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Hiking can be done alone; there is a time and place for everything. Yet, in general, the fun part of the journey—on the trail and in business—is time spent with others. Who are you taking with you? That is also part of leadership—taking others along with you. I can see some scowls in the audience. “Do I have to take my team with me?” If you want to do it right, then, yes, and you will grow from it. Hiking with people allows for conversation, camaraderie, and support, not to mention friendly (though sometimes useless) chatter. Sounds like some team meetings some of you have attended, right?
 
Having the right team can make all the difference. Some of you might be saying, “I don’t get to choose my team, so how do I make it work?” Well, if leadership were easy, anyone could do it. The idle chatter on the trail and in family business is an opportunity to learn more about those you hike with—what motivates them, how and why they struggle. The more you understand, the more you can help them grow, and you grow as a result.
 
Take a closer look at the role you fill on your team. First, fire yourself. Now figure out what the classified ad would look like if you were hiring someone to take your place. For example:
 
• What background should they have?
• What should their attitude be?
• How will they work with others?
• What kind of work ethic should they have?
• Do they invest in professional development or rest on their laurels?
 
Walk through this person’s qualifications and conduct. Now for the big question: Would you hire yourself? If not, can you now see what changes you need to make? Make a decision to be the person you would want replacing you. Now hire yourself back and be that.
 
Ask questions whose answers will show what you can do to support your team members’ success. When individual team members become successful, the team will be successful. As a result, you will be successful. Building or shaping a successful team takes time, energy, and patience. Most managers simply aren’t up for the challenge. They want the easy way—excuses. They don’t want to bother growing themselves, let alone somebody else. It is “above their pay grade.” Really it is just beyond their desire to succeed.
 
 
 
When I was a kid, my family camped at Calaveras Big Trees in California. The camp-ground was awesome and allowed us to play all day in the woods, climb hills, and never worry. My dad always made it his goal to leave the campsite in better shape than he found it. He would clean up leaves and twigs, fix benches, and make the campsite a delight for the next people to arrive. (As an aside, my dad opened the zipper to our tent one night and came nose-to-nose with a bear. I am not sure who was more scared, but both Dad and the bear were shocked. The bear ran away, and my dad was speechless.) Think about the trace you leave behind in your career or business. Does it improve the business, or do you leave a path of destruction and waste? What investment do you make in the people you work with?
 
When we went kayaking for seven days backcountry, showers were not on the agenda. You could jump in the water, but that bath won’t last long because the water temp was about fifty degrees.  That is good for about one minute. However, when the water from a hot spring runs into a cold river and you place rocks around in a circle, you create a bath-type of environment that allows you to sit, feel a bit cleaner, and enjoy the warmth of a natural hot tub. Soap is still not appropriate in a backcountry river, but you come out a lot cleaner than when you went in.
 
Entire industries have been created to help people stay organized and keep their desks and offices clean. Just to name a few, professional organizers, office productivity experts, and those who have mastered Microsoft Outlook create jobs and businesses out of keeping both home and work environments clean and organized. What does your desk or office look like? What image does it convey to those you work with? Does your office inspire confidence in your management? Does your desk emulate the organizational competence that you want from your team?
 
Many people who live with stacks of paper piled on their desk believe they are very productive and have a filing system that matches anyone else with a cleaner desktop. That may be true, yet the question remains: Is your desk or office helping or hurting your business growth? When we are backcountry and not taking a shower for days on end, it doesn’t affect our ability to hike, pack, and climb—that is, not at first. However, a couple of days into the trip we can no longer stand the smell of ourselves and pity the person we may share a tent with (who actually smells no better.) That first shower feels SO good. It is breathtaking and invigorating, making you truly appreciate the comforts of civilization.
 
The same is often true for your office. One of my client’s desk and office was totally disorganized. She always stated that she wanted to clean it up but never had time. Reality is the cleanup process was so overwhelming that she was frozen.  She simply had no idea where to begin or how to organize. A professional organizer was brought in to help her develop the thought process and structure to actually throw away what was not needed and structure her entire office moving forward. Her productivity has immensely improved.
 
Are poor organizational skills affecting your ability—and your team’s confidence—to succeed?
What is a contrast? It is really a set of opposites, and it defined my life at the start of 2016.
 
On January 2nd I was at the top of a mountain skiing with family and friends. It was cold outside, yet a beautiful sunny day. One week later I was sitting on a beach in Barbados. Not a bad transition in my opinion.
 
On January 3rd my father-in-law passed away. He had turned 99 on January 1st and lived a good long life. One week later a close friend found out her daughter was expecting a first child. We celebrated the end of a life well-lived and the joy of a new life to come, both within a short time frame.
 
On January 4th we learned that my sister-in-law's family needed to allow their dog of 14 years to go peacefully to sleep. Always a hard decision. Three days later in Barbados we were playing with two Rottweiler puppies - one named Clinton and the other Trump. (Oh, I could have so much fun with that but not in this blog!)
 
So what do all these experiences have to do with business? Each business day can be (and generally is) filled with contrasts: the new customer, the lost customer; the new opportunity, the one that passes by; the new employee, the departing employee. The list can go on. The challenge and opportunity is how each of us faces the personal and business contrasts that come our way.
 
In life, does the loss of a father overshadow the celebration of the life that he lived? This does not mean we do not mourn, but mourning has its time and place. It is a time of reflection, a time to think about how we, too, would like to be remembered.
 
In our business lives, does the lost customer overshadow the new one? Do we fail to embrace the new employee because we're sad that the old employee has left? Have we missed a window for more business and income by focusing on what we let get away? How you react, adjust, and move forward can and does affect the future of your business.
 
What are your contrasts? How are you using them to challenge yourself and your team, and how are you helping those around you to learn, adapt, and grow?
"No one listens to my ideas! I can share an idea with my team and it gets dismissed. Then a few months later someone else on the team shares essentially the same idea and everyone sees the merit and we implement that idea. It is so frustrating to not be listened to!"
 
