Monday, September 29, 2014

What’s so hard about getting people excited - Working on vision

I just finished a short book by Bob Rotella, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, which may be the best business book I read in the last three years.  Dr. Rotella is a sports psychologist who has worked with some of the top professional golfers and some of the top sports figures too.  Every important point made in this short book is applicable to running a business and, I might add, improving your life. 

Today, let’s just take one of those points... working on vision.  Many of the Executives I work with have a hard time with vision.  It is too soft for them and I often hear them complain about working on vision as something that business professors think is important and its just not what real business is about. 

Rotella presents vision in a simple direct and accessible way.  Essentially, he is saying, you need to be specific about what you want to create (in business, vision is about creating something that does not yet exist).  The more specific you can get, the more likely you will hit your target.  His second point is that you must find a way to viscerally feel the steps that will accomplish the vision. 

Rotella urges golfers to see exactly where the ball is going to end up, be able to watch (in your head) the flight path of the ball.  He then provides a couple of anecdotes about how to bring in other senses to add to the concreteness of what you feel. 

He mentions a renowned player who tells Rotella about the player’s method for staying loose and focused: First, choose the club you want, shrug your shoulders to loosen your muscles and then imagine/feel the time when you hit that club the best you ever hit it (all of us who golf know that time when we hit an effortless, smooth and magical shot with a certain club). 

So, working on your business vision, can you see, feel, taste and hear the vision you want to create?  Are you able to make it specific, the more specific the better? 

Now here is something that Rotella does not address (after all, golf is a one person game, rather than a team effort):  Are you able to communicate that vision to a variety of people in a way that communicates the feelings and magic about your vision? Are others around you excited by what you want to create?  If not, why not? How do you create this kind of excitement?

The earlier you are in your company’s development, the more likely you have people around you who believe in you and/or your vision.  Ask them to answer a few questions:  First, is it you or your vision that creates excitement?  If its not your vision, ask them how big the vision is?  What would make it bigger?  What would make it more specific?  How would their life be different if the vision came to pass?  What would they need to see/feel/hear/taste/smell for the vision to be really visceral/specific?  Now you can begin to work on your vision and get further feedback as you go. Have fun.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Your Role as Chief Communication Officer: How do you rate yourself?

Today we have a guest blog from Lauren Owen:

External Communication

If you are like most leaders, you probably have a high standard for all of your company’s external client communications. Your standards might look like these:
  • We respond ASAP to a client email or phone call.
  • We regularly update our clients and customers with company news.
  • The customer is always right! Or, at least deserving of very patient listening to his or her point of view, followed by a thoughtful response.
  • We take their suggestions seriously, acknowledge them and let them know how and when they will be incorporated, or if not, why.
Internal Communication

But what about your internal communication?  If you are completely honest, you will admit that most likely there is a discrepancy between how you communicate with your clients and how you communicate with your co-workers. For example,
  • Do you have the same response standards for internal emails and phone calls?
  • Do you inform them of company news? Ask them for feedback? Let them know if and how you used their suggestions?
  • How often is communicating with employees pushed off to the bottom of our lists, especially when you get busy or stressed?
Jim Hessler, author of Land on Your Feet, Not On Your Face: Building Your Leadership Platform, titles this leadership role: Chief Communication Officer, or CCO. Jim notes that as a leader, you set the tone and quality standards for the rest of our company. While it’s hard to measure the costs resulting from this disparity between internal and external communication standards, here’s an example of some compelling positive ramifications when one leader decided to take his role of Chief Communication Officer seriously.

One Leader’s Story

Richard Brown, General Manager of The Box Maker, headquartered in Kent, Washington, was frustrated about his inability to effectively reach his employees, who are scattered throughout two states in seven different locations.  Working with producer Lucas Mack at 4th Ave Media, he launched a weekly internal video newsletter, Inside the Box, to spread news and information, share coworker success stories, and keep his people up-to-date on the latest happenings at the company. The results?  After just two months and twelve episodes, he notes that:
  • Productivity and innovative ideas coming from employees are up significantly
  • Turnover and absenteeism are both down throughout the organization; and to his immense delight,
  • “For the first time I can walk through one of my plants and people actually come up to talk to me instead of avoiding me.”

