Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Mentoring’

How to UP your game to the next level

April 26, 2010 1 comment

Surround yourself with people who are smarter, better, faster & more resilient than you! Both in professional sports & business, when the competition gets tougher you inevitably get better!

How Competition Makes You Better, and Your Team Can Make You Great is a sporting example of how the undersized Bill Russell and his Boston Celtics improved their own game by playing against giants like Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain may have put up incredible numbers during the period in which the two went head to head, but Russell helped the Celtics hang nine NBA championship flags in the Garden in his first 10 seasons! Bill Russell later wrote: “To me, one of the most beautiful things to see is a group of men coordinating their efforts toward a common goal, alternately subordinating and asserting themselves to achieve real teamwork in action. I tried to do that, we all tried to do that, on the Celtics. I think we succeeded.”

Jane & Joe are a more practical example which will hit closer to home. For the past 4 years, I’ve seen their day-to-day activities result in consistent personal & professional stimulation & growth. Jane is a born entrepreneur, with her “nose to the grindstone” super positive attitude being the key behind much of her success. Joe is a corporate entrepreneur, vastly experienced in the BIG world of the corporate game, over the past years  focusing  more on bridging the two worlds of “corporates” & fast growth “start-ups”. Each night this couple share the inspiring ritual of debriefing their day, as they take turns sharing their “biggest wins, biggest challenges & key learning” from the day. During her discourse Jane will inevitably comment “you would have been proud of me today as I took a page right out of your book”, to which later you might her Joe say “when I was feeling a little lull today I thought of how driven you’ve been lately & it really kicked me in the pants to get me going”.

Both Jane & Joe are adamant believers in surrounding themselves with smarter, better, faster & tougher people than themselves. One of Jane’s favorite quotes is “the person you’ll become within 5 years will reflect the books you read & the people you’re surrounded by”, whilst Joe recently latched onto “there is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a BIG difference. The little difference is attitude, the BIG difference is whether it’s positive or negative”.

To the old saying “if you lie down with dogs you’ll get flees”, Tony Robbins can often be heard stating “most people’s lives are a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group”.

Here are some key tips for taking your game to the next level:

  • Find online (blogs, forums, online social communities) & offline (gyms, book clubs, networking, seed camps) environments filled with people you admire and hang out there
  • Find a coach or mentor
  • Work with someone who pushes you
    • When you’re constantly asked to do things, yet don’t know how, it forces you to stretch
  • Read any and all material you can find that exemplifies the life you’d like to live
  • Compete against yourself first, and your opponent second!
    • Push yourself to be the best that you can be!

In closing, I’d like to leave you with the inspirational words of a fellow home-town hero Will Smith who bucked the odds & made it beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.. except his!

Please help me improve the content of this blog by taking a few seconds to answer the following poll;

Surviving a resource crisis – Getting past “overwhelmed”

Last week I ran into an entrepreneur who was clearly on edge! For the sake of confidentiality, let’s call her “Jane”, who is typically a burst of energy & sunlight whenever she walks into a room. Concerned over her current state, I asked what I could do to help.

Jane replied that she was just over-tasked! She has recently lost some key members of staff and until they got replaced it’ was going to be long uphill climb. 😦

I delved deeper and asked her to recount her day, especially the parts she found most stressful.

  • Just moved into a new office & a lot of unpacking to do
  • 3h meeting with a key investor who’s helping on a part-time basis to re-align / re-prioritize the product strategy
  • Detailed account management & work-plan hand-over from exiting staff
    • distributed amongst early, mid & late stage opportunities
  • 3-4 phone calls with prospective new accounts
  • 2-3 phone calls with existing accounts
    • early, mid & late stage
      • 45m to 1h each
  • 1h phone call with key board member & investor
    • followed by 1h brainstorming session to come up with 4 alternatives for a new client
  • Planning & booking next weeks day-trip abroad for fund raising
  • 1h phone call with a prospective Technology Partner
  • 60 new e-mails
    • 30 were of which addressed
  • Follow-up on meetings from the previous week
  • Scheduling interviews for new staff

As she took a deep breath, I said “so in others words.. you had a pretty busy day.. eh?” 😉 I needed to break the tension in the air after her intense recount of her 12 hours that had just passed!

