Insights about Growth and all things impacting it within your organization
The question kind of sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? A Greek Myth, a Broadway Show, and a Leadership Business Book walk into a bar….And there isn’t a punch line, but there is a twist to it all at the end. Hang in there with me.
Pygmalion is a story, from Greek mythology, of a sculptor (Pygmalion) who makes an ivory statue representing his ideal of womanhood and then falls in love with his own creation. Venus, the Greek goddess of love, brings the statue to life to answer his prayers.
This story inspired many other stories including the play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw which later became the much more popular musical and then movie, My Fair Lady by Lerner and Loew. Perhaps you have seen the movie on TV. Fun movie.
In My Fair Lady a professor, Henry Higgins, is given a challenge by a peer, who questions Henry’s beliefs in nurture over nature. The challenge is to change Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, into the toast of high society London. Lots of funny scenes and very memorable songs later, Henry succeeds and subsequently falls in love with Eliza and they marry.
Both Pygmalion and My Fair Lady provided inspiration for a study done by a Professor Rosenthal at Harvard that demonstrated that in the class room, students for whom teachers have high expectations, perform better than students for whom teachers have low expectations. The Pygmalion Effect is something I learned about at the School of Education at the University of Michigan, during my teacher preparations classes. I readily adopted the principle into my teaching and have carried it with me the rest of my career as an executive and coach. The Pygmalion Effect is alive and true in the world today.
What does this have to do with the leadership book Multipliers, by Liz Wiseman? Tons.
A “Multiplier,” a leader whose team delivers double or more performance and engagement that other good managers, leads their team with an underlying belief in their team: that “they are smart enough to figure things out”. Whatever the problem, opportunity, or challenge, this belief in the team produces better results. The “Multiplier” no longer has to solve everything and works mostly to identify the opportunities to work on. Everyone benefits.
High expectations bring better or higher results. Pygmalion and Higgins had high expectations and got great or unexpectedly better results. Multipliers do the same.
The twist? Pygmalion and Henry Higgins fell in love with their creations. With a Multiplier, the team falls in love with their company and their work and in “trust” with their leader.
Isn’t that something you want?
Let’s work together to help you figure out how to be a Multiplier. Let’s talk.Here’s My Calendar
It’s doubtful that Margaret Mead, the cultural anthropologist, and Patrick Lencioni, organizational health expert, ever met. Yet I’m thinking that if they they did, they would have had much to talk about. I heard a recent story about Meade, that if true, indicates that Lencioni’s advice on teamwork, team players, and organizational heath are worth following in your organization, if you want to succeed that is.
The story goes like this. Mead was asked which artifact of a culture or society was the first indication of a potentially strong society, assuming that the answer would be a tool, or dish, or writing implement, or something like that. She picked up a bone from skelton that she had studied and pointed out that the bone, a femur, had been broken and had healed. It meant that instead of being left to die, the other members in the persons society had either stayed with the person to fend off danger, or had carried the person back to camp. Either way, the other members of that society had the “back” of the fallen member, valued his/her contribution to the community, and made sure they were safe.
Lencioni regularly advocates that the strongest teams know how to cover for each other in tough situations. They have each other’s backs. They help each other succeed, value the contributions of each other and are loyal to each other. Read his books, The Five Dysfuntions of a Team, The Ideal Team Player, Organizational Health, and even Death by Meetings. Each book details ways to make your team stronger, to build your organization’s culture, and create commitment to each other and their collective decisions. A good portion of each deals with the strength of an organization to heal the rifts between each other to become stronger.
Not exactly Mead’s broken femur, but her insight certainly lines up with the findings of Lencioni regarding the competitive advantage of a strong organizational culture.
Ask yourself the following metaphorical question. “How many ‘broken bones’ has your organization mended and in doing so, became a stronger organization.” “Has it ever happened?” “Are you prepared to do it in the future?” “What would it take to do so?” “How do I get started strenthening my organization?”
