Newsletter & Blog

Pitfalls to Accountability

Laura Novakowski  -  Nov 17, 2013  -  , , ,  -  Comments Off on Pitfalls to Accountability

In many conversations of late, accountability seems to be the main topic.  What does accountability mean? Instead of using the typical dictionary definitions, I’d like to use some classic quotes.

“Never promise more than you can perform.” Nov14_2013_Postits_2013

Publilius Syrus

This one really hits home. When we over promise, we all too often under deliver. I know from personal and professional experience that rather not than keep my word to others, I will compromise, short change and even overlook my own business and family needs.

Here’s two tips for handling over promising:

  1. Stop being so quick to volunteer.  Sit on your hands. Count to 100. I do think it’s not really the best to start pulling out the tape and throwing it over my mouth, but believe me I have considered taping my mouth shut.
  2. Be realistic in setting deadlines.  There’s a great line that has helped me tremendously – “under promise and over deliver.”  Clients respect honesty and really appreciate receiving products and services earlier than anticipated.  This also gives us some breathing room. I don’t know about you, but all too often the unexpected crops up and then there’s a mad dash to complete an assignment.

 Nov14_2013_approach_avoid“It is not only what we do,but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.”

Moliere

I’d like to slightly rephrase this quote, “It’s not only what we do, but also what we avoid doing, for which we are accountable.”

My parents gave me many gifts, two that come to mind as I read this quote are: always do your best and what you start you finish.

The commitments we make matter. When taking on a responsibility, it’s always first and foremost my choice to agree. Once I take on that responsibility, it is up to me go all in and do my very best.  There is no room today for a halfhearted approach, I recently listened to a TED Talk by Brene Brown, PhD where she discussed vulnerability and courage, the true sign of courage is being vulnerable enough to confront life and issues with and open and trusting heart. Dr. Brown discussed how valuable it is to risk non acceptance, making mistakes, not knowing enough and showing others and ourselves that we  dare to share and be exposed while giving it our all.

To not finish, for me, demonstrates lack a true lack in my character.  When we decrease our participation or just plain quit, it violates all the trust that others have invested in us.  This trust takes a long time, if ever, to be regained.  No matter what the age, position or outcome, if we sign up, we need to show up and actively participate. Avoidance rarely makes a challenge or problem get better or go away. When we avoid one time because we are not the star or the winner, we generally will not get a chance to come out on top the next time.

I will leave you with one final quote by Bret Hoebel

If I could give one tip for people – it’s not an exercise or nutrition regimen.  It’s to walk your talk and believe in yourself, because at the end of the day, the dumbbell and diet don’t get you in shape. It’s your accountability to your word. 

We would love to hear you thoughts on some of the pitfalls and solutions that you when dealing with your accountability.

 

Know Where The Triggers Are

David  -  Nov 12, 2013  -  , , ,  -  Comments Off on Know Where The Triggers Are

Knowing the location of the trigger is a key data point when handling firearms, as the trigger is the mechanism which actuates the operation of the gun.  Every gun user should be familiar with that trigger, how much pressure is needed to make it work, and of course, where the gun is pointed when it is pulled. trigger

In a more general sense, as a noun a trigger is anything that initiates an action or a series of actions and reactions. It can also be used as a verb to mean to initiate or to set off. So, triggers are catalysts.  Things can be calm and moving along smoothly and then something is said or done and tumultuous change takes place.  In certain circumstances, such as diplomacy and negotiation, there may be an overriding strategy to avoid triggering any sudden outbursts or disruptions.

In other instances, leaders are looking for the right triggers to initiate the change they desire within their organizations. As we all know, change is difficult. For many, change presents personal challenges. The two biggest obstacles to change are (1) Can I do it? (2) What is the benefit to me if I do it?  Many who get past the first question get stuck on the second. This sometimes happens because organizations have a history of pursuing “flavor of the month” initiatives, only to back away from them over time. Because the company has failed to show a lasting commitment to its own change initiatives, workers don’t give the next ones any credence. They see the effort they might put into effecting any change going to waste because they know leadership won’t hang in there.

John Kotter, one of the world’s thought leaders on change ( the author of Leading Change and A Sense of Urgency) argues that leaders often fail in bringing about change because they do not create and communicate a sense of urgency around the change. “We are going to try this and see if it helps” is like dipping a toe in the water. Stating that “If we do not make this change, we are going to be out of business in six months” should create that sense of urgency. It should be a trigger to change.

