Walls Don’t Solve Problems…They Create New Ones

20 years ago today the Berlin Wall came down. It was described as “the triumphant end of a failed system”. Like the Berlin Wall, organizations throughout the world have walls, inner kingdoms, silos, that add no value to their markets. As I discussed in a previous post ; Silos are Great for Shooting Missiles not for growing Market Leading Organizations, “Tear Down Your Dysfunctional Silo’s and become a Market Leader. If your organization has silos, walls built around business units designed for kingdom building and a self serving desire to feel superior its time to change. As your business prepares for 2010…tear down those walls!

 
 
Market leaders identify and solve market problems.
Market leading organizations understand the value of having every team member aligned around the corporate mission to serve their market.
Market losers have inner kingdoms, silo organizations within the organization that add no value for their markets.
One of the greatest challenges facing organizations is the ability to execute effectively and efficiently.

Walls built between organizational units like; sales and marketing, and or marketing and engineering add no value. These inner walls have a negative impact on your organization’s ability to be competitive with nimble competitors who do not have the added costs of kingdom protection built into their overhead. Walls are propped up by insecure leaders who are more focused on their personal goals and compensation than that of the organization. A quick way to identify one of these kingdom builders is their frequency of blame storming other departments when they fail to meet their Key Performance Indicators. These Lords and Ladies of the castle rarely use words like “we” and regularly use sarcasm when referring to other silos not within their command. The outcome of inner walled organizations is bureaucratic processes and procedures designed for individualized leader safety and not growing the organization.

Attention All leaders…tear the walls down and prepare for 2010.
How about your organization…..
Do you work for a market leading organization focused on serving its market? Or do you work for a market loser that allows walls and silos to form to create internal kingdoms for individuals and groups?
Does your culture allow walls?
If you culture does allow walled departments loyally guarded against other departments…how’s that working for you? More importantly …how’s that working for shareholder value?

Rip Off the Band Aide(s) and Position Your Business For Growth in 2010

What are you aware of that is broken in your business? You know that area, person, process, perhaps website that is not producing? It’s that area that you know you need to address, but you have tabled for now as you focus on bigger fish to fry. If you can’t admit perhaps it’s” broke”,(like a number of those who ask for my help)  let me ask you another way: What is that area that you know is just not right, but you slapped a band aide on to “get through until the business comes back to normal again”?

The reality is you will never see your business like it was unless you identify the areas that are roadblocks or worst yet broken ,and fix them.

I remember when my children were very young and when the would fall down playing and scrape a knee or elbow they did not want me to clean the minor scratch or put some medicine on it….they wanted a band aide. Band aides are magical in that once the problem is out of site they were miraculously healed. Tear filled faces became filled with smiles and the desire to get back to the play that resulted in the injury in the first place.

The difficulty came at night, before their bath when we had to remove that band aide. Back in the day, in an effort insure they did not fall off,…band aides were once glued   your skin and the removal of them caused some pain and or irritation. So what do you do? Do you slowly pull the band aide off? No, what you learned to do was to rip the band aide off quickly. Yes there is a momentary pain, but not nearly as long as trying to slowly remove it. Once the band aide is removed you can assess the true nature of the injury, clean it, and apply medicine to insure it heals and does not become infected.

As I work with a variety of companies in a number of industries I uncover band aides in a variety of areas; broken processes, people who are not adding value and should have been dealt with long ago, people in the wrong roles, websites that scare customers away instead of begin a discussion, antiquated costing systems, poor marketing, the use of old selling practices, …and the list goes on.

What I find is most leaders are aware of the problems, but quickly mentally ranked them, they performed a triage and determined what needed to be addressed immediately, soon, or something we can slap a band aide on and deal with it when the business gets back to normal. There is also some who seem to hope and pray they just go away.

The reality is you may never see the days you consider normal again.
If today is the new normal , what would you do differently moving forward?

The recommendation I give to my clients is to; reset their understanding of the market and their business. In that process we will identify band aides that were slapped on areas that needed repaired and now have become infected. The only way to determine if those broken areas miraculously healed themselves, or if they became infected and may be costing you business, is to rip them off quickly, and rip them off now.