Fast-forward to the solutions we came up with:

  • Let’s start off with the fact that to Jane’s benefit, she walks to work (about 30 minutes each way)
    • Giving her time to decompress & put things into perspective
      • ACTION; It’s already a great practice! You might want to take along a tape recorder to document your thoughts for later action
        • HINT; Once you’ve addressed something, regardless of how daunting the task, you automatically reduce the stress associated with it.
        • When you write something down, like an action plan, it’s emotionally relieving.
  • Upon inquiring about her energy levels during the day, we came to the conclusion the 3h intense product meeting took place early in the day when her energy was still low
    • Jane is typically a late morning / early afternoon person and therefore this intense “brain zapper” early in the morning had conditioned the rest of her day
      • ACTION; Monitor this situation 2 more times & if the affect is the same, reschedule these types of activities for later in the day
  • The 3-4 Account calls, along with the account management / work-plan hand-over process was made extra draining as early, mid & late stage situations were all addressed at the same time
    • Like-minded tasks require less energy to process, and the thought / solution process required to address all three stages made it that much more difficult to cope with the mounting challenges of the day
      • ACTION; Whenever possible, group like-minded activities to facilitate  your execution of the same
        • HINT; take one stage in the morning, another stage around mid-day & the 3rd stage late in the afternoon
          • By grouping your activities, you get your brain into “auto-pilot” and become more effective due to the “repetitive assimilation / thought process”
          • Group phone calls: block out a 2-3h patch of time if necessary, but try not to spread phones call through the day
          • Group inter-personal activities: performance reviews, business meetings, business / non-business lunches
          • Group meetings that require travel: don’t fly off to Paris for the day & only one meeting, try to fill the day with prospecting activities if no further meetings are possible
            • just like you shouldn’t book meetings all over town unless there is a favorable pattern , like starting from home & ending in-town where you’ll have dinner
  • Schedule your e-mail time & action them immediately!!!
    • This has been my personal biggest learning over the course of the last few years!!
      • ACTION; Turn off the “automated push” in your e-mail & manually retrieve it when you’re ready to deal with it
      • Likewise, turn off all pop-ups & alarms, especially Skype or Instant Messagers
        • HINT; Don’t allow e-mail to follow you on your mobile phone! Personally, I only access e-mail on my iPhone when I have “time to kill”, which is rare, and even then I focus mainly on my personal e-mails
          • Educate your clients & colleagues as to the hours you check e-mail and in case of an emergency have them sms you with the header of the e-mail you need to action
            • discipline yourself to only view & action those limited emergency e-mails
          • Time-lock your e-mail viewing!
            • I review my e-mail twice per day at 10h00 & 17h00 for 1h block each time
          • Action your e-mails on-the-spot, or schedule time in your calendar to carry out the respective action if you first need to research / investigate of have someone get back to you with more details
        • HINT; Block out your calender for “to-do’s”!!
          • Unless you “make / reserve time” to do something, the likelihood is that it won’t get done!
            • STOP (!!) using “to-do” lists
          • Make sure you build rest / compensation blocks into your daily calendar
          • 5-10 minute window for unwinding / regrouping
          • 10-15 minute window in-between meetings when travel is not required
          • 15-30 minute window in-between meetings when travel is required

The next morning I got an sms from Jane, thanking me for our conversation! She had taken a lot of the key-points on-board, and even though the day was busier than before, Jane was having a very powerful & rewarding day!! 🙂

These actions will make the difference between you being able to manage your energy & time, when the same is limited. Time & energy, just like money & people are “resources”. You have to carefully plan & adjust the resources you have if you’re to use them at optimum levels. In this fashion, you’ll more easily be able to distinguish between urgent & important, thus you’ll get the right things done right at the right time!

Sacrifices in Business – Having your cake & eating it too!

