Monday, January 27, 2014

Leadership Smarts

Today we have a guest blog from Jim Hessler:

Your computer would like you to be more like it. Don’t do it.
You are not a computer. Don’t try to operate like one.  The intelligence that fosters leadership is very, very different from the “intelligence” of your computer.
What constitutes leadership intelligence?

  1. A well-rounded intellect. Reading To Kill a Mockingbird or Moby Dick might help you lead as much as repeated readings of Good to GreatDon’t be a “business savant;” the type of intelligence required to understand spreadsheets and design processes is fed and supported by a broader awareness of the world.
  2. Studying human nature. When you go to the ball game, are you more interested in the players’ statistics than in the amazing panorama of human behavior in the stands?  Great leaders are fascinated with what makes humans tick.
  3. Awareness of political and social issues. What’s going on in the world around you affects your business.  If that doesn’t make sense to you, you’re not thinking strategically.  One example:  as fossil fuels get harder — and more expensive — to extract from the ground and the oceans, have you considered the impact on your business 10 years down the road?
  4. Spirituality. Whatever form this takes, I believe a leader has to have a spiritual life. It grounds you, challenges you to consider your values in every decision, gives you time for reflection and contemplation, and opens you to depth in your relationships. Whether you commune with the gods or the sparrows, remember that you are a whole human being and your organization will benefit if you are bringing a bigger “you” into the workplace.
  5. Physical intelligence. Understanding what your body needs and meeting those needs is a form of leadership intelligence. It improves not just your physical, but also your intellectual, emotional, and relational “posture” in countless ways.
YOUR PATH FORWARD: To what extent do you spend focused time, every week, developing each of the five kinds of intelligence above?  On a scale of 1 to 10, rate yourself on each.  (1 is “no time at all”; 10 is “the ideal amount of time for becoming steeped in this kind of intelligence.”)  Then take your two lowest scores and create a plan for engaging in activities that develop those two capacities.
You are not a computer. Don’t just plug yourself in, power up, and spend your day processing. Be a human being. Be a leader.

Jim Hessler:

Jim brings over 25 years of business management and executive leadership experience to Path Forward, which he founded in 2001.
Jim has been an award-winning salesman, sales manager, general manager, and executive. He has specialized in turning around underperforming operations, and in the mid 90’s he helped lead a massive national reorganization for a Fortune 150 company.
Jim’s experience in general management has resulted in broad and deep knowledge of nearly all aspects of a well-run business. From building and managing a sales organization, to managing complex inventories and delivery systems, to generating vision and trust in demoralized organizations, to leading complex restructuring efforts, Jim has earned a depth of knowledge and insight that serves his Path Forward clients exceedingly well, regardless of the leadership challenges they face.
Jim lives in Issaquah, Washington, and has been married for 32 years to Paula Weiss, a teacher in the Issaquah School District.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Act Now to Reduce Risk and Stress by Systematizing Process

Today we have a blog from Earl Bell:

I have observed over the years that companies who are consistently Winning in the Game of Business have systematized what works. Great managers ensure that best practices and processes are documented, teachable, repeatable and institutionalized.  Inversely, companies that struggle with scalable success in execution typically have silos which are built within positions in departments where individuals do not share key knowledge.  By the way, silos are meant for grain and not business! 

Having key knowledge locked in the minds of an individual is risky for the company and stressful for many; especially when a company is growing!  However, there is a solution which can be implemented with time, energy and commitment.

Towards that end, below is checklist you can use to reduce business risk while systematizing business process:

  1. Build an organization chart with job descriptions for each position.  Ask each department head to work with your Human Resources leader or engage an outside professional to help get this done.  Without a formal job description, it is hard to assign responsibility and accountability for work that is being done.  To build greater alignment between strategic initiatives and tactical execution, be sure to define how each position and work being done aligns with company-wide strategic goals.
  2.   With each department head and for their respective employees:
a.   Document key business processes.  Documentation is complete and sufficient when others in the company can do the work without oversight.
b.    Ensure that at least two employees in the company can do every task required within the company.
c.     Coach employees who refuse to share knowledge on how to do their jobs.  Help them recognize that business is a team sport.  Keep team players, and find ways to shed individual performers that want to work solo, unless you are comfortable assuming this risk.
d.    In the same spirit, make sure key customers and vendors have at least two people in the company they know and want to work with, thus developing depth in your company’s ability to serve these key relationships.
e.    Coach employees who are reluctant to help build relationships between key customers/vendors with others in the company.  Again, business is a team sport and you need team players.  Sometimes, changing team members is necessary to build a healthy and sustainable company.

