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Have you ever seen a dog follow a rabbit trail? The dog endlessly sniffs around in circles, never getting anywhere. And it seldom catches the rabbit!
 
A rabbit trail in business is that path you go down that wasn’t on your meeting agenda or your plan for the day. These rabbit trails can jeopardize a project’s completion, a business’s success, and an employee’s ability to get things done.
 
Meetings often take us down a rabbit trail when participants discuss anything but the scheduled agenda. On the other hand, some rabbit trails create the best ideas for the organization! The challenge is determining which rabbit trails are productive and which are not.
 
Below are recommendations for handling rabbit trails without losing the value the trail might provide for your family business.
 
1.  Always have an agenda for meetings, even if the agenda is created as the meeting begins. What is the objective? How long should the meeting take? How will new topics be handled? Who will keep the meeting on track? These are foundational questions that should be considered prior to every meeting.
 
2. Always bring the discussion back to the topic at hand. Utilize the concept of a parking lot. As discussions unfold, you “park” items not on the agenda that might need to be addressed, but not in this meeting.
 
3.  Set clear and intentional priorities. 
  • If you are running the meeting, keep it focused on the task at hand. This doesn’t mean you don’t give team members new projects; it just means you may (depending on the individual) need to help them prioritize their activities.
  • If you are an employee and the boss suggests a new idea, ask where it ranks among the goals already set for the company and the priorities she set for you earlier in the week (or earlier in the day). Ask questions, and get clarification.
  • Understand the old Mark Twain concept of “eat a frog for breakfast.” Essentially, focus on the most difficult thing you need to do first thing in the morning. Then you will have accomplished the hardest thing early and the rest of the day is available for all other activities— including rabbit trails if they can’t be avoided.
4. Set aside time for brainstorming on a regular basis. True brainstorming combines a relaxed, informal approach to problem solving with lateral thinking. This process can lead to some of the best business-growth ideas—and those aren’t rabbit trails.
 
Once you know that a rabbit trail can provide value, you can take the time to explore all that it has to offer.
 
Excerpted from The Backpacker's Guide To Business Success by Janna Hoiberg.
 
 
Leadership isn’t about “being right no matter what.” And it isn’t about being macho, sticking it out when turning back is the right action to take. To lead, you must make the best possible decisions for the team’s success.
 
Which type of person are you? What can you do to lead your team more effectively? To quote the international author, speaker, and leadership guru John Maxwell, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”
 
The word influencer can act as a kind of acronym for characteristics influencers need and actions they should take:
  • Influencers should have INTEGRITY. What does integrity mean to you? Leaders need to define integrity for themselves and communicate that to their team.
  • Influencers should NURTURE those they work with. Nurturing means lifting them to a higher level of success.
  • Influencers should have FAITH: faith in their team, faith in the vision and that the team can make things happen.
  • Influencers should LISTEN. Leaders will know the heart, the hope and the hurt of their team. They will ask questions, use responsive listening, engage with the speaker and want to hear what the speaker is saying.
  • Influencers should UNDERSTAND. To understand the mind of a person, look at what he has achieved. To understand the heart of a person, look at what he dreams of becoming.
  • Influencers should ENLARGE. They cannot give what they do not have. Enlarging is growing oneself in order to support the growth of colleagues, which in turn grows the organization.
  • Influencers should help others to NAVIGATE. A leader is one who sees more than others see, farther than others see, and before others see it. They can navigate their way to success.
  • Influencers should CONNECT well: Credibility + Communication = Connections. They connect through relationships, sacrifice, experience, character and insight. Go to their world and connect from the heart.
  • Influencers should EMPOWER those around them. They see the potential of the individual and encourage, equip, and empower them. They share their knowledge experience and influence and show others their belief in that person.
  • Influencers should REPRODUCE themselves. In other words, they should teach those on their team their skill sets. Model good leadership. Provide training, resources and experiences to create the desired growth.
Which of these are already strengths and which ones do you need to work on to be an effective leader in your start-up or family business?
 
 
 
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.
 
 
 
High on a mountain top above tree line is not a good time for nature to call. Fortunately, many National and State Parks actually have backcountry toilets. Few are as nice as what you have at home, yet many come with some distinction including the most beautiful views. They give the phrase “contemplating nature” a whole new meaning.
 
