Tag Archives: setting performace expectations

Chris Ruisi - Goal Setting Tips

The Importance of Goal Setting

Goal setting is as important in your personal life as it is in business. The most common denominator in all the self-help literature and books is the importance of goal setting.

Despite their obvious value, our experience with goals has shown that some are good at setting goals, sticking to them and achieving great results, while others can’t keep a New Year’s resolution to stop smoking for two days in a row.

Here is the key point to keep in mind: winners have specific goals. Without specific goals, there is no way you can determine the most important tasks. There is nothing more powerful to your workday than knowing your purpose and executing it in an effective manner. Your life will take on a real meaning once you begin to adopt a goals mentality and focus. Continue reading

Becoming An Exceptional Company

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Chris shares eight characteristics of an exceptional company. Wishing for an exceptional company to run does not occur just because you want it. You must first understand the criteria on how an exceptional company is judged.

 

 

Chris Ruisi’s “Step Up and Play Big Moments” is all about personal and business success. Chris’s goal is to offer today’s entrepreneurs, CEO’s and business leader’s practical guidance, tips, strategies and tactics that work in today’s challenging business climate. Chris brings his practical and successful experience at senior level management and Board positions to help his listeners cut through the clutter to Step Up and Play Big. Also available on iTunes.

 

 

For Starters, Keep it Simple

Nothing is ever really as hard as it first appears to be. Personally, I tend to over-simplify things. Sometimes I’m wrong and pay dearly for my miscalculation. Fortunately, more times than not, I’ve been right and have avoided a fair amount of frustration and wasted time. I have often joked that there is something in our genetic make-up that kicks in to tell us “look for something real easy and then try to make it harder than it needs to be”.

Leadership Quote from Chris RuisiThe fact is, we sometimes tend to make things harder or more complicated than they need to be. Why? Because we do. We over-think the situation. We get emotional – and even mad. We lose site of the root cause, the real facts, and the best solution.

We get distracted by what might or could happen until we overwhelm ourselves with layers and layers of “perceived” complexity, confusion and…here’s the big one: fear. We even confuse others working with us. We let this confusion literally “stop us in our tracks”. We create more “crossroads and barriers” in our minds. The end result is nothing happens and we even think about quitting or giving up.

Some will go as far to convince themselves that they need to be perfect in finding the “right” solution. Let me let you in on a little secret – people who try to be perfect are usually procrastinators! Perfectionists live in a world of “getting ready, to get started, to commence, to begin”. They are always looking for that last piece of information. They stand at the starting line, waiting and thinking, thinking and waiting…while others are moving forward and making progress.

Starting out trying to oversimplify every challenging situation will not work in every case. I get it! But, before you jump to conclusions about how complicated an issue might be, why not first, take a deep breath and start to look at the issue differently, breaking it down into smaller and simpler pieces.

Try this approach to developing these important leadership qualities:

  1. Learn to think, speak, and write in simple terms.
  2. Identify the key questions to ask to get all of the needed input to understand the issue.
  3. Define the desired outcome and work backwards from there.
  4. Ask someone to review your plan and solicit their constructive feedback (and listen to them, if it makes sense).
  5. Identify what needs to be done – write it down step-by-step, in the right order.
  6. Take a hard look at all of the steps and eliminate any unnecessary ones (unnecessary steps make it more complicated).
  7. Understand that it is OK and necessary to make decisions based on imperfect data.
  8. Do it, and measure progress and results.
  9. If the desired result is not achieved, don’t give up; evaluate what took place and make another decision to make it right.
  10. Stay focused.

The world we live and work in is complicated enough; don’t add to it.

Your Business Is You – Is that a Good or Bad Thing?

Let’s be clear; effective leaders know that working “On” Your Business really means working on “You”

We have all heard about the importance of differentiating between working “on” your business versus working “in” your business. The concept is often discussed when I am presenting to business leaders as a business motivational speaker. Heck, I use this statement in much of my work as a business coach with my clients. However, I am quick to point out that when an owner or leader gets better, their business automatically follows and also improves. So, you are your business and your business is you. But, is that always a good thing? Let’s look at some indicators that will help you answer the question for you and your business. Okay, you know the drill – answer the question based on reality, not what you might “hope” it would be.

