Good Communication Means…..

David  -  Aug 12, 2013  -  , , ,  -  Comments Off on Good Communication Means…..

Successful organizations know how to communicate. Observing them, it looks very simple. Everyone “speaks the same language.” Their culture dictates how people conduct themselves, speak to each other meet, email and use the different modes of communication. The message is clear, the delivery is concise, and the opportunities for miscommunication are few. Everybody gets the information they need within the time frame they need it and act on it effectively. In those organizations, leadership typically models the appropriate communication behaviors and others follow their lead.

It looks simple- but it is isn’t.  Remembering the 720thinking mantra that everything revolves around the culture of an organization, good communication is achieved in those organizations that make it a keystone of their culture. The values support it and accountability demands it.

Successful communication breaks down into the right combination of WHAT, HOW, WHEN, WHERE and WHO.

Think about the WHAT of communication- vision, mission, goals, actions, rewards, consequences, appreciation and disappointment.  Some leaders feel that the WHAT is all that matters, but they are very wrong.  Studies show that in successful communications the WHAT represents less than 10%.

Then there is the HOW- speaking (in person one on one or in a group, on the telephone (one on one or conference call) orcommun2 even an e-mailed audio file or podcast;  writing ( via letter, memo, e-mail, written opinion); or video (video conference, Skype, website video, animation or simulation). Certain messages require face to face delivery for proper impact. Know which ones those are. E-mail and the telephone are overused.  They are often the “chicken’s” way out. There are some that make telephone calls when they know the recipient is not at their phone, so they can leave the message as a voice message.  What does that say about the organizational culture and values?

The other part of the HOW is also critical. It involves tone of voice, loudness and emphasis and body language. They shape the WHAT considerably.  Directors of movies and plays work with actors to get the right delivery of lines for maximum impact. Leaders need to consider how they deliver their messages for the impact they desire.  Leaders should also realize that much of this is lost if the message is not delivered face to face. Body language and facial expression make up a majority of the communication, and they are lost if the message is delivered via e-mail or letter.

The WHEN can mean time of day, or it can mean when in relation to a preceding act or an upcoming event. Timing can sometimes be critical to the success of the message and therefore should be carefully considered. Leaders sometimes react in anger or as a result of other emotions, and therefore have not thought through whether it is an appropriate time to communicate. Emotions can also shape the WHAT  and HOW of the message, so the WHEN should often be after the emotions have subsided.

The WHERE- in the leader’s office, the other person’s office, in a large group setting- will depend on the WHAT. Some messages should be delivered privately, some to a group.  Think about the impact desired and the unintended impacts that may occur if the WHERE is poorly chosen.

And lastly- the WHO. Some messages are private- reprimands, criticism, firings. The bare minimum of people should be present for them.  Messages of appreciation should be public- good work and successes should be shared and reward should be public.  In some multi-layered organizations, leaders give their message to the top tier(s) of leaders and expect them to pass it on down the line.  Think about what can happen to the message as it is relayed from V.P.s to Directors to Managers to Supervisors to line workers.  It can be done successfully if the leader’s communication is crystal clear and each succeeding messenger is as well.  Of course, each deliverer needs feedback to make sure he or she has been understood and the message is intact.  Leaders need to consider the ability of those below them to clearly deliver key messages, taking into account all of the key factors -WHAT, HOW, WHEN, WHERE and WHO.

commun1Without clear communication, businesses cannot be truly successful. Information must be shared, understood and acted upon in a timely fashion. Employees, customers and vendors all need to be informed- accurately and clearly- to motivate them to continue to have positive experiences with an organization.


Are You an Unintentional Tempter or Temptress?

David  -  Aug 06, 2013  -  , , ,  -  Comments Off on Are You an Unintentional Tempter or Temptress?

In Greek mythology, the Sirens were temptresses, luring mariners to destruction on the rocks surrounding the islands on which they lived.  They sang songs which the sailors just could not resist. In the early scenes in the Bible, Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent,  and Eve, succumbing to the temptation, was lured to the dark side, with catastrophic results.

A tempter or temptress does not lead individuals to good, but rather to give in to desire to break the rules. Such people are not just stories from our deep past or mythologies- they still exist in the business world.  Those with bad intent are one story. They intentionally create mischief or worse,  sabotage others in pursuit of a personal agenda.  But perhaps worse, otherwise intelligent and well-intended leaders can unintentionally become tempters, leading to the demise of individuals or entire organizations.

