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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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Sunday, 6 October 2013

Prevarication, Vacillation, Procrastination? For Goodness Sake Stop Talking and Do Something!

I recall a Vistage member saying to me once, in a conversation about his top team: 

“The Technical Director is a great guy, very bright, intelligent, thoughtful and talented, but he can’t make a decision because he always needs more information”. 

It’s the bane of the leader’s life when there is a great member of the team who frankly holds everything up simply because they just need that little bit more information. 

As an engineer myself I know the syndrome well and it has taken some time to get it out of my system. 

The problem is that prevarication leads to irritation and then often to feelings of regret and guilt as an opportunity flies by without being exploited. 

It’s the Could’a, Would’a, Should’a syndrome like this: 

·       “I could’a told you so but you wouldn’t have listened” 

That’s the mistake of making a false assumption.  Have you noticed how many assumptions are negative – you wouldn’t have listened, it wouldn’t work effectively, it wouldn’t have been commercial, and so on? 

·       “I would’a built that prototype but we didn’t have enough information” 

That is the problem of vacillation and uncertainty because we can’t be absolutely certain of something, totally without any doubt.  Life just isn’t like that, sadly. 

·       “I should’a done something about it but I didn’t and now it’s too late” 

This is the saddest of the lot because the lack of action when it should have been taken has resulted in, perhaps, a lost opportunity, a lost relationship or just a loss. 

I am not proposing a “Ready, Fire, Aim” way of life but just not to stand there and do nothing.

I was running a session with the top team in a business in Santa Monica (well, someone has to do it) a few years ago and there was a general reluctance to make a decision.   

There was vast amount of debate and discussion but no answers.  Round and round they went until, exasperated, I gave up and almost shouted at them: 

“For goodness sake JFDI!” 

There was a moment of silence until I pointed out that this merely meant JUST DO IT and then it sank in.  Next day I discovered that they all had changed to a moving screen saver on their laptops with JFDI running across the screen. 

Did it have an effect?  I think that it probably did because there was more of a snap in the discussions and things started to be actioned. 

In board meetings with a well known leader, he used to insist that each item was minuted with a specific action to be taken, by whom and by when. 

None of the Could’a, Would’s Should’a for him.
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