Monday, December 26, 2011

New DAY Resolutions

Having a big, audacious goal is wonderful - but the only way to achieve it is one step at a time. So, instead of focusing on tackling the large-scale resolutions for the new year, try accomplishing them by focusing on the incremental improvements EVERY day.

Simply said, do what world-class leaders do: Resolve to be better today than you were yesterday. Every day, take a measurable advancement toward your larger goal.

Take time daily to consider specific goals for that day. Something do-able that is a legitimate improvement regarding your physical, mental, emotional, financial, or spiritual health. Ideally, some small thing in each catagory - but don't aim too high at first. The strategy is to grow into the habit of making healthy habits! Perhaps start with one area each day - rotate them or prioritize them based on what motivates YOU best.

Then (this is critical), you must DO something that day. Your efforts must be DAILY in order to create a habit. The key is to NOT break the chain of behaviors. No matter what, do SOMEthing. It is the consistency that ingrains the behavior into your life for ongoing, sustainable results.

One great tip is to establish a "5 minute kick start". You can do ANYthing for 5 minutes - then decide at that point if you want to continue. (It's astounding how often a 5 minute workout - or any other temporarily distasteful "good for you" activity - can turn into a full-blown workout, just from starting!) You'll find that it eventually gets to be a that helps make you the "YOU!" you've aspired to be all your life!

Think about it. But more importantly do something about!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bringing Learning To Life

Sometimes I get really frustrated at how people settle for less than they should. Have you ever asked yourself why more people/organizations aren't achieving their potential?

So, how do the most successful leaders bridge the gap between knowing and doing - and get better results that the average people? There are several keys to this elusive process:

Value it. Identify WHY you want to do it. Consider your motivation for starting - regarding the ultimate outcome or benefit. Many times, people surprise themselves by realizing they really do NOT care enough about the outcome to initiate action. If you are sufficiently motivated, then this provides the fuel for your efforts - but you still need the rest of the formula. Your plan must include accountability throughout the remainder of this 4 step process.

Know it. Here's a surprising factoid: People generally don't fail because they are ignorant. In my experience, about 85% of the time, I hear people say "I know that", but then they fail to DO that effective behavior. Those who get results make sure to know What AND How. Often, people think they know, but there is a gap between what they know (vague, big picture) and what they need to know (relevant details). This extra effort separates the ordinary from the extraordinary.

Do it. Skills require more than knowledge. The next step is to translate internal knowledge to external behaviors. Experiment. Practice. Try new things. The key is START! Getting "hands on" with the idea as soon as possible is vital. Habits/success are created by consistent behaviors. Make sure you are practicing your new skills every day. The cumulative total of your actions is what ultimately gets the results.

Share it. Once you've actually achieved some level of success, the best way to solidify the experience (for yourself and for your organization) is to teach it to others. Provide opportunities for colleagues to attempt the new behaviors in the same kind of process you used. You'll find that "teaching others to fish" will help you to multiply your results AND leave a legacy of excellence - optimizing YOUR life!

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Your Personal Pre-Shift Meeting

Wouldn't it be great if EVERYone consistently did the right thing on a regular basis? How do the best leaders accomplish this? Well, one example is Ritz-Carlton. Like other world-class companies, they are known for consistent behaviors because they stay focused on common values - and the behaviors that reflect those values.

The key is consistency of communication and accountability. Every Ritz-Carlton property - and every department at each property - hold a pre-shift meeting where everyone participates in a reminder about that day's assigned value. As part of this process, they discuss examples of what behaviors have/can bring that value to life for that day (with the understanding that every value should be lived each and every day), with ongoing feedback. Since the information is constantly "top of mind", it becomes easier (and more natural) to reinforce what behaviors are appropriate and why.

You can do this for yourself! Generate YOUR most important values/standards and then at the beginning of each day, one at a time, focus on how to bring that day's value to life in action - whether it be with journaling, meditation, or discussions with a colleague. Then rotate around to the beginning of your list when you get to the end. Consider it a daily action plan - and an opportunity to communicate through word AND deed what you value most.

Over time, you will find what Ritz-Carlton has found - the behaviors that reflect YOUR personal values will become a habit, and you will enjoy the benefits of a life of true integrity. Simple (and low cost) actions with profound results.

Think about it. But more importantly do something about!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Discovering Your/Their REAL Priorities

Sometimes, interpreting priorities can seem difficult. Whether making decisions for yourself or trying to better understand someone else, getting a handle on inner values is a critical step in this very important process.

So, is there a surefire way to eliminate the mystery of someone's true internal priorities? Absolutely! All you need to do is watch where they invest their resources of time, money, and energy.

When something is important to a person, they will spend more hours focusing on that issue. You can easily measure how much time and money they spend and observe how much effort they choose to spend as well. Yes, choices. These behaviors are not by accident - they align with what's inside. Inner values/priorities leak out in the form of behaviors. This is why we typically communicate better in person - depending more on observable behaviors than merely relying on their words.

Keep in mind that the same goes for you as well.

If you're ever unsure about what is most important to you, think about the things that you choose to focus on every day. What are your priorities when spending the most precious elements of Life (time and energy) or the token of the value we bring to society (money)? These will be very strong indicators of where your internal passion/values are.

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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Getting Your OWN PhD

Yes, we all agree that developing yourself is an important strategy for improving your results in life. But who has time/resources to pursue learning all the things that can help you grow to who you want to ultimately be - both professionally and personally?

You do.

Want to know a fast, easy, and inexpensive way to grow dramatically in the direction of your unique, personal dreams in just one year's time? Instead of the huge commitment involved in enrolling at a university for an advanced degree, create your own customized program in the living laboratory of your life! Try this little strategy:

Identify the top 6 areas of knowledge or skills that you need most to attain the professional or personal goals of your dreams. Next, dedicate 2 months per topic and begin researching the "best of" information available to you. You can begin with as simple as an Internet search. Try "(topic)" + "best" + "list" (add other search words such as "thought leader" or other terms to best target your research.) As you land on valuable information, save/print/study/learn the information as you need to develop you for the attainment of your goals.

