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Month: June 2015

Win With Awareness And Focus

Win With Awareness And Focus

By Robert Fish

I’m just beginning to mountain bike race again after recovering from a second neck surgery. Rather than restarting in a class better suited for my racing re-entry point, I have chosen to line up against the top Pro/Elite racers in the region. These dudes are FIT and FAST…. “dialed-in” as we like to say in the mountain bike racing world.

Last week was my third race back in the mix, and historically I’ve done pretty well on race No. 3 coming back from time off. Not this time. I’m starting to race 446px-MTB_downhill_19_Stevage

I was in third place going into the woods on lap one and hung on for about 15 minutes… then I faded fast and lost the front group. I was in the dreaded “no-man’s land” for most of the race. I was out there by myself with no rabbit to chase (I could not see the front group), and the group behind me was out of sight as well. This is where the negative side of the brain really kicked in.

“This hurts way too bad, it’s too hot, they guy leading out is 20 years younger, pull over after this lap and quit!”

Fortunately I didn’t listen.

Lessons For Business

Just like in a mountain bike race, it takes AWARENESS and FOCUS to win in business when you feel like you are in “no-man’s land” and want to quit.

1. Awareness – Separate yourself from your situation and accept the fact that your negative brain has taken over the conversation. Replace the negative soundtrack with a positive one. Remind yourself why you’re racing, why it’s important to finish the project. Think of the lessons you’re learning that will help make you faster in the next race, the next project… or in the next quarter.

2. Focus – Refocus and re-energize by being aware of where you are and giving yourself control to have a good outcome, even if it means making an adjustment to your intended final result. In my race, I changed my focus from leading the race to not letting the group behind me catch me. And with this focus, I was able to raise my heart rate, get the adrenaline flowing again and push down the pain.

2.5. Never Quit – In racing we call quitting a DNF (did not finish). Always finish the race, no matter what. There are more lessons in not quitting than there are in winning. One thing I have learned is that when the race is over, it’s over. No going back. No second chance to change a decision. And the pain is gone in less than 10 seconds. Don’t let your negative brain win, though it’s very convincing. We are hard-wired that way, but a key to success is overcoming it.

In our professional lives, even with the best plans and preparation, things don’t always go the way we plan. Sometimes problems are just speed bumps that slow you down, and sometimes they seem like roadblocks that make you want to quit.

But ultimately it doesn’t matter how large the obstacle is. When things aren’t going as you’d envisioned, tap into your Awareness and Focus, shut down the negative brain, keep going and find a new way to win.

(Image: “MTB downhill 19 Stevage” by Steve Bennett. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons)

6 Questions To Crush The Competition

6 Questions To Crush The Competition

By Robert Fish

In today’s globally connected and competitive business climate, it’s no longer enough to look at strategy on an annual basis. Nowadays, every single month executive teams need to integrate strategy development within the business planning rhythm.

The key to unlocking strategy is answering a powerful question that gets the team thinking in unique ways. But a common “stuck” in strategy development is figuring out the right question to achieve your Breakaway Move to crush your competition. Answers are easy; getting the question right can be harder. Here are 6 questions to ask your team during strategy brainstorming sessions that can unlock hidden value inside your business.

1. Where is the next battle going to be in your business?racing-car-373757_960_720

A good example is Facebook’s massive focus on mobile after they went public. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg’s daily question, “how are we going to leverage mobile,” became his, and his company’s, daily question. Clearly, it’s working.

2. What has been tried before, either by your company or by your competitors, but did not work?
There are so many variables that can make an initiative really stick vs. flat-out fail. Failure does not always mean the idea was not good. For example, it could have been the wrong person leading the charge, market conditions might be different, technology could streamline the process, global platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook could accelerate growth.

3. What two or three existing things in your business, things you are already doing, can you combine?
This is one of my favorites. Take two existing things and create something original. What product and service can you combine and create a unique new product, service or program?

4. When your company wins, what other companies are impacted in a positive way?
Think about what relationships you can create – or what product offerings could you integrate with – to expand your market faster by leveraging other people’s trust relationships? I looked at office space this week to handle our expansion. I could not help but think about all the other things signing a lease would trigger, things like construction, IT, phones, furniture, etc. Building relationships with those companies can result in more referrals to your business.

5. What is fragmented in your market, and how could you coordinate it?
Think about what Uber did for taxi services and what Airbnb did for housing rentals. What is messy, hard to do, clunky, expensive or frustrating in your market, and how could you fix it? What product, service or platform could you create?

6. What can you be the only option for in your space?
Think about what parts of your business operations are hard for someone else to reproduce or copy. For example, there are several business coaches in the Charlotte metro area. But only Insight CXO has a team in place that can help execute the business plan in three areas. The Promise – what makes your firm unique and what is the sales engine to generate revenue? The People – is your team healthy and aligned and do you have systems in place to hire and keep A Players? The Process – do you have core processes documented and measured to make them better, faster and cheaper… with less drama?

Remember that your competition is not asleep behind the wheel, so your team has to be looking through the windshield and down the road as far as possible. Try asking these 6 questions in your next monthly executive planning meeting, and see if you can figure out the strategy – the one that will give your business the boost to crush the competition.

Image: Jingoba / Pixabay

Real Leaders Find A Way

Real Leaders Find A Way

By Robert Fish

Getting Core Values right in a business is the #1 way to build a strong and enduring Culture and is the foundation upon which an enterprise is built. Having a list of cool Core Values on a website – and really integrating them into the daily life of the organization based on intentional actions – are two different things.

