Tag Archives: creating value

Take Time For What Really Matters

what matters most as leaders

As we come to the close of another year, there are a lot of things that compete for our attention. Shopping for presents, attending Christmas or holiday parties, preparing for family and office gatherings. The list seems to go on and on. Though we seek to spend time with family, even the busy-ness of the season (which is supposed to be fun and relaxing) can often be filled with stress and headaches.

I’m sure you have heard (from me, even) that now is the perfect time to be planning for next year. It’s true, I started setting goals and thinking about what I want to accomplish next year. I also take time to reflect on the past year: where I did well and areas I’d like to improve.

Just this morning though, I wanted to pause and encourage you (and myself) to carve out time for what really matters. I can easily get wrapped up in all the planning and scheming for next year’s goals, for scheduling and thinking about holiday gatherings and kids’ activities we have to attend and forget the things that really matter to me.

Just recently, I spoke with 2 business owners and their stories are very similar. They are in completely different businesses (even vastly different industries), yet one thing is the same. They both have marriages that ended and at least one has kids that now have to split time between two homes. Their businesses are probably not the only thing to blame for the failed marriages; however, one of them is a direct result of spending too much time traveling and out of the country.

My Family Inspires Me

This holiday season, whatever you believe or dream or desire, make sure you make time for what matters most. For me, it’s my family. I have a wife and 2 awesome kids that continue to inspire me.

There are times that I am away from home, but my goal is to make that time less and less. I love to travel but I also want to make that a reality for my family. There are times I must be away from them, but I also dream of traveling with them.

Community Keeps Me Grounded

We have a great network of friends where we live and continually look for ways to increase our local connections. One thing we enjoy is to invite families over and have dinner together. This seems to be a lost art form of building community.

We find that we are in the minority of people who do this. Most families (I assume) are either too busy or too tired to invite people over. There is some value in online connections, but there is far greater value in face-to-face connections.

Kids Need More of You (Not More Stuff)

If you’re a parent, let me encourage you to give the gift of your time this season to your kids. Today, the morning news mentioned a phenomenon called “toy guilt.” This is what parents feel when they can’t get that new trendy toy for their kids. (Do we need to call the “wah”mbulance? 🙂 .)

I’ve been a parent for over 12 years, and I can say that our kids have never had the “latest and greatest’ when it comes to toys. (They are not suffering, I can assure you.) We don’t focus on stuff. They do get presents, but we don’t go overboard and usually wait until things are either on sale or are a couple of generations removed (especially for tech-related gifts).

Make Margin for More Life

As I look forward to the new year, my thoughts center around how I can make space for more of the above. How can I have a greater impact on my kids and family? How much room can I make for them in my life?

What kinds of ways will I foster greater connections with people around me? In my neighborhood and with our friends?

How can I set the kinds of goals that take all of those things into account and build the kind of business that not only works for me but works for those around me?

This season, I want to think about those things. I encourage you to consider, too, the kind of impact you want to have with those you love and what matters most to you. Then, set the kinds of goals that both you and those closest to you would be proud of.

What goals will you set this year? How do those goals match what kind of impact you want to make on others? Are the two congruent? 

Leading Others to their A-Ha Moments

leading others to aha moments

I had the opportunity recently to work with a young man who needed some leadership development coaching. His boss had strongly encouraged (read required, actually – ahem) him to go to three sessions and then any sessions after that were voluntary if he wanted to continue. We ended up meeting for seven or so sessions and during those sessions discovered a lot about who he was and the leader that he was growing into.

During the coaching process, he had several “a-ha” moments. You could see on his face when those would happen and he would say, “I never really thought about it like that before.”

For a coach, those are some of the best moments. You know your client is “getting it”. They are tracking with you and are thinking differently. That’s when change can start to happen. Something clicks within your client and they begin to make progress.

For some clients, it happens very quickly. For others, like this young man I worked with, it happened towards the end of our time together. The other sessions were helpful and useful; however, we had one session where it seemed like everything was firing on all cylinders and we were having one breakthrough after another.

