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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Do You Want to Assess Your People? Try The PAEI Code and the 9½ Test!

Possibly the most complicated part of doing business is dealing with people simply because each one is unique and generally speaking, we don’t know how unique unless we assess them in some way. 

I am not and never have been a fan of annual appraisals.  It’s rather like running your business only on looking at the end of year results and hoping that we can make any adjustments that for issues that come to light.  The answer is regular and formal one-to-one meetings. 

These one-to-ones are not to the leader’s agenda.  It is the individual who determines the topics for discussion and the leader listens and makes comment as appropriate.  Not an easy task for the leader to keep relatively quiet but a very important one. 

As I said before, business is or should be simple and it is the interaction with people at which we are not always very competent that often gets in the way and leads to complications. 

Over the years I have come across a couple of very simple and very subjective assessment techniques which I have found invaluable for any leader to use. 

They are:
 
·       The PAEI Code assessment
·       The 9½ rating assessment 

The PAEI method can be used to assess both the business and individuals within it and it stands for: 
  • Productivity: the amount of effort being devoted to the business
  • Administration: how effectively is the business administered
  • Entrepreneurship: what is the level of imagination and innovation?
  • Integration: how well are the people engaged and included? 
Giving each test a rating from 1-5, in the early start-up days of the business the productivity rating is very high, administration is generally low, ntrepreneurship rating is again high and as there are very few people integration is usually automatic.

As the business grows and takes on more people the PAEI code changes.  For example, while P is or should still be high, A will have increased, E may well have reduced and I will probably have improved. 

If we asses an individual on the same basis then certain traits will emerge.  For example, an accountant typically will have high P, high A, low E and low I.  Conversely an owner/manager will have a high P rating, low A, very high E and average I. 

That makes for significant differences in approach and using the PAEI code can give a subjective judgement on an individual. 

The 9½ assessment is very simple.  Look at your top team and give them a rating from 1-10 (10 being high) which covers their total influence in the business.
 
The aim should be to achieve a 9½ rating for everyone on the top team which says that you have the right people on the bus, all in the right seats and all facing the same way. 

If, for example, you rate someone as 8, then it is feasible with mutual co--operation, to develop that individual to a 9 or 9½.  If sadly you have a 6 or 7 then it is almost impossible to develop that individual to achieve top rating and some decision needs to be taken. 

Yes, this test is very subjective but it does help to shed light on people’s abilities, enthusiasm, alignment, engagement and all the other great traits which go to make up a good top team member. 

I saw a great item on the web last week:  Conversation - CFO says to the CEO: “If we spend all out time and effort developing people, they might leave”  “True” says the CEO “but if we don’t develop them they might stay” 

These two tests can give you a clue as to whether you want them to stay and add value to the business.
 
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Sunday, 22 December 2013

Going For the B-HAG? Break it down Into Bite Sized Bits!

If you have read that great book, Touching the Void by climber Joe Simpson, you will recall that after a near fatal accident, Joe managed to get back to base camp notwithstanding he had a broken leg.  

Joe told the story of this epic journey at a National Vistage meeting in London to a totally enrapt audience.  He had been cut loose by his climbing partner after a fall while climbing in the Peruvian Andes and he fell into a snowdrift which cushioned his fall. 

The problem was that he was on his own and had to get back to base camp somehow.  The only way was to crawl there. 

The point of this tale is that Joe most certainly had an objective, to get to safety and it would be a long, hard and seemingly impossible feat if he were to manage it, with a broken leg, no food and very little water. 

His watch was still working and he gave himself a number of minutes in each case o crawl to a rock or through another snowdrift.  In the end he achieved his objective and made the five miles back to their base camp just before his partner had decided to return to civilisation. 

It was a most compelling presentation and about the only time that I can recall when a Vistage meeting was completely silent! 

This story is, of course, a great metaphor for objective setting in general.  For example, if out revenue this year is, say, £20m and we decide that next year our objective will be £40m, the reaction will be as expected. 

·       “Impossible!”
·       “We don’t have the people”
·       “The market isn’t there”
·       “Our competitors would react” 

and so on, ad nauseam.   

