Saturday, December 26, 2009

Getting Experienced...In A Good Way

As a collector of quotes - and life experiences - I just came across an aphorism by Louis L'Amour that is my current favorite: "You can't learn anything from experiences you're not having".

So much meaning. So few words.

Business life is too often full of mere talk. People analyze and study and discuss and have meetings and argue and write reports and present and talk some more...and wonder why nothing gets done!

In order to get new results, we have to "do new". "New" requires learning. Learning requires engagement. Engagement requires action. In short: Having experiences.

Ironically, the most successful people are those that take action before there's a 99% chance of success. They leap earlier - 80%? - and learn along the way. This earns them a competitive edge.

The key? That edge is NOT just the results of the action. What creates the real edge is their experience...what they gained from actually taking action.

It's an edge that can be realized no other way.

So, connect the dots for yourself this year. Step out in a way that you never have before - and experience more...learn more...grow more.

You'll soon see it makes all the difference in the world.

And your world will never be the same.

Isn't that what you want? A better life?

Go out and get some more a good way! ;)

Think about it, but more importantly do something about!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Hidden Side of Success

Just wrapping up the next phase of who-knows-how-many-phases-it-will-take conference calls with my publisher exploring the many steps of the process in getting a book actually published. Seems vaguely familiar to most transformation efforts I've led over the years.

At first, you walk into the brand new (to you) situation and get hit with a tidal wave of new information. Despite years of wide-ranging experience, it's not what you know that causes potential problems. It's that you don't know what you don't know.

Of course, knowing that gives you an advantage.

The key to success is to explore what is, at that moment, hidden to you. Data. Information. Relationships. Opinions. Perspectives. Blind spots. Misunderstandings. Assumptions. Hidden agendas. Ego. Fears. Untapped potential. Hope. Courage. Heroism.

There are always clues - and solutions - hidden inside the organization. The secret is rooting it out. To do this, you need to actively go to where the answer hide. Almost always where the employees and customers meet.There are two rules when exploring these uncharted territories: 1. Follow the money (the measurement of value), 2. Follow the time (the measurement of priority) and 3. Follow the customer (external and internal - employee) experience (the measurement of relevance).

Secrets never are discovered in an office - only out where real life happens.

So, my goal for learning this publishing process is to, at every step, keep my ears and eyes open to everything that is happening. Ask questions and listen/learn. Expect to be surprised - and to uncover unknown challenges. Keep the big picture in mind, and have the courage and tenacity to keep climbing that mountain.

Eventually, the view gets clearer...and the air gets cleaner......and the goal is achieved.

What challenge are you facing right now? Are you really following the clues or your predetermined expectations?

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Believe Too!

Just came across a wonderful quote by John D. Rockefeller that covers volumes in one paragraph. Definitely worth reading - and re-reading - to get the full value. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did (and continue to)...

“I believe in the supreme will of the individual and in his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that every right implies a responsibility, every opportunity, an obligation; every possession a duty. I believe that the law was made for man and not man for the law; that government is the servant of the people and not their master. I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but it owes every man an opportunity to make a living. I believe that thrift is essential to well-ordered living and that economy is a prime request of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business or personal affairs. I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man's word should be as good as his bond; that character-not wealth or power or position- is of supreme worth. I believe that the rendering of useful service is the common duty of mankind and that only in the purifying fire of sacrifice is the dross (waste matter) of selfishness consumed and the greatness of the human soul set free. I believe in all-wise-and all-loving God, named by whatever name, and that the individual’s highest fulfillment, greatest happiness, and widest usefulness are to be found in living in harmony with His will. I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might.”

Every sentence = pretty deep stuff. The question now is "What do YOU believe"? and "Are you living your life in way that reflects that?"

And, most important, "If not, why"?

Think about it - but more importantly, do something about!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Who's YOUR Most Loyal Customer?

I just returned form delivering the Pre-Conference workshop for the Society for Human Resource Management's Strategy Conference in Phoenix. We visited several world-class operations - including the Westin (one of the upscale Starwood hotel brands), Cold Stone Creamery (making ice cream buying a real experience) and the famed Mayo Clinic.

During the visit to the Mayo, several professionals spoke to my group revealing the best practices that have created the Mayo reputation/brand. The Chief Human Resource Officer, the Human Resource Manager, and the Operations Manager all shared amazing information that, according to the attendees, was extremely helpful from an operational standpoint. The interaction that made the most memorable impact was when a "customer" volunteered to share his experience with the group.