B.J. Fogg, the founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University has created a behavior model with two axes, one for ability and one for motivation.  In his view triggers are most successful when the desired behavior change is easy (or relatively easy) and motivation is on the high side. If change is hard and motivation low, triggers tend to fail.

For triggers to work, the leader must have credibility and must demand accountability.  Empty threats are meaningless. Do you remember the children’s story of Peter & The Wolf?  From that story comes the phrase “crying wolf.”  Leaders who have cried wolf in the past will have a difficult time finding the right triggers to catalyze the desired change.

The leader desiring to bring about change needs to be credible. If there are past credibility issues, credibility better be rebuilt before new initiatives are offered.  This can be done through careful and open communication, including an apology for past behaviors, a clearly stated vision of the future and the path to achieve it and a realistic appraisal of the consequences if change does not occur. In stating the consequences the leader must make it clear that all will be individually accountable, and actions have to back up the words.

Some workers may have to be shown the way to change step by step to prove to them they can do it.  It might be that others really are not capable of the needed change and then the leader needs to back up the spoken words with action.

Change is hard even with the highest level of motivation. Therefore, leaders need to be strategic in their thought process. Making individual changes without looking at what they do to the entire system or organization can be disastrous. Those changes can be negative triggers which can start a landslide of problems.

Before announcing change initiatives or cramming changes down the collective throat of an entity, think of the following:

  •  Credibility                  urgency
  •  Accountability
  • Communication
  • Strategy
  • Vision
  • Sense of urgency

These are all predicates to positive change.  Face it- technology and innovation are bringing about change at an ever-increasing rate. Every leader has to be current, aware and prepared to adapt, which means their teams need to be agile and prepared. And they have to be motivated to follow the leader. Without the proper motivation, change will not be triggered.

Finding and Channeling the “Force” Within Our Business

Laura Novakowski  -  Nov 07, 2013  -  , ,  -  Comments Off on Finding and Channeling the “Force” Within Our Business

In the Star Wars saga created by George Lucas, there is reference to the “Force.”  Lucas defined this “force” as, “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds and permeates us. It can be good or evil.”

peoplepulling together_Nov_7__2013There is an “energy” that surrounds and permeates every corner of our business. It has a crucial impact all aspects of our business, affecting our morale, motivation, finances,  quality,  service and long term viability. As with any force, there needs to be positive discipline, direction and focus across all levels of the organization so that  the energy moves us in the right direction.  Therefore,  finding and channeling this  “force” within our business now becomes a major imperative to determine to what degree our business is driving towards success or towards failure.”

This business imperative requires, what we  720thinkers like to call, a key business strategy called Mining Your Business.   This process is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it a quick fix. Instead, this is a dynamic process that requires an extensive commitment of analysis, critical thinking, objectivity and ultimately positive focused action.

Although there are many layers to this process,  I would like to share with you two things that will help you to find and channel “positive” forces within your business.

1.  An external organizational 360 degree audit. This audit needs to include customers, vendors, stakeholders and strategic partners.  The purpose of this evaluation is to help your company take a step back and determine the issues that can serve as threats to your brand while simultaneously identifying those opportunities can help you stabilize and grow future business.  To follow are some sample questions that can help in your audit process.

  • What is one word or phrase that you would use to describe our business?
  • On a scale of 1 (the lowest score) to 10 (the highest score), how easy is our company to do business with?
  • What do you think  is the biggest value we bring to doing business or working with our company?
  • What do you think is the biggest obstacle that you have when doing business with our company?
  • How often would you be willing to refer our company to others?
  • Who would you define as our greatest competitor?
  • What might you say about our company, if asked to give a testimonial?

2. An internal organizational 360 degree audit. This audit needs to include a comprehensive cross section of your organization.  If you are the owner or CEO, use the board or investors, to serve as your boss, ask peers or colleagues, ask direct reports and other levels deeper and further away in the organization to give you honest and as often as possible, anonymous feedback.  The purpose of this internal diagnostic is to take the organization’s internal “temperature” to determine how hot (fully engaged, passionate team players) or cold (disengage, indifferent hostages) is your culture. To follow are some sample questions that can help in your internal evaluation process.

