true. If you don’t believe in yourself or your dream, no one else will either. This is a life-changing step.
  7. Failure Can Lead To Success – Objective: To learn to use all of life’s lessons as powerful tools, and to create daily practices to deepen what you learn. In this work, we look at what happened and what you learned and design practices for strengthening your Achilles heel.
  8. Take Serious Steps Forward – Objective: To plan the essential action steps to insure that your dreams come true. In the end, it all comes down to taking action and the practical steps for making your dream real.
  9. Building Your Dream Team – Objective: To be able to ask for help, making your dream more easily attainable. There are resources that you know and do not know who can open doors and make your life easier. Learn essential skills for asking and getting help
  10. Live As A Dreamer – Objective: The objective is simple, to create a dream come true life. Once you are clear about your purpose, dreams and resources, you can look at all areas of your life and decide what you want. This process works on any dream.

As a consequence of this research, I became a certified Dream Coach®, including ICF accreditation, but that was just a fortunate circumstance. These tools, as with anything else of significant value that comes across my radar, have in part been adapted to my own processes which govern both personal & professional life. The pure “Dream Coaching” per-say, I now leave for intimate friends, families or other people who come across my path and inspire me. It’s become yet another hobby, or a way to “give back”.

Now.. looking at the 10 steps, can you see where step #3 “purpose” could be the business term for “mission”? Or how step #4 “dream” could be “vision”?  How about all of the other key steps of intention (goals), integrity, learning, belief, success from failure, serous steps forward & team.. do they all sound familiar?

What could you learn from exploring your passion & turning it into a profession?

My greatest gift & take-away from the 7 day Dream Coach certification course was the thought that “the only thing standing in the way of you realizing any desire (dream) is either a limiting belief or an effective strategy”. And both of these can be quickly overcome by surrounding yourself with the right like-minded individuals. 🙂

Another quote that I love to mimic is “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” by Arnold Toynbee. How’s this coming along for you these days? How much of your life seems to feel like work? How much of the time you’re spending on work, do you feel is contributing to your “living”?

Content Rich & Implementation Poor (part 2)

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday I shared my concern over the recent focus & hype on content (tools & frameworks) in sacrifice of implementation & execution. In part 2, I’ll get into some examples of how I’ve gone about in some cases.

When I do finally engage in offering solutions, many times I start with recommending a book or seminar as parallel work before I can actually make serious progress with an individual. And once we do move forward with a collaborative relationship, then a recent first step I’ve introduced is the Extended D.I.S.C. exercise to better understand the person’s natural & non-natural states, as well as their lifetime and “adjusted behavior”. Sometimes before I can effectively share my experience & help someone “take their game to the next level”, they’ve got to do a little homework and therefore I’ve got to ask them to read something like Loving What Is by Byron Katie, The Lost Art of Listening, The Road Less Traveled or Synchronicity.

I’ve also been know to refer people, or their staff to, Landmark Forum, acupuncture or other forms of disruptive intervention that will have them look at their behavior in a different light. And even once they’ve recognized the need for change, that is only the first step. Just like in AA, you have to first admit that you are powerless over the force that is governing your behavior, and then ask for help before you can effectively change. AA & the 12 Steps are only the tools or frameworks, it’s still up to you to reach out and put those tools & frameworks to effective use. Let me share a frightening but awakening statistic with you. Did you know that on average only 10-20% of alcoholics stay in recovery over a lifetime? Why? Because only a few of them are able to consistently make the choice to walk down another street, one without a hole. The hole is symbolic, I believe, for the emptiness within that we try to fill with external stimulus.

What’s the relevance between personal/business coaching & AA? In order for an effective change to happen, one must (1) first recognize the need for change, (2) then have the desire to change for the right reasons, (3) followed by the appropriate & necessary steps for their particular situation, (4) including the appropriate network of support. Once you’ve tasted success, then it about (5) repeating the right new steps until you (6) reach your desire outcome. In short, this is a strategy.. a series of steps to facilitate a predestined/determined outcome.

And here is where I have a challenge with coaches who haven’t had real life experience. The best they can hope for is to be content rich & implementation poor. And when you head down this path, you’ll get exactly what you’ve paid for… 😦

Now, how do I measure impact on a client coaching/mentoring based or strategic consulting situation? Well, first there are the tangible business results or customer testimonials that are frequently available. A more recent example being a key-stakeholders in a client of mine, judged by his CEO at practically a zero, on a scale of 0-10, when I was first engaged. Just a few days ago I heard how he was now at a 7.5 just two days after attending a Landmark Education Forum. The previous 2 or 3 sessions I had with them were limited until I could reach this “breakthrough” point, but now we can make some serious progress, as long as they are willing to put in the hard & smart work.

