Effective Communication Rockets 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 (yes live is better than Zoom but do what you can for now) 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 effective 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 or video meetings 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, effective communication makes a difference. Your team will create synergy that didn’t exist, just by sharing with each other what they are working on and what challenges they are experiencing.

5. Effective 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.

Using techniques that encourage vulnerability among team members goes even farther, creating the trust that then enables innovation and creativity to thrive.

If you need to learn more about how to do a WIFLE, just let me know.

Does Your Office Space Inspire Productivity?

The modern office space has come a long way from the standard cubicle farm. Now more than ever, businesses are creating offices that cater to all types of workers — whether they are millennials, Gen Xers, collaborators, introverts or extroverts. With companies such as Instagram, Hutch and Dplus Global creating fun, airy spaces, it’s no wonder that strategic office space design is being recognized for its significant impact on employee productivity. According to a 2017 Capital One Work Environment Survey, 82% of office professionals believe companies need innovative office spaces that can encourage and engage innovation. Yet, as a means of enhancing productivity, workplace design is often overlooked. 

If you’re the owner of a business, large or small, looking for ways to increase the output of your employees, the answer may lie in strategic office design. There is no one-size-fits all solution, but understanding the needs of your employees can help you develop an office layout that fosters a creative and productive workforce. 

What Office Space Factors Affect Employee Performance?

There are various factors that can negatively impact employee performance in the workplace, including the physical design of a space. Aside from disruptions from chatty coworkers and problems with office equipment, the top factors that affect an employee’s productivity, health and well-being include:

  • Lighting— Insufficient lighting can lead to eyestrain, fatigue and headaches, especially from florescent lights.
  • Temperature and ventilation—Inadequate temperature control and poor ventilation can lead to discomfort and health problems.
  • Furniture arrangement— Equipment and furniture that’s too close together can appear cluttered and unorganized, increasing workers’ stress.

How Can You Improve Workspace Design to Boost Productivity?

It’s essential for businesses of any size to take the physical environment of their workers into consideration when designing a quality office space. Here are four design factors that can contribute to employee happiness, health and performance:  

  1. Flexible Layouts 

Gone are the days of cookie-cutter offices. With the rise of startups and remote employment, flexible design is an imperative. You can incorporate it by adding standing desks, moveable walls and areas that serve as both lounges and meeting rooms to bolster collaboration. Personal workspaces or pods can offer a retreat from a noisy office. They also allow companies to bring privacy and quiet to an open floorplan without adding square footage. Manufactured by Zenbooth, ROOM and TalkBox, these mini isolation pods are personal cubicles the size of phone booths. Offering employees a variety of work spaces, such as quiet nooks and informal meeting areas, can spark inspiration and motivation and boost deep concentration. 

  • Ergonomics 

Comfort is vital in any office where workers are seated for extended periods of time. The aim of ergonomics is to improve the conditions of everyday workplace activities, allowing employees to perform their jobs optimally and minimizing potential health risks and musculoskeletal injuries. Incorporating ergonomic seating can help reduce stress on an employee’s neck, back and shoulders, reducing injuries and sick days. Poorly designed workstations can negatively impact a worker’s hands, wrists and back, while implementing sit-stand desks can allow employees to change positions, improve their posture and benefit from a kick of energy. 

  • Opportunities for Movement 

Sitting for long periods of time can lead to neck strain, disc damage and leg disorders, and also increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular complications.Promoting movement in the workplace is critical because it improves posture and circulation and allows for collaboration with colleagues. For example, Google encourages movement at its New York headquarters by providing a massive rock-climbing wall where employees can take climbing breaks from their jobs. Outdoor spaces with work areas or gardens also can encourage workers to walk around and stretch. 

  • Lighting

Banishing dingy lighting and colorless offices can have a significant impact on employee performance. Fluorescent lighting can cause eyestrain and headaches. Incorporating both natural and artificial lighting by including more windows or raising blinds also can help. According to a Future Workplace study of more than 1,600 U.S. employees, access to natural light and outdoor views outranked other perks such as fitness centers, on-site cafeterias and child care facilities. A bright and well-lit office can create a more cheerful mood and facilitate productivity.

Go beyond the basics of office furniture and a place to sit and bring out the best in your employees by giving them the freedom to choose how they want to work. It could mean the difference between success and failure for any size business.

Guest Author bio: Tom Smith is co-Chief Executive Officer for Truss Holdings, Inc., the largest commercial real estate marketplace. He has more than 20 years of experience in the commercial real estate and technology industries — specifically in finance, sales and marketing. 

The Accountability v. Blame Game

Accountability or the blame game, what happens most frequently at your business? When things don’t go as planned in your business, or in your life; schedules missed, customer’s expectations not met, quality of work not up to standards; what do you hear?  Blame, excuses, denial?  Or ownership of the issue, accountability for the results and responsibility for taking corrective action?  If you’re like many small business owners, you hear lots of reasons and excuses.  

