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Effective CEOs

Six Disciplines Of The Most Efficient CEOs

Effective CEOs

Whether you are an entrepreneur running your own company or you were brought in to take a company to the next level, as a CEO, there are many forces at play that try to prevent you from performing at your best. And as a leader and chief executive, if you are not performing at your best, your team and company will suffer the same fate.

As a coach, I get the opportunity to see what is really going on in the minds of entrepreneurs and CEOs. Often times, it looks like a blender running at full speed. There are so many competing ideas, priorities, deadlines, people issues, etc. that want your full attention right now, and without discipline, they could prevent your company from scaling up.

Here are six critical disciplines for becoming the most efficient CEO possible: a breakaway CEO.

1. Accept that conflict is part of the role.

The mental energy CEOs spend working through conflicts can slow down decision making more than anything else. All CEOs have conflict management built into their role, it’s just important to determine what the conflict is about and how much of it is present. Becoming more aware of the different forms of role-related conflict is crucial for CEOs to make the best decision quickly.

For example, there are people-related conflicts, such as an underperforming key manager, resource conflicts or constraints within the company, or time conflicts, like managing the strategic versus the urgent or helping a manager solve a problem versus stepping in yourself. Accept these conflicts as part of your role and leverage them as learning opportunities for you and your team.

2. Differentiate the people and operational sides of the business.

There are two sides of the business that drive growth. One side, the “spirit side,” is related to people. This is company culture, how employees show up mentally every day, and the values and standards that teams live and make decisions by. The opposite, “mechanical side” is more operational. It relates to meeting functionality, agendas, company process and procedures.

Breakaway CEOs focus on always improving both the people and the mechanical side of the business in a balanced way. Being able to step back and ask, “Is this issue really a people-related problem or is it more of a process-related problem?” is a powerful way to make better decisions. Don’t let poor processes and a lack of routine create drama on the people side of your business.

3. Develop your leaders.

As CEO, you have an immense influence on how works get done and by whom. You have the authority to command and direct people and resources in an instant to take advantage of an opportunity or solve a problem. Breakaway CEOs know they must develop leaders before they step into leadership positions and continue their development once in that role.

A lack of true leadership in a company that’s trying to scale up creates a chaotic organization in which culture crumbles and operations slow down due to lack of trust. Though it takes more time and energy in the short term to develop someone into a leader, it pays off in dividends later when you really need it.

4. Put your own mask on first before helping others.

The body and mind are connected, and an unhealthy body leads to an unhealthy mind. I see a strong pattern of CEOs who don’t take care of themselves, and the overall health of their organization suffers as well.

Breakaway CEOs know they have the power to prioritize their agenda and personal well being. This all comes down to discipline. There is nothing worse for a company than a stressed-out CEO with his or her mental blender on full speed.

Even if you feel you can’t step away from the business to work on yourself, know that your team members will support it. They see and feel the benefits themselves.

5. Align your agenda with the company’s priorities.

The No. 1 trap CEOs fall into is becoming the fixer. Fixing problems creates immediate results, but the price is slower team development and ultimately slower company growth.

Breakaway CEOs know their agendas need to closely reflect the company’s short-term and long-term initiatives. Don’t let day-to-day issues creep in excessively to slow down advancement. Your calendar should reflect initiatives that support growth.

6. Understand how your behavior drives the business.

How you do things is equally as important as what you do. Breakaway CEOs know that the key to driving culture, values, trust and influence rests on how they behave on a daily basis.

How are major issues handled? What is the public persona of the CEO? What values and frameworks drive the big decisions?

If you are going to be a CEO, be a breakaway CEO. The result is a company that scales faster while being more fun to run along the way.


Article originally seen on Forbes.com

Forbes Coaches Council

Show Up

Six Ways To Truly Show Up To Your Next Meeting

Show Up

I rediscovered a powerful concept this year that has changed my frame of mind every day. My entrepreneurial journey began in college with my first company, and I became a professional-level athlete later in life. I turned pro as a mountain biker at age 40 and now, at 47, I’m focusing on offroad motorcycle racing, each race lasting a grueling two to three hours long. In my first two seasons of motorcycle racing, I had one win with many second and third place finishes. This year, I’m winning a majority of my races. Same motorcycle, same fitness and same competition. What’s the difference?