  1. Do you find that during any particular week you waste time and money and still miss opportunities?
  2. Do you find yourself involved in a fair amount of “fire-fighting” and moving from crisis to crisis?
  3. Are you very busy, running from task to task and meeting to meeting but still see no measurable progress being made?
  4. Are you pulled in multiple directions at the same time with little or no time for you?
  5. Do your employees require constant follow-up; do what they want, when they want regardless of what you want them to do?
  6. Do you, today, still have the same passion about what you do as when you first started?

Click here to get your business back on track with tips from executive coach, Chris RuisiIf you answered “yes” to at least two of these questions, then your professional life (and maybe even your personal life) can best be described in the following way – “the bad news is you’re lost but the worse news is you’re making great time”. If you have a team depending on you, this type of situation will dampen any attempts to either properly delegate to them; set performance expectations or boost the team’s performance.

You are at a critical crossroads and you can’t stand there too long trying to determine which way to go. The choices are clear – accept the status quo, curl up into a complacent ball and accept the fact that you will forever be a victim of the circumstances you created. That’s right! You created! Often when one accepts this type of status quo, they are laying the groundwork for a future crisis. I remember discussing this point in a Managing Crisis presentation I gave to a medical management group when they hired me as a professional keynote speaker for their conference.

The other choice you can make, at the crossroads I mentioned, is to change the status quo and create a “new” reality and start down that road of becoming a “master” of the circumstances (and opportunities) that you create. That’s right you create!

You’re the only one who can make this decision. To help you, let’s get some brilliant advice from the wisest man I know – Yogi Berra. One of Yogi’s most famous statements is “when you come to a fork in the road, take it”. Here’s what Yogi meant by this brilliant tidbit of advice. According to Yogi (taken from his book with the same title) ”people are always afraid of making the wrong choice. But no matter what decision you make…you shouldn’t look back. Trust your instincts”. Yogi went on to say, “Make a firm decision. Make sure it feels right…don’t second guess yourself. But on big life decisions, get advice if you can”.

Bottom line; accept responsibility for your career (and life). If you don’t like where you are, then do something about it, now. Determine where you want to be; create your plan and take action and implement it, one step at a time. Click here to find the solutions for the questions I asked you at the very beginning of this post. Then, take the next step and contact me.

Leadership – Let Me Give It To You As Straight As I Can

Becoming an effective leader demands hard work and commitment on your part

In two past blog posts on leadership, I shared with you a number of key traits that are common among effective leaders. In the first post entitled (“No trust = No Leader”, and “7 Steps to Make Leadership Simple”). When combined, these two posts covered a great deal of territory found on the leadership landscape.

 

If you’re like me, you recognize that becoming an effective leader demands hard work and commitment. It requires more than just reading but actual “doing” and learning from your experiences. Sometimes when we are in the “doing” mode we forget some of what we have read and then realize after the dust settles that there was a different or additional technique that you should have tried. At times like this, I wish that I had a “pocket reminder” so that when it gets confusing I would have a simple guide to help me. Having said this, I am not suggesting that there is either a simple or “one size fits all” approach to developing your leadership style. As I said several lines up – “becoming an effective leader demands hard work and commitment on your part. It requires more than just reading but actual “doing” and learning from your experiences”. But, if a simple pocket reminder helps you on your leadership development journey, then so be it; as the title of this post reads, “let me give it to you as straight as I can”.

I looked back over my 35+ years of corporate experience and every leadership position I have held and have come up with these five traits that, when all else failed, helped get the leadership job done each time:
  • Listening
  • Being in the game 100% of the time
  • Preparation
  • Have an open mind
  • Challenge the team

Here’s some additional info that will help you understand better how to apply them to your style.

Listening – one of the most important standards I set for any team I lead was that it was impossible for them to “over-communicate” with me. I let my teams know that I hated surprises and that I would let them know when they gave me too much detail. I wanted my team to get into the habit of telling me all that they could. In this way I could keep my eye on how we were doing on achieving the vision and goals I had set. At this point, you might be thinking that my approach was a classic case of “TMI” (too much info) and micro managing. Nothing could be further from the truth! I found that when my team could see that I was genuinely interested in what they had to say, the quality of their communications improved. They also knew their role and where they fit in to the big picture – i.e. the vision. This also improved the quality and timeliness of their communications to me. As for micro managing, unless it was absolutely necessary, I never told them what to do. Rather, I asked them to show me how they would do it. Always be listening.

