Category Archives for "Leadership"

Are You Fighting the Competition or Indifference?

The world today is one of busyness. There isn’t one person reading this article that isn’t being pulled in many different directions and unfortunately you only have so much time and attention to give. So, what does get your attention? When someone can provide you with the famous; “What’s in It for Me?” If someone can show you that they are listening to you and can provide you with what you need, then you are more likely to listen.

Unfortunately, today, too many companies are not giving their customers a reason to listen, and therefore the customer is listening, but not hearing.

If you are doing this, your biggest competitor is not the company selling the same product or service, it is you and your indifference to your potential customer.

Too many companies forget to talk to the prospective customer and determine what their needs are, because they are too busy tooting their own horn. They talk about their company and how good it is, and instead of speaking the potential customers language, they use their own.

While the customer is thinking me, me, me, the company unfortunately is thinking me, me ,me, as well. Alas there is no connection.

Your business success will come once you learn that the customer is only interested in themselves. Cut through the clutter before the competition does. Replace your indifference with listening.

Use Your LinkedIn Profile to Stand Out and Lead or Get Out of the Way

If you’re at a networking event and you meet three different people and ask them what they do; based on the following responses which person will you most likely wish to engage?

  1. I am the CEO / President of company XXX.
  2. I work at company XXX and we manufacture XXX product into the XXX industry.
  3. I am a mentor and coach to my fellow employees and work on our business everyday to create a better environment for them.

In each case, I could be speaking with the CEO / President of a company, but response #3 will get my attention far easier than the first and second. It also establishes a better groundwork for conversation, and it tells me something about you as a person. Response #3 offers the opportunity to begin a business relationship.

If we can agree that response #3 will most likely get your attention as it does mine, as opposed to the first two responses, why is it that 90% of the people that have a LinkedIn profile list their title and their company name?

LinkedIn is the greatest business networking site in the world. They have one half a million users, and it is growing daily. It is by far your best opportunity to network and grow your business through social media.

Think of yourself in a room full of Presidents and CEO’s. If everyone starts with their title and company, no one has stood out from the crowd. Isn’t that what we as CEO’s and Presidents are always trying to get our employees to accomplish. We ask them how can we as a company stand out from the competition. Well it starts with you. How will you make yourself stand out so that you draw people in and make them want to learn more?

LinkedIn is that room full of people. If you want to stand out, you have to be different than everyone else in the room. Isn’t that how you got to the top in the first place, you stood out.

First let’s look at a few facts:

  1. 75% of B2B buyers now use social media to research their vendors. They not only research the company, but the people in the company (IDC).
  2. 57% of the buying journey is done BEFORE a sales rep is involved (CEB/Gartner).
  3. 90% of decision makers say they never respond to cold outreach (Harvard Business Review).

It is plain that without a great social profile, it will be difficult to stand out and be seen by your potential customers.

You are the President or CEO and it has to start with you. If you have a weak profile, then why should any of your employees be any different. As with all things in a company, people look to the leader as the example. You can’t ask people to do what you aren’t prepared to do yourself.

The facts above speak for themselves, your customers and potential customers are searching for the company to fulfill the next contract. Do you and your employees stand out enough to grab their attention? If not here are a few simple tips on how to develop a better profile and begin the process of standing out:

  1. Create a header that speaks to who you are, not your title. You want to create a relationship. Think about response #3 at the beginning of this article: I am a mentor and coach to my fellow employees and work on our business everyday to create a better environment for them.
  2. Develop a summary section that speaks about you and what you can bring to the table for your potential customer.
  3. Fill out your work history, all of it. Show potential customers you have the experience and background to support their objectives.
  4. Post articles and educate people on your industry, become an expert in their eyes.

There is more to do, but this is a good start. Social is here to stay and as per the Harvard Business Review, 90% of decision makers say they no longer respond to cold calls. Social is the new norm, don’t get left behind. Develop an enhanced LinkedIn profile, and get networking!