Simple but very powerful: I changed my mindset on how I show up. I show up to win. I give myself permission to go for the holeshot off the line. I imagine what I want to feel like during the race — the feeling of flow, efficiency, clarity and speed.

The result? I won my first three races of the season and have won the majority since then. By the end of this year, I will move up to semipro status and will have crushed every goal I had coming into this sport less than three years ago.

The reality is our mindset determines the outcome of just about everything we do in our professional lives as well. We hold ourselves back much more than any external factors ever do. Where I find this concept most useful is in my interactions with people, whether it is a one-on-one meeting or a two-day strategy session with an executive team. I’m intentional about the mindset I have when I show up to any meeting. Here’s how it works.

1. Determine what the objective is for the meeting and what a win would look like for the other person or team. Just plowing through to advance your agenda is not as powerful as helping someone else create a breakthrough on their own.

2. Make sure you show up to the meeting fully present. Try to compartmentalize whatever might be going on with yourself personally or professionally so you can be fully focused on the conversation about to happen. This is a great way to practice emotional intelligence. I call this “showing up clean.”

3. Give yourself permission to ask questions that you don’t already have the answers to. This is very powerful and where many breakthroughs occur. Though it can make you feel vulnerable and unsafe, you’ll learn that some outcomes can be so much greater because you created space for co-creation.

4. Realize how much influence you have in how productive your meetings are by your energy, thoughtful questions and your state of mind when you show up.

5. Be on time. When you are late for a meeting, you are telling the person or team that something else was more important. A pattern of not starting meetings on time erodes trust over time. A pattern of lateness makes it harder for other people to have a great meeting because they start off worrying about being backed up or missing other deadlines.

6. Carry your own bag. What I mean by this is control your own experience. Whether you are running the meeting or not, you have the power to make it a great one. Don’t blame someone else for a bad meeting or expect someone else to carry the meeting. If everyone shows up expecting someone else to make the meeting great, I can promise it will not be.

Be intentional about your mindset and control how you show up to everything you do — how you enter a meeting at work, how you show up for a race or how you walk in the door when you get home. You’ll be surprised by how the wins start to stack up!


Article originally seen on Forbes.com

Forbes Coaches Council

What’s Keeping Your Company from Scaling?

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Is there something going on in your company that is slowing down growth, making it not fun to come into work, or creating tension within your team? In my experience, when things don’t go as planned, what usually happens is everyone starts pointing fingers at other people. When everything feels more difficult than it should be, it’s easy to place the blame on someone else. I have found that in almost every instance, there is a root cause and it’s not your people. It’s your processes. And not just any processes, it’s what I call your Core  Processes.

What really trips up most companies are the big cross-functional processes that are truly core to the business. In order to get certain things done, some projects or tasks require that they are routed through several departments. This is the major source of the repetitive heart burn.

Whenever a process jumps across departments, there is usually a missed hand-off and the gears quickly become out of sync.

The Solution:
Work with your leadership team to create a list of about four to five Core Processes that define the company. These should only include the cross-functional processes.

  • Assign someone to be accountable (preferably a volunteer) for each process. This gives the process a voice and a hand that can be raised during a meeting to address when things that are not working right, or the ability to coordinate a meeting when things need to be streamlined.
  • Define the key metrics for each process. How are they measured? How do we continuously lean them out and improve them? How do we do them better, faster, and cheaper?
  • Pick one process to work on first. Which process will provide the most benefit the fastest? These are big processes, so don’t try to fix an entire process at once. Select a section and start there. You’ll be surprised by how much easier it is to fix the full process by looking at one section at a time. Additionally, by working on one section at a time, you won’t stress out your team.
  • Start documenting, with as much detail as you can reasonably handle. Don’t go overboard, there should be just enough to see the process and speed up training. I like to say a documented process is the foundation for continuous improvement.

