BOOKS AS COMPOST

As I used to be an organic farmer, I appreciate how compost works. Take it fresh from the horse and let it lie and develop in what is referred to as a compost pile. After a year, put that compost stuff on the seeds and baby plants. Behold how it allows the veggies and fruits to mightily grow and develop. You then get to eat the succulent tomatoes and cucumbers – yum. Books in organizations get good things to happen. Over the years of coaching and annoying companies, it has become clear to this baldy that books have the power to change. Reading specific and special books in organizations is conducive to creating and causing organizational development. When a management group reads the same book, it is like they now have a common language and have had a common experience. What does that get you? For one thing, it gets executives of the company on the same page when talking about a topic. There is, after everyone reading the same book, a common vocabulary. Group reading allows for an understanding and the acceptance of new ideas. Even when the Leadership team does not agree on the ideas of the book or how those notions should be implemented, the executive team now has parameters from which to debate and explore the issues. I have seen business teams put together really terrific customer service programs after reading Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard. Heck, after reading that book I have seen teams for the very first time have the notion that having raving fan customers could be a very good thing. Before...

God is on her Advisory Board

At times there is a need for divine intervention. This was one of those times. We business people, aka her volunteer advisors, are all sitting in the small conference room. The office has stunning paintings and fine art attached to the walls. Other than that, it is a dowdy and fairly unremarkable office space. She is in her sixties and always looks like the perfect business women. Patricia is dressed to the nines and short. Well known in the community, a respected icon for entrepreneurial women. She is a successful business owner. Patricia begins to tell us about her other company. Yes, there is another company in every sense of the word; for the past 10 years, this company has never made money. In fact since inception, it has never made money. The company employed her only two sons. Juicy. This is the company that clearly has captured Patricia’s heart and ego. It is the company for her of possibility just not profitability. The company in which the other more profitable sister company always helped because it was profitable. That is until this year. This year was the year that the always had been profitable company was not. It had its own problems and the red ink was flowing…crisis time. “Not so fast”, Patricia cried. She was confident, this CEO was. There were plans in the air and schemes to be hatched. There is always an angle to be played around Patricia. She thought that she could pull it all off – though clearly she was stressed. Her complaint was being up at night and not sleeping. This was...

Jump Start the 2nd Half of 2019!

Company Mid-Year Planning Process CMI’S Process For Strategic Planning Strategic Planning For Today’s Challenging Business Environment These worksheets are designed to allow you to complete the past year and open up the possibility of the next year. It directs your attention and thinking to critical areas. It is not a guarantee. However, it is an opportunity to think through and focus your activity. Take as much space as you need. Do not be limited by the space we gave you. Achievements/successes for the past 6 months 1.   2.   3.   4.   Disappointments for the past 6 months 1.   2.   3.   4.   What did we learn as a company in the past 6 months? 1.   2.   3.   4.    What critical issues face us over the next 6 months? 1.   2.   3.   4.   5.   What are we going to start doing? 1.   2.   3.   4.   5.   What are we going to stop doing? 1.   2.   3.   4.   5.   What will we keep doing? 1.   2.   3.   4.   5.   In the next 6 months, what threats face the company and underline the ones that need to be dealt with. 1.   2.   3.   4.   5.   In the next 6 months, what opportunities face the company and underline the ones that you are acting on. 1.   2.   3.   What unresolved issues face the company – How will we resolve them? 1.   2.   3....

Sharpening the saw

To illuminate the point of these posts, let’s take the classic Steven Covey tale. We have a woodchopper who is from the southern part of Lithuania. (This made-up tidbit is totally irrelevant). In the story, the lumberjack is sawing away and noticing that he is accomplishing less than he used to. So, like the good Lithuanian Lumberjack that he is, he saws harder. However, the harder he saws, the more he dulls the blade. But he is blind to what is happening. This well-intentioned, but rather dull lumberjack just keeps sawing harder and accomplishing less. It was a truly dullicious situation. (That was a pun.) Does this situation sound familiar? For business people, working harder and producing less is a common pitfall. What’s missing for the lumberjack is the realization that his saw needs to be sharpened in order to keep up his level of productivity. Yet, given how he thinks, there would be no time for sharpening because he is so driven to produce. So he continues to saw, even though he might find himself getting board in the process. (Sorry, another pun.) I find that when my own saw gets dull, getting away — really getting away — has been a way to sharpen and refocus. New ideas and vistas open up in the process of truly leaving my routine behind. New perspectives appear that bless me with fresh creativity and vigor. This sounds spiritual and metaphysical, and while I would love to go there because it would make me look like a guru or Gandhi or something (and I love the turban and loincloth look, especially...

Planning: The 4th Cornerstone of Performance Oriented Cultures

Strategic planning creates the platform for a healthy company. Strategic planning is a critical part of growing a successful business. A high performance work culture needs a system that makes sure that employee goals are aligned and everyone is focused on the right stuff. The fact is that many small-to-midsize companies do not have a structured process from which to conduct strategic planning. This is like many adults who do not exercise, despite knowing it’s good for them. Perfect health isn’t guaranteed by regular exercise, but the likelihood of attaining good health is dramatically increased. Strategic breakthrough business guessing/planning works for businesses in much the same way as exercise works for the individual. The process should take place over two to three months and take three to four days. It is predicated on White Papers and dialogue. Listening and understanding are critical. Better research ensures better debate and thinking. “What is a White Paper?” you ask hysterically. A White Paper is a three-to- five page paper that addresses the critical issue. The paper should deal directly with the issues. It is, with research and analysis, the “answer” submitted by the smaller group to the entire planning team. Once you have created the plan, you need to make sure it is acted upon. Monthly meetings of one to three hours and spending time on objectives and action plans will ensure focus. Then, once a quarter, the planning team should meet offsite, preferably with a coaching resource like yours truly (bonus points if the coach is bald-headed; it makes the coach smarter and buffer…really!) At the session, the group will look at...