Don’t Tolerate Unacceptable Work

One of the most egregious mistakes a manager can make is to tolerate unacceptable work from employees. It is, in fact, a predictor of organizational failure and a serious abdication of management responsibility.

Whether they are insecure, intimidated, lazy or demoralized themselves, when managers choose to “look the other way” they hurt everyone. Not only does the work not get done but also “unacceptable work” becomes the de facto acceptable performance standard. When rules and procedures are not consistently enforced, employees are unfairly driven to ask themselves “Is this one of the rules we have to follow, or is this one of the rules we don’t have to follow?” As a consequence, conflicts arise and productivity and morale plummet.

Good performing employees feel betrayed and cheated by the organization when they have to make up for those who are permitted to avoid their responsibilities. New employees wonder what the benefits are of trying hard to do their jobs correctly, while the experienced old-timers teach the others that good work doesn’t count.

Employer: Tolerating less than acceptable work is a slippery slope to disaster. Be aware of what your people are doing and if they go off track, learn how to step in with appropriate assistance as soon as you can. Rules, procedures and performance standards are there to be followed so that your employees can succeed in their jobs; they are the measures of job success for your employees. If some rules and standards are not appropriate or ineffective, change them or eliminate them. But if you do have standards of performance and job behavior, following them can’t be optional.

New Employee: You can’t tolerate unacceptable work from yourself either. Try hard to find out what your new supervisor expects from you. Be willing to ask where you can improve. What are your supervisor’s measures of success for someone in your job?

Don’t let others persuade you to coast or to goof off. You’ll find that job satisfaction really comes from knowing that you’ve done your job well.

CEO’s – Who’s in Charge of Your Companies Performance Management System?

You have just been appointed the CEO of your company; is your company broken, does it work? Did your predecessor leave you with a well-oiled machine or did you inherit a broken engine with missing parts?

If that is the case, you now face an abundance of organizational problems: little internal cooperation, poor follow through on assignments, resistance to change, low morale, overall poor organizational performance, and lackluster or little support to implement your new policies and plans.

Your new biggest challenge will be your greatest asset; your employees and management team. In order to overcome the existing situation, you will need to ensure that they are all on the same page as you so that you can manage them and implement your vision for the company. Without their support, your plan is destined to fail.

To avoid the forgoing situation, you need to ensure that your organization has a working and effective Performance Management System. Regardless of the size of your company (corporation or local gift shop), you need to ensure that the following three questions are answered to ensure that all employees at every level understand what they are responsible for and that they also recognize that you as their leader are there to ensure their success.

1) “What is my organization doing to ensure that everyone (top to bottom) knows what to do, why they are to do it, and how to do it?”

You need evidence that this Fundamental Requirement is being carried out. In particular, how is this Requirement assured? What’s the proof that this happens? If processes are not in place to ensure that this happens, something has to be done right away, or you’ll be trapped in the present and unable to articulate and communicate your plans to everyone who must know.

Many different tools or forms should be used to give direction. The Job Description is only the most common document in a much larger list of activities, procedures, concepts, processes and forms. The key would be that your organization clearly knows the reason why these directional tools and processes are being implemented, i.e. to ensure that everyone knows what to do, why they are to do it, and how to do it.

Why is this so important to the Organization Leader? Because, to revisit the previous scenario about the challenges facing a new Leader, the intentions of the Leader’s strategic plan, policy, philosophy or change initiatives must become translated into the job activities of all appropriate members of the organization. Otherwise their behavior may become inconsistent with the plan and more likely contrary to the required actions.

2) “What is my organization doing to ensure that everyone (top to bottom) receives support to make them successful in their respective jobs?”

You need evidence of this as well. More importantly, do your management understand that their role is to support their subordinates and to make them all successful? That should be your performance expectation of all your managers. Because even if your plans and ideas are clearly known and supported by all the organization, if your people can’t get it done because of a lack of ability or motivation, you will have failed again. As with the resolution of Question 1, there are a great many skills, programs and processes that managers can use to support their members and strengthen their abilities and motivation. However, this is an area where fads flourish so the organization needs to realize that the test for experimenting with any new management concept is whether it contributes to the members’ success in their jobs. The new concept cannot be just for entertainment or because the company down the street is doing it.

Why is the success of individual employees personally important to the Organization’s Leader? Because individual job success reaffirms the positive value and benefit of the Leader and the Leader’s plans, and increases each member’s support for the change. Failure does the opposite and wastes resources.

3) “What is my organization doing to ensure that everyone (top to bottom) follows through and is accountable for meeting his or her performance expectations and obligations?”

You need to find out what processes are actively used to keep people accountable and motivated to follow through with their responsibilities. This would include regular follow up and review meetings where managers and their direct reports jointly review the person’s progress in the job.

Surely having your people do what their position requires is the point of the whole exercise. If they don’t, why are you wasting your time, and why does the organization need you? The first Fundamental Requirement tells you, as the Organizational Leader, that you need to make it clear that you expect everyone to follow through with their job responsibilities. That’s part of their direction. The second Fundamental Requirement focuses your attention on making sure that everyone can perform successfully. And the third Fundamental Requirement closes the loop and brings closure to both your need to know that the organization and its members are on track, and each individual’s need to know that he or she has been successful and is a valuable member of the organization.

The importance to the Leader of accountability and follow through is that it proves the value of the Leader’s plans. Lack of follow through by any member reduces the perceived (and actual) value and success of the Leader’s plans and diminishes executive credibility.

Although this example above is about being a new Leader in an organization, the same questioning applies for any manager stepping into a new leadership position in any company, industry or organization, as well as for any entrepreneurs planning to start their own businesses. The three Fundamental Requirements must be in place or you and your organization will fail and all your plans and ambitions will stop, possibly never to return.

The three Fundamental Requirements for Managing Organizations have less to do with what individual managers do, as they do about what the organization needs to be designed to ensure happens. In organizations, management practices need to be a characteristic or a system of the organization, rather than just the skill set of individual managers. All three Fundamental Requirements need to be reflected in the organization’s culture and become operational through a Performance Management System and thereby an asset of the organization.

The three Fundamental Requirements are individually and jointly required for successful management. Since they all relate to directing, supporting and ensuring the required behavior of people, they are the Fundamental Requirements not only for the management of individual members of an organization but also for the management of the organization’s culture and the management of organizational change. As a result, these three Fundamental Requirements along with a Performance Management System are essential components of the job of an Organizational Leader.

Who’s in Charge?

Thank you to my Performance Management Mentor, Dr. Bob Kent, for being my inspiration to spread the word about Simple, Sensible Management.

CEO’s – It is Your Responsibility to Ensure All Employees Know: What, How and Why to Do Their Jobs

You have a group of highly dedicated employees and your management team is the best you have ever worked with. Why is it then that there seems to be so much chaos in the company? Your perception is that certain people are responsible for certain projects, but the reality is you see overlapping responsibilities and everyone waiting for the other person to complete projects.

Well welcome to a world that unfortunately exists in too many businesses. Whether you like it or not, tools and resources such as; expectations, policies, procedures, priorities, job descriptions, goals, performance standards, and performance factors exist, because without you being in charge, your employees will determine all of the above. The problem is that each employee will interpret them in their own way, or each manager will provide their interpretation with their direct reports. If you have six managers, you now have six different ways to implement the above tools and resources.

If you do not have defined job descriptions for each role, the employees will create one by assuming what you want done. If you do not establish, define and communicate goals, your employees will establish their own. If you do not establish policies, your employees and managers will establish their own.