This patient just happened to overhear that our group was going to be there and offered to recount how he was treated during his liver transplant...just 5 WEEKS EARLIER. He went on about how the clinical aspects were over his head, but every Mayo employee he worked with took the time to, not only educate him so he could make the best choices - or execute his multiple procedures and surgery impeccably, but that they interacted with him in a way that made him know they CARED.

Tragic that experiencing the "care" in "health care" is so rare these days.

This "customer" went out of his way to prepare, drive out, and stand in front of a group of strangers to brag about an organization he is loyal to.

Impressive. That spoke volumes to everyone in the room. Passionate customers who are justifiably loyal usually have that affect.

Mayo earns that loyalty - and reaps the benefits as well.

The question is: Who is/are YOUR most loyal customers? Are they sacrificing to be an advocate for YOUR company? Have you EARNED that commitment?

Think about it - but more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sowing (and Reaping) O.A.T.S.

Ahhh...the beginning of a new week. Always seems to be both a wide-open seven days of possibility and, at the same time, not enough time to complete the ever-growing list of "things I've got to do". While planning for the week may seem intimidating, it becomes MUCH easier when you have a system to follow. One such approach is the OATS formula:

O: Objectives - First identify what your goals are. What results do you want to achieve by the end of the week. Write them down and rank each one.

A: Activities - For each goal, write down what you need to actually do (think behaviors) to bring each objective to fruition. This is the "Who" part of the formula.

T: Time - The "When" part of the formula is not only establishing a deadline, but also estimating how much time each goal/action will require. I try to add an extra buffer to allow for unexpected developments. If the unexpected development is that nothing unexpected came up, then my unexpected development is that I have extra time to accomplish new adventures!

S: Schedule - Once you have the previous details in place, you can place them appropriately in your calendar. Take into consideration when you do your best work (we all have different preferences/bio-rhythms, etc.) One tough obstacle is that few people place as high a value on time commitments to themselves as they do to commitments made to others. Make yourself and your plans a priority!

Simple and to the point. Try it out and see if this works for you. If you sow your OATS now, you'll be reaping that investment into you (and your life plans) soon!

Think about it - but more importantly, do something about!

Monday, August 24, 2009

What It Means To Earn Life Experience

Just thinking the other day about why some people have poor judgment. I mean, we all make mistakes - at times, even stupid ones, but why do some people grow and others wallow?

Well, it occurs to me the "normal" path that leads to growing as a person includes the following:

Burned - We either watch someone else get burned or we ourselves get burned - suffering the natural consequences of a bad choice. This experience is not a bad thing. It gets our attention. It gives us motivation to NOT repeat that mistake. If a mistake doesn't hurt, then we are sick, and in dire need of professional help. As I like to say: "The truth only hurts when it has to." If the truth hurts, then DO something about it. Change so that the honest truth feels GOOD.

Learned - After having a bad experience, healthy people (when they are paying attention) actually learn something. They connect the dots between the cause and the effect. They start to see the possible ramifications of certain actions (or certain LACK of action). Once you know, you cannot UNknow. Again, this is good. This is growth.

Turned - Learning does not change anything other than knowledge. That is only internal. To actually "bring that insight to life", we must implement. Knowing and Doing are two very different things. We all KNOW we should eat better and exercise, but how many actually DO it? Unless there is sufficient motivation for taking appropriate action, it is as bad (possibly worse?) than not knowing at all.

Earned - If a person takes appropriate action on a new (valid) insight, in the right way, then they will receive the natural consequences of that action - benefits and rewards. Of course, the act of implementing puts us all back in the cycle again - exposing ourselves to the possible pain of getting burned with a future misstep.

[Sidebar: Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know you can learn from pleasant experiences also - not just being burned. I just couldn't find a rhyme that matched the concept - so we all just have to deal with the disappointment of it not fitting in a tidy little package.]

For the best results, we can all focus on:

1. Taking appropriate risks - be willing to fail in order to optimize potential.
2. Stay aware of what is happening around us so we can connect the dots for improvement ideas.
3. Exercise the discipline to change behaviors. Consistent behaviors = consistent results.
4. Reap the benefits of the improvement - reinvest in future growth. Enjoy some too!