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.

Why is Accountability important?

It closes the gap between intention and action.  Between plans and results.  Between goals and success.  And it’s the foundation of an ethical business culture and personal integrity.  If you focus on or change nothing else but accountability in your business, you will see massive results.

Accountability and empowerment are inseparable.  When someone is blaming and making excuses, they see the cause and solution as being outside of themselves.  Outside of their control, influence, and power.  They have no capability or power to change the outcome.  Accountability is a promise and an obligation, both personally and to the people around you, to deliver specific, defined results.

How do I become Accountable?

So how do I become accountable and take responsibility? 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.

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’.”

Accountable people are aware of the positive and negative consequences of their actions – they want different consequences – they take different actions.  A team organized for accountability, to achieve a desired result, immediately becomes interdependent.  In order to achieve effective interdependence, you must have the structure to support it in place.  Accountability in your business requires structure, focus and clarity that supports and builds trusted relationships and gets results.

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 don’t need to judge yourself 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, blame anyone or have any negative feelings about the result.  

If you are accountable and take responsibility for your actions and behaviors, you may come to understand that there are no failures, only different choices and results.   

John Wooden once said; “You can make mistakes, but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming others for those mistakes”.

We avoid accountability because we don’t want to feel inadequate, not good enough, not smart enough, a failure.  What most of us don’t realize is that being accountable has exactly the opposite effect of that which we fear.  We won’t feel inadequate, we will feel empowered, to change the outcomes we have by taking responsibility for our actions, holding ourselves accountable, and making the changes we need to make to get the results we desire. Its magic.

Need help with creating accountability in your business? Request a free team engagement survey or get in touch for a complimentary consult.

What’s Your Brand Purpose?

What’s A Brand Purpose & Why Do I Need One?

Last time I talked about engaging your employees, through developing the Why, How and What of your company.  This week we delve into step one of engaging your employees by creating your Brand Purpose or Mission.  Your Brand Purpose engages your employees by giving them a cause, a reason to care that isn’t about the owner’s profits or company market share.

People often get confused about the difference between Vision, Mission and Brand Purpose. The company Mission and its Brand Purpose are essentially the same thing. Brand Purpose defines the enduring, long term, unchanging fundamental reason for the company to exist – the company’s WHY.  Rather than just explaining what you do, it explains how the company will leave the world a better place.  It explains from a customer perspective what business you are really in. It expresses how the company brings it’s principals to life through its decision making, strategic direction and how it treats employees, customers and vendors.  

We won’t deal with Vision today, but its the next level down, specifically where the company will go on its way to achieving its Brand Purpose.

Great organizations have a deep and noble sense of purpose – a significant purpose – that inspires excitement, commitment and engagement.  What’s important about a Brand Purpose is it’s meaning to the people it impacts, including customers, employees and partners.  People can get excited about and work hard for a cause they believe in, but not for lining the owner’s or shareholders pockets.

Simon Sinek in his book “Start With Why” describes what he calls the Golden Circle of your company’s reason for being.

Golden circle of brand purpose

Examples of Brand Purpose or Mission:

Fannie Mae– To strengthen the social fabric by continually democratising home ownership

3M– To solve unsolved problems innovatively

Hewlett-Packard– To make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity

Pacific Theatres– To provide a place for people to flourish and to enhance the community

May Kay Cosmetics– To give unlimited opportunity to women

McKinsey & Company– To help leading corporations and governments be more successful

Merk– To preserve and improve human life

Nike  – To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors

Sony – To experience the joy of advancing and applying technology for the benefit of the public

Creating Your Brand Purpose

Involve Employees in the Process: Get your leadership team or key employees involved in creating your brand purpose.  Doing so will give them ownership of the brand, increase their engagement and drive their desire to get the other employees on board.  I recommend getting a professional facilitator or coach to run the process and ensure objectivity, good teamwork and an optimal result.

Your Brand Purpose should be so clear and simple that everyone can remember it without having to read it! The Brand Purpose should proclaim what’s important and what is at stake.  Your team should feel that their  personal investment in driving towards the Brand Purpose will enable them to bring out the best in themselves and discover their potential. 

Checklist for a Powerful Brand Purpose 

          ___       Is the Brand Purpose future-oriented?

          ___       Is the Brand Purpose likely to lead to a better future for the organization?

          ___       Is the Brand Purpose consistent with the organization’s values?

          ___       Does the Brand Purpose set standards of excellence?

          ___       Does the Brand Purpose clarify purpose and direction?

          ___       Does the Brand Purpose inspire enthusiasm and encourage commitment?

          ___       Does the Brand Purpose set the company apart from the competition?

          ___       Is the Brand Purpose ambitious enough?

___       Am I excited about the Brand Purpose?

If you can check these boxes, congratulations you’ve got a great Brand Purpose on your hands!  If not, feel free to get in touch for help on developing one that does inspire you and engage your team.

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.


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.


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.