Friday, November 13, 2015

Don't get sideswiped! Create your "AHA! Vision"

I consider October through February the "season for strategic planning" for every organization. We can't help but think of the current year's successes, failures, challenges and opportunities taken or missed. At the same time we begin focusing our attention on the things we desire for the coming year and longer. If organization leaders don't do this, the teams lose opportunities for focus and creative thinking.

It can be mind-boggling! Do you feel slightly (or a lot) overwhelmed at the thought of creating a vision that will truly speak to your brand, your mission, your passion and purpose? Were you able to focus on those areas during 2015 or were you sideswiped from your intended path?

Let's start a revolution! Strategic planning should be more about the Aha! moments that lead to a lasting vision. It's exciting, not dull. It's liberating, not restricting. It's fresh and memorable.

I've facilitated many strategic planning sessions over the years, and here is the common denominator:

Over time the leadership team gets distracted, failing to keep a laser focus on the vision and mission, forgetting to tie every strategy and action back to that vision and mission.

I want to hang around longer, past the day or two of planning, so when you get muddled and sideswiped; when you see the trees instead of the forest; when that 30,000 foot view is cloudy I step back in as your coach to keep you focused. 

I've been where you are. I know the challenges, and it drives me crazy just as it does you, to miss those opportunities when they are right in front of me. You too, right?

So here we are in the season for creating the Aha! Vision. Jump on board, and let's take this journey together.  Call or email for a chat. Here are my open dates for the first part of 2016 + one in December:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Monday, February 1, 2016

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fears are little white lies

What are you afraid of? Okay, I'll guess. Is it public speaking? Mountaintops? Death? I'll tell you my greatest fear: rats. Oh, go ahead. You may want to call them mice as if they are sweet little pets. To me they are rats, and they are nasty and deadly!

But, before we get too far down that ratty hole, the topic of fear begs to be discussed, sliced and diced. In the business and career world fear can raise its ugly head every now and then. When opportunities and challenges knock on your door, it's better to be prepared and ready than to roll into a fetal position. I must admit I have never seen a rat in my entire career. Well, except the boss I'm about to tell you about.

Everyone is afraid of something. Once I had a boss who was afraid of being nice. I'm not joking. This woman (thing) could not be nice if I had choked her into it, which I was sorely tempted to do. I could not change her, but she could have changed herself and thus her career success if she had so desired.

I've held a few personality test workshops lately with a focus on leadership and communication. From my experience in this area I can promise you there are people who are afraid of many things, such as:
a) fear of losing control
b) fear of being in control
b) fear of not being noticed
c) fear of being noticed
c) fear of change
d) fear of no change 
d) fear of poor performance

 The list of fears goes on and on. Books can and probably have been written about fear.

To slice and dice fear ( I bet that's a fear too - slicing and dicing) here are some ways to overcome your fears.
1) The first step is to admit your fear head on because that will enable you to move beyond it.
2) Decide that conquering the fear is more important than holding on to the security your fear brings.
3) Acknowledge the difference between rational fears and irrational fears (i.e. drinking  and driving vs mice).  
4) Do that thing that scares you. Now. Make the appointment. Ask for the sale. Write the first page of the book. Confirm a speaking engagement.       
5) Train yourself to look forward to the energy and excitement of conquering the fear.

Speaking business here, I know you will benefit and grow when you overcome your fears. The worst thing you can do is sit around and admire others whom you feel are more confident, brave, adept than you, falsely believing you're not up to the challenge. It's simply not true. Everyone of those you admire has fears too. I promise.

You can overcome your fear and realize the success you've dreamed of. Get started now!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Who wins at growth strategy? Hedgehog or Fox?

There is a science to taking a business from good to great, and that research spawned a best seller titled, well, Good to Great. Author Jim Collins helped us understand the "why" of businesses that became household names and were consistently profitable over the long term.

I'm one of those thinkers with 100 ideas and solutions flying around inside my teeny tiny brain at all times. Some people are thinkers with 1 or 2 ideas and solutions occurring peacefully inside their brain as they need them. Before you decide which is best and who needs to go back to school, read on.