As you scale, your processes will break. It’s imperative that you build Core Process work into your quarterly planning cadence. Pick one process per quarter and get to work. This allows you to revisit each Core Process annually before big problems arise. In business, it’s much easier to prevent heartburn than to treat it as there is no pill to take to eliminate the pain.

One of the biggest benefits of process work is that a majority of the people-problems seem to disappear. Bad or dated processes drive people crazy and the good people in your company will leave over time if the processes aren’t corrected.

If your company seems out of sync and tensions are high, go to the root cause and see if your current process, or lack of processes, is causing the problem.

(Image: Ju Zheng Bam / flickr)

Let Routines Set You Free

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Life is crazy and it conspires to make us and our teams as inefficient as possible. Constantly chasing people, chasing information, chasing prospects, etc., gets tiring and old pretty quick.

But that is the whirlwind most companies have created for themselves. Most entrepreneurs hate structure – or at least the feeling of being locked into one. After all, part of the entrepreneurial dream is to have the freedom to do what you want and when you want. But the lack of structured routines is a problem.

Leveraging the proven Scaling Up framework of meeting routines is one of the most effective processes you can implement to stop the constant-chase mode and turn your company into a prediction machine – one that does not chase, but controls.

Routines To Calm the Whirlwind

Establish the following regular meeting schedule and you’ll find yourself back in control.

  • The routine of the Daily Huddle. This is the number one way to synchronize your team every day and get ahead of the things that might otherwise cause problems. No chasing people through the day. You’ll be able to have a quick connection each day without interruptions.
  • The routine of the Weekly Meeting. The primary benefit of this meeting is to leverage collective intelligence to discuss an opportunity, issues that keep coming up in the Daily Huddles, get the Quarterly Plan back on track, work on Winning and BreakAway strategy moves, etc.
  • The routine of the Monthly Meeting. This meeting looks at metrics, KPIs and financial performance and integrates learning into the company. Struggling to find a day and time to teach the team the new CRM system? Need to get everyone up to speed on the new sales and marketing plan? The monthly meeting is the perfect place for this.
  • The routine of the Quarterly Planning Session. Each quarter, review the last quarter, create goals for the next quarter and the Rocks/Priorities/Action Items to get you there. Keep in mind as you do Quarterly Planning that you need to give thought to the Annual Plan and the Winning/BreakAway Moves.
  • The routine of Annual Planning. This should be one to three days, offsite if possible, to re-evaluate the company’s foundational principals and long-term strategy, backing down into a solid one-year plan.

Companies with a serious focus on Scaling Up should create a routine of Strategy Development and Execution meetings. This should be with a small handful of senior leadership and should meet twice a month. Digging deep into strategy gets difficult with four or more people. Having solid strategy ideas going into Quarterly and Annual Planning makes the sessions much more effective. You’ll spend less time brainstorming ideas and place more focus on vetting and prioritizing solid ideas.

Routine will set you free and give you and your team much desired control. Stop chasing!

(Image: PDPics / Pixabay)

Growth-Related Chaos? Take A Step Back

chaos-485493_1280-geralt-960x720Rapid growth is exciting … and chaotic. When your growth strategies start paying off, the processes that worked well when you were smaller can break down as you add clients, revenue and employees to your business. As you get more decision makers, with differing opinions on how to do things, your processes can become so cumbersome that they threaten to slow your business and increase your risk.

This was the situation faced by one of our clients, a global pharmaceutical services company that saw an enviable 880% organic growth rate over the last four years. Its employee headcount and active customer list were growing beyond capacity, and they had a serious case of growing pains. They knew their processes weren’t working anymore, and they asked us to help them retool to both absorb growth and continue doing what produced their steep growth in the first place.

Take a Step Back

Anytime you’re looking for new, better ways of doing things, you must first define how you’re currently operating to figure out what’s really causing your problems. This process of defining your core processes – a group of related activities that transform various inputs into an output that adds value to the customer – is the best way to ensure that the solution you adopt is a Breakaway Move that supports your overall strategy.

