Archive for the 'Team building' Category

Can you sell your leadership product?

What is a leader? A mentor once told me a leader is someone who can find others who will follow him (or her).

But as we all know, followers can be high-maintenance folks, requiring constant tending to whatever it is that attracts them; most of the time “it” is something intangible. Napoleon is reputed to have said, “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” Intangible.

Leadership, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So we asked our radio and online audience which of five characteristics is THE most important to being a successful leader. Two of the leadership traits we offered, courage and perseverance, got the lowest ranking, each in single digits.  The highest ranking went to “ability to communicate,” with about 40% choosing this one, followed by “ethical behavior,” chosen by almost one-third of respondents,  and “vision” selected by a little more than one out of four.

At first, I was surprised that courage and perseverance didn’t rank higher, because it’s my belief that both of these are defining traits of a successful leader. But surprise turned to clarity when I realized that our poll had revealed what we all know but don’t always remember: There are two faces of a leader. One is the face leaders see when looking in a mirror, and the other is the one followers see. When seeking the definition of a leader, we have to be clear about which point-of-view is being sought: leadership traits we seek in ourselves or those that attract followers.

The face in the mirror knows courage and perseverance are definitely among the imperatives for leadership success. But to followers, these are merely raw materials used to manufacture the product they demand of leaders - that intangible “bit of colored ribbon” delivered by communicating a vision that is executed based on mutually held values.

Turns out, being a leader is a lot like being a business owner. To be successful in business, it’s not enough to offer quality products you’re proud of - customers drop the gavel on that judgment. Similarly, it’s not enough for leaders just to please the mirror - followers are the customers of your leadership product.

In order to get others to follow you, both faces of leadership must be in evidence. Nurture those traits that success requires of you personally, like courage, perseverance, faith, commitment, etc., while simultaneously delivering what followers expect: ethics, communication, vision and performance.

Write this on a rock … Are you finding followers for your “bit of colored ribbon?”

The power of brainstorming with adjectives

How dull would our world be without adjectives? You know, those handy words or terms we use, as Webster says, to “modify a noun.” Indeed, without the descriptive power of an adjective, a noun is nothing more than a bland commodity – like broccoli without hollandaise.

If I offered you a soybean, you would probably be less than intrigued. But what if I said it was a “beautiful soybean”? You’d want to see such a bean, wouldn’t you? A change of attitude, all because of the power of an adjective.

Adjectives can be powerful and useful in your business when they help you take a look at your company, products, services, etc., in an honest, creative, competitive and critical way. One method of pursuing the power of adjectives is through brainstorming.

My friend and Brain Trust member, Floyd Hurt, author of Rousing Creativity, says brainstorming is a great way to get organizational creative juices flowing. And creativity is the mother’s milk of powerful adjectives. Everybody knows that! So get your team together (if you’re a one-person shop, your support group) and conduct a brainstorming session. But first, it’s important to know the Floyd Hurt rules of brainstorming below, followed by my comments.

Free wheeling
There should be virtually no restrictions. Floyd says if you’re pursuing how to pep up the showroom and someone says “Let’s put an elephant in there,” the next comment should be, “Are we talking African or Indian?” And don’t worry that your idea isn’t complete. Even partial ideas can spark the other half from someone else.

No criticism
Some adjectives may not be positive, especially when you’re working on constant improvement. Everyone must feel that what they say will not be criticized, and that all brainstorming contributions will be considered constructive.

Combine and improve
This is where you put some of your brainstorming ideas, including the half-baked ones mentioned above, together to make a better idea. After this kind of synergy clicks the first time with your group, buckle up, because your brainstorming will probably blast off with new energy.

Judgment of ideas
Which one of the ideas will you work on first? This is the culling process. Everything idea is not a keeper – at least not today. But don’t throw anything away. Keep the unused ideas and adjectives for the next session. Ideas are like seeds: sometimes they need time to germinate.

Quantity
This is where the power of adjectives really comes into play. A brainstorming session MUST have LOTS of ideas complete with powerful adjectives. Write them ALL down! EVERY ONE!!

The immortal Adam Smith identified the written word as one of the three greatest human inventions. Besides the brainstorming power you’ll generate, never underestimate the power of having your ideas on paper, looking back at you.

Write this on a rock … Use brainstorming to unleash the power of adjectives.

Why trust is a business best practice

Are you familiar with the term “dysfunctional family?”