Such is the lament I have heard from countless executives, CEOs, and team members at organizations of all sizes and shapes. I'm consistently asked how to fix this "issue", in part so that a good idea can be implemented that much sooner.
 
Yes, it is true that many good ideas are ignored based on factors such as how the idea is delivered, timing, and--of course--the person making the delivery. While all of these factors can be improved upon, many times the core issue is a concept of the farmer and the seeds.
 
As a teenager I spent a summer on a Nebraska farm. One of the many discoveries I made is that farming takes patience and perseverance. In the spring, the seed is planted after the ground is prepared. It is then watered - usually by rain and also by irrigation in some parts of the country - and then you wait for the harvest, which usually isn't ready until the mid to late summer.
 
If you think all of your business ideas are being ignored, here's another way to interpret it. Think of those ideas as seeds that need time to be watered, to germinate, and then break through the hard crusted soil of your team's ears and listening skills. You are the farmer that needs to till the soil as well as provide the water, sunlight, and time needed to actually produce a plant worth harvesting. 
 
So often ideas are ahead of their time, or team members aren't good at taking something new and running with it. Sometimes the idea percolates in the brains of the team, often without them really understanding that they are processing that exact idea that you planted. It then shows up as their idea, and they don't even remember that you planted that seed months ago. Now I do agree that there are people who steal ideas for their own. That is unfortunate but also ultimately career-ending when the thief is discovered.
 
Your challenge is both to understand farming within your organization and to accept the incredible value you provide by being the farmer who plants the seed. Ideas need time to germinate. Some ideas often come before their time. One idea can be a foundation for a better idea. I have often joked that I was the queen of bad ideas. Yet any bad idea (among my many good ones) generally created the discussion and thought process needed to develop a better, more successful idea.
 
So for those who are the farmers in your business and planting seeds within the organization, appreciate the value you provide and stop whining that no one listens to you. They do; it just often takes time for those seeds to become fruitful--and for people to thank the farmer.
Category:Team Building Success In Business Management Leadership Family Business Entrepreneur Business Management Business Coaching General 
Posted by: actionjanna

Attitude is all about how you look at things.  I recently took a trip to New Orleans flying through Houston.  The Polar Vortex that has been hitting the US made for cancelled flights and a one day delay in actually making the trip.  Then upon my arrival in Houston my connecting flight was cancelled.  Rather than waiting around hoping to make it on another flight (the standby list was over 200), I chose to drive.  The situations on that drive will generate some good stories during my speaking event! 

That drive and the resulting situations (i.e., getting pulled over, having the road closed for 125 miles and getting detoured twice etc.) could have made for a very unhappy person who was grouchy, blaming the airlines, mad at the world and generally miserable.  What I chose was the pure joy of having 6 hours to myself in a part of the country I haven’t driven before and the peacefulness of my thoughts (when I wasn’t singing at the top of my lungs to a favorite song).

The event that happened was the cancelled flight, my response was – ok now what happens.  My actions created the outcome; “this is a journey and who knows where it will take me”.  My response could have been much different and the outcome could have ruined the whole conference for me.

My questions to you: 

  • How do you respond during challenges?
  • What are your first thoughts and resulting actions?
  • Do you take it out on others – therefore creating a bad awful day for them?

I have learned that one great joy is to take a bad situation and NOT take it out on others.  I love watching them respond when they expect you to yell and get mad.  I love putting joy into their day of not having an irate customer in front of them. Now this doesn’t mean I allow them to walk on me, or am a push over (those who know me probably haven’t even dreamed of that situation.)  You would be amazed at how often I then get told:  Thank you for being so understanding.  Thank you for your attitude.

How do YOU respond?  Do YOU need to change your response to life, business, and personal situations which not only change your world – but those around you?

All too often, I hear excuses for why something did not happen the way it should have. People always search for ways to absolve their guilt by blaming their issues on something else. I have found throughout my career that there are three major categories of excuses:

The “It’s good enough” excuse

This is one of the most common excuses. Someone will do a passable job, scraping by, but quit as soon as possible with the excuse that what they accomplished is good enough. They are not striving for an “A” or for real quality work.  Merely scraping by with a “C” or adequate work is good enough.   However, if you want to make your business truly exceptional, meaningful, a true world-changer, this is not acceptable. You will never get ahead with “good enough”.  Would you yourself do business with just “good enough”?

The “I’m new at this” excuse

Along this same line, people who are new at something feel that they have a right to give themselves a bit of slack. Although there is something to be said for the learning curve, all too often it becomes an excuse to slack off your first few months.  However, the opposite is true; you need to be ready from day one. Otherwise, you get trapped in a cycle where the “I’m new at this” excuse becomes a “good enough” habit.

 The “I didn’t plan for that” excuse

We all have moments that make us go “Oops!” If you have any doubts about that, I have a board game called Leverage to show you. Even though there are some unexpected developments, you cannot simply say “Oh well.” You need a plan B, as well as a Plan C, D, & E. Be prepared for any and all eventualities, because you never know what will happen in the future. An employee may walk out on you, or there may be a sudden shortage of your product. When that happens, what will you do? Seriously think about a variety of scenarios and create plans to put in place before you need them.

Ultimately, complaining about a situation does nothing productive for you or your business. What you need to do is isolate the problem and identify a solution. Don’t waste ages explaining your problems to your friends and colleagues, only to ignore their advice. Instead, get to the root of the problem, follow through with the corrective solution, and move on with your business. The art of self-correction is among one of the most important business lessons you will ever learn.

The Law of Consistency is the difference between motivation and discipline.

  • Motivation is easy to generate.
  • Motivation gets you going.

