Monday, December 30, 2013

Prof’s hit 10,000 golf balls to get to their level. What are you doing to get to the Pro levels of leading your company?

A large number of aspiring executives and owners are working toward their MBA’s.  Like most professional training (doctors, lawyers, etc.), you come out of a program with technical knowledge and almost no trained skills to practice the professional training. This is why doctors go through internships and residencies.  As a young attorney, I learned a good deal in my first couple of years of practice, from secretaries who really knew their stuff (this is the informal legal residency and while most attorneys don’t talk about it, it is for real). 

Back to business types… two questions: What are your strengths and where are you going to get your training?  At Excell, we believe in practicing with frequency, regularity and consistency the skills required to lead a company.  Whether you think of leadership as soft skills or not; whether you are a whiz at inspiring people; whether your planning skills let you see around corners, there is always a next level to achieve. 

So, let me ask you the ultimate question…. How are you going to get your 10,000 practice swings, in order to achieve mastery?  If you do not plan on how you will get mentoring, feedback or accountable practice, then an MBA won’t do you much good.  A high school graduate with a disciplined program, desire and commitment to practice will outshine you any day, whether on the golf course or in business. 

What is your plan? 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Reading List for 2014

Excell Puget Sound has compiled a reading list  for entrepreneurs and business owners.   Our Recommended Book List provides tools and insight for a strong and successful 2014.

 Shannon Bruce, Executive Coach and Group Leader of Excell Puget Sound Kitsap has reviewed her top three all-time books on leadership.


Shift: A Guide-book to Above-the-Line Positive Thinking—Cathy & Gary Hawk

I highly recommend this book as a must read resource to create a culture of positivity among leaders and teams. Because this book is based on how to improve your engagement with self and others, it’s applicable for all types of ecosystems and will benefit individuals, families and companies. You will learn a new operating system for interacting with yourself and others that shifts the focus away from negative thinking and drained energy to positive thoughts that restore well-being, vitality and results. The book is both context and content rich, providing the brain science behind the work, while providing instructions on how to use the tool to support ongoing and sustainable behavior change. The greatest impact of this book is that it will support you in taking ownership of your own thoughts and energy to increase your vitality, deepen your relationships with individuals and teams and improve the quality of your outcomes in both life and work. 

Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright

People are wired to be in relationship and as a result automatically form tribes. Each tribe has a unique culture that thinks, feels and acts a particular way. This book provides a solid framework for understanding the culture of the five tribal cultures, as named by the authors, to supports leaders in expanding their own leadership capacity as well as understanding how to engage and interact with others at the stage of culture they are operating. The natural result is teams and organizations thrive as you learn now to leverage the culture of the tribes you are interacting, either at home or at work.

The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything—Stephen M.R. Covey

Trust acts as an exponential dividend that accelerates results. This book is a comprehensive resource that looks at trust through multiple lenses starting with self-trust, relationship trust and stakeholder trust (organizational, market and stakeholder trust). It also explores how to develop a solid foundation of trust by strengthening the four cores of credibility which include integrity and intent (character) along with capabilities and results (competencies). As the title suggests, this book will change everything.

Lauren Owen Co-founder and Partner, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching,  and Group Leader of Excell Puget Sound SouthSound Group reviews her top 3 books of all times:

Every Family’s Business, by Tom Deans, PhD

I like this book because Deans takes a different approach to family business. Dean’s view? If the majority of your wealth is tied up in your family business, treat it like the important investment it is. Don’t assume that the best thing for your kids (or the business) is having them work in it (and eventually lead it in the future). Deans advocates having yearly tough conversations between you and your successors about what each wants out of the business, including if and when the business should be sold. He includes a list of the questions that should be asked and answered by both parties. Told in a story format, it’s an easy read.

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip and Dan Heath

The Heath brothers have taken the best of existing research on decisions-making and boiled it down into a four step process. I liked this book so much that I bought it for all my Excell group members, who now incorporate many of the points from the book into how they make decisions (and how they coach each other).

Land on Your Feet, Not on Your Face: A Guide to Building Your Leadership Platform, by Jim Hessler with Steve Motenko

Written by former Excell facilitator and current Boss Show Host, Jim Hessler, this book is entertaining, inspirational and practical. Each chapter, or Plank, starts with a case study and incorporates real life stories from the author’s background in corporate leadership with key points from the best of current psychological studies in leadership effectiveness. The reader is challenged in each plank to apply the principals into his or her leadership practice with assignments called “Making It Real.”

Monday, December 16, 2013

3 Marketing Myths that are Stifling your Company’s Growth

Today we have a guest blog from: Elizabeth Andreini

When talking to CEOs I often find that there is confusion about marketing, which is often not the CEO’s core area of expertise.  Sometimes I hear statements that are misconceptions about marketing, so I thought I would highlight a few, leaving you something to think about as you plan for the coming year.