The simple definition is, a family whose members don’t work and play well with each other. Such relationships typically create emotional, mental, sometimes even physical distress, and/or estrangement.

Sadly, we humans also create dysfunctional businesses. Perhaps this definition will sound familiar: A dysfunctional company is one whose teams don’t work and play well with each other. Such relationships typically create emotional, mental, sometimes even physical distress, and a casualty list.

Someone once said, “Friends we choose – family we’re stuck with.”  Since we get to choose where we work and who we hire, why are there dysfunctional businesses?

The answer is actually quite simple, and it’s the common denominator in both businesses and families: human beings. If your family, or company, is dysfunctional, it’s because of the behavior of the humans.

Humans aren’t inherently bad, but we are inherently self-absorbed. And one of the by-products of self-absorption is self-preservation. When self-preservation shields are up, mistrust flourishes, goals go unmet, and failure is likely. When shields are down, productivity, creativity, and organizational well-being are evident. But the latter only happens if the stakeholders believe there is a basis for trust.

If your organization is not accomplishing its goals and making progress, look around to see if there’s more self-preservation going on than teamwork. Where evidence of individual and departmental self-preservation is found, you’ll also find lots of dysfunction, but not much trust.

In his book, “Built On Trust,” my friend, Arky Ciancutti, goes so far as to say that trust is “…one of the most powerful forces on earth.” He further states that the two most powerful trust-building tools are closure and commitment.

Closure is implied when there is a promise to deliver by a stated time. It manifests when performance happens or, in the alternative, a progress report is delivered in advance of the date.

Commitment, Arky says, “is a condition of no conditions.” When the relationship between two parties is built on trust, there are no hidden agendas. And while commitment may not always deliver the end product, it does guarantee a report about the progress.

Even though closure and commitment are skills that often must be learned, you’ll find willing participants in your employees, because human beings desire trust.  If your organizational culture isn’t built on trust, it’s not the employees’ fault. Trust and dysfunction have one key thing in common: they’re gravity fed. They start at the top and roll downhill.

Humans perform better in organizations built on trust.  Knowing this, successful managers demonstrate trust-building behavior and instill it in others as not only the right thing to do, but as a business best practice.

Write this on a rock — If organizational dysfunction is a poison, trust is its antidote.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

Motivating employees is good business

Smart business owners know that there’s a direct link between motivating employees to be successful in their assignments and the success of that business. Want a good example of why you should be one of these smart managers?

Let’s imagine that your best employee has just resigned. How much will it cost – directly and indirectly – to find, hire, train and get that replacement up to the productivity level of your former employee? The answer is: maybe years. Scary, huh? Now ask yourself if you could be in jeopardy of losing good employees merely because you aren’t motivating them.

There are many ways to successfully motivate employees and all of them require managers to focus on the human beings with whom they work, and who desire to find their own success. Consider these six motivational elements.

1. Communication.

There’s nothing more fundamental to having loyal, productive and engaged employees than good communication. If you’re having problems keeping good employees, the low-hanging fruit for you may be to just start talking with – not to – your people.

2. Professionalism.

This is the aggregation of proper business, ethical and interpersonal behavior, and it’s critical to successful employee motivation.  Professionalism fosters pride and employee loyalty. Demonstrate your professionalism first and then help employees achieve and value their own professionalism. And don’t forget to recognize their progress.

3. Management style.

Check yours. Are you a leader or a driver? Managers who are drivers disregard others, consume people as a means to their end, and are identified by high employee turnover. Leaders value their people and encourage them to be successful. They can be identified by the double-digit numbers representing how many years their employees have been with them, and the multiple black digits to the left of the decimal on their bottom line.

4. Training.

Employee training pays operational and motivational dividends. It fosters knowledge, which fosters self-confidence, which fosters leadership, which fosters employee loyalty, which fosters customer loyalty, which fosters your bank account. How’s that for a training straight line to return-on-investment?

5. Recognition.

A robin noticed a turtle sitting on top of a fence post.  When the robin stopped to ask how he got there, the turtle replied, “Obviously, not by myself.”

When talking about what your company has done, be sure to manage your pronouns properly.  Whenever “I” can be replaced with “we,” do it. This tiny 2-letter pronoun is a powerful verbal high-five that resonates motivational energy throughout your organization.