  • What is a word or phrase that you can use to describe your organization?
  • On a scale of 1 (the lowest score) to 10 (the highest score), how valued do you believe you are as an employee ?
  • What do you think is the biggest asset that your company possesses?
  • What do you think is your company’s biggest challenge?
  • What is a word or phrase that you can use to describe the leadership in your organization?
  • On a scale of 1% (the lowest score) to 100 (the highest score), how often are you willing to offer positive endorsements to the family, friends and the community at large ?

businessdownthedrain_Nov_7_2013As you probably have guessed, these are just two small step in doing some serious evaluation of the “force” within your business.  The truly successful organizations make this an annual process. We are almost at the midpoint of the final quarter for this calendar year. If you don’t want to see money, talent, customers and resources go down the drain, consider investing some quality time and energy in determining if the energy that “permeates and surrounds” your organization is the positive force you want and need to drive your company to success in 2014.

And, “May the force be with you!”  

Finding and Channeling the “Force” Within Our Business

Laura Novakowski  -  Nov 07, 2013  -  , ,  -  Comments Off on Finding and Channeling the “Force” Within Our Business

In the Star Wars saga created by George Lucas, there is reference to the “Force.”  Lucas defined this “force” as, “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds and permeates us. It can be good or evil.”

peoplepulling together_Nov_7__2013There is an “energy” that surrounds and permeates every corner of our business. It has a crucial impact all aspects of our business, affecting our morale, motivation, finances,  quality,  service and long term viability. As with any force, there needs to be positive discipline, direction and focus across all levels of the organization so that  the energy moves us in the right direction.  Therefore,  finding and channeling this  “force” within our business now becomes a major imperative to determine to what degree our business is driving towards success or towards failure.”

This business imperative requires, what we  720thinkers like to call, a key business strategy called Mining Your Business.   This process is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it a quick fix. Instead, this is a dynamic process that requires an extensive commitment of analysis, critical thinking, objectivity and ultimately positive focused action.

Although there are many layers to this process,  I would like to share with you two things that will help you to find and channel “positive” forces within your business.

1.  An external organizational 360 degree audit. This audit needs to include customers, vendors, stakeholders and strategic partners.  The purpose of this evaluation is to help your company take a step back and determine the issues that can serve as threats to your brand while simultaneously identifying those opportunities can help you stabilize and grow future business.  To follow are some sample questions that can help in your audit process.

  • What is one word or phrase that you would use to describe our business?
  • On a scale of 1 (the lowest score) to 10 (the highest score), how easy is our company to do business with?
  • What do you think  is the biggest value we bring to doing business or working with our company?
  • What do you think is the biggest obstacle that you have when doing business with our company?
  • How often would you be willing to refer our company to others?
  • Who would you define as our greatest competitor?
  • What might you say about our company, if asked to give a testimonial?

2. An internal organizational 360 degree audit. This audit needs to include a comprehensive cross section of your organization.  If you are the owner or CEO, use the board or investors, to serve as your boss, ask peers or colleagues, ask direct reports and other levels deeper and further away in the organization to give you honest and as often as possible, anonymous feedback.  The purpose of this internal diagnostic is to take the organization’s internal “temperature” to determine how hot (fully engaged, passionate team players) or cold (disengage, indifferent hostages) is your culture. To follow are some sample questions that can help in your internal evaluation process.

  • What is a word or phrase that you can use to describe your organization?
  • On a scale of 1 (the lowest score) to 10 (the highest score), how valued do you believe you are as an employee ?
  • What do you think is the biggest asset that your company possesses?
  • What do you think is your company’s biggest challenge?
  • What is a word or phrase that you can use to describe the leadership in your organization?
  • On a scale of 1% (the lowest score) to 100 (the highest score), how often are you willing to offer positive endorsements to the family, friends and the community at large ?

businessdownthedrain_Nov_7_2013As you probably have guessed, these are just two small step in doing some serious evaluation of the “force” within your business.  The truly successful organizations make this an annual process. We are almost at the midpoint of the final quarter for this calendar year. If you don’t want to see money, talent, customers and resources go down the drain, consider investing some quality time and energy in determining if the energy that “permeates and surrounds” your organization is the positive force you want and need to drive your company to success in 2014.