How can this happen?  How do they become the serpents in the garden?  There are five conditions that foster temptation.  serpent

  1. A state in which employees feel that the leader is not paying attention, or worse, doesn’t care.
  2. A state in which there are no set rules, regulations and policies.
  3. A state in which rules, regulations, policies and standards are applied randomly.
  4.    A state in which leadership sets a negative example.
  5. A state in which there is no accountability and there are no consequences.

In all of the above scenarios, breaking a rule would seem to be a low risk situation, with perhaps a high reward.  Who could resist? Leaders who allow the above states to exist are creating temptation that many will fall prey to.

Workers who sense that they could be rewarded for non-compliant behavior are at the vanguard of the destruction of the organization. Once they start taking liberties and nothing happens to them, it causes others to either follow their lead or leave the organization in disgust.  What do these behaviors look like?  They fall into four broad categories:

  • Ignoring goals and targets where there are no consequences for missing them. This leads to an overall lack of accountability, which inevitably leads to no standards, a fall in productivity, a decline in business results, the departure of those who care and ultimately failure.
  • Not living up to the brand promise. Customers, vendors and the public start to have uneven experiences with the organization. Previously loyal or satisfied customers start to look elsewhere for services and products until sales fall below sustainability.
  • “Forgetting” the organization’s values and the behaviors that support them. This can be reflected in a change in interpersonal relationships within the organization. Bullying and harassment may take hold. A hostile or unfriendly workplace may arise.  Backstabbing may become the order of the day.  Again, good employees who seek order and rationality will bolt, leaving a horror show behind.
  • Stealing.  If the boss raids the supply closet for personal reasons, others may begin to do so. Then it may be false expense reports, mileage claims and worse. The most valuable asset these employees steal is time and productivity.

Leaders need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for creating a tempting environment. They need to act to turn things around before it is too late. Creating order out of disorder is hard, but not impossible.  They need to wake up, take a look around and get things back the way they need to be.  Those that can’t comply with the movement back to sanity have to leave if the owner wants to save the organization.   And if the owner cannot do it, he or she has to leave or the organization dies.


Quick Fixes

David  -  Jul 31, 2013  -  ,  -  Comments Off on Quick Fixes

Quick fixes are not always the answer. Band aids can cover a sore without really doing much long term good, without healing the underlying infection. Covering a hole in the wall with a picture may hide a defect but does not fix it.  On the other hand, some quick fixes serve a useful purpose.  Putting a sheet of plywood over a broken window or glass door until it can be properly fixed keeps out the elements and provides a modicum of security.  bandaid

The key is understanding what one is accomplishing with a quick fix. It cannot be confused with a more permanent solution. It must be recognized as an immediate action step providing temporary relief.

At 720thinking, we do a “deep dive” into organizations, enabling us to ferret out underlying causes of problems and locate the sources of organizational stress and turbulence. We can collaborate with ownership and management to effectuate long term solutions.  But while that process is going on, there are always some immediate steps that can be taken by an owner or leader to make things better quickly.  They are stop-gap steps and they may or may not be part of the overhaul, but they serve a strong purpose.  If you are not doing them, here are a few actions you should take immediately:

  • ·         Sign every check yourself. Many leaders, particularly entrepreneurs, find the finance side of the business to be the least pleasant. So, they delegate it as soon as practical- including deciding which bills to pay when; and the actual writing and signing of checks.  BIG MISTAKE!!  Delegate but oversee.  Know what is going on in the business and make sure everyone in the company knows that you are doing this. That way nobody will get any ideas that you are not paying attention.  To add to this impression, ask for the bank statements each month.  If you cannot be totally invested in the financial side, at least look like you are.
  • ·         Break the chain of command. Leaders who observe a strict chain of command get most of their information in a filtered fashion, as it passes through layers of management.  The leader can never really know how many rear ends are being covered by the time information finally reaches her. Step outside the chain of command once in a while and find out what individuals think and believe right from their own mouths.
  • ·         Call five customers or clients.   Not your role?  Of course it is.  If you do not treat all of the customers as yours, they may leave when the employee handling them leaves your business.  Check in, reach out, go to dinner. And ask them “How easy is my company to do business with? Where are the rough spots?”  Who better to tell you?
  • ·         Survey your employees. Show your teams that you care about their opinions. Learn about what is important to them, whether they feel they have all of the tools they need, whether management is acting on the right information- whatever you want. But get their feedback and act on it. Get them to be part of the solution.
  • ·         Re-visit your vision. You may have to dig it out of a file cabinet or out from under a pile of papers. Review it. Does it still apply? Is the organization still headed toward it? Does everyone remember it? Is everyone aligned with it?  If not- remind them.
  • ·         Do some sort of training or employee development.  If budget does not exist to hire someone to lead this, handle it internally. But show employees you want them to be constantly learning more and improving.
  • ·         Be transparent about one thing.  Tell your employees one thing you would not normally share with them. Take them into your confidence and see if they earn that confidence.
  • ·         Set a few short term goals to create some quick “wins”.  Create opportunities for successes that can be built upon and for workers to be appreciated. Find a way for everyone to be a hero, even for a day.
  • ·         Set up meetings with your three biggest vendors and discuss the relationships. See if you can improve your terms- time to pay, credit limit, etc. It never hurts to ask.
  • ·         Take an hour to think.  What are the best uses of your time? Are you spending it on things that only you can do? Or are you being the prima donna entrepreneur who just does what he wants, not what the business needs? Are you doing your part to make the business great?  quick fix