Want to talk about it? It’s what I’m here for. Let’s have a conversation. Here’s My Calendar
Getting a Grip on the Pandemic is difficult isn’t it. I thought you would agree with me. So much to think about. So much to do. So much changing information. So much dysfunction. What’s a business owner or CEO to do about all this? What to we grab onto to get through it all, to get to the other side of it.
A conclusion a number of our coaches at Gravitas Impact have come to is this: The future is very uncertain. We, as coaches and business leaders don’t have a real grip on how the pandemic is going to play out. Epidemiologists and Infectious Disease experts have good feel for what the pattern of the pandemic will take, but they don’t have a handle on the timing. Much of the timing and severity of the pattern of the pandemic is related to how our local, state, and national governments deal with things, and that’s a mixed bag. And if the intersection of the government and science is sketchy, add the willingness of the citizenry to understand and comply with either set of parameters is another wild card we won’t be able to get hour heads and minds around. What does that leave us?
Three things actually. They are things you already are experts in? Customers, Capabilities, and Leadership.
Customers: You probably know them better than you think you do. Customers are people buying your stuff. You already know their buying habits, their pressures, their higher needs in life. You may not have dug in deep enough on these things, but you probably know it already and just haven’t paid close enough attention to it. Go beyond demographics of your customers and get a grip on the “persona-graphics” of you customers and all the pressures they face in life.
Capabilities: You also know what you are good or great at. Again, maybe you haven’t paid attention to this as well as you should. When things are going good, we tend to get lazy about this stuff. Go back to it. Rediscover what you are really good at, and then take a step further and figure out what you could become “quickly capable” at. Get a grip on this and how this relates to the customers you also know so much about.
Find the Connection between these two: It’s there. Find it and then develop a quick pivot and long term pivot around these things. Pivoting is nothing new. Been going on for centuries. What’s different now is that there are wholesale changes to society going on right now that most of us will have to be pivoting to get to the other side.
I’ve did a webinar on this, connecting customers and capabilities to create a pivot: It’s called “What’s Your Pivot?” and I recorded it. You can find it and other webinars related to Getting to the Other Side of the Pandemic here
Leadership: What you want to get a grip on right now is that how you lead your team right now is going to be remembered for a long time. You have to get it right, and you can. But it will be a bit different than before. The principles of great leadership haven’t changed much but the environment for doing it has in this Shelter-at-home and uncertain world.
Watch these recordings or register for the new webinars. Let me help you get to the other side. I’d like to get there with you.
Stay Safe, Be Well, Do Good!
Return On Trust? I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit after reading an article from the Detroit News, that was forwarded to me by a FB friend. I want to share the article with you.
500 employees running strong. Only one infected by COVID-19, who has recovered. Lots of concrete advice on how to run a manufacturing operation safely and productively. Certainly pay attention to how they are doing it, the procedures and methods this company has implemented to create both a productive and safe work environment for his staff and company.
Yet there is more to this than procedures and methods.
What struck me about this story, is the high level of trust and compassion that exists in this community. Autocam Medica is a community of people, leaders through front-line that has a high level of trust and compassion for each other. This couldn’t be pulled off without it. The leadership and front-line and everyone in between needed to rely on each other to deliver these results. Transparent intentions, collaborative dialogue, clear alignment on objectives. So much more.
Autocam Medica didn’t become a trusting community when COVID-19 hit. My guess is that they were trusting community beforehand, working hard at it over the years. Right now they are building an even higher level of trust. Which brings me back to the term “Return On Trust.”
What kind of “Return On Trust” is Autocam Medica getting right now? While COVID-19 is a threat to everyone.
What kind of “Return On Trust” will the be getting once they get to the other side of this? It’s doubtful that it could be calculated, but this is for sure, they’ll be further ahead than their peer companies.