Think about it - but more importantly, do something about!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pixie Rust

Disney is known for it's attention to detail. Always making sure every aspect of the Guest experience adds value, rather than undermines value.

In other words: Making sure everything is "show ready" for your guests creates Pixie Dust...if not, you risk having Pixie Rust.

The only way we can fend off the decay of every day wear and tear is to be vigilant on maintenance. Not just with our equipment and other "things" resources, but also with the most important resources we have - our human resources.

I often hear people ask about how Disney (and other like-minded "legendary" companies) achieve consistent excellence. Well, it doesn't come by accident. They do the hard and disciplined WORK of maintaining what matters.

That includes their people. Training every day (informally, in addition to the formal kind) accomplishes several things:
1. it keeps everyone's attention on what matters
2. it keeps everyone's skill level high
3. it builds a culture of discipline and excellence
4. it positions the entire team for success - in any circumstances

Talk about return on investment. The results speak for themselves at every world-class organization.

Funny how the wanna-be's complain that they can't seem to get those kinds of results, when all they need to do is execute on the right things consistently every day. Continuous improvement can help ANYone turn Pixie Rust into Pixie Dust.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Formula for Business Success: Follow and Improve

Everyone seems to be "getting back to basics" - and, for one, I'm glad. As long as the basics include a sophisticated look at long-term success.

To that end, I've been pondering how to simplify a formula for success without getting too simplistic. So far, here's what I've come up with:

Follow your heart (your passion) +
Follow your customer (their passion) +
Improve your skills (your product/services) +
Improve your relationships (engagement with employees/customers)

To me, based on what I've experienced/seen at world-class organizations all over the world, the overlap of all those things seems to equal "Success". Interesting how best-in-class companies lead by following - and are the best because they constantly get better. Pretty simple.

Maybe if leaders would take time to really get clear on these issues, they could take action in a way that paid off with growth and profits. Having this kind of a discussion with your team and your customers will likely reveal some pretty valuable insights.

Just a thought when pondering your own success.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on it - today!

Monday, July 13, 2009

First, Last, and LastING Impressions?

Recently thinking about some "common knowledge" aspects of human relationships - both personal and professional.

We've been reminded (ad nauseum!) about how important first impressions are. Ditto for last impressions. No argument there. First impressions establish a context and expectation while last impressions provide the last thing you see/hear about the experience when leaving.

What I don't hear much about is a little different take on developing an about the importance of making a lastING impression?

The lasting impression of any interaction usually occurs somewhere in the middle - between the first and the last impression. When talking with people - friends or customers - I find it very interesting that they will have a particularly good (or bad) experience in the middle of the interaction that really sticks with them. It seems like we'd invest a little more time crafting ideas for creating lastING impressions as some people do for first or last impressions.

That focused kind of effort is what sets apart the extraordinary from the ordinary.

Here's my personal priority:

1. Lasting impression: How can I really connect with them and add value in an unexpected way?
2. First impression: How can I make them immediately feel "at home" and ready for a special experience?
3. Last impression: How can I ensure they enjoy closure while still wanting to experience the interaction again (and be an advocate sending their family/friends to me as well!)

If more corporate training programs included this in their Orientation and Training programs, (and reinforced it all on the front line operations), their businesses would exceed expectations and really make a difference in the lives of their customers - both external and internal (employees). I mean, if we're making the effort anyway, who wouldn't want to make a lasting impression as well?

In these difficult times, connecting with people and making our impressions long-lasting just makes good (long-lasting) sense.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on it - today!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Making a REAL Hero

Lots in the news lately about the passing of several celebrities.

Unfortunately, these past few weeks have also seen the passing of several friends and colleagues of mine.

Over the past 30+ years, I've had the rare chance to work with scores of A-list (as well as B, C, and D-list) celebrities. Of course, during those years I have also worked with and spent time with numerous colleagues.

The swirl of comments from news folks as well as folks I know have included words like: "unspeakable loss" and "changed my life" and "my hero".

Maybe its because of all that "behind-the-scenes" time I spent with both groups - but I must say, when I think of words like "hero", I think of less superficial traits than simply being flashy, well-known or rich. I think of people who touch lives in a personal, meaningful, and lasting way. I think of people that share themselves in a way that changes someone else's life for the better. I think of people that are selfless, sacrificial, and focused on lifting someone else up - rather than themselves.