Myth #1: We don’t really do marketing.
The follow-up question I ask when I hear this statement is: “When you say you don’t do marketing, how to you tell prospective customers about your company?” I may hear the response, “We just focus on building relationships, we don’t advertise.” What is marketing? According to the Oxford dictionary: Marketing is defined as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” And what is promoting? Promoting is simply publicizing a product to increase public awareness and sales. The fact that you don’t advertise in magazines, newspapers or online doesn’t mean that you don’t do marketing. You just don’t advertise. Advertising isn’t marketing; it is only part of how you can communicate when marketing. Building a relationship with potential customers and communicating with them to create awareness and preference for your company is another way of saying that you are indeed marketing. 

Myth #2: I know what our customers want.
Really?! Are you exactly the same as your target audience? A 45 year old male product manager planning to expand his product line to include an offering more targeted to women once explained to me that he knew his sales would increase because now he was going to offer it in pink…and even purple. I was so stunned at his assumptions that I was speechless. (Yes, this really happened!) What CEOs need to keep in mind – and ensure other decision makers remember is: Your opinion while interesting, may not be relevant. That sounds harsh, but remember that you probably aren’t your target audience, may not match the profile, have the same needs and your level of product or service knowledge is different from your potential customers.  Reach out to those that are a closer fit to your target audience in the company or friends/colleagues outside the company to better understand what prospective customers values and perceptions are. You might be surprised at what you find out!

Myth #3: I don’t understand this frenzy over social media; we don’t need to do anything with those sites since that’s not how customers buy from us (today). 
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Yelp, Pinterest…the list goes on and on. It seems there is always a frenzied rush to jump on the latest social media trend – or completely ignore it. Companies can easily devote too much time and energy to social media because they want to be seen as innovators that get there first: “We have to get a presence on the new “FaceYouYelpterest” site before our competitors!”  But companies are more likely to ignore these sites because they don’t think their customers interact much using social media. Social media is just a vehicle for communication, and is ONE component in a carefully considered communication strategy. However what does get overlooked and why this is Myth #3, is that the changing demographics of your customers may mean that your future prospective customers will use social media sites to gather product/services information and learn about businesses, even if your current prospects aren’t. Older decision makers are being replaced with younger more internet savvy, smartphone-carrying decision makers. And employee demographics are changing as well. Participating in social media should be a well-considered strategy that plans not just for today’s customers but to attract future customers as well as key employees based on changing demographics.

Here are some myth busting questions you should be thinking about:

1.     How do prospective customers learn about our company and our products or services? How does that align with our “marketing” activities? How can we better communicate to build more awareness?
2.     When we think about our prospective customers, are we assuming we know what they really want because we know the product and service so well? Are we really the same demographic or psychographic profile and how can we get broader feedback which might better inform and improve our perspective?
3.     Are our potential customers looking at and using social media now and which sites are they looking at for information? Which social media sites might future employees be using? How might mobile phones be used to accessed information on our company and its products?


As the President of Accelerate Marketing, LLC, Elizabeth Andreini, is the “secret weapon”
CEOs turn to at key growth points when they need to transform marketing and product
management to grow their customer base, increase revenue & scale their business. In
addition to providing experienced executive insight and guidance, Elizabeth often works
as an interim CMO or VP to provide the hands-on leadership needed to rearchitect
marketing and product management and improve execution from the inside.

Elizabeth Andreini, founder & president of Accelerate Marketing, LLC 
Accelerate Marketing, LLC
Twitter: @acceler8mkting

Monday, December 9, 2013

Are You A Leader Who Wants to Improve? Learn to Get (and Give) Feedback

Today we have a guest blog from Lauren Owen:

Chances are most people who are really, really good at what they do have gotten a lot of feedback along the way, not all of it good.  Recent research confirms that while beginners benefit from the motivation that comes from positive feedback, people with greater expertise gain more from the negative kind.

If you've ever played a competitive sport, I am sure you had a coach or
trainer who didn't just praise you for the good stuff but was especially
adept at pointing out your deficiencies, and sometimes in not an especially diplomatic way.  The better we get the more critical the feedback should be and the harder praise should be to come by.

We know that while some leaders are born, most good leaders didn't start out
that way. As in any other proficiency, there was skill development, practice, training, mentoring, coaching, and yes, some less than positive feedback, welcomed or not, that they received along the way that molded their professional development.

So why is it then that as leaders who profess to want to improve our leadership abilities, do we not actively seek out the very thing that would help us be better: feedback, both positive and negative?

For example, I'm guessing that none of us got up this this morning and said to the heavens, "Please bring a heaping boat load of negative feedback my way today AND KEEP IT COMING."

From my personal experience and my work with leaders of closely-held companies, here's my list of what stops us from seeking feedback:

I am afraid of what I might hear. We're afraid, we're very, very afraid of what we might hear. We are especially afraid to learn something new about ourselves; something that does not fit with what we already know about ourselves. We fear discovering our blind spots; the things that bother others that we didn't even knew we did.