This is not to decry big objectives or B-HAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals and that is the clean version) but they can be overwhelming to some people and the immediate reaction is to say that it can’t be done, with a list of objections. 

Take an example from Joe Simpson.  He broke down the great objective of dragging himself and hopping the five miles to base camp, which on the face of it was impossible, and gave himself smaller objectives which he could achieve and feel good about each one. 

Taken as a whole, of course, they made sure that he would get back to safety and he did just that. 

Always go for the big one, the B-HAG, energise your people, give them lots of enthusiasm and positivity and some assistance to make sure that you achieve your big objective.  Bite sized objectives go to make up the great achievement.
 
 
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Sunday, 15 December 2013

Thinking of Incentives for Your People? Are They Really Coin-Operated?

The vexed question of incentives has raised its head again this week and the problem is that the client can’t decide whether it is commission, bonus, performance related or discretionary or merely a matter of recognition.  In the end he just feels that he needs to encourage the individual to perform better. 

The question to be asked is why does he consider it necessary to pay someone more for doing the job that they were employed to do in the first place and are paid to do anyway? 

The news this week that Lloyds TSB bank has been fined £28M for putting in an “incentive” scheme which frankly bullied the customers into buying products that they didn’t need and didn’t want merely strengthens the argument. 

It may be perceived that I am not a fan of incentives or at least of financial incentives.  The American psychologist Frederick Herzberg said that the real factors which contribute to motivation do not include salary or indeed financial incentives. 

On the other hand people are motivated far more by factors such as achievement, success, and reward in the form of praise or recognition. 

I firmly believe in any case that we cannot motivate people; it is arrogant to suggest that we can.  What we are able to do, however, is to provide them with an environment and a style of management that will encourage them to be self-motivated to perform. 

There are so many examples that justify that statement.  I recall the story of an office worker who had stayed behind late in the evening to finish a task which was rated as very important and, in this case, without being asked to do so.   

The manager was sufficiently impressed by this selfless attitude that he sent a thank- you card and a bunch of flowers to her home.  Six months later a colleague was at the house and noticed that the card was still on display on the mantelpiece. 

The best sales force I have experienced was a large (120 strong) engineering group based all round the UK in a number of branch offices.  That sales force was paid on the basis of flat salary with no commission or bonus or indeed any financial incentive. 

They were, it is true, paid rather over the market rate but they earned their pay without any doubt.  One of the most effective members of that sales force was my old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the Sage of Wythenshawe, who wouldn’t even have understood the need for so-called incentives. 

Perhaps he was typical of the old school; committed, honourable, loyal and hard working and that is no bad thing.  His greatest attribute was that he kept very firmly in touch with all his customers whether they were large or small. 

He would always go in to see the engineer after he had installed our equipment to check that everything was going well and that the engineer was satisfied. 

I would suggest that this sort of follow-up call is not usually at the forefront of the thinking of the commission salesman (or woman).  Their incentive is to make the sale and get the hell out to see another potential customer, not to hang around or to make another visit merely to see if the customer is happy. 

It is a decision for management to make; do we just want sales or do we want satisfied customers who appreciate good service and after-sales service? 

Instead of financial incentives, think of a few ideas to encourage your seals people to think more of giving great service to your customers and ditch those incentives which don’t always do the job anyway. 

To generalise, most people are not coin operated and it is an insult to suggest that they are.  People react favourably to success, praise and encouragement and delivery of that is entirely in the hands of the leadership.
 
 
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Sunday, 8 December 2013

Having Difficulty in Communicating? Cut Through the Detail and Focus!

In the many coaching and mentoring sessions that I work on with Vistage members and clients, I frequently find that getting to the root of an issue can be very difficult for many people. 

The issue is that when people in business have a problem to solve or an objective to achieve they generally know far too much about it, the background, the people, the side issues and so on, so that the real issue becomes either cloudy or it disappears entirely in the morass of detail. 

This can lead to reluctance to make a decision simply because the analysis is so complicated that any sensible solution can’t be found. 