Who’s in Charge? You are and you can’t wish away or ignore any of these company needs, because you need to ensure they are all clarified with all of your employees. You have no choice if you want a smooth-running machine and the ability to achieve your company vision.

If you do not take charge, someone else will. As leaders, we are there to delegate not abdicate our responsibilities. We’re in charge. If you don’t fill in all of the gaps, then you run the risk that what your employees presume you expect (in good faith) will be off the mark. This leads to performance problems, unfairness in the application of tools and resources and workplace unrest.

Who’s in Charge? You are and it is your responsibility to prevent an unhappy workplace by taking the time to ensure that performance expectations are clear and specific.

You’re a New CEO – Do You Have a Trusted Board of Advisors?

So you just moved into the CEO role for the first time. This is what you have been working for all these years, and now it has finally happened. You sit in the nice corner office with the view of the outside world and life is good. You got here because your skills, ability and aptitude set you apart from others, and established you as the go to person to run this company.

Well it’s now time for the reality check. You may have been a 10 out of 10 in some of your past roles, but ask yourself how you rate on a scale of 1 to 10 in your new role. If you are like most new CEO’s and are honest with yourself, you don’t rank really high on the scale. Most new CEO’s rank themselves 3.5 on average. Where do you see yourself? Take a good look in the mirror, because as of today; You’re in Charge!

Let’s talk about what has changed:

  1. You just discovered it is lonely at the top and good luck at getting the honest feedback from the peers you used to have.
  2. You just got a lot smarter, more handsome and funnier than you have ever been to those same employees.
  3. You just got a huge dose of humility, because you realize after looking in the mirror, you have a lot to learn about being a CEO.

Well given all of the above, you certainly aren’t going to get the learning you need to succeed from your direct reports. You need to find a new way to sharpen your saw, because the company success is up to you.

Lonely and self learning don’t have to be your new environment. The best way to combat this is to get yourself a trusted coach and Board of Advisors. Don’t make the mistakes they have already made, take your vision and thoughts to them, get their input, let them hold you accountable. They have all been where you are now, learn from them and at the same time experience the satisfaction of sharing your experiences and knowledge with them.

Who’s in Charge? You’re in charge! Now do some thing about it to ensure your and your company’s success.

CEO’s – Be An On-Purpose Communicator

Is your goal to drive your business to new heights and create a value that will provide a great income and exit price? If so, then in order for that to happen is you will not only need great people, but they will all have to be on the same page each step of the way.

I was working with a client recently and I asked him; “If I were to speak with your employees today, how many of them would be able to tell me what the top three objectives of the company are and how the company plans to get there”? “How many of your senior managers could do it”?

The simple answer is that although they may all be able to answer; the challenge is will they all say the same thing or will I get a variety of answers. The answer was that I would likely get a variety of answers.

Well then Who’s in Charge?

I worked with a CEO a couple of years ago who had just purchased a business. He knew going into it that he would need to communicate his expectations to ensure that the business accomplished his vision for it.

After developing a business plan and model, he began a series of Town Hall meetings every two weeks with his employees during lunch break. To ensure attendance he provided a complete lunch.

Once the meal was completed, he began updating the employees regarding the successes of the company and also the challenges. He was very transparent revealing everything but the most confidential information. Once he had updated the business, he reinforced the top three objectives of the company and also the role the employees would play in it, and what actions they would all undertake to complete the objectives. He did this meeting after meeting.

In every other company meeting or discussion with each individual employee, he would help them understand how the immediate discussion would relate to the objectives and the significant role they played in the success of the vision. These discussions took place every day.

In order for us to be successful leaders, our employees need to know what we are trying to accomplish, what they can do to support it, how to do their jobs better to accomplish it, and why it is important. It takes communication. Great leaders are great communicators.

Who’s in Charge means you need to ask yourself if you are playing this role. How would your employees answer the questions regarding the top three objectives in your company? If they can all say the same thing you are doing a great job of communicating. If they cannot, ask yourself; Who’s in Charge?