I haven't met too many "celebrities" that match that definition. They often are nothing more than sparkling packages that are empty inside.

However, I've been blessed to personally know several people that would meet the criteria of real heroes: Substance over style. Integrity over dishonesty. Real over fake. Truth over lies.

I am proud to say that I've known people who have lived these to their end...and really made a difference with their lives. They've led their lives in a way that led the way for others they personally touched.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to know them.
I'm grateful for the impact they had on my life and on the lives of others.
And I'm grateful for yet another reminder about what is really important in Life.

We seem to get signposts throughout our lives that put our life in perspective. We can review what we're currently doing and adjust our behaviors and direction for the better.

I hope you take THIS opportunity to test your priorities - and judge whether you are living the life that you are meant to live. Are you making the kind of difference you should be making? Are you leaving the legacy that you could be living?

People are counting on each of us to do the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reason. We can be that person when we're needed most.

Yes...YOU can be that hero that makes THE difference. The REAL difference...not some empty illusion of heroism.

Think about it - but more importantly, do something about!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ready, Able, and...Willing?

Just got through following up with a client's "Action Team", who are responsible for initiating a company-wide improvement initiative. In the past, the organization has fallen victim to "Program of the Month" problems and they've been working hard at getting things ready to roll out.

Here's the rub: they are starting to experience "project creep" - where deadlines begin to be missed and things start taking longer than anticipated.

I hate "project creep". There's rarely a good excuse for it. Reasons, yes - but no excuse.

In confronting the status of their process, we explored numerous issues. It turns out that this initiative is so critical (they need results now and they can't afford to attempt this again) that they are clinging to the dreaded "analysis paralysis" - they continue to gather data and opinions and ANYthing that will hone their confidence.

Another way to look at this is that they are doing ANYthing to keep from having to actually execute the plan, followed by being held accountable for the results. The reality is that additional information will only take them insignificantly small steps closer to the elusive "absolute certainty".

This is a common problem - especially in difficult times. It's human nature to resist accountability - because we forget that being held accountable for great results is so incredibly wonderful!

Bottom line: the team realized that 1. they were actually ready to execute, 2. they were able to execute, 3. they were not, deep down WILLING to execute (because of their fears).

The good news is that we were able to get to common ground and they are moving forward again according to schedule. (Have I mentioned that I love coming in ahead of schedule, under budget, and better than expected?)

I have found that most delays occur because people are not willing to act. They lack the confidence that they are really ready/able. I encourage you to take that leap. You have all the tools you need to navigate whatever "hiccups" are bound to arise. (Hiccups occur no matter how much preparation is done beforehand. Starting before it's all "perfect" just allows you to actually realize it earlier/better.)

Think about it...but more importantly, act on it - today!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Poor" Service...That I Loved!

Just returned from a business trip in Curacao, an island just north of Venezuela (yep, business!) I had taken a taxi/bus into the downtown area (they essentially pick up people as they pass them along a particular route) to videotape some vlog entries, and was returning back to the resort where I was staying.

As I entered the taxi/bus, the driver asked me in (very) broken English if I had been to Curacao before and whether or not I was in a hurry (I was obviously not a local). I said (in irreparably broken Spanish) yes - many years ago - and not really. This was not surprising, as anyone who has been to a Caribbean island understands the "island time", go-with-the-flow mentality - which I personally appreciate as part of enjoying their culture.

This is where the story gets interesting.

Rather than traveling the typical direct route from the town center to my resort, she deviated wildly. Among her SIDE trips - waaay off the route:

picked up her daughter from school
picked up her sister from the grocery store
picked up her son from school
dropped off her sister at her house
stopped at a gas station to say "hi" to a friend (30 seconds)
picked up a family member

All the while, the driver would comment to me about different things she was driving by. After the above-listed stops (45 minutes into what should be a 10 minute trip), I started to wonder if I had miscommunicated my destination...and then it hit me:

I didn't care.

I was loving the exclusive experience that I was having. I was enjoying seeing things that are very much "off the radar" for anyone visiting the island, and soaking in the real culture of these people - my primary passion when it comes to travel.

What some would consider "bad" service" was actually one of the highlights of my visit there.