On your terms.

If your goal is skill-based, you can augment your online studies with local hands-on opportunities (locate professionals in your area to help you experience the skill-building you want.) Maybe this looks like job shadowing. Maybe it is a local trades/craft class you can take at night/on weekends. Get creative! Again, YOU drive your development.

The beauty of this approach is threefold. 1. You can do this on your schedule - when it is convenient for you. 2. You can get as in-depth and detailed as you desire - in ANY direction of content, with no one else adding irrelevant content that you don't want. 3. It is virtually a free "directed independent study" program - created by you - for you.

Bottom line: With minimal investment of time, money, and effort - you can make tremendous strides in your own development. Don't be discouraged by the expensive, long-term formal education options. You have alternatives! Go out and make the opportunities that are at your fingertips each and every day. With a little discipline, you'll be amazed at what you will accomplish with a little extra effort each and every day.

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are You Being Unreasonable?

Being "unreasonable" typically is seen as a negative thing. Literally "not being able to be reasoned with" should be seen as a weakness, right? Out of the mainstream? Inappropriate?

So...what about all those leaders who ushered in breakthrough movements? People like the Wright brothers, who invented powered flight - against everyone else's ridicule? Or like Thomas Edison, who dared to insist on electrically-powered light/machines in homes everywhere? Or Steve Jobs? Wasn't it "unreasonable" to try and launch a personal computer that used "real" fonts and was focused on ease of use? (Not to mention challenging the music industry with iPods, or the mobile phone industry with iPhones, or the tablet market with the iPad...)

Is it possible that the only time significant breakthroughs occur is when some FINALLY takes a stand and becomes "unreasonable"?

There's a great quote by George Bernard Shaw: "Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people".

Consider your dreams - the new breakthrough vision of the future (in whatever arena, big or small) and ask "Am I passionate about my idea enough to be seen as "unreasonable" in the minds of all the myopic "keep with the safe way we've always done it" people that surround me?" If not, I challenge you to find an idea that you ARE passionate enough to risk unabashedly launching it into this world. You deserve the legacy you create on purpose - but it requires you bringing something new, different and better to life.

Think about it. But more importantly do something about!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are?

Think about the times you've had a conflict with someone - or there's been a different opinion about an issue between your company and your customer base. Notice a trend/pattern? Virtually every time, the conflict starts when there are differing perceptions.

How do you fix this BEFORE it becomes a costly problem?

Last week, I was working with a Fortune 500 company who had a proactive solution. Starting with their employees, they arranged for everyone to complete various simple assessments - as a way to initiate discussion about different issues. (You can download some free samples at

After you and your colleague(s) fill one out, simply compare perceptions/opinions and make the opportunity to discuss where you are coming from. [Note: Any assessment by itself does nothing - it's just an excuse to have a discussion, where the real value is.] This process gets everything out so you can get on the same page - or at least understand (with no unpleasant surprises) how you differ. This approach addressed nearly all assumptions and allowed them to resolve issues before they became costly problems.

The bonus? Approaching their customers with the same kinds of questions in a less-formal/"no assessment form needed" part of their natural discussions had similar outcomes: Better clarity/understanding/communication for less conflict and better results.

Not bad for an investment of FREE, eh?

Ready to make things better? Start addressing big issues before they become bigger problems!

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Connecting For The Long-Term

Have you ever thought about how to create raving fans or advocates for your business? Working with Disney, Apple, Ritz-Carlton, Nordstrom, and others, I've seen the approach these successful companies use to consistently engage their customers - both externally and internally (their employees). It can be stated in this simple phrase:

Reach their hearts, then teach their minds.

Of course, logically being a great value is critical to success, but facts and figures will never truly create passionate relationships. Before you can "prove" your worth, you must first reach their hearts with a shared purpose, build your relationship/credibility, THEN seal the deal with your (logical) products and services.

Once you form that deeper link with what they truly value, then the rest is just details that evolve over time. If your connection remains dynamic and value-added, you will (like every healthy relationship) serve to develop each other over time. Each adding value in a dance that gains momentum, grows in depth, goes the distance.

No complicated formula or expensive technology required. Just authentic person-to-person interactions that make a difference in the things that matter. We regularly see this with the loyalty leaders out there. There's no reason why you can't do this with your employees (first) and (then) your external customers. Create opportunities to have meaningful discussions about Values, Vision, what they truly, deep down care about most. Then build on those connections each and every day to provide a pattern of consistency. Invest in these efforts now and you'll discover a growing list of passionate advocates for you in no time!

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

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Anticipating Customer Needs

How do companies like Apple create products and services that we want - even before we knew we wanted them? The answer to this is what will set you apart as different/better to your customers!

The truth is that customers don't always know what they want next. They rarely are able to say anything more than "better, faster, cheaper - now". Next is a mystery to them. But it doesn't have to be for you.

Let's break it down: Your customer knows what they like (not always what they want). You know your industry - especially the behind-the-scenes technical aspects. We can't expect our customers to be able to articulate anything other than some incremental improvement to what they already have. Bringing your customers' future desires to life is your job. Only you can build what they will want...if you can bridge the gap.

How do world-class companies do it? They work hard at being intimately knowledgeable and understanding of their customers - and combine that with their own technical expertise to project what future products/services can satisfy their deepest desires.

Uncover the why beneath your customers wants, and you'll have clues as to where to strategically leap. Once you've accomplished creating the next big thing, you merely have to engage them by compellingly communicating how the new product/service connects with that deeper want.

Anticipating customer needs isn't about focus groups or surveys or "expert opinions". You have a perspective that your customers will never have. It is all about truly understanding them and using your technical expertise to build their future - for their benefit. Because exceeding their expectations is a genuine priority for you. (When it is, you will always be rewarded.)

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

Monday, October 10, 2011

Breaking The Comfort Cycle

Want to make a dramatic improvement in your life? Here's a great place to start: Breaking the human nature cycle we all encounter that goes something like this...

1. You realize you're uncomfortable with some experience (public speaking, new technology, etc.) so you convince yourself that you'll never be any good at it.
2. You avoid doing that thing you're uncomfortable with (because it's painful.)
3. A situation arises where you can't avoid doing it (that's just the way it is.)
4. You don't prepare sufficiently (because you avoid the painful discomfort as much as possible).
5. You have another bad experience (the natural consequences of not practicing/preparing enough).
6. You convince yourself that you'll never be any good at it and swear that you'll never do it again (which is not true - if you practiced, you would be better.)
7. Repeat.

Avoiding something that is part of professional (and/or personal) life is foolish. An unavoidable situation will arise eventually - and it will continue to be painful until you learn from it and break through the discomfort.

Accepting these uncomfortable trials with courage and discipline will break the vicious cycle. Not only will it get "less uncomfortable" (not everything in life eventually gets comfortable), but you'll benefit from getting better at the experience.

Discipline and hard work on things that are uncomfortable aren't very sexy, but it is the only way to gut through these situations. A little extra effort can earn you that breakthrough you've been wanting.

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

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Special Forces Biz Secrets

We've all heard about the Special Forces teams that confront the most important missions our country faces for the ultimate safety and security of our citizens. General William H. McRaven recently outlined the six keys to success of those critical teams when the highest stakes are on the line. They are just as relevant for YOUR business operation.

Simplicity - Complicated rules and regulations only create confusion. Complicated doesn't get implemented consistently and isn't sustainable. Do the difficult work up front to distill your goals, roles, and responsibilities down to their essence.

Security - Teams that are insecure focus on "not losing". They become risk averse. When employees feel safe and secure they open up and begin to develop and grow - becoming more cohesive and stretching their innovation efforts.

Repetition - There's a common saying "practice makes perfect" - this is a lie. The truth is that "practice makes permanent". Not only must you make time to practice (so your efforts become automatic) but you should practice in as realistic a way as possible. Sloppy practice creates sloppy habits - and ultimately, sloppy results.

Surprise - Telegraphing your intent to the competition only allows them to prepare for you - making your efforts more difficult and your results less effective. Consistently aim to change the game. Break new ground and amaze your industry (and your customers) in the process.

Speed - Being first to market is a huge competitive edge. Making the first (well-timed) move allows you to set the terms for engagement. You're then competing on your terms.

Purpose - Having a reason why creates a reason to try (harder, smarter, etc.) A compelling Vision based on worthwhile Values makes the difference between a team going through the motions or passionately driving for world-class excellence. Everyone wants to dedicate their lives for a purpose.

Discuss how your team measures up regarding these issues and consider how you can improve for better results. Create your own elite "Special Forces" team and make a real difference!

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

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Harley-Davidson Service Standards

Their brand is as distinctive as the rumbling sound from their mufflers. Harley-Davidson has successfully generated a brand that is so strong that even non-motorcycle riding people want their merchandise. And loyalty? Their fans are among the most fanatic of any brand out there. You know you've arrived when customers start tattooing your logo on their bodies.

What kind of tools do they provide their employees to deliver a Harley-Davidson experience that matches their brand? Well, I recently worked with them and among their many tools, I have the 6 simple (though not always easy) service standards from their orientation:

Hello - Greet everyone with a warm welcome - like a valued member of your club.
Approach - Initiate contact to help break the ice.
Recognize - Engage them in a personalized way that treats them as a valued individual.
Look it up - Go the extra mile when helping the customer. Get the answers they need.
Enthusiasm - will spark that of your customers. Share the Harley passion.
You - are the one that brings Harley-Davidson to life for the customer.

(Yes, it spells "Harley"), but more importantly, it guides each person to focus on the things that matter most when earning loyalty. Even a "rough and tumble" brand like Harley-Davidson understands that genuinely connecting with their customers (and their shared passions) is what sets their brand apart from others.

What kind of experiences can your team create that inspires customers to tattoo YOUR logo on their bodies?

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

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Identifying Your Golden Goose

Do you find yourself in a sea of competition - struggling to identify a clear-cut differentiator that can help you establish a competitive edge?

Most people make the mistake of simply working harder at the same things that the competition is working hard at. Everyone continues slogging along - never really making any real progress.

The better option? Here's a quick three-step activity that will reveal what you need to know:

1. Make a list of all the things that you offer that your customers value.

2. Cross out all those entries on your list that your competition can copy (unless it is a proprietary trade secret or patent, they will copy it...and it cannot be a differentiator)

3. The remainder is what makes you unique. That is your goose that lays the golden egg. That is what sets you apart. That is what you must nurture at all costs! (Tip: Most of the time, true differentiators are relationship based. Having a special connection with a customer is typically something a competitor can't touch until you lose it. Yes, it is yours to lose...)

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

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Scam: Managing Versus Leading?

You may be the victim of a scam! Have you ever seen the common comparisons between Managing and Leading? Typically, they include words like:

Enforces consistency
Asks how
Forms policy
Corrects weaknesses
Wields control
Does things right

Elicits creativity
Asks why
Sets example
Builds strengths
Applies influence
Does the right thing

These business writers/pontificators always make it seem like being a Manager is bad and being a Leader is good.

What a pile of...uh, a crock of...uh, what a load of...well, you know what I mean.

Next time to see such a list (or hear someone spouting off this Manager = bad, Leader = good nonsense - ask them this: Is anything on the "Manager List" always bad? The answer is "No, of course not". Since when is "doing things right" a bad thing? Puh-leeze!

Bottom line: The truth is, we all need to be good at using EVERY tool possible that matches the situation we are faced with at the time. When we are addressing processes that consistency, then enforce that. When creativity is needed, elicit that.

Anything overdone, becomes a weakness. Don't fall for the "all of nothing" scam. Focus on being the best in the behaviors in BOTH lists. Then you will be a Manager/Leader (whatever you want to call yourself) that ultimately makes a real difference.

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Want To Learn Something?

Developing yourself is a sure-fire way to benefit your professional - and personal - life. Unlike "things" like money and possessions, what you learn can never be taken from you. Consider your list of things that you'd like to know (Don't have one? Create it today!) The next step is how to learn and make it really stick:


Yes, when you put yourself in the position to teach others, you change your approach completely. The pressure is on to really know and articulate the information. You make the additional effort to to break it down into logical, orderly chunks. You consider potential tough, challenging questions. You put yourself on the line.

If you want to learn something that you'll retain, try this:

1. Identify what skill/knowledge you want to learn
2. Assess how long it should reasonably take to learn it
3. Announce a teaching session to your colleagues - promising results

Adding number 3 really changes the dynamics of learning, doesn't it?

This approach consistently creates a deeper understanding and recall of the material. Not only will you benefit with gaining something you wanted to learn, but you'll help others learn too.

Definitely worth your - and their - effort.

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Easier Is Not Always Better

It seems we're all seeking "the easy way out". Short cuts. Cram sessions. Work arounds. The quest for "easier" can be a good thing - but not always.

Striving for improvement often makes things easier, but we shouldn't confuse the two. Focusing on consequences can help give a bigger/better perspective.

It's easier to stay in bed all the time - but then your muscles will atrophy.
It's easier to skip brushing your teeth - but then they'll rot out.
It's easier to not go to work - but the you'll lose your job...and your income...and your home.

Yes, there can be actual value from struggling/working for something. These days, building discipline and extraordinary effort is not considered very sexy, but it is the backbone of accomplishing anything worthwhile.

Rather than focusing on making things easier, the better approach is to focus on improving things overall. Think about things holistically: How will a particular action (or lack of action) affect all related dimensions. Your business = your employees, your customers, and your financial/operational results? Your life = your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual results? Unless ALL aspects are considered, a decision can't truly be considered the "best" decision.

Bottom line: Is it worth it? Pain versus payoff? Here's something to consider: Rather than lowering your sacrifice to ease the pain, what if you raised the payoff goal to make the effort worth it? I've discovered that making the extra effort (raising the payoff) always results in bridging the gap between average results and amazing results.

And I know you are much more interested in amazing, eh?

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

Impression or Impact?

You may have heard the sayings - they all make the same point:

All sizzle but no steak.
All hat and no cattle.
All talk and no action.
All style and no substance.

Question of the day (week/month/year) - Are you making an Impression or an Impact? Isn't it intriguing how some people are busybusybusy trying to create a short-term fake "buzz" when they could invest that same effort into developing a REAL long-lasting impact instead?

Impressing people may generate attention - at least for a little while - but they rarely last more than a season. It's kind of like the difference between celebrities and stars. One of my Disney jobs included working with "Talent" for special events. It's interesting how some people have temporary fame - they are hot for a while, then when it becomes obvious they are not talented (or talented in only one thing that loses favor) - they fade away. They might make a interesting first impression, but there's no depth to keep our attention. So they lose significance.

Creating an impact is about making a difference. Being memorable for more than just getting attention - it is about making something that matters. True stars stay interesting for years. They develop and contribute in ways that continue to add value to the productions they are involved in. Typically, they are more than good looks and a great agent - they are constantly improving their craft, or selecting projects that add value, or just plain give back to others.

Trust me, word gets around. (As it does about each of us.)

Making an impact isn't complicated. Focusing on being "on-purpose" and (daily) building something of value is what gives life more meaning.

And who doesn't, ultimately, want a life that makes a meaningful difference?
Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Digging Deeper. Going Farther.

There's a whole lotta talk going on these days. Talk about being different and better. Talk about engaging employees and customers. Talk about leadership excellence and operational effectiveness and strategy and tactics.

But very little results. Why is that? What do proven winners do differently to achieve those outcomes?

Well, the operative word is: DO!

When it comes down to separating the ordinary from the extraordinary, the key is consistent execution. Those who succeed eventually stop talking and start doing.

How do they do that, when it's not always clear about what to do?

In order to get to the root issues (and, therefore, the root actions required), world-class leaders don't just talk superficially about what makes their business different and better. They dig deep and get into the details of their unique target market and confront the difficult work of knowing their customers, their industry, and themselves.

[Pop quiz: What is the one thing that you do better than anyone else? What - specifically - makes you different than the many other options your customers have? And why should your customers really care? Hint: Your competition probably know this. You had better make sure your customers do too!]

Then, using that valuable information, world-class successes build the discipline (not a sexy or comfortable word so most business/self-help books shy away from this) to consistently implement - in alignment with what their customers want most and what they do differently/better than anyone else.

Simple, but not easy. Take the time to dig deeper this week - so you can go farther than you've ever gone before. You, and your customers, deserve that.

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Passion Over-rated?

How many times have we heard "Follow your passion"? Obviously, immersing yourself in whatever jazzes you is a good thing...BUT...the most successful people realize that it isn't the only thing. Passion alone is over-rated. Think of it this way: Passion is fuel. Fuel by itself can be either unproductive or downright dangerous. What else is important to leverage your passion for success?

One additional/required consideration is focus. Unless you have sufficient focus on how your passion best adds value to others, you are not likely to get the results you ultimately desire. Focus allows you to target your energy, like a water hose with a nozzle on the front - gaining power as the stream of water is channeled in a specific way. Adding focus gains you the time lost by pursuing other unrelated tasks.

Another ingredient is consistency. Success is never a result of inconsistent execution. Adding the discipline of daily effort towards a singular goal is what builds upon each previous effort. Passion can wane - even with activities we are passionate about. "Priming the pump" during those times of lower energy (challenges/set-backs) will generate momentum that average people will never achieve.

Finally, nothing happens - regardless of passion - until you take action! People often talk about what they are passionate about...but never actually do anything about it. The natural consequence is no results. Instead, once you have identified the basic direction of your goal, begin! Hone/fine tune as you learn - but take action. This is what brings your passion to life!

Passion + Focus + Consistency + Action = Results.

Missing something in your results? Then do a check-up on one of the four elements that ultimately create the results you're hoping for - and adjust as needed.

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

80% and GO!

Think about it: The first time you do something is all about learning. You tend to get the biggest insights about what NOT to do.

This can be either disturbing or encouraging.

Most often, when something is important to them, people tend to plan and wait and plan (and plan some more) until they think everything is perfect.

It never is.

Naturally, we get better every time we experience something. So, what's the better solution to getting really good at something that is really important? Jump in and experience it as QUICKLY as possible as OFTEN as possible until you hone & fine tune it to your ultimate goal of excellence. We have to get past the "I'm not 100% sure what I'm doing" phase and to the much more profitable (and enjoyable) "I know what I'm doing" phase - quickly - to gain a competitive edge.

At Disney, we used to call this "80% and Go". It meant that when we were about 80% sure it was the right thing to do, we initiated action - even if we weren't quite sure of the details. The plan was to be hyper-aware of the feedback/learning you get at every step and adjust as best you can in the moment. Some Fortune 500 companies call this "rapid iteration". It simply means "the way to develop mastery is to do it as fast and as often as possible and learn your way to success".

What things are YOU planning/waiting on today?

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

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Leader's Pathway

There is one primary measure of a leader: Do they have followers? It's been said that a leader without followers is just someone out taking a walk. Trite sayings aside, what does a good leader do that others do not?

The three things that set a good leader apart from "wanna-be's" is that he/she:

1. Knows the way - An effective leader has done the research to understand how long-term success works. They focus not only on getting results, but how they achieve those results. Building a working knowledge of operations, finances, and people (both employees and customers) lays the foundation of "getting the tools in the toolkit".

2. Goes the way - Having tools is nice, but it doesn't accomplish anything unless the tools are taken out and utilized. Followers universally expect their leaders to have integrity. In addition to knowing how things should be, a good leader "walks the talk" - being an example of how to actually do the right things right - and achieve sustainable success. Someone once said: "You can read all the books in the world about swimming, but unless you actually get in the water, you probably won't be much of a swimmer." Leaders actually perform.

3. Shows the way - In addition to knowing and doing, a great leader develops others along the way. While the primary responsibility of a leader is to help others accomplish goals, growing other leaders in the process is what leaves the longest-lasting legacy. Making a difference in what you can do is good. Helping multiplied leaders make a difference (domino effect of developing leaders who, in turn, develop additional leaders, and so on) is the measure of truly great leaders.

Which kind of leader are you? What path are you on? What legacy are you creating?

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

Friday, May 27, 2011

Life/Work Lessons From The Front Line

A colleague recently shared some remarks made by a career soldier:

1. Remember, if the enemy is in range, then you are too.
2. All cover is temporary.
3. Above all, remember your mission.
4. When in battle, soldiers are less focused on winning for the country than fighting for their buddy/team.

These simple statements hold profound truths that apply to our work - and our personal lives.

1. The closer you get to engaging any activity, the chances of danger/failure goes up. Talking about taking action is risk-free because you aren't really doing anything other than talking. Of course, you gain nothing as well. Real living requires stepping forward and confronting the challenge. Remembering that those situations can "bite back" is critical. Choose wisely.

2. When colleagues/friends offer help, they expect it will be for a specific window of time. No one wants to be left hanging or obligated for long-term support when it should only be a temporary situation. To make the best use of their support - and not wear out your welcome - plan, coordinate and execute accordingly.

3. Life and work are full of distractions. It's easy to get focused on the many micro details and lose track of the macro big picture of why we're doing what we're doing. Reminding ourselves of our ultimate purpose/goal is critical in making the most of our time and resources. It's all about priorities.

4. Workers that are part of an organization aren't necessarily loyal to the company - they are more connected with the people they work closely with inside the company. Anyone who wants to create a culture of loyalty must create an environment that is conducive to people engaging each other at the team level.

As you enjoy this holiday weekend, consider the value these insights provide and thank a veteran for keeping us safe/secure enough to be able to focus on life and career.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Improve With The Right Questions

In the interest of continuous improvement, most people try to engage their customers to discover ways they can improve their experience. Worthy intent, for sure - but most go about this the wrong way.

Typically, well-meaning questions like "How can we improve your experience?" don't get the answers we can easily use. The reason? The customers a.) can't effectively articulate a specific answer to such a broad question and/or b.) they aren't motivated to spend the time/effort to help you improve your operation.

The solution? Ask better questions - such as "Was there anything about your experience that frustrated or disappointed you?" This type of question specifically targets what you want to know: how to improve their experience - by minimizing the obstacles that undermine it being the best it can be. In addition, even those who are upset about having an unsatisfactory experience will take advantage of the opportunity to discuss what disappointed them. Either way, you win because:

  1. you can provide service recovery immediately to those making the suggestions to help make them happier

  2. you can improve with tactical information you can implement

  3. future customers will benefit from the actual improvement
Sometimes, breakthroughs are hidden in subtleties - such as what questions you ask...and acting on the (better) answers you receive.

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

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Create a Win-Win-WIN!

Many of us have heard the phrase "Make it a Win-Win". Simply said, it means "don't agree to anything with someone unless it benefits you both." This approach supports a fair, healthy long-term interactive relationship - as opposed to a one-time only transaction. It's a good place to start, but not the most effective approach to optimizing your relationships. What is even better?

Creating a Win-Win-WIN!

Not only should you focus on benefiting you and your direct business collaborator, but also consider how the ultimate "customers" benefit - your customer, the collaborator's customer, the cause you are working towards, etc. If you both are fully committed to ensuring that ALL people benefit as the agreement radiates out, then you can be sure that it will likely grow/build momentum rather than be a one-time deal. The ultimate goal in business (and in Life!) is to create something of value that is both sustainable and develops perpetual motion (a "life of it's own") that continues adding value to everyone involved.

That's a legacy worth working for.

So...what are you doing that is different and better - for not just you and your immediate colleagues, but for all the "customers" you exist to serve? Create a compelling reason for people to prefer you and your product/services (by adding superior value in exchange for their money, time, and effort) and they will become loyal to you...and want to participate in "spreading the gospel" of your shared cause.

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

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Word "No" Is Your Friend

Colleague Jerry Weintraud once said "Every minute doing one thing is a minute NOT doing something else. Every choice is another choice not made." These two sentences hold a profound truth that we should all apply to our lives.

Most of us say that we have too many responsibilities - too many urgent items on our "to do" list. An overwhelming professional workload that seems impossible to balance with our overwhelming personal workload.

Sound familiar?

Usually, the root problem lies in saying "yes" to the wrong things. As leaders/role models we want to be action-oriented "make it happen" people who take on challenges and get results. Examining the most successful people, we find a counter-intuitive situation: They get more accomplished by saying "no"!

Yes. Saying "no" to the less important tasks (as urgent as they may be) frees up time to invest in the more important tasks.

Clearly identifying your priorities (Values, Vision, etc.) and measuring every request with the questions: "Will this task play a significant role in getting me to my most important goals?" helps spotlight what to start saying "no" to.

Here's an activity I did often with my executives at Disney: Imagine having an 8th day a week - what would you do? (Many responded with "Spend more time with family", "Work out", "Do more strategic planning", "Develop myself & my team", etc.) Then we would do an activity where they prioritize their responsibilities from top most important (not simply urgent) to least important. They were then tasked with delegating or deleting the bottom 15% of their list. THAT became their "extra day of the week". [Trumpets sounded, a shaft of light comes down from the sky onto them, they tingle all over...well, you know what I mean...] They were then guided to filling in that new found time with the wish list they generated earlier.

Try this exercise yourself and start saying "no" to the less important things that steal precious time from you accomplishing your very best.

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Aim Small, Miss Small

There's a saying with gun marksmen: "Aim small, miss small". This refers to a tactic that helps place bullets closer to the precise goal. Rather than focusing on the entire target, the better choice is to aim only at the smallest, "dead-center" part of the bull's-eye. Even if you miss the very center of the target, you'll usually miss the bull's-eye by much less than if you simply were shooting at the larger target in general.

The same thing applies to goals in our life/business. The more specific we are in our Vision/goal, the more likely we are to get closer - even if we fail to "hit the bull's-eye".

Consider how detailed your goals are for your future. Are you "targeted" on the more general aspects of what would be success or have you imagined the smallest details? Have you considered what all five of your senses would experience (What would it look like, feel like, sound like, smell like, taste like) to finally accomplish the goal?

Here's the kicker: If anyone else is involved in helping to make your goal happen, then it is impossible to clearly articulate these details (so they can effectively visualize them) if you are not able to describe it in the smallest detail yourself.

So, revisit the goals for your successful future - and get better focused on the absolute center of your target...if you really want to hit the bull's-eye rather than merely the edge.

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

Friday, April 15, 2011

Are You More-dinary?

In an effort to be more competitive, some people make the mistake of trying to simply provide more of the product/service they (and their competitors) deliver. Lazy thinking that is a big mistake. Merely providing more is related to manipulating the price. In the end, you make your offerings a commodity - a path that only drags down profits... and, ultimately your business.

This just makes you "more-dinary". Boring AND unhealthy. The cure? Constantly strive to be different and better. That ALWAYS differentiates you from the competition - often allowing you to charge a premium (making you interesting to your customers AND resulting in a healthy bottom line! What a bonus!)

Discover the deeper reason your customers desire your industry's product/service, assess what/how you and your competition is delivering those things, and then focus on what you can do to be different and better in the minds/hearts of your customers. Then execute soon and well. Repeat. Often.

The competition will always try to copy success. Your job is to 1. Stay engaged with your customers - both external and internal (employees), and 2. keep becoming different and better. To stay relevant and thrive in your business - no matter what it is - ANYthing is better than settling for "more-dinary". Instead, choose to be extraordinary!

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

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Forgive, Yes...But Forget??

We've all heard about the common saying "Forgive and forget". It's typically used to describe a more gentle, "enlightened" view towards our fellow human beings - encouraging us to achieve some kind of world peace by simply wiping the slate clean and forgetting it ever happened. What a load of bull...uh, I mean - what a foolish choice!

Forgiveness is one thing. Whether you forgive or not really only impacts you. Refusing to forgive a wrong is typically rooted in an emotional resentment that will lead to bitterness if left to fester - only serving to continue harming you - rather than the wrong-doer. So, ultimately, the wisest option is to choose to forgive. Whether or not to forget is quite another issue.

The healthiest option after being the victim of a negative experience is to forgive and remember! That experience - and memory - should be used for a productive purpose.

The goal for any and all life experiences is to learn from them and grow in wisdom and good judgment. Remembering the details that led to the experience and - logically - leveraging that insight to help make better choices for the future is the better option. To forget would be a shameful waste of the experience, making it more likely that you'll put yourself in the position to be victimized yet again...a much worse tragedy.

This brings to mind the more balanced saying of "Live and learn". So, when you are deep in the aftershocks of a painful experience - just focus on remembering the mistake, so you're less likely to repeat it in the future.

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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spoiled or Pampered?

I was recently meeting with leaders at a company who talked about how important service was and bragged how their goal was to spoil their customers. They were stunned when I told them it was a very bad idea. Blaphemy? Actually, they simply misused the meaning of the word, but that simple mistake can cause problems as the word filters through an organization.

Sometimes, people misuse the word "spoil" to mean "taking good care of someone". Nice thought, but the word is commonly used as "That kid is a spoiled brat". What meaning do people associate with "spoiled"? One way to create a monster is to give a child anything they want, when they want it - with no accountability. A kid might want candy for all meals, but it is NOT in their best interest. Eating only candy is actually bad for the child's health. If a person does this, they aren't caring for the child, they are actually doing the child (and everyone that child associates with as they grow older) harm!

The better option would be to "pamper" the child. A small difference in meaning that makes a big difference in the outcome. Pampering exceeds expectations, but does so in a more healthy way. Spoiling creates entitlement. That's why spoiled people throw tantrums - they think (inappropriately so) that "it's not fair" if they are "denied" what they "deserve". (Does that sound like customers or employees that you know?) Pampering keeps the candy as an occasional (more balanced) treat, when they actually DO deserve it - without spoiling them.

This is not merely semantics. Using inaccurate words when communicating expectations can create confusion - an operational problems. The key is courageously caring enough to give when it makes sense AND caring enough to say "no" when appropriate.

As we used to say at Disney "The guest may not always be right, but they will always be our guest. If they are wrong, they must be wrong with dignity!"

So, consider how you exceed your customers' (both external AND internal customers) expectations. The mosy consistently successful businesses WOW them, but do it appropriately. Remember: If you spoil them, they WILL spoil your results!

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Be Unique Or Die

Here is a CRITICAL consideration: How are you different and better than your competition? If you're not, then you will become irrelevant...and out of business.

Think of it this way, when your customers are deciding about getting a product or service you happen to provide, they will think of all the options available to them. When considering you AND your competition, they will compare the true cost to them (money, time, and effort) to the product or service (the "thing" as well as the entire experience) they are purchasing - and judge it all based on what THEY value.

There are several options:
  1. What you offer is less than one of your competitors, and you lose the sale. You eventually go out of business.
  2. Your experience is the same as your competitor(s), so it becomes all about price. Your product/service just became a commodity and you follow the inevitable price war down - and you eventually go out of business.
  3. What you offer is different/better than your competition and you earn the sale.
Obviously, the best option is the third one. However, being unique does not guarantee long-term success. You must consider two more things:
  • Your competition can copy just about anything (marketing, product, environment, processes - they can even reverse-engineer your product), but they cannot replicate the relationship you/your employees have with them. Once you earn loyalty, it is nearly impossible for your competitor to "steal" them away.
  • You must continuously improve everything about your customer's experience. This includes your relationship with each customer.

The most important thing you can do is to establish what your customers really want then consistently deliver it while exceeding their expectations (being unique/different.) Spend some time with your team focusing on implementing different/better/unique and you will be amazed at how you will start to gain marketshare.

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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Get Alive

Do you want a business/relationship that is alive? (Of course, who doesn't!) Bringing life to your Life doesn't have to be as difficult as it often seems. Like when I was at Disney, the first step is to recognize the few things that make the difference between just existing and really living:

1. All life is GROWN. To breathe LIFE into your life (or relationship or business, etc.) you have to treat it like any other dynamic, living thing. For example, think of a plant - if you want the plant to thrive (rather than simply survive), you must nurture it. Same as anything else. How is that best done? By implementing the other two aspects:

2. Be aware of what that unique plant (your business, career, your Life, relationship, etc.) requires to thrive. Pay attention to it. Invest time and energy into learning about all important aspects of it. Examine and understand what strengthens it and what weakens it. Then...

3. Care enough to do something about it. Make it a priority. Spent time/energy/resources to consistently see that it's needs are exceeded (in a healthy way) in order for it to GROW more alive.

Sometimes, Life can get so hectic that it gets easy to neglect things (dreams, goals, people, ourselves) that we value. The natural consequences of that action (or lack of action) is the same as neglecting a plant. It WILL start to weaken, whither, then die. The question is: what is YOUR priority? You can always tell a person's TRUE priorities by where they choose to spend their time, effort, and money. Where are you spending yours? If not where you want, start growing again - now - before it is too late.

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

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The 3:2:1 Rule

Looking for better results? Most people are. Here's a frustrating fact: Consistently successful organizations don't focus most on the outcome - but they still get better results than the rest. Here's why...and how...

Performance is a result of skilled effort - which is a result of passion and commitment. World-class companies get better results because they track backwards to the internal root cause and focus on improving there instead - guiding the process until they achieve the superior external results they desire.

If you want a 1% increase in performance, then you need a 2% increase in effort (the kind your customer values) - which is sparked by a 3% increase in commitment (by your front line team - who delivers the effort.)

Some call it the "3:2:1 Rule". Yes, some of the investment gets lost in the shuffle (that's human nature for you), but done well it's worth it. Remember, the percentages of internal results don't have to cost a lot of money - just well-placed leadership, engaged relationships, and targeted innovation.

You can use this proven approach to set up your own improvement plan. For example: If you want a 2% increase in your financial results, you begin by investing in improving your team's engagement/commitment level by 6% (interact with them, listen to them, challenge them, develop them, etc.), which will affect a 3% increase of performance on their behalf (the power of pride, integrity and ownership!) - gaining you the 2% bottom-line results (from satisfied/loyal advocates) you hope for.

So, if you're interested in achieving consistent external results (like those proven world-class companies), focus on the internal resources that get you there first. ANY small steps towards engaging your team will become a catalyst for improvement in your outcomes.

The 3:2:1 Rule. As simple as 1, 2, 3!

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

Friday, February 18, 2011

"On-stage" or "Off-stage"?

I just got back from speaking at an event with a few hundred people in attendance. All the details were covered. The stage was arranged well. The materials and lighting were set "just right". Seating, programs, music, coordination and timing, the service team's attire...everything in the ballroom looked/sounded great. The event team was excited to create an experience that was memorable.

Well, it was. For the wrong reasons.

Just after lunch, everyone was re-seated and listening to the speaker before me, when the side of the room we all heard...snoring. From the AV technician!

The whole room began to shift around uncomfortably and murmuring/snickering traveled around the ballroom for a loooong 20 seconds until someone walked over to the technician and finally shook him awake.

Guess what ended up being the most memorable moment from THAT conference?

More importantly, what do you think people are saying about the event company? The same event company, by the way, that went to all the effort and care to make sure "everything was perfect" - failed to focus on the team's behavior as a part of what really mattered.