Over the next series of posts I plan to share the process I have used to help businesses; launch new products, launch into new markets, grow in existing marketing, and rebound when they were faced with rapidly decreasing sales, profits, and market share. My commit to you is they are practical and you may even scratch your head and say “well it can’t be that easy”…the reality is; yes, it is.

I am not sure what caused it, or when it occurred , but leaders at some point decided problems were complex and therefore required complex solutions that none of us could execute if we had to … if the truth be told. The reality is when you boil problems down to their true essence there are no new problems. The problem may on the surface look or feel new, but in reality it has existed before. Identifying problems and the road blocks standing in the way of your team’s success and solving them is what we are paid to do.

How about your business…when I ask the question; what is broke and you know you need to fix it but it will be painful? …do you think about?
Are you sure the band aide you slapped on it long ago is working? How can you be sure?
Are you sure underneath that band aide you don’t have a festering infection that may spread throughout the body of your business? ( and worst spread to your customers)
Did you just address an area by “Ripping off the Band Aide”? If so please share what your learned.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #9 Don’t Let the Two Most Important Plates Drop

 

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afLq5dYFWK4&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

 

As an entrepreneurial spirited leader there is always something to do. There are more potential new accounts to call, people to hire, bankers to meet, and the list goes on and on. It reminds me of the plate spinners I would see when I was a child visiting the circus. They start spinning one plate, then two and before long they have 12 plates spinning on long staffs. Just as one more begins to spin, one of the previous plates need attention so they do not stop spinning and fall to the ground.

 

There are only two plates entrepreneurs can never let fall; your family and your values.

 

All the other plates can fall, and often will, and they bounce. If they break they can be glued back together again, adequately enough so they continue to spin.

 

The founder of Kaboodle put it another way at a recent TIE Arizona event; as an entrepreneur you are juggling a number of balls in the air, but two are made of glass and must never fall; your family relationships and your core values. If those balls fall they do not bounce, they shatter and can never be replaced.

plate

Your Family      

 

At the end of the day, your family is the only real relationship you have that truly matters. We justify the nights and weekends away from home telling ourselves it is for them. The truth, in my case (and maybe yours is) we work like we do for the “rush” the addictive thrill of solving customer problems.

It comes down to making choices. We fail to recognize we have a choice, but we do. I made bad choices over the years. I traveled for example domestically 3-4 nights per week for 15 years. In addition, when I was home on weekends, for two years I completed my Executive MBA. I used to describe myself back then as “focused”. I was focused all right, but on the wrong plates. Missed baseball games, dance recitals and anniversaries almost made my family plate fall. Couple my passion to grow businesses with an international expansion for three years being gone weeks at a time, my family plate almost fell. Today I find myself connecting someplace between Pacing the Cage as I discussed in a previous post and the popular cat’s in a cradle song.

It truly is about “focus”, “intentional focus” to be more precise. We set our priorities each day consciously or unconsciously . When I work with young entrepreneurs, once we have trust built I ask to see their day planner (today it’s often a phone) and their checkbook. These two simple tools very quickly show me an entrepreneur’s focus.

I recommend entrepreneurs consciously put dates and times on your schedule for family. I recommend you take notes, just as you do with key accounts, but at home when your daughter is sharing what is important to her, or when your wife needs her life partner to bounce ideas off of.

I have learned that no matter how much “money” your work can produce, nothing is more valuable than your family, and this plate must never fall.

plate

Values         

Your core values shape your outlook and your actions. Just last Sunday Pastor Jason was discussing how your;” beliefs shape your actions….so what do your actions say about your beliefs”

When I work with new clients one of the first things I need to understand is their values. I do not judge their values I just need to know what they are. Far too often they are not black and white, but land somewhere in the grayness due to compromises made. Values are at the core of you as a leader, and must be at the core of your business. Just as a strong core is essential to strong physical health, strong core values establishes boundaries. Some of my clients struggle with the idea of boundaries, I had one young man who took over the family business put it this way; “it sounds like you are asking me what the rules are…if I wanted rules I would not be working for myself, …I make the rules” and he could not have been farther from the truth.

