Monday, March 31, 2014

Its time to Shift

Today we have a guest blog from Shannon Bruce:

I wonder if you, or your employees, ever leave work feeling drained of energy and enthusiasm, exhausted by your day and the interactions you’ve had with others.

Unfortunately, this is more often the case than not! No one starts their work day saying “I am going to behave and act in ways that exhaust my energy and the energy of the people around me.” It sounds absurd doesn’t it? And yet, that is the net effect of what happens day-in and day-out of offices everywhere.

So what’s the deal?

There’s actually an “energy crisis” in Corporate America and it’s adversely affecting the culture, relationships and results in companies everywhere. According to the State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders,"(Gallup, 2013), 70% of workers are disengaged; I assert that a part of this disengagement is directly related to the lack of “energy” that exists among employees.

Studies done by The Energy Project shows that workers today are exhausted, emotionally depleted, unfocused, and lacking purpose. It is no surprise they are disengaged and drained of energy when:

·       59% don’t regularly get at least 7-8 hours of sleep and/or often wake up feeling tired,
·       69% have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time and are easily distracted during the day, especially by email, and
·       58% say there are significant gaps between what they say is important in their life and how they actually live.

So what is energy? Is it just some “woo-woo” term that comes out of the “new age” and “personal development movement” that has no bearing on your company?

Or is it something that needs to be acknowledged in order to be in integrity with the execution of your mission and values of your organization?

According to online sources, energy is: “the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.” With this definition, “energy” is a vital resource that is critical to both the engagement of employees and the success of your company.

Expanding the definition, these additional synonyms for energy give an experience of what “positive” energy means. Read on and connect with the impact these words have on you:    

vitalityvigorlife, liveliness, animationvivacityspirit, spiritedness, verveenthusiasmzest, vibrancy, sparksparkleeffervescence, ebullienceexuberancebuoyancy, sprightliness;
strengthstamina, forcefulness, powerdynamismdrivefirepassion, ardorzeal
zingpeppizzazzpunchbounceoomph, moxiemojogo, get-up-and-go, vim and vigor, feistiness;

As I read through this list, I find myself taking a big, deep breath, a huge “sigh” of relief as I open up, sitting more upright in my chair as opposed to the previous slouch. I notice that my heart begins beating faster with excitement, as I imagine what my day will be like if “this” experience was present throughout my day. The story I make up about this is that others would be drawn to me, I would be more joyful and the quality of my life and my impact, would improve in both my relationships and my results.

What about you? What do you notice for yourself?

The words above used to describe “energy” are actually what contribute to what I refer to as an “Above-the-Line” culture. This is a culture whereby thoughts are positively directed, possibilities and creativity are present, and collaboration is happening and peak experiences lead to peak performance.

So how do you create an “above-the-line” culture? It starts by changing your thought patterns from things like fear, scarcity and overdoing to trust, abundance and effortlessness. The quickest way to “shift” the energy from being drained and negative is to pause and focus on “Gratitude”. Answering the simple question, “What am I grateful for?” will take you “above-the-line” and improve your energy immediately. I invite you to try this right now.

The more important question is what’s needed to create and sustain an “above-the-line” culture for yourself and for your company? It begins first with an awareness of “self” as a leader.

As you go through your day today, pay attention to your energy. When are you alive and energized? What are you thinking? What are you doing? What’s the impact internally and around you? The goal is to do more of what brings vitality to your day.

On the flip side, when you find yourself drained, take a pause from what you doing and consider in that moment what you are grateful for. And then, choose an action that will refresh and renew your energy. Some examples are to drink a glass of water, change positions by standing up if you’re sitting, or sit if you’re standing and/or go outside and take a big, deep breath of fresh air. These perceived “simple”, yet often difficult next steps when you are stuck in drained energy, will make a profound difference in how you think, feel and act, positively improving your impact and your results.

If you are interested in learning more about an Above-the-Line culture, be sure to visit Our Seattle and SouthSound groups are offering CEO Tools Workshops on the topic in April.

It’s time to shift—what will you do to improve your energy and vitality? The choice is yours.


Shannon Bruce, CPCC, PCC, Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of  StoryBridge™, Inc. specializes in transforming teams through conscious culture change. Using her diverse business experience and coaching expertise, she engages Leaders, Executives and Teams to create positivity in the workplace using Get Clarity™ SHIFT to Positive Thinking to increase employee engagement, to  improve vitality and well-being among leaders and teams, and to develop a culture of collaboration to improve business metrics, and top- and bottom-line results.  Shannon is committed to equipping leaders and teams with the “how-to’s” of healthy interaction among co-workers in the workplace and facilitating crucial conversations in a solution based, positive way that results in both peak experiences and high performance.