And, “May the force be with you!”  

Unspoken Agreements

David  -  Oct 31, 2013  -  , , ,  -  Comments Off on Unspoken Agreements

There was a great Seinfeld episode from 1997 when George gets upset because a pigeon refuses to get out of the way of his car and he has to swerve to avoid hitting it. He ranted and raved about the fact that pigeons and humans have a deal, that being that pigeons are supposed to fly out of the way of drivers.

The concept of the “social compact (or contract)” goes back to the 17th century and philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  They talk about the formation of a society with unwritten rules to which all members subscribe for their mutual benefit. Individuals give up some of their individual rights in return for certain protections and benefits from the society at large.  These thinkers were major influences on both the American and French Revolutions.  The compact is really a very simple algorithm- “If you do ____, you can expect to get _____ in return.”  agreement2

What are the unspoken deals or contracts that we believe to be inherent in our current business relationships?  Are they still relevant or are they passé? Are they objectively based?  In that those that we can easily name are not truly contractual or part of any mutually agreed upon course of action, they probably do not rise above the level of beliefs held by many individuals.  A belief is simply defined as a premise that is held by an individual to be true, even in the absence of any substantial proof. Yet beliefs are still important motivators and remain as part of the fabric that binds workers to companies, followers to leaders and perhaps customers to companies.  These beliefs may continue to be held until evidence to the contrary stares them in the face.

For many years, the biggest belief was that if a worker did good work and remained loyal to the company, the company would be loyal to the worker, providing a pay check and a predictable, accessible standard of living.  The second big belief was that if a student applied herself to her work, she would get into a good college, and from there land a good job that would then support the prototypical American life.  Wow- those days are gone.  Loyalty is not strong on either the employee or employer side of things.  And we have learned that going to college can mean rolling up huge student loan debt, only to find out that there may be no job waiting when the formal education has been completed.

The deals today may be based more on individual corporate culture than societal belief.  Let’s look at a few:

  • ·         A belief in the boss who says work hard, produce and I have your back.  In some cultures, leaders motivate workers, get their best work out of them and make sure that they are rewarded with recognition, additional compensation and promotion.  That works for the individual and for the leader, who is evaluated on how well his team does.  In others, a hard-charging, productive employee may find herself to be a threat to her breach of Kboss’s security, so she is subject to having her boss back stab her or take credit for her successes.  The boss looks out for himself only and doesn’t care about the future of his charges.  Deal or no deal?
  • ·         A belief in the boss who says we promote on merit. In healthy cultures, the measures of success are clear and objective enough for all to understand what it takes to move up. Transparency and consistency keep the deal intact. In other cultures, leaders want “wiggle room” so they keep the rules murky and the criteria subjective. Favorites get favoritism.
  • ·         A belief that the rules are the rules and they apply to all equally. In strong cultures policies and procedures are applied evenly and consistently across the board, with the leaders holding themselves accountable to the same standards as all other employees. In other cultures, bosses may hold themselves to a separate standard, and may also allow certain employees to get away with breaches with a wink and a nod.
  • ·         A belief that doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. This may be the toughest one of all because there are so many agendas within an organization on so many different levels that it is hard to think through all of the consequences. Having an expectation that doing the right thing will be applauded may be really naïve.  Pointing out criminal or unethical behavior is the right thing but the consequences can be embarrassment, brand damage, bad publicity, customers fleeing, stock prices falling, etc. If the right thing leads to friends being fired or laid off, it may not feel like it was the right thing to do.
  • ·         A belief that hard work leading to promotion and higher income will lead to happiness.  It certainly used to be a widespread belief that climbing the organizational ladder led to wealth and an easier life, afternoons off to play golf, etc.  In today’s world many are finding that the higher they fly the greater the stress and pressure, the more time they are expected to put in and the more out of balance their work and personal lives are.  Many young people, including professionals like lawyers, accountants and those working for high powered management consulting firms have already discovered this and have vowed not to push hard for partnerships and promotions. They value their lives outside of work and do not want to give them up.

So, what is the social compact these days? Is it every person for herself? Look out for #1?  Or maybe it should involve every person understanding her own motivators and values and using them as the criteria for choosing a workplace, making sure to work where those values are honored.  Those that love “dog eat dog” can thrive in certain environments and their ideas of what their organization should offer them will be met.  In the larger world, where we as a society cannot agree on what priorities should guide us, it may in fact be impossible to expect any sort of general “social compact.”  It sounds like we all have to be cutting our own deals.

