Archive

Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

How to avoid unprofitable & ineffective compensation plans

STOP burning your money!

First of all consider this question.. are you motivating your employees & sales people to drive the results your business actually needs (effective) or just to be busy (ineffective)?

  • Any equity MUST be
    • vested over a period of time (typically 2-4 years) just to be eligible, not just paid out
    • performance based in order to even qualify for vesting
    • time locked to ensure that you get the desired results within the time-frame your business needs them
    • allocated to someone who is actively contributing with effective & significant results
    • side note: always check to ensure ongoing rates
      • I’ve seen too many entrepreneurs or CEO’s give away up to 2 percentage points too much straight out of the starting blocks (!!)
  • Compensation packages must motivate individuals toward the objectives your company actually needs to achieve
    • is profitability important to your business model or stage of your company?
      • will you pay a commission or compensation just on a certain revenue achievement or must that revenue be profitable?
      • how profitable?
    • will you pay all commissions or compensation upon contract signature from your client or will you phase it to ensure better cash-flow?
      • 25% at contract signature?
      • 50% at invoice issued?
        • will you issue the invoice upon termination of service?
        • will you stagger the issuing of invoices to benefit your cash-flow?
        • will there be a warranty period on your invoicing schedule?
        • how will you reflect this in your commission payout?
      • 25% at invoice paid?
    • have different commission accelerators for activities that bring your company greater benefit
      • on products that you want to clear from stock or are strategic to your business needs
      • early, mid or late month, quarter, year if that’s when you want to bring in significant results
    • always “cap” your commission for “over-achievement”
      • motivate your staff to spread the consistent revenue income throughout the year
      • keep them hungry
    • always have a minimum achievement barrier for eligibility of a commission
      • typically 70-80% of budget becomes a trigger
        • i.e. only upon reaching 80% of achieving your sales do you qualify for 80% of your total commission and then incrementally onward
  • Objectives, goals & budgets must be S.M.A.R.T.
    • make plans clear and simple so that your staff is motivated to stretch themselves & achieve their objectives
    • instill milestones to ensure that you monitor the progression
    • create triggers / pulse checks for additional support, adjustment or facing the reality & consequences of short-falls
    • time lock the revenue targets

That last element is the simplest yet the most overlooked item of them all. I’ve seen too many passionate entrepreneurs & CEO’s set sales targets but then leave the window for achievement open.

Here’s a painful example of what can happen:

  • You’ve written into the gals contract that she’s to receive x% commission upon achieving x revenue.
  • You needed the revenue in Q1 and she hasn’t delivered, so you’ve invested in coaching & other resources to help out.
  • Q2 has gone by, then Q3 & finally in Q4 you decide to fire her for non-performance.
  • And guess what happens next?
  • The revenue you badly needed in Q1, Q2 & Q3 never came, but in Q4.. on the 3rd week of December.. a deal finally comes in.
  • Now mind you that you’ve had to lay-off valuable resources because the sales weren’t coming in.
  • If you’re an early-stage entrepreneur you’ve probably had to stop paying yourself along the way for the company to survive.
  • Your head is barely above water, and because you didn’t do your job by time-locking over what period of time the revenue needed to be generated, your gal is about to walk away with a commission check.
  • These are funds your company dearly needed just to stay afloat!

How are you feeling about your situation now?

How to build scalability into any organization

In a January 23rd post earlier this year, I briefly mentioned the Horizon 1-2-3 framework originally developed by Mehrdad Baghai, Stephen Coley, and David White, who authored The Alchemy of Growth: Practical Insights for Building the Enduring Enterprise. In it they established a view that companies that are successful in the long term have growth initiatives in three stages. Subsequently, many consulting organizations worldwide have used dozens of frameworks over the years to analyze the trends which impede their clients’ ability to grow.

Allow me to summarize for you what I’ve been seeing as the #1 culprit for limiting the growth of organizations worldwide.

Premise; The H1-2-3 framework is built around the point of view that to sustain growth, a company must maintain a continuous pipeline of business-building initiatives. Companies considered sustainable & scalable are characterized by their ability to create new business opportunities by innovating from within their core business ares whilst building new off-shoots at the same time.