As I reflected on some of my best coaching sessions (and this one), I thought about the why. Why did that session go so well and others haven’t? What made that session so special?

Here are a few ideas that I came up with that hopefully will help you as you coach teams and others into their “a-ha moments”

1. Capitalize on Your Strengths

If you are going to coach someone, you need to use your strengths to their advantage. Some coaches like to coach over the phone. Some like to coach in person. I like to coach in person. I’m a very visual person, so I like to both see who I’m coaching and also write things down for both of us to see. I like whiteboards.

During this session, I used the whiteboard extensively to help my client make connections (I’ll talk about more in a minute) with his past employment and his future career goals. In writing things down, he was able to make connections that he hadn’t seen before in how his whole path was essentially leading him to where he wanted to go.

Learn to use your strengths as a coach to have even more impact with your coaching clients.

2. Create Connections

I’m a visual person (one of my strengths) and love to use whiteboards to draw and write. I’m a strong believer in writing things down (whether it’s goals or brainstorming, etc.). It’s easier to see connections when you have something written in front of you.

As I was meeting with my client, I wrote some things on a white board based on a question I had asked (about his former employment). We wrote those things down and then continued to identify different characteristics of jobs that he had held up until his present one.

As we were going through this process, you could see the light bulb turn on as we connected the dots and discovered that every job he had held had prepared him not only for the job he was currently at, but also for the career path that he was heading down.

Leading clients to discovering connections for themselves will help to create more breakthrough moments in their coaching experience. 

3. Confidently Trust Your Intuition

Whether it’s what question to ask next, what homework assignment to give, or what activity to do next, coaching is a lesson in flexibility and judgment calls. Coaches need to be able to trust their intuition in order to move clients forward.

Often there’s this gut feeling that says “go this way,” “ask this question,” or “do this activity next.” There are times when it seems like the activity may not fit or the question seems a bit off; however, the times I have followed my gut have been far more effective than trying to force an activity that I had planned or trying to follow a rigid structure.

Learn to listen to that little voice when you coach others, and you will quickly become a stellar coach.

4.Cut the Crap (aka, Shut Up and Listen)

When you’re first starting off coaching, this one can be quite difficult. It was for me. At times, I still struggle with it. There’s a difference between consulting and coaching. Consultants give advice and tell people how they think certain tasks and goals should be done.

Coaches, on the other hand, lead people into solutions by asking powerful questions. The client should do most of the talking. I’ve heard that if you as a coach are talking more than half of the time, then you are talking too much. I would encourage you to talk as little as possible. (Depending on the client, this can be very challenging.)

Ask powerful questions and be quiet. Listen to what your client has to say. Don’t be afraid of silent space during the coaching process.

These four strategies are not the end-all be-all to coaching, but they have helped me lead others to their a-ha moments whether as part of a team or individual coaching.

What other strategies have you used to help lead people to “a-ha moments”? Which strategy do you tend to employ the most? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Lose a Customer Over 78 Cents

customer service training

I’m a big advocate and proponent of customer service. As in a huge believer. Ever since my mid-20s when I worked in a retail store called Eastern Mountain Sports and went through some phenomenal training, I am sold out on quality customer care and training.

Unfortunately in this day and age, well-done customer service is hard to find. Sometimes, next to impossible to find.

Several weekends ago, I was traveling with my family back from a wonderful weekend filled with friends, family time, and fireworks. We had stopped in a 7-Eleven to gas up and get a snack for my son. My wife let him get 2 candy bars because the sign said they were 2 for $2. She specified that he could only eat one (which he did not, by the way, but that’s another story for another time!) and this is an unusual treat for my son.

When I went to check out, the checker told me the total, and seeming a little high, I asked if the candy bars had rung up at 2 for $2. They did not, he said, so he proceeded to ring them up again. This time the total was 9 cents cheaper. I still didn’t think that was right, but went ahead and paid him.