It is all a matter of focus.  Objectives, for example, should be expressed in bullet points not several paragraphs of verbiage which make the eyes glaze over. 

I was told a great story by a brilliant Vistage speaker when discussing the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, he said that the President had gone into office with two objectives; to give America its pride back and to take out the Soviets. 

It took two terms and guess what, both of them happened. 

He had allocated specific tasks and duties to people in the administration and made sure that these tasks were delegated absolutely.  This did not imply a lack of interest or abdication of responsibility. 

Rather it implied complete trust in the people and the acceptance by then of total accountability for the success or failure of their activities. 

So what is different in a business?  Why should this method not be just as successful? 

Nine times out of ten it all comes down to a lack of focus.  All great leaders know precisely what they are going to achieve and the drive is absolutely towards that goal with no variations allowed. 

We have lost perhaps the greatest leader of the last few centuries in Nelson Mandela and it is worth examining that what he intended (not wanted, not wished for, not hoped for, but intended) to achieve was a true rainbow democracy with domination by neither black nor white. 

Nelson Mandela had focus, like all great leaders, and we can only hope that subsequent leadership of his country will carry that same torch in the future.  It would be the best way to honour the legacy of a great man. 

It is a wonderful metaphor for business.  Make sure that, if you are running a business, that for example the vision is lucidly expressed with complete clarity and in as short a sentence as possible. 

Transmit that vision constantly and consistently to everyone in the business so that they all know precisely where the business is going and what is expected of them. 

Cut through all the supporting but irrelevant “stuff” which gets in the way of clarity and tell the people how it is in as few words as you can muster.  It is not easy to chop words out of a statement but it must be done. 

Mark Twain said: 

 “I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time”. 

Take time out to express yourself with clarity and focus and watch how positively the people will react.
 
 
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Sunday, 1 December 2013

Do You Know Who Will Inherit the Business? Start the Process Today!

My posting on leadership last week brought out a great deal of positive comment for which many thanks.  In particular my good friend Harold Woodward emailed me with some trenchant comments about the whole aspect of organisation. 

From his own vast experience he said that businesses need to look to a much longer period in terms of forward planning.  So many businesses think that a one year “strategy” disguised as a budget is adequate and that on the basis of merely checking at the end of the year to see if they had achieved what they said they would.

A budget should be only a reflection of the true strategy of the business which should have been developed in a proper analytical manner and communicated to everyone so that they all know where the company is going or at least planning to go. 

My old friend and Vistage speaker, the late Brian Warnes, derided the whole budgeting process and described it as a “limp forecast of limp performance”.  He was probably right in many cases. 

He had different ideas about how best to put in sensible and meaningful financial controls and his solution was the use of break-even analysis, a simple and daily tool to monitor performance and to help the leader in short term decision making. 

However, one of the real issues in longer term planning for a business is that if succession planning. 

Just take a look at any business, successful or otherwise, and particularly at the age of the top team.  It is self evident that if the average age is over 55 then long term planning can be based more on hope than on realism. 

Another old friend, and I do mean old, used to say that as I was tending more and more to the mature, he certainly wouldn’t give me a long playing record for my birthday and even suggested that I shouldn’t buy green bananas. 

All very amusing but in some cases in business this is a serious problem.  We all like to think or at least hope that we are immortal but we are manifestly not so and if we are running a business then we need to understand that age does wither us and if the business is to continue and thrive it will need new leadership. 

This can be a very painful realisation for a leader.  Some resist the decision until the last possible moment, some agree but, for example, say that they will “take on a few projects just to help out” and a very few actually walk away into the sunset without a backwards glance. 

The fact is that succession planning can’t be done at the last minute and it should be a regular feature of all the business planning at all times. 

Remember that it isn’t only the leader who will age; every key department or section leader needs to have a succession plan in place so that there are no surprises and any succession will be comparatively seamless. 

What it means is that there needs to be a constant review of people in the business and by that I certainly don’t mean by annual appraisals.  Gaps in technology must be filled, skills must be polished and improved and above all the right people must be groomed for stardom. 