Challenge; With the limited resources that the majority of modern-day companies face today, where can you find the time, resources & funding to innovate?

Solution; Identify within your organization who’s ready to operate at each Horizon, and then stimulate their development by holding them accountable.

  • (H1) is the work resulting in more consistently effecting change through improving and extending present operations (routines and habits)
    • Who in your organization is working at this day-to-day level?
      • Are they the right people / profile?
    • What monthly gatherings are you promoting to review & improve on the recently past activities?
      • How do (what proof are you collecting) these gatherings benefit your future activities, both immediate & mid-term?
  • (H2) is empowering the team to ask themselves how their daily/weekly activities & focus facilitate the creation of new opportunities
    • Who in your team is ready to step-up to the next level?
    • What weekly questioning and periodic structured pulse checks are you committed to?
    • How are you fostering increased risk taking & the capability of the team in dealing with a greater degree of uncertainty & adversity?
  • (H3) is where futures must be imagined, researched and developed.
    • Who in your organization is passionate & skilled at seeding options today for the future?
    • What is the required business acumen for understanding the related research, pilot projects, proof of concepts, etc you’ll need to succeed & innovate?
    • How are you going to measure the practical implementation of the same, both immediately & on a continual basis?

Results; A client of mine is currently putting this model into effective use. The Managing Director is a visionary and he needed to break himself away from the daily routines that were keeping him from affecting the broader & longer term results of his organization. Last year he asked one of his next-line management to step-up & shadow his responsibilities. After one quarter, this 1st line executive had gained deeper knowledge & understanding of what it took to “play at the next level”.

Having also experienced professional growth & personal development, he was tasked to find someone one level down & do the same exercise. At the same time he was sharing with his immediate management colleagues the direct & indirect benefits of this experience. Each quarter the Managing Director rotated his direct reports through this process. Whilst he gradually freed himself to a level at which he significantly impacted the broader scope he desired, this exercise permeated throughout the organization giving more voice to many more layers of management & personnel in general.

Whether you’re staffing levels are 5, 10, 50, 100 or 1,000, what can you learn from this exercise? What are you holding onto that you should let go of? Who’s growth are you debilitating by continuing to carry on the way you do today?

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!

Reducing your Employee Churn/Burn Rate & Getting Results

What is the most value asset you have in your company? You shouldn’t have to think too hard! It’s the people that execute on your strategy.

So why do you always seem to be “the last man left standing” in your organization?

I’ll share with you the answer, followed by two key lessons & one practical example/result as to the “why” of so many company’s having challenges in retaining staff these days. An especially complex issue to understand, given the current economical crisis, is the unemployment rates around the world are still incredibly high.

The Answer is that we, as leaders, typically do a very poor job of recruitment, induction, ongoing management & assessment of our most valuable assets. And the general root cause is through poor communication and lack of courage!

Personally, even though sometimes hard to swallow, I firmly believe in the 90/10 rule, which states that if one of your staff isn’t working out, it’s 90% YOUR fault.. & only 10% theirs!

Do you think I’m being harsh, unfair & unrealistic? Well, consider this.. who’s in the drivers seat?

  • Who (ultimately) did, or approved the hiring?
  • How clear were you in defining and communicating the Mission & Vision of the company?
    • Did you receive acknowledgment, or other form of undeniable proof that you were clearly understood?
  • How clear were you in defining the role to be fulfilled & the specific outcomes to be expected of the role?
    • Key words being “role & specific outcome”.. forget job description!
  • How clear were you in communicating the behaviors you expected whilst your team executed on your plan?
    • How did you manage the first signs of lack in performance or alignment with your vision, message and/or expectations?
  • How often did you sit down to agree S.M.A.R.T. objectives/goals?
    • How frequently did you follow-up to make necessary adjustments?
    • How quickly did you put someone on a performance plan when they didn’t deliver on what was agreed?
  • How much planning & thought went into the induction, education/training, mentoring or skills acquisition process the individual needed to succeed?
    • How much coaching or mentoring did you consider to be required from yourself, or senior/more experienced staff?
  • How quickly, and how brave were YOU in having “the difficult & uncomfortable conversations”?
    • Are you paying & rewarding your staff to perform?
      • Are you doing the opposite?
      • How are you motivating/encouraging non-performance/conformance?