EFI, an Insight CXO member with 80+ employees, finally nailed their Core Values and actions plans this week during their Q3 Quarterly Planning Session. We started the process in January, and I thought it would be helpful to share what a process can look like in reality. Month 5 is where this gets powerful.

Month 1 – Learn what a Core Value is and use sticky notes to generate a list of potential values.14485059353_8d009d4eb3_z

Month 2 – Review the list and test it against the following questions.

  • Are the Core Values alive in the company today?
  • Would you fire an offender for repeated violations?
  • Would you take an economic hit to defend them?

Some values are great attributes, but don’t make the Core Values cut.

Month 3 – Finalize the 3-5 final Core Values. We know the right values are identified, but the wording is not perfect.

Month 4 – Get the wording right for the Core Values, and get clarity on the specific behaviors and actions that support or violate each one. Begin thinking about how the values will be integrated into the company.

Month 5 – Roadblock!!! EFI’s planning team was supposed to start implementing the Core Values, but even though the values LOOKED right, they did not FEEL right to the team. The team was concerned the employees would not embrace the values and might even reject them. This is a common FEAR in rolling out Core Values that nobody talks about.

Here’s where EFI knocked it out of the park. Admittedly, the team was a bit discouraged, so they really dug and – with great focus – re-worded the values. They did not change the values, just the labels. Here’s what they came up with:

MAKE A DIFFERENCE – This is their overarching, one-phrase Core Value.

Respect every Individual

Lead with Humility

Focus on the Improvement Process

Assure Quality at the Source

Winning Attitude

To help everyone remember, they turned the first letter of the Core Values into this mnemonic: Real Leaders Find A Way.

Month 6 – Create a list and an action plan to integrate the Core Values into the company with real excitement. I will report back in a follow-up blog post on the cool and innovative ways they implement the Core Values.

EFI’s Core Purpose is To Inspire Through Innovation … I can’t wait to see what they do next!

My “One Word Close” at the end of our Q3 Quarterly meeting was GRATEFUL. I’m grateful to be EFI’s coach and get to witness a team who really cares about their employees and was unwilling to move forward with Core Values that did not 100% meet their standards.

Sometimes as a coach I learn more from my members than they learn from me. And I’m very grateful for that.

Image: Flickr

Stop Gambling On Hiring Decisions

Stop Gambling On Hiring Decisions

By Katie Smoot

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Hiring the right person can seem like one of the most risky things you do. On the most basic level, you’re looking for someone who has the skills for the job, but – especially in a growing company – that person must be motivated, share your Core Values and work well with the other members of your team.

When you hire someone, you’re making a financial, organizational and emotional investment in them and your business. And when you take the risk to invest in a person, you need the best possible likelihood of that investment paying off for your company.

Although building a team of A-players is one of the most important things you do for your business, the typical interview process isn’t the best way to determine whether the person who looks great on paper and shines in a face-to-face will pay off. This is why Behavioral Assessments are an important part of top Talent Management and Organizational Development programs.

Behavioral Assessments allow us to look deeper into what criteria will make a role successful, and which candidates have the highest likelihood of filling that role well. The assessments look at three key areas of a person:

  • their behavior,
  • their motivators and
  • the core skills/competencies they can bring to the job.

Add Power To Your HR Program

Here’s how this can add power to your human resources program. In a typical job interview, you get just one or two hours to get to know someone. By adding Behavioral Assessments, you get an inside view of the whole person. It may also make that 1-2 hour interview even more meaningful, because you can ask questions that will better help determine whether the person is the right fit, particularly whether his or her personality and internal drive is the right fit for the role and your organization.

Behavioral Assessments are also a valuable tool to help current employees thrive in your company. They can help show where a person has opportunity for growth within the position, as well as whether changes can be made to better adapt to their behavioral style and make them better performers.

The information we can gather from Behavioral Assessments can be used in many ways, including increasing personal awareness, determining fit in a role, building development/coaching plans, defining what is needed for a particular role, and identifying the right candidate – someone who will fit the needs of the role and be happy in it over the long term.

Benefits of Behavioral Assessments

Some of the ways Behavioral Assessments can change how you look at hiring and performance planning include:

  • You will be more equipped to make informed decisions that will be best for the company and the candidate.
  • You’ll be able to more easily weed out ineffective candidates.
  • You’ll be better able to find the right person who can hit the road running and be more effective faster.
  • You’ll help your employees understand what is expected of them and enable them to perform at a higher level.
  • You’ll be able to target performance incentives on the things that most motivate individual members of your team.

Behavioral Assessments are an extremely valuable part of your overall Talent Management and Organizational Development strategy. Whether you’re looking at hiring or staff development, consider whether adding Behavioral Assessments might be a Breakaway Move that makes your staff happier, more effective and more valuable to your business.

(Image: Betsy Weber, modified with permission under Creative Commons 4.0)


Katie Smoot joined Insight CXO in 2014 and currently serves as People & Process Consultant, where she guides Insight CXO clients on developing processes and talent to support growth.

Her career in process development began in 2001 when she joined Bank of America, when the bank was introducing the Six Sigma methodology across the organization. This allowed her to be one of the first associates to go through Six Sigma training and become certified as Green Belt and DFSS Black Belt. She also served as a Business Operations Manager for the technology line of business; Senior Vice President in charge of business operations for Global Commercial and Investment banking technology; and lead for one of the bank’s 13 Strategic Risk Initiatives handed down from the Federal Reserve.

Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Communications from Clemson University. She is certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt and Project Manager. In her spare time, she partners with Greater Charlotte SPCA’s dog and cat fostering programs and helps support and build out their administrative routines. She is married and has two children, 11 and 8, who are her passion.