Unfortunately, the flies also like that beautiful view and congregate around the toilet, hundreds of flies at times. Relieving yourself in the backcountry may not be pleasant, yet it is a fact of life that must be addressed. The same is true for unpleasant business situations.
 
Identifying Flies In Your Business
 
Few people like flies. They can serve a purpose, but most people don’t enjoy engaging with them, especially at a mountain-top toilet. Yet we often attract them to our business because of the “waste” we produce.
 
Different types of flies are attracted to different substances and material. Some are attracted to waste or rotting meat. Others are attracted to sugary or vinegary substances. Do you want to be followed around by a team just waiting for you to fail, wanting to know what you will screw up that will make them look better? They will feed off your “waste,” allowing them to look much better in the business environment.
 
The reality is that without a good team and a good culture, waste gets in the way. A culture of gossip attracts people who gossip. A culture of bad attitudes and blame attracts people with bad attitudes who like to blame others for their problems. The family business leader who is disorganized will attract employees who are disorganized. The manager who is a poor planner will attract employees who resist planning.
 
A lack of clean-up attracts a certain type of crowd. Is it the crowd you want?
 
Start Reducing Your Waste
 
How do you get rid of flies at the mountain top toilet? Usually by closing the lid—it minimizes the attraction (although it doesn’t completely eliminate it). Don’t you wish all flies were that easy to get rid of? The flies that we work with are often a mirror of who we are and how we manage. What we tolerate or even accept is reflected in our businesses, teams, and projects.
 
Our business days are full of time, talents, and opportunities that can create success for every employee. But if we’re not careful in how we manage, if we don’t “close the lid” when necessary, we can waste our time, talents, and opportunities and watch as the flies come to see what they can get.
 
Are flies congregating around your family business, your project, or your career? Are they having a field day with the mess you have left behind? What will you do about it?
 
Toilets in the woods are bad enough. Using the “big leaf” approach to clean up, it seems to me, would make them even worse. I want my nice soft TP, a reminder of the comforts of home. But there may be one advantage to big leaves. When you are back-country, you usually don’t have an outhouse that you can throw the toilet paper down; you need to dig a hole with a shovel, bury the “output,” and bring the toilet paper home with you. Big leaves can go into the hole. Some wilderness areas take it a step further, requiring that you leave absolutely no trace—period. They do not want the wilderness area tainted with human waste of any kind. That means you need to pack out all waste. Eeww. Fortunately, I have only been places where I can dig a hole and bury it. I’m not even sure I would want to hike in those “absolutely no trace” areas. That might be the line in the sand for me. Each person needs to determine how they will follow the rules of any given forest, and within those rules, what “waste” they will pack out.
 
What stuff do you need to bury in a hole, never to be seen again? Bad attitudes, anger, assumptions, resentment, jealousy, and lack of patience come quickly to mind. Doesn’t that represent exactly what goes on in the fast-paced world of business? There is always “stuff” that needs to be cleaned up, and the need to eliminate waste often comes at an awkward time. If you don’t clean up the mess when and how you should, it usually comes back to bite you. If any of you have ever written computer code, you know that cleaning up your code and documenting it so someone else can work with it is essential. That clean-up process and the documentation that comes with it makes the code easier to debug, easier to expand upon, and easier to leave as part of your legacy. Where else is that true in your projects, desk, home, and personal life? How clean you leave things is a direct reflection on who you are and how you think.
 
Business is made up of people, and even the cleanest people carry baggage, make messes, and sometimes leave messes behind. “Leave no trace” isn’t a viable concept in business. What traces will you leave? Is your trace one of integrity, nurturing, faith, listening, understanding, and enlarging? Or is it about clawing your way to the top, winning at all cost, gossip, and demeaning others? We each make our mark on the business, the team, the customers, and the future of the business. Carefully consider what mark you are leaving and whether you need to change it.
 
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.
 