Do you have a community of trust within your company? Be critical with yourself about this. And ask some people within the company, other than your leadership team, if this is true, people that you know will give you the straight poop. If it turns out you don’t have trusting community, a crisis is a great time to build one, around the common bond of getting through the challenge together. If you do, how are you going to build on that trust for the long term future?
Do you need some help with this? It certainly isn’t easy. But it’s doable. Let’s have a meeting to talk about it. I want you and need you to get to the other side. Learn about “Get to the Other Side Coaching” and let’s have a conversation. Let’s Put Something On Our Calendars
Be Safe, stay well, do good.
What a dilemma! The pandemic crisis is right in front of you. It’s the main priority. Getting to the other side. So many things to do. Preserve the cash, pivot your business model, keep your employees safe, build relationships that will lead to business on the other side, talk to bankers and accountants, figure out how the government will help you, etc. These things are the obvious priorities. They are hard, they are too much for one person to handle and it’s what you have to focus on. So you’re thinking “maybe I can kick the can down the road on the toxic individual that is causing so much commotion right now…..and deal with it later”
It’s not one “or” the other, it’s a one “and” the other.
This is a principle outlined in Built To Last by Jim Collins (I find myself referring to Jim Collins more and more each day during this pandemic). It’s the called the “Tyranny of the ‘Or,” and the “Genius of the ‘And.’” Collins noticed that the Great Companies never thought through things using an either/or approach. Always approached things with “how do we do both” Either/Or thought processes lead to poorly thought out decisions and then the repercussions of them, which down the road become extremely painful. Toxic behavior or the crisis, this is one of those “And” situations.
A crisis like this requires alignment, unity, trust, selfless behavior and clear thinking.
This is difficult in ordinary times, more difficult now, but absolutely more important. As a CEO or Owner you can’t do it all right now, you have to build trust, use trust, and rely on trust to get to the other side. All hands-on-deck, full trust in the intentions of others, open dialogue on most everything, commitment to decisions, accountable to actions, and get to the other side. (if you haven’t noticed I’ve just reviewed Pat Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, someone else I find myself referring to often in this crisis).
Toxic Individuals need to be eliminated or isolated.
Toxic Individuals don’t care about trust. They manipulate it to serve their own selfish ends, whether they know it our not. People need to be aligned with them, not the organization. They create havoc to personally benefit from havoc. They make every little thing more difficult for others. There is a book based on a study of this, but you probably don’t have time to read it. The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton. Don’t read it now, save it for after the crisis. But here is a one sentence summary. Toxic individuals, no matter the level their contribution, should be eliminated from your organization, and if not, isolated from others. In other words, no leadership responsibility. Work alone or leave.
Toxic individuals fester dysfunction and multiply the complexity of dealing with the current crisis.
Have a situation like this? Book a meeting on how to proceed. No Charge.
We needed some time to chill out from the stress of the pandemic crisis this past weekend. Fortunately we were able to pack up the car and drive about two hours to the farm of a friend of ours. No one else was there, but probably more important was the lack of cell phone reception and very weak Wi-Fi. We spent the weekend eating and reading and playing cards and being with each other and our kids. We also went on hike.
There wasn’t an obvious path to follow, just the creek.
Our friends recommended taking a 45 minute hike up the creek to see a waterfall and that’s what we did. It turned out to be quite an adventure. We ended up finding our way through brush, climbing over and around fallen trees, wading int the creek, crossing it a number of times, all while not really knowing the way or what we would encounter along the way, unknown terrain with each step. Each of us fell at least once, but it seemed like we fell forward, going further even then.
Eventually we came to a waterfall. It wasn’t much of one, and being both mentally and physically tired we thought about turning back. Martha, my daughter, encouraged us to go at least 100 yards further to see if it was worth continuing. The creek and it’s bed at this point was both shallow and wide, so I went with her. In 100 yards we saw it. A bigger and prettier waterfall, 200 yards further up the creek, over much more slippery and tricky footing. The rest of the family joined us and we made it, feeling proud that we didn’t quit.
That’s the journey we are familiar with as business owners.
We know the objective or outcome we want to accomplish. We don’t exactly know how to get there, but we plow ahead, working through or around obstacles repeatedly until we get there. And we look for more. It’s entrepreneurial way isn’t it.
The journey back down was different.
It certainly looked different going down than coming up. Since we weren’t climbing up, the footing was more slippery and treacherous. When we fell down, we fell backwards, onto our bums, and then slid down the creek or the terrain. Falling backwards usually ended up meant we fell much further that we were comfortable with. I know I spent much more time thinking through each and every step, instead of just plowing through like before, knowing that I could get injured much more easily on the way down than on the way up.
Handholds, became much more important, both with family members helping each other, and grabbing onto trees and branches as we eased our way down. It’s not that we didn’t help each other and grab branches on the way up, but then it seemed more automatic, easy, and the polite thing to do. On the way down it was difficult, absolutely necessary, and hard to figure out. One couldn’t make one’s way without help. I remember thinking, “this is much harder than before.”
The path through the pandemic will be like going down, not going up.
The path through the pandemic, won’t be like the hike up to the waterfall, a desirable outcome. It will be much more like the way back down the creek. Handholds will be much more important and essential to get to the other side of things, than when you were building your business. It’s more slippery, the falls might end up being further and faster than you are used to or comfortable with. Everything is at risk when you are going through something like this.
What’s the way through for you?
It requires thoughtfulness, firm footing, and lots of handholds. You can figure it out with the help of your team, your peers and your advisors. We made it back with only a few scratches and no broken bones. You will too.
Looking for some handholds?
It’s one of the things I’m good at. Check in regularly at https://rocknsand.com/covid-19-checklist/ as I add tools and resources for getting to the other side.
Set up a phone call or zoom call with me at https://in-synk.youcanbook.me
And by all means, hold out a hand for someone else looking for a handhold along the way.
There is an overwhelming amount of information being pushed out about what to do during this unprecedented time. “Expertise” seems to be coming from everywhere. First and foremost, whose expertise should guide you?
Your own, of course.
This may not be what you were expecting, but stick with me. As the CEO/owner of your organization, you have substantial expertise to fall back on during this crisis, and you should use it. That doesn’t mean to exclude other experts.
Let’s talk about the other expertise available to your right now.
From the Medical Profession
Their expertise lies in how one passes along the virus, how one catches it, and the symptoms. Heed their advice, because it’s spot on.
From Public Heath Professionals and Scientists
Their expertise lies in how the virus will progress through communities and how well our health systems can handle it. They are watching the curve and making predictions, so pay close attention.
From Economists and the Big Consulting Firms
Sure they understand recessions, which we are entering. However, do they understand pandemic driven recessions? Some of their stuff makes sense, although it’s mostly for big companies. Remember that no one alive has lived through a pandemic like this.
Now We’re Back to You
You have loads of expertise to leverage. Who knows more about your particular business delivery model? Nobody but you. You are experts about your customers and why they buy from your organization. Do you think there’s someone who knows more about your people and how to lead and deploy them? No, you’re the expert here, too. That’s what you’ve got to work with.
You’re expertise will guide you in figuring out how the pandemic will affect all of the areas mentioned above.
I’m confident that you can figure it out. You just need a bit of focus and confidence in what you know.
There are six areas of focus for you, the CEO or owner.
- Your personal health and well being. This covers both physical health and mental health. Make sure you take care of these things first. You can’t help others if you aren’t healthy yourself.
- Your vision of the near future. Determine you worst case, best case, and middle case scenarios. Follow the middle road.
- Do your numbers. Don’t wait; do this right now. Figure out what 15%, 30%, and 45% drops in revenue and what actions to take to break even in each case. After you complete this task, you’ll know the trigger points for action and the actions you will need to take. You’ll then be clear and confident about them.
- Communication and leadership. Your team wants to know where you are headed. Tell them. Be FREQUENT and TRANSPARENT with your communications.
- Communicate that your objective is to get to the other side in good enough position to grow again. This current time will pass.
- You need to communicate the company plans for when one of you gets sick.
- Communicate the specific actions you are doing to get through through this.
- Cash and profitability. Watch the cash like a hawk. Anticipate the impact of supply chain disruptions, and talk to creditors about extending your credit.
- Opportunities. There is always opportunity in disruption. Mitigate risk, but spend some time finding opportunities.
- Can you improve your COGS and add offerings to improve your margins?
- Is there a way to reach more customers?
- Can you improve your processes and maximize your cash conversion cycle?
- Can you “gussy up” any in thing else in your business in anticipation of the recovery?
I’m available to walk and talk you and your leadership teams through these conversations. I’ve opened up more of my schedule to accommodate your calls for quick chalk talks to get your started on finding your “middle road” to the other side of the pandemic. Here’s the link to my calendar to set up a call https://in-synk.youcanbook.me/.
Two final thoughts:
- Many others are experiencing the same bad luck you are.
- No one will get through this without help from others, so welcome the help.
Do you wish you had more confidence in your service providers? I’m not talking about service providers like internet or cell phone service or delivery services like FedEx or UPS. This is in reference to those professional service providers whose advice and expertise you rely on regularly. They are there to keep your business running successfully and profitably. Service providers like attorneys, bankers, advertising agencies, marketing firms, P.R. companies, accountants, software developers, and IT companies that keep your computer networks running can be important.
These service providers are necessary partners in your success.
They can keep you out of ditches, finance growth, build the right kind of infrastructure, count your money, pay your taxes, help you land clients, and get the word out about your company. Most have expertise you don’t have, making them very valuable. Yet, this can also make them confusing to deal with, unless you have previous experience in their particular area of expertise. They have different views of the world and how it works than you do. This can be confusing at best and intimidating at the worst.
How do you really know the true value of the advice being given or the actions being proposed?
The first thing to remember is that no one knows your business as well as you. Advisers can never know what makes your business tick as well as you. Notice I said the word “can” and not “do.” It’s not a given that you, as the owner, know your business as deeply or as thoroughly as maybe you should. You can know it well and completely, but many owners don’t or don’t have confidence in it.
As I write this, I’m reminded about the client I was working with a few years back. This person employed a high-powered marketing expert whose hard charging advice he deferred to. Her advice and background caused him to doubt his deep expertise and experience in his business. Therefore, the excellent strategic plan we had put together was ignored. He spent $200,000 plus in radio advertising. That service delivered exactly no customer traffic to his location. His core customers were out-of-town convention visitors and vacationers who didn’t listen to local radio stations. He later apologized to me for not trusting his brand promise in his strategic plan. After all, it was derived from his deep understanding of his core customer.
Develop a good strategic plan.
The best way to make sure you truly understand the dynamics of your business is to study it under the guise and guidance of a good strategic planning process. Put your leadership team, and other sharp people, together for some self-examination of company. Turn what you learn into a strategic plan. This can be a do-it-yourself project, especially when your organization is small. The larger it gets, the messier the creation of a good strategy gets. More people in the company means more complexity and more confusion.
Get an experienced strategy coach who follows a proven methodology to help you.
What a good strategy coach does is to make you examine and dig into the expertise in your business. You very likely may have forgotten what you have. He’ll dig it out of your collective brains. A good strategy coach will force you to challenge the accuracy, relate it to your current circumstances, and help you apply to your future. You’ll find out you know more than you thought about your strengths and weaknesses, market conditions, purpose and values, and why your customers buy from you. I am completely convinced that my clients really know this stuff better than they think they do. I find this especially true when it comes to information about their customers and why they buy.