To get there, step back and 1) look at processes to see how things are currently done; 2) determine if new systems would improve efficiency; and 3) challenge your processes and see where there might be opportunities to make them leaner.

Here’s what that looked like with the pharmaceutical services company we’re working with.

First, we had to get clear direction on what problems needed to be solved. We had to get the team laser-focused on the outcome and make sure we didn’t try to “boil the ocean”– to try to do more than was realistic or necessary.

Next, we defined the cost of poor quality – the things that could be negatively impacted by not making changes (for example, customer satisfaction, employee effectiveness, compliance).

Then we recorded all of the existing processes. When we began, the team thought they had 10 processes, but once we really dug in and challenged the team and each process, we found there were over 20 different processes in place, with multiple touch points and people involved. We got there by breaking each process down by the following components:

  • Define the process: What 1-2 sentences does the process owner use to describe it?
  • Inputs to the process: What steps, actions, templates or tools are needed for the process to start?
  • Process steps: What is the activity and/or transformation that takes place?
  • Outputs: What is the result of the activity and/or transformation taking place?
  • Controls: What manual or system controls are in place? What’s on your wish list for the future?
  • Risks: What risks are in the existing process?
  • Regulatory requirements: Are there any U.S./international regulatory or compliance requirements that must be considered?

Finally, we took the team through a “wish list” exercise to capture all areas of potential opportunity the client didn’t have capability for, but hoped to see after they made changes.

Potential solutions were weighed against a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that what they chose to adopt (and their priorities for adoption) would provide the biggest payoff in terms of alleviating problems and making processes better, faster and cheaper.

When your processes are causing a lot of business pain, it may seem like a lot of time and trouble to take a step back to define your core processes, but it’s the most effective way to implement processes that are more than a Band-Aid, but fix your problems for the long run.

Image: Geralt / Pixabay

Scale Up Faster With A ‘Play To Win’ Mindset

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One of the most challenging phases for CEOs or executive teams who start a company is to break out of the startup mindset.

In an organization’s early stages, it’s all hands on deck and everyone is a generalist, wearing many hats.

The CEO is involved in every decision and every transaction. The realities of cash constraints, funding payroll, etc. – and the whirlwind of emotions tied to them – are hard-wired into the entrepreneur’s brain.

Then, over time as the company grows, two things happen.

First, the company reaches a ceiling of complexity – things get harder and not easier. Hiring more people feels more like an anchor than a sail.

Second, the startup mindset and the emotional imprints it creates turn the founder(s) into a bottleneck, or the constraining factor to growth.

To grow, the CEO and senior team must become hyper-aware of how their past experiences can be limiters on future plans – and commit to change. Reading Scaling Up by Verne Harnish is one of the best ways to learn how to punch through the ceiling of complexity and continue to grow in a fun, healthy and drama-free way. BUT, the tools don’t work unless the CEO and senior team 100% commit to a Play to Win mindset.

What does Play to Win mean? It means NOT playing not to lose, which is an entrepreneurial trap. It’s why so few companies make it past the $10,000,000 revenue mark. To escape the trap, the next time you are having a growth- or strategy-related discussion, ask yourself and your team: “Based on the plans we are discussing, are we Playing to Win or just playing not to lose?” You’ll be surprised how the conversation – and your plans – can change with that simple question.

5 ways to create a Play to Win mindset

  1. Be very intentional about including your team in strategic-level thinking and problem solving. It’s hard to Play to Win by yourself … you’ll need a team.
  1. Realize that you and your team might not have all the answers. Look outside the organization for help. Hire an expert, coach, consultant, trainer, join a peer group, etc. An expense-centric mindset limits access to information and learning. Most high-growth companies are investing in resources to make big leaps.
  1. Imagine yourself winning. As a professional mountain bike racer, I can’t achieve a podium finish without first believing I can and imagining it happen. I let myself experience the start- and the finish-line sprint. Only then can I plan my Breakaway Moves.
  1. Use the term “Play to Win” with your team. They’ll get it. It’s energizing. Everyone loves to be on a winning team.
  1. Create an enemy. Create a race. Create a finish line. Create competition. High-growth companies create plans to crush their competition. Flat-lined and slow-growth companies stop competing, stop getting upset when someone else wins.