 

I came to faith in the mid 1990’s in a program called Alpha. In this series of nights watching DVD’s in small groups and discussing our beliefs, the founder of Alpha, Nicky Gumble, tells a story. His son loves to play soccer. One day they arrived at the pitch and there were no officials, so Nicky was asked to fill in so the kids could get started and he agreed. So the ball would go out of bounds, but he would say play on. The players would make a foul and Nicky would say…play on. Before long the match was pandemonium with children being hurt, parents and children frustrated, and no one was having fun. When the referee finally arrived the first thing he did was blow his whistle. He reviewed the rules, established the boundaries, and play began. Nicky goes on to say how much the children actually enjoyed playing the game once they understood the rules and had firm boundaries.

In business we must also establish boundaries. What often occurs is not gross violations of core values, but small, minor compromises…often later justified as…”for the good of the team”. I have never seen those small compromises truly add long term value. I have seen companies short pay vendors, or purposefully pay their bills 45-60 days late thinking they were so clever to use their vendor’s cash to support their growth. However the vendors, if they have boundaries quickly shut down supply until you pay, or they increase your cost of goods to offset the cost of money. The net result always is your customers suffer.

I also see compromises with regards to key team members. A team member does behaviors that are unacceptable based on your company mission and core values…but company leaders look the other way because he or she…”produces”. They produce alright, they may be producing sales, or operational efficiencies or so on, but they also are creating a disruption at the core of what your team stands for. You see, everyone is watching when, let’s call him “Mark” is not living by the rules the team established. The longer Mark is allowed to play outside the boundaries established by your core values the weaker your team becomes internally and in your market. In addition to your team, your market is always watching as well. As I discussed in my post about the “Law of the Locker room” …it truly is a small world” Your market, like a neighborhood talks. I promise you they talk about you. You must insure what they say about you and your team helps grow your business and not make them seek more trusted partners.

Your core values as a leader and as an organization must be defined and they must establish clear boundaries.

 

Failure to do so and your team will make compromises and one day you may have a large company, but not like each other when you get there.

 

You can judge a leader much more by their walk, than by their talk. Their actions do illustrate their beliefs.

 

What do the actions of key leaders and influencers in your organization illustrate about your core values.

(And now the real hard one) What do your actions say about your core values and that of your organization?

 

As an entrepreneurial leader you will often feel like a plate spinner in a circus. You always have something you can be doing. For me I often felt like a “one legged plate spinner” trying do too much, too quick, and I had many sleepless nights over the plates in my mind that were almost ready to fall.

 

There are two plates you must never let fall, for once broken can never be fully repaired; your family and your values.

 

What are your core values and beliefs?

 

Are the right plates still spinning?

 

12 Lessons All Leaders Can Learn About Launching New Products and Services …From the 2009 Health Care Reform

health care mast head

 

 

Watching the current 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative has valuable lessons for all leaders throughout the world if we take time to pay attention. I think it was Einstein who said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. The current 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative has strong emotional attachments regardless of which side of the debate you reside.

It is often the life lessons with emotional attachments we remember most.

 

The goal of my last series of blog posts was to share business lessons leaders can learn from watching and living the 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative. I tried to focus on the business principles and not take a partisan view. If you have read any of my posts you will not be surprised to learn I am a Christian, American, and Republican….in that order. I am proud to be an American and I admit we can always improve as a nation, however having traveled the world I can say first hand how blessed I feel to live in the United States.

pres obama

As for our President, I follow what our Lord taught us in the Bible and I pray for him. I pray the Lord gives him and all our leaders wisdom, discernment, and the courage to act upon what the Lord instructs him to do.( and not those of this world) I have received a number of emails since launching this blog thread. A number of those felt I was “bashing” our President, and if my word choice made you feel that way I apologize.

 

As a man, I have no problem with President Obama and if asked I would welcome the opportunity to be a part of the solution.

 

As our leader I must follow him, support him. If he loses, I lose…we all lose.

 

What I challenge is the process of this initiative.

