Category Archives: Growth

Flexing to Your Impatient Boss

Building trust with your impatient boss may be challenging and stressful at times, but if you know how to communicate with them by being direct, concise, and bottom-lined, you can build trust, showcase your competence in delivering the results, and grow a fruitful and successful relationship with them.

When your boss is an “A-Type” personality demanding more and more from you and your team, keeping up and satisfying them can be a challenge.  Most impatient bosses are not suffering from some chronic character flaw.  More often than not, they just have a particular communication style that likes things at a high level, without too much detail, and a focus on cutting to the chase.  And for the record, that describes a lot of bosses.  C-level executives, and especially CEO’s are often wired this way.

Not everybody likes to give and get information the same way.  A lot of bosses, and especially those that seem impatient, want you to be brief and to the point without much emotion.  If you give this boss the bottom line, big picture view first to gain their buy-in, you’ve got a good shot at winning them over to hearing your other points.  But if you are someone who naturally gravitates towards process- driven, detailed communication, and you give the boss point a, then point b, then point c, slowly and incrementally building to point z, you are absolutely going to make their head explode. Add emotion and drama and it’s even more deadly.

Let’s say you wanted to give your boss a presentation on 10 recommendations you have for increasing the customer experience on the company website.  Here’s an approach that would be deadly:

“Recommendation number 1 is we revamp our sales funnel to take a consultative approach to the sales process.  I suggest creating three distinct sales funnels that are based upon the customers’ skill level: straight to the shopping cart for professionals and a question/answer for novices.  Recommendation number 2 is we increase our testing and monitoring.  We can do this by hosting user-testing days that let us observe our website users live and listen to them narrate their experience so we know where people are having trouble and what their opinions are about the site.  Recommendation number 3 is to employ customer service surveys and have constant communication between our customer service department and our tech team…”

I’m going to stop there because my head is already exploding and we are only on recommendation #3.

So this isn’t about how you like to communicate or how you’d like to have it communicated to you. It’s about how the boss wants to be communicated and FLEXING to you boss’ communication style. That means adjusting your style to reduce the tension and make your boss more receptive.   What you want to do is get right to the endpoint, cut to the chase and say:

“I have 10 recommendations for improving customer experience on our website. #1: take a consultative approach, #2: test and monitor, #3: customer surveys, #4: educate consumers, #5: interview users, #6: optimize language capabilities, #7: track what’s hot, #8: implement responsive web design, #9: determine calls to action and #10: make it more social.  Please tell me which of these 10 things you want to hear more about?”

Here, the seemingly–impatient boss gets to pick and choose the recommendations they want to explore.  So instead of eye-rolls,  finger drumming and other impatient behaviors, you’re going to hear, “Number 3 sounds really interesting.  Tell me more about that.”  Now you’ll get a chance to go back and give your detail while the boss listens.

Flexing to your boss using this direct, concise, and brief style puts an end to impatient behavior, builds the boss’s trust in you, showcases your competence in delivering the results the boss wants, and allows you to grow a fruitful and successful relationship with the boss.

 

The Process Equation: People – Part 2

For companies looking to scale, it’s not enough to be smart, purposeful and passionate.  They must focus on developing process by increasing what I call their Process Equation. In my last post, I introduced you to the ‘Task’ element of the Process Equation. This post will focus on the second critical element to the Process Equation: People.

The People Process involves developing the following 4 areas:

  1. Creating Leadership Team Health – Nothing is more important than having an aligned and healthy leadership team.  Smart does not mean healthy.  Healthy means team members are open with one another; they passionately debate the important issues; they commit to clear decisions even if they initially disagree; they call each other out (provide constructive feedback) when their behaviors or performance need correction; and they focus their attention on the collective good of the organization.
  2. Building Trust and VulnerabilityTrust is about creating psychological safety; being able to say what you believe is right, without fear, and knowing that you can take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed.  It requires intimacy – having an emotional connection to the people around you and making people comfortable with you by sharing personal histories.  Vulnerability is about being open and transparent.  It’s having team members able to say: “I was wrong”,  “I made a mistake”, “You were right”, “I’m sorry”, or “I need help”.  You’re vulnerable when you seek constructive feedback and you make it easy for others (managers, peers, employees) to give it you.
  3. Focusing on How to Communicate – Not communication but the art of communicating.  This is the act and art of conversing with others, whether face-to-face or at meetings.  It means looking at how your email protocol is overused when a discussion is really crucial.  It requires looking at your meeting rhythms; the abundance or over use of ineffective meetings that are a waste of time, then selectively eliminating some.  Most importantly, it’s about recognizing when to pick up the phone or walk down the hall to converse with the other person about a challenge, problem to be solved, decision to be made, giving constructive feedback or managing performance.
  4. Acquiring and Developing A Players – Having a People Process also means you focus on acquiring and developing “A players” in your company.  Jack Welch said it very clearly: “One A player can do the work of three C players”.  His people strategy at GE was very clear:  “Fewer people, paid more, with a lower total wage cost”.  To achieve this, you need to create best practices around conducting a talent review at least twice a year, developing a scorecard for each position with competencies and accountabilities, having a plan for your “C players”, building your “virtual bench”, and coaching and retaining your A players.