When I checked the receipt, I noticed the bars still rung up at the normal price. So, I turned around and politely said, “The candy bars still didn’t ring up at 2 for $2.”

To which the checker responded (without any hint of real helpfulness), “Then that’s probably an old special.”

Trying to maintain my composure (my son, after all, was right there noticing what was going on) I replied, “But the advertised price is 2 for $2.”

He quickly retorted, “Well, I will take the sign down in a little bit.”

“So are you going to honor the price.” My voice at this point was probably noticeably agitated.

“There’s nothing I can do.”

“Like give me my money back?”

“I can’t control what the register rings up.”

At this point, one of the other customers, hearing the exchange asked if there was a manager available. The employee only shook his head no, not even looking at this woman.

At this point, I needed to step away. One, because my son was standing right there, and this was not one of my finer moments. Two, because I needed to cool down before laying in to that employee like I so wanted to do.

I took my son to the car and returned into the store. I went over to the cashier and said, “You might not be able to control what the register rings up, but you can control how you treat your customers.”

He said something else about the register, and I finally told him, “Well, you just lost a customer. We’re never returning to this store again.”

His nonchalant response? “Ok. Have a nice day.”

It was at this point that I really wanted to throw something at him more than a verbal sparring match. I refrained however, and went back to the car and left the store.

I vow never go back to that store again and likely will avoid all 7-Eleven stores from now on – not to be vindictive or spiteful but to support stores who care about their customers and treat them with a sense of value.

How could this have been a totally different outcome?

It would have been very easy for this young man to make me a satisfied customer. All he would have had to do was honor the price on the candy bar and refund me the difference. Case closed. Instead, he opted for the “there’s nothing I can do approach.”

Hogwash.

There is always something you can do if you are focused on the customer.

What lessons can be learned from this exchange?

1. Treat your customers with respect.

I felt little respect from this individual and even thinking about it now, weeks after, gets my blood boiling a little bit. There is no excuse for treating people disrespectfully or with a lackadaisical attitude. Both of those scream, “I don’t care!”

What can you do today that will scream, “I care about you, the customer!”?

2. Give the customer what they want.

The companies that will excel in the future are ones who will not only deliver for the customer, they will over-deliver. Sometimes it’s a simple solution; however, at other times, the solution might be a little more complicated. Bottom line – keep your customers happy.

That being said, sometimes you do have to fire customers or clients. These are people that will not be happy no matter what you do. (That’s a different story and blog post all together.)

How can you over-deliver for a client today? 

3. Always be smiling.

I don’t know how long this young man had been working here, but it was obvious he didn’t like it. Or maybe he was having a bad day. I don’t know and frankly, it doesn’t matter. When you’re in a customer service position, sometimes you have to fake it.

Put a smile on your face. Be friendly. Act like you care (even if you don’t). People respond way better to smiles and friendliness and it will make your day go much better as well.

How can you level up your friendliness today? 

4. Train your people right from the start.

Again, customer service training is key, and either this employee didn’t care to heed his training, or he wasn’t trained. Regardless, he didn’t need to be working that day.

Also, in working with a lot of millennials, soft skills are a necessity that don’t get a lot of attention and training. As a rule, most young people lack these kinds of skills and must be trained in them. Don’t assume everyone knows about customer service. Have a specific training plan and take all of your employees through it.

What is your plan to train your employees in customer service? 

 

5 Ways to Transform Your Team’s New Year’s Resolutions into Adventurous Goals

transform your new years resolutions

Now is the time when people think about and set New Year’s Resolutions. Chances are you have as well. However, I am not a big fan of most New Year’s Resolutions and here’s why:

  • They’re rarely specific.
  • They’re easy to break.
  • They lack focus and clarity.
  • They’re seldom risky.
  • There’s typically no accountability.

I use this time of the year to set specific goals for how I want my upcoming year to look. There is a process I use to set goals, and it is one that I have used for a number of years, and it is something that I have taught to students and adults alike.