There is no magic to this list. There are lots of actions one can take.  Don’t just sit around waiting for a new strategic plan to be created or for some big outside event to happen.  Use your time to learn more about your company and what will make it stronger. The above quick steps take little budget and minimal time, but can yield immediate benefit without conflicting with long-term plans.

Lead Your Teams to Own, Not Rent

Laura Novakowski  -  Jul 26, 2013  -  ,  -  Comments Off on Lead Your Teams to Own, Not Rent

car_rental_July_23_2013Recently, I heard this comment on a talk show – “One does NOT wash a car rental.” The discussion went on to explain that a person doesn’t wash a rental because they don’t OWN the car.  Pretty simple concept and oh so true.

 With a car rental, we obey the rules, return the car without scratches and dents, fill the gas tank or pay for it, but we don’t wash the car or clean the interior, that’s the “real” owner’s job – the rental company. 

 Employees often take the same approach.  The partially interested, partially engaged employee will be sure to follow the rules, work within the parameters of the job, stay within the confines of the budget, keep their nose clean and generally return the job at the end of the day to the owner without “washing.”  Sure, they met requirements of the job, but did they take the time to examine, review, evaluate results and readjust plans for improvement the next time?

 As much as leaders, executives and entrepreneurs want a team that takes pride and owns their responsibility, the reality is all too many leaders actually allow their employees to be renters, to just be mediocre. What if the leader found ways to build ownership? 

 First, let’s review some leadership behaviors that support “renting.”

 ·         Fixing.  A wise man once wrote – “People’s destiny is not really in your hands. In the final analysis, every man’s destiny is in his own hands.” Norman Vincent Peale.  Leaders all too often what to “fix” people. The mistake in this approach is that people don’t need fixing.  They need to be inspired.  When, we try to help others overcome their flaws, their shortcomings, their inadequacies they often wait for us to give them the solution.  This only enables them not to learn, to not grow, and to contribute only marginally.  You tell us what company can afford to invest time in repairing others’ work.

·         Let it slide.  Richard Yates, author of Revolutionary Road, wrote, “It’s a disease. Nobody thinks or feels or cares any more; nobody gets excited or believes in anything except their own comfortable little God damn mediocrity.” Being easy going, giving and nurturing is NOT the role of the leader. Being a leader is tough. We have to step up to the plate and OWN our responsibilities. People may want to sit and be comfortable, but what they need is to have some adversity and challenges to overcome.  Quality products and services don’t get made or delivered by average workers. When leaders overlook behaviors that support passing the buck, blaming , hiding under the radar, or just plain – not doing their job –  they sabotage any hope for success.

·         Seeking consensus.  I love this quote by Margaret Thatcher – “To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies.  So it is something in which no one believes and no one objects.”  There are many problems with always trying to build consensus. Problems such as wasting time, losing focus, or trying to be popular, not productive.If leaders want to build strong teams, they have to be willing to set the target and allow people to step up, act as team and get results.  The more we attempt to coddle and cajole employees, partners and other stakeholders, the further we get from achieving truly extraordinary results.

·         Telling People YOUR Vision.  If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking”   George Patton  The average, mediocre team can spout off the “canned” vision statement.  Leaders often mistake people’s ability to state the company’s vision statement for understanding, buy in and appreciation of the big picture.  This generally is furthest from the truth.  When people don’t have to think, they generally have not made an emotional connection to the lofty idea and ideals of the company.  They do what they are told and nothing more.

motivated_employee_July_23_2013So how do leaders build ownership?