Contact Shannon at and 360-308-8292

Monday, March 24, 2014

Learning…a state of mind

At the end of this week, I was working with an Orthopedic Surgeon who is managing his partnership and wants to grow a business vs. develop a lifestyle practice.  On picking me up at the airport, I noticed he was still wearing scrubs.  I naturally asked if he was scheduled for surgery that day.  He explained that he was not scheduled.  However, one of his partners was scheduled and he had worked alongside his partner, till he had to leave for the airport.

I asked if it was an exceptionally difficult case and was told that it was not.  Finally, I asked an open ended question (leading questions can often result in “yes/no” answers and very little exchange of information), “Why were you working with your partner on a day set aside for his business coaching? The answer was terrific…. “Watching another exceptionally skilled professional means I am certain to learn something.” 

He went on to explain that doing the same thing over and over has produced a level of skill that allows him to use muscle memory.  When he works alongside another surgeon, it allows him to stay conscious, ask questions and notice differences.  Sometimes, the differences means he changes his style.  Sometimes, the differences provides a time for discussion or feedback. What was especially interesting, is that every time he takes the opportunity to observe or work with another surgeon he learns something.  Notice… there was no qualification there… that was “every time”. 

I immediately thought of the previous three days.  I was leading a group of CEOs on day one and observing on day two and participating on day three.  On each of those days, I learned.  I learn every month during these three CEO Retreats.  It is a foundational value for me.  Here was a guy who was being intentional about learning.  He made a choice to put himself in a learning zone as a part of his work week. 

So, how intentional are you about continuing to learn?  What amount of time do you set aside, or choose to use for your own learning? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Are Employee Reviews Dead?

All those who really dislike employee reviews, please raise your hand.  What everyone?  Well not surprising.  Most of us hate doing things that show no purpose, progress or value.  For most of us, the employee review is just that, a waste of time.

These days, everyone wants their feedback immediately, no waiting.  That has produced some good movement in the halls of business.  Managers to CEOs spend more time observing, listening and coaching. 

With all the immediacy, is there any reason anymore to do employee reviews?  I am going to provide a qualified yes.  The qualification comes from how we must break away from form and focus on content. 

Recently, I was working with a client and, as a relatively new business owner, he was asking about employee reviews.  He is smart, earnest and does not want to waste time, his or his employees. Like me, at the beginning of my career, he wants to provide value and feels that employee reviews are important.  I listened and found myself thinking that I would not want to be in the review process at this company. 

We talked for a while about reviews and I came away with an unsettling question …. Why after several decades of managing people am I still unresolved about how and when to provide employee reviews.  Throughout my career I have shifted from feeling that employee reviews were a waste of time, to useful and back again to feeling that I can do better and employees can receive better if I scrap once or twice a year employee reviews.   

One of the major reasons Executives conduct employee reviews is to catalog and correct the past (what the employee did) and set guides for the future (what the employee will do six months from now. 

Unfortunately, both the future and the past are simply markers and don’t change or improve behaviors.  Over the years, I have come to believe that intention, focus and immediacy are more important than any other factors to influence/improve people.  Being a fairly simple guy, challenged by keeping too much in my head and I know that I learn better if I avoid taking on too much and I improve at what ever I am doing if I focus down to one or two skills/issues.  

So, I will be bold here and suggest that you do something different…. Come up with a clear issue on which you and the employee agree is the issue most in need of improvement and the strength most valuable to continue to improve.  The strength is usually not difficult to arrive at and doing so in a collaborative way with your report is likely to increase the success rate for achieving the improvement.

To determine on which issue your report should improve, obtain the feedback of three to five people (the peers, people reporting to your report and one person who is either outside your company (customer) or who is outside the employee’s department.  Complete a start, stop and continue questionnaire/interview (simply asking what the person completing the questionare/interview thinks Sam or Jane should start doing that they are not now doing; continue doing something that is liked/good and what should they stop doing)

Let the subject of the start stop and continue have a list of those issues, on one condition:  They have to choose one issue, from the list, on which they will improve.  Then they must meet with each of the people providing feedback; show them the list; tell them on which issue the report has chosen to work; and (this is key) ask each of those providing feedback to help she/he with the chosen issue for improvement. 

Your job then becomes:  adding one strategic/longer range point on which they work and coaching to make sure the report is a success around the chosen issue. 

Keep on walking around.  Keep providing immediate feedback.  Just focus yourself on making the feedback serve you and your employee.  Define and agree on what that focus will be and what will be the outcome.  Create measures.  Coach, teach and mentor to those defined issues and create consequences for the outcome(s).   