Call to Action:

So, how are you doing as your company’s Chief Communication Officer?
How would your employees rate you as CCO?
What’s the one thing you could put into place in the next 30 days that would have the biggest impact on your communication effectiveness?

What is the impact of doing nothing?


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, September 15, 2014

Take Advantage of the Dog Days of Summer (& Beat Your Competitors in the Fall)

Today we have a guest blog from Elizabeth Andreini:

August is generally a quiet time for business; many people’s thoughts turn to vacation and it might seem that half the people you want to contact are either getting ready to go on vacation, or already on vacation (even if they haven’t yet left the office). Several companies I’ve talked with recently have been thinking about making changes in the markets they serve. My advice, which I share with you, is this can be an ideal time to reach out and have a different type of conversation with customers and prospects to gather information to make strategic decisions on markets and products.

Maybe your business feels less focused than you would like it to be because there are so many possibilities that you aren’t sure you are focusing enough? Or have you felt that your market traction may not be as strong as it should be and wonder about the size of the market? Are there are other markets you could be expanding into, but aren’t sure where to expand for maximum results?

No matter the question, this is the ideal time when everyone’s pace is a little slower to have some deeper, more meaningful conversations.  Take a few minutes and create a list of questions you would like to research. Ask customers and key prospects for a few minutes of time over the phone, or if they are nearby offer to meet for an (iced) coffee. Interview customers and recent prospects or others who are thought leaders, listen to them talk about their problems and needs as well as wants. Analyze market segments to pursue (including the one you are currently in) and validate that problems are urgent and pervasive to know that target segments will support both current and future business.

You might be surprised at the insights you gather and the connections you make during this research process. Taking this time during the summer doldrums and you will be ready to create a plan that will help you as you come into the more active fall and winter periods – and help prepare you for an even stronger and more profitable 2015!

Consider these questions when doing your research:
  1. What are some of your biggest challenges?
  2. What are the biggest advantages you gain when you use our products and services?
  3.  What products or services do you wish we had that we don’t?
  4. If we were considering offering “test product/service” what advice would you offer us on which markets to pursue?
  5. What trends are you seeing that our company should be aware of?

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, September 8, 2014

Adding Value to Your Company

Too often, business owners and executives with whom I work, are focused solely on increasing their sales.  To do so puts your company and its value in jeopardy.  Not every customer is a good customer.  

I often turn our conversations from sales to how they can add value to their company.  Adding value to your company should be a part of your “think time”.  So, first make sure you are creating and using blocks of time to figure out strategically where you are going and then make sure you look at how you will:

  • Drive Performance
  • Protect yourself
  • Make yourself obsolete

If you are already driving performance with Key Performance Indicators and other non-financial leading measurement tools, terrific!  Now figure our how you will perfect yourself.  Insurance is the tip of this iceberg.  Be sure to focus on getting the right structure and figure out your continuity plan.  Then, make sure that you look at your own strengths. 

Are you the only one in your company who can provide the value that you provide?  If so, what will you do if you are suddenly unable to perform, like you are taken away in a red truck! 

At the end of this month, Excell, along with other key players in the business community, are hosting over 60 CEO’s and their partners…. business partners and life partners.  We will all go to a resort, take a weekend to tackle these questions, share best practices and have some fun. 

Each year we sponsor a weekend like this because we believe it is important to have think time.  We think it is important to mix think time with executing on skills.  We think that sharing and networking, in the right environment, produces real value.  Not least and not last, we think fun should be involved.

How do you get your think time?  What is it you do to make sure this time is productive?  How disciplined are you in making this happen regularly and making it work for you?