I love the quote “every point of refuge has it’s price“. Another one that rings true is “nothing comes for free“.

No where is this more evident than in the world of fast growth business!

What have you had to sacrifice lately? Has it been your percentage of dedication to life or work? How many people do you know that work 8h or less? How many people do you know that are conscious of the true sacrifices they are making each and every day?

This article is more than just about time, energy or strategy management, it’s a “wake-up call” to anyone who thinks that any success comes easy!

It takes courage, moments of truth & at times allot of blind faith to take the necessary measures required to achieve the success you desire. Most of all, along the way, it takes allot of personal sacrifice to make your professional career eventuate into part of the formula which equals “work-life balance”.

A client & I were speaking last week when he shared with me the incredible amount of pressure that he’s under at work. He continued to share how he has recently tried to delegate to his next immediate level of management, hoping to help them grow. Upon reviewing his results, he was astonished at how he was able to deal with so many diverse situations within his workplace. His area is one of the most intense work environments of his entire global organization, and still they provide solid & leading results day-in day-out.

None of this surprised me! From the first time we started our Executive Coaching relationship, I had noted how stringent he was on his work-life balance. For the sake of confidentiality, let’s call him “Joe”, and he can celebrate his balance today because he prepared, trained & practiced for it. Most of all, he paid his dues earlier on & sacrificed when he needed to!

You don’t just wake up one day & have a balanced life! It takes hard work, sacrifices, dedication & lots of practice!

Today he typically splits his time working from home & office. He takes every opportunity to enjoy long weekends with his family. He has a ground rule not to mix work with pleasure on weekends, or after a certain hour of the day. He’s conscious that time is precious and that his young boy will quickly become a young man before the blink of an eye, and so he prioritizes his intensity very carefully. As we discovered, it’s all about energy management!

As an outside observer I had noticed that just like a body builder who rests certain muscles masses in-between workouts to witness effective growth, Joe was resting his brain and giving it different stimuli by engaging in non work related activities on the weekend. By not using the “work” part of the brain over the course of 2-3 days, it enables him to be that much more sharper Monday through Friday. It enables Joe to get allot more done in less time than before.

But it wasn’t always like this! Joe is the exception to the rule, and he has also “been at it” for the greater part of the last 15 years! It takes personal and or professional sacrifice to become really successful at something.

As evidence, I give you Malcom Gladwell’s CNN interview regarding his book Outliers, he briefly touches on the concept of the “10.000 Hour Rule”. I especially love his other interview comparison with The Beatles.

To put this into perspective, 10.000 hours of “practice” is the equivalent to

  • approximately 417 days (or 1.14 years) if you didn’t sleep at all
  • 625 days (or approximately 1.71 years) if you slept for 8 hours & dedicated the remaining 16h to a single task
  • 1.250 days (or approximately 3.42 years) if you only dedicated 8 hours to a single task

In comparison, how much time are you dedicating to what you want to be really good at?

People on many levels of an organization want their cake & eat it too, but contrary to Joe, they aren’t willing to make the necessary sacrifices!

There’s the entrepreneur who makes personal sacrifices on multiple levels just to keep his dream alive, running his start-up “on the smell of an oily rag“. It’s been a hard road but he’s within reach of his dream now!

There was the fast-climbing corporate executive that didn’t have time for a relationship because of the intensity of their business. Any wonder why they’re still “home alone” & without a life-partner at this stage?

Then there’s that guy who felt it necessary to hangout with his friends until the wee hours of the morning having a few beers & exchanging tall tales. Any wonder he typically didn’t get up to speed until noontime at work the next morning? Any wonder why his moments of brilliance were just that, limited to “moments”, even though what was required was more consistency? There are even more countless tales of people who “had the potential but just never materialized it consistently“. It all takes it’s tole and requires a delicate balance if you’re to have your cake & eat it too.

So where can you start?

