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Grenade

The Power of Core Values & the Impact of a Hand Grenade

Grenade

My boss welcomed me into her office & shut the door. I had no idea that meeting was about to deliver the impact of a hand grenade.

“Welcome to OUR company. We’re glad you’re here,” she greeted me.

She quickly moved to a topic sacred to her & to the company: Core Values.

She smiled but took on a serious tone. She said, “We stand for 3 things: 1) Do the Right Thing, 2) Teamwork & Trust, 3) Have a Passion for Winning – in that order.”

It wasn’t marketing gibberish. These were expected & rewarded behaviors here. She continued, “My job is to make sure the CEO knows who Gary Frey is. Your job, once you’ve built your team, is to make sure I know who your stars are. Hire your replacement & never be afraid to hire people smarter than yourself.”

Servant Leadership: She didn’t just talk about it. She LIVED it. She led by example.

Her peers & the CEO recognized her for it. She had the most coveted object in our company tucked away on her shelf: a Waterford crystal hand grenade. She never mentioned it. She didn’t have to. It was legendary. A precious few were given by the CEO to associates who had “jumped on the grenade” on behalf of our associates & customers.

She remains the best boss I’ve had. My takeaway: Know your core, lead by example, & when necessary, “jump on the grenade.”

(NOTE: This post launched on LinkedIn on 1/15/2018 to honor my former boss and our former CEO who set the tone as well as gave the coveted “Crystal Hand Grenade” award. By 2/14/2018 it had been viewed by 7.9 million people. Amazing.)
Changed Life

A vulnerable conversation from 1995 that surprisingly went viral in 2017…

Changed Life

“What do you do for a living?” I was asked by another soccer dad on the sideline. I wanted to lie. I was unemployed in a new city & embarrassed.

Six months after moving across the country, my job vaporized. A few months later with no income, I was living on fumes with two little boys & my wife depending on me.

I felt like a loser. As I watched my 4 yr-old play “swarmball” with his little teammates, I wondered how I would provide for my young family. Honestly answering the soccer dad’s question was almost too much. I paused.

“I’m unemployed.” I ashamedly replied. (Lying would have only made me feel worse.)

“What’s your background?” he asked. “I’ve turned around & run advertising agencies.” I responded.

“Send me your resume. We just reengineered the marketing department for a large bank. They’re looking for someone like you.” he said.

At one of my lowest moments in my life, a complete stranger’s question had the potential to dramatically change a desperate situation. Had I given into the pride that was tempting me to lie, I would have missed it.

Within a few weeks, I had a job offer with a raise & a signing bonus. Crazy.

20+ years later, that soccer dad & I are still friends. I thank God for the kindness of a stranger & for the unexpected blessing of swallowing my pride.

(NOTE: This post launched on LinkedIn on 11/20/2017. By 12/31/2017 it had been viewed by 8.28 million people. Amazing.)
Winning Team

Build a Winning Leadership Team

One of the most important things an Entrepreneur or CEO can do is build a strong leadership team.  Even in solo sports, such as professional mountain biking or golf, there are people who help with strategy, skill development, strength training, and the list goes on. No top athlete, Entrepreneur, or CEO can reach peak performance without a winning team.

Winning Team

5 Steps to Develop Your Team

Whether you are putting together your first leadership team or pushing an existing one to a higher level of performance, there are five aspects to get right. If you are going to have a team, ensure it is the BEST team possible.