Enter The Hedgehog Concept. An ancient Greek parable states: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." Philosopher Isaiah Berlin applied this parable to people in a 1953 essay, saying people are either foxes or hedgehogs.

Because of the fox's wide variety of interests and strategies, their thinking is scattered and unfocused; therefore, they are limited in what they're able to achieve in the long run.

The hedgehog, however, is a slow and steady thinker. Unlike the fox, they are able to simplify the world and focus on one overarching vision. This principle guides everything they do and helps them succeed against all odds.

Jim Collins applied this concept to organizations, pointing out that they can find their "Hedgehog Concept" by making three important assessments. 

1 - Understand what it is people are truly passionate about.
2 - Identify what it does better than anyone else.
3 - Determine what drives its economic engine.

Give this some thought. While you're driving from one place to another, think of hedgehogs and foxes, passion and profit. If you're a hedgehog you will find this a simple activity, quietly contemplating. Whereas if you're a fox you may think of so many things you will overheat. Take care, and we will take this discussion further in the next post!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Top 5 Easiest Ways to Say Thank You in Business

What a dumb blog post, right?

Every 3 year old knows how to say, "Thank you." Pfffftt! We're all as polite as Emily Post.

Let's get right down to where the rubber meets the road on this topic. Everyone knows how to say those two magic words, but does everyone actually do it? Nah, especially in business relationships. I also miss opportunities sometimes. Showing gratitude is not just for best friends and family. It's a business thing too. 

Everyone is super busy with little time for creative thinking and planning, especially at work. In fact, we get so busy we forget that businesses and careers are built on relationships. 

As I list the 5 easiest ways to say thank you, for convenience I'm going to refer to your business friend as "someone". I like simplicity, don't you?

I'll start with the hardest one first. Ahem. 

  1. Look someone in the eyes, and say, "Thank you." Go ahead and laugh, but do you do it? Or, do you avoid it because it feels uncomfortable? The trick is to be specific and timely. For example, "Jeremy, thank you for helping me get all those tables set up for the auction dinner. You're the best!"
  2. Call someone on your handy dandy cell phone, which is in your hand 24/7, and say, "Thank you." Not everyone likes gushy. Again, be specific and keep it short and simple. "Kelly, thank you for the introduction to Mrs. Smithwick. I've wanted to meet her for a long time, and you made it happen." That's all.
  3. When you're buying groceries, select one extra something delish and take that yummy thing to someone. Is it a pie, a candy bar, a flower, a bag of biscuits with butter? Why not? "Thank you, Jonathan. You made my day when you handled that angry customer../
  4. Write a thank you note to someone. If you send a pre-printed card and only sign your name, I am calling the Police. It's not necessary to write a 500 word article. 
  5. Give someone $10,000. (just kiddin') Unless, of course, you want to send that to me. Alternatively, give someone a $10 gift card to anywhere. Anywhere is a great place when it's free.
In the business world, people are still people. People like to be appreciated. So, there. I bet I can say, "Thank you" to more people than you. Go!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

There's just something about 250 Magic Road

Back in the day the old New Hope Church practically shook with joyous singing every Sunday for hours on end. Inside the modest building, handmade pews of solid pine were lined up in rows and ragged hymnals were passed around, shared by steady hands when the crowd outnumbered the hymnals. 

The congregation grew until the old church could no longer hold all of Sunday's best, and a new church was built a few miles away. I don't know when the last sermon was preached here, but I've imagined it was a proud and happy day as the pastor looked forward to a bigger sanctuary. I know the church was abandoned in the late 70's because I became a tiny bit obsessed with it. At that time I lived a couple of miles away from this property and would often turn down the shady, dirt road just to ride by the church and let my imagination run wild on the potential of the property.

I was fairly convinced of what a lovely and perfect little cottage it could be if renovated. I remember that in my imagination I built a sleeping loft toward the back and installed beautiful, shiny pine floors. But, it was not to be at that time.