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, the other is doing poorly. One business owner seems on top of their game, the other isn’t succeeding. One business is growing, the other business is barely scraping by and the owner is beginning to wonder whether it is 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 altogether. Consider the team that drives the business forward, how pricing is determined, how 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: the mindset of the owner and/or leadership. 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, the donkey friend of Winnie-the-Pooh? In this type of environment the we get below-the-line thinking which produces a string of blame, excuses, and denial manifested in “woe is me” attitudes such as 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 denying 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 offer explanations.
 
On the other hand, the attitude that propels above-the-line thinking is more like Pooh’s friends Kanga or Owl. Above-the-line thinkers accept ownership, accountability, and responsibility for everything they do. They understand that 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 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 the difficult situations and even the successes you achieve 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, and results don’t require explanations. They speak for themselves.
Critical ThinkingWhat is critical thinking? There are multiple definitions, some very complex, yet the simple definition is not just the possession of skills but the ability and habit to continually use them in new and different ways. Put another way, critical thinking means using the normal to create and then apply the new.
 
Over the last five years I have often challenged clients and workshop attendees on their critical thinking skills. These are bright, qualified, skilled and hardworking business owners and executives who have accomplished significant challenges in their careers and business. They have worked through significant challenges and look at the world in ways that many of us don’t comprehend.
 
Yet, when posed with out-of-the-box types of problems they find it challenging to come up with not simply a good answer, but with that “best” answer. I wonder if the day-to-day challenge of running their business environments has reduced their ability to be creative critical thinkers.
 
I had the opportunity to be the guest speaker for a high school leadership training class. There were about 30 students from about five high schools.  It was a fun time of encouraging them to consider their classroom and personal goals for the next school year. Don’t I wish I had that opportunity when I was 17! (But that is another topic.)
 
I presented them with two out-of-the-box scenarios and was looking for that elusive "best" answer. When presenting similar scenarios to business owners, they throw ideas at me for a couple of minutes – and then I give them the “best” answer. So it amazed me that within about 20 seconds a number of the students had thought of the “best” answer for my hypothetical situations.
 
I was surprised, yet it made me extremely hopeful. For all the criticism of today’s youth and millennials, maybe their critical thinking skills are a lot better than we think. Maybe their fresh way of looking at things is that advantage we need in our business.  We do need to stop, listen and allow them the time to say things – even things that we may not fully understand.
 
Did we somewhere along the way - in running businesses, fighting the daily fight of life - stop thinking critically? Have we stopped being creative in our thought processes and now default to what is easy or normal? We believe we are the harder working and wiser generation, but we seem to have stopped using any critical thinking skills that are outside our comfort zone.
 
My challenge to you: Change your thinking process--start thinking like an 18 year old. It might revolutionize your business, you just might have some fun, and you'll ultimately prepare your business for the growth that comes with a new generation of leaders.
 
 

Curiosity is critical in business. Accepting status quo, what others tell you is right and looking at the world the way everyone else does will and does get you in trouble.

Instead we need to step back and watch a 2 year old. What do they do?

• The explore everything, hold it upside down and look at it in every way possible.

• They challenge what others say and ask WHY? and keep asking WHY?

• “I can do it myself” is their mantra (well maybe we need to moderate that perspective.)

• There is nothing they can’t do in their mind.

• They are ready to take on the world.

Have you lost your natural desire to be curious, ask questions, challenge how others think you should act? If so then stop, slow down and watch a 2 year old. Start exploring your own world. There is so much at our fingertips that passes us by every day.

Curiosity may have killed the cat – but it will grow your business!

Control freak is often an apt description of business owners. We like the ability to control our destiny, make our own decisions and see the impact of what we accomplish. The challenge comes with:

• understanding how little control we actually have – just a perceived control,

• learning how to relinquish control i.e. delegate, for the business to grow and

• how to leverage our controlling nature into something successful.