  1. Decide how many will be on the team. Five plus or minus two is the magic number. Drop below, and you lose the benefit of collective intelligence. Go above, and you lose the ability to ask the really hard questions and really dive deep into strategy.
  2. Commit to a Team #1 mindset. This is hyper-critical for peak company performance. Team #1 means that, for whomever is on the team, the health and well being of the leadership team takes priority over the divisions or teams that the members support. Said another way, Team #1 must be committed to the Full Company Objectives and not just the objectives for their divisions.
  3. Create a Team #1 playbook. Hopefully your company has Core Values and a Core Purpose in place to drive healthy growth. Team #1 needs its own set of rules, agreements, and aspirational values to guide them through People, Strategy, and Execution discussions. Team #1 is still accountable for the full company Core Values, but to hit peak performance or reach a higher level, aspiration to achieve more is required.
  4. Behave your way to Trust. This starts with the CEO. The company leader must be vulnerable, admit to mistakes, and share fears so others can see vulnerability in action. Once the team learns to be vulnerable as well, their guards will come down and real work can get done. This accelerates the team’s ability to separate themselves from what is good for them personally versus what is best for the team and the company. A good rule of thumb is ensuring one quarter to one half of meeting agenda is committed to building team health.
  5. Set the cadence. Establish an annual calendar of Team #1 meetings. These are usually separate from Annual and Quarterly Planning sessions. Annual and Quarterly sessions are focused on Strategy and Execution while Team #1 meetings are focused on organizational health and full company alignment.

You have heard it before and you’ll hear it again. The best players don’t win, it’s the best team that wins. Leverage the power of the Team #1 concept and Crush the Competition!

Create Your Epic Win

What is your crystal clear vision of the future? What are you and your team building toward? What is your Epic Win™? Get this one question right, and you will have created a source of clarity and purpose for your business. As a huge bonus, Strategy becomes easier as you’ll have a mechanism to help determine growth ideas that you should and should not incorporate.

Epic Win

I have found that in business we really only have control over two things. The Epic Win description, which defines where we are going, and the next 90 days, which is the action plan to move in the direction of the Epic Win. Everything in between is really just a highly educated guess. When running a company from this perspective, getting everyone on the same page with a shared vision becomes critically important. Here are the steps to take to craft a powerful Epic Win.

Shaping Your Epic Win™

To begin the process of creating your Epic Win, start with easy snapshots of your ideal vision of what your company will look like moving forward. The ultimate goal is to create a short phrase that you and your team are emotionally connected with.

Step 1 – Select your time horizon. Anywhere between a 10 and 30-year time frame works. The most meaningful, and hardest to do, is the 10-year mark.

Step 2 – Let’s assume you selected to define your Epic Win at the 10-year mark. How much revenue will your company have? What geographic area will you cover? What kind of markets will you be in? Make sure what you select is bigger than something you can reverse-engineer into immediately. Your team needs to believe it is possible, but should not be able to figure out exactly how they would get there. It needs to be an Epic Win… not just a win.

Step 3 – Make a list of the things that your company is ‘best in the world at doing.’ What are the Core Competencies that have gotten you to where you are today? What separates you from the pack?

Step 4 – Create a list of what your company is the most passionate about. What is your Core Purpose? What is your company’s reason for being? What is your value to the world?

Step 5 – Develop a list of the things that drive your economic engine. How do you make money?

Step 6 – Take your time horizon from Step One, your company snapshot from Step Two, and combine it with the language you created during Steps Three through Five. You’ll typically see a pattern of key words that emerge in Steps Three through Five that your team gets excited about. You can really sense it.

Step 7 – Make sure your Epic Win is measurable. You have to know when you achieve it and you have to know how you’ll keep score along the way. This score is an excellent annual KPI/Metric to track the success of the business.

Epic Win™ Examples:

  • Starbucks – To be the number one global brand.
  • Insight CXO – Increase the value of 1,000 companies by 3X or more.
  • Big Sky Associates – Deliver 5 Billion in value to clients by 2025.
  • Training Concepts – Create 100,000 positive impacts on students.
  • EFI – Be the #1 brand in decorative glass and architectural interiors by 2035.

 

Start energizing your team by developing an Epic Win story that everyone can get behind. This process can take anywhere from one hour to six months. You’ll know when you get it right based on the energy you get back from the team.

 

(Image: Trey Mortensen / flickr)

Your Team Craves Accountability

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Accountability is a very interesting topic. When engaged by the CEO, one of the top wish list items for the company to accomplish is the issue of No Accountability. My response to this is, “I bet within one week, your team will be asking for Accountability and they will resort to their own measures.” I usually get a funny look as the CEO nods yes, but in reality they are saying inside their heads: “That is impossible”… “Not my team.” Why is there this disconnect regarding Accountability between the CEO and the rest of the company?