Anything people can sense in any way during your event will either add to or take away from the value they perceive. ANYthing. As we used to say at Disney, if they can see, hear, taste, feel, or smell it, then it is "on-stage" and we should manage it to ensure a great experience. Consider, not just the "things" in the room, but the people as well, and ask "are we sending the message we want to send?" and "How will this impact our customer's experience?"

After all, you want to be remembered for the best reasons, right?

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

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Are You Free Or Fantastic?

Have you noticed that, these days, your customers are more demanding? The recent economic challenges have caused us all to be more thoughtful and demanding when it comes to spending our hard-earned dollars. How do you compete when, more and more, people expect something for nothing?

As wonderful as the Internet can be, it is also the source of easy access to the lowest price option. In fact, "the low, low price of FREE" is becoming a common goal in the race towards commoditization. Bottom line: When there's nothing special/different/better about your product or service, why should anyone pay more for it than the cheapest source?

The only time it makes good business sense to offer something for free (or even at no profit) is if there is strategic value. Either 1. To entice your customer so they do business with you and you can sell them more items where you make your (ultimate) profit; or 2. to use it as a tool to gain exposure/awareness for future sales.

Otherwise, the "strategy of free" is, ultimately, a default strategy for going out of business.

The only other strategy is to be "fantastic". Designing your product or service so customers experience a "WOW" means you can charge (and they will pay) a premium. (At Disney, we used to call this "pixie dust" - you can do it too!) Not only do you get a buzz of publicity (happy customers tell everybody!), but you earn profit that actually keeps your business in business.

Wouldn't you prefer that scenario?

What does the "strategy of fantastic" require? Simply adding value at every touch point of your customer's experience. Exceed their expectation (by being different/better) every step of the way and they will come back - AND tell all their friends/family to do business with you too!

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

Sunday, January 30, 2011

THE Performance Dimensions

This blog is for any of us who work for a company or who own a company. (Those set-for-life/not interested in ever working again folks can go back to sleep...)

The key part of improving you/your business is knowing what to look for to determine what direction you're moving. Here's the good news: Your checklist has arrived!

What do you get when you cross-reference the most admired organizations with the most successful companies (Fortune 500), then survey executives, board members and analysts from the 24 industries represented? You get an amazing insider's view of what dimensions to focus on when planning or measuring your improvement process.

Here are the 9 dimensions:
  • Innovation (How creative are you in breaking new ground - both internally and externally?)
  • Quality of management (leadership throughout your operation)
  • Quality of products & services (what impacts your ultimate customer experience)
  • Long-term investment values (Are you connected/committed to the long haul?)
  • Social responsibility to community and environment (Making a difference beyond your bottom line creates meaningful purpose)
  • Ability to attract, develop, and retain top talent (The best talent exists - the goal is to create an environment that they passionately want to join)
  • Financial soundness (Are you healthy/balanced in access to liquid funds?)
  • Use of corporate assets (Are you responsible with how you use your resources?)
  • Effective in doing business globally (How connected are you to people beyond your borders?)
Use this list to stimulate discussion with YOUR work team. Think about -and take ACTION on -your business differently: adopting a better strategic approach will lead to the kind of proven success the best world-class businesses enjoy.

YOU deserve the best results for your best efforts. Time to step up, step out, and break through.

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

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guaranteed Breakthrough

Ever notice that sometimes, even in the midst of a long-term improvement effort, you hit a phase where things seem to stall? Sometimes we get so caught up in achieving a specified goal that we miss the real opportunity - AND the meaningful breakthrough. Consider this catalyst to shake things up:

Rather than continuing to fixate on your pre-determined, measurable outcome - take some time revisit why you are making the effort and then (perhaps) shift to different options that will make it better.

The key here is (re?)discovering what your CUSTOMERS think is "different" & "better".

  • Different: What is your competition doing? What are they not doing? Is your brand (personality of your company) distinctive? Is the customer experience unlike anything else in your industry?
  • Better: What does your customer value in regard to your industry's product/service? Speed? Dependability? Quality? Why does your product/service even exist? Improve in that area, and you will gain a competitive edge.

Too often, organizations get so caught up in delivering action items and tactical plans, that they fail to stay engaged with the more relevant perspective.

Bottom line - becoming different & better, as defined by your customers, will always be an improvement (always!), and will draw the attention you need to eventually move your business (and you!) to the top.

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

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Where Do You Go Right?

After a life stumble, we often hear someone say "Where did I go wrong?" Good to do. Obviously, making mistakes is not the preferred outcome - but it happens. Repeating a mistake, however, is a completely unnecessary waste. If we are paying attention and care enough to make the effort, we can learn from every mistake we - or others - make...and forgo that avoidable wrong.

Another question - rarely asked - is equally important: "Where did I go right?" Examining successful decisions (ours or others) actually help us repeat success.

Consider this: In every success story, there is a moment when things shifted for the better. The successful person did something differently to start down a different road leading to a better result. Here's the bottom line - and it is pretty simple:
  • If the path you are currently on is not leading to the ultimate goal you want, then you must change what you are doing to achieve what you desire. You may not know exactly what to change, but you DO know that life as usual is not it, so your "do nothing/the same" option is NOT the right one. (If you don't know what you want, then THAT just became your new task.)
  • The longer you stay on your existing path, the longer you are moving in the wrong direction. (The whole "where did I go wrong?" thing - yes, you just answered that question. You're choosing it every day you stay on your current path.)
  • You must take action to see the results. Planning is nice, but it doesn't count as an action step in regards to actually improving. Yes, taking action risks failure (that is why most do NOT take sufficient action), but by definition, the path you're on is failing you already.

The real question then, is not "Should I do something differently?", but "What should I do? (experiment with whatever needs improving until you start seeing results) and "When should I do it?" (Now. It's the first step that keeps most people from optimizing their results. Once you've taken that first step, the second becomes easier, and the third easier still - until you break through to become part of the successful group that began doing things right.)

You have the choice to make NOW the answer to the question: "When did I go right?" All it takes is that first step. Are you choosing to take it, or continue settling for less in your life?

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