However, what happens when the road gets rough, the rocks get bigger, and fatigue sets in?  That’s where discipline steps in. Without discipline, motivation is useless.

  • Consistency becomes a differentiator between winners and those who don’t reach their goal.
  • Discipline is the bridge that gets you over the hump to where you want to be.

The Law of the Environment is where your growth happens.

    • Growth happens best in conducive surroundings.
    • If your surroundings are holding you back, then change them.
 

It can be as simple as rearranging the furniture or as complex as moving your office. If you live in confusion and chaos then make the changes necessary.  If lack of organization keeps you from moving forward then get help to get organized.  Learn new skills to make the change.

Personal development cannot be in a small-minded environment.  You need to think big and dream big.  Our society creates more negative than positive messages on a daily basis.  The news, the economy, and often our friends and family, will tell us all the reasons we can’t succeed but not the reasons we can succeed.  It is up to you to find fresh thinking, find new things, and create your new environment.

The seventh law is the Law of Design.  To maximize personal growth you must intentionally develop strategies. Think -

  • I intend to grow and I intend to measure my growth.
  • I will build my strengths.
  • I will not focus on my weaknesses.

A focus on weakness will at best make you average unless you want to make it a strength.  Let me give you an example.  If your weakness is public speaking and you want to grow in that area, then go for it.  Get a speaking coach, read books, learn how
to be a good public speaker.  However if you don’t like detail (like accounting) then don’t try to get good at accounting, hire someone else to do it for you.  At best, you might become a mediocre accountant.

Being thankful for struggles???

There are so many articles, comments, posts on Thanksgiving that the thought of adding to the list almost stopped me from writing this. Then I stopped and realized all the things I am thankful for. The one you probably don’t expect is at the bottom of the page. Here is my short list:

• My relationship with God. He is the source of my strength, the peace which passes all understanding (especially mine) and my guiding light so I am never in darkness.

• My husband who is patient (you have to be when living with me!!) He teaches me patience and how to serve with a continual good attitude

• My son who is turning out to be a wonderful young man. Full of deep thoughts, challenging the thought processes of others (in a good way). He is articulate and more mature than many adults I know.

• My friends. Where would I be without them? The older I get the more I appreciate the value of true friendship and the loneliness that comes when they aren’t around.

• My family. We don’t choose them, but love them for who they are and what they teach us. Some good, some bad, but they are still family and we are entwined with each other

• My clients. They motivate me, encourage me, and challenge me. I love seeing their growth and I am thankful for the trust they put in me to coach them toward the growth they desire.

• My country. There has been much frustration lately through the election. I am saddened by the division I see and there is much I don’t understand. Yet, we can’t lose sight of what we have in this country. We must fight to preserve what we have and understand how to grow in a new world. I am thankful to be able to live in 

Colorado Springs.

• My struggles. Bet you didn’t expect that one. Without struggles I would not grow. Without struggles I would
 not appreciate the good days. I would be uprooted by the smallest issue without the daily challenges that life brings. Struggles/challenges what ever word you want to use become the core of what makes us strong. At each moment I may not appreciate the struggle, yet the refection allows me to learn, apply, grow and become who I am meant to be. Failure isn’t an event it is a process. When we were children and learning to walk we fell countless times, but had the perseverance to try again. We also learned how to fall which built up the strength in our legs and arms so walking would come more naturally. Embrace your struggles, be thankful for them – I am.

I have much to be thankful for and I am thankful. Every day is Thanksgiving Day – let’s start that habit right now.

The whole concept of accountability is tainted with misperceptions, frustration and blame.  It is so often someone else’s fault.  Within the family constructs, this dynamic is even more frustrating and brings along tension, “stories of why” and more excuses.

Accountability at its core is “doing what you say you will do, when you say you will do it”.  The foundation lies in the communication cycle and the definition of the deliverable.  Let’s start with the communication cycle and with an example we can all relate to; taking out the trash.  Mary asks Jim to take out the trash before dinner.  Jim says yes.  He knows that dinner is scheduled for 6pm, it is now 4pm.  He will get to it.  Mary however wants the trash taken out now, not in an hour, although she didn’t communicate that specific detail. Mary is also expecting not just the kitchen trash, but the rest of the trash in the house will be collected, since “everyone” knows that the weekly trash pickup is tomorrow morning.  Stress and frustration builds.  Mary doesn’t understand why Jim didn’t do it immediately and why the job wasn’t complete.  Jim doesn’t understand why Mary is suddenly upset.  Sound familiar?  I am sure it does. 

Now apply that same scenario to the work environment.  You may not be asked to take out the trash, however the joy in preforming your duties and the communication concepts are still the same.  Your priorities and that of your co-workers might not always weave together well.  You get the project completed; however it is later than desired and not to the quality expected. Tensions rise, delivery date to the customer is missed, and quality suffers.

What is the solution?   

  1. Communicate and Ask Questions – Often lack of accountability comes not from insubordination (if it does, then that is a separate discussion), but from the lack of clarity regarding what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and the specific details.  Too often assumptions are made regarding the individual’s ability to both tackle and complete the task.  One of my friends has been in Information Technology for probably 25 years.  He was asked by his supervisor to conduct a project that was fairly large in scope.  He was more than willing to take on the project; however he had no idea how to start or what to do to accomplish the projected outcomes.  His manager made the assumption that he had actual experience with this type of project in the past and would therefore be successful.   Nothing was further from the truth. 
  2. Set Expectations – Set a deadline for when the project needs to be completed, when will you touch base to ensure the project  is proceeding as expected, and how long should it take (this goes to both a time and financial budget).
  3. Understand your audience – The question is often asked, “How do you eat an elephant?”  Answer; one bite at a time.  The follow-up to this story, however is that the elephant is still in the room, it is still big and too many people really don’t know how to break that “elephant” down.  We need to take the first bite, yet we don’t know where to start and therefore become paralyzed.  This is where quality leadership and people management makes the difference in success and failure. Good leadership will ensure the person knows what and how to accomplish projects.  For individuals who have delivered consistently and have a proven track record, the job is easier.  For those who haven’t, it’s the leader’s responsibility to guide them along the path.

