Home » Strategy

Category: Strategy

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.)
Alignment

Make This Quarter Count. Align.

Alignment

Is everyone aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the company forward?* Do they even know what it is?

If not, consider these 3 questions:

1) Have you and your management team identified & prioritized the three most important “rocks” or priorities that must be accomplished in this quarter to hit your one-year goal?

2) How have you communicated these priorities & gained buy-in/ownership throughout your organization?

3) Have you set a “theme” for this quarter’s #1 priority & set up a “scoreboard” to make the metrics top-of-mind & increase engagement?

Insight CXO helps coachable CEOs inspire leadership, accelerate growth, & crush the competition. We bring clarity and alignment to people, strategy, execution & cash flow in measurable sprints across the organization – from the management team on down. Our goal is to help you double your business (or more) in 3-5 years.

*Verne Harnish created the “Rockefeller Habits” based on the leadership and management principles used by John D. Rockefeller. #2 of 10 Rockefeller Habits: “Everyone is aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the company forward.”
Outward Focus

Mind Whiplash for Overcoming Stage Fright: Focus Outward vs. Inward

Outward Focus

A comment card from many years before was tormenting me again… “Gary is better 1-on-1 than in speaking in front of a crowd.” My take: “He sucks at public speaking.”

As I was preparing to serve as the emcee at another 2-1/2 day retreat with hundreds of notable business owners & their spouses, I was being haunted by stinging (& true) words from my past.

I felt like Moses must have felt when he was asked by God to go back to Egypt & deliver a speech to Pharaoh. Moses replied, “Oh, my Lord,…I am slow of speech & tongue.”

As I poured out my fears in prayer the night before our retreat, it hit me: “A servant isn’t to be concerned about how he is PERCEIVED. A servant is to focus on SERVING — not on how people are perceiving him.”

Mind whiplash: Focus outward, not inward.

At the retreat, I fought hard to focus on SERVING our guests in my emcee duties rather than how they were perceiving me. When I would see someone in the audience tune me out, I forced the thought, “Serve them!” Not, “How am I doing?”

Amazingly, as I shifted from how I was BEING PERCEIVED to focus on how I was SERVING, I started having a blast.

Those pesky post-event comment cards? Many commented on how welcome I made them feel & how natural I was in speaking before an audience.

If they only knew…

Insight CXO helps bring clarity and alignment to people, strategy, execution & cash flow in measurable sprints across the organization — from the management team on down. We’re here to serve.

Triumphs

Three MindShifts for Turning Setbacks into Triumphs…

Triumphs

Setbacks. I don’t know any goal-oriented person that loves them. They delay us. They frustrate us. They can derail us. Or, they could become an opportunity to shift into something far better than we could have imagined.

I used to love the challenge of running marathons. I trained for years in high school and college as a sprinter in swimming so the challenge of endurance racing on land was something completely new and exhilarating to me. Plus, running gave me the chance to get outside and see more than lane lines, walls, and lap clocks.

One day, after getting only a couple of miles into a long training run, I developed an iliotibial band (IT band) issue that made it impossible to run beyond a mile without debilitating pain in my knee. I tried everything I could to keep pursuing my passion for marathons but it quickly became apparent that my body just wasn’t going to cooperate any further – at least without some much-needed healing and a course correction.

1.  When a setback comes and muscling through the pain doesn’t work, it’s time for a change.

My wife could sense my growing frustration and ensuing crabby disposition so she encouraged me to join her for a spinning class at the Y one Saturday morning. In my arrogance, I thought sitting on a stationary bike in a room full of women was well beneath me. But, since I couldn’t run, I acquiesced. Boy, was I an idiot. That spinning class kicked my butt. (The instructor was aptly nicknamed, “The Machine.”) After 45 minutes, I was humbled. In the middle of an embarrassingly sizeable pool of sweat covering the floor, my legs that were used to hours of pounding the pavement felt like Jell-O. These women led by “The Machine” schooled me. However, I had NO knee pain! I had to go back for more. A new challenge captured my imagination.

2. Humbly embracing wise outside counsel might set you free.

Little did I know that heeding my wife’s suggestion would become the springboard to my next fitness passion – cycling and ultimately, triathlons. Had I not listened to a trusted coach (my wife) who could objectively suggest new options that I had missed (or ones I was simply too proud to consider), I could have settled for likely path of lethargy, greater frustration, pity, greater injury, etc. Instead, she popped me out of my mind-rut and launched me into a new season of fitness goals, challenges, friendships, and really rewarding experiences.

3. Lessons learned from one setback can help you conquer the next one. (And yes, as long as you are alive, there will be more.)