6.  Fun.

Fun is very motivational. Make sure your organization finds ways to have fun at work. The people I know who are the most successful and the happiest are those who take their work seriously, but they don’t take themselves very seriously.

Write this on a rock….

Motivating employees to be successful in their assignments is not only good business, it’s also the right thing to do.


Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

What the Tour de France and small business have in common

With 21 stages ridden over 23 days-some almost 150 miles long-navigating cobblestones, assaulting at least two mountain ranges and dealing with thousands of over-enthusiastic crowds, the Tour de France bicycle race is arguably the most grueling of all sporting competitions.

Here are four reasons why competing in the Tour is like running a small business.

1. Team structure
Tour participants are part of 22 sponsored teams of about 25 members, and each have individual roles to play. Some members are supportive non-riders and some are riders whose primary role is to protect and push their leader. But all work together to meet team performance goals, including getting their leader on the podium at the end of the day or the end of the race. Sounds a lot like a small business, doesn’t it?

Since every day in a small business can be like a mountain stage on the Tour-peaks and valleys-success requires the ability to motivate your team to work together effectively. A smart leader knows that sustaining successful teamwork requires sharing the recognition so the team doesn’t mind if you’re the one on the podium.

2. Communication
Competing in the Tour is like running 21 marathons in 23 days while simultaneously playing a chess match. So each team member has to understand his role in the overall strategy.

Even if you have the best business strategy in the world it must be communicated to your small business team so every member understands their role in the organization’s plan to achieve success.

3. Preparation
All you have to do is watch a Tour de France cyclist in a mountain stage to see successful preparation. These guys have turned their bodies into human spring steel as they become one with their bikes.

The small business equivalent is to learn as much as you can about operating your business, your industry, the competition, and especially, your customers. Since your team also needs to know these things, prepare them by investing in training and practice.

4. Technology
Tour de France teams certainly leverage technology, including high-tech bikes, customized chase vehicles, on-course communication tools, etc.

One of the keys to success for small businesses in the 21st century is leveraging technology.  If you want to stand in the winner’s circle you MUST find ways to use technology to make existing systems more efficient as well as help you take advantage of new opportunities.

Write this on a rock … Small businesses can learn a lot from the Tour de France teams.

Spring cleaning for small business—in December

At this time every year I like to remind small business owners to do what grandma used to do after a long winter. She called it “spring cleaning.” So let’s do the same thing, but let’s do it now, in December.

December Cleaning will give your business the maximum opportunity to start 2014 with as little 2013 baggage as possible. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Throw stuff away
Even if you’re not a pack rat like me, you’ve accumulated stuff you don’t use anymore. If you can’t sell it, give it away or throw it away, because it’s in your way.

Lose the graveyard
Every business has a digital graveyard. Unused or broken computers, monitors, etc., may have some value. Call a tech recycler and convert it into cash. Even if you donate it or throw it away, it’s out of your way.

Retool the team
The only thing worse than firing someone is letting an unproductive employee hold your team’s performance hostage for another year. You owe productive people the most effective organization possible, which often means you have to let the unproductive ones pursue their careers elsewhere. There is never a good time to fire an employee. But if you’re squeamish about letting someone go during the holidays, give them extra severance.

Clean out customers
Reevaluate the profitability of customers and put them into four groups, from the most profitable As to the least profitable Ds. Worship the As, cater to the Bs, encourage the Cs and teach the Ds about self-service. When the cost of a customer’s expectations exceeds their profitability with you, they should be allowed to join your unproductive employees – elsewhere.

Purge products
As with customers, take a new look at inventory by identifying the most profitable As to the least profitable Ds. Stock all the As, a few of the Bs and maybe a couple of Cs, but never let a D spend one night under your roof unless it’s paid for. Remember, profitable inventory management means just-in-time, not just-in-case.

A/R reality
Take the hit and write off uncollectable accounts receivable now, so you can start January with a clean list. A/R write-offs are tax deductions this year, but become gravy if you collect them next year.

Each new year deserves to have the maximum opportunity to be successful, so don’t saddle it with this year’s obsolescence and bad decisions. By taking these steps you’ll prove to yourself – and your banker – that you have the discipline to make critical decisions for which successful managers are known

Smart managers spring clean their businesses in December.

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Be sure to check out my latest segment from The Small Business Advocate Show®. I reveal my “December cleaning” ideas for helping your business start the new year without the baggage and bad decisions of the previous year. Click the link below to listen!

December cleaning for small business

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

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