Measure twice and cut once…but by all means cut!

Measuring is the easy part today.

How many times has someone visited your website?   You can find that easily, along with what time they visited, their geographic location, and what key words are performing best.

Which pages did they visit?  You can measure that and how long they were there.

How did they find your information, did they forward it, did they like you?  All quantifiable.

Who are your top performing employees?  Who are your most profitable clients?  What service or product gives you the best ROI?  It’s just a couple of clicks away.  If it can be imagined, it can be measured – relatively easily.   Hard, quantitative data can be provided and presented that leaves no ambiguity.

But the hard part has not changed:  What are you going to do about it?

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Getting to Solutions

Consensus is relatively easy to attain, especially if you are particularly persuasive or you are the boss with predetermined answers.

It’s more difficult to get legitimate dissent based on a well-reasoned argument.

And it’s a rarity to get to solutions…requiring your personal commitment, not just committing others.  Of course, this is where “things” really begin to happen.

Our “Word” is Earned – Good or Bad

“I’ll take care of that.”

At the moment you utter those words, those to whom you have made your promise will think one of two things:

  1. No he won’t.  He never gets anything done on time, and I need to plan accordingly.
  2. That’s a huge relief.  He will get it done, and he will get it done right.

Our “word” is known to our colleagues and clients, perhaps better than it is known to us.

So, is your word your bond, or is your word empty?

Your word is your reputation – guard it… jealously.

 

Leading In The Real World

Leading, when things are going well can be a great joy.  Those times when you have great stories of success to share with your colleagues and when in general, the plan comes together;  it is a very satisfying and rewarding time.   You,  your team, and your plans are validated!

When things aren’t going so well, when the stories are a bit tougher to tell, when your plans didn’t work, the feeling is anything but joyful – it can be gut wrenching.  The truth is, it’s just no fun to be the leader at those moments.

But being a leader isn’t just about celebrating the good times.   Who wouldn’t want to be in a leadership position if all you did was celebrate the good news and delegate the bad news.

In his exceptional book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins writes, “Leadership is equally about creating a climate where the truth is heard and the brutal facts confronted.”  Facing the brutal facts is often times extremely painful because they may lead to painful decisions.  Making painful decisions requires fortitude (to put it nicely).   And it requires that you demonstrate that your leadership is more than words, it is decisive action.

Facts, brutal or otherwise, are just that – facts.  It’s not about blame and it’s certainly not about excuses.

When you hit that rough patch, don’t linger on the bad news; confront the reality, make course corrections and move forward…confidently.

Be an idiot – it’s the only way to succeed

I had the great pleasure to hear Carla Bailo, Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Nissan Americas, speak recently.

Listening to her reminded me that great leaders, regardless of whom they may be leading, have some common attributes.   In particular, I’ve noticed that great leaders make a point of learning from everyone they encounter.  They ask a lot of questions…and really listen…learn…and…apply.

In discussing her five year stint in Japan, Ms. Bailo said when you are in such a new environment; it’s your opportunity to “be an idiot.”  You aren’t expected to know anything, so you can safely ask a lot of questions.  In essence a license to be an idiot.

Ms. Bailo is anything but… In fact, as she provided some of the rules by which she lives, in the recent presentation, her wisdom was evident.   Here is my best attempt to recreate a few of them based on my chicken scratch notes.

Optimism finds a solution, negative is useless

Debate leads to the best decision

Promise and deliver – without fail

Fear and resistance are to be overcome

Failure breads success

Challenge the accepted way

Never forget to have fun

Don’t take everything personally, avoid getting a chip on your shoulder

Don’t regret mistakes, fix them

Treat others as you would want to be treated

Be open to criticism and be willing to change and improve

Listen. Listen. Listen.

It’s easy to see why Ms. Bailo is in the position she is – she is a humble, lifelong learner.   I hope to learn and apply some of her wisdom in my life.  Indeed, we should all feel empowered to be an idiot; it’s the only way to avoid really being one.

Blinded by the light

Dr. Orin Gelderloos would remind us (students) in his field biology course to keep the sun to our back when identifying birds in the field.  Looking toward the sun would distort the image and lead us to an improper conclusion.

Facing the sun in business or in life may result in a distorted image as well.

  • Get blinded by your most recent win, and you might start to believe your own hype.
  • Get blinded by the most recent defeat, and you might just believe that you are a failure.

Balance, perspective, and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Ideas and Outcomes

Do you have an idea?  Do you want to make the most of that idea?

Divorce yourself from the “idea” and instead attach yourself to the outcome.  Ideas can be jealously guarded, sometimes to the detriment of the outcome.

But when you are focused on the outcome, your idea becomes malleable…in fact, it should be so malleable that when you are done beating it about with trusted colleagues, it doesn’t even resemble the original idea.

When you really focus on the outcome (whatever that outcome is) you won’t give a tinker’s damn about protecting “your idea,” because your idea becomes far too large for just you.

Take those moments of inspiration, set aside your ego, and see if you don’t come up with something truly remarkable!

Character

Who would have thought this kind of exceptional character from an attorney, a physician, a business owner, a salesman…

Long before we assumed our various titles…

The respectful attorney, was a respectful spouse.

The caring physician, was a caring daughter.

The honest business owner, was an honest employee.

The ethical salesman, was an ethical student.

Our titles don’t create our character, they just amplify it.

Going Deep Can Be Game Changers

I think it was Andy Stanley who advised us to go deep rather than wide. In Stanley’s context he was referring to leadership – put your energy in one area or one individual and really focus on this to make a significant impact.  The opposite, or going wide, is trying to do a little with everyone and everything and the impact isn’t likely to be nearly as profound.

Put another way; focus on everything and you focus on nothing.

I was reminded of this (deep rather than wide idea) when my son shared with me the news that the non-profit where he works (Grace Centers of Hope (GCH)) was informed that they won a contest sponsored by Crain’s Detroit. This contest was for Best-Managed Nonprofit focused on the successful deployment of technology.

I’ll avoid the temptation of telling you how proud I am of my son (well, apparently not completely), whose efforts were integral in developing the technology at GCH that allowed them to win.  But here are a couple of thoughts I had after I heard about the award.

Thought One:  My son put in countless hours working on this – he was focused, hyper focused on this endeavor.   Could he go this “deep” on everything? Nope, that’s impossible.  In fact, much of our time in our jobs is spent going wide.  But the “game changers” are made when we can go deep on an issue…and the truth is the windows of time to go deep are likely limited.  A customer issue that needs to be addressed now, an employee that needs immediate attention, a  rapid change in the market – they don’t wait, you either recognize them and (deeply) address them or you let the opportunity slip away.

Thought Two:  If you are in management – create an atmosphere where new ideas readily incubate and can be discussed without fear of the heavy and judgmental hand of management (i.e., this is no time to be a boss).  Allow employees the latitude to take their skills and passions and go deep when they recognize that window of opportunity is open.  When your employees are free to follow through on their ideas; they benefit, the organization benefits, and the customers benefit.

Congratulations to Grace Centers of Hope and may you continue to foster new ideas as you carry out your mission.

Fill The Vacuum Or Someone Else Will

If nature abhors a vacuum, what do you think will happen in the absence of clear and consistent communication?

Rampant speculation and rumor?

Innuendo?

Multiple Theories?

Gossip?

A potentially toxic environment?

All of your hard work to research your market, distinguish your company from the competition, find the right people, and produce the right products can be felled by poor communication.

Fill the vacuum with clear, consistent, and sincere communication.