 Rather than fixing, letting it slide, seeking consensus and telling your vision, leaders can build ownership in many ways. For 720thinkers one of the outstanding actions to promotes ownership is to inspire people.  Again, I would like to share another quote by Dr. Peale – “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”

The strongest leaders engage their employees by helping them to discover their motivations and belief in their own capabilities. As a results, individual motivators will help align goals and actions with a vision that is so compelling, so addictive that they wouldn’t think of returning their job at the end of the day with a thorough cleaning because they own their job.

Promoting ownership is one of the leader’s primary roles.  Are you the leader that promotes employees “renting” and not owning their jobs?  If so, now is the time to consider the ways that you can lead people to own not just rent their job.


What is in Your Tool Kit?

David  -  Jul 22, 2013  -  , , , , ,  -  Comments Off on What is in Your Tool Kit?

It has been said that “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Put another way, if you only have one tool in your kit, you are going to approach every problem the same way, approach every issue through the bias of that single tool.  To be successful in the professional […]

The Comfort Zone – In or Out?

David  -  Jul 19, 2013  -  , ,  -  Comments Off on The Comfort Zone – In or Out?

With the weather we have been having on the east coast over the last few weeks, it is easy to define almost everyone’s comfort zone- being in air conditioning with a cold beverage close at hand.  When we leave the easy chair behind and get to work, be it from a virtual location such as […]

Socrates – The Triple Filter Test

Laura Novakowski  -  Nov 28, 2012  -  , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

One of the greatest tests that I learn came from the wise philosopher Socrates – It’s called the Triple Filter Test. Socrates used 3 filters before he engaged in a conversation. This way he ensured that the conversation was meaningful. Now I’d like to review them with you. It’s also a great way to start a meeting or a conversation with yourself.

Filter number one – Truth

Is what you are about to say totally truthful?
If it is not – don’t say it!

Filter number two – Goodness

Is what you are about to say good, kind and positive?
If it is not – don’t say it!

Filter number three – Useful

Is what you are about to say necessary?
If it is not – don’t say it!

These filters from Socrates have saved me countless hours of grief and misunderstanding. We are not only in constant conversation with others but with ourselves as well. Reflecting on this Triple Filter Test even in our internal communication can save countless hours of internal grief and misunderstanding.

Was this Truthful, Good and Useful?

To Succeed in Business – Raise Your Awareness

Laura Novakowski  -  Mar 07, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

One of the biggest attractors or detractors for success in business and  is our level of awareness.  To offer some insight into how to create a backdrop for increasing our awareness, I would like to share some insights from one of the most renowned humanistic psychologists of all times, Dr. Abraham Maslow.  As a humanist psychologist , he believed that a person who heightens their awareness  become “fully functioning,” “healthy,” and  “self-actualizing.” These three attributes are essential to success in life and business.

Here are  10 points that Dr. Maslow believed optimized these attributes:

  1. Be authentic. Be genuine and transparent  in communication and behaviors in a way that people fully understand.  Saying one thing and doing another, leads to confusion and chaos.
  2. Transcend cultural conditioning. Become world citizens.  Move outside of your comfort zone. Appreciate and learn from all cultures, rather than being trapped by one.
  3. Discover your calling, fate or destiny. Assess your talents, your passions and your interests. Take assessments that increase your understanding of your behaviors (DISC), , motivators (Values Index) and patterns of thinking (Attribute Index). Diagnostics can and will help to discover what is important and appropriate to pursue in life and business.
  4. Know that life is precious, that there is joy to be experienced in life.   People want and need to be happy and full of hope.  Even in tough situations, finding the pleasure and promise of growth and contribution often makes the job much more pleasurable and rewarding.
  5. Accept others as they are and help them to learn their inner nature. From real knowledge of aptitudes and limitations you can know what to build upon; what potentials are really available for you. The same with people. Not all partners,  employees, clients work out.  Accept them where they are. Offer guidance if asked or required. Provide assistance to exit a situation that doesn’t fit style, capabilities or interests.
  6. See that basic needs are satisfied. This includes safety, sense of belonging and esteem needs. When we are aware that we have basic needs, we can appreciate that one hundred percent of the population has the same basic needs. When these needs are met obstacles become opportunities and conflict becomes collaboration.
  7. Refresh consciousness.   Appreciate that every situation has some good, some bad and even some ugly going on.  Reviewing conversations and critiquing business processes helps raise awareness of important issues, challenges and opportunities.
  8. Controls are good. It takes control to improve the quality and balance of and in business and life. Setting benchmarks and matrix help to give focus and direction.
  9. Transcend the trifling problems and grapple with the serious problems in life. These include the problems of injustice, pain, suffering, and death. I once knew a nurse turned interior designer who often said to her clients,Let’s keep this decision in perspective.  Hanging curtains in not life or death. Deciding when to pull the plug,  now, that’s life or death.
  10. Be good choosers. You must practice to learn to make more powerful and positive choices. The key word here is practice. Test your choices. Run your decisions by valued and trusted mentors, colleagues or friends .  Generate congratulations and rewards for success. Evaluate the losses, make changes and move on.