When launching a new client, one of the first things we do is what we call ‘Innerviews.’ We Innerview select employees from the senior team, key players in the company, and anyone in particular that the CEO would like included. These Innerviews allow for the company to be seen through the employees’ lens. We are not simply interviewing the employee, but rather engaging with them on a peer-to-peer level and asking a few simple, yet powerful, questions. These Innerview questions include:

  1. Why did you start working here? Why are you still here?
  2. What frustrates you the most? Drives you crazy? Repetitive things?
  3. How would you rate teamwork from 1 (bad) to 10 (awesome)?
  4. How would you rate the morale/spirit of the company 1 to 10?
  5. How would you rate communication from 1 to 10?
  6. How would you rate leadership from 1 to 10? This is really a self-rating.

NOTE: Whatever the rating is above, I always ask what it would take to get it closer to a 10. This is where the REAL content I’m looking for comes from. Rather than complaining about teamwork, what would actually improve it?

The BIG Innerview questions are:

  1. If you were CEO for 90 days, what three things would you do?
  2. What are the ‘undiscussables?’ What is below the waterline that everyone knows about, but is not safe to talk about?

Notice the one question I did not ask is about Accountability. Accountability is the ‘red thread’ that links everything together during the Innerview. What tends to frustrate team members the most is the lack of Accountability and follow through by other team members. They can’t do their job right because other people are not doing their job right or following through on commitments. Basically, your employees are as frustrated as you are.

How can the issue of Accountability be resolved? You can start by including your team during your strategic and execution planning. Let them help finalize company goals and priorities vs just assigning them out. Let them work through the steps and tasks to make them happen. Let them decide who is accountable for each step. Give your team a chance to volunteer to own the company Race Plan by determining goals, priorities, and tasks… They will.

(Image: Unsplash / Pixabay)

Owning Errors Makes You Faster

A lot of things can happen in a two-hour mountain bike race. Sometimes it feels like the competition AND the trail are both conspiring against you to keep you off the front. These are the days when you don’t get the result you want, you were not there to help a teammate pull through a tough section, or possibly you disappointed a sponsor.

It’s so easy to blame someone else for your own non-performance. “The person next to me slipped a pedal at the start and hit me.” “I was cut off going into the woods.” “My water bottle was not where it was supposed to be.” And the list goes on…

This happens in business, too, of course. And the REAL problem with this thinking is that nothing is learned when you blame others for your own poor result. This fundamental truth needs to be firmly integrated into everyday life of the business. It’s OK to mess up a call, make an accounting error once in a while. It’s not OK not to own it.

Creating an atmosphere in our business that is focused on learning, really out-learning the competition, is a BreakAway Move – a strategy that enables you to separate from the competition.

How to out-learn the competition

Here are some ways to create more learning opportunities in your business:

  1. Make an award out of it. Give out an award weekly to the person who make the biggest mistake and learned from it. Make sure to share that learning with the full team so they can avoid the same mistake.
  1. Make sure the leadership sets the example of how to acknowledge a mistake and what they learned. Employees need to feel safe in sharing information.
  1. Create an environment where one can share a mistake without being publicly reprimanded.
  1. Practice on yourself! Are you quick to blame others first?
  1. Become hyper-aware of people who have a pattern of blaming others for things not working right. Offer to help them discover the root cause and create a solution.

There is a saying in the mountain bike racing world and other competitive sports as well. You learn more in races where you lose vs. the races where you win. Over time, the racer who learns the most begins to win the most consistently.

(Image: Grace / Flickr)

Stop Reviewing Your Employees

employees-936804_1280Performance reviews suck for so many reasons. Entrepreneurs avoid them, because there are way too many other things to do. Managers rarely do them right, and if they do, they don’t prepare properly. Employees hate them because they usually are tied to negative things and money. They usually happen only once a year … if they happen.