 

My intension was to ;

 

“focus on the problem and not the person”

 

There are a number of lessons we can glean from watching life lessons before us.

 

I am sure there are many more lessons if thought leaders wish to add content:

 

 

  • the impact of social media on the 2009 Health Care reform Initiative

  • Lessons in leadership when a launch goes bad

  • The cost(s) of change

  • The psychology of change

  • When tempers flair seek first to understand and find common ground

  • …and I am sure there are many more

 

 

12 Lessons All Leaders Can Learn About Launching New Products and Services …From the 2009 Health Care Reform?

 

#1: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, You Will Experience “Scope Creep” and Your Launch Plan Will Fail

 

#2: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, you cannot write good requirements for your development team

 

#3: Without a Clear Understanding of the Problems to be Solved, and Requirements, Development will Build Solutions Because They Can and Not Because They Should!

 

#4: Your Previous New Product Launch success (or Failures) Affect Current and Future Launches

 

#5: Without a Clear understanding of the Problems your New Product Solves, Marketing will resort to “Buzz Word Bingo” and “Gobbledygook”

 

#6: Without a Road Map Your “Administration” Will Attempt Too Much, Too Fast and Not Achieve Any of Your Goals

 

#7: Asking…and not listening to your market, is worst than not asking at all…

 

#8; Buyers Become Tone Deaf to Lazy Marketing Messaging

 

#9; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…Fix the Right Problem

 

#10, #11, #12; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…right time, right customer, right offer

 

What other lessons have you learned, or are learning as we watch the 2009 Health Care Reform Imitative?

 

Is your organization making some of the same mistakes? Why?

 

Are you about to Launch a New Product or Service and you adjusted your plan based on the above 10 posts? If so which posts and how?

 

How can we unite as Americans and stop Blame Storming?

 

Do you feel I was wrong to use this real life emotionally charged lesson to blog about? Why, Why not?

 

2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #3: Without a Clear Understanding of the Problems to be Solved, and Requirements, Development will Build Solutions Because They Can and Not Because They Should!

ipod bathroom 

 

Where a number of entrepreneurs make a costly mistake is in jumping into a new product launch and making a product launch checklist  without spending an adequate amount of time gaining an intimate market knowledge and building strategy. When this occurs, developers and engineers (Representatives) build things because they can not because they should.

How do we end up with a 1,000 page bill? ( few have read, and fewer understand?) Or an ipod station and toilet paper holder? Or a laptop that smells?…. ( by design)

Without a clear understanding of the problem you want to solve, and clear requirements and not understanding who you are solving them for, you will build stuff.

Developers are creative problem solvers. They want to be given problems and requirements. They go nuts if you also tell them how to solve it. Just as salespeople hate it when accounting tries to tell them how to sell more.

The inherent problem though lays in the fact developers also see problems that are real to them, that may not be market problems. So they have their “wish list” of solutions they want to introduce.

If you lack a clear definition of the problems you want to solve and the requirements needed and just “throw a challenge over the wall” two things will happen;

1. Development will create a perceived list of problems and prioritize them themselves.

2. Without a clear direction, they will build what they always wanted to build and not necessarily what the market needs or wants.

What happens next is even more dangerous. So you have shared your “big hairy audacious goal” with your market: “A Health Care reform bill before the August break”.

Not having a connection to the problems your team will connect to something…so the August goal is clear, measureable and written so they rally to meet that goal.

The achievement of the goal date becomes more important than solving the unresolved market problem.

When this occurs your team tunes out the market and its needs and tunes into the leaders goal ( and often ego).

Teams aligned around the wrong goal “tell and sell” versus “teach and share the problems they solved” and markets often rebel.

Buyers like to buy; they do not like to be sold.

With the power of social media, and the lack of alignment to the correct goal, a solution can launch and die within hours.

Market leaders understand the value in spending the time upfront, clearly defining the problem(s) they want to solve and developing requirements that set their developers up to win, and ultimately add value to the bottom line of the organization.

Market Losers are so focused on a delivery goal they Haste, and they waste. Focus on the wrong goal results in their team members thrashing around, starting and stopping and not able to develop revolutionary solutions that the market willing buys.