They will be the ones who will inherit the business perhaps not in the financial sense but certainly as the next generation of leaders. 

Don’t wait until it is too late.  Start the process right now.
 
 
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Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Most Valuable Function of a Leader? Great Leaders Create More Great Leaders!

Back to the theme of leadership this week.   

A wise man once said: 

·       “The people want me to be their leader – I must follow them” 

The crux of the matter is that great leaders know that their function is a mixture of both leadership and followership and really great leaders realise that their most important function is the creation of more leaders, not just followers. 

I recall that Andrew Strauss, England cricket captain when they won the Ashes in 2005 (not a good day to mention that this morning!) said that while he was nominally the captain, he actually wanted eleven captains on the field. 

Simply put he wanted to have people on his team who were prepared to take the initiative, to offer thoughts and advice and to work together for the overall success of the team. 

Listen to any discussion about rugby as it is played these days and understand that there are several metaphorical captains on the field; not in name perhaps but certainly de facto. 

For example, there will be a player who leads the pack, someone who leaders the backs and so on.  More often than not these “extra” leaders are not normally appointed as such but they certainly emerge during training or in a match. 

While the business leader has the overall responsibility for determining how the business is run and indeed for its overall performance, when the headcount in the company grows it becomes well nigh impossible to retain that measure of overall contact that is needed. 

Just take a look in any business at how each section or department operates.  Well run and well led departments contribute more to the overall success than is commonly realised and they can be a great training ground for future leaders. 

Far seeing leaders encourage these “extra” leaders to act as mentors for their people and naturally they are in line for promotion as the situation arises. 

The Hopper brothers in their excellent book, “The Puritan Gift” make the point that in the great engines of growth in pre-war America developed “bottom up” management where there was a constant upwards flow of information which enabled the management to make decisions that reflected what was really happening at shop floor level. 

The onset of change in those companies, largely post-war, led to the appointment of financial officers to the highest posts with a consequent change to top down management and in many cases a steady decline in performance. 

As long as answers to those two fundamental questions are constantly transmitted to the people in the business: 

·       How am I doing?
·       Where are WE going? 

then they will understand and accept  that they are involved in a business which knows its purpose, what it is there to do, what it exists to achieve, and as a consequence they will be far more likely to want to be a part of the future of the business. 

It takes an effort of will on the part of leaders and top management to involve their people to this extent but the results can be startling in terms of morale, in terms of involvement and consequently in terms of performance.
 
 
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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Be Kind or You Will Go to Prison! What a Way to Run a Caring Organisation!

Over the past couple of days the media has been awash with the story of the National Health Service and the possible imposition of a five year jail sentence in cases of “wilful neglect”. 

My first reaction was to imagine a meeting at a hospital with the management saying to the assembled doctors and nurses: 

“Unless you are kind to the patients, then you could go to prison!” 

This, by the way, is to members of a caring profession.  What an insult. 

It is all a matter of culture.  There is no way that the NHS, that leviathan, can be changed overall but I am convinced that it is feasible to change the system (without changing the rules) in individual units such as a health centre or a hospital. 

If the leadership at any level is fixated with box ticking (and what idiot thought that one up) then it will be a top down organisation run on the basis of keep your nose clean and keep to the rules. 

The problem is the ingrained blame culture in the NHS and to an extent it is far too prevalent in business in general.  As long as people know or even feel that any mistake will be severely punished then they will keep their heads down and make sure that all the boxes are ticked and they have covered their corporate backside by copying everyone in on emails. 

By the way, this is not a rant about the public sector; it is a plea for a more enlightened approach to running a business or an organisation.  What is even more galling is that it a classic case of attacking the symptom of a problem and not the underlying cause.  That is another insult to the professionalism of the NHS.

The fact is that unless the needs of the consumer of the service (in this case, the patients) are paramount and are the driver behind every decision, then the suits will prevail and nothing will change. 

I am convinced that a good leader in a hospital (and I am sure that there are many of them) will make sure that there is a management team in place that has the patient absolutely at the forefront of everything that goes on.  This, of course, implies that everyone at management level has the same ethos. 

