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Posts Tagged ‘Time Management’

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“.

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How to fix your company in 30 days

Whether you’re a “hired” senior executive or an entrepreneur leading your enterprise to greatness, you’ve probably raised your head from the table more than once and questioned yourself as to “how am I going to fix what’s broken(?)”. And regardless of whether you already have a plan to action on this thought, or not, checking over the following points can only help you fix it faster, better, cheaper.. and maybe even keep you out of bigger trouble than you are already in!

  1. Gut Check Time – How committed are you to affect change in your organization?
    • Are you willing to embrace this opportunity for self reflection & personal awareness/growth?
    • Are you committed to taking the necessary action steps required to fix the situation first, and the root cause second?
  2. Core Ideology Clarity – Do you have, and have you communicated, your organizations Mission, Vision & Core Values?
    • Mission = The Purpose for being (The WHY for your organizations existence)
    • Vision = The Dream you want to manifest (The WHAT of the outcome you want to achieve)
    • Core Values = The Rules for the Road (The HOW you & your team will behave whilst executing your strategy)
  3. Gut Check Time – Do you have proof that your staff/Team have bought into and fully understand your Core Ideology?
    • Do they understand the “why” things need to change?
    • Have you looked them “in the white of their eyes” & confirmed they’re on-board?
      • How are they “living” your Core Ideology day-in / day-out?
  4. Seek “outside & unbiased” contribution from nothing less than a non-consultant consultant
    • As the “owner of your own experience”, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by getting someone who is too close to the business to be objective as to what the true cause for the issues are
    • In fact, the root of the problem might be yourself.. are you ready to admit that?
  5. Validate you have an “Engagement Model” that works
    • Are you communicating “at/to”, or “with” your team?
      • “Communication is a bi-directional activity, and it requires active & empathetic listening
    • Do you have a One-Page Plan, or similar framework to ensure that you and your team are literally on the same page in what concerns your goals & objectives
    • Do you have regular review/Pulse Check cycles? – “People don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect
      • 15m Daily Huddles?
      • 1h Weekly Strategic Meetings?
      • 2h Monthly Sanity Check & Planning Meetings?
      • Half Day Quarterly Strategic Review & Adjustment Sessions?
      • Semi-Annual Full-Day Strategic Alignment & Planning Workshops Off-Site?
      • Annual Full-Day/Two-Day Strategic Alignment, Planning & Executing Your Strategy?
    • Do you have Periodic Performance Review Cycles with your Team?
    • What’s your feedback loop to track & measure progress along the way?
      • How do you ensure you’re hitting your milestones in a timely manner?
      • What’s your escalation process to avoid surprises & keep you in the drivers seat?
  6. Gut Check TimeAre you Strategy or Execution focused?
    • The execution of an idea is ALWAYS more important than the brilliance of the thought!
      • Don’t get hung-up on a beautiful strategy if you’re not going to be able to execute on it
        • Do you have the proper (and proven) skill-set on-board to execute?
  7. Communicate, Communicate & Communicate again
    • Don’t take anything for granted!
    • Keep up the communication with your team, and those you need support from to keep everyone motivated
    • Circulate results & celebrate wins!
    • Look / seek out “quick wins” to boost confidence & motivation
      • Get some air beneath your wings
    • Praise the great work!
    • Address set-backs as opportunities for learning & growth!
    • Give your plan “teeth”!!
      • Make sure there are consequences for non conformance!
  8. Celebrate as a TEAM, so that you can repeat success as, and when needed, to overcome any challenge

It really is that simple! The complexity comes when you have to judge how bad things have gotten and for how long. How corrupt or rotten has your company culture become? This is the difference between a 30 day, 3 month, or a 3 year fix. This will be the significant reason why your employee churn will be single or double digits. The deeper the already ingrained bad habits, the longer it will take to build new & healthy habits! Remember, you don’t stop doing things wrong, you learn how to start doing things right! You don’t stop practicing bad habits, you learn & practice new healthy & productive habits! It takes up to 21 consecutive days of practicing a new healthy habit before it becomes ingrained in your DNA, so you have to be persistent & diligent.

Finally, if you can find a way to make it fun & rewarding, then you’re going to increase the probability & speed of your success.

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”!! 🙂

“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?

Content Rich & Implementation Poor

December 24, 2009 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

2009 – My Year in Review

December 23, 2009 2 comments

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

The professional highlights were..

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

The personal highlights were..

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

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

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

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

And ask myself challenging questions such as..

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

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

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

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

A CEO’s 5 key focus areas

December 21, 2009 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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