I could go on & on.. but I think you get the point! It’s YOUR company, YOUR department or YOUR team, and therefore YOU are the ultimate responsible person for the outcome/output of everyone’s role. If things aren’t working out then look inward before you look outward, and once you’ve completed this assignment take responsibility to make the immediate & necessary adjustments.

Lesson #1

  • Be crystal clear on Your Vision & communicate it… communicate it… communicate it…
    • Who needs to do What, How & by When?
      • This requires acknowledgment & buy-in, however remember you’re the boss (90% responsibility), so make sure that “your team” buys into “your plan”, even if you need their help in constructing it, and not the opposite!
    • Where do you want your company, area or department to be?
    • When do you expect specific results?
      • When do you expect escalations when things are in danger, or aren’t going according to plan?
    • How do you want (expect) your employees to behave, handle themselves and handle adversity (which is sure to come)?
      • What are the rules of engagement?
    • What are the boundaries & non-boundaries that you expect people to respect & understand?
      • What are the focus areas they’re supposed to be focused on in order to achieve success?
  • Be crystal clear on Your Mission… & communicate it… communicate it… communicate it…
    • Why do you want your people to behave in a certain manner?
    • Why do you need your people to achieve certain results?
    • Why do you require specific results within specific time frames?
    • Why is the company in business to begin with?

I’ve embedded the Core Values, which are the “behaviors” or “rules for the road” within the context of the Who, What, Where, When, Why & How above. That, in short, is your Core Ideology!

Lesson #2

The next biggest lesson you might have to learn, is regarding COURAGE. Courage to stand-up to the “know-it all’s” who’ve never run an enterprise but have every theory in the book as to how your organization should run! I find these days far too many companies have “grayed the line” between “boss & employee” and between responsible for direction & responsible for execution. If you’re going to take 90% responsibility for the failure of an organization, you need to get straight, and clearly understand, who’s “experienced” and better still “paid to run the show”.

In order to deliver on the above, you need the right skill-set that’s for sure, and you also need to have the backbone to “listen first” and “act accordingly second”. Acknowledging someone’s perspective and giving them voice doesn’t mean that you have to take their advice or recommendations over your own experienced opinion or gut instinct/intuition. It only makes you more responsible and accountable to the eventual decisions you make.

Once you’ve guaranteed success, then you can stand back, be humble and allow your team to bask in the glory of having executed excellently on a plan. Take 90% of the responsibility, give 90% of the credit and you’ll have an effective & motivated team!

I’ve spent hours-upon-hours giving practical workshops to MBA students who have paid a pretty penny to gain a highly valuable education, just like I’ve spent hours-upon-hours with both managers and employees who’ve read the latest books containing magical and earth moving experiences. What I always share with them is that “now you have the logic, it’s time to go out into the real world to implement and execute”.

The execution of an idea is always more important than the brilliance of a thought, or even a strategy. A brilliant thought without effective execution is merely an illusion. A brilliant strategy, without effective execution, is merely a waste of everyone’s energy & time.

Practical Example/Result

I recently walked into an assignment that demanded many changes in a short period of time. Multiple colleagues had just been fired for non performance and conformance. I was walking into an understandably hostile environment!

I stood in front of a room and shared my “what” followed by my “why”. Then came my “how”, where I told them that I only expected  1/2 (!?!?) of the output, dedication and commitment that I was willing to put in myself! However, I also advised them that I typically give 300% to every assignment!!

I explained that I would give them 48 hours to go through the grieving process of having lost their colleagues, followed by 15 days to be at 80% or better, and showing signs they would be at 150% by day 30.

I committed myself to complete transparency & communication, just as I would to holding them as accountable (where & when) as I would hold myself. I shared with them that there would be 2 day, 15 day & 30 day milestones, at which time I would have conversations with non-performers & either implement a performance plan or retire them. I would also make it a regular habit to commend the good performances along the way.