I would suggest that whether public or private, the course is clear.  If that ethos is absent in anyone at management level then they need to move on or out.  There can be no compromise; we hire people for their experience and expertise and we fire them for their attitude.   

If you can’t change the people, change the people. 

Experience and expertise should be a given and should take no more than fifteen or twenty minutes in an interview.  Far more important is the attitude and behaviour of the people. 

The NHS, of which we can be justly proud, is a caring profession and the leader should give everyone whether professional or administrative the opportunity to demonstrate that in their view the patients’ needs are the most important factor in the success of the unit. 

People need to be paid the compliment of assuming that they do care, that they are compassionate, that they do understand the needs of people in an environment outside the normal. 

The problem is that the politicians think that by threatening the people in the NHS they will achieve better care.  What nonsense! 

Engage the people in the NHS, let them demonstrate their inherent compassion, that the patients needs come first, that they truly care for the vocation they have entered and things will change.
 
 
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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Are You a Leader or a Manager? Choose, Because You Can’t be Successful at Both!

In the past couple of weeks I have experienced issues with Vistage members and mentoring clients all of whom are excellent leaders and are having problems in managing managers. 

It can be in both directions: upwards and downwards.  For example in one case my client runs a very large and successful section of a business which has recently lost its overall leader.  The replacement turns out to be an individual who works absolutely “by the book” with virtually no exceptions. 

There seems to be no attempt at flexibility, no consideration of alternative routes, no desire to depart from the rules and regulations.  The consequence is that there is now an imbalance in the relationship, a difficulty in understanding each other’s way of doing business and consequently a potential breakdown in communication. 

This is perhaps an extreme example but it does emphasis the essential difference between the entrepreneurial leader and the professional manager. 

US Vistage speaker, Walt Sutton, says that very few managers per se transfer to being entrepreneurial leaders simply because they feel left out of the day to day which historically had been their preferred milieu. 

Some people are far more comfortable in ensuring that they do the right things, that is, as managers, rather than doing things right which should be the objective of all good leaders.   

It is equally rare for entrepreneurial leaders to become good managers. They may well try and often will want to leap into a situation to sort it out which can lead to minor chaos and lots of toes being trodden on. 

The fact is that most leaders can become managers but generally they are far less efficient and consequently far less effective than the professionals. 

Walt Sutton says that the great unifying principle of this paradox is that great leaders accept, understand and nourish good managers but do not attempt to become one. 

The fact is that the best working model includes both leaders and managers, and better still, great teams, operating in a symbiotic relationship.
The most successful entrepreneurs are usually world class leaders but it must be emphasised that they do not “do the work”.  The work is done by equally talented and committed managers and teams who know the ultimate objectives of the business and who are able to develop and adjust processes and procedures to help get there. 

It is the leader who will be flexible, who says “Get on with it and we’ll sport the paperwork out afterwards” which usually gives pain to the professional manager.  The leader needs to be sparing in flexibility but employ it to the best extent when it is really necessary.
Otherwise, the leader should let the managers get on with running the business and do what great leaders do best; bring in change, help people accept and understand the need for change, drive towards understood and accepted objectives for the business and overall, create a culture in  which people will feel wanted, needed and valued.


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Sunday, 3 November 2013

Want To Be More Positive? Kick The BUT Out Of Your Conversation!

Some months ago my CEO group had a visit from Vistage speaker, John Cremer (www.johncremer.co.uk) for a most entertaining and valuable presentation on the use of Improvisation. 

One of the techniques that John employs is to have two people facing each other, one starting with a statement like “I think we should.....” to which the other person responds with “Yes, and......” followed by the “yes, and.....” etc until the whole thing collapses in helpless mirth. 

Then he changes the rules so that the first and subsequent responses are “Yes, BUT....” and just watch how everything changes. 

In the “Yes And” role play there is brightness, enthusiasm, amusement, and positivity whereas in the “Yes But” scenario, even the body language changes and this is just role play. 

Just listen to almost any interview on the radio these days where the interviewer takes down apparently good news with a “Yes, but...” follow up question. 