 

How about your organization….

 

Does your team throw things over the wall?

 

Do your developers ask for more information and the prioritization of requirements, or do they assume they know.

 

Has your company launched something because you could and not because you should? ….How’s that working for you?

“Dumb and Dumber, FOX and Warner and how they are Planning on Delaying Deliveries to Red Box

dumb and dumber

                                                                                  Lloyd and Harry reach Aspen on Scooter in Dumb and Dumber

 

FOX and Warner Bros delaying new movie releases to Red Box and other kiosk vendors is like watching a new release of Dumb and Dumber.

In the Wall Street Journal article: Warner Bros. aims to lift DVD sales, will delay arrival at rental kiosks. They discuss how they plan to delay new releases to DVD rental kiosks.

The movie studios are concerned about their DVD revenues.

The market is not only speaking, but screaming how they are raving fans of DVD rentals Kiosks like Red Box.

The current big customers like Blockbuster and others are posting over 22% losses in revenues when kiosks like Red Box are showing consistent and impressive gains. Call me crazy… but your market is speaking guys…can you hear me now? Red Box Kiosks are described as; “The hottest thing in movie rentals is as old as the Coke machine — and just as red.”Their CEO Gregg Kaplan said “We are incredibly proud to achieve 200 million rentals and 10,000 locations nationwide.”

The studios have a choice, they can try to “control” the market, the buyers, or they need to intimately understand the market, buyers and needs and not only embrace the new ways consumers wish to consume content but enable it.

Thirteen years of my work experience was serving the movie distribution, rental and mass retail. How Warner and Fox are behaving is no different than how they all were behaving worried that this new thing called “movie rental stores “would erode their box office revenues in the mid 1980”s.

Market losers try to control the market and they protected their current cash cows while ignoring the consumer’s voice. They ignore the bright lights of growth and change trying to tightly hold on to past business models their markets no longer value.

Market leaders spend time getting to know their market and they quickly understand consumers who rent movies also go to movie theaters and some even buy movies and collect them.

When we rent content it is about wanting entertainment in a convenient and cost effective way for me as a consumer. You can try to control us, however when you do we find other ways to solve our needs and often they are much more severe to your bottom line. Besides, how long will it be before one of your competing studios blinks? Didn’t we live this same scenario “back in the day” And what happened…aggressive smaller studios emerged understanding the needs of consumers and and one of you big guys blinked. Some of you held your ground (more stubborn and stupid, driven by your own needs and egos instead of being strategic marketers) and how did that work for you back then? I remember, do you?

I can remember the 28,000 independent video stores and large movie distributors placing pressure on the studios to not ship new video releases directly to this 14 store chain in Texas called Blockbuster. At the time they were buying through distributors like Big State, Commtron, Ingram, and others. Well that little chain of 14 video rental stores quickly became a market leader.

I am a huge fan of Red Box.

They solve problems for me;

· I want to rent a DVD fast, I like the experience

· I want to rent a DVD and do my grocery shopping in one trip, in one location, one stop ( I am already late for dinner)

· I do not want to pay what Blockbuster charges , no late fees …but still a lot more than $1.00

· I only want the movie for one night

· I don’t want to have to join Net flicks or others and pre plan my month of movie viewing

· At a $1.00 rental, I feel like I receive a value , if I like it I go to Wal Mart and buy it

· I do not want to have to “shop” at a movie rental store only to find out they have all the new releases checked out

· I do not want to pay more for a new release than an older movie

· I do not want to buy movies through my cable provider as they are already raping me with what they charge

· The box office theaters are increasing their prices ( again, feels like they are thinking about their own needs and not mine)

So what are you going to do Dumb and Dumber? Are you going to repeat the past and focus on your needs or are you going to understand the market, it’s consumers and our changing needs and not only enable us to enjoy movie entertainment, but who knows you may even find new products and serves that solve our unresolved problems that Red Box fails to solve?