An employee kept watching how the business was being run, the waste that was taking place within the business, how customers were being treated and the lack of profit being generated by the business. These frustrations led to his determination to start his own business. His premise was he would treat employees much better than his current employer, eliminate the waste taking place, treat his customers better and generate more profit. In essence, he wanted control over the areas his current employer struggled. He accomplished those goals. He learned a number of lessons in the process. These were his and others primary drivers for family business ownership (and possibly entrepreneurship in general). The business owner is tired of:

• Following someone else’s lead/orders

• Believes they can serve the customer better

• Has different ideas on how to implement the product or service

• Desires flexibility in their day to day lives and a stronger balance between work and home and

• Can make more money, i.e. profit

The lessons learned are:

• Their new boss (themselves) is not the wonderful bosses they thought they would be and they have a great deal to learn. Looking in the mirror at the new boss isn’t always a pretty sight. It is the age old statement of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

• They can serve the customer better, but it is much harder than they thought and they start to understand their old company better. Customers can and often are demanding. Their interpretation of quality is different than yours. You may see value in something that the customer doesn’t care about.

• They do have different ideas on implementation – some of those ideas work and some don’t

• Flexibility is fantastic – you can work any part of the 24 hours per day that you want. Yes, you do have flexibility to take kids to school, pick them up, go to games etc., but there is a cost and that cost is often working evenings and weekends and other times that you didn’t previously work.

Reality:

What makes great entrepreneurs is the desire for control, but understanding less is more. To have the utmost control, we need to leverage our skills and have others in place to do the work – therefore we stop being the bottleneck to success.

The more we want and think we have control, the less we have. There is always someone else who truly has more control. It might be customers, government, laws, acts of God. It is that desire for control that if not managed well drains the business. Lack of an ability to delegate is the result of the business owners desire to have control. They can do it better than anyone else. We serve the clients better, they know the product better, therefore they don’t delegate. We truly want the control and the ego lift that comes with it. Stop it NOW. Learn to delegate and delegate wisely. 

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?

Excerpt from "The Backpackers Guide to Business Success".

 When on the trail I am the one that looks ahead.  I am always watching for what is next - looking at the scenery, taking pictures of the flowers.  I love reaching the top.  As I look ahead I see a crowd of people stopping.  There is a flat spot and they are resting.  I get excited - is this the top? Are we really there already?  Now, if I have been checking my map, the compass and the GPS- I will know that we aren't there yet.  Although all the signs confirm that the top hasn't been reached, my heart wishes I was there.  I keep climbing until I reach the spot where everyone else has paused and I confirm again that, no, it isn't the top.  There might be a view; yet I haven't really arrived.

The letdown is brief; the break is short and I continue the climb.  When we are kids we start school at the bottom and, depending on the school, we reach the top at 5th grade only to start a new school. In 6thgrade we are at the bottom again; the process repeats in high school, then college, then your first job, then your second job.  At some point you keep looking out and wonder - is this truly the top and will I ever get there?  If I arrive, how long will I stay?

So what is the top for you?  Is it position, rank, salary, responsibility, leadership, respect, influence, impact?  Have you defined the top?  Have you determined how you define success?  Do you know the next mountain you will climb?


On the trail up a mountain there is a defined top, a marker or a spot where you can say you have arrived.  In our business the top isn't as well defined.  On the trail, I can have a brief moment of frustration - this isn't the top yet, but I know it is there and I know where I am going.  On our daily journey those false summits may not only be deceiving, they can be distracting from what is the real goal.  False Summits are also where people often turn back, they give up and they can't (or choose not to) go on.  They don't realize that usually they are 80% of the way to the top. 

False summits test our perseverance, desire to get ahead, and our endurance.  They are a natural part of the mountain and a natural part of your career.  The question is, what is your attitude when you reach them? Give up, turn around, or greet them with a smile and an attitude of let's get to the top?

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.

You started out with a great idea, one that seemed to be desirable by a number of clients, and it paid off.  You truly found what you loved to do and are able to get people to pay you for it!  Congratulations.  Now, how are you going to sustain your business?  You may be fantastic at developing widgets, but how are you at the actual business competencies that will sustain your business over the long run?  

 An October 2012 report on Sustainability and Leadership Competencies for Business Leaders identifies top competencies as follows:

  • External awareness and appreciation of trends
  • Visioning and strategy formulation
  • Risk awareness, assessment, and management
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Flexibility and adaptability to change
  • Ethics and integrity

 Business owners need to provide themselves with learning opportunities that will strengthen each of these core business competencies.  This education can be accomplished through reading, formal training, or most effective, by utilizing a business mentor or business coach that can hold business owner accountable for actually implementing stainable changes in their company, ones that are customized to meet their company’s specific needs.  However you choose to receive your small business advice and continue your education as a leader, make a plan and follow your plan to ensure you are a perpetual learning leader.