To help transform your team’s resolutions into goals involves five easy steps. It doesn’t take a lot of time; however, these simple steps will help turn those non-specific resolutions into winning goals that you can measure, track, and look back at the end of the year to see all that your team has accomplished.

1. Make the goal specific.

Many New Year’s Resolutions are not specific. They are too general. Examples include:

Lose weight. 

Drink more water.

Be a better leader.

The challenge with these is that there is no specific target to hit. Here are some ways to make the above goals specific.

Lose 15 pounds.

Drink 6 glasses of water daily.

Read 1 leadership book a month.

2. Create goals that are measurable.

As with the initial examples above, there is really no way to measure certain characteristics like “more” or “better”. What does it mean to be a better leader, husband, employee, etc.? How will you measure that? Again, it’s next to impossible.

On the other hand, 15 pounds is something that is specific and measurable. You know when you’ve lost it, and when you haven’t. You can check on your progress along the way. You can also measure if you’ve read a book a month on leadership. It is something tangible that you can look at and know that you’ve accomplished (or haven’t).

3. Make sure the goals are attainable.

Often when resolutions are made, they are not attainable. There are two reasons why this might be. One is that not enough time is given to be able to achieve the desired results, as in losing weight.

Many times, when setting goals, people are over-zealous for what they can achieve. Then, when they fail, they get discouraged and may give up on the process of goal-setting.

Planning out bite-sized steps to achieve each goal can be helpful. Creating a plan of action around each goal will help assure that each small step is completed on your way to completing the big goal!

4. Add some risk to each goal.

While you want goals that are measurable and attainable, I like to encourage people to put a little risk in the goals. There is a fine line here between risky goals and ones that are a bit too much; however, I tend to err on the side of adventurous goals that will excite me.

Many times, for me, when setting goals, in addition to having specific and measurable goals, I will add something to strive for in addition to the actual goal. I find this helps me stick to my goal better.

For example, instead of just a goal of getting in shape or losing weight, add in a 5k or 10k to strive for as you get in shape. These provide milestones and targets to hit as you progress toward the overall goal.

5. Make each goal time-sensitive.

Set an end date for each goal. Have a time frame that you will work with. For example, if you want to drink more water, then a good goal might be:

Drink 5 glasses of water, 5 days a week, for 90 days.

Having an indefinite goal for every day of the week more often than not is unattainable. Breaking the goal into smaller segments can help to create more small wins as you look to accomplish bigger goals. Remember, goals are different than habits, but can be a great kick-start to formulating new habits.

BONUS #1: Partner with someone for accountability.

Setting goals is great; however, being able to set them with someone and help keep each other accountable is a sure-fire way to increase the likelihood of staying on track.

Pair up with someone to help you reach your professional goals. Two are better than one!

BONUS #2: Celebrate small and big victories alike.

As you complete action steps and each of your goals, take time to celebrate! This will boost your motivation and help you keep going. Decide ahead of time how and when you will celebrate your wins.

What other steps do you use to transform your goals? What goals have you set for this year? Let me know in the comments below?

What Makes Team Building Activities Effective?

effective team building activities

There are words and phrases that get watered-down, misused, and ultimately can get a bad reputation. Team building is one of those, especially when people discuss team building activities. Now, just about everything is labelled as team building as long as it’s done with a group of people. Thoughts of trust falls gone wrong, “paintballing the boss”, and other horror stories abound. For those of us who have worked in the industry, it is painful to hear about and read about these stories.

Team building is a legitimate and helpful field, when done correctly. There are numerous things that are labelled as team building activities that shouldn’t be. However, there is a vast amount of creativity and ingenuity in the field of team building. If you’re wondering about what makes team building activities effective versus what does not, here are some helpful suggestions:

Effective Team Building Activities are Goal-Oriented

The first step even before choosing these activities (or a company to run them) should be to sit down with your team and set goals for the day. What do you want to accomplish? What issues is your team facing? What changes do you want to see in your team following these activities?

These questions need to be answered as well as looking at what activities will best fit your goals and needs. If you are not sure, hire someone who is. There are some great facilitators and organizations that I could recommend to you.

