Destiny is not a matter of
chance; it is a matter of
choice.

WINSTON CHURCHILL

ARE YOU DRIVEN
TO CONSTANTLY IMPROVE?

You’ve come to the right place.

Here you’ll find models, methods, practices, and processes
to help you develop the right focus, create the right environment,
build the right team, and embody the right commitment.
To get the right results.

How to Fail Successfully

Each of us fails. That’s life. But there is a big difference between failing successfully and compounding your failures with your response to failure.

1) Don’t Sugar-Coat It
The more you try to rationalize / justify / minimize a failure the less likely you are to learn from it. And the more likely you are to repeat it.

2) Take Ownership
A failure doesn’t define who you are. But your response to failure does. Take responsibility. Not just for what you can control but for what you can influence.

3) Make a Conscious Choice
Will you let failure push you into quitting? Or will you use it as a catalyst to intensify your commitment to succeed?

4) Be an Analyst
Get to the root causes. Which of your traits, decisions or actions contributed to the failure? What other factors? How?

5) Take Action
What will you do differently? Target the specific traits, decisions and actions you commit to changing.

You’re not finished failing. That’s OK. Just make sure you fail successfully.

Your thoughts?

Michael

Don't Be a Well Frog

The brilliant Chinese philosopher, Chuang Tzu, wrote:

Jo of the North Sea said, ‚ÄúYou can’t discuss the ocean with a well frog – he’s limited by the space he lives in. You can’t discuss ice with a summer insect – he’s bound to a single season. You can’t discuss the Way with a cramped scholar – he’s shackled by his doctrines.‚Äù

Many businesses suffer from limited thinking because they are insular, exposed only to the assumptions, norms and ideas from within their industry.

Expand your worldview.

Brian France is the third-generation CEO of NASCAR, the premier auto racing series in the United States. He mandates that each member of his executive team attends at least two sporting or entertainment events per year, and then reports back on insights that can be applied to NASCAR. Why? I’ll bet he doesn’t want any well frogs on his team!

Your thoughts?

Michael

Leaving Money on the Table

The Gallup organization recently surveyed over 150,000 workers and found that fewer than one-third are engaged in their work. And engaged doesn’t just mean satisfied, it also means emotionally connected. Which, by the way, correlates with better performance and financial results.

When I worked at FedEx, one of many things they did well was emphasize that a manager’s job is to elevate their people. From the mandatory effort they give to keep their jobs to the discretionary effort they give when they’re truly engaged. Why? Because engaged employees go above-and-beyond. They take initiative. They take pride in their work. They think: What’s best for the company? What’s best for the customer?

Every year Fortune magazine publishes their “100 Best Companies to Work For” edition. Yes, they’re great places to work, but those 100 best companies also outperform their competitors financially.

So it’s not just a matter of feel good. If you’re not engaging your employees, you’re leaving money on the table.

Your thoughts?

Michael

The Depth Chart

Football coaches use a tool that is helpful in displaying not only who fulfills what roles, but also to spotlight where talent is thin and how they would respond if they should lose somebody.

The depth chart.

The depth chart is simply an org chart expanded to show who “backs-up” each “starter.” Of course, unlike sports teams, your business can’t employ people simply to hang around in the event that a starter gets sick or leaves. But creating a depth chart does allow you to ask and think through some important questions:

In which positions would losing a “starter” create a major problem?

How could we mitigate it? (Cross-training? Splitting and re-allocating responsibilities? Doing without?)

How do we make sure we retain our critical talent?

Many organizations have an org chart. Now go one step further: develop, monitor and manage your depth chart.

Your thoughts?

Michael

The Curse of Common Sense

I always react skeptically when I hear people say, “it’s only common sense.” As if the topic of conversation is both true and well-accepted.

When you default to “common sense” thinking, that’s when your organization’s problems begin. Common sense becomes a justification for not challenging assumptions. It perpetuates the status quo and stands as a bulwark against change.

Common sense? Why on earth would you waste your time researching and purchasing flights online when a travel agent will do it for you? (Speed, options, control. Think Travelocity.) Why on earth would you buy shoes online when the fit and feel of a shoe is so important? (Convenience, selection, easy returns. Think Zappos.)

Context is everything. “We tried that and it didn’t work.” OK, but why? Because the idea was flawed or because you didn’t align people, processes and systems to make it work? “That’s not how things are done in our industry.” OK, that means there’s an opportunity to do things differently, and potentially better.

Many organizations have defied so-called common sense and have won. Don’t believe me? Ever paid five bucks for a cup of coffee at Starbucks?

The point isn’t to always defy common sense. It’s to recognize that common sense is often neither.

Your thoughts?

Michael

Hiring for Confidence

When you’re hiring, regardless of the position, you want a candidate to be confident. But how confident?