The key message I’m hoping you’re taken away from this article is that if someone is going through a challenging time, the discipline that may need to be applied might not just be straightforward coaching. Depending on where the subject is “within their journey”, maybe they just need to read a good book, or have a great conversation before they can get to the next stage. Sometimes, unfortunately, they still need to feel a little more pain. In regards to business coaching, question the overload of frameworks & tools, without practical support with implementation. The next time you’re thinking about getting some help with a particular situation, I hope you will think as hard about the relative experience of the individual you’re about to engage, as much as the multitude of tools & frameworks at their disposal.

That’s when you’ll be better prepared to make the best decision possible.. for you, as well as the person you’re about to engage.

Content Rich & Implementation Poor

December 24, 2009 1 comment

I’m noticing these days that there seem to be more & more people declaring themselves “coaches”, yet I’m struggling to find the direct relationship they have on their client’s success!

Especially since landing in Sydney almost two weeks ago, I’ve had several conversations with at least 6 entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurial minded business men, all voicing in unison that their biggest challenge is in effectively implementing and executing the great ideas they get whilst attending thought leadership seminars & events. How many times have you walked away with a tool or framework that you were convinced was going to change your life, only to 3 years later see it still hanging on your wall and reflecting on how you were never quite able to implement that great idea? Indeed I have often thought that too much hype is often made around “tools”, and not enough dedicated into how to make these tools work for the individual or collective. Let’s face it, tools are just that.. “tools”.. mechanisms that should facilitate, instead of be the focus of a strategy. I’ve become more & more concerned with a generation of business leaders that have become content rich & implementation poor.

I’ve long struggled with the way many coaches have approached their clients, starting-out with the immediate assumption that the tools they have on offer will resolve any situation. For example, when I encounter someone in need of help, of any kind, it’s important for me to better understand his/her challenge. I like to ask lots of questions to ensure that I’ve got not only a better understanding of the “obvious challenges” the individual is facing, but more importantly, I’m actually more interested in identifying the non-obvious, or “subliminal/underlying challenges” they’re facing. Much more influential than the obvious, is the non-obvious, the gray matter which is our natural bias, in turn influenced by our lifetime of experiences which shape our views, perspectives & expectations. From ourselves, as well as from others!

One of my favorite points of discussion is around the theme of “common sense”. I like to think that common sense is nothing more than “accumulated experience”. A baby doesn’t know that fire, or a hot stove, is dangerous until they’ve burned themselves at least once. As human beings, we sometimes need to feel pain, sometimes more often than others, before it hurts enough to change a behavior and do something differently. Another of my favorite stories is about a man that walks down a street with a huge hole and ends up falling into a hole. The next day, he walks down the same street again, this time with more caution, yet manages to fall in the hole again. So when does the man finally stop falling in the hole? The day he chooses to walk down a different street! One without a hole!! 🙂

So how can you turn all of the rich content into practical & sustainable implementation? Implementation that will permeate through your organization and make you, as well as those around you more effective and impact results? Check back here for tomorrow’s installment (part 2) when I share some of the ways I’ve gone about it.

2009 – My Year in Review

December 23, 2009 2 comments

It’s that time of year again.. time to look back at the year that’s about to end and measure what’s worked, what could have gone better, and what New Years Resolution’s are appropriate.

The professional highlights were..

  • an e-commerce business who experienced 59% Year-on-Year Revenue Growth
  • an Art Gallery who experienced 50% Revenue Growth 60 days after a Strategic Planning & Alignment workshop
  • a PR agency that gained focus on “what really matters” & improved their sales processes
  • an illustration business that improved their gross margin by an undisclosed amount
  • an internet start-up that launched it’s first real product within 45 days after many failed efforts during it’s first 18 months
  • and another business that’s 15% above budget after a Strategic Planning & Alignment workshop in late September
  • and a host of accolades

The personal highlights were..