Being in the game 100% of the time – wherever I was, regardless of the topic or situation, I was there 100% or as some would say, “I was in the present”. Nothing would distract me from the task at hand. Some would say “Come on Chris, get real! All leaders have lots on their mind”. That’s true but multi tasking at the wrong time can be “multi dumb”! Missing one key element in a situation could prove to be a disastrous surprise later on. And guess who would be responsible for it? You! Another reason you want to be “in the moment” is the example you set. If your team sees you as being 100% involved, then they will act the same way. This will improve communications and productivity. Be in the game 100% of the time.

Preparation – this is the simplest of all leadership traits to develop, yet it is the one that most “would be leaders” fail to properly address. The ability to prepare is one of the most important habits you can develop, nurture and maintain. You would be amazed at how simple things become when you take the time to prepare for what needs to be done. For example, knowing what you want to achieve in the simplest terms possible; the resources you will need and where and when to get them; knowing what each person’s role will be and so on. These might seem like a lot of things to do but if it helps you be successful, isn’t the time needed to prepare a worthwhile investment? Do you start your meetings by just walking in and trying to wing it? Or, do you either publish an agenda in advance or ask for one to be published, that states what will be discussed and the goals to be achieved? Without the necessary preparation you will be doomed to doing things over and over again until you get it right. This approach costs you money, time and leadership credibility. Be Prepared.

Have an open mind – I found that I was most effective when I would try to identify other relevant options. It was my job to choose the right option or course. To do that, I had to keep an open mind to all of the factors involved, some of which I initially might not be aware of. By keeping an open mind, I was also able to be effective in another key leadership role – staying ahead of other potential problems. By looking at the options, I could see which might cause other issues down the road. This at least gave me a chance to develop a plan to deal with these if I took that particular path. While I knew that keeping an open mind was important, I also knew that at some point I had to make a decision to keep us moving forward. Keeping an open mind to all options, does not mean you have to listen or act on all of them. To do so could literally paralyze you. I knew that as a leader, I had to make things happen. By keeping an open mind, I was better able to consider the most important factors to help me make a decision with incomplete or not so perfect data. Keep an open mind, but don’t let it paralyze you.

Challenge the team – the first, and one of the most influential business mentor I had, was a gentleman named George Hoffacker. He had the unique ability through reflective questions, to challenge me to find the answers on my own. When I was stumped, he challenged me to identify the resources that would help me keep moving forward. To this day, I believe that his leadership approach to me – to challenge to be better – laid the foundation for many of the successes I experienced in my career. He was always there to help me or guide me but, most importantly, he helped me learn the real measure of my full capabilities. During our discussions, again through reflective questions, he also helped me learn to deal with any obstacles or barriers I might face. He showed me that the solutions to my challenges were well within my grasp. While he could have easily told me what to do, he knew that approach would “short change me” in terms of my executive development. From my experiences with him, I created one of my own leadership approaches – when my team member wanted to see me about a “problem” there was one of two ground rules they had to follow. First, they had to be able to tell me what they had tried (that did not work) to solve the challenge. Or, secondly, they had to come in with recommended courses of action they wanted to brainstorm with me before they took action. This approached helped me to help my teams learn how to think and see their full capabilities which in turn positively impacted their professional growth as well as the growth of the business. A quote that I recently came across says it best “Leadership involves inspiring others to be greater than they believe they can be; to help them see how they can exceed their own self-expectations”.

So, what should you do now? Simple…conduct your own self examination to evaluate how well you are leading your team. Ask yourself how well you stack up against these 5 points.

Conducting this type of business self analysis can be challenging. Sometimes it’s hard to be objective when you are looking at yourself and your job performance. Not sure where to start? Let me give you the answer – call me. Let me help you create the plan that gets you the best results in the most reasonable timeframe. Maybe we can discuss how I can help you through a leadership coaching program or through some focused executive coaching. Whatever we do, it will be designed to teach you how to improve your leadership skills and, at the same time, improve your company’s profitability by boosting your team’s performance.

Holy _ _ _ _! Can This Economy Get Any Worse?

