Monday, January 26, 2015

Can Companies with fewer than 500 employees do effective training and should they?

Universally, companies with fewer that 500 employees are pretty poor at training employees.  The reasons for this are understandable and many, starting with flat organizations, populated by doers and a mindset that people are hired to add value. 

The reasons that training becomes more important to a company as it grows from 15 to 50 10 120 employees are just as universal: employees stop providing as much value if they are not challenged and developed; self-learners are extremely rare; companies whose employees, processes and systems don’t improve get stuck/complacent at points in their growth. 

So, what’s a CEO/Company to do?  Here are a few options that reduce risk, improve sustainable growth and provide size appropriate focus to the training that is needed:  Recognize training is important and that training is something you model; no what your company can train and what training it may not be able to provide. 

If you are an executive or business owner without a coach, then you don’t yet recognize that training is important or that it is something you model.  I know of no professional athlete who is without a trainer/coach.  Maybe they know something you don’t know?  If you are getting coaching ask yourself how much you are communicating its value to your team/employees?  Do you have goals for the coaching you receive and do you share those goals/KPI’s?  Do you include your key reports in the coaching process? 

As to training others… I have found that in most companies of the 15 and 50 employee size, that they are best at technical training, next best at operational training and usually weakest in training leadership, management and supervisory skills (soft skills:  communication, professional improvement, etc.).  These are important roles/skills and tools.  They should be a part of employees professional improvement plan and there should be some budget attached to the training involved. 

Back to the technical training…. If you make something, provide a service or distribute something, the knowledge base and tools to do it and do it better are likely to be within your and your employees wheelhouse.  Meaning that you have best practices, skills and tools that can be taught.  The companies that do this the best focus on three aspects of training: the provide training in very narrow areas and cross train; they train people to train and make the training a constant part of employee’s jobs. 

So, what works in your company?  How did you initiate training?  How did you make sure that training was a part of what everyone does? 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Character Strengths of the Leader — Are you developing yours?

Today we have a guest blog from Marty Vondrell:

Do you know somebody in a leadership role that you dont enjoy working with because of how they are being at times? Do they speak to you in a way that makes you want to move away from them or even do something worse?

And for the people that must work for the leader - Do you think they want to follow this leader?  Do they give them full effort?  Or do they give them the least amount of discretionary effort they can without losing their job?  Or worse yet, do they actively work against the leader?

Could this be the reason that the leader is less successful than their potential? Are they derailing their business success because of how they are showing up as a leader? Do you know this person intimately?  Could this person be you?

We all need to develop our character strengths.  Nobody’s perfect.  The research results are clear that character traits or emotional intelligence are the key to leadership and success in business. 

Fortunately, character traits are developable.  Unlike other factors of your success, you can develop them with a little work.  The key is awareness.

Leadership character traits are made up of polarities.  Developing strength in each end of the polarity is crucial to become a conscious leader.  The first step is to become aware of the contradiction and balance it within yourself. 

For example, one dimension of a strong character trait is the ability to take bold action in the face of scrutiny and disagreement.  At times, a leader must be able to do this.

At the same time, a leader must be considerate of other views and let followers be heard.  If a leader never listens or considers others views, the leader will have no real followers.  The employees will be coerced into action.  This will not get the discretionary effort any good leader is looking for.

Do you see the power in the possibility of improving your leadership in this way? — If you are willing to put some conscious effort into developing your character traits, you will see amazing positive changes in how people relate to you and fight for you.

Where do you start? —

      Become conscious and observant of your own presence. 
      Utilize a leadership model to become aware. 
      Play the witness role in some of your interpersonal interactions. 
      Without judgment — observe yourself.  Be honest with yourself about how people are reacting to you and the results the interactions produce. 

Where could you improve? How are you “being” with people?  What do you like and what could get better?

The next step is to pick one thing.  Pick one trait that you want to improve.  Dont work on more than one but only work on the one thing you choose to improve.  And work on it ferociously.  Stretch yourself. 

Push yourself to the extremes of that character trait, both over and under doing it at times, to see how people react.  This is the work that will make you conscious about your character traits.  And it will bring out the extraordinary leader in you.