  • Visualize the life or objective (professional & personal) that you want in 2-3 years (i.e. success.. “your cake”)
    • Make it really visual, to the point where you can smell, taste & almost touch your visualization
      • Quick Tip; Fill it with as many facts & details as possible
  • Visualize your current “reality”
    • If this is going to work, you’ll have to be brutally honest with yourself
      • Quick Tip; This will be the last time you “focus” on your “reality”
        • Focus on your objective, raising your reality toward it instead of focusing on your reality which will only downsize your objective
        • Remember that your reality is merely the accumulation or consequences of your past actions in life, and whilst it might influence the speed at which you can break free of your reality, it does not condition the achievement of your objective
  • Determine “what” is required to bridge your current reality to your visual image of success
    • If you can’t figure this out, get help form someone your trust
      • Quick Tip; Do an inventory and address it
        • There are only two things that stand in your way of success
          1. Limiting beliefs (in yourself or another)
          2. Lack of a strategy
  • Set a time-line to acquire the skills, network or resources you require to achieve your objective
    • Determine “what” activities you’re willing to sacrifice or give-up completely during this period to achieve your success
      • Quick Tip; What is non-negotiable?
  • Now set-up a discipline for yourself to measure your progress along the way
    • Make time in your calendar for reflection on your daily, weekly, monthly progress & make the necessary adjustments
      • Quick Tip; What isn’t measured doesn’t get done!

If you follow these basic guidelines, work hard at them and realize that there are NO SHORTCUTS (!!!), than I guarantee you too can have your cake & eat it too. I can also promise you it won’t be an easy journey! Why? Because “every point of refuge has it’s price“.

A Social Contract – Why you won’t survive without one?

When was the last time you found yourself all alone.. in a dangerous dark alley.. and on the wrong side of town?

You’ve been strolling down a beautiful path of endless optimism, hope and opportunity. Suddenly you realize something has just drastically changed! You’ve made a sudden wrong turn and now find yourself, with the exception of the “thugs”  that intend to provoke physical and emotional harm, all alone in an obviously dangerous place!

What do you do? Who’s got your back? Who’s going to help you get out of the predicament you’ve just found yourself in? Who’s going to stand with you and deal with what’s to come?

Does this sound like a scary scenario? Unfortunately it’s all too frequent!

Let me take you back a few weeks when I had the privilege to be amongst illustrious fellow mentors at the Barcelona mini-seed camp. The night before, as I looked over the agenda, my excitement peaked when I realized that I would be in close quarters with the “legendary” Fred Destin of Atlas Venture. “Legendary” you ask?!?! Well, anytime highly successful entrepreneurs refer to a VC as someone they hold in high regard and respect, first my eyes open wide, then my ears perk up and finally I sit at attention ready to listen!

The very next day this reputation was cemented based on Fred’s shared view of “Social Contracts”. In turn I redefined how I viewed this critical catalyst for success. What I would later read in Fred’s blog couldn’t have prepared me for the wild and wacky, sometimes borderline ethical, tales of business dealings that go on between entrepreneurs and VC’s.

A few days later, Fred agreed to a Skype call, generously shared his perspective on Social Contracts, and here’s what I came away with:

  • A Social Contract is an “understanding” or gentleman’s agreement between two parties
    • To be effective, it supersedes the required legal contracts that govern a relationship
  • A Social Contract is bound by honor, integrity and will become most relevant during critical “moments of truth” yet to come
    • It will get all parties safely through the tough times and hard decisions that are guaranteed in any venture
  • You establish a Social Contract based on a firm hand-shake, a confident stare into the white of the eyes and a mutual respect that you’re both in this journey for the “long-haul”
    • It’s two “human beings” coming together to form an “enterprise”
    • It’s a relationship where either party recognizes the requirement to stand-up against pressure that is sure to come from business and likely life partners, as the journey get’s complicated and the waters become muddied
  • A Social Contract isn’t something entered into lightly and often needs to be the preceded by a multi-hour brainstorming session to guarantee the like-minded intentions of both parties
    • It’s the basis of how you’re about to govern your relationship whilst executing on an agreed 12 to 18 month business plan
    • It has little to do with the financial plan and more to do with the necessary “pivoting of strategy” that is sure to come
  • It’s an investment into the long-term strategy and is based more on the soft assets that are critical in a “moment of truth” vs. the hard assets that traditionally formulate a Business Plan

Our conversation reinforced the practical nature of “working agreements” that I’ve always felt are necessary for any engagement. I take relationships very seriously and just as I would expect my “friends” (vs. acquaintances) to never leave me stranded in an unfortunate circumstance, regardless of who’s at fault for getting us into the mess, I also expect my Social Contract counterpart to stand-up and fight with me regardless of the danger we’re about to face.