An old adage goes, “Rules are meant to be broken.” In many ways, this is absolutely correct. Simply following the rules, doing the same thing over and over, won’t get you anywhere. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” Every truly great, major innovation in history has come about as a result of new thinking.

 So let’s say you’ve set up your business, and are doing fairly well. You have a steady stream of revenue, a good customer base, efficient systems in place, and everything is going great. What do you do next? Often, businesses will plateau. They will improve up to a certain point, but things won’t get better from there. Once a plateau is reached, new thinking is required if you want your business to grow-which you should. Now, you should not throw your old playbook out the window, however, change is needed, and in many cases this change is rather unconventional. You need something that sets you apart.

  • What could you be doing that none of your competitors are?
  • What markets are you not tapping into?

Find that niche, and utilize it. Do something new, something different, and blow everyone away with your creativity and innovation. 
(Picture credit:Freeditigalphoto.com)

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.

Keep the Happy in Your Holidays

[Recently, I discussed taking time out for yourself to relax and take a break (Read: “Seeing the Forest Through the Trees!”). This week, I’d like to elaborate on this topic and incorporate it into the holiday season.]

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And also the most hustling, bustling, hectic, lose-your-mind-because-you’re-so-crazy-busy time of year. Running a business and making time for festivities and celebrations can be a challenge. In between the potlucks, get-togethers, cookie exchanges, and ugly sweater parties are invoices, year-end financial statements, payroll, budget forecasting, planning and hundreds of other tasks to complete before the new year.

Here are some helpful hints to get you through the season with your sanity intact:

  • Maximize Your Time: Each of us has our own rhythm of peaks and lulls throughout the day. Find what times of day work best for you and schedule around them for peak performance. Focus on your most important or most time-consuming tasks during the parts of day when you are most clear thinking, energetic, and decisive. If you work best in the mornings, then maximize that time by waking up earlier. If you work best in the afternoons, then schedule your most important appointments during the lunch hour. If you work best in the evenings, then maximize that time by staying up later.
  • When you are setting deadlines for yourself or your clients, build extra time in your schedule to serve as a buffer for unexpected circumstances or tasks taking longer than expected. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than to over-promise and under-deliver.
  • If you feel that you are already maximizing your time, but still can’t fit in every task, then consider investing some money to hire additional help, for instance a virtual assistant or courier service.
  • Schedule in Downtime: Designate specific days and dedicate them for date nights, family time, and days for yourself. Block off these special days in your calendar to visually highlight and distinguish them as scheduled days off.
  • Set up an automatic reply on your voicemail and email to inform your clients that you are occupied. For example, “Thank you for contacting me. I am currently out of the office and will return on [day]. I will get back to on [tomorrow, next week, etc.].” And there is nothing wrong with posting a good old-fashioned Do Not Disturb sign on your door!
  • Eliminate distractions: Sometimes a small distraction can serve as a mental break, but not if it becomes all consuming—then it’s nothing but a time-waster. Turn off your notifications for email, Internet feeds, and social media updates if you find yourself unable to stay focused on the task at hand. It may even help to completely unplug and keep your computer turned off.

The holidays are meant to be a break from the everyday routine. These are the days when you can focus on spending quality time with the people in your life who matter most. Your time is valuable, and unlike money, you can’t obtain more of it—what you get is what you get! With some proactive planning and time-management, you can enjoy the challenges and rewards of working for yourself AND enjoy the holidays too! And from me it is Merry Christmas to you.

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?