When I wrote my post : Attention leaders: Don’t look now but your lack of market knowledge is showing… I was talking about companies like you that have lost touch with their markets and they guess , assume, and use their gut and intuitions as their way of hitting their goals. They make inside-out versus market -in decisions and their shareholder values decline rapidly.

Your choice…focus on your internal needs and try to control the market… Or gain an intimate knowledge of your market today and it’s consumers like me and build products and service delivery systems that serve me and solve my unresolved problems.

Oh I can hear the movie exec’s now…”easy for you to say, we have billions at stake here.” Well you are right, you do. But you will eventually supply the kiosk companies with new releases at the same time as others. While you figure it out, Red Box will go to a mass retail store on the day of the new release and buy them. While you figure this out you will remove profit from your movie distributors.

So the question is how long do you want to be a “buggy whip” manufacturer saying this horseless carriage is a fad? Or, do you embrace your market, its changes and evolve into a new company that meets our needs today and into the future?

Maybe you develop a “imovies” since my kids seem to download their favorite DVD’s onto Apple laptops? The only hassle is the download from the disc. Not a big deal, but maybe you take the time to understand why they are doing this, the problem it solves for them and solve it brillantly?

We are all watching…

How about your company….

Are you trying to control your market? How’s that working for you?

Are you trying to control your vendors trying to slow down a new service model in your industry?

Are you the buggy whip manufacturer saying this new horseless carriage is a fad and will never last?

Or are you studying your market, your consumers and intimately understanding what and why they do what they do?

All is not lost by the way as some forward thinking buggy whip manufactures found as they learned to make leather seating for these horseless carriages.

Trying to control a market is foolish and expensive. Understand and embrace your market and become a market leader, not a market loser.

Mentor Moment #8: “Haste makes Waste”

haste

Is it just me…or do our fathers seem smarter as we get older? When we as individuals or organizations “haste” and drive knee jerk reactions they also create waste and often make matters worse.

I can remember my father saying “haste makes waste” throughout my childhood. He said it when I was painting our fence and I was so focused on getting done I was not aware of the mess I was making beneath the fence and would latter spend many extra hours cleaning up.

I try not to talk about politics in my blog, however a great example of “haste makes waste “can be viewed today by watching the actions of President Obama and the Democratic Party with regards to the stimulus and healthcare reform. They moved so fast to push a stimulus bill through the system that a number of those involved in signing the bill, failed to read it. As a Christian man I am to pray for my leaders so I prayed that what looked like haste makes waste was not the case. However we are well into the stimulus and it should not shock anyone that what was rushed to signature has failed to produce the promised results.

Same play, act two…the healthcare reform bill. Again we are seeing a rush to closure. When hitting a date becomes more important than what you are doing you are lost, off track and must STOP. I agree we need to reform healthcare so I am not arguing about the unresolved problem, the need. What I am concerned with is the focus on quick closure verse writing a bill that will truly solve the problem. Is this something only politicians do? Unfortunately no.

We can look in the Bible and read Samuel to learn what happened to Saul when he failed to wait as instructed and rushed into battle. Like an unruly child saying “but I want it now” (The only battle he lost, but the one that was the beginning of his end as the leader)

In business we see leaders making plans and focusing so much energy on holding teams accountable to a specific date they fail to achieve their desired results. Part of the waste can be seen as products having to be re-launched. We see businesses and Politian’s going back to their supporters and asking for more support as the initiative they hasted failed to deliver when what they need to do is Detox.

When we haste we create waste, and waste is something none of us can afford today.

How about your company, have you seen your team “haste” that resulted in “waste”?

Why do leaders seem to connect to timelines more than outcomes?

Does it really take longer to do it right, gather data, seek the advice of experts, than to haste?

Have you ever seen something hasted through that hit or surpassed its objectives?

I can hear my dad now, if he had a chance to address the President and congress: Haste makes waste…and what you are wasting is my, and my great great grand children’s’, futures. Based on the polls they do not seem to be listening, but you can listen in your business and make sure you are not hasting.