This is a question that is being asked more and more frequently by business leaders and business owners. The answer is simple. Nobody really knows. For every down projection, there is always someone looking for any silver lining they can find. Let’s look at some of the recent business headlines that have led to the question being at the forefront of everyone’s mind: (1) A recent poll had 40% of all Americans starting to believe that we are in a permanent downward spiral; (2) Job creation is taking painfully too long. The jobs report on Friday, July 8th was a killer; (3) Unemployment just increased to 9.2% – the third increase in as many months; (4) Wall Street firms have begun to lay off employees and while layoffs have slowed in other industries, they are not hiring and (5) A number of economists believe that the debt/deficit crisis is actually worse than it appears for two reasons: First, we are in a historically low interest rate scenario. When rates do go up – and they will – the interest costs to service our nation’s debt will go up adding to the debt crisis. Secondly, there is a growing concern that the growth projections used by the Obama administration in their budgeting are unrealistically too high

Depressed yet? Feel like giving up? Better not. Now is not the time to be a quitter. Now is the time to be stepping it up (you know my battle cry – Be Fearless; Step and Play Big).

 

So, is the economy getting worse? Who knows? What I do know is that there are steps you can take to position you and your business to “ride it out” and, at the same time, take advantage of the opportunities that come with every crisis. The foundation of the strategies I will share with you is simple – start questioning the “status quo”. Accept nothing as “usual”. You might be thinking – sure Chris this sounds good but nothing can be done. Really; nothing can be done? Or, you just don’t want to try. Be honest with yourself. Think about this – famous golfer Arnold Palmer once said “the most rewarding things in life (and in business) are often the ones that look like they cannot be done”. Here are the steps that you need to take – things that you can and should do – to minimize your risk to the worst case scenario:

  1. Validate your cash needs for the balance of the year; update your budget/plan and stick with it. If you don’t have a budget, you are living on the edge already. Enough said!
  2. Where possible clean up and reduce your debt. Clean up your accounts receivables. Stop accepting every excuse why people will not pay you on a timely basis. Stop being the bank for these deadbeats! Not only do they have your money but they are costing you more money and grief while you wait to get paid. Get cash in the door – now!
  3. Fine tune your marketing message and what makes you different. Downturns can be an excellent opportunity to build market share as other either hide or fail. But your message has to be clear and mean something to your buyers.
  4. Re-validate your lead generation strategies to make sure you are spending your available time and money marketing in the right places – you know those places where your ideal customer may show up. Stop! Did you hear me? Stop right now going to some of those useless networking events. I call them “lonely hearts clubs” – everyone has their own story as to why things just are not that good. But no one has the courage to do something about it. Except you. If you follow my advice. Right?
  5. Get closer to your existing customers – the better ones. They will be your key to your continued viability during any prolonged downturn. Look to their past buying patterns and be there to suggest re-orders; purchases of other complimentary products you offer – you know cross selling; up-selling and to solicit referrals. On the subject of referrals – you are not getting enough good ones. Why? You are probably not asking the right way. You have to do something about referrals right now! I use a proven process with all of my coaching clients.
  6. Train your employees to understand your brand; what you do and how it benefits your customers. Here’s where you now think “come on Chris they know what we do”. Yeah! You think so! Set expectations on how they should perform internally and with your customers. Train them, I mean really train them. I have a very simple but yet effective approach that I use with my clients that outlines the right way to train your team. Your employees can destroy you’re your customer base just by accident. Are you willing to take that risk and the consequences if you are wrong?
  7. Set up a system that allows you to get the best ideas and feedback from your employees about how to improve the way you do business. Create a culture in your business that encourages your employees to solve problems and identify solutions.
  8. Make sure that all of your programs, systems and procedures, where applicable, are responsive to your customers needs. You want to make certain that your business consistently offers your customers a friendly; hassle free experience.
  9. Your job as the leader is to focus on only those priorities that will make a difference. Get it?
  10. Read the first 9 again. Make a copy and hang it in your office. Make another copy and keep it on your desk. Make a third copy and begin to discuss it with your team, soliciting their suggestions.

Like I said before, now is not the time to give up; slow down or hide until the economic storm passes. As a business leader or owner, you have already successfully faced adversity in the past. Americans, by our very nature, do not give up. We have learned to face adversity head on and find ways to successfully push through it. It is our “will to win” that drives us. So, you have what it takes. Take your “will to win” out for a drive. Push the “pedal to the metal” and drive right towards your goals. You will need every bit of your perseverance and self disciple to maintain control and focus on your journey. Success can be yours, if you want it and be that person who will do the right things to achieve it.