Consequences

One of the most asked questions during an accountability discussion is what are examples of consequences and how do they get enforced.    Consequences must be appropriate to the situation.  Firing for being late the first time due to a large traffic jam is not appropriate.  Here is a story of a large company that doesn’t have the best reputation for how they treat their employees.  The CEO of the company had stated that employees must be at their desk by 8:00 am.  One day he went to the parking lot of the company at 8:30am and anyone who was just arriving to work was told to go home.  He didn’t even allow them inside the building.  Did he make a point yes, people in this company are to be at work by 8am.  Is this the type of employer I would want to work for – no! 

Yet, I will give him credit for stating the rules for the company and for being willing to stand for what he believes and then enforces the rules.  He also has employees that have worked with him for decades and the company continues to grow and is profitable – so something must be working.

Consistency 

Consistency is critical.  Treating every situation different creates a divisive environment for an organization.  Allowing one person to “get away” with not following procedures, not getting things done etc.,  does more to erode employee morale than the example above where the employer sent everyone home that was late.  They knew his policy, they knew the rules.  They chose to break them, or get away with things, and it didn’t work.

Most companies I work with on this topic find that everyone complains about the lack of accountability.  However, when the organization starts to implement true accountability, people begin to complain about being held accountable.  The reality is that everyone wants it for someone else, but not for themselves.  It is hard to change, yet worth every step.

The choice is yours.  The solution sits in your lap; you can choose to take the challenge of being personally accountable or sit back and complain about the lack of accountability.  What is your choice?

Basics are critical. Innovation is paramount.  However, if innovative ideals are built on a rocky foundation, the whole business may fail before you know it. The foundation of your business requires the same structure as the foundation of a building. If the wrong materials, wrong design, and/or wrong measurements have been used, then the foundation will begin to crack under the pressure.

Pressure on a building can be caused by weight, weathering, erosion of the soil and much more. The crumbling of a business can also come from pressure; pressure that is caused from of the growth of the business. Cracking may appear when systems are not in place to handle the growth or changes in the business. How do you know if the basics are failing within your business?

Key Business and Sales Performance Indicators:

  • Are your leads increasing or decreasing? If you don’t know then that may be your first sign that the basic foundation has a few cracks.
  • Do you measure your closing ratios now vs. a year ago, last quarter, last month? Do you measure them by sales person?
  • Are you aware of the origin of each lead that you receive? Was it a referral from a customer, generated by networking, an ad in the paper, pay for click, SEO etc.?

Innovation in your business is paramount. If you have always done something the exact same way, it may be that you need to stop and consider a new way to address the situation. Even a 1 degree difference can make a tremendous difference in the future and especially the profitability of your business.

We are quickly headed into fall which usually creates a time of review for me.  Where has the year gone?  It seems to move faster every year.  Yet it is that review that causes me to stop and ponder a few recent events.

Do you ever get that feeling that just about the time you get it all together, someone comes along side and sort of hits you in the head?  One of my clients had just that thing happen this week.  They were making great strides in their business only to have a key employee decide the grass was greener at another company.  The employee said they didn’t want to leave, but they couldn’t turn down the offer.  Wow, that was the preverbal baseball bat alongside the business head – which feels pretty personal. 

What could have been done to change the outcome?  They tried to create a counter offer.  It didn’t work and often doesn’t.  In many cases, there isn’t anything you can do, yet I am not one to stand by the sidelines and say, “Oh well, nothing to learn here”.  Here is what you can do:

  • Talk to your team members, especially those key players and find out what they love and don’t love about working with you.
  • Ask key questions:  What would cause you to look elsewhere?  Dangerous you say – yes it is, but not asking can be more dangerous.  Just ask the business owner who just lost a key player.
  • Ask yourself – what would you like or dislike about working for you.  i.e., put yourself in their shoes, what do you need to improve in the work environment to keep them?  Make sure that mirror you hold up in front of yourself has been cleaned recently so you see a clear reflection.
  • Make sure you do annual reviews, both salary and financial.  Get creative bonus plans.
  • Make it a habit to tell your employees, how much you appreciate them, rely on them and wouldn’t want to be without them.  In other words, make sure you verbally communicate the message and when I say regularly, that isn’t once a year, or once a month.

Turnover is hard, yet your attitude is critical in how you weather the crisis.  Know that there is someone else out there who can do the job just as good if not better.  When you find them, determine what you can do to encourage greater job satisfaction and make it happen.

In Part II of this series, we continue our look at some of the major reasons why many family businesses have failed and may fail yet if such issues are not effectively addressed.

 Lack of Grooming, Lack of Succession

When the head of the business neglects training someone as a replacement or does not effectively consider a succession plan, a level of business chaos can ensue when the business lands in the lap of the second generation and quite frequently by the third.  Sometimes an owner will simply 'groom' the wrong person, a family member not equipped to manage the business or staff well.

Other times the leader is simply too busy to mentor the second generation in a meaningful way.  The longevity of a family business depends upon effective management training.  Ignoring this aspect can result in the business falling into a family member's hands with no adequate experience for holding the reins.

Non-Family Need Not Apply

Sometimes a family business fails by failing to recognize when it needs to bring in outside help to fill some pivotal role.  Of course, even when someone from the outside fills a pivotal role there may be considerable unease among the other family members who did not sanction the decision to hire from the outside.  It often happens that family members of an existing business do not have the skills or talent needed to move the business forward.  In such cases the business can stagnate while its competitors roll more effectively with the changing times.