You may even find you aren’t dreading employee reviews anymore.  So, what do you do to make reviews more effective? 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The One Critical Question about Marketing Every CEO Should be Asking

Today we have a guest blog from Elizabeth Andreini:

You were probably one of the millions who watched the recent Seahawks Super bowl victory and accompanying ads. What you may not have realized is that a 30-second spot at the 2014 Super bowl costs approximately $4 million, and that’s only airtime, not the cost of creating the ad. Hearing that fact is when most people make snide comments or an uncomplimentary sound about wasting money on marketing. And although I’m a marketer, I agree.

Hopefully you don’t think that is what smart marketing is, spending beaucoup bucks with little chance of a significant revenue impact. That’s like thinking of marketing as a method of transportation and thinking you have to choose between a $100,000+ Tesla car and walking. If you are walking you probably aren’t going to get very far very fast, and at the same time there are a lot of other viable transportation options before you shell out $100,000+ on a fancy  electric car.

Some businesses don’t think that they do marketing or need to do marketing. They expect sales to promote their products (and assume that they are all saying the same thing) or believe their products and services “speak” for themselves. To those CEOs I say look honestly at your sales efforts and ask the question: “How am I getting word out about my company and its services when a sales rep isn’t in the room?” If you don’t have mindshare when your sales rep is outside the room then you are in trouble, maybe not today but tomorrow, or in the next economic downturn.

Marketing isn’t as useless as most Super bowl ads; it serves a purpose by building awareness and knowledge, even preference of your products and services – without having a one on one conversation. It also helps keep you top of mind for potential customers and referrers. Marketing helps create a consistent story about the benefits of your product and services that everyone hears. For those who don’t believe in “marketing” or are uncomfortable with “marketing” then let’s call it what it really is “relationship building.” (Hint: sponsoring events is marketing.)

Marketing helps you remind referral partners and customers that you offer great products and services, tell them about new offerings and help build and maintain strong relationships – and who doesn’t want that?!

Here are some questions to think about:
  1. How strong a market presence does my company have when a member of the sales team isn’t in the room?
  2. If I look at my company’s sales pipeline, am I relying too heavily on a few referral sources or passive responses to requests for proposals?
  3. How many unsolicited inbound leads are coming to our company?
  4. How is my company continuing to stay in front of past customers to keep mind share and encourage repeat business or referrals?
  5. How effective is my company at rapidly communicating new and special offers to the market? 

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 

Twitter: @acceler8mkting

Monday, March 3, 2014

You’re a CEO... what is your job?

 Like many men, when I am taken shopping, my desire wanes quickly and I soon find my attention wandering.  So, in December, I had an unusual amount of time to kill.  At one particular chain store, I found myself feeling fortunate.  There was a seat to sit in and it was off to the side of the long lines of shoppers ready to complete their purchases. 

At first, I noticed the cueing was moving with halting slowness, pretty normal. Then the store greeter said he was going on break and a man of about thirty to thirty five took the greeter’s place.  At first, nothing seemed to be different, then I began to notice the shoppers in line were moving with less of stop and more go.  I became interested.  I watched. 

The first thing I noticed was the overwhelmed cashiers, about ten of them, were no longer shouting for shoppers to step up to the next open cash register.  Why? Because the young man had moved from the front door (still greeting customers as they entered) and was standing toward the front of the line and engaging the shoppers.  What I learned, as I listened, was that he was doing triage.  By asking a few questions he was able to address the unusual situations and with information, direct the available cashier to the core of the issue (a return, exchange, a special request for the item in a particular color) at hand and prepare (as the customer walked over to that cashier) the cashier for what to focus on. 

I thought to myself, “Now this is smart!  Line standing is one of the places that dramatically reduce positive customer experience and this guy is speeding up the line.”  As I watched and listened it got better.  The young man was (without shouting) preparing each cashier for their next customer AND as he was talking, he was directing his remarks to more than one cashier at a time. 

After three or four customers (Oh yes, I was there for quite a while) it became clear to me that he was using each unusual event/issue as a training opportunity.  This was no “greeter”, no equivalent of the under paid receptionist in professional services firms.  This was in fact the store manager and he was doing employee training, in real time and with customers listening and appreciating that he was making their stay in line faster and more positive. 

Their language was respectful of the customers and clearly showed that they wanted to solve problems and make the customer happy. 

This young man was not critical of any employee.  In fact, without the customers feeling ignored, he was engaging his staff and cashiers were commenting to each other about some of the issues and how they might handle the issue. 

So, I ask you... as CEO of your firm, do you see one of your jobs as coaching employees?  How and when do you coach/teach your employees?  Is it done away from the view of your customers/clients, or in front of them?