Practical Experience

1- The Entrepreneur and their Partner; In similar situations, within the past 12 months I can recount two separate entrepreneurs that “were left hanging” when their supposed partners “parked-it” and quit on them in the midst of the most significant challenges the venture was experiencing. In both cases the entrepreneur was at fault for getting themselves into trouble, more based on inexperience than reckless abandon, yet the partner “checked-out” and left them “hanging in the lurch”. They tried to make it about who’s right or wrong, over-looking that they were both, along with other investors, about to loose their shirts! Fortunately, the entrepreneurs’ resilience, along with a strong network of friends and allies helped pick themselves up by the boot-straps and out of immediate danger.

Both entrepreneurs paid a significant and costly price by either missing time-to-market or suffering a significant devaluation in equity, but most importantly, they learned a crucial lesson in Social Contracts.

2- The Employer and their Employee; Recently I’ve seen the same thing happen in three separate organizations with Senior Executives. This is yet another reason I identified so strongly with the core concept of Fred’s Social Contract. Too often the employee/employer relationship hasn’t been tested under difficult circumstances and when the moment of truth finally comes, especially in a critical situation such as a start-up or hyper-growth environment, the “paid/contracted resource” isn’t up to the task of facing the required adversity! Rather than having the courage to support their leader, or quit outright, they “park-it”, leaving their leader and their company “out-to-dry”. Later, they move onto another company, never taking full responsibility  to the true consequences of their actions, or lack there of.

I always share with employers that often it’s more important to know what NOT to count on than assume what you believe you can count on. Unless the relationship has been tried and tested under adverse conditions, you’re better planning off for, and expecting the worst, whilst hoping for the best.

3- The Friend and the Bar Room Brawl; Several years back, I’d like to think it were only a few ;-), when I was still living in Philadelphia and a few years “younger and innocent”, I was hanging out on South Street in South Philadelphia with 4 “close” friends. We had entered an outside bar that was protected from the street walking traffic by 2 meter high iron gates. In essence, no easy way out! We had all had a few drinks however one particular friend had too much to drink when he decided to cause trouble.  I bet you can imagine what happened next. First I tried to refrain him from being an absolute idiot, but he insisted. Then I tried to mediate the situation before it was 6 against 2! 6 guys staring me and my mate down. Where were my other two friends? They had “checked-out” and left the bar as soon as they saw we were out-numbered and headed for trouble. Later they justified that they hadn’t started the trouble so therefore they shouldn’t have to “face the music”.

The end result were some broken chairs, broken tables and my friend and I were barred from South Street for the next 6 months by the Philadelphia Police Department. We walked away with a little more humility and a few bumps and bruises to show for our stupidity. I slapped my mate over the head and promised to kick him in the pants if he ever did that again! The relevant fact was, I didn’t leave his side, neither would he have left mine. See, we had a bond stronger than words or any legal agreement! We had a Social Contract that we had entered into a few years before, which was to stand-by each other, be the times good or bad, regardless of who stuffed-up. Much like how most marriages are supposed to work! 😉

My closing questions to you are;

  • How secure is your Social Contract with the partners you have in your business or life?
    • Have you faced any moments of truth lately?
      • How did your partners stand-up in the face of adversity, regardless of who was to blame for the mess you found yourselves in?
    • What lessons can you take from that situation?