So, what do you do now? Put a plan into action and go for it. Contact me to help get you started and provide you the guidance and feedback that will make the journey easier.

7 Steps to Make Leadership Simple

Being a real leader is more than just a place on an org chart

In an earlier blog post entitled “No Trust = No Leader”, I explained the importance of trust in a leaders relationship with his or her team. Those in a position of authority know that they must earn the respect and trust of their team to be effective.

Over the course of my corporate career, as well as my career as a leadership keynote speaker, I have had the opportunity to observe, work for and learn from some great business leaders. I also worked for some (not many fortunately), who held a leadership position on an organization chart “only” but had no clue about what it takes to be a real leader. They were an “empty suit”. They looked good, but there was no substance.

This post is “part two” of our discussion on how a leader builds further upon his relationship with his team. From my experiences with the “best leaders” I have known, I have compiled what I believe is an additional list of the most important leadership characteristics, when combined, make for an effective leader. There are other characteristics that can be added to the list (watch for future posts). In that regard, I would be interested in hearing your views.

With all of this as background, let’s get started on your leadership journey.

1. Leaders know they are judged not by what they say but by what they do – simply stated, leaders value actions over words. They know that they must lead by example. They know (I hope they do) that people – their team, peers, bosses and even competitors and adversaries are always watching them. Leaders know that talk is cheap and that the right action, at the right time gets things done. As such, in addition to providing direction and instructions, leaders know that they have to act in a way that reflects what they believe in and supports their vision.

2. Leaders define reality and responsibilities – one cannot move to a better place until they know or define the place they are in – in the most specific way possible. Why? Because important decisions needed to move forward will be based upon the current reality. Plus, in order for others to see the value of moving forward, the leader must make certain that they understand, as clearly as possible, the reality of the current situation. With reality accurately defined and understood by all, the leader is then in an excellent position to assign responsibilities to each team member to move the organization forward.

3. Leaders set performance expectations and hold people accountable to get the job done – Leaders know that their primary role is to make things happen. The most basic responsibility of every leader is to set expectations. Expectations, when met, make things happen! Yet, many do not make full use of this very valuable tool. Expectations set in motion the steps needed to be taken and reached in order to make the leaders vision the new reality. People will achieve the expectations set for them only if they are held accountable to do so. I don’t mean held accountable in a negative sense – although that is a possibility and sometimes necessary – but rather in a positive motivational way. People perform best; are the most satisfied, when they see themselves making progress. In holding people accountable, a leader acknowledges and helps them see their progress.

4. Leaders find ways to challenge their team to help them grow and “stretch” their capabilities – a leader knows that if he gets better, his organization will automatically follow and get better. He or she also knows that if an individual team member gets better, the entire team will benefit. This dynamic of improving the team through the improvement of each individual member was best described by noted author Rudyard Kipling when he wrote “the strength of the wolf is in the pack and the strength of the pack is in the wolf”. Each team member is dependent on each other for the collective success. In addition, an effective leader knows that none of his team members (including him) are working to their fullest capabilities. His recognizes that as each member gets better, they are beginning to tap into and “stretch” their capabilities.

5. Leaders reward the right actions – the right actions are those that move the organization closer to the vision that the leader has created. Some will be significant but most of these actions will be performed daily as part of the usual routine. If the leader has done a good job in defining reality; creating the vision for the future; assigning responsibilities; setting expectations and holding people accountable, then, it will be very easy to recognize and reward the right actions.

6. Leaders never accept “below average” and act quickly when poor performance has been identified –Regardless of how good a leader is or how well intentioned they are, the decision to follow him and meet the expectations he has set is a personal one made by each employee. However, just like it is easy to find and reward the right actions, a poor performing employee will be painfully obvious. When that occurs, a leader must take quick and decisive action to remedy the situation. This remedy could involve additional training and guidance and it may involve more serious actions like a probationary period or termination. If a leader puts off taking timely action, they run the risk of sending a dangerous message to the better performers on his team – namely, “I will tolerate less than acceptable levels of job performance so you don’t have to work that hard”.