Next week: I Love You, You’re Hired

Every manager has experienced the need to fire an employee, and every business owner has experienced the need to fire a vendor.  Most family owned business owners have experienced the desire to fire a family member, and almost everyone who has dealt with an obnoxious customer has experienced the desire to fire that customer.  Yet so often we don’t follow through on the evidence provided, nor the instinct that tells us that this person can only bring a caustic relationship to our business.  We allow the tension to continue to build, often causing our profits to erode and productivity to be impacted.  When is enough, enough?  When should you fire that customer and how do you accomplish the task – professionally?

Before you make a final decision, let’s look at a few aspects of your business that might provide some additional perspective.  The four “M’s” of parting ways with a customer include:

  • Mindset
  • Mirror
  • Measurement
  • Movement

Mindset is the foundational issue for almost all relationships with people.  No, not their mindset, yours!  Reflect back in your or your company’s relationship with that specific customer.  Have they been treated (serviced) the way you want your company to be known for treating clients?  Were they treated the way you personally would like to be treated?  Has the client’s issues been clearly heard; or does fear get in the way of your ability to listen to meaning of their explanation, not just the words?  Very often it is our mindset, perceiving what the client knows or experiences, which is the actual stumbling block to delivering that WOW service you expound upon.

Mirror implies a reflection, in this case of oneself. Have we trained our employees to provide the best service possible or are they “mirroring” what they see leadership providing? Once our mindset is open to new perspectives, we can take a more honest look at our business.  In many situations, our worst customer can be converted to our best customer just by listening and understanding where the customer is coming from and making a necessary change that can bring satisfaction.  In a family business, we might find ourselves wanting to fire a family member because of what we “perceive” as their inability to work well with us.  Sometimes this leads to our treating a family member with less respect than we do our employees.   However, if we stop and listen to them, understand issues from their perspective, we may find a resolution that will bring a greater buy-in and respect on both sides.

Measurement of the cost for parting ways with a customer has to be considered.  Is it costing more to keep the customer than to recommend they used someone else?  Does the emotion of dealing with the situation impact all aspects of the business because everyone hates coming to work when that family member or customer is around? Caustic people and situations do leave lasting results if not dealt with in a timely and reflective manner.  The outcomes of what to address and how to address issues needs to be weighed and measured. 

Movement, taking the initiative to take action and make something happen is critical.  Once you have checked your mindset and attitude; you have looked at yourself in the mirror and you have moved by making adjustments in the way you manage people in your business; the next step is addressing challenging behaviors.  If you still have the employee who just doesn’t want to change, the vendor that still doesn’t deliver the quality you expect, or maybe the problem customer continues to verbally abuse everyone they come into contact with in your business, then this is time to actually take the final step.  Fire them, do it professionally, but stop procrastinating.  Everyone; employees, family members, and even other customers will thank you for taking action.  Once you’ve followed through, you will wonder why it took so long for you to actually do it in the first place!

Like all things in life, running a business has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, and its successes and failures. Celebrating the sweet victories is easy, but how do you cope with the agonies of defeat?

First things first, like it or not, failing is inevitable. Every single person has failed at one time (or in most cases, lots of times). Throughout history scores of renowned great achievers not only failed, but failed over and over again. When Albert Einstein was young, his grades were so poor that a teacher asked him to quit, saying, "Einstein, you will never amount to anything!" Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team for his lack of skill. Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade. Soichiro Honda was turned down for an engineer position with Toyota Motor Corporation.

Here’s another truth: Failure is not something to fear. Failures and mistakes are lessons that can be used as stepping stones. And even though it may feel like it’s the end, it’s actually just the beginning. According to dictionary.com, failing is “an act or instance of failure.” But according to John Maxwell, bestselling author of Failing Forward, “Failure is simply a price we pay to achieve success.”

Failing forward is a willingness to learn from failures and implement the lessons into your actions, behaviors, and business. It’s choosing to pick yourself up and continue to move forward and toward your intended outcome in spite of being discouraged.

Think about the last time you failed and ask yourself these questions:

  • What can I learn from this?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • Do I need to acquire or improve some skills?
  • Who can I learn from?
  • What will I do next?

Now take the answers to these questions and plan how you will incorporate the lessons into your future actions.

So the next time you find yourself flat on your face, be grateful for the learning opportunity, dust yourself off, keep trying, and remember that the most inventive and successful people in the world not only fail, they are the BEST at failing.

 A Mom and Dad are now in their 70s. They are still active in the busi­ness, yet the reality is they need to be stepping back and delegating more control and decisions to the three children in the business. The three kids have been a part of the business for multiple years so they know how it works and how to provide the service and deliver the prod­uct. Sounds like a great scenario, right? Well, that depends.

 So often the product and service areas are running smoothly, yet the next generation doesn’t have a great grasp of the business portion.

 Financials: How do you read those financials? Why is the overhead rate so important and how does that relate to cost of goods sold and profitability? Who is our banker and why is that relationship so import­ant? How does the profitability trend? If seasonal, what is it per season? Business is math, marketing is math, team is math, sales is math, so why wouldn’t financials be math? If you don’t like math, then find someone who does and can translate it to what you can understand. As the tran­sition begins, understanding the numbers becomes more critical than anything else. High profitability can cover up many sins, but good math can weed them out and increase profitability even more.

 Management of the team: How does Mom stimulate, encourage and manage the team? Will the team be ready, willing and able to work for the next generation? Does the next generation have the leadership skills in place to be wise beyond their years? It takes five components to ensure you have the team you want:

  • Leadership strength
  • SMART goals for the entire team (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results driven and Time based)
  • Consistent rules that everyone lives by and can grow by
  • Right attitude
  • Support for risk taking

 Vision: Who will now carry the vision for the business? Who will take the trends affecting the business and start to make plans now to make the necessary course adjustments? Who balances the visionary to keep a level of reality in place? One business I worked with had an environment where the husband was the visionary. He always had new ideas, new thoughts, new opportunities that he wanted to follow. The wife was more of the money manager and brought a dose of reality to the business. She is the one who asked the hard questions regarding return on investment, the downside to an idea, etc. That is a valuable role to have in any company. However, that must be moderated with the vision that sometimes can’t be seen by anyone else. Too much caution allows opportunities to pass and therefore be missed.