Mission & Values: the 3rd Cornerstone of Performance Oriented Cultures

Create a corporate mission & values that employees are aligned with. The foundational material—mission and values—of a company can be critical to the overall success of the organization – but they’re often forgotten. The corporate mission and values are created by the senior leadership team, captured on posters, and strategically tacked up around the building. Meanwhile, how does a corporate citizen react to this phenomenon? They see it as “horse manure!” Whatever is in the mission or values statement is not seen as relevant to the organization’s day-to-day operations. In other words, the organization’s behavior is not congruent with its declaration of ideals. However, at their best, a mission (or “reason for being”) and values give an organization a future to live into. This potential future galvanizes and focuses the organization. Whether or not goals are met entirely, movement toward them develops teamwork and is valuable to the company. So how do organizations get to this point? Some of the following thinking and exercises were inspired by an article called “Building Your Company’s Vision,” by Collins and Porras, the authors of Built to Last. In the article, the authors describe how to write a reason for being and values. When thinking about your company’s mission, think about purpose. Ask participants in your session to consider the following: What is the purpose of your organization? What would be lost if the organization ceased to exist? What kind of organization would you work for regardless if you got a salary or not, etc. Now onto values. In this process when I say “values,” I mean the right behaviors that will support...

Teams: the 2nd Cornerstone of Performance Oriented Cultures

Have High Performance Work Teams throughout your company. Teams are powerful constructs, and high-performance ones do not spring up by magic. By the same token, business teams are not the answer for every performance issue. In corporations, while the talk is about teams and working together, there is actually a focus on individual performance. For the most part, there is no formal practice designed to enhance or improve group performance. High-performance teams are “a small number of people with complementary skills who are equally committed to a common purpose, goals, and a working approach in which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” This definition of real teams comes from the article “The Wisdom of Teams”, by Katzenbach and Smith. Real teams are basic units of performance, and members of the team are mutually accountable for the results. This is quite different from how most of the work world is organized. When a group takes on mutual accountability for their customers’ experiences, it can generate real customer-focused actions. From this, tangible and positive business results will occur. At my favorite restaurant, for example, the waiter greets me with my preferred glass of wine, letting me know that Chuck, the chef, has a special dish waiting for me. Everyone is clearly into giving me a personalized, pleasant experience, and I have not even ordered yet. I have found that having a team design its structure allows the team to develop and perform more quickly. This is because in doing so, the team has to confront the performance issues it will encounter. The process allows for those issues to come to the forefront...

Staffing: The 1st Cornerstone of a High Performance Culture

Staff with the best – mediocrity can work with your competition. This is the mantra of a high performance culture. As business people, we do not directly control terrorist plots, the economy, our competition, taxes, healthcare plans, or national events. But even with unions, executives and managers do ultimately control who works in the company. We should make the most of this opportunity and leverage the “people piece” to enhance our companies’ performance advantage.   Here are some suggestions for raising performance and driving out mediocrity from CMI’s A,B,C process:   1. Educate managers: Help them understand the definitions of A, B, and C players. 2. Jointly gauge employee performance: At specific meetings, managers should jointly assess employee performance.  Only those who interact directly with the employee should state their opinions. This allows the employee’s manager to get candid feedback. In assessing performance, avoid grey areas – no pluses and minuses – managers must make a choice whether the employee is an A, B, or C player. 3. Take action. Ditch the D’s and F’s’: D and F employees will drag your company down. If you have more than a few D and F employees, sell the firm and do something to save yourself. Decide what to do with your C players. C players are mediocre employees; these employees are marginal in their performance and unremarkable in any positive attribute they bring to the workplace. They exist, take up space, and just get their jobs done, sort of. A test for “C-ness” is putting yourself in this scenario: If one of these employees came up to you and said they...

Bruce’s Book Review – Traction by Gino Wickman and Mike Paton

Traction is a must read for anyone building a company.  Whether you are a start up,  a growing $20 million business, or anything in between this book has something for you.  As you know, I am not a guy in the diner about growing companies . I have been successful in being a resource to companies so that they successfully grow.  Another way of putting this is that I am great compost for growing companies.  When I read Traction and I have probably wandered around its pages at least 10 times since I read it six years ago, my reaction is always the same…”oh wow that is a great idea, oh there is a powerful process, and hey I could have written this book”.  Only I did not. Traction is full of great ideas.  There is an audit included in the book that I have many clients  take.  The audit helps  pinpoint where as a organization you need to develop yourself.  This book is a must read for the leadership team of your organization.  After everyone takes the audit, you can then compare scores and get aligned on what to work on.  The author presents a system of growing and structuring a company.  What is great is that you do not have to adopt the system and you can pick and choose what to utilize. The book has ideas on how to focus and how to structure meetings.  One idea that I have taken from this book is the one-page plan with a focus on quarterly organizational  rocks.  This book is a classic and the ideas are classic and...

The 4 Cornerstones of a High Performance Culture

If culture was a pyramid, there would be four cornerstones: staff, teams, purpose & values, and strategic planning. At the apex of the pyramid would be a work culture that attains performance beyond expectations. the cornerstones would be defined by the following: Staffing your organization with the best employees. Teams that are high performance teams Corporate mission and values that everyone is aligned with A complete and implemented Strategic Business Plan Only a pyramid with all four of these cornerstones will create a foundation stable enough for an ongoing high performance culture. What follows is an explanation of how to create these four cornerstones.  These will appear in the next couple weeks of posts.   To learn more about building a high performance culture click here.    ...