The family business; it’s the foundation of the small business world in the US.  Approximately 80% of small businesses are family owned.  That can mean brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and children.  Why are there so many family owned businesses?  One reason – blood is thicker than water.  There is a trust factor that comes with working with family.  I hear laughter from some of you.  Some of you wouldn’t trust your family with a dollar let alone own a business with them.  While that can be true, the reality is even where the family has a trust and verify.  The family business has a set of dynamics that are unlike any other.  Think of your family – what would it be like to work with them every day?  Then, go home each night.  Now I have you thinking…  Yes, that is the joy and challenge of family business.  It is often hard to:

  • “leave it at the office”
  • Ensure there is work/family balance
  • Handle the up and down times of revenue and profit
  • Ignore that irritating habit of the family member when they are always around
  • Yet, it is wonderful being able to:
  • Share the joys of success
  • Have your family understand the business
  • Be able to know the “team” members strengths and weaknesses
  • Work alongside someone you truly like
  • Share ideas and trust them to look out for your well-being.

The list goes on for both sides.  If you are considering starting a family business congratulations – you will love the journey.

What have your experiences been with family businesses?  Are you in one?  Have you done business with one?  Share them with me; I would love to hear the stories.

One of my clients was engaged at the time of our session. Life was sweet for both of them. They enjoyed being together, they were obviously in love with each other, yet trouble was brewing. Every time he wanted something and she disagreed, she caved in. This was very evident in the business environment. It had been his business; she was the new partner in his business, however she was also very accomplished on her own and actually had better business sense than he did. Yet, every time she would suggested and idea and he would disagree, she would back down, both in business and in their relationship. He once stated that he wondered when she was going to stop becoming so agreeable. It would eventually happen, and for both of them it would be a time of rude awakening as neither had really learned how to negotiate. They hadn’t learned the art of give and take or how to move both their ideas forward without squelching the spirit of the other person.

Couple of points on conflict resolution:

1. It isn’t always about getting what you want – learn the art of compromise.

2. If it is all about you – then the “we” part of any relationship won’t be long term.

3. Make sure you get the complete picture – stop assuming – remember what assume means. If you don’t know – then break out the word assume into 3 syllables – you get the picture.

4. Life is about negotiating – learn how to do it well, then apply the same art within your business and within your family.

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.

It has been a few years since I traveled on a regular basis for business.  When I changed careers and knew that weekly travel would no longer going to be a part of my weekly routine, I rejoiced.  No more waiting in long lines at the airports, no more issues with security, TSA, or eating airport food.  Forget all those airline delays, joyful flight attendants and endless excuses for flight delays.  Sounds good doesn't it.

Yet, I am now sitting on a plane returning home from pleasure travel and have realized there is one thing I do miss about airline travel.  That uninterrupted time of 3, 4, 5 hours or more where I can unwind, think, read and ponder life.  I have never been one to watch movies while sitting on a plane.  I have always read, completed planning, organized action items or enjoy a nap.

It is this time when nothing else can be done, that I unwind, stop the busyness of just doing things, and ponder what is next.  My pondering from this plane ride resulted in the following wisdom:  I need to start creating more time to ponder, unwind and think.  It is my time away from distractions, of "doing".   Most would describe me as "action oriented" (even my radio show is called "Action in Business with Janna Hoiberg").  I’ve challenged myself to consider, “Does the action of my “doing” get in the way of creative thinking?  Will taking more time to stop and rewind allow me to consider new opportunities, new ways of handling current challenges? I believe it does. 

What do you do to stop, ponder, consider and then create an action plan?  Are you like me - one that has a hard time slowing down?  Or are you one that slows down too easily and has a harder time speeding up and taking action? The later can also benefit from the "plane" time, however from another perspective, that of using the time to focus and make the decisions needed to speed up and make things happen.

For those of us who don't seem to slow down and are often chasing the latest "squirrel" (that new idea that sounds much better than the last one), we need to become more intentional.  We need to walk away from the day to day on a regular basis and get on our "plane", clear our mind, take time to focus and make the changes that will help us achieve our goals (or in some cases create the goals).  For me, it is hour 3 of a 4 hour flight that this pondering popped into my head.  It also happened on the return trip after a weekend away; note that good ideas come most often when the mind and body have relaxed and opens itself to new ideas.  On this flight, I have read 3 newspapers, a book, played some card games, and taken a nap.  It was then and only then that my thoughts could expand and be open to something new.

Now my challenge is to be intentional without physically getting on a plane.  Or, I will just need to take more vacations and embrace something I thought I was happy to leave behind.