I am content with how things are. We might not feel that we really want to take action and change. We might feel obliged to act on the feedback if we invite it and we either don't want to do anything or we don't know what to do about it.

Ego. We don't want to show our weaknesses. Doesn't being a leader mean being
strong and invulnerable? People won't want to follow me if they think I don't know what I'm doing.

I am the way I am. It's worked well for me in the past and will keep working for me in the future.

If I ask my people for feedback on my performance, it would mean I would have to provide it to them in the future as well and I don't want to do that.

Personality Type. The highly detailed, AKA Perfectionist-types, don't just dislike negative feedback, it's actually their worst fear. They are their own worst critic, so what's to be gained for asking for more? Nothing good,surely.

The highly sensitive, AKA Why Can't We All Just Get Along-types, don't like to risk offending people by giving straightforward feedback and we don't especially like getting it either.

So, there are lots of reasons why we need it and lots of reasons why we'd rather not get it. It's like trying to get more chard in our diet.  We know chard is really, really good for us but it's rather an acquired taste for most. Like negative feedback, does anyone wake up craving it?

How to get more feedback Here are some ideas to get more feedback in your

Like chard, find ways to sneak a little into your daily diet. Pick one thing you'd like to get better at. For example, if one of your goals is to be a better listener, ask your co-workers to tell you after every meeting how you did guessed it. listening.  Ask them for specific suggestions of how to improve next time. When they give you this feedback and ideas for how you can do better in the future, just listen, be open, say thank you and use their suggestions to get better next time. 

And then keep asking!

Giving and receiving honest feedback is a skill like any other. You can and will improve with practice.

Get over yourself! The world will not come to an end if we hear some suggestions on how we can improve (or give some to others.)

Realize the some of the skills and behaviors that got you to your current place of success might, in fact, be the very things that will hold you back in the future. For more insights on this, read top executive coach (and our mentor) Marshall Goldsmith's insightful book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There. (This type of feedback, because it focuses on how we can improve in the future, is called feedforward. Doesn't that sound just a little more

Get help/Reach out! Admit you have challenges that are holding you back from being as successful as you could be and call in a professional coach with a plan and a measureable process. Make it someone you enjoy working with.

Instilling a culture of open feedback and feedforward is like injecting a good virus into your organization. Be a good role model and show your own vulnerability by encouraging feedback/feedfoward on your performance as the leader. Your people will see you making positive changes as a result, and it will have an incredibly positive impact on your entire organization. We have seen this process go viral in some of our client's organizations. It becomes all about continuously improving yourself, your company, and everyone in it.


Lauren Owen, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

Lauren works with businesses leaders who want to develop and execute succession plans, sharpen their business practices, strengthen their leadership, and create long-lasting value in their businesses. She is a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Leadership Coach. She is also a leader of the Excell Puget Sound Southend Group.

(206) 427-2856, (253) 245.3518

Monday, December 2, 2013

Strong Companies Possess Financial Powers

Today we have a guest blog from Julie Eisenhauer:

When I was organizing my thoughts to write an article about the factors that demonstrate financial power within a company, I was reminded about the extraordinary powers of Superman.  He was described as “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”  Similar to Superman, your company can possess the power to prevent unexpected surprises.  Can your company be described as “audit ready”? Does management understand the financial statements, and are results monitored?  These are key indicators that demonstrate the financial power of a company. 
“Audit ready” all the time
I know the term “audit” causes anxiety by many, but being “audit ready” all the time demonstrates your company’s strength to produce accurate and timely financial reports that allow management, owners and outside users to trust the results when evaluating your company’s performance.  Can a potential investor walk into your accounting office today and perform due diligence on your financial reports?  Would you be able to produce the account reconciliations and documentation supporting the balances? Are you confident that your company is in compliance with all laws and regulations?

Understand what your financial statements are telling you
Financial statements tell a story about the financial strength and performance of a company on a certain date and during a specific period of time.   Management needs to understand what the story is telling them to identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the company’s financial performance. 

For example, an increase in the balance of accounts receivable at a rate higher than revenue may be the result of slow paying customers.  The company may be at risk for collecting on these receivables, requiring prompt action by management to investigate.  A slowing in the turnover in accounts receivable reduces the ability of the company to turn the receivables into cash to pay its current obligations timely.

Monitoring budget against results
The budget is a measureable tool that can provide visibility into the company’s performance and can also be a means to hold management accountable in achieving financial goals.  Unusual variations between actual results and budgeted expectations should be investigated.  A timely review of these variations enable management to recognize and respond to unusual trends that may indicate fraud, unwise use of resources, operational inefficiencies, poor decision-making, missed business opportunities, and other threats that can negatively impact companies. 

How would you rate your company’s financial power?  Is it more powerful than a locomotive?