Create a Play to Win mindset for you and your team, and get your company on the podium every time!

 

Image: Skeeze / Pixabay

Find Your Never-Ending Energy Source: Core Purpose

Nothing can grow without energy – not people, not animals, not plants, not businesses. Whether you’re an organism or an organization, if you don’t have enough fuel, your growth will be slow and stunted, your potential unreached.

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If your business is rapidly growing (or looking to do so), you need a powerful and renewable source of fuel to sustain that growth, to maintain the willpower to execute on your strategy, to empower the A-players who have the drive to make a positive difference, not just show up for a paycheck.

The strongest fuel you can find is one you can create on your own – your company’s Core Purpose. I like to say, “It’s where the batteries come from.” It’s the organization’s unique and never-ending energy source, its reason for being. It’s the guiding star that fuels you and enables you to make your Breakaway Move™ to beat the competition.

Costner Law, a Charlotte Business Journal #3 Fast 50 company in Charlotte, NC, is very clear about its Core Purpose: Making real estate transactions easy and simple. This Purpose drives Costner’s strategy, the kind of people they hire, the technology they use, the kind of clients they work with, the way they design their internal processes, and so on. As a result of being clear on their Purpose and doing things right, Costner is on track to becoming the largest real estate law firm in the southeast.

Define Your Purpose

If you don’t have a clearly defined purpose, a good place to start is by watching Simon Sinek’s TED Talk called The Golden Circle. It’s been downloaded more than 22 million times. But be forewarned, discovering your purpose is one of the most challenging strategy developments you will make. Not because it’s so hard, but because it’s so uncomfortable. Figuring out why your company exists becomes emotional and it engages the limbic part of the brain that does not have language. It’s where gut feelings come from. It’s why you might like one car over another, even though the other has clearly better specs. One just feels right to you … you just connect with it.

Ask Five Times

Another method is to start with a simple statement describing what your business does, then ask “why is that important” five times. Ask yourself and your leadership team: “why is that important? – why does that matter? – why is that important? – why does that matter? – why is that important?” This should reveal the organization’s Core Purpose. If you think you have gone too far, just back up one level. You’ll know when you got it right, because you will emotionally connect to it. It will feel right.

Reach for the Stars

Just like a star, Core Purpose is not something you can actually reach but is something that keeps you on the right path and constantly motivated. So, to find your never-ending energy source to sustain your journey, develop and leverage your Core Purpose, and set your course for the stars!

 

Image credit: Jason Boyle / Flickr

Eliminate Waste And Errors With Defined Processes

Does it feel like as you add employees things just get harder and not easier? Is your team spending too much time fixing avoidable problems causing frustration or doing unnecessary and expensive rework impacting the bottom line? In my experience, the No. 1 root cause of errors and rework is lack of defined processes.
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Have you ever played the Telephone Game? One person whispers a phrase into another person’s ear, then it’s passed from person to person. What you will see time and time again is that the phrase is never what the original person said – it’s been interpreted over and over to the point that it’s been misunderstood, and by the end of the line it’s a totally different phrase with a completely different meaning.

That’s what happens when processes aren’t written down. The information is just passed via word of mouth, and invariably the receiver mixes up something. Additional complexity comes in when there are multiple people supporting the particular process and/or there are multiple shifts that are trying to maintain consistency of the process over a 24-hour period.

There is a simple solution to help ensure everyone is on the same page and completing the same tasks to get to the end result.

  1. Find the Why
  2. Write it down
  3. Talk it over
  4. Test it
  5. Maintain it

1. Find the Why: the value proposition

It’s human nature to ask, “what’s in it for me?” Help your team understand what’s in it for them within the process – why are they performing the steps, and why is it so important to be able to repeat and reproduce the steps by person, by role and over a period of time. This could be done by aligning the process back to the company goals, core values or internal/external risks associated with not completing the process consistently. Find what works with your team and define the value proposition.