USA, Inc.

David  -  Oct 25, 2013  -  , , , , ,  -  Comments Off on USA, Inc.

Let’s pretend for a moment that the United States is our company, USA, Inc.  We are deep in debt and we can barely make payments on our debt service. We have to continue to borrow more money against our collateral and we really do not see a way to pay back the principal any time soon. To make it worse, we are buying more from our suppliers than we are selling to our customers.  And to top it off, we have internal unrest. Our CEO cannot get all divisions on the same page.  The Senate division would rather do nothing than go along with him, and the CEO somehow lacks the power to gain compliance.  The House division is filled with rebels who would rather break the company than fix it.

We the people- oops, I mean the Board of Directors, are sick and tired of it, but we are stuck with those we have brought into our company- at least for now.  What should we do?  What if the Board brought in a consulting firm to work on a strategic planning process?  What might that look like? How different would USA Inc. operate if there was an overriding strategy at work?Constitution

What might the vision be? How about something simple like “establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence (sic), promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”  We have liked that since 1787. It still seems pretty good.  How are we doing with that vision?

What are the true critical success factors in achieving it?

  • An equitable system of laws, both civil and criminal, that protect all equally and are enforced fairly.
  • Security protecting us from those inside and outside of our country that want to destroy the liberties we value.
  • General welfare- providing the means for all to have education, healthcare and safety in their daily lives and to be able to support their families and make a reasonable living.
  • Protection of our individual rights.

How are we doing with them?

Then there are the resources we need to achieve those critical success factors. They include:

  • Strong infrastructure to aid commerce and individual freedom of movement.
  • Energy independence
  • Strong and accessible educational system to support the jobs being created by business and government in pursuit of our Vision; and to remain competitive with other countries in global economics and global security.
  • Strong credit to enable businesses to grow, flourish, hire more people and sustain themselves.
  • Universal and reasonably priced healthcare
  • Credible and effective governmental policies on defense, environment, etc.strategy
  • Our employees- are they all rowing in cadence and with the same effort?

It is pretty clear that if we as USA, Inc. could stay focused on our Vision, our CSFs (critical success factors) and the proper allocation of and development of our resources, our chances for success would improve.  Why can’t we just do that?  Let’s face it. If the USA was a business, it would have been shuttered, its assets auctioned off, its customers scattered and its competitors picking at the pieces. Do we really want to continue to operate that way? Can we be turned around? Are we willing to do the work required? These are some of the questions we ask in business.

Leader Know Yourself

David  -  Oct 21, 2013  -   -  Comments Off on Leader Know Yourself

Great news!  You have been asked to participate in a local television show during which the business reporters from all local media interview CEOs.  There are tens of thousands of viewers due to syndication and many additional YouTube views, and this could be a huge opportunity to build both individual and corporate brands. The other CEO to be interviewed on the same show heads the largest public company in the region, well known for its growth and innovative strategies. You have always wanted to meet him and to do business with his company. And, you want to hold your own with him in the interviews. interview

As the day approaches, the excitement level remains high, but the nervousness starts to build.  What kind of questions will they ask? How will I look next to Mister Big Shot? Why did they really choose me? How much research did they do into me? What if I blow this?

With only a couple of days left before the show, which is being shown live, you reach out to your closest friends and ask for advice. One says contact a presentation coach to get tips on the best body language, ways to stay calm and ways to use the cameras to best effect.  One says to get advice on what to wear; and a third says get plenty of sleep, don’t drink alcohol the night before and don’t tell any of your stupid jokes.  This all sounds like good advice but it doesn’t still the feeling in your gut. So you call your original business mentor, who helped you get started twenty years before. She is surprised to hear from you, as you rather abruptly terminated your relationship several years back when you felt there was nothing more you could learn from her.

adviceShe is happy to have a conversation, but says it will be a quick one, because she has many current clients keeping her quite busy. She tells you to get out a pencil and paper and write down eight short questions:

·         Who are you?

·         What gets you up in the morning?

·         What keeps you up at night?

·         What makes you different from your competitors?

·         What would your employees say about working for you?