Not enough and they might not stretch themselves; they’ll underperform. They won’t constructively challenge or inspire confidence in others. Too much confidence, though, and they’re likely to create conflict. And they could underestimate obstacles and expose the organization to undue risk.

A realistic level of confidence must be best, right? Not so fast. According to social scientists, overconfident people outcompete realists in many situations.

So what is the right balance between too little and too much confidence? It’s when a person is slighltly more confident than is warranted. Enough that they stretch and probe their limits. Yet not so much that they continually go too far out on a limb … that breaks.

Now are you confident you’ll hire the right amount of confidence?

Your thoughts?

Michael

Are Values Statements Valuable?

Few things in an organization inspire as much cynicism as a hollow Values Statement. Words on the wall mocked by behaviors within the walls.

Values are revealed in what you do, not what you say. So is there value in stating them? If something is truly a value do you need to state it? Is it you expect to shape or reinforce people’s values by doing so? How would you know if you were successful? If you could know, shouldn’t that be a filter when you hire people?

Some leaders believe deeply in formalizing and communicating their organization’s values. Many others don’t worry about crafting values statements; their concern is aligning what they say with what they actually do.

Focus first on the behaviors that reflect the desired values for your organization. Then decide If there’s value in documenting those values. In any event, just make sure you stay true to one value – consistency.

Your thoughts?

Michael

Distractions and Distractability

We are awash in potential distractions. On the one hand are the myriad communications channels through which we are seemingly ever-accessible. On the other, are the omnipresent enticements to click, connect, opine or know.

All these potential distractions are here to stay … and will only become even more pervasive.

What, then, will differentiate those who focus, persist and succeed from those who don’t? Increasingly, it will be distractability. Not simply being able to resist distractions but choosing which distractions to disregard, which to defer, and which to respond to.

At times each of us gets distracted. But how effective are we at controlling our distractability?

The next time distraction flutters her long eyelashes, smile, and ask yourself: should I embrace her now, later, or not at all?

Your thoughts?

Michael

The Heart of Business

Tony Hsieh, founder of the legendary online retailer Zappos, doesn’t want his people to transact business. He wants them to create a personal emotional connection.

Gianluca Isaia, third-generation CEO of the namesake Neapolitan firm that makes fine handcrafted, men’s clothing, says, “We don’t try to sell a product, we sell an emotional experience.”

What is the fundamental truth that Hsieh and Isaia have tapped into? That the heart of business is to elicit a positive emotional response from those whom you touch. It’s how you make them feel, not just about you and your offerings, but, ultimately, about themselves.

How passionate are you about what you do? About creating passionate customers? About igniting the passion of those around you to create those customers?

It starts with you. Are you connected to the heart of business?

Your thoughts?

Michael

The Lesson that Refuses to Get Learned

Interested in the ongoing collapse of BlackBerry, I was reading an investigative report in The Globe and Mail when I was struck by a comment made by a company insider.

“We believed we knew better what customers needed than they did.’”

Seriously? Haven’t we seen this movie before? Successful company succumbs to arrogance and ignorance, and believes it can now think for the customer. Why is it we cannot seem to learn this lesson? Customers will do what customers will do regardless of how well you know them.

Once you believe you know how your customers will think you get lazy. After all, why ask or listen to them when you already know? The problem is you don’t know. You only think you know.

Be a scientist. Have theories about how your customers will think, then test them. Which allows you to critique and revise them. And it lets the customer think for themselves.

Your thoughts?

Michael

How to Hire the Wrong Person

The candidate was polished. You were wowed in the interview. And his last organization sure produced some impressive numbers. This person is obviously a successful leader. It’s a no-brainer, right?

Maybe not. When a candidate for a leadership position interviews well, beware. It’s easy to get lulled and you could be making a costly mistake. Dig deeper.

Were the impressive results because of the person or despite them? Did they actually do something or were they an innocent bystander? One test: ask them about their plan to achieve the results and the actions that produced them. What was their role in developing the plan and taking action? To what extent did external factors – economic or market factors – contribute to the results? What challenges did they face while implementing the plan and how did they deal with them? Did they have to put together a team or was the right team already in place?

Many candidates for leadership roles are impressive on the surface. They’ve learned to interview well and they’ve been associated with strong results. But being associated with strong results isn’t the same as producing them.

Your thoughts?

Michael

How to Think Strategically

How does one think strategically? In short: preflect and reflect. OK, preflect isn’t really a word … yet. But if to reflect is to contemplate back in time, then to preflect is to contemplate forward in time. Thinking strategically is about contemplation. And asking questions about performance and results.

Look backward …

What happened? Why? What variables influenced what happened? Which of those variables could have we influenced? How? What would have resulted?

… and forward …

If we do nothing different, what’s likely to happen? Why? How can we influence what will happen? If we do, what is likely to result?

Why? What if? Contemplate and question. Continually. That’s strategic thinking.

Your thoughts?

Michael