My parents had one such opportunity. Dad was offered the oppor­tunity to get in on the ground floor of a development that was taking place in the area where they lived. At the time, the area was essentially in the middle of nowhere. Actually it was in between somewhere big and somewhere else that was growing. The place in between was a risk. The cows that lived in that field were pretty content. Now today that area is a bustling, vibrant area. Dad always said that was the one that got away. This isn’t to blame Mom; she always provided that caution, yet usually went with the visionary.

The next generation needs to have the visionary and the realist. There must be compromise between the two. One without the other can run the business into the ground. The visionary without the realist who asks the hard questions creates a business that follows every new trend. Not all trends are good. The realist is usu­ally so cautious that they never get on the upswing of the bell curve. They are the late adopters and implement something after it is mainstream, passing up the opportu­nity to gain a competitive edge. It is sort of like installing a fax machine in 1995 when email was becoming the predominant tool. The fax machine was leading-edge back in the 1970s and was going out of style by the time the 90s rolled around.

 

George loved his business. He had attended school for many years to become a good doctor, was good at medicine and followed in his family footsteps. After a number of years of hiring out the admin­istration part of his practice, he and his wife, Katie, decided to have her become involved in the operation. She was good at working with patients, completing the administrative tasks and helping in all the ways possible. Both George and Katie were busy all day long and didn’t take time during the day to discuss business matters.

As all business owners know, it is the little things that can be the dif­ference between peace and frustration in the daily life of business. Yet it is the little things that often don’t get addressed until they are no longer little things.

Katie wanted to start regular weekly meetings with George to dis­cuss the business and often tried to have these discussions once they both arrived at home. George, however, did a great job (better than most) of leaving business at the office once he walked out the door. Katie figured, what better time than during the evening after dinner when the kids were doing their homework or engaging in other activi­ties to have the office discussions. The result was friction as they both dug in their heels.

Fortunately for them, after a few months of back-and-forth discus­sion, they came to an agreement to go out to lunch every other week, just the two of them, to discuss business. This allowed George and Katie to address business issues during the day and enabled them to grow their business.

Boundaries are probably the most important aspect of running a successful family business without destroying relationships. It doesn’t ensure one or both parties won’t overstep the boundaries, but at least they are drawn. Boundaries are required in many areas, including between home and work, among roles within the business and between family members and employees. 

She is very controlling.  He is always talking.  She is slow to take action.  He is quite a perfectionist.  Are those words descriptors of you, your family members or your spouse?  I know I recognize myself in at least two of those phrases.  The challenge is not only our behavior, but the behavior of others.  We need to understand the value of each other’s strengths and capitalize on them, not focus on the negative.  Let’s look at different types of “behavior”.

She is so controlling – yet the value she brings is the ability to makes decisions quickly, achieves goals, continue to be highly productive, a great leader, risk taker, and is usually efficient and structured.  Now that doesn’t sound so bad and could be these are tendencies that are needed in this business.

He is always talking to people which impacts productivity.  However he is also spontaneous and loves a crowd around him, seeks out participation from others, is great at motivating the team, keeps everyone laughing, is easy to get to know and will try anything.  Who wouldn’t want to be around him?

She is slow to take action and hard to adapt to new environments.  However, she is also relaxed, accepting, a great listener, a fantastic team member, is great at follow up, friendly, compatible and sees the details that others don’t see which keeps us out of trouble.

He is such a perfectionist – it has to be exactly right.  Yet, if I want something done right, he is the one to complete the task.  He is accurate, systematized, structured, a good planner, and focuses on quality more than anyone on the team.

What one considers a benefit, another considers irritating.  Think through the personalities on your team and refocus on looking at their irritating habits as strengths to appreciate!

The psychology of denial is interesting.  Webster’s defines it as:  a condition, in which someone will not admit that something sad, painful, etc., is true or real.

Yet, that is a state that many live in daily.  They essentially lie to themselves on a regular basis and that lie becomes the truth.  Where are you lying to yourself in your business?

  • Business is down due to the economy – Really?  Then why are your competitors doing so well?
  • There aren’t any good employees – So why are there places like the Broadmoor Resort, which is a 5 star resort that seem to have quality employees (even teenagers – wow)?
  • Customers only care about price – Do you buy only on price?  Or will you purchase something more expensive if you see a greater value at the higher price?

Each of the above items and your Excuses (which are dressed up reasons) are part of your own denial.  You don’t want anyone else to notice that you are lying – and lying to others – but mostly to yourself.

Truth is: 

  • Business is down, and it caught you by surprise; or you didn’t understand your financials, or  have Key Performance Indicators in place that would have given you a heads up allowing you to adjust your business.
  • There are good employees – yet your interviewing techniques, hiring & training methods are not as effective as they need to be.  It may be time to look at how you invest and motive your employees too.
  • Customers care about value – what kind of value are you offering your customers and what are you actually providing?

As the end of the first quarter of this year approaches, it might be a good time to ask yourself these questions and contemplate on where you are suffering from Denial and what do you need to change personally and in your business today!

Attitude is all about how you look at things.  I recently took a trip to New Orleans flying through Houston.  The Polar Vortex that has been hitting the US made for cancelled flights and a one day delay in actually making the trip.  Then upon my arrival in Houston my connecting flight was cancelled.  Rather than waiting around hoping to make it on another flight (the standby list was over 200), I chose to drive.  The situations on that drive will generate some good stories during my speaking event! 