7. Leaders know how important it is to listen to what their team members have to say – effective leaders know that one of the best ways to engage their team members is to listen to them – about their job concerns; job challenges and their suggestions about how things can be improved. The team is on the line; doing the work. They have a valuable perspective to offer, and an effective leader wants to hear what they have to say. Their comments may lead to business improvements that the leader might not otherwise know about. As I wrote in a prior post “No trust = No leader”, effective listening builds trust. Trust builds or strengthens relationships and strong relationships are the foundation of healthy team. Healthy teams are focused and get results. They perform for their leader; because they want to, not because they have to.

These are challenging times; and it appears that the challenges will be with us for some time to come. Anne Mulchay, CEO of Xerox, said it best when she commented – “There is not a lot of room anymore for senior people to be managers. They have to be leaders”.

So, what should you do now? Simple…conduct your own self examination to evaluate how well you are leading your team. Ask yourself how well you stack up against the 7 points I have listed here. Now is the time for you to take some action on how you can become a better leader. Remember what I said earlier, when the leader gets better, so does the team and ultimately the business follows. The one fact you must keep in mind is that you (in fact all of us) can always be better – if we chose to be.

Conducting this type of business self analysis can be challenging. Sometimes it’s hard to be objective when you are looking at yourself and your job performance. Not sure where to start? Let me give you the answer – call me. Let me help you create the plan that gets you the best results in the most reasonable timeframe. Maybe we can discuss how I can help you through a leadership coaching program or through some focused executive coaching. Whatever we do, it will be designed to teach you how to improve your leadership skills and, at the same time, improve your company’s profitability by boosting your team’s performance. Or, maybe the solution is for me to visit your company as a professional motivational (and humorous) business speaker and present a custom designed presentation to move you and your company’s leadership team to the next level. A simple call gets this started. Like I said before, “leaders know that their primary role is to get things done” – starting with themselves!

5 Great Ways to Run You and Your Business into the Ground

Leadership – Being a Master of Your Circumstances as Opposed to a Victim of Them

Here are five of the top ways business owners and even business leaders and executives can run themselves and their businesses into the ground. And, if they are guilty of any of these five habits, more than likely they will be unable to retain good employees they have working for them – an accelerant for burning the business to the ground.

 

As you read this list, be honest with yourself. If you are guilty of having any or all of these five traits, then stop what you are doing as soon as you can! You are making yourself a victim of your circumstances as opposed to being the master of them.

Here we go:

Don’t plan each day. – This is the #1 cause of wasted time, money and energy. Now why should you plan each day? It’s more fun to live on the edge and operate in a defensive and reactive mode. You know who you are. You’ve convinced yourself that you can handle any crisis that comes your way. Let me let you in on a little secret – your lack of planning makes you the likely cause of the crisis! Want to know what you should do? You need to develop your business planning skills and learn to set and work with business goals. Watch my rant entitled “Show me a man (or a woman) who excels at putting out fires…” I’m talking about you in this rant. Having a daily plan, or even one for the week, gives you an edge. It gives you more control of your destiny. And, if a distraction pops up, your plan gives you the new starting point after you have eliminated the distraction. Plus developing and following a plan is a key leadership trait.

Don’t train anyone else to do the tasks that you should NOT be performing. – Here’s what you’re thinking – “Come on Chris, get real! I am great at announcing “it will be easier if I do it myself”. Well, that may be the only thing you are good at. You’re not good at planning, delegation or developing your employees. Want to know what you should do? For starters, let me suggest that every time you feel the need to “do it yourself”, ask yourself if that would be the best use of your time? Ask also what would be a better use of this time (Hint – grow your business; look for new customers, etc)? If you have the time, I would urge you to read “The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey” by Ken Blanchard. There is a very important message in this book for you. Stop doing others peoples work… for them, especially if you are also paying them.

Don’t have any clue as to the description of your ideal client”. – Admit it; you really enjoy working with those customers who suck every bit of life and energy out of you. Plus, they probably want a discount on every sale and (here’s the best) they pay you very very slowly. At night, you pray that the earth would open up and swallow them. If you don’t have a description of your ideal client, how will you know where to look for them? If you don’t know where to find them, then you are probably wasting valuable marketing dollars and time. Want to know what you should do? Ideal clients will inspire you, make you feel confident, pay you what you’re worth, praise you, and refer other clients to you without being asked. One way of defining your ideal client is to look at past and present clients. Which of these clients did you enjoy working with the most? Pull those client files and list their common characteristics. Stop being a client victim!