It is a question of positivity and frankly, there is far too much negativity both on the radio and also in printed media, in politics and in everyday life. 

Perhaps the long years of bad news about the economy has made us look for even worse news.  If as seems likely the economy is beginning to turn upwards then it behoves all of us to take a more positive view of the situation. 

I recall US Vistage speaker, Edgar Papke, (www.edgarpapke.com) who banned the word “but” from all conversations during his presentation and stopped the discussion if someone backslid.  He asked the miscreant to rephrase the sentence to drop the word. 

The results were dramatic and were substantiated by the results from John Cremer’s presentation.  People really started to realise that they can change the whole aspect of a conversation, either one-to-one or in a group, simply by dropping the “but” word so far as is feasible and sensible. 

It takes an effort of will and concentration to do it and it is well worth giving it a try.  On the face of it a small change like this seems insignificant BUT (notice that its use here leads to a positive result) it is a change that can genuinely lead to a complete turnaround in a discussion. 

Anything becomes possible; “and” is an open invitation to expand on an idea, to develop a thought, to do something positive whereas “but” is simply a put down and a stopper. 

It is a simple and very dramatic change in your approach and will bring significant changes to you and your working life.
 
 
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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Yet Another Lousy Meeting? Give It Purpose and Things Will Happen!

I came across a maxim recently during an excellent session with Vistage speaker Mark Fritz (www.markfritzonline.com) which caused me to give some thought as to its meaning, its value, its relevance to leadership in business and also to its relevance to life in general.  It is very simple and very deep: 

·       Think, Feel, Do 

It has a significant similarity to the ancient Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah which says, in effect, that intuition (chochma) and understanding (binah) lead to knowledge (da'at). 

Consider that intuition and understanding can be construed as feeling and thinking (in that order) then the acquisition of knowledge will lead to action. 

Mark Fritz mentioned that someone had suggested to him that the maxim should be Feel, Think, Do in that order and there is some measure of logic about that. 

However, the logic (at least, my logic) would say that we initially think about a situation and feelings about it then start to develop. 

The route to action consists of thinking about the situation and then drilling down into our feeling to help us determine what to do and probably how to do it. 

However, the more important question to ask ourselves is WHY do we do it?  Unless we know categorically why we take action in any circumstance then we achieve little more than activity and that can be pointless and valueless. 

How many times have you been to a meeting which went on for ages, you have come out of the meeting room and wondered what the meeting had been about? 

How often as a leader have you asked for a decision about something only to be told that “we just need a bit more information to be on the safe side”? 

Do you, as a leader, ask your people what they FEEL about a situation rather than just what they think about it? 

Ask yourself a really important question – how many meetings have you attended where the very first item on the agenda is a statement of the purpose of the meeting?  Perhaps to make a decision about capital expenditure, about marketing effectiveness or about changes which need to be made in the business? 

Unless there is a stated desired outcome the meeting has no purpose other than to discuss and that in itself can be extremely frustrating. 

A meeting must have a purpose, an objective which needs to be SMART: 

·       Specific – the objective of the meeting must be stated with clarity
·       Measurable – the outcome must be measured against an accepted norm
·       Achievable – everyone concerned must know and accept the route to success
·       Relevant – if it isn’t relevant to the overall business, why is it being discussed?
·       Time based – no arguments, no discussion, no excuses; the objective must be delivered on time. 

It is all about purpose; everything that we do in business must be allied to what outcome we intend to achieve.  Notice, the word is INTEND, not hope, not wish, not try, but INTEND.  That way there is very likely that there will be a positive outcome.
 
 
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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Is “Less” Acceptable? Remember That Good Enough is Not Good Enough!

Through the good offices of my good and wise friend Harold Woodward this week, I was sent another excellent quote: 

·       “If you settle for less, then less is what you get” 

How very true is that and how often do we fall into the trap of accepting less in so many circumstances. 

As an example, when the waiter comes to your table and says “Is everything alright?” we frequently say, “Yes, yes, fine thank you” when in fact the vegetables are cold and the steak is overcooked when we ordered medium rare. 