That drive and the resulting situations (i.e., getting pulled over, having the road closed for 125 miles and getting detoured twice etc.) could have made for a very unhappy person who was grouchy, blaming the airlines, mad at the world and generally miserable.  What I chose was the pure joy of having 6 hours to myself in a part of the country I haven’t driven before and the peacefulness of my thoughts (when I wasn’t singing at the top of my lungs to a favorite song).

The event that happened was the cancelled flight, my response was – ok now what happens.  My actions created the outcome; “this is a journey and who knows where it will take me”.  My response could have been much different and the outcome could have ruined the whole conference for me.

My questions to you: 

  • How do you respond during challenges?
  • What are your first thoughts and resulting actions?
  • Do you take it out on others – therefore creating a bad awful day for them?

I have learned that one great joy is to take a bad situation and NOT take it out on others.  I love watching them respond when they expect you to yell and get mad.  I love putting joy into their day of not having an irate customer in front of them. Now this doesn’t mean I allow them to walk on me, or am a push over (those who know me probably haven’t even dreamed of that situation.)  You would be amazed at how often I then get told:  Thank you for being so understanding.  Thank you for your attitude.

How do YOU respond?  Do YOU need to change your response to life, business, and personal situations which not only change your world – but those around you?

The critical impact of attitude is seen every day in the business world.  What one business owner sees as a disaster, another sees as opportunity and capitalizes on that opportunity.  Those who have spent their lives in below the line thinking don’t even realize the impact it has not only on them personally, but their families, businesses, customers and potential.  If their team is below the line, where did they learn it from?  Most likely they learned it from the business owner.  An owner who is below the line will hire staff who also first turn to blame, excuses and denial. It is someone else’s fault that the project is delivered late, someone else’s fault that the customer is upset.  To change they will need someone to hold them accountable to point out where they are below the line. 

As I work with clients on this concept, the tendency is to swing to a point where issues in the business are not discussed with the excuse (notice the tendency again) that the issue is below the line.  This doesn’t give permission for a business to white wash issues in the business.  What is does change is the ownership and responsibility for changing the issue at hand.  If projects are late, that is a fact.  The question is what must change in the business to ensure projects are not delivered late, that your customers have the experience stated in all the promotional material.

Businesses have lived for years in below the line thinking and attitude.   They stay in business, they grow, and they pay the bills and serve customers.    What impact would the business make with an above the line attitude?  Profits would increase.  Less time would be spent on blame and poor productivity.  Productivity would increase with energy due to the positive atmosphere in the business. The examples abound.

Yet, you must be ready to make the change.  Your dissatisfaction with the results, profitability, long work hours, people avoiding you since they dislike being around negative, blaming people, etc., must be at a point where it is higher than your resistance to making the change.  It is easy to live below the line. It may not be fun, but it is easy and there is a great deal of company.  When I ask my clients do they want to be average, the resounding answer is NO.  They want to be above average.  To make that happen, your mindset must change to one of excellence—above the line thinking— and you will be amazed at the results.

Let’s start with a story.

Two business owners are in the same market, offer essentially the same products, target mutual markets, and yet at year end, produce very different results. One business is doing well, another is doing poorly.  One business owner seems on top of their game, another isn’t succeeding.  One business is growing, the other business is barely scraping by and the owner is beginning to wonder whether it is either time to sell, or maybe, just shut the doors.

What is the difference between the two businesses?  There can be any number of factors to consider.  Perhaps the owners differ in the amount of knowledge and skills they have for running a business; there may be a difference in the systems which have been put into place, or maybe they are missing all together.  Consider the team that drives the business forward, how pricing is determined, marketing is presented, and how sales are made.  Many factors play into the success and growth of a business.  Yet, there is one characteristic that creates the largest differentiator between the two business environments.  That is the mindset of the owner and/or leadership.  How do they view, what is their perspective on every situation, every economic obstacle, every customer, and perhaps on life in general? The attitude of leadership sets the tone for the environment of the business.

Is there a pervasive attitude similar to Eeyore’s, Winnie-the-Pooh’s donkey friend?  In this type of environment the we get below the line thinking which produces a string of blame, excuses, and denial manifested in the “woe is me” life is hard, this is what happened, I don’t get the same opportunities as others, the economy is really hurting, etc.  In below the line thinking we often hear people blaming someone else, producing excuses for why things didn’t get accomplished, and denial that their attitude is a main source of the issues at hand.  Below the line thinking creates a reason for everything and generates a need to be explained. 

On the other hand, the attitude that propels above the line thinking is more like Pooh’s friends Kanga or Owl.  Above the line thinking accepts ownership, accountability and responsibility for everything they do.  They understand what they cannot control (economy, taxes, etc.) is only 10% of life; but what they have great control over is 90% of their life.  This is what the author Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, calls the 90/10 rule.   How your day goes is totally up to you, as is how you react to situations and what opportunities you achieved even through disastrous times.  Steve Jobs got fired from Apple which most likely was not what he called the best day of his life, yet without being fired from Apple he would not have created Pixar and NeXT which are part of the foundation of the Apple products we love today. Above the line thinking creates results.  Results don’t require explanations, they speak for themselves.

 Why do we, as a society, have such a hard time dreaming?  As children, we dream on a regular basis.  We fly, conquer the world, create imaginary friends, and plan to accomplish things never considered by anyone 20 years of age or older. 

 Then the aging process starts and conformity begins.  We conform not only in our behavior (which is mostly good), but in our ability to dream.  One by one, we are told (and often not outright), that our dreams are impossible. Our dreams are unreasonable, unreachable, or even unthinkable. You might have even heard, “Why would you ever try that - you might FAIL!”

 What this creates is a society of control freaks.  Some control freaks become business owners and owners who want it done their way, believing their way is the only right way.  What they end up losing is the ability to leverage the world to get things done for them.  They don’t hire for new ideas, they hire for fitting into the box the business owner created.  The problem: business owner wealth creation is often best accomplished by people with the desire to dream in a world without boxes.

