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Communication

Improve Efficiency & Effectiveness? Start by Asking These 5 Questions.

Communication

Communication. Is it just me or is it really lacking in the workplace?

The #1 challenge when two or more people are working together is communication (anyone married?)*

So how can we make it less frustrating and more effective?

The key is an effective communication rhythm.

How is yours?

Give yourself a gold star for each of the following meetings that you and your team are consistently implementing:

A) Daily?

B) Weekly?

C) Monthly?

D) Quarterly?

E) Annual?

If you didn’t get a 5-Star meeting rhythm rating, don’t give up. There’s still time to dramatically improve your meeting rhythm, drive greater organizational communication, alignment, and effectiveness. When executed properly, you’ll save you and your team precious time and unnecessary frustration.

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.

*Scaling Up. Verne Harnish created the “Rockefeller Habits” based on the leadership and management principles used by John D. Rockefeller. #3 of 10 Rockefeller Habits: “Communication rhythm is established and information moves through the organization accurately and quickly.”
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.

Lightbulb

Address These 4 Questions & Unlock Greater Opportunities for Growth…

Lightbulb

Besides success, what did Hugh McColl & Sam Walton have in common? They walked among their troops. They personally sought frontline input.

Management ALWAYS sets the tone.

In every successful company in which I worked or advised, C-Suite members routinely walked among the frontline & sought their insights.

They didn’t outsource it to HR or Marketing. They weren’t isolated in their ivory tower.

If you are serious about scaling up, deepening employee & customer loyalty, gaining more freedom, & having more fun along the way, here are 4 questions to address from the 5th Rockefeller Habit*:

1) Are ALL of your executives (& middle managers) having a Start/Stop/Keep conversation with at least one employee weekly?

2) Are the insights from employee conversations shared at your weekly executive team meeting?

3) Is employee input about obstacles & opportunities being collected weekly?

4) Do you have a mid-management team responsible for the process of closing the loop on all obstacles & opportunities?

If you are actively addressing these, congrats! If not, we’re here to help.

*Verne Harnish created the “Rockefeller Habits” based on the leadership and management principles used by John D. Rockefeller.
Executive Health

Four Questions to Evaluate the Health & Alignment of Your Executive Team*…

Executive Health

Looking for ways to help realize your company’s growth goals? Here are four questions to evaluate the health and alignment of your executive team:

1) Do your executive team members understand each other’s differences, priorities, & styles?

2) Does your executive team meet frequently (weekly is preferred) for strategic thinking?

3) Does your executive team participate in ongoing executive education (monthly is recommended)?

4) Is your executive team able to engage in constructive debates and are all members comfortable in participating?

If you are looking for outside help in strengthening & