Will you reach your goals this year?

goalsWill you meet your goals this year, or next?  With the current economic instability, running a business is getting more challenging. I often hear flustered business leaders say things like, “I don’t have enough time to get everything done,” and “How do I find time to work on strategy and goals?”

Time is a conceptually limited resource. We often hear about “time management” techniques to help us get it all done. The truth is you can’t manage time, it goes on at exactly the same pace no matter what you do.  What you can manage is what you do, when you do it and how you do it.  Time management is really the conscious management of your decisions on which actions to take.  Its a core leadership competency for effectively utilizing time to achieve your goals.

It is important to recognize that you have the opportunity to prioritize and to control your own activities, and as the New York architect and teacher Michael Altshuler said, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

There are a large number of tools available for planning and tracking the actions you take over time.  However, it is critical to understand that effective time-management is actually effective SELF management. It comes from inside, not from the outside.  Self-management is a critical skill for being an effective leader.  It is the ability to be clear and focused on the few things that will create the greatest impact.  That focus begins with goal setting.

Setting the right goals begins with the big picture, vision and broad strategies to achieve the vision over a three to five-year period. The next level of goal-setting will be for the upcoming 12 months and this will require documenting specific S.M.A.R.T goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

The third level involves breaking the 12-month goals down to the activities that need to be achieved over the next quarter to be on track for the 12-month goals. And the final level to provide the foundation for effective control of activities is to break the 90-day goals down to the first week of this period. Then measure the results from the first week and set the activities for the next week.

The idea is to repeat this process each week and at the end of first quarter, re-establish specific goals for the second quarter and repeat the disciplined setting of weekly activities and weekly reviews. Each weekly review and planning session should take about one hour each Monday (or Friday) and should include the business leader and each direct report.

The discipline of this process will allow the differentiation of urgent versus important activities. Important activities are those that lead to the achievement of defined goals and provide the most likely chance of achieving the desired outcomes for the business. However, many of the important activities are not urgent.

Pareto’s 80/20 rule applies here as 80 percent of the outcomes will be generated by 20 percent of the activities. Unfortunately, urgent activities tend to be part of the 80 percent of the activities only producing 20 percent of the outcomes. The weekly process is designed to help differentiate between important versus urgent activities on a weekly basis. The benefits of this disciplined approach to managing activities will be the measurable control of goal-focused activities and the actual completion of targeted goals.

Here are seven suggestions to apply self management discipline within the context of achieving better business results and the more effective utilization of your personal time:

  1. Delegate: Delegate activities to the staff with the appropriate skills. Manage this approach through an organizational structure and individual Positional Agreements appropriate to the size of the organization.
  2. Prioritize: Prioritize your daily work by reviewing the next day’s important activities in a ‘to achieve list’ at the end of each day. You can maximize personal productivity by focusing on this list the next day. And don’t do what’s not on the list – resist the urge to be distracted and to do things that you enjoy more.
  3. Clean up: Clean up your desk and office shelves once per month. Categorize everything into four groups: ‘Do it’, ‘Delegate it’, ‘Defer it’, and ‘Dump it”. Before getting rid of anything, just ask the question, “What is the worst that can happen if the item was gone?” If the answer is “nothing”, then dump it.
  4. Handle each piece of paper only once and never more than twice: Don’t set aside anything without taking action.
  5. Put personal interruptions on hold: Put your calls and personal interruptions on hold for one hour, two hours or whatever is appropriate to your task at hand. It is amazing how much work that can be achieved by using this simple technique and not being distracted by a phone call or personal interruption – and most of these potential interruptions will not meet the definition of ‘important’.
  6. Learn to say “No”: This maybe the most effective way to maximize your personal utilization of time and is often the hardest word to use in business. Make sure that if you don’t say “No,” it is because the activity is important in context of your own role in the business.
  7. Balance: Make sure you set aside personal relaxation time during every work day. Don’t work during lunch. It is neither nutritional nor noble to skip important stress-relieving time to recharge your energy level. Take vacations, particularly mini-vacations. The harder you work, the more you need to balance your leisure and exercise time. As any pro athlete knows, recovery is an important part of performance.

As a business leader, the key to effective self-management is to build your personal and business life around your desired outcomes through planned and measured activities, while maintaining flexibility for the unexpected. Time management is, in fact, the ultimate in self-management because it is the foundation for achieving your goals in every aspect of your life.

To get an analysis of your current self effectiveness, get in touch!

Why is Creating Workplace Diversity So Challenging?

Diverse business people

Diversity, inclusion and gender parity are overwhelmingly proven to be fundamental to producing our best results, yet it remains a significant challenge for us to achieve sustainable change.  Companies have spent millions of dollars on workplace diversity training yet most are left with little to show for it.  Most workplace diversity programs fail to produce meaningful, sustainable results, and some have actually increased bias among individual employees.

Turns out you can’t mandate the elimination of bias. The command and control methods being used don’t work. Currently, just 20% of C-suite executives in the U.S. are female, despite the fact they earn college degrees at a higher rate, and start out in equal numbers in the workforce.   And Just 3% of C-suite roles are held by Asian, black, Latina or other women of color.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

To understand what we can do to create true gender parity and diversity in the workplace, it’s useful to look at how we got here.  The evolution of the human species gives us insight to begin to understand the challenge we face.

Humans evolved, and survived as a species because we lived in tribes.  Inside of our tribes, was safety, trust, and survival.  Everybody had a role, we had to cooperate within our tribe to survive. If you had a bad day hunting, it was ok, someone else had a good day.  Everyone was going to eat.

Inside the tribe was a circle of safety, a circle of trust.  Going it alone outside the tribe was certain death.  Outside the tribe, were people who weren’t “like me”.  Anyone who didn’t look like me and my tribe couldn’t be trusted.  Adhering to this principal was critical to survival.

Nearly every system in the human body evolved and exists to help us survive and thrive in this tribal environment.  Thousands of years ago, other hominid species died off while we lived on.  Today, at least throughout the developed world, finding food, shelter and avoiding danger no longer occupy our days.

In our modern world, advancing our careers and trying to find happiness and fulfillment are the definition of our success.  But the systems inside us that guide our behavior and decisions still function as they did tens of thousands of years ago.

Our primitive mind, the one that acts in our unconscious, still perceives and evaluates the world around us in terms of threats to our well-being or opportunities for survival.  Our brains release certain chemicals in reaction to these perceived opportunities and threats, or trust and distrust. These reactions actually happen in different parts of the brain.  Trust happens in the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC), while distrust happens in the Amygdala, or primitive, unconscious brain.

UNCONSCIOUS BIAS

Some of you may have read Malcom Gladwell’s book, BLINK – The Art of Thinking Without Thinking.  He calls this functioning or the part of our brain that leaps to conclusions, the “adaptive unconscious”.  It is also more commonly known as Unconscious Bias.

This is the part of our brain that acts like a giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a whole lot of data then makes decisions and takes actions, that we need in order to keep functioning as human beings.

Think about it, when your tribal ancestors were out hunting and gathering, and a shadow passed by, did they take time to think about whether it was a passing cloud or a predator, or someone from a waring tribe?  No, they ducked for cover, at least the ones who survived did.  Today, when you walk out into the street and suddenly realize that a car is bearing down on you, do you stop to think through all your options? Of course not. You act, immediately without thinking.

That’s the only way that human beings could ever have survived as a species for as long as we have is that we’ve developed an unconscious decision-making apparatus that’s capable of making very quick judgments based on very little information. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s much better to perceive a threat that turns out to be innocuous, than to miss a real one, and die.  Our massive brain computers got very efficient at identifying anyone who wasn’t in “my tribe” and was therefore a potential threat.   It does this completely unconsciously.

This is the evolutionary survival mechanism that is at the heart of our challenges with gender parity and diversity.  Just using training alone, will not change this mechanism.  We have to do more.  We have to systematically identify and address the structural barriers to diversity. We need to unlearn bias at the individual level and implement reasoning based decision making techniques. We need to create culture shift at the corporate level, supported by ongoing process, measurements and diversity training and coaching.

To learn more or to book a seminar please get in touch.

Drive Innovation Through a Culture of Trust

Drive Innovation through a Culture of Trust

Countless management books, seminars and programs offer insights into how leaders can develop trust within their organizations. Their consistent theme—“It begins with you”—is certainly valid, as leaders must model trust and set an example for their people. Success depends on a personal campaign of inner reflection, values assessment and emotional intelligence. Training can be effective and rewarding, but much of the focus, and effectiveness, often stops there.

Leaders develop trust in their team to enable them to rely on others to do the right thing.  They do this by observing people’s character and behavior over time and gaining confidence in them. They earn trust by consistently displaying personal integrity, accountability and concern for others.

Trust, in fact, is the most potent tool in a leader’s arsenal, asserts JetBlue Airways Chairman Joel Peterson in The 10 Laws of Trust: Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great. Trusted leaders are more productive, profitable and prosperous. Their people are more engaged, passion and loyalty soar, and the overall work ethic is enviable. The organization sees lower turnover, waste and inefficiency.

Trust is not just for the C suite

While we’re often led to believe that trustworthy behavior will permeate the work environment like ripples in a pond, this trickle-down theory is overly simplistic. As Gallup studies reveal, employees trust their coworkers even less than their leaders. Organizations cannot reach their full potential until leaders establish a culture where employees trust their coworkers. Leaders may require assistance from a professional executive coach to achieve this goal.

When there is distrust throughout an organization, creativity and innovation are greatly diminished.  Brain science shows that when people distrust their co-workers, the amygdala – the part of our brain associated with the “fight or flight” response, gets triggered.  When the amygdala is triggered, it puts our prefrontal cortex – the “executive” part of the brain associated with rational thinking and creativity, on lock down.  From an evolutionary stand point, this response makes sense.  When we are out hunting or gathering, and a shadow passes overhead, survival dictates that we respond immediately, without stopping to analyze whether it was a predator or simply a fast moving cloud.

To make matters worse, once our amygdala goes into high gear, it activates the limbic area of the brain – where all those past memories of similar situations are stored.  Once that has happened, it dredges up similar threats and weaves them into the movie we are producing about the person in front of us whom we don’t trust.  Once that has happened, we go into protection mode, and it’s nearly impossible to have an open, engaging, free flowing conversation about anything, much less be able to come up with new ideas and innovations.

What can we do to begin to re-establish trust?

The first steps are to look at ourselves, and work to increase awareness of when we are experiencing what Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence calls an amygdala hijack.  She suggests the following ideas to help sideline signals from the amygdala:

  • Notice how you respond to threats – fight, flight, freeze or appease
  • Notice patterns, do we always choose the same response?
  • Choose an alternative behavior at the triggering moment (ie; deep breathing..)
  • Become more aware of our responses and realize we have choices (journaling helps)
  • Recognize the patterns before they happen, and interrupt the pattern.

Ultimately, we want to work to actively transform the fear into trust.  Transforming a company culture from one of fear and distrust to one of openness, collaboration and deep trust, has transformative impact on the overall success of the business.

Need help with transforming your company culture into one of trust?  Get in touch or take our complimentary assessment.

Personal Responsibility – Everything is Your Choice

Personal Responsibility – Your Choice

A sense of personal responsibility seems to be a thing of the past, here and in many other places in the world.  We want a label for every behavior and every sniffle.  If it’s a ‘thing’ then we don’t have to take responsibility for it.

Its not my fault I’m late for work, I have ‘snooze syndrome’.  Its not my fault I get angry in traffic, I’m afflicted with road rage.  Its not my fault I can’t grow my business, the economy is bad.  Its not my fault I can’t find good people, the economy is good.

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment and learn again to exercise  . . . personal responsibility”    – Albert Schweitzer

What does responsibility mean anyway?  We often confuse it with commitment.  Lets look at the word itself: ‘response + ability’ = means literally the ability to choose your response.  The operative word in that description is “choose”.

According to Stephen Covey, “Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility.  They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise’.”

When we place blame outside of ourselves for our disturbance, our life situation and ultimately our happiness, we become numb and unaware of ourselves. We don’t even have to make the effort to come up with our own disturbance anymore, just go home and turn on any news channel – they’ll tell you what you should be upset about today and who to blame for it.

Anonymous quote: “I never met a man who was just late…”

This lack of responsibility is even rewarded in our court system.  I read a news story about a woman who successfully sued a clothing store because it failed to prevent a small child from running around the store, and she tripped over him.  Near the end of the article, it casually mentioned that it was her child.  Seriously?

So what does it mean to take responsibility, to choose my response? The first step is the simple awareness and acceptance that you are responsible for creating all aspects of your life and your businesses.  Accepting this personal responsibility is choosing to accept that we have the “ability” and the choice, to “respond”.  Only by first accepting responsibility can we change the outcome, change ourselves, and change the world.

Responsibility – The big 3 – you’re responsible for:

  1. everything you do;
  2. everything you don’t do;
  3. how you respond to everything else

That third one is the challenge for most people.  Think of a situation where you last got upset or had an emotional response to something.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.   Got it?  OK good, now imagine that instead of becoming angry, frustrated, sad etc..  you could choose to just accept that the thing had happened, and maintained a neutral or even positive attitude about it?  I know, you’re thinking that’s impossible.  I’m just asking you to consider the possibility right now that you could chose to have a neutral response, or no response at all, you don’t have to do it, just consider the possibility.  How would that feel?  Would you feel empowered? What if you carried that possibility and the empowerment with you every day?  How would that impact your quality of life? How would it impact your relationships?  These are questions for you to consider slowly and thoughtfully.

The empowerment of choices can even be fun, and opens your eyes to new ideas and opportunities you hadn’t even given yourself the space to consider before.  Once you can take responsibility for your choices, and react neutrally if they don’t work out, you are free to do anything.  If a choice doesn’t work out, great! You can just be free to try another one without any attachment to the one that didn’t work out how you imagined, or have any negative feelings about the result.

What if having true happiness and contentment in your life was simply a choice?  What if you didn’t have to make more money, work harder, get a better house, better job, better car, better spouse?

What if we could just choose to be happy and content?

You can.  Its not easy, but its possible.  The first step is acceptance.  Acceptance of what is, and acceptance of your ability to choose your response.

The second step is to begin to separate the things you are reacting to, the things – out there – from your emotional responses which all happen inside you.  Recognize that the car, house, job etc.. are all things out there.  The reaction you feel is inside of you, not out there.

The third step is to consider that the things – out there – are not what is causing your disturbance.  What if it was actually the other way around?  What if your inner unresolved issue is what is creating these so called external upsets?  What if ownership of the disturbance creates a golden opportunity to heal the true source of the upset that exists only within one’s self?  That is a subject for another blog. . . if you can’t wait until then, get in touch.

Ready to Retire & Sell Your Business?

Sell your businessReady to Retire & Sell Your Business?

Between 1946 and 1964 Americans created 78 million new people, whom we now call Baby Boomers, or Boomers for short.  Those 78 million people believed that the ticket to the American dream was to get a college education and work hard.  And they did in record numbers, growing our college educated workforce from 6% to 24%.  That created a tidal wave of applicants for corporate America that it just couldn’t absorb.  So, Boomers did what Boomers do, continued their endless march for upward mobility by striking out on their own and starting their own businesses.

Today, the first wave of those Boomer business owners are turning 65 and getting ready to retire.  They’ve worked hard for 20-30+ years to build their businesses, and they’re ready to have someone younger who wants the same things that they wanted when they started out, to buy their business so they can go enjoy the retirement they’ve always envisioned.  Problem is, the next generation, Gen Xers, have very different values than Boomers.

Boomers are workaholics, who grew up as the first generation having a common experience of TV advertising to drive their transformation into consumers of bigger better best of everything.  They own 50-60% of small businesses in America, and are consumers for each other’s products and services.  Gen Xers on the other hand, grew up using debt for everything they buy, and see work as nothing more than a means to get the lifestyle they want.  They are not interested in working long hard hours, and they don’t save so have no capital to buy a business. They see their personal happiness as their number one priority.  They don’t equate what they do with who they are like Boomers.

The 48 million Gen Xers will have little interest in a brick & mortar operation that requires them to be on site or on call for most of the hours of the week.  Since they have no capital, they will need financing to buy your business, so if your cash flow isn’t enough to support financing, you’ll also have a hard time selling it to a Gen Xer.  If they do like your business, and can get financing for it, it’s still a buyer’s market; the market will be short by about 20,000 Gen Xers per year to buy the hundreds of thousands of Boomer businesses to be sold over the next 20 years.

To make things even more challenging, corporate America is catering specifically to the needs of Gen Xers by offering things like flexible hours, job sharing, working remotely, additional paid time off, and flexible benefits.  These perks are tough for small businesses to match.

If you’re a Boomer who wants to sell your business in the next 10 years, what do you do?  If you want to be one of the few who successfully markets their business, maximizes its value and minimizes taxes, it’s imperative that you have an exit plan.

What’s an exit plan?  An exit plan is a strategy developed with the assistance of a team of professional advisors who are experts in their specific area such as wealth managers, attorneys, CPAs, insurance brokers, business brokers, business coaches, and business valuation experts. You’ll look at whether your best option is to sell your business to family members, company employees, or a 3rd party.  Then your team of experts will help you create your strategy for what is likely the biggest and most important single transaction of your life.  Don’t leave it to chance!

To learn more, attend our next seminar.

Does Communication Impact Your Business Results?

CommunicationHow Does Communication Impact Your Business Results?

Leaders and business owners often look at communication as a ‘soft skill’ that they don’t have time to develop. They simply don’t recognize the bottom line cost of poor communication. In a survey of 400 corporations, an estimated $37 billion is lost due to poor communication and misunderstanding.  But leaders who DO focus on effective communication strategies in their business have 47% higher returns to shareholders, lower turnover and more highly engaged employees, according to the Holmes Report.

And these are the impacts of simple transactional communication. According to Judith Glaser, author of “Conversational Intelligence” there are three levels of communication. The higher levels of communication are based largely on development of trust. When we trust, and focus on solutions, we feel free to share and develop our ideas.  If we don’t create an environment of trust and collaboration, the people with the best ideas will leave and go to companies that do.

“The single biggest illusion about communication, is that it has taken place”
– Judith Glaser

For entrepreneurs, effective communication can be the difference between failure and success. If you want your company to succeed, here are 5 ways to improve:

1. Email is for the exchange of information

There are many great tools for productivity and disseminating information to your team. Don’t confuse these tools with communication.  Generating ideas, fast decision-making and team collaboration take real face to face interaction in an environment that supports sharing and trust.

2. Ensure your team knows the company brand purpose & vision

Every single employee at the Ritz Carlton knows the company’s vision, mission, cultural values and credo. Those values are baked into the daily operations of the company, so it is easy for employees to connect their actions to the higher purpose. If your team does not know where you’re going, they can’t follow you. If they don’t see the connection between what they are doing daily, and the overall goals and direction of the company, they become disengaged and unmotivated.

3. Stay flat

In a flat company team members are free to communicate with anyone, without fear of stepping on toes or reprisals. As the business leader, do your best to keep an open door policy.  Set aside specific hours to close the door to work on projects or have private conversations.  Fluid communications allows for much greater flow and exchange of ideas, delivering better results in less time.

4. Make communication part of your rhythm

Set up regular schedules for meetings and conversations.  Have regular weekly or even daily huddle team meetings. Have regular weekly phone calls with the sales team if they are in the field. Even if you don’t think you have much to talk about, once you get the conversation started, you’ll often be surprised at what happens. Even if you are a company of 2 people, regular communication makes a difference.

5. Communication is a two way street

Introduce the WIFLE (What I Feel Like Expressing) process to your team. Your employees need to feel heard.  They need to be given permission to express what is on their mind, without interruption, judgment or reprisal. Regular use of the technique can cut meeting time in half and uncover problems and opportunities you didn’t even know existed.
If you need to learn more about how to do a WIFLE, just let me know.