Interestingly, about the time I was wondering about what was going on, I unconsciously glanced at my watch and she immediately proceeded to drive directly to my resort. Her keen attention to my non-verbals (and broken "verbals") allowed her to gauge my enjoyment of the experience in real time, and adapt accordingly.

She only asked for the standard rate for the original trip (just US$2.00) and I more than doubled it for (an unheard of) tip.

I think if we all could gain quite a bit by following her example. Focusing on customizing every experience will always set you apart from the competition - and pay off nicely.

Next time I'm in Curacao, you can bet I'll be looking for this taxi driver again!

Think about it...but more importantly, do something about it - today!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Important Or Imperitive?

Ultimately, running/growing a business is all about making decisions. I believe the real problems are created because people fail to adequately prioritize.

Nearly all companies have espoused Standards or Values. The problem occurs when a decision needs to be made, the team reviews the Standards - which are all of equal importance - and begin the ever-familiar process of arguing which is the best route to take to solve the problem.

At issue is having numerous important Standards actually gets in the way of effectively and efficiently resolving the situation. When all the Standards are equally important, then the entire operation can come to a standstill - only becoming "unstuck" when someone has superior political weight (authoritative position or influence) to push a decision through the process.

This could all be avoided if the Standards were prioritized. If every company created a "forced choice" of their Standards/operational guidelines and ranked them according to what was the most important (then second most important, etc.) from the CUSTOMERS' perspective, you could actually use it as a tool. Once identified, they only need to be defined, communicated to everyone in the company, and reinforced/measured (accountability).

Once this is done, I've seen numerous companies see immediate improvement on, not only the decisions that teams were making, but also the alignment of employees behaviors with the corporate culture. When the building blocks of the business is organized, there is less agonizing in the operation.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sick of "Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda"?

Let's set some things on the table:

Yes, the economy is horrible.
Yes, the resources are more scarce.
Yes, the customer is demanding more for less.
Yes, the competition is hungrier.

Yes, yes, yes...I get all that too. What's real is real. I have no problem accepting the truth and dealing with reality - in fact, I'm about as pragmatic as they come.

What I do have a problem with is the attitude of "there's nothing we can do" or "we just have to wait it out".

The people who mistakenly take this position are usually the ones that are frozen in fear - thinking that they only have to continue "business as usual" until things stabilize and then they will pick up where they left off in their business dealings. They are also the people who expect that their industry/competition/customers will go back to the way things were.

They are so very wrong.

Yes, the economy moves up and down in somewhat predictable cycles. That will never change. However, another predictable thing that doesn't change is the cycles of changes in business dynamics and social expectations.

Does anyone think that their competition is really standing still? Does anyone really expect customers to settle for less than value for their dollar?

People expect more now. Customers and employees are rethinking their decisions. Those businesses that deliver - in time to capture these seeking customers/employees - will succeed. Those who do not, will slowly fade away. The irony is: they will wonder what happened and somehow blame the economy or some external force - rather than their lack of willingness to act on those critical behaviors that would make a difference.

If a company wasn't delivering before and are suffering now because of that, why continue "business as usual"? That is a sure path to destruction! The companies that were consistently delivering quality and service (value) are still doing fine as long as they are adapting to their changing customers priorities. Unless organizations 1. identify their shortcomings, 2. identify plans/tools that will fix those shortcomings, and 3. take action (now!) to execute those ideas, then it all will become empty talk.

Results never come from talk - they only come from action.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Right Tool + Wrong Approach = FAIL!

Okay, I saw something interesting today (I think every day holds something interesting to notice if we pay attention). Anyway, walking into a store from the parking lot, a man was trying to help a teen-aged girl who had locked her keys in her car. He had a "slim jim" (an illegal tool that cops and n'er-do-wells use to gain access into a car quickly when needed) and was doing his best to unlock the door.

Here's the hilarious/relevant part...

Normally, when you use this tool, you slide it between the window and the door and run it along the length of the door until you find the locking mechanism (do NOT ask me how I know this). Done correctly, it typically takes about 5-10 seconds.

Based on the expressions on both their faces (and the sweat pouring off the guy), it was obvious this guy had been working at this problem a long time. Unfortunately (...wait for it...), he was placing the "slim jim" into the TOP of the window and bending it, etc. like people used to do when using a coat hanger to unlock the old flared door locks!