No matter how smart your company is or how much heart you have, the need to develop and master task and people process is critical for scaling, growing and succeeding.

Process Equation

The Process Equation: Task – Part 1

While recently working with an incredible start-up, three things occurred to me about this young group of millennials:

  • They are all brilliant and smart – they have “the mind”
  • They are purpose-driven, have passion and focus on stakeholder well being – they have “the heart”
  • They lack process in two critical areas – task and people (the “Process Equation”)

The “Process Equation”, focuses on two critical elements: task and people. It can be developed within your organization.

We recognized that while key business metrics were exploding off the charts, developing a task process would be crucial to sustain the rapid growth and leverage the collective efforts of each leader, manager and employee.

Task Process involves developing these 4 areas:

  1. Prioritizing and focusing the right things – with dozens of priorities and projects and new ones appearing weekly, everything becomes important, creates ambiguity and strains resources.  An organization that is scaling must choose 4 to 5 of the most important priorities it needs accomplish and make them clear to everyone in the company.
  2. Synchronizing and executing – connecting and aligning among members of the leadership team, then through all functional areas of the organization so that everyone is aligned and can describe what is most important to the company this year and this quarter.
  3. Crystal clear metrics – having KPI’s in place and making certain they are understood by all members of the organization.  You must also choose 3 to 4 Critical Numbers (KPI’s on steroids) for the next 90 days.  Everyone in the organization should know how their own tasks and functions impact achieving those Critical Numbers.
  4. Tracking accountability – Individual owners must be identified to be responsible and accountable for project and priority results.  Accountability owners for the top priorities ensure success of priorities and results crossing the finish line.  Owners need to share updates and results of their priority at bi-monthly Executive Team meeting.

No matter how smart your company is or how much heart you have, developing the task and people process is critical for scaling, growing and succeeding.  In my next post, we will explore “The Process Equation: People – Part 2”.

The Value of Involving Your Managers in Creating Your Planning and Execution Strategy

When setting out to develop a strategic plan as part of the annual planning process, it’s crucial for leaders to understand the difference between Strategic Thinking and Execution Planning.

Strategic thinking is done by the leadership team, engaging in discussions defining the companies core ideologies (values and purpose): core customer, brand promise; Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and the 3-5 year targets / winning moves.

Execution planning is about the short-term – what happens within the 12 months, and more specifically, the next quarter (or 13-week period).  This involves creating the quarterly goals (rocks).

While both of these functions must include the organization’s leadership team, outstanding results occur when the next level of managers are brought into the execution planning process.

A recent 2-day Annual Planning offsite proved to create outstanding momentum for one of my clients.  On the first day, the leadership team focused on strategic thinking.  We reviewed the rocks from the previous year and quarter, then developed targets, priorities and critical numbers for the next year and upcoming quarter.

The second day, next level of managers joined the leadership team and developed the details of the 1-year and quarterly priorities.  Blended sub-groups worked at flip charts outlining the detailed tasks that needed to occur over the next 13-weeks.  Cross-functional “Rock Teams” were formed with members from different functional areas joining together to plan out the tasks and activities that needed to occur for each of the four new company rocks that were created for the quarter.

The effect of this effort created five (5) powerful outcomes:

  1. The company developed a strong execution plan for Q1.
  2. The next level of managers felt significant, respected and included.
  3. Some new hi-potential managers stood out to the delight of the leadership team.
  4. Action plans were created for communicating to the next (third) level in the organization.
  5. Accountability and alignment were crystal clear and the company was energized.

Leaders must set the course with strategic thinking, but true wonders occur when their managers are involved in the execution planning process.

Your Sales Are Great - But Your Business Is Not

Your Sales Are Great – But Your Business Is Not

In working with leaders of companies where top-line revenue is growing between 20 – 50% per year, there’s often a feeling that “we’re in great shape”.  But when you go deeper and look at the low morale, high amounts of stress and drama, mistakes made and poor communication, you can see that companies too often are not prepared to deal with the growth or that maintaining the level of growth is not sustainable.

As a CEO or leader, two critical areas to focus on are your people and your execution.  You have to step back and work with your leadership team and ask (then answer) some very important questions:

About People

  • Do we have the right people in our organization? (and do I have the right people on my leadership team)?
  • Are my managers all “A players?”
  • Would I enthusiastically rehire everyone in my organization?
  • Are we regularly reviewing every six months our talent and going through an “A, B, C Player” Assessment?
  • Are we developing our B players and exiting our C players?
  • Do we have a process for finding and hiring the best people we can?