In the meantime the one acre parcel, including the church, was purchased by Jay and Dorothy Harwood, and in 1984 they built their forever home there near the church. Jay was a 20 year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and was smart, witty and kind. He spent many hours in the former church, having converted it to a spacious workshop and garage where he tinkered with trucks, motorcycles and other things that caught his interest. Many times I saw Dot sitting in the yard to watch Jay work on his projects. 

Jay and Dot lived at 250 Magic  Road the rest of their lives and were dear friends to everyone in our rural neighborhood.  We had purchased a farm and built a home further down Magic Road, so we were were neighbors. Eventually, the property was put on the market, and we bought it. We didn't need it, but as it had so many years before, the old church called my name. 

Here's the home Jay and Dot built. It's 3 S's: solid, simple and sweet. We've added a new roof, new flooring, fresh paint and a few other things. It's cute as a button and located just a few hundred feet off a paved highway on quiet Magic Road. Country living at it's best.

After owning for several years, we have put the property up for sale because we know there is a family looking for just such a place. We've rented out the house, and it's been well maintained. I've enjoyed using the church for storage, working on projects and occasional sales of vintage pieces I hunt and gather. That sweet old church deserves more, don't you think?

So, here she is, 250 Magic Road. There's just something about it, and I think it's calling someone's name. If it's you, here's where you can learn more about it:
 250 Magic Road, Boston, GA

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's a good lesson for these hurried times

Recently I was reminded how easy it is to ignore an opportunity to have a generous spirit.

I was checking out in a home improvement store, and my transaction was a little complex. I needed to arrange to pay for merchandise that was located in another store in a nearby town + arrange to have my contractor approved to pick it up.

Christina was my cashier. Here's how good she is: She smiled and told me it would be no trouble at all as she took all the information. Other customers began to line up behind me, and she was the only cashier in that area at that moment. She immediately acknowledged the other customers, telling them it would take just a few minutes, she called in assistance to open another register and proceeded with helping me. And, she smiled.  I made sure to thank her for her great service. I left the store feeling good.

Well, maybe not that good! Ha!

After I loaded my purchases in my car I remembered something else I was supposed to buy, so I went back inside, quickly found what I needed and got in line in another area with a different cashier. As I approached I spoke to her and barely got a glance. She looked unhappy. To he honest she looked downright miserable. I began to feel that little angst of frustration bubbling within me, especially since I had just enjoyed wonderful service at the same store.

Suddenly I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. I decided to see what she would do with another chance. I said, "Are you feeling badly today?" She said, "Yes, I've just called my doctor because I'm having severe leg pains and it hasn't been long since I was in the hospital with blood clots. I know I have another one. I'm waiting to hear back from the doctor's office."

Here she was, working while standing on a concrete floor and worried sick about having a blood clot. Of course I expressed concern, wished her well and told her I would say a prayer that all will be well.

I wanted to kick myself for so quickly becoming frustrated about her attitude! Although I'm a raving fan of great service where I shop, I am reminded that unfriendly service does not always mean what it appears. People we encounter are sometimes carrying a heavy burden, and they are understandably distracted.

It's a good lesson to be learned. Choosing a generous spirit when at all possible is a mighty good thing. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Control freaks on the loose!

My friend, Eliza, is full of creative inspiration and just the right dose of sarcasm to keep a conversation lively. Last week she shared an article with me that I loved. She knew I would, of course, because the article featured 11 of the best customer service stories, and customer service is a real big deal to me.

I have come to believe that one reason we receive poor customer service is we encounter control freaks where we spend our money. Think about it. How many times have you been given one or more of these responses from a business employee?
"We don't have anymore of those."
"I'm just going by the rules."
"That's the way we've always done it."

 Or, to simply be ignored.

Have you encountered the most miserable person on the planet who cannot acknowledge you, much less smile and speak? And, all this while you are handing over your money for a purchase? Please.

Sometimes this terrible service happens because the sales person is a control freak and wants to make sure you don't get what you want. Or, the sales person has a goal that you cannot come close to feeling good that day.  The nasty control freak is miserable in her/his own skin and wants you to be miserable also. Have you seen the movie, Misery? I wouldn't want Kathy Bates to have it in for me.

Oh, you should read these best customer service stories. It'll do your heart good.