Albert Einstein once said that, “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  So in that spirit, my question is… “Will you accept the challenge in 2014 of taking the journey to build redundancy and reduce risk in your organization?”  If not, “Will you at least take the time to quantify the potential risk to your company by not taking action?”

My belief is that those accept this challenge will likely find that customers and vendors will thank you for making doing business with your company easier while team-oriented employees will give thanks for making work less stressful and more fun!


EARL BELL is the author of, Winning in Baseball and Business, Transforming Little League Principles into Major League Profits for Your Company, which provides a roadmap to success for leaders that desire to build thriving companies in a very competitive 21stcentury business environment.  Earl believes that “everything you need to know about business, leadership and team building can be learned from Little League baseball.”

Earl conducts workshops, coaches and consults with owners, business leaders and their teams, teaching them how to dramatically reduce the time it takes to improve profitability, customer experience, employee engagement and company value, while simultaneously increasing discretionary time and reducing both stress/employee burnout.  He believes the secret to winning in baseball, business and life can be summarized in a simple formula:  Winning = Service + Humility. His motto is that Winning in Business is a Team Sport!

Earl has served in the Chief Financial Officer role for numerous companies throughout North America. His personal passion is youth sports and he has coached 28 teams since 2002.  Earl is a CPA, graduated from SU (Seattle University) with a BA in Accounting and from the MILL (Mercer Island Little League) with a Master’s in Youth Baseball.

Earl Bell can be reached at and 206-420-5946

Monday, January 6, 2014

Name one thing that larger business do better than small businesses?

Almost all business news focused on publicly traded companies, ends up talking about how they are forced to look at short quarterly cycles, and that this charge to quarterly earnings has negative consequences.  Frankly, the framing of this issue by the business media is a disservice to both businesses and the public and, what is more…. It is not an full reflection of what is happening. 

When I have talked with executives of larger companies, especially CEOs, they frame their focus on managing perceptions around quarterly earnings.  They are more concerned about staying the course on longer range plans. 

This may be a subtle difference to most of us and it is one that is profound.  Fleshed out, this means that the large company CEO believe their value to their companies is to set and maintain a long range course. 

Stay with me here…. This means that when plans are set, they are focused on letting the plan play out, rather than being reactive.  They know that to stay on course, they have to have most of their team and employees focused on executing the plan (not on managing quarterly earnings). 

There my friends is where smaller businesses are different.  Often, the CEO/Owner/Executive Team switch back and forth from tactical to longer range plans and too often, end up in the weeds and being reactive.  One of the places that hurts a smaller business and is too often neglected is in the CEO either focusing on shiny objects (whatever is in front of them) OR in letting others undermine a course that they have set. 

So, what can a small business owner/CEO do to not get sucked in to detail, where they are likely to be reactive?  Am I suggesting that a small business owner should not pay attention to cash flow , accounts receivable and the weekly/daily activities? 

What I have found and what I recommend is that you balance and separate.  First, balance how much time you spend on day to day with focusing on what will get your company to achieve its next set of goals.  At the same time, figure out what makes sense for you and your company…. How many hours spent on tactical and how many on longer range execution. 

There are a number of ways you can separate short term from long term.  First, make arbitrary separations.  Make sure you never mix agendas for your meetings.  I even went to the extra effort of having a break between tactical and longer term meetings. 

Next, ask yourself and your staff to always ask the question (I mean out loud): Are we being reactive?  Is this something that needs to play out because we have a plan or is “it” side-tracking us? 

I’ll bet you have some strategies and tools you use to separate and balance.  What are your strategies or suggestions?