Yet, if performed correctly, they are one of the most powerful things a company can do. I speak from experience, having won “Best Places to Work” awards more than 20 times at companies I have founded or coached.

What you need to do instead of a review:

Rather than a typical review, what’s really needed is a formal Alignment Meeting. The overarching purpose is for the manager and employee to walk away with complete clarity and actions that drive the job role: the accountabilities, the goal numbers, etc. Reviewing all the company’s Core Values is a powerful method to make sure the employee is doing the work the right way from a behavioral perspective. For example, do you have a sales superstar who drives your customer service team to tears? This is a great way to address the issue in a collaborative and non-threatening way.

Also missing from most reviews is spending some time discussing the Core Processes and Activities that drive the job function – the ones that have the most impact. Ask what is the most important thing to do and is it on the calendar weekly as a priority item? What processes support the core activities? And what things create busyness but do not really drive results? Simple process with powerful outcomes.

Here are 8 tips to pull off a powerful Alignment Meeting:

  1. Be prepared. Treat this as the number one thing you’ll do as a manager. This is your A-Race. Set an example of preparedness. This is how your employees will do their Alignment Meetings with their employees down the line.
  1. Create a great experience with your employee. This is not a beat-down session. It’s about getting alignment around what is important and agreement on what can be worked on in the next 90 days.
  1. Use the word Together. Work on action plans Together. You’ll be surprised at how many times you’ll walk away from leading an Alignment Meeting with stuff to work on and improve on as well.
  1. Create a safe environment for candor. Not making this a review tied to money is the trick to this.
  1. Tell them why this is important. I’ll say something like, “I care about you and your health and happiness, I care about our relationship and our willingness to work Together, and I care about doing the right things to move our company forward. This conversation is about these three things.”
  1. Pick 2-3 things to work on each 90 days. Look for themes or “red threads” throughout the conversation. Don’t nitpick each line item. Ask what can we work on that would drive the most improvement … create the biggest impact?
  1. Be vulnerable as the manager. This will help you get to the real issues your employee is dealing with at work. You can’t help fix what you don’t know about. Put your ego aside.
  1. Have fun! You both should walk out totally energized! Don’t be surprised if you get an unexpected hug, handshake or even some happy tears.

Never do another review. Stop, please!!! Instead, start Alignment Meetings now!

(Image: Marlon Malabanan / Flickr)

The Most Powerful Word: TOGETHER

“The Best Team Wins.” It’s a common mantra everyone believes — for good reasons. Whether in business or in sports, the organization with the best team, and not necessarily the best players, wins the most.4431896656_56d2908af7_z

But in business today, what does TEAM really mean? In our roles, how do we really work together? Side by side, virtually, not at all? The answer is … the traditional definition of team and how we work may not be what you think.

In “Managers Can Motivate Employees with One Word,” an article published by the Harvard Business Review, author Heidi Grant Halvorson explored the concepts of teams in the workplace. It’s really the FEELING of working together that has been shown to predict motivation — and the highly coveted employee engagement that brings high performance and results.

Research by Priyanka Carr and Greg Walton of Stanford University has proven that when people FEEL LIKE they are working together on a task, (even when in fact they may not be) they worked 48% longer, solved more problems correctly, and had better recall for what they had seen. They also had more energy after the task. … More fuel left over for other things.

Together It Is

Simply saying the word “TOGETHER” could be the new most powerful word a company leader or team leader can say to create a high-performance work environment. More than team, this one powerful word instantly reminds employees that they are connected, not alone and disconnected.

I’ve put this concept into action. As a coach, I have changed my vocabulary on this. I used to say, “Team, let’s work on the annual goals.” Now I say, “Let’s work on creating our annual goals TOGETHER.”

How can you use this powerful social cue to the brain? Take a moment and envision when and where you can integrate this into your daily habits.

(Image: YassIn Hasan / Flickr)

Win With Awareness And Focus

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

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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)

Real Leaders Find A Way

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