CEO’s Accept Responsibility

There was a disruption in your business recently and now it is time to do an analysis and report to your Board about the incident. This is your chance to be a Leader or demonstrate that you may not be in charge of your business.

I was working with a client recently and during a break I was having a quick conversation with their Director of Finance. He told me how much respect he had for the CEO, and I asked why. He told me that each month he attends the Board Meetings with the CEO to cover off the financial aspects of the business.

He told me that anytime the CEO needed to advise the Board on any recent challenges, he never once pointed the finger at any of the employees. The CEO’s only comment when asked who had the problem was that he is in charge and the buck stops here. The Director of Finance also told me that when there was a great accomplishment to discuss, the CEO always gave credit to the employee or employees involved.

After a few meetings, the Director of Finance mentioned what he was observing and hearing to his peers on the management team. They were stunned, they had never worked for a person who was quite like this CEO.

What a great example of a Leader!! Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you could be compared to that CEO.

If you are the CEO, President, Owner or Founder, you are in charge. Do you act like it? Do you have the kind of respect and trust that this CEO’s team and Board obviously have of him?

If not then Who’s in Charge?

I Love Bobbies Bargains

I was recently watching an piece on TV that focused on the new Bobbies Bargains stores opening up across Canada. The stores are stocked with manufactured goods from the suppliers left high and dry by the closing of the Sears stores.

What impacted me and gave me a good felling was the fact that they were hiring people with intellectual disabilities. The stores are named after the Founders brother who has a disability.

I was the President and CEO of a company that employed these individuals for 7 years and every day was a joy to go to work and be loved by people who are happy and willing to do anything to work. They don’t take sick days, they go to work in snow storms, they are loyal and stay, etc. etc.

If you are in business and want people that will elevate your business (yes they CAN do the work given the chance) please do what Bobbies Bargains are doing and hire the best! Thank you Bobbies Bargains.

It Takes Two Hands

After years of helping hundreds of managers lead, direct and develop their people, I have observed two fundamental perspectives that impact successful people management. If you are in a job that requires you to manage people . . .

[1] On the One Hand . . .

Managing people and supporting them to be successful IS your job. Support means providing clear, unambiguous direction, resources, tools, etc. and managing the behavior / performance of every employee who reports to you. Whatever they do that is not acceptable or expected, must be corrected. You can’t look the other way. Ignoring inappropriate behavior is not being Supportive. At the senior levels, unacceptable actions can include any and all behaviors, not just the higher level, broader issues. It includes the little behavioral annoyances like lateness, poor dress attire, sloppy manners, or disorganized behavior and practices. They all have to be dealt with.

You can’t say that you shouldn’t have to deal with those little problems – YOU DO, and you SHOULD have to deal with them. Granted, your managers shouldn’t do those things, but if they do, you do have to deal with it. You don’t escape the responsibility of Supporting your direct employees just because of your status or of theirs. In fact, your leadership role should oblige you even more to set the example of excellent people management. And don’t kid yourself to think that ignoring or condoning the employee’s poor work and indiscretions will help the employee. It won’t, and the resulting problems will be enflamed, if not caused, by your neglect of duty.

[2] But On the Other Hand . . .

Your employees are PEOPLE, with feelings, personalities, families, a personal history, home issues, health concerns, dreams, expectations, fears, pride, opinions, frailties, strengths, weaknesses, friends, enemies, secrets, problems, worries, etc. and you must take that into consideration when you do your JOB of supporting them (see #1 above). This is where judgment, discretion, sensitivity, sensibility, empathy and wisdom come in to play. This can take time to develop, whereas #1 above can be learned and practiced relatively quickly. These two considerations are both equally important. One cannot be ignored or diminished at the expense of the other. The first is influenced and resolved more by the use of skills and process. The second is more philosophical and influenced by your intellect, personal principles, values and ethics.


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