It took me a minute or so to enjoy the humor/stifle my laughter before I offered to help. (Of course, I'm not admitting actually using the illegal tool to help, I'm just saying "I helped"...ahem.)

Anyway, it's interesting to me how this situation mirrors business life in other ways. We can have a great tool that really works well, and screw it up by using the tool the wrong way. Sometimes our old thinking/approach undermines the new tool. The resulting failure is then mistakenly blamed on the tool and not the person wielding the tool. This is why is so valuable to have someone who has been there and used the tool - real life, not just theoretically - to show the way.

I've noticed something else very interesting: When experienced people who have had real success with the real (new) tools are successful in making things dramatically improve - the people who used the same tool ineffectively are typically mystified - often making lame excuses such as the successful people "have better circumstances" or "there must be something missing that caused me to fail".

Self-deceived whiners. The truth is, if someone - anyone - is successful with an approach/tool, then that approach/tool can be adapted to fit your circumstance...if the critical aspects are implemented properly.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's Always "That Little Extra"

It is often said that the difference between "ordinary" and "extraordinary" is that "little extra". Small gestures from Front Line employees seem to have the biggest impact.

Think about all those stories you hear about (whether good or bad) and they are almost always about what a Front Line employee did...or didn't do.

Take for example a recent experience I had: I was recently on a business trip to Europe, flying from Prague to Amsterdam, when a customer in line ahead of me attempted to board the plane. Her interaction with the KLM Airlines agent went like this:

Passenger hands agent her boarding ticket.
Agent: "Your ticket is for Frankfurt. Can't you read? This flight is to Amsterdam."
Agent thrusts ticket back to customer.
Agent yells out to the waiting gate full of passengers "Read the signs people! You're slowing down the process! This flight is for Amsterdam!"
Agent says to colleague, loudly enough for someone (me) about 15 feet away to hear "Unbelievable!
Agent's colleagues laughs, shakes head and says "Idioten" (Obviously, the Dutch word for "idiots" - even for those who don't speak Dutch.)

This entire experience took just 10 seconds. How long do you think the impact will last for all those who witnessed it?

Companies thrive only when their Front Line employees understand the impact that every little gesture has on their customers - and act on that awareness for the betterment of each customer experience.

It won't happen by accident. In these difficult times, none of us can afford to have our customers experience anything less than the positive kinds of surprises that transform them into loyal advocates for our brand. What are you doing to ensure this is consistently happening on purpose?

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Timeless Growth Secrets

I had an interesting conversation today with the owner of a prominent orange grove here in Florida. During our conversation, he mentioned that he had grown up with plants - first, at a plant nursery, then at a fruit grove, before establishing a national produce corporation.

He mentioned that, especially in this time of economic difficulty, he has found that there are timeless truths to growing - whether it be a plant or a business.

"When the environment is challenging, you find that people's reaction to the challenge is what determines the health or the plant and/or the business. You can save a lot of money in the short term by not watering/fertilizing a plant when times are tough, but the natural consequences are almost always that it costs more to nurse it back to health. In fruit trees you can easily lose an entire season of fruit production - or even lose the tree altogether. The best long-term growth approach is to stay focused on the health of the plant/people/relationships. That is really the only way to ensure a healthy rebound when things get better."

These days, we should all rethink "growth" to not just include "getting bigger", but to be about growing our profit margins. Investing in our employees and helping them to better engage both customers and business improvements, we can grow in every way that matters - and naturally leads to survival...and success!

Isn't it interesting how nature can lead the way to success in our professional lives?

Think about it...but more importantly, act in!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Top 50 Most Innovative Companies!

My friends at Fast Company magazine just released their list of 50 most innovative companies, which included some interesting insights we can all benefit from.

The first is that 33 of last year's winners did NOT make it onto this year's list. The insight? Innovation (and the relating benefits) dies if it is not consistently nurtured/supported. Innovation can command price premiums and leverage market share, but only if you "prime the pump" first with a culture that supports it. Use it or lose it. Ouch.

Secondly, the consistent success stories (like our benchmarks Disney, Google, Apple, Ideo, etc.) focus on the same proven strategies and tactics that translate to consistent external brand and business results - even in this hyper-challenging economic time.

Taking the right action when the competition is cowering and waiting for some magic dust to save them, achieves more than a head start. It generates employee engagement, inspired heroism, and efficiencies inside the organization, and differentiation, customer loyalty, and brand buzz outside the organization...all of which captures the ever-elusive competitive edge professionals everywhere want but miss because they refuse to focus on what really works.