Don’t deal with your poor performing employees. – It’s easier to ignore them and ask your better employees to pick up the slack. Forget about the feelings of the better employees who are carrying their own weight plus the weight of the dead beat! Some of you, to avoid dealing with them, will give them a lousy raise so they will quit (I never understand why you give them a raise anyway). But, you do and they don’t quit do they? Why should they? They are doing the least amount of work and still getting paid! Want to know what you should do? Start learning the meaning of – performance appraisal tools; setting performance expectations; holding people accountable to meet your expectations and, following through with your team on the consequences of good performance as well less than acceptable performance

Don’t tackle the tasks you must do on a timely basis. – Be bold. Let the work pile up. It’s more of a challenge to be a “super-procrastinator”. Why? So you can complain about how busy you are and have all these things to do. This approach is especially damaging when you put off working on big projects that require several steps to complete. Your response –

“Hi honey, have dinner with the kids and kiss them goodnight for me. Don’t wait up for me either. Have to burn the midnight oil tonight to get a big project done that is due tomorrow. Boy, I just don’t know where the time goes. I’ll probably have a burger at my desk and wash it down with some Red Bull”.

Want to know what you should do? Learn to break these big projects into smaller pieces. Tackle each smaller piece one at a time. Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy is an excellent source on how to stop procrastinating. Go buy it – Now. You will be happy that you did. Next develop and strengthen your self discipline skills. The best definition of self discipline that I have seen goes as follows – “do what you are supposed to do; when you are supposed to do it, even though you don’t feel like doing it.

All of these examples, if you do nothing about them, will run you and your business into the ground – literally. You can always fix a business or start a new one. There is only one of you. Want to know what you should do? Stop the madness. You can if you want to. The next step is to contact me so that we can transform the chaos in your business and your life into something that has value and you enjoy (yup have fun) making it grow.

How Not To Hire Your Future Problems

Hire The Best People You Can

As the economic recovery begins to gain traction, employers – both big and small – will be in the hunt for new talent at all of the management levels within their companies, up to and including the executive suite. The question is, will you hire the best person or a future problem?

 

But, what are the characteristics of the “best” people they need to hire in order to improve business results and profitability? It must be remembered that in addition to filling an open position, they are, in essence, building their future leadership team. The importance of who to hire is now on the radar screen of many companies Boards of Directors. Recently, the Board of Bank of America (as a result of that company’s mistakes and mis-steps) instructed their CEO to “hire and install people with experience and good judgment” in key roles (Wall Street Journal 4/16/11). I guess that the Board of Bank of America concluded that a lack of people with “experience and good judgment” contributed to the challenges that Bank has been forced to confront.

Wow! Hire and install people with experience and good judgment. How novel is that? Who wouldn’t hire people with “experience and good judgment”? It appears that many have not sought these skills when building their executive team. This becomes obvious when the company tries to launch an executive coaching program. Experience and good judgment are of course key skills a manager or business leader needs to have. However, they cover a broad area. Here’s a list of 10 of the key skills that I have seen in my executive coaching and mentoring activities that I believe business leaders need to possess to boost team performance and guide their company (big or small; public or private) to success:

  • They need to know how to manage chaos that results in them finding opportunities to increase revenues and in turn profitability
  • They possess excellent execution skills – they know that a great plan executed poorly is a disaster. They focus on the details to get things done.
  • They are committed to getting results
  • They are well rounded and understand the important role people play in the success of a company
  • They understand the importance of investing in their people to give them the skills they need to succeed; the opportunity to use those skills and feedback on how well they are doing
  • They welcome risk and know how to assess it
  • They have the ability to make “right” decisions with either incomplete or imperfect data
  • They have demonstrated in the past that they know how to create growth – even in a down economy
  • They know how to capitalize on a company’s uniqueness and create growth from it
  • They lead by example so as to gain the respect of their superiors; peers and team

As I said at the beginning, these are 10 of the key skills business leaders need to increase profitability and to be successful. There are others. But now that you know 10 of them, what are you to do? It’s simple really. First have a plan when you need to recruit and hire someone. The plan should include a complete description of the person you need to hire; a comprehensive description of the role they will fill and the skills they will need to properly execute their duties; what criteria will be used to measure satisfactory performance; the questions that you will ask and a way to evaluate the candidate’s responses.

There is an old expression which sums this up well – “hire slow and fire fast”. Take your time when hiring someone. However, if you made a mistake, then deal with that fast before the mistake causes more harm within your organization.