 Make 2014 a year of Dreaming without Boxes!  What does that mean?  It means stepping out and doing things differently.  A perfect example is Steve Jobs who created something that was new and different that we didn’t know we needed!  Yet how many of us want to revert back to what life was like prior to first Apple computer?   As a business owner, you need to get away from the day to day operations at times and give yourself time to dream, to challenge the status quo, your current thinking process, and to be open to new ideas. 

 You also must be willing to let others challenge your thinking – they also have dreams that might allow you to fly, conquer the world, and accomplish things you were told were impossible.

Dream big dreams for yourself, your family, and your business in 2014.  Dreams do come true, but only if there was a dream in the first place!

 

Have you ever found yourself drifting off in your thoughts during a conversation? To observers, it appears you’re engrossed in discussion, but mentally you’re compiling your grocery list, preparing for your next appointment, or thinking of what you’ll say when it’s your turn to talk. When we are not fully listening, we are short-changing our speaker and ourselves. By receiving some parts of information and only pieces of conversations, we risk misunderstandings and miscommunications later down the road.

Active listening is making a conscious effort to concentrate on what another person is saying as well as understand the complete message they are sending. Through active listening, you are able to better communicate, relate, and respond to your clients, which mean you can better meet their needs and build a stronger relationship.

Here are 5 tips to help you become a better active listener:

  1. Eliminate Distractions: Set down the smartphone, clear your mind, and give the speaker your undivided attention. Reduce background activity and noise so you can focus and concentrate on listening. If you have to, take the conversation somewhere quiet and private.
  2. Take Interest: Be present in the moment and carefully listen to what the speaker has to say. You can pick up on the emotional undertones and non-verbal cues. For example, wringing hands or flailing arms may be a sign of high emotion or stress.
  3. Maintain Eye Contact: Face your speaker and sit or stand in a position so your eyes are near the same level. Avoid looking around the room or checking your electronic devices. Concentrate on what the speaker is saying and maintain eye contact. Keep in mind that eye contact can be intimidating for certain cultures and personalities, especially for more shy speakers. Use your active listening skills to gauge how much eye contact is appropriate for the situation and audience.
  4. Be Aware of Body Language: In addition to making eye contact, observe the speaker’s non-verbal communication. You can also use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention by nodding occasionally, smiling, and mirroring the speaker’s gestures.
  5. Avoid Interrupting: When your speaker finishes or pauses, ask questions or make comments, if appropriate. You may also want to repeat or paraphrase what you think you heard to verify that you fully understand what his or her message.

As you interact with your clients, peers, and employees, try to practice your active listening skills. Do your best to be patient with yourself while you’re honing these new skills. Though these steps may seem simple, active listening takes practice!

An old adage encourages us to “stop and smell the roses.” However, in our fast-paced world, it seems as if many of us heed this advice. We rush through life, constantly dashing from one appointment to the next without ever stopping to breathe. We like everything fast: fast food, fast internet, fast cars, etc. Although there is a time and place for busyness, it is crucial for everyone, be they management or staff, to relax. Everyone needs a break.

 My son has a teacher who shared feeling consistently overworked. Everyone seems to want his attention and demand a great deal of his time.  It became extraordinarily difficult for him to keep up. Even his weekends became filled with school activities. As a result he instituted a new policy for his life, once a month he would be taking a day off.  This helped tremendously with relieving stress and reevaluating what was important, and made him a more effective teacher and leader.

 All too often, I see people who are burnt out. Business owners who are worked constantly and eventually become tire of everything. They quit; sell the business, and either retire or go back to their old job, in many cases abandoning a lifelong dream. Pro athletes do this all the time.

Their lives become so consumed with the sport that they no longer enjoy it. It becomes a chore rather than what they love. However, if you asked someone who burned out 5-10 years ago if they regret it, he or she would respond “absolutely.” Don’t be afraid to take personal days, at least once a quarter. Don’t get so caught up in your work that you begin to hate it, and don’t forget to see the forest through the trees.

All too often, I hear excuses for why something did not happen the way it should have. People always search for ways to absolve their guilt by blaming their issues on something else. I have found throughout my career that there are three major categories of excuses:

The “It’s good enough” excuse

This is one of the most common excuses. Someone will do a passable job, scraping by, but quit as soon as possible with the excuse that what they accomplished is good enough. They are not striving for an “A” or for real quality work.  Merely scraping by with a “C” or adequate work is good enough.   However, if you want to make your business truly exceptional, meaningful, a true world-changer, this is not acceptable. You will never get ahead with “good enough”.  Would you yourself do business with just “good enough”?

The “I’m new at this” excuse

Along this same line, people who are new at something feel that they have a right to give themselves a bit of slack. Although there is something to be said for the learning curve, all too often it becomes an excuse to slack off your first few months.  However, the opposite is true; you need to be ready from day one. Otherwise, you get trapped in a cycle where the “I’m new at this” excuse becomes a “good enough” habit.

 The “I didn’t plan for that” excuse

We all have moments that make us go “Oops!” If you have any doubts about that, I have a board game called Leverage to show you. Even though there are some unexpected developments, you cannot simply say “Oh well.” You need a plan B, as well as a Plan C, D, & E. Be prepared for any and all eventualities, because you never know what will happen in the future. An employee may walk out on you, or there may be a sudden shortage of your product. When that happens, what will you do? Seriously think about a variety of scenarios and create plans to put in place before you need them.

Ultimately, complaining about a situation does nothing productive for you or your business. What you need to do is isolate the problem and identify a solution. Don’t waste ages explaining your problems to your friends and colleagues, only to ignore their advice. Instead, get to the root of the problem, follow through with the corrective solution, and move on with your business. The art of self-correction is among one of the most important business lessons you will ever learn.