Legitimate Team Building Exercises are Purpose-Driven.

There is a purpose behind each and every effective team building activity, whether it is an icebreaker, a group challenge or initiative, or a ropes course element. Look at your goals and what purpose will drive each activity. Could “having fun” be a purpose? Sure. But, hopefully it’s not the only one. There are numerous purposes that can be obtained from each activity. Focus on the ones that your team needs the most.

Top-notch Team Building Activities are Results-Focused.

No leader or manager wants to go through a half-day or day-long event and feel like time has been wasted and nothing has been achieved. Top-notch team building companies will focus on results during the day, but also be able to achieve longer-lasting results.

Some facilitators require follow-up sessions as part of their team building packages. Why? Part of it is for sustainability. These coaching sessions can help sustain the work that was done during a day or two and keep teams accountable to maintaining results.

Powerful Team Building Activities are Situation-Specific.

Some companies and facilitators have one-size-fits-all programs that are pre-packaged and confine teams to a specific structure. If these kinds of programs fit your goals, that’s fine. What if they don’t? What if you’re looking to reach Goal A, and they address Goal B (or C or Z?)

The best team building programs are customized to your team and require a bit of both front-end work, lots of work and ability to adjust on the fly during the program, and back-end follow up. Don’t let anyone tell you that the one-size-fits-all process works for everyone (not even those hats fit every one – much less when you’re dealing with a whole team!) 🙂

What other characteristics define an effective team building program? What have you observed in programs in which you’ve participated?

Leaders and Ingenuity

I was in Austin last week attending and speaking at a conference for educators, and it has been quite the experience. In the three days that I was there, I noticed several interesting business concepts that I had no idea even existed.

One interesting concept was for bikes that you could rent from one place (self-service) and drop off at a number of different locations. For just a few dollars a day, you could take unlimited brief rides (30 minutes or less) on these bikes.

creative bicycle business

The other business was called Car2Go. It’s basically a self-service car rental company (much like the bikes above) where you rent the car for one ride or all day, depending on what you need. In the downtown area, I noticed quite a number of these cars.

creative car rental business

I began to think about the creativity of entrepreneurs and leaders. On many levels, both groups have to exhibit some level of creativity.

While I think those that start businesses get a lot of credit for being creative, great leaders also must be creative in many areas. What areas are those?

  • Leadership style
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Team recognition
  • Developing other leaders
  • Training

Leaders must be creative in the way they lead. Why? Because no two people are alike and everyone must be led just a bit differently. Some leaders do this on a certain level, but most need to lead people according to their personality style more effectively.

Knowing where your staff falls under personality assessments is just the beginning. Leaders must also know how to lead the different personality styles. And, team leaders must remember that it is a daily process, not a “one and done” training.

Problem-solving is another area where leaders must be creative. There are a number of brainstorming techniques that can be used to propel a team forward out of a rut, or when there’s a difficult issue that needs to be resolved in a more creative way than has been done in the past.

Recently, I read an article in Outdoor Magazine that described the top companies to work for in 2014. I was amazed how so many companies are getting creative with what benefits are offered.

Several companies offered unlimited vacation days (that exhibits a lot of trust, right?). Others offered fitness incentives or gyms and healthy food options in their place of work. Still others offered other benefits like powder days (take a day off and go skiing – just don’t leave your team high and dry) or free fitness classes.

There are lots of businesses and numerous people who claim to be leaders. To combine ingenuity with leadership is a way for a business or a leader to make sure he stands out from the crowd and gets noticed.

How are you using creativity in your business? How do you seek to stand out from the crowd? Let me know in the comments below.

 

What Difference Does it Make?

What difference does it make?