Not sure where to start? That’s simple also. Call me to discuss your current people challenges so that we can build the right plan for you and your business.

Lessons In Leadership: Do You Delegate (Or, Do You Collect Other People’s Problems)?

Wikipedia tells us that delegation is the assignment of authority and responsibility to another person to carry out specific activities. However the person who delegated the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work. Delegation is supposed to empower a subordinate to make decisions, i.e. it is a shift of decision-making authority from one organizational level to a lower one. Sounds good but at this point you “control freaks” are ready to slit my wrists for sharing this stuff! But, in the face of this danger, I’ve decided to keep going.

Wikipedia goes on to state that delegation, if properly done, is not abdication (ok, control freaks now say with passion”yeah right!”). The opposite of effective delegation is micromanagement, where a manager provides too much input, direction, and review of delegated work (control freaks are now thinking – “Is there any other way?”). In general, delegation is good and can save money and time, help in building skills, and motivate people. Poor delegation, on the other hand, might cause frustration, and confusion to all of the involved parties. Or, to say it another way – when done poorly, “It can be a living hell”!

 

In his book The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey Ken Blanchard talks about the Four Rules Of Monkey Management:

1. Describe the monkey: The dialogue must not end until the appropriate “next moves” have been identified
2. Assign the monkey: All monkeys shall be owned and handled at the lowest organizational level consistent with their welfare
3. Insure the monkey: Every monkey leaving your presence on the back of one of your people must be covered by one of two insurance policies:
a. Recommend, then act
b. Act, then advise
4. Check on the Monkey: proper follow-up means healthier monkeys. Every monkey should have a checkup appointment.

This is probably the best book on delegation that I have found and at some point in my executive/business coaching client work, I give it to my clients to read. In every case, the lessons in the book “hit home” with each client. The concept of “insuring the monkey” takes away all of the excuses you “control freaks” use as to why you cannot (or is it will not) let go.

One of the dark sides of delegation I had to deal with in my career is called “upward delegation”. The book describes it when a subordinate comes to you and utters these bone chilling words – “we have a problem” and your response is “I’ll handle it”. Sometimes you take it on because “it’s easier if I do it myself” or “I don’t have the time to show you so I’ll do it this time”. Regardless of what excuse you use (and make no mistake, they are excuses), the monkey is on your back and you are now a victim, that’s right a victim of “upward delegation”.

Over time I learned to fight and eliminate “upward delegation” by qualifying my “open door policy” by adding two mandatory requirements when someone came to tell me ” I need your help” or that all-time favorite “we have a problem”. They were –

first, tell me what you tried and why it did not work;

or second, tell me what you are thinking of trying that you want to brainstorm with me before you take action.

When you, as the leader, lay out performance expectations and stick to them, your team starts to do their homework and are better able to identify, understand and solve the challenges they confront. In essence, they become active participants in finding solutions – without having to be told. This simple approach encouraged my team to think about solutions before they raised the “red flag” and not to be fearful of offering up suggestions. When your team starts to think, speak and act in this way, they begin to grow and the growth of your business follows. In addition, you have more time to focus on the things you as the leader need to focus on – the strategic issues that will move your business (and you) forward.

So how do you get started? First and foremost, you’re going to have to break out of your comfort zone. If you are a so-called “control freak” you’re going to have to get comfortable feeling or being uncomfortable. Or as I have often said, “you need to Be Fearless; Step up and Play Big.” After that, following these simple steps will get you going in the right direction:

  1. Define the task – describe clealy what the output needs to be
  2. Delegate to a person with demonstrated competence
  3. Explain the task clearly, in writing if necessary
  4. Invite/encourage questions and feedback
  5. Give a schedule and deadline for completion
  6. Periodically inspect what you expect

A warning – the first time you follow this approach, may not go as smoothly as you might hope. That’s ok. Learn from the bumps in the road and apply that knowledge to the next time. Guess what? The next time may not go smoothly either. Just don’t quit on this or yourself. Keep working at it. Delegation, done the right way (and you can do it the right way), is probably one of the most effective tools a leader has in his leaders toolkit. So ask yourself, do you really delegate or do you just collect (and get swamped) other people’s problems? If the answer is you are a “collector” then stop right now and change course. Your career, buisness and quality of life depend on it.