11 Quick Secrets for winning – What’s your Super Bowl?

February 8, 2010 1 comment

I’ve been an avid American Football fan ever since I can remember, and so I’m obviously one of the many who eagerly await the crowning of the National Football League Super Bowl Champions each year. I also love “sentimental favorites”, and so this year we hit the jackpot! After Hurricane Katrina 4,5 years ago, everyone on the planet had to have been cheering for the New Orleans Saints to upset the favorite Indianapolis (formerly Baltimore) Colts.

Drew Brees, the undersized and unlikely hero in a land of giants was voted the Most Valuable Player, and I just finished watching a pre-Super Bowl interview with Katie Couric which will give you 11 key secrets for a formula of success necessary for you to lead your team to your own Super Bowl victory.

These 11 gems, or pearls of practical wisdom that you can implement immediately, are all contained within the first 5 minutes. Here are the highlights, accompanied with my own questions to you:

  • @ 40s; I’m excited.. 4 years ago we had a dream, we had a goal that we would be here at some point, fighting through some ups & downs & adversity to get here
    • It’s never an easy road to victory, so..
      • What’s your plan?
      • How well is it articulated?
      • How prepared are you & your team to deal with adversity along the way?
  • @ 1m10s; I’m always going to be nervous.. feeling those butterflies.. the minute you loose that nervousness it’s time to get out because with that nervousness comes the edge, that edge keeps you locked in, keeps you focused, it’s that will to win..
    • It’s all about Passion, so..
      • What’s your WHY?
      • How Passionate & Focused are you about what you’re doing?
      • How Passionate & Focused are your team?
      • How “bad” does everyone want to win & what are the sacrifices that you’re all willing to make?
  • @ 1m36s; I have so many mentors in my life, coaches, teachers, people that I’ve worked with in my past, that I continue to talk to today. People that give me the best advice at the best time, and then I’m able to relay that to my teammates, or guys who need it, who may be going through the same thing that I went through at some point
    • You can’t do it on your own, so..
      • Who are you surrounding yourself with that’s going to give you the right answers at the right time for the right situation?
      • How are you going to engage & relay that information to your team, and with what frequency & intensity?
      • Are you surrounding yourself with practical people that have been there, “done that” before, or theorists that have studied it? What’s the right blend?
  • @ 2m03s; so much about being a Quarterback is that there are 10 other guys in that huddle, each one is motivated at times in different ways. Some guys.. all you have to is give them a look, other guys you might have to yell at them a little bit, each guy had a different trigger or button that you need to push in order to get their best
    • You have to know your team (Leadership part 1), so..
      • Are you prepared to give that stern look, or have that “hard conversation”, yet be empowering in the way that you do it?
      • Are you communicating, engaging & enrolling your player? Do you know their “triggers” and treating your team as a motivated group of individual performers?
      • Are you willing to follow-up on lack of performance & “bench”/sideline your players when they don’t perform? In a worst case scenario are you ready to let go & trade them to another team, or even league?
  • @ 2m35s; when you let people know how much you care, how much you care about them ,or in our case, how much you care about the game & winning the game, and being at my best, & that I’m going to lay it on the line for them.. they play for you
    • You have to set the example (Leadership part 2), so..
      • How much are you rallying around you own “WHY”, and are you communicating with passion?
      • How are you showing that you care? As much for the team as eh victory itself?
      • How are you striving to “be the best”, be your best?
      • How are you “laying it on the line” for your team? (walking your talk)
  • @ 3m16s; (Katie) A teacher told us that you’ve been teaching kids in New Orleans that anything is possible , and therefore you’re becoming responsible for the hopes & dreams of all these children looking to you for courage & inspiration.. do you some times feel like that’s too much pressure?  (Drew) It’s a source of strength for me.. a responsibility just knowing that as a quarterback of this football team, and a member of this community, I have the platform that I do to influence so many people in such a positive way, and in the end, I’m only being myself, I just embrace the opportunity & do as much as I can and give back as much as I can
    • Take responsibility for your team’s hopes & dreams (Leadership part 3), so..
      • Are you shying away from responsibility, or rather rising up to it & embracing it?
      • Are you leading a team, but still part of a community?
      • Are you leveraging the platform you have in order to positively influence your team’s performance?
      • Are you being yourself, allowing your true self to shine through?
      • How are you giving back?
  • @ 3m50s; the number one piece of advice I give to kids is that they can accomplish anything they want in life, don’t allow anyone else to tell you otherwise if you’re willing to work for it! That’s the truth, we can all be whoever we want to be as long as we’re willing to work for it. There’s no mountain that too high or task that’s too great!
    • If you can can dream it you can achieve it, so..
      • What’s your dream? Personal, Professional, and team?
      • How have you communicated it & how do you remind yourself & the team on a daily basis?
      • Is everyone putting in “the hard yards”? Is it a true team effort?
      • How hungry are you? How hungry is your team?
  • @ 4m25s; no Quarterback that’s too short.. impossible.. I’ll never let those people get the best of me.. they’ve been telling me that all my life!
    • It’s all about belief, so..
      • How much do you & your team believe in your dream or vision?
      • What are the reaffirming tools that are in place to make sure that the belief stays strong?
  • @ 5m00s; I’m supposed to be the calm, cool & collected one.. but that’s what I like about it.. going outside the norm, outside the box and something I started two years ago.. a special rally cry that get’s you going..
    • It’s all about communication & innovation (Leadership part 4), so..
      • When things aren’t working, how are you stepping outside the box to find new solutions?
      • How are you rallying your team?
      • What is your own unique & secret “rallying cry”?
  • @ 5m45s; that once you’re in that huddle, you’re part of a brother hood, now we’re going to go out onto that field & we have to play together, trust each other and win together
    • It’s all about teamwork, unity & trust, so..
      • What’s your “huddle” routine? How often & when do you look each other in the eyes & set the course of the next play that’s going to score you a touchdown?
      • What’s your pulse check to make sure everyone senses the responsibility of a “brotherhood” and steps up their game?
      • What’s your method of creating transparency that has everyone “play together” & trust one another enough to “pick-up the ball & run with it” when your teammate has fallen or faltered?