Monday, January 12, 2015

In a Decision Conundrum? Focus on What You Know for Sure

Today we have a guest blog from Lauren Owen:

It’s hard enough to make a big decision, even harder still to make a big decision that’s tangled up inside a bunch of moving parts. For example, I was recently talking to a CEO who was trying to work her way through a succession plan.  She founded a company with two grown daughters working in it. She’s got strong management in one division, less so in the other. She’s wasn’t sure either child was willing or even able to run, much less own, the company.

So it was little wonder that she was sitting with her head in her hands. “I don’t know where to start!,” said my normally analytical and decisive client. In situations like this, I like to ask: “What is it that you do know for sure?”

My client’s initial reply was, “Nothing! There’s a lot more that I don’t know. That’s what’s driving me crazy!” I pressed her further, saying surely there was something in this whole tangled mass of uncertainty that she did know. She came up with this list:
  • She’d found something challenging and interesting for her to do after she “retired” and she knew who she wanted to be doing it with.
  • She didn’t want to be involved in the day to day operations forever – her ideal timeframe was that four years from today she wanted to be out, not necessarily as owner, but at least as the CEO.
  • She didn’t want to still be “on the hook,” for liability or financial issues (i.e. signing  loan guarantees, etc.) for either company once she was out of the day to day operations.
  • She didn’t want either daughter to be working in or owning a company if that’s not what they wanted to do. (Or, weren’t capable of doing.) She didn’t want her family relationships damaged because people were forced (or guilt tripped) into doing things that weren’t right for them.
  • The current manager of one division had proven himself a capable leader and manager of at least that area of the company and could potentially run the entire operation on his own, given some more guidance and training.

We still had a lot of unknowns dangling out there but we had the beginnings of a direction (retirement dream), a strong desire, almost like a North Star to guide her (“I want to keep my family relationships healthy”) and a date (2017-- four years from now). We used these to develop the outline of a plan by posting our flag at four years out and working backward from there. We left blank spaces for what we didn’t know and built a list of plans, processes and questions to help her fill in the blanks.

It reminded me of project planning where you’ve got a concrete project that needs to be done and a deadline for completion. You use that future completion date and work backwards from there to come up with key project milestones and interim completion dates.

It was the same for her, only there were a lot more blank spaces along her path. But that’s ok, because she had a long range vision coming into focus on the horizon and a North Star to guide her.  It’s a little like sailing to Hawaii. While your actual route along the way probably will change according to weather and sea conditions, you know you want to eventually end up in Hawaii. Besides your final destination, one of the few things you do know for sure is that your route will and should change according to the new information you gain along the way. But Hawaii still remains at the same longitude and latitude.

Facing a personal or professional potential quagmire? Focus on what you do know, not on what you don’t. Determine your own North Star to get moving forward and keep yourself on track.

Lauren Owen

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, January 5, 2015

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Today we have a guest blog from Shannon Bruce:

Every now and then I find a book that “cuts to the heart” with provocative truth. The title of this blog is actually one of those books. It’s written by Greg McKeown and is, what I believe, a “must read” for every Executive.

Essentialism isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.

Imagine that you had a life where you spent your time focused on what’s most vital, and that you “ditched” the remaining 90% of your “to-do” list. Consider the impact this would have on your productivity? Your aliveness? Your results?  Your impact? Your relationships? I want this sense of enthusiasm and ease that a “less but better” approach will have for you—the opportunity to be fully present, engaged, alive, playful, having fun and getting results all at the same time!

Let’s see if you could benefit from the disciplined pursuit of less. How would you answer the following questions?

·         Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?
·         Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?
·         Are you often busy but not productive?
·         Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?

If you answered “yes” to any one of these, read on!

“The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the non-essentials, and then removes the obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.” Greg McKeown

So where do you start?

The answer is simple and extremely difficult at the same time. It all starts with your calendar!

Go grab your calendar. When you look at what is currently scheduled, what do you notice? Is it filled up with appointments, meetings, events, and activities?

Do you have any unscheduled time that you use to breathe, explore, think, process, or reflect?

My hunch is that you have “zero” margin time in your workday, and yet this time is critical if you want to create a “less but better” approach to life and work.