2. Write it down

There are varying levels of process documentation. This can range from bulleted steps, to process maps, to a detailed workflow that includes standard operating procedures, time value maps or spaghetti maps that show the product movements around the production floor throughout the day. The first step is to pick what works best as a learning/training tool for your team, and just write it down.

3. Talk it over

Work across the team that completes the process to make sure that the steps that you wrote down will accurately describe what really happens. This is where you start to learn where people do things differently and where inconsistency in process can cause errors, rework and employee frustration. Come to a consensus regarding how the process should work, then write it down. Then it’s time to test it.

4. Test it

Have each team member responsible for the process complete the steps, exactly as written by the team, over a period of 1-2 weeks. Debrief on what’s working, what’s not, where there are still gaps and what could be done better to get the best out of the process. As the team agrees on changes, update the process and test out the changes.

5. Maintain it

Once you have a process documented and working as originally designed, ensure you put measures in place to maintain the integrity of the process. These would be considered the quality checks. Along with quality checks, make sure there is a method to train new employees on the process once they come on board.

This simple five-step process will help ensure that your processes are clear, well-understood and easily followed by your team, and should eliminate costly and frustrating errors and wasteful rework.

If you think you may have more people-related issues in your company than you should have, start by cleaning and defining process first. You’ll be amazed at how many “people” issues go away once processes are clear.

Image credit: Geralt / Pixabay
Customer Survey

Is Your Survey Sabotaging the Customer Experience?

Customer Survey

I’ll be the first to champion the merits of a well-honed Voice of the Customer survey and other surveying tools in order to better understand how a company or brand is doing and how it can better improve the overall customer experience. HOWEVER, in the quest to better quantify a company’s performance with its customers via satisfaction surveys, is it possible that we can alienate or even sour the same customers we are desperately trying to win their allegiance?

Baiting the survey? Think about the last time you were surveyed by a company after making a substantial purchase or used their service department with a series of questions asking you to rate your experience and/or satisfaction on a 1-10 scale. Were you told upon the purchase or after having service to expect a survey and to let them know if there was anything that would cause you to give less than a “10” on the survey so they could address it BEFORE you received the survey?

If so, how did it make you feel? Did it make you feel truly valued? Or, did it sour the experience that was actually positive prior to that caveat?

I think that one of the worst industry offenders in this “customer satisfaction” ruse is regrettably the auto industry. I’ve experienced this with several auto makers. It is too bad because I’m a “car guy” and I’ve been fortunate to help a number of clients in the auto industry.

“10” or failure? Before you think this is a forum for me to rant on a particular company (or even industry), let me say that it isn’t. In my opinion, those who are in corporate sales and marketing departments (regardless of the industry) who invented the “anything less than a ‘10’ is a failure” survey and incentive criteria are REALLY missing the mark and are likely being misled by metrics that don’t reflect how customers really feel. Think about that for a moment – anything less than a “10” is a failure?! Wow.

A recent example. To hopefully encourage reflection on how your own surveying (and incentive structures) may be either elevating or souring the customer experience, I’ll illustrate using my own recent experience. A few years ago, I purchased a new vehicle one evening after identifying and test-driving the exact vehicle the day before. I was happy with the salesman, the price I negotiated, and the car. I spent four hours at the car dealership at the end of a long workday to simply finalize the paperwork (due to their short-staffed situation). I was about at the end of my patience and the salesman apologized for flying through some of the car’s new-fangled technology features as it was past closing hours. It was late so I assured the salesman that I’m a half-way intelligent guy and I could figure out whatever we weren’t able to cover in the demonstration.

Before I even had a chance to get in my vehicle the next morning, I received a customer satisfaction survey from the car manufacturer via email. Since I believe in the power of better understanding customers via surveys, I dutifully fill them out. I rated the experience honestly with rather generous scores (a few 8’s, mostly 9’s, and a few 10’s) given the fact that I spent so much time at a dealership when I’ve done the same kind of transactions with other car brands in less than an hour start-to-finish.