I shared with them that in a 24 hour weekday, I’m hoping you have 8 hours of sleep, and I’ll guarantee you that more than 50% of the remaining 16h will be based on, or thinking about, “work”. Therefore, if you’re going to dedicate more than 50% of your “awake” time to “work” during a 5 day work week rather than to your loved ones & special interests, it’s absolute lunacy to work in a place where you’re not motivated and inspired. As a consequence, if I ask you or if you decide to leave, then we’re only doing each other a favor based on a general concern & well-being for all.

Result

One person left within 48 hours, a few more within the first 15 days, then a few more within the next 15 days. Along the way change happened, a pride which previously didn’t exist filled the department! Results, followed by customer satisfaction, started to sparkle where it didn’t exist before. THEY, the last ones standing, did all of the work. I merely gave them direction and the opportunity to be everything I already knew they could be.

Top 3 things to focus on when fixing what’s broken

Having just finished up another successful assignment at a hyper growth enterprise, and noting that the core principles of success were again very similar to many other situations faced over the past +25 years, I thought I’d share my 3 areas of focus.

I should add to this that two days before I departed, an interested 2nd line manager/team leader asked if I could share with him some insights. He had witnessed remarkable changes in a very short period of time, and whilst I had been very busy with first line management, he recognized the possibility to learn some very practical & valuable lessons directly himself.

It inspired me that again we had been able to affect collateral interest, as well as a desire for change deeper within the organization, so I rallied the entire 2nd line leadership team and spent the next 2 hours giving them some day-to-day examples of the following:

  • Customer Centricity – Focus on the Customer
    • We have Internal Customers
      1. Every person in every department, in one way or another, facilitates the servicing of External Customers
      2. By serving the needs of our Internal Customers, we are either directly or indirectly addressing the needs of our External Customers
      3. Open up the lines of communication & ownership by first committing to, and then respecting, bi-lateral Service Level Agreements
    • We have External Customers
      1. Shift from a systems interoperability focus to a successful customer purchasing focus
      2. Now start to look for opportunities to enrich & enhance the customer purchasing experience
      3. Open up the lines of communication & ownership by first committing to, and then respecting, Service Level Agreements
  • Ownership – Never let go until you’re satisfied
    • Ownership is a like a hungry dog with a bone.. you never let go until you’re satisfied the hunger is quenched
      1. You can never assume the client, internal or external, is satisfied with a solution until you have direct confirmation/validation from/of the same
      2. Every obstacle is merely an opportunity for you to find another alternative path to a solution
      3. Don’t accept that a problem can’t be fixed until you’ve exhausted every means, including escalated your concern to the highest level within your organization
    • Ownership is like a football team moving forward to score a goal, just because you’ve passed the ball forward, your contribution to the goal isn’t over until the ball is in the net & you’re embracing your colleagues in celebration
      1. Just because you’ve forwarded a need or requirement, your job isn’t done until you’ve confirmed/validated that the next person is carrying out the necessary task(s) until the “client” is satisfied
      2. Trust is good..  but verification is proof.. & much.. much better!
      3. Confirm the goal! Confirm with the “client” that they’ve gotten the result they expected, and then celebrate the WIN/GOAL/SCORE & never just the great pass
  • Communication – “Engage with..” instead of “talking to..”
    • Communication is a bi-directional inter-activity & never a uni-lateral conversation
      1. Effective communication requires active empathetic listening
      2. Effective communication is never assuming that you know what the other person has just said, but repeating it for acknowledgment & confirmation of detail
      3. In effective communication, there is no such thing as “common sense”.. common sense is merely an accumulation of related experiences, and we all have different filters (interpretations & perceptions) based on our past influences
    • More than talking to someone, effective communication is when you confirm that an intention is understood, and the expected outcome has been agreed to by the “actioning party”
      1. To borrow from Engineering terms, effective communications requires an active & affective acknowledgment process (ACK/NAK or checksum), which is an infallible confirmation that what has been requested, has been acknowledge and understood
      2. Effective communications requires a S.M.A.R.T. conversation, with specific confirmation by all parties as to what has been requested vs. what will be delivered by when by whom to where & how

These might sound simple enough that you would actually overlook or underestimate the impact that they are already having on your organization, but the fact is, and I’m willing to be openly challenged on this, you show me a problem in your organization, and I’ll show you where one, if not all of the above are responsible for the lack of results that you know your enterprise is capable of.