·         What would your customers say about your business?

·         Where is your business going to be 5 years down the road? 10?

·         What is going to get you there?

You get off the phone quickly, thinking this is of no use to you. None of these questions deal with your status, your brand or how you will appear in the eyes of the cameras. You put the list down and call the presentation coach. During your emergency session she gives many helpful tips. But she says that you must be sincere and you must appear passionate.  She asks where your passions lie and what your vision is. A little light bulb lights in your head and you realize these are basically the same questions your ex-mentor has asked in a different way.

You end up spending the night before the show thinking about the answers to the eight questions, actually digging below the surface. As you do, you start to get a bit excited, because you are getting in touch with the real “WHATs and WHYs” in your life. You used to be in closer contact with them, but greater responsibility and more diverse duties have distanced you from them. You look at the clock and it is 3:00 AM and you are exhausted but exhilarated. You fall into bed, knowing you have to be “on set” at 9:00 AM. After only four and one half hours sleep (disregarding advice of friend #3) you grab a suit from your closet and a shirt and tie to match (you think- violating the advice of friend #2) and head for the station. You try to remember the tips from the presentation coach, but your mind is a blank on them (sorry, friend #1). Yet, you do not panic- because you get it. You finally get it.

The interview goes better than expected. The questions asked and the discussion around the answers is rich and vibrant because you are once again in touch with yourself, your motivations and the heart of your business.  You come across as sincere and passionate. Your brand, your company culture and your vision are clear to all who listen.  And more importantly, you are revitalized, not from your television appearance but from getting back in touch with all that is important.

Lesson Learned:  There are lots of tips and tactics that can help a leader present himself  and his company in a strong light.  They may all be helpful to some degree.  But, you cannot sell others on you or your business until you really truly know yourself. The answers are there within each of us. Many choose to spend too little time staying in touch with them. However, it should be remembered that one important measure of success is how true they are to those values and the motivations that drive them.

 

The Power of Partnering

Laura Novakowski  -  Oct 19, 2013  -  ,  -  Comments Off on The Power of Partnering

Today, more than ever before, leaders around the globe have more and more responsibilities and less and less support. As 720thinkers, we have found that one of our greatest assets is our partnering. This applies to the people and companies that we work with and serve; the communities in which we live and volunteer; the vendors that provide us with such amazing products and services; and yes, even our wonderful families and friends.

1_ Oct_14_2013-partnersBusinessDictionary.com has a great definitions for partnering:

Establishing a long term win-win relationship based on mutual trust and team work, and on sharing both risks and rewards. The objective is to focus on what each party does best, by sharing financial and other resources, and establishing specific roles for each participant.

Let’s break this definition down.

Establishing a long-term win-win relationship – Partnerships are more than a whirlwind romance. Often times, it is not love at first sight.  To establish a healthy partnership, we need to be willing to devote considerable thought, time, and energy to collaboration and cooperation. Each individual holds value and adds more value to each situation, commitment, project or venture. The best litmus test for a lasting relationship is how support is readily offered and accepted without question, blame or excuses.

Based on trust – Trust comes in many forms. In healthy partnerships, feedback is honest, timely,  direct and delivered and received in a professional manner. It is important to establish clear ground rules and expectations early on and review often. It never hurts to commit in writing fundamental guidelines and revise when and if the situation merits it. These guiding principles, we define as our core values or our multipliers for success. They are

  • integrity
  • innovation
  • accountability
  • courage
  • motivation
  • results

These multipliers are not just given lip service, they are carried out consistently in mutually agreed upon goals and actions.

2_ Oct_14_2013-partnersTeamwork – This means that together ideas, plans and results are exponentially increased because the parties involved add valve to each other; that  complementary assets, strengths and talents are maximized and optimized. Here is a great partnership example. One person is great with organization and detail, the other person is great with visualizing the big picture and thinking outside of the box. Individually, they struggle with too little or too much information or too little or too much creativity. Together they produce a fabulous team and generate terrific results.

Sharing risks and rewards – In healthy partnerships, knowing someone has your back when danger and disaster are eminent is a potent and powerful asset. At the same time, there is no greater builder of lasting bonds than sharing victory. It’s is really difficult to celebrate alone.