Or perhaps when we recruit someone for the wrong reasons and accept that they are not exactly what we are seeking but they will fill the bill for the time being and they turn out to be useless.

Psychologists call it cognitive dissonance and that broadly means that when we make an injudicious decision and it turns out to be a bad one, we will defend it to the death. 

Acceptance of mediocrity means that you will build a mediocre organisation almost without noticing it and it can become a part of the culture of the business. 

The trouble with that approach is that slowly and inexorably the business will go into decline simply because there is that acceptance of less. 

One of the mantras which we espouse in Vistage is that propounded by Jim Collins in his great book “Good to Great” in which he says that we need to get the right people on the bus. 

I have known members of my group who categorically recruited people whom they judged as being better than they were.  That demands a high measure of humility and an acceptance that even though we are in a position of authority we really don’t know everything. 

It’s a tough call but it almost always has the right effect. 

The big point is that as a leader we have come up through a specific route in business such as finance, sales, marketing, technical and so on and accordingly we need people around us to supply the functional expertise which we lack. 

Years ago one of the fashionable fads in business was that of Total Quality, the implication being that while quality demands were usually attached to the product or service, in fact it should pervade the whole ethos of the business. 

While the concept has quietly gone into limbo with so many others like Management by Walking About and Management by Objectives among many others, I believe that it should now be visibly resuscitated under the new banner of the Pursuit of Excellence. 

There is little doubt that the economy is at last in a growth phase (there is an election in eighteen months time remember, says the cynic) and the demands of the market will mean that every successful business will need to be more competent, more aligned to market needs and much more inclined to realise that the only way to that success is through overall excellence. 

No more than three rings before the phone is answered, rapid and accurate invoicing, helpful initial response on the telephone and the elimination of negativity. 

Forget the “less is more” – demand only excellence through the organisation and make that the culture of the business.  You won’ regret the effort.
 
 
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Sunday, 13 October 2013

Still Using The Same Old Marketing Methods? Close Your Eyes, Take a Risk and Try Something New!

One of the most hackneyed clich├ęs in business is the one which goes:

If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got”. 

Terrible English but the sentiment is there all right. 

It is really a question of how people can and will accept change and understand that all change brings with it a modicum of risk, probably more than they were experiencing.  That can mean the onset of anxiety and uncertainty. 

The point is that flat lining means no change, no growth, no danger, no risk and all the other components of comfort and complacency. 

Great leaders understand that the disturbance of the easy life for most people brings on a severe attack of denial and denigration such as: 

·       “It will never work” 

·       “We tried it before and made a mess of it” 
      
  • “It wouldn’t work in our market” 

·       “It’s different in our business” (which one isn’t, I ask myself?) 

There seems to be an inherent reluctance on the part of many people to accept that change is essential especially in an environment where at long last we are coming out of a protracted period of recession and slow growth, if at all. 

It is essential that the leader does a selling job on the team to ensure that they are onside with any changes that may be implemented.  Even better, if the team helps to design the changes then they are more likely to feel ownership and hence make it work.  

Markets and marketing have changed dramatically in the past few years.  Apart from anything else the extraordinary acceptance of online activity has seen significant changes in the way that we do business.  Just ask the retailers especially those who have not yet hit their markets with an online presence. 

It doesn’t only apply to the retail sector either.   After an absolute embargo on advertising and promotion in any way for the majority of professional practices, many of them have embraced the new freedom with enthusiasm. 

Equally there are many who haven’t and they are in danger of being overtaken by not necessarily better firms, but certainly those who realise that there are more ways than one of skinning the proverbial marketing cat. 

I am not saying that the old, tried and tested ways of building a market presence should be dropped but there is no doubt that by adding some new and innovative ways of making sure that the market is aware of what is on offer will take the business to a new level. 

It’s a matter of trying out new ideas, testing small sections of t market by pilot studies, of really researching the potential market and identifying potential clients or customers and, most importantly,  keeping an open mind. 

Yes, there will be risk but there will also be success.  Worth a try?
 
 
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