The lessons I learned from my “coach-for-life’s” loving course correction has helped me weather far more challenging and consequential business challenges that eventually came my way in my business career. When I have had my dreams or goals repeated sidelined by my own mistakes, the actions of others, or the simple misfortunes of life, I’ve had to aggressively seek new potential opportunities beyond the setback. Having outside trusted counsel has certainly helped propel me into new possibilities I simply wouldn’t have considered on my own.

What setbacks are you currently facing in your personal life or business? How have you been able to lead your teams beyond disappointing performance and spring into something that has been surprisingly positive? How is your business coach helping your team unlock new possibilities that could be even more rewarding than your previous direction?

What’s Keeping Your Company from Scaling?

3657801283_d407c24a60_z

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)

Learn to Win by Racing

RobertDirtBikeRace1

The Grand Canyon looks very different in person than it does on a map. Like the Grand

Canyon, there are some things that just have to be experienced firsthand vs reading a report or a survey to really accelerate learning. This year I started riding dirt bikes, and with my pro mountain biking background, I got hooked instantly. As soon as I found my ‘flow’ on the trails I wanted to start racing. But unlike mountain bike racing, there are many questions and much more complexity in the type of dirt bike racing that I wanted to do in the GNCC (Grand National Cross Country), Enduro, and Hare Scramble categories. These are 1.5 to 3 hour races in the woods. Not a big deal right? But how do you prepare for a race when you can’t pre-ride the course to really know what to expect in a very dangerous sport? Rather than train for months, I did the unthinkable and entered my first race last week after only having about 15 hours of ride time under my belt. Long story short, it was a great decision and a HUGE confidence booster.

I set some rules for myself before starting:

  1. Don’t get in over my head during the ride and sustain an injury
  2. Have fun
  3. Finish
  4. Get faster each lap (negative splits)
  5. Focus on form, not on speed
  6. It’s okay if the outcome of my first race is deciding that I don’t like dirt bike racing

In your business, what are some of the growth strategies that you are considering?

  • How can you accelerate learning to vet or test ideas?
  • What boundaries or rules can you artificially create for safety?
  • What planning cadence do you have in place for real time feedback?
  • What would a ‘win’ look like?

Back to the racing – I placed 5th, had negative splits, and my last lap time put me in the top three in my category. Nice! But what I learned was that my weak point was descending down steep hills and shifting gears while standing up. There is no way I could have predicted this as my top two things to focus on during my training rides. Looking at the topography map and the race start, I thought hill climbing was the focus. I had to experience the race firsthand in order to improve in the next one. The overall outcome was Read more

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)

The Power of Setbacks

16107849659_b4ecd144c6_z

At 40 years old, I was in the best shape of my life. I had just turned Pro as a mountain bike racer and I had a clear vision of racing Pro Nationals and lining up next to the Stars and Stripes jersey. On May of that year my vision, my Epic Win, was crushed when I hit an oak tree leading out a race and fractured 4 vertebrae in my low back. What happened next forever changed not only how I race, but also how I coach and run hyper-growth businesses.

I lost months during the recovery process and knew my strength and fitness would take a long time to rebuild. I could no longer win a race being the strongest racer. I had to use strategy to win. I had to find a way to leverage my setback in a way that would help all my future races. I had to Think to Win.

If you are running a company, you have competition. There are winners and losers every day. In our efforts to win, there is a seemingly endless flow of issues, setbacks, and constraints (and oak trees!) that are conspiring against us.

As leaders who want to win, what can we do?

  1. Create a culture and process where issues and setbacks are constantly brought to the surface without personal retribution. Make it safe to share a problem. Create a weekly agenda item inside an existing meeting to uncover these.
  2. Use a process to learn from the issues. Problems can be gifts if your team learns from them and can prevent them in the future or solve them faster next time.
  3. Ask these questions:
    • What was our original intention, or original plan?
    • What things really worked?
    • What things did not work?
    • Knowing what we know now, what would we do differently?
    • What are the lessons learned?
    • What step by step process could we create to eliminate or minimize this in the future?

Get into the habit of solving problems and getting your team into solution-mode by creating processes to make the business stronger.

In my oak tree example, my lesson learned was that sitting down during a race to conserve energy in a technical section of the track is a bad idea. My corrective action was to stand more during training and to make it a habit. In using strategy to win vs brute force, I learned how to slow down races by getting into the woods first and controlling the pace. I practiced my starts and tuned my training in order to win the sprints leading into the single track trail in the woods.

Don’t get frustrated with setbacks. Learn from them and create a culture within your teams to get stronger faster.

(Image: Phil Beckman / flickr)

Your Team Craves Accountability

splash-863458_1280

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)