Focus on what each party does best – Gone are the days of being all things to all people. There is still a lot of truth in the cliché  “jack of all trades, master of none.”  When we can focus on accentuating our gifts and abilities, rather than continually forcing ourselves into those activities in which we are not interested, or worse, lack capabilities, the outcomes become astonishing. All too often, we stumble through areas that are not our strength. Leveraging our own assets and allowing others to do the same enhances performance and results dramatically.

3_ Oct_14_2013-partnersSharing resources – In a time where dollars are tight and markets are extremely competitive, this is the most commonly overlooked opportunity for partnering. One of the surest ways to solidify a relationship is to share immediate access to appropriate and valuable resources.

Establishing specific roles – clearly defined responsibilities save time and sanity. When we know our functions, we don’t have to trip over or out-do each other  to provide optimal service and offer outstanding quality and value. Strong partnerships are clear on expectations and have established healthy boundaries. This greatly reduces confusion and conflict.

Healthy partnerships build lasting win-win relationships, mutual trust, strong teams, shared risk and rewards, more concentrated focus on ensuring that “the right person is in the right seat on the bus”, resources are shared and roles are clearly defined and assigned. For 720thinkers, that is really powerful.

Touchstones

David  -  Oct 12, 2013  -  , , , ,  -  Comments Off on Touchstones

It is not a question of whether things will ever go wrong in business, it is a question of when it will happen. There are few stories of a straight upward trajectory to success and sustainability. As was first said by Robert Browning, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  A huge customer (and in retrospect that customer may have represented an unsafe percentage of the company’s business) walks away, throwing off budget and projections; the most important machine on the assembly line breaks down at an inopportune time, putting orders in jeopardy; or a key employee leaves and starts a competing business.  Or even worse, government actions or inaction hurt the general economy and the business is in the tank.emergency2

When things break down, and in one way or another, they inevitably do, everyone should have some touchstones to consult to ground them and guide their decision making. After the first moments of panic subside and deep breaths bring the anxiety back to an acceptable level, the leader needs to have an action plan. Where to begin?  There is, of course, no one right answer.   There are a number of possible strategies. Here are a few.

Go to 30,000 feet

·         Re-visit vision, mission and values

·         Set aside anger, finger pointing and negativity

·         Begin a critical thinking process on how to follow a different path to achieve the mission.

Keep feet planted firmly on the ground

·         Look at the impact of the disruption across each of the business functions. If the assembly line goes down, determine how long before it is going to be repaired or replaced, how many workers are affected, how many customer orders are going to be affected, which employees are going to be impacted and how; how cash flow is going to be impaired and what the impact of that will be, etc.

·         This involves piecing everything together to try to get a handle on what decisions need to be made.

·         Get all key employees on board with important tasks.emergency3

·         Communicate with all employees and stakeholders.

Pull out the emergency checklist

·         Some leaders have a thing for emergency preparedness.  They have thought through the potential disasters in advance and have put together a contingency plan for each scenario.

·         The trick when relying on a plan laid out well in advance is to recognize how circumstances may differ from those considered in the plan.  There must be some flexibility and some thought employed, even when going down a checklist.

There is a fascinating new book, Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink, which dissects the decisions made as the effects of Hurricane Katrina engulfed Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. Under horrific conditions, doctors and nurses worked to keep patients alive, to triage, to evacuate, and to ultimately make life and death solutions.  The hospital had a large scale emergency plan that did not contemplate the conditions on the ground.  Hospital executives, government officials, and health care providers all had their own agendas which did not all align with the overall mission of patient safety and well-being. Reality got in the way of what should have been clarity.  Life gets in the way of previously made plans.  As military commanders say, “All plans are great until the first shot is fired.”

It is obviously easier to lead when times are good and everything is humming along smoothly.  Not all good “peacetime” leaders make great “war time” leaders.  Not everyone thrives under adverse conditions. But everyone should have a methodology or a thought process that they utilize when those conditions arise. Every leader should know who to consult for assistance, who to utilize to help implement the emergency plans.  And every leader should stay in touch with the vision, mission and values of the organization as the plans are implemented.  Looking backward, after the disaster has passed, the thought process and actions will continue to impact the organization, hopefully in a positive way.

How would you respond in an emergency? Looking back on it, even if successfully stemming the tide, would you be proud of how you did it? Remember your touchstones.crisis

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