Gym Socks and the importance of listening to customer concerns

 

My wife and I went for a walk the other evening after work. Although the sun was setting here in Arizona the temperature was still just over 100 degrees. When you walk in the dessert the heat radiates up from the ground. By the time our walk was over I could not wait to get my tennis shoes off. I took off my shoes and then my socks and my wife said “why do you do that?” Not to be too insensitive a husband my response was “do what?” She said that as someone family pics 054who does the laundry it really irritates her when socks are turned inside out. She explained (as she has done before) how as a child her grandmother would not wash socks turned inside out. I quickly moved into my “overcome objections mode”; I do not care if my socks are washed inside out… they will still get clean…I do not care what I look like at the gym so I will probably wear them inside out…this is not a big deal… However this was not listening nor taking my wife’s feedback seriously.

This discussion reminded me how customers often share little things that annoy them and we quickly move to justifying what we do, or “defending the fortress “instead of listening and making necessary changes. It is my desire to serve my family.to listen to their needs. So although my wife has mentioned her concerns a number of times over the past 24 years, I quickly mentally rationalized the feedback and did not listen and I did not change my behavior. I failed to be intentional about something that obviously concerned someone I cared about. It would take little effort to accommodate her requested change in my behavior. However it would require a change of habit.

Businesses must also be constantly sensing, listening, and observing the needs of the customers you serve. Listening to customer feedback and responding to their needs solidifies your relationship. Your competitors will keep selling. They will keep rationalizing customer concerns and not make changes. Why not be the partner that listens and makes the necessary changes to eliminate frustrations in dealing with you?

 

How about you, what small complaints have your client partners expressed?

 

Is your first reaction to listen or dismiss?

 

Are you turning any customer gym socks inside out?

 

(I need to turn the sock on the left right side out before I put it in the close hamper!)

The leadership “Quiver” for driving change

arrow and quiver

The days of “one size fits all leadership” are over. Leaders today must understand their team dynamics as well as the specific personality traits, values, and attitudes of their team members. Today’s leaders must also know themselves, their style, strengths as well as weaknesses. (For example I need to work on patience) Each team member has their unique gifts, as well as their way of processing change. Leadership today requires skill to drive lasting change that adds the most value. If you have not had a DISC profile completed for yourself I highly recommend you invest in this inexpensive tool. I like to plot my profile with all team members to help me understand our common or contrary traits. You can read examples of assessments I took years ago, here.

 

In today’s economic climate leaders are identifying roadblocks to serving customers and driving change. Some of your team will loyally follow your direction, some will be slow to adopt changes, and some will fight change. Leaders often misinterpreted these individuals as not following “the leader” when in reality they are not executing “leadership directives”. (There is a big difference)

 

So what are we to do when a member fails to execute strategic and tactical changes we have asked them to make? The first place I turn is the Bible. In Psalms 51:1-6 David models how we are to deal with sin; “if we deal with sin (missing the mark) genuinely, openly and immediately God will lessen the severity of discipline Discipline is designed to drive change, to help us obey. If God sees we genuinely want to change, obey, the need for stern discipline is not required. We should model the same with our team members.

 

We all have a number of correction arrows in our leadership quiver;

 

1. Seek first to understand, seek the true why the team member failed to implement the change

2. Share why you changed direction, give them the time to digest what you have probably had weeks to digest: change management is a process

3. Make them a part of the change, ask for their input

4. Share the value these change initiatives have made for other team members

5. Have a performance improvement discussion (a Discipline discussion)

 

The trouble I see is leaders (new leaders in particular) use the fifth arrow first when they should save discipline as the last arrow released. When you use the discipline arrow it takes the least amount of skill. This is the only arrow that also pains me upon release as it means I failed to find the “why” behind someone is not getting on board with changes. In addition, this arrow is often dipped in the poison of threat: “if you do not change your behavior, future disciplinary action up to and including termination may occur”. This arrow always finds its mark. The trouble is once landed the poison of the threat invades the body of your team member and permanently taints the relationship.

Market leading organizations build a foundation of trust not threats.

When dealing with employees that fail to follow your direction, remember you have a number of arrows to try before you use correction through discipline.

 

What are your thoughts?

Is there a time to fire the 5th arrow first?