Within an hour of completing the online survey, I received a frantic call from the salesman. He was practically in tears as he said he had never received such low scores in his 20 years of selling cars and that his performance incentives were trashed due to my low scores. (Remember, the lowest score I gave was an “8”.) He said that the auto manufacturer penalizes sales and service department members for anything less than a perfect “10” on their surveys. (He failed to clue me into that little detail the night before.) I was aghast. I had no idea that the manufacturer really didn’t want me to give honest feedback. They clearly wanted me to tell them only what THEY wanted to hear.

I felt horrible about hurting this guy’s performance record and even worse, his financial incentives. I even called the General Manager to see if I could somehow help remedy the situation for the salesman. Fortunately, we resolved the situation for the salesman. However, I realized that the automotive brand for which I’d had a long-standing affinity instantly left a NASTY taste in my mouth.

Pause. Think about that for a moment: How many brand-loyal customers are being alienated by well-intentioned but out-of-touch, misaligned surveys and measurement systems?

When a “10” = resentment is brewing. Even though I’ve purchased another new vehicle from this same dealership since then (and I’ve continued to service my car there), I’m wise to their surveying criteria. I dutifully give them “perfect 10’s” after every encounter. Yet, each time I do, I get a bit more cynical about the brand and a dose of resentment builds in spite of my love for pretty much every aspect of their cars and their brand – EXCEPT for their ridiculous customer “satisfaction” surveying (and incentive) system.

Time to look under the hood. When is the last time you took a hard look at your customer satisfaction surveys and sales incentive structures from the CUSTOMER perspective? I encourage you to do so because if you don’t, the data on your monthly “dashboard” may be saying that all systems are working PERFECTLY when in fact, your customers are about to blow a gasket.

Get Creative with a Quarterly Theme

brainstorming-441010_1280One of most misunderstood or left out components of the Gazelles One Page Strategic Plan is the QUARTERLY THEME section.  For larger companies, this is one of the most powerful and transformational techniques that you can leverage for growth.

Here’s the deal and reality.  You and your Senior team just had a quarterly retreat (you do have quarterly planning right?) and everyone is pumped up, aligned and ready for battle.  Then somehow, the core messages from the retreat fail to resonate with the rest of the staff.  They did not have a full day to discuss, debate and agree on what matters most.  And in less than a third of the way through the quarter, all of the momentum from the retreat is lost and it’s back to the old habits again.

The power of the Quarterly Theme is it connects the retreat to the rest of the company for the entire quarter. And the Theme is usually created in a way that is fun and keeps the #1 Thing from the retreat top of mind for everyone.  These Themes can be posted anywhere and there is almost never any issue with prospects or clients walking through and seeing the progress.  In my experience, talking about a Theme with an on-site prospect is a deal closer.  It changes the conversation from ‘what’ we do to ‘how’ we do it and run the business.  Trust and confidence is accelerated and so is the sale!

Involve employees to help with the creative aspect of the Theme and let them help decide what the reward is if they hit their goals.  They will ‘own it’ this way and won’t have to be sold on it.

The idea for the Quarterly Theme can come from several sources. My favorite Theme generation method is to connect the #1 Thing the company has to do in a quarter to win the race.  Just think about the power of having 100% of your staff thinking every day of the quarter on the #1 thing for the business!

Warning…Themes by design usually come last on the agenda in a retreat and are often left out due to lack of time or energy to complete.  Creating a Theme should be a high priority in the retreat Objectives and agree in advance what is going to happen if getting a Theme done is in jeopardy.


Here are five easy steps to create winning Quarterly Themes:

  1. Focus on the #1 Thing for the quarter or the top one or two Rocks (Priorities) for the Theme topic.
  2. Based on the above, determine what the measure of success is going to be.
  3. Allow the team to brainstorm and create a fun and engaging Theme including design.
  4. Create a reward to achieving the goal… does not have to be monetary.  The best usually do not.
  5. Discuss how the Theme will be communicated throughout the company and rolled out.