A good strategy coach helps you define all of this and evolve it.
Then you’ll differentiate it. When you have this down, in a simple and understandable format, you now have the expertise at hand to advise the service providers mentioned at the beginning. You’ll be able to deal with them as partners with equal levels of expertise, albeit in different areas. You’ll be able to understand their expertise more fully and advise them more accurately on how they can help. Furthermore, you’ll be able to select partners whose expertise fits your situation best.
Now equipped, you’ll have confidence in service providers abilities to assist and deliver.
Develop a strategy plan using proven strategic planning methodologies that is based on what you can know better than anyone else: your business.
Recently, I checked an item off my bucket list. You see, I’ve really wanted to go on a duck hunt, therefore a combination duck hunt / leadership development trip was just what I needed to do.
I took charge of the leadership development portion, and my host took charge of the duck hunt.
I’m not a hunter. Nothing against hunting, it’s just something that I didn’t grow up doing. I’m a big city kid who did the four-sport rotation growing up. In my case, in Michigan, that was baseball, football, hockey, and basketball with some soccer, golf, and swimming thrown in for good measure. Consequently, that meant no duck hunts.
Since I moved to Memphis 26 years ago, I’ve been intrigued by the passionate duck hunting conversations between my duck hunting friends. I’ve really wanted to see what goes on during a hunt that makes these guys so passionate.
The collaborative conversations that took place to plan out the next morning’s hunt were the first things that I noticed.
They came to agreement on the who, what, when, where, and the logistics of how the hunt would take place. No blaming, no shaming. All were aimed at coming to agreement on a plan of action that took in the input and talents of everyone going on the hunt, including me, the rookie on the team.
The special duck hunting language and lingo ensures that everyone knows what’s going on and what their roles will be. Everyone was fully engaged.
Come to think of it, that’s great business practice.
The next morning, the plan from the evening before was fully executed. Not that there weren’t obstacles along the way, but because all the objectives were agreed upon and committed to, the hunters were able to flex their way to the duck blind. No time lost. Everyone had each other’s back.
On to the plan.
At the blind, we took up our assigned roles. Two hunters called the ducks in and also directed the rest of us on when and where to look to shoot. The tension brought everyone to full attention. Ducks were called, announced, and then fired upon, with the dog being released immediately to fetch the kill.
Then, we were off to a celebratory breakfast in town with more conversations.
Stories, stories, stories.
That’s when I really understood what was going on and the passion for it. Duck hunting is a culture. One that’s built on camaraderie, conversation, inclusion, celebration, and alignment around a common goal. We came, we saw, and we conquered. Veni, vidi, vici.
A good leader aims for the same thing in an organization. Imagine if your culture was as intense and engaging as the duck hunters on a hunting trip. It’s possible, and it’s what I work on with my clients. When my clients achieve it, the hunt is on and growth ensues.
Planning for a new year is not an unusual undertaking. You may even have meetings several times during the year dedicated to this purpose.
Do you try to make your plans perfect during the process?
You may be hurting your organization with your planning more than helping. In the planning process, when you try to make perfect plans, you are holding yourself back. You’re probably restricting your organization’s growth, as well.
Strategic planning trumps perfect planning.
Strategic planning is the ongoing process of setting the direction of your company. It’s an ONGOING process. Get your plan right for the time being, and then get going on getting it done.
There is quote, that has been paraphrased repeatedly, that applies to this discussion. “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” Those words came from General George Patton.
It’s impossible, and it’s always been impossible, to create a perfect strategic plan.
Stuff happens too fast for a perfect plan to remain perfect for long. However, the direction of the plan can remain true and can be adjusted and refined over time. The major areas of emphasis to achieve the plan have to be decided on but can’t really be perfectly defined. Your path to the future will not be straight. It will evolve over time.
Keeping all of this in mind, don’t go for a perfect plan. Go for the right direction, and get going.
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