At the 13m50s mark, Drew talks about the perspective that an injury brought him early in his career. A downward cycle in his life that became a moment of reflection and gave him heightened perspective. A “time-out” of sorts, that possibly allowed him to gather his thoughts, strengthen his conviction and put together a master plan built on the sweat & tears of good old hard & honest work. A moment of reflection, that led him to stand on top of the biggest stage of his life only a few shorts hours ago.

What are the simple lessons you can learn from this interview, and from his story?

What are you doing this summer?

My friends back home in Europe & the U.S. might think me mad for talking about summer in the middle of one of the coldest winters on record, but considering that I’ve spent most of December / January on the sunny & warmer side of the Equator (Australia & Brazil), I find this theme very relevant.

So the question lingers.. where are you spending your summer vacation this year?

My wife, an inspired & driven entrepreneur herself, recently commented on how she thought it strange that so many entrepreneurs she knew, who’s businesses are struggling, still take time off this summer instead of leveraging the “lull” to sharpen their strategy’s & planning skills.

On the other hand, I have seen my fair share of entrepreneurs who have taken the opportunity of a summer to bring me in & help them prepare for a full-out assault in the remaining quarter or trimester of this year. In fact, we have found some businesses who traditionally run on quarterly rhythms, this year closing out the year with a switch to an extended trimester, with the specific intention of making that final push to close out their fiscal year in a strong fashion.

Whether you’re in a position to take immediate action, fine-tuning your business model, as well as the strategy needed to successfully execute on it, or whether that opportunity is still in the far off-distance, I would strongly recommend that you engage a neutral party to come in and help you get a holistic vision of the work required to achieve your goals & objectives.

And if that work is still 5-6 months away, then I strongly encourage you to start the process of recruiting that trusted partner immediately so as to ensure that you secure the person best suited for the culture of your organization.

“Chief of Staff”, a CEO accessory or non-negotiable?