Ten great ways to raise your awareness  from Dr. Maslow to help lead your business and life to success.

Source:  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from Psychology – The Search for Understanding by Janet A. Simons, Donald B. Irwin and Beverly A. Drinnien

Making Strategy an Accelerator, Not an Anchor

Laura Novakowski  -  Feb 08, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  Comments Off on Making Strategy an Accelerator, Not an Anchor

How does the success business use strategy as an accelerator, not an anchor?

Businesses today have an opportunity to use strategy to their advantage. Whether we take an advantage of using our strategy to move our businesses towards growth and success. Or, use that strategy to hold us back – now those becomes interesting options.

Let’s investigate some accelerators and anchors…


  • Change the business perspective – Just because last year had marginal results doesn’t mean the strategy for the next year is “fixing” all the old problems.  Get out of the office, the building. Got on a retreat, go to a play ground, or go kayaking.  Make it fun. Make it positive. Dream big!
  • Create a mastermind group – Reach into your vast network, or expand it, and find 4 to 7 successful, positive and energized individuals that would like to share ideas, help solve problems and serve as sounding boards for crazy and sometimes desperate ideas.  Masterminding can be done face to face or via telephone of Skype. Whatever the venue chosen be faithful, be committed and be collaborative.
  • Share your strategy. Communicate your strategy with each and every partner, investor, employee or interested party. Write it speak it. Sing it if you can. The more your strategy is shared the more likely you will succeed.
  • Strategy is a foundation not a prison. Last, but not least, be focused and yet flexible. The strategy may be a good one and yet something may come along that can galvanize you and your business to another level. Be open to suggestions and ideas.


  • Myopia – trying to solve the problem with the same mind that created it, to paraphrase Albert Einstein.
  • Isolationism – failing to reach out for help, feedback and/or objective assistance
  • Insulate – detaching and hiding in a cocoon. Holding the strategy so close that no one has any idea what you and your business are trying to achieve.
  • Rigid – the strategy cannot and will not be deviated from. Clients are leaving. It’s their problem – the strategy is just fine. Employees offering new ideas. Shut the door and shut out success.

Interesting dilemma, wouldn’t you agree. Comments on how to make strategy an accelerator, not an anchor, would be greatly appreciated.

Thoughts and Choices – According to 12 Sage Minds

Laura Novakowski  -  Jan 11, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  Comments Off on Thoughts and Choices – According to 12 Sage Minds

Think of choices as a basic rule of physic – the rule of cause and effect. A choice causes us to take or not take action which effects a change.  This change can be positive or negative. Only through careful thought and consideration can we truly determine what and how those choices affected our successes and failures in business and in life.

Here is some sage advice…

 Buddha“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” 

William Shakespeare: “The choices we make dictate the life that we lead.”

William Jennings Bryant:  “Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice: it is not to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

James Allen“Man is made or unmade by himself. By the right choice he ascends. As a being of power, intelligence, and love, and the lord of his own thoughts, he holds the key to every situation.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes…and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.

Albert Einstein:  “Out of Clutter, find Simplicity.  From discord, find Harmony. In the midst of difficulty, lies opportunity.”

Carlos Castaneda:  “We choose only once. We choose either to be warriors or to be ordinary… A second choice does not exist. Not on this earth.”

Denis Waitley:  “There are two primary choices in life;
to accept conditions as they exist,
or accept the responsibility for changing them.”

Dalai Lama:  “We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us, and make us kinder. We always have the choice.”

Zig Ziglar:  “Every choice you make has an end  result.”   

Professor Dumbledore, from ‘Harry Potter’It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities.”

From the song “I Hope You Dance”: “I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean, whenever one door closes I hope one more opens, promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…

I hope you dance…”




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