In the book, the author talks about the CEO of Linked In who schedules two hours a day of unscheduled time in 30-minute increments. This same concept was recently reinforced by Brian Turner, the former CFO of Coin Star who currently serves on 6 for profit boards of directors and is a well-sought out speaker. Excell Puget Sound, along with several other sponsors, hosted Brian Turner as our keynote speaker at our recent Impact 2014 Annual CEO Retreat. Brian’s comment, “you need to have two hours in your day of unscheduled time just to think”. It’s fascinating that 2 executives are pointing to the same idea of scheduling 2 hours of uninterrupted time in your day! Coincidence? I don’t think so. The time has come for “Essentialism”.

I know what you’re thinking…”Yes, but….”

I know this to be true because I’ve heard it from myself and many of the Executives I coach. “That won’t work for me. I’ve got too many things on my plate,” or “It sounds good in theory but there’s no way that will ever work.”

I want to challenge your assumptions. I believe it’s not that you can’t, it’s that you don’t know how. Chances are you don’t have this uninterrupted time placed into your calendar because you say “yes” to too many other things and there’s no room because you’re overcommitted. And if you did have it on the calendar, you probably dropped it the minute someone needed you to do something because you don’t know how to hold appointments with yourself as “sacred”. I also believe the biggest obstacle to getting and keeping this time in your calendar is that you have no idea on what would you spend your time doing because your focus is on forward momentum!

If any of this resonates for you, and you have a spark of hope and desire drawing you to focus on the vital few, it’s going to require a different approach. So where do you begin? Consider the list below:

1.    Schedule an appointment with yourself. Make the time in your calendar so you can put energy and attention to plan, think, dream, breathe and explore. And hold this appointment “sacred”. My hunch is that you show up to all of those appointments that are specifically scheduled in your calendar for others. Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment, a meeting with your team, or a strategy session to discuss the current initiative, you’re there without exception, right? Offer this same level of commitment to yourself.

2.    Challenge everything you have in your calendar. Stay curious as you contemplate: Why am I doing this activity? Is it essential? What are the benefits? Is it still necessary? Remove at least one or two of those trivial and unimportant activities from your calendar.

3.    Challenge your “yes”. For every person or activity you say “yes” to, you are saying “no” to someone or something else. Identify one “yes” that you can turn into a “no” and do it! Focus on the BIGGER yes you get to embrace when you say “no” to the trivial.

4.    Filter your choices for long-term success. With the insight and awareness from #1 - #3, measure each activity and “yes” using a “good”, “better”, “best” approach. From here, take a look at each “good” activity and pick one you will stop doing. With the activities in the better category, proceed with caution about continuing these—stay aware as this could be your next opportunity to free your time. Redirect and focus your attention on the “best” activities that produce the greatest results.

5.    Fill the void. When you go from an overcommitted, “stretched too thin” schedule it’s impossible to just “sit and contemplate”. So fill the void with an activity that allows you to be reflective yet active until you can become comfortable with a slower pace. Examples—go for a walk/run and listen to something positive that energizes you. Better yet, get and read the Essentialism book.

So what’s your next step? If you don’t start now to focus your energy on the vital few so you can let go of the trivial many, when will you? As the title says, it takes discipline and today is the best day to begin.


Shannon Bruce, PCC is a Professional Certified Coach and current President and CEO of StoryBridge, Inc. of Kitsap County. She has been in the professional coaching industry for over 11 years working in many capacities as an Executive and Leadership Coach, Team Coach, Facilitator and Trainer. Her diverse background also includes 13 years as a CPA with Ernst & Young, Corporate & Regional Operations Management in the wholesale distribution field, and entrepreneurship launching multiple business start-ups.

Shannon considers herself a Catalyst for Culture Change who is an “out-of-the-box” thinker looking for new and life-giving ways to enhance business results and team relationships. With her corporate background and coach training, Shannon understands the needs of both “people” and “profit” to help companies produce more with less. Her true passion & mission is “going into companies” to “create communities”.

Living in Bremerton, WA with her 13-year old daughter, Shannon enjoys quality time with family and friends in addition to reading, exercising and hiking.