January 23, 2010 3 comments

Challenges to right, obstacles to the left, investors & competitors on your heels , and your family is crying for some “quality time”. Sound familiar? Reading a very interesting article entitled “Latest CEO accessory: A chief of staff” had me reflect on the role of Chief of Staff. More specifically, it was the opening paragraph that grabbed my attention; “These days it’s a chief of staff, a top-level adviser who’s part confidant, part gatekeeper, and part all-around strategic consultant. While that has long been a key position in politics, many top executives are now adding this person to the payroll.”

Which led me to think to myself… “A Chief of Staff, by definition, provides a buffer between a chief executive (CEO of a corporation) and that executive’s direct-reporting team. The chief of staff generally works behind the scenes to solve problems, mediate disputes, and deal with issues before they bubble up to the Chief Executive. The varying amount of politics, egos, and issues to deal with require that a highly experienced senior executive with a proven background in delivering results in the most adverse conditions lead this role.

A Chief of Staff also acts as a confidante and top-level adviser to the Chief Executive, as a sounding board for ideas, confidant, part gatekeeper, and part all-around strategic consultant. Ultimately, the actual duties will depend on the actual position, roles and the people involved, as well as the situations that present themselves, and could even fulfill temporary senior management voids until one is effectively on-board.

As a resident in-house resource, the role of Chief of Staff will also increase the practical experience of the management team as a whole, as well as their ability to deliver/over-deliver on expected results. Inter-acting across multiple functional areas, this solution will significantly increase interdepartmental efficiencies“.

In short, an all-around personal Strategic Consultant, Practical Implementer & Trusted Partner?

A “scorecard” for someone like that might look like:

  • Facilitates fellow entrepreneurs & CEO’s worldwide across varying industrial verticals
  • Leverages their extensive experience & network in favor of action steps once your success strategy has been defined
  • In working with the team regularly give tools, mechanisms & methodologies that will increase practical knowledge with the ability to immediately implement
  • Fulfill on academic requirements by explaining in clear enough terms what they’ve observed
  • Translate into actionable lessons how, or what, you can learn from to achieve success
  • In parallel, be driven by gut and trusted instinct honed by years of experience, allow an organization to fulfill on practical requirements by “reading” the situations and finding the most appropriate solutions

If you had read Simon Sinek’s recent articles “Two Types of Experts”, you’d see that it’s not that far fetched of a notion to begin with. And if you had been present in a client meeting of mine whilst in Sydney earlier this month, when a new client asked me to help him better align his staff with a methodology previously unknown to me as a formal framework, you would have been even more convinced that, again,  it’s not that far fetched of a notion.

That methodology my Sydney client was referring to is known as Horizon 1-2-3, and after adapting some other frameworks I traditionally work with, we customized a new & improved Horizon 1-2-3 scenario to work with his team, 🙂 which goes something like this..

  • Horizon 1 (H1) is the work resulting in more consistently effecting change through improving and extending present operations (routines and habits), resulting in doing what is currently done in better ways, whilst leveraging (direct or indirect) functional expertise along with industry experience, to drive for greater efficiency based on the focus on performance & results
  • Horizon 2 (H2) is empowering the team to ask themselves how their daily/weekly activities & focus facilitate the creation of new opportunities that will extend the H1 operations, but rather than being focused only on continual improvement in short-term performance, through the art of continual questioning and periodic structured pulse checks (Weekly/Monthly Strategic Meetings), bring new ideas to fruition. This involves increased risk, taking and dealing with a greater degree of uncertainty as the team will be confronted with the Vision Chasms which often don’t exist in Horizon 1 and based on them now literally straddling between H1 & H2 more often
  • Horizon 3 (H3) is where futures must be imagined, researched and developed. This requires seeding options today for the future, which represents understanding these type of costs as related to the required research, pilot projects, proof of concepts, etc, as practical implementation of the same must be immediate

Now, if you’re a CEO, or anything similar, how would any of this information impact your life? Both personal & professional? How would it impact your business? Who do you have in your business or network that can help you in this fashion? And finally, here’s the trick question 😉 is it really an “accessory” (a nice to have), or is it a modern day “non-negotiable” (a must have) for a CEO that want’s to guarantee success?

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”?

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.