The best effectiveness tool I’ve used to-date

February 8, 2010 2 comments

I was looking for a cheap & easy “time tracking” tool, and so Google search began ;-), & then I ran across a tool last week that claimed to be “the world’s best time tracking application”, but what I found instead was so much more!

Before I share with you how Harvest has revolutionized my day-today effectiveness, let me preface this post by saying “it’s not always about the tool in itself, but what you do with that tool that can absolutely rock your world!”

I’ll proceed to explain..

  • I was looking for free, but effectiveness was the overriding factor
    • at $12 USD per month for the base subscription, given the added value, it’s better than anything you could wish for
      • reality check (!!), you can blow 12 bucks at Starbucks by just having a second cup of coffee
  • I was looking for a one dimensional tool, but wishing for more..
    • and I got more than I could ever have dreamt.. it’s quick, easy, pain free, educational  & very forgiving
      • a “triple threat” (on my apple environment) that equals “killer productivity, ease of use & pleasant experience”
        • dashboard synced w/ online app allows quick & easy start, stop & pause
        • iPhone app synced w/ online app allows my mobile/on-the-spot tracking w/ same functionality/ease of use
        • on-line app that is highly intuitive & easy to configure
      • the “forgiving tool” send you an e-mail alert if you’ve left a timer on too long, and allows you to easily & quickly go back & correct it
  • I was looking to track my time & client engagements and discovered how I was sabotaging my productivity
    • by stopping to review my day’s activities I discovered how much non-revenue generating activities I was doing, and therefore able to make an immediate adjustment
      • justified “investment” in client growth & building potential and therefore able to better quantify my cost-of-sale per client
        • helps me decide which clients to weed out in future
      • allowed me to charge for activities that I “giving away”
      • allows me to better value my time by understanding how much “real” time (much to my surprise) certain activities take
        • in turn allows me to identify hidden costs & better justify/have my client acknowledge true costs related to activities (thus additional revenue)
      • cheap, quick & effective way to accurately track my time on a project for immediate upload to invoices
  • I was able to increase my work-life balance
    • by setting up my family as “projects” I was able to allocate specific tasks/time that were important toward the education of my children, and I became conscious of how I was “unconsciously premeditatedly” boxing myself into a corner by not allocating enough time for my wife, and the necessary sleep to recharge my batteries
      • from a personal perspective, there is NO price that I could place on this benefit
        • it may sound “anal”, but it’s a simple process to make sure you think about the 24 hours you have in each day, and how to allocate that time toward your “true” priorities”!

As my wife would say in her “Aussie way” OMG (short for Oh My God) what a find! For what the tool claims to be, it’s “hands down” the best tool I’ve ever seen to seamlessly be able to track your time & ensure that you’re billing every available billable hour. The iPhone, dashboard & internet app inter-connectivity & inter-interoperability just blew my socks off & actually makes a traditionally painstaking & highly boring process, fun (something I enjoy) & emotionally rewarding!

The icing on the cake, is that it has a 30 free trial period with no intrusive credit card information required upfront, and what really blew my socks was when “Danny” (a Harvest Customer Service rep) pro-actively followed up via e-mail within 48 hours of my trialing the tool to see if I needed any help! WOW!!!!

I’ve only been using it for the past week, and this weekend I discovered how it easily, and again seamlessly inter-acts with my Basecamp app, and therefore upping my productivity by keeping me from having to perform multiple update to multiple application!

Whether you’re looking to get better control of your billable time, or looking for a great tool to help you quickly analyze where you’re allocating your time on an ongoing basis, I would have to say that I have found “a of gold at the end of the rainbow”!! 🙂

Fast Growth Etiquette – The Pulse Check

During a recent lunch conversation with a start-up entrepreneur, he asked me to share what were the most common trends stopping brilliant start-up ideas from becoming great scalable ventures.