There are a lot of team building activities that exist, and there are also a variety of team building companies that boast everything from a Drum Circle to Cooking to get your team engaged, communicating, and more productive. Sure, they may sound like fun, but what makes a team building experience worth the time, money, and effort that is put into it? Read more

4 Quick and Easy Ways to Make Someone’s Day. #3 is so important!

simple ways to make someone's day

Have you ever had someone tell you that you made their day? I did, in fact, just today. It wasn’t that hard, and it didn’t take that much time. Here are just a few simple ways to make someone’s day that are quick and easy, but will be sure to leave both you and those around you feeling special.  Read more

Developing a Compelling Vision Statement for Your Team

developing team vision statement

Creating and defining a vision statement for your team can be tough.  What do you include?  What do you exclude?  How long or short do you make it?  There are a lot of thoughts that go into defining the vision for your team or business.

Here are some tried-and-true methods for not only defining your vision, but for developing a compelling vision statement for your team that will get them motivated, empower them to work, and engage them and your organization for success.

The Vision Statement Must Be Clear.

Clarity around a vision and goal is one of the things that separates high-performing teams from ineffectively functioning teams, according to the authors of Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong. A sense of mission is a characteristic of both top-performing teams and leaders.

Mission can be defined as a vision of a future state that inspires action.  The vision has to be clear.  People want to know where they are going, what they need to do to get there, and what’s in it for them.  Beyond money, bonuses, or tangible rewards, people will get behind a challenging goal that is bigger than themselves

Think about the teams you’ve either led or been on.  When there was a clear vision, were you more or less productive?  More or less stressed?  When a clear vision is defined, it is much easier to know when you’re on and off course and know what you need to do to adjust.

The Vision Statement Must Be Compelling.

In additional to clarity, a vision must also be compelling.  It must drive production and goals. Each project and every goal work to further the vision of the organization.

A compelling vision encourages risk.

This kind of vision encourages risk, not perfection.  Teams are encourage to develop risky goals to meet risky objectives.  (This is not risk for the sake of risk, but a mission that drives teams and people to risk more than they would otherwise.)

A compelling vision inspires ownership.

A vision like this assumes people are capable of not only working toward the mission, but also contributing ways to achieve the vision.  People want to feel a part of something bigger than themselves.  A compelling vision produces the idea that the person’s work is meaningful beyond just the paycheck.

A compelling vision empowers teams to action.

Have you ever been so engrossed in completing a project that you totally lost track of time?  A compelling vision can do that, especially if it makes a difference.  People love to rally around a cause.  It creates a sense of urgency, moving people to take action.

The Vision Statement Must Be Communicated.

You might think that since you created a clear and compelling vision statement that everyone would think about it and obsess over it as much as you do.  You would be wrong.  For most people, the vision statement must be communicated on a consistent basis.

In order to communicate your vision statement effectively, it must be short enough to memorize, but long enough to include key components. For example, a local school district’s vision statement is: “To graduate every student prepared for success beyond high school.” This is a very compelling mission statement.  It is short enough to memorize.  It is also not too specific regarding “success”.  Will success look the same for every student graduating high school?  Of course not; however, this district desires to achieve success with every student, regardless of how that looks.

Vision statements are great if they are communicated.  They are fairly useless if they are not.  People forget.  They get busy.  Team members get distracted with the day to day tasks and tend to lose sight of the overall vision.  Team leaders need to keep the vision in front of people.  Remind them why they are doing the day-to-day tasks.  Leaders remind people of their purpose in the grand scheme of things and why each person is important to the overall vision.

Ways to communicate your vision:

– Talk about it.

– Celebrate team members who embody it.

– Display it everywhere.

– Invite dialogue around it.

– Get feedback from others.

– Create “calls to action” around it.

The Vision Statement Must Be a Commitment.

To have a vision statement is one thing.  To be committed to it is altogether quite different.  Most companies these days have a mission or vision statement.  How many in the company know what it is?  Or seek to work by it on a daily basis?

The best teams and leaders know the vision statement and are committed to seeing it lived out day by day.  It’s part of the DNA of the organization and each team and team member strive to work towards the vision.  Every goal that is set and every project undertaken is driven to fulfill the vision.

How else do you create a clear and compelling vision statement for your team?  What ways do you communicate and commit to it?

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