It's sad to watch companies stagnate and wither because they are more committed to their policies and procedures than to their employee or customer experiences. By resolving to be innovative and connecting with their customers - both the external customers and the internal (employees) customers - any business remains relevant, dynamic, and growing. According to world-class benchmark companies, this is an exciting and rewarding position to be in.

We all make choices every day. The question is: will it result in "rewards" or in "pain"?

In other words: Are you going to use it, or lose it?

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Timing (of ACTION) Is Everything

Ever notice the process of HOW people/organizations manage to become launched into success far above the rest in the industry? Yes, what they do (and how they do it) is a key part - something thousands of books go into great detail about. But the other component critical to success is the timing.

It's often said that it's all about timing - but the action taken must go hand-in-glove for anything of real value to result.

There are naturally occurring economic cycles that often dictate when strategic leaders/companies optimize their potential. There's a "sweet spot" of time when decisive action can be taken that launches success far above the competition: when the competition is too scared to take action themselves.

We're entering that phase right now - the "bottom" of the economic correction is nearing, and the smartest leaders are preparing their employees to launch a sustained service-based customer relationship way of doing business - and leveraging that real difference in their marketing - to steal customers from the competition.

Well, to be more accurate - EARN customers away from the competition.

Customers are going to be much more careful with how they spend their money. And they are remembering how they've been treated by the other options in the industry. They want a great value - which means superior product and experience for the price. Customers who feel they've been mistreated in the past are angry at the lack of honesty, respect, and care they have received...and are looking for a business that earns their loyalty.

That experience doesn't come by accident. Smart leaders are training/preparing now (timing!)to launch an "all out blitz" of great service to customers in an industry of mediocre competitors that mistakenly think they are given acceptable service.

And the customers will make the smart choice.

And the timely action of the wise leaders will pay off...big!

And the industry will wonder "how did I lose so much of my market share to this competitor?" and "how long will it take me to recover?"

But at least you knew...right? Right??

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stopping The Pain

What does it take to finally take action and really stop the pain - for the long term? In the face of this economic downturn, companies are resorting to issuing layoffs in a desperate attempt to stay solvent.

The shame of it all? It won't help them.

Layoffs are short-term reactions that create long-term problems.

World-class companies know that in times of crisis, real character is not built - it is revealed. The true colors of a leader is evident in times such as these. If they say "people are our most important resource" and then opt to lay them off, their lack of integrity is there for all to see.

And employees (current or future) will remember.

Even employees who are left working after the layoff will remember...and the natural consequence is "survivor's guilt", lack of trust in the company, a focus on self (preservation) rather than the team...the list goes on.

The more effective option is to engage the employees in creating (and, therefore, owning) the solution. Focus on "your most valuable resource" guiding themselves out of this mess. With the right processes/tools, innovation leading to success in the face of these situations build teamwork/success.

And, yes, they will remember this too. You will enjoy the natural consequences of that. Nice.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

FINALLY Bring Your Goals To Life!

Okay, it's a new year and we all want to have a new/better life. BlahBlahBlah... Let's cut to the chase: What do the most successful people do to consistently achieve their goals - even in difficult times?

No, they aren't superhuman and they do not have better resources/opportunities (at least before they started realizing their goals), they just do what ordinary people will not: THEY STOP SETTLING!

The most successful leaders/organizations simply don't settle for anything less than excellent. They make a real commitment (not just some temporary "resolution") and take real action - not settle for merely talking about action items or plans to act. Every success began with a single step - a call, an email, a conversation with someone or connection with something that could help exceed typical results and get extraordinary results.

A true breakthrough starts with a real investment of yourself to connect with proven approaches to success - not some lame "law of attraction" psycho-babble. "Wishing" is not a legitimate business strategy.

Contrary to common belief, the first step is NOT being aware that you want to be better. Awareness (and "wishing") doesn't count - we all want to improve. The real first step is doing something - taking physical action!

Identify someone who has earned success and physically contact them - ask them how they did it. Don't settle for just telling people about your plans - show them by doing.

So...stop reading right now and start doing...right now!

Oh, and have a Happy New Year too. (and by "Happy", I mean "kick-ss successful")

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!