He was obviously a curious chap looking for some “quick & easy take-aways” from our lunch, and so being the generous &  practical guy I am, 😉 I grabbed a pen & drew the following diagram on a napkin for him…

I’ll make it short & simple for anyone who wants to stop reading this post here, and maybe check back later.. just like on a road trip to a place you haven’t been before, “you can’t get where you’re going unless you know where you are at”. Every journey has a “start”, “mid-point” & “end”, along the way, you should also have intervals at which you check your pace & requirements for refueling, but it’s not really rocket science, and it applies to any type of venture, be it entrepreneurial or corporate.

I asked him when had he last been to the doctor. Now, the first image get when I think about a doctor’s visit, is how the quickest and most immediate assessments they make are typically based on the simple pulse check. It’s a “status update” of sorts, to see how you’re doing, whether you’re running too fast, too slow or just about right. Whilst it’s only a momentary picture in time, this information combined with your medical history can tell him allot about how much longer you’re going to live without some sort of intervention.

Back to my journey analogy, how can you accurately predict any refueling requirements unless you can compare your current location with where you started vs. where you want to get to? So I then proceeded to expand on this biggest hurdle I’ve seen of late. Within the last 2-3 years, pretty much across the world, regardless of industry vertical, the general missing link is an understanding by staff (in general) as to what (and when) they needed to do to contribute toward their company getting from A to Z.

Did you expect a more profound & intellectual response? There are obviously varying stages of complexity around this issue whenever I find it, but generally it’s due to one of the following Top 3 things not being done

  1. Lack of appropriate articulation from the Founder/CEO/Leader as to “the why” driving their day-to-day activities
    • Mission (purpose), Vision (dream) & Core Values (rules for the road) based engagement & enrollment
  2. Lack of alignment between theoretical plan & practical measures put into place
    • Strategies communicated aren’t consistent with actions put into place
      • i.e. NOT “walking their talk”
  3. Lack of rhythmic processes that will allow you to measure progress toward achieving a predetermined strategy
    • Lack of follow-up, measurement & the necessary adjustments required along the way to get things back on track

Somewhere along those simple three areas are where I typically have to start my own engagement process within a new client, obviously after I’ve completed a discovery process to understand the depth of the challenge at hand. Now you may have noticed, as did my lunch companion, that I was using words like “engagement” & “enrollment”, in his case allot, and these weren’t by chance.

  • Engagement, “in my book” requires a two way conversation, give & take from both sides until they both agree on a common understanding, otherwise you won’t get the necessary “emotional involvement or commitment”
  • Enrollment, when borrowed from academia, the word “voluntary” stands out as a means of getting someone to do something. By “enrolling” someone (you get a voluntary commitment for attendance or follow-through on an activity, generally attending class & doing the required homework)

These two words are possibly the most powerful words in the “strategic execution dictionary” when you want to execute on any strategy. Whether it’s an entrepreneur trying to get his business off the ground or to the next level, or a CEO of a multi-billion dollar enterprise trying to keep shareholders happy, far too often we “talk to” rather than “converse with” our staff. That’s where the engagement & enrollment process starts, and once you’ve covered those steps, than in order to keep people, business and/or strategies “on-track”, you need routine follow-up with measures to check “where you are” at any point-in-time since you started, and “how much effort” is still required to get you to the finish line.

To-date, some of the best tools I’ve found to overcome those Top 3 barriers I mentioned are

  • Simon Sinek’s “Why” process for getting to the crux of your Mission or “purpose”
  • Cameron Herald’s “Painted Picture” process for articulating the true essence of your Vision or “dream”
  • Verne Harnish’s Gazelles “Rockefeller Habits” for the rhythmic processes required to super charge your growth strategy

In many instances now, I have personally worked with the consequence of these tools to then adapt practical solutions to the unique culture of organizations, or, leveraged the outcome of these tools & subsequent clarity to help organizations get to the levels everyone knew possible.

Where are you or your organization stuck? What practical measures have you taken on-board within the last week, or will be taking on-board as a consequence of this reminder?

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.

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?