About Execution

  • Do I have everyone on the same page?
  • Are we all aligned on the priorities – for the company and individuals?
  • Are we focused on the right projects and goals for this quarter?
  • Do we have KPI’s in place to measure our results?
  • Are all processes inside the business running smoothly without drama?
  • Are we having effective meetings and moving communication throughout the organization?

First work with your leadership team to answer these questions.  Then dig deep and begin to create plans for overcoming any deficiencies.

Top-line sales growth can be a blessing, but without the right people and flawless execution, you might start thinking that it’s a curse.

Never Stop Learning

Never Stop Learning

The last four days, I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Fortune Magazine/Gazelles Growth Summit, in Dallas, Texas.

Four days with my fellow Gazelles coaches and presentations by some of the greatest business thought leaders (and authors) of our day:  Ron Kaufman on Uplifting Service, Adele Revella on Buyer Persona, Andrew Davis on Brandscaping, John Mullins on The Customer-Funded Business, Jeff Sutherland on Scrum, David Rendall on The Freak Factor, and Verne Harnish on Scaling Up.

We shared ideas, debated issues and sharpened our saws.

This session impacted my entire being – brain, heart, soul and spirit.  At the core is the love of learning.  I want to continue learning.  To not learn means I stop growing, expanding and changing and I start dying (little by little each day).

I want you to keep learning about whatever it is that you love, whatever it is you are passionate about.  Read books, magazines, blogs and articles.  Watch videos, YouTube and webinars.  Listen to podcasts and audiobooks or any other way you like to learn.

You will become smarter and discover new parts of yourself, plus you will impact and inspire others – your family, friends, teams, colleagues and associates.  And there is no greater gift that you can give.

Setting priorities for yourself

Setting Priorities for Yourself

In the fast-paced, ever changing world we live in, many executives, professionals, entrepreneurs and leaders tell me how busy and “maxed-out” they are.  With demanding schedules and lengthy “to-do lists”, the question arises, “how do I get it all done”?

The truth is…you don’t because you can’t.  Here are some of the causes of poor prioritization:

  • Action junkie; always on the move
  • Difficulty saying no
  • Ego; overestimating capacity
  • Perfectionist; need to do everything
  • Time management; too busy to set priorities

The higher you go in the organization, the more responsibilities you have with less time to get it done!  In order to survive and prosper, you must prioritize what’s important on a daily basis.

Here are 7 things you can do to make it happen:

  1. Be clear about your goals and objectives.  Use a personal or strategic plan.
  2. List goals in order of priority.  Get clarity about what’s mission critical for you.
  3. Watch for the activity trap.  Rather than trying to do all 37 items on your to-do list, focus on one or two that are most important first.
  4. Don’t play favorites by only focusing on what you like.  Use data and intuition, not just feelings.
  5. Be efficient in how much time you make for others.  Get to it and get it done!
  6. Write it down.  Taking time to plan upfront frees up time later.  Stephen Covey calls this “sharpening the saw”.
  7. Don’t procrastinate.  Avoidance makes life more complicated – make a decision and move on.

What are you waiting for…get started…NOW!

Having a feedback conversation with a difficult person

Having a Feedback Conversation with a Difficult Person

We’ve all smiled at the phrase “you know, feedback is a gift”.  But the receiver’s defensive reaction(s) can be a significant deterrent, when you are simply trying to be helpful by providing them feedback.  This is especially true if the receiver is someone who typically responds with difficult behaviors such as: interrupting, justifying, arguing, or worse, lashing out with brutal attacks.  They are often unaware (or even in denial) about their behavior.  I refer to these people as B/C Players.

Some leaders of B/C Players will “look the other way” and tolerate these behaviors.

The most common excuses I hear are:  “But they’re so productive and produce results”, or,
I don’t have time to deal with stuff like that”.

I find that B/C Players are usually poison in an organization.  They provide obstacles and make it difficult for A Players to thrive.  Oftentimes, they are poor examples of living the core values.

Leaders MUST deliver the tough feedback message by doing the following 8 things:

  1. Collect examples of behavior through first hand observations and interviews with A Players.
  2. Spend time thinking about how to make your feedback message behavioral (citing the actual behavior).
  3. Schedule a feedback meeting that is formal and structured.
  4. Deliver the feedback directly,  no sugar-coating.
  5. Actively listen to the B/C’s point of view, but don’t waiver from yours.
  6. Be willing to offer coaching.
  7. Get agreement about behavior change and follow up minimally on a monthly basis.
  8. Recognize improvements; stay firm if no improvement.

Leaders have an obligation to the organization and to A Players to deal with difficult people on their teams by having these conversations.