  • watching my wife’s “start-up” get significant market validation and secure another round of funding
  • my kids from my first marriage turning around their falling grades to get serious recognition on their improvement
  • my eldest son gaining greater self confidence and implementing serious change after attending Landmark Forum for Teens in October
  • my youngest son getting over the complex of wearing glasses & thus improving his self confidence as well as behavior in school
  • back in OZ building stronger bonds with new friends
  • growing a new business and still being able to maintain a healthy dose of work-life balance
  • supporting at least 3 friends in making significant life-changing decisions leading to their dream-life-by-design

These are just a snap-shot and they’ve made me even more sensitive for the need to record what’s working so that I can continue to “spread the love”.

Sure I had my share of set-backs, and with each one I was able to take significant learning’s to apply toward my development & growth. As my wife likes to remind me; every disciplined effort reaps multiple rewards, and the stronger the wind the stronger the tree!

Actually, “reviewing” is an exercise I do on a daily & weekly basis, as that’s the best way I find to keep pushing myself to learn & grow. How does that work? Well, I actually block-out 60 minutes in my daily calender at 19h00 to reflect back on the highs & lows of the day just passed.

And ask myself challenging questions such as..

  • On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel about your day?
  • What worked well & why?
  • What didn’t work as well as you would have liked & why?
  • What could have worked better?
  • Were you busy or effective? (I actually ask myself this one throughout the day)
  • What could you have done differently to change the outcome of the day?
  • What are the key learning’s from today?

If you’re brutally honest with yourself & keep an open mind, seeking to understand, then this process becomes very powerful. Now, armed with this analysis of my day just passed, I’m ready to affect change into the planning of the day just ahead of me. I find this is the only way to consistently “up my game” from day-to-day. At the end of the week, on Friday afternoon, I do a very similar exercise, but broader in scope. More challenging questions reveal the underlying emotions that had me behave the way that I did, the results of which often reveal important patterns, some of which may even require 3rd party intervention to break. Typically however, a simple trusted circle of like-minded friends or professionals is enough to keep you honest & give you the necessary tools to “break through the glass ceiling” (a.k.a.. a good kick in the pants).

All-in-all I’m pretty satisfied with 2009. It’s had it’s ups & downs, highs & lows, but over-all, the year has been an overwhelming success! The biggest challenge I faced was the recent passing of my father just last week! Whilst it broke my heart to see him go, it also gave me even greater fervor to push myself even more, and continue to affect change & stay on purpose (to empower every relationship I touch)!

How about you? What’s the balance of your year? What do you need to do differently to make it a 10 out of 10?

A CEO’s 5 key focus areas

December 21, 2009 Leave a comment

As an alumni of the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), what I most value by surrounding myself with like-minded individuals, is the opportunity to learn & grow as a consequence of shared experiences & challenges. I love to step outside of my comfort zone!

A few weeks ago, as I watched EO Orange County member Mark Moses give his rendition of the “top 5 things that a CEO needs to focus on”, I was reminded of my own rendition based on working with senior executives across entrepreneurial & more mature Fortune 100 organizations worldwide. I’ve personally found that the following 5 key focus areas are true as much across North & Latin America, as it is in Europe, the Middle East & Africa. More recently, I’ve been able to observe first hand that as far east as Australia & New Zealand, only the accents & dialects are different, as the key focus areas remain.

  • Vision/Core Ideology
  • Cash
  • People
  • Relationships
  • Learning / Growth / Self Actualization

How would you rate yourself on any one of these areas? On a scale of 0-10, where is your energy & focus in each of these areas on a regular basis? Likewise, how clear is it to your team? Individually, how are they affecting anyone of these areas within the capacity of their current roles? If the answer to any of these questions is unclear or not immediate, then I can guarantee you that you have “some work” ahead of you if you truly expect to maximize your organization’s potential. Until you and your team can answer, on the spot, how they’re impacting these areas, they are one of the most likely reasons your company isn’t growing at the rate you would expect.

How do you get more focus on these areas? Review the current tasks that you’re doing on a regular basis and compare them in regards to the weight they are contributing in each of the above 5 areas. Now reflect on the challenges your enterprise is currently facing. Are these challenges a consequence of a lack of focus, follow-up or action in one of the above 5 key focus areas? Great (!), now all you’ve got to do is create a plan to get back on track.

If it’s still not clear what to do next, then you need to get an outside perspective of where & how your organization, or your own agenda can be tweaked. It’s not as difficult as it may first appear.. believe me.. just make sure you get someone experienced, and who can role up their sleeves in order to provide you with practical solutions & practices instead of just theory. Lastly, make sure that anything that get’s applied, is adapted to the reality of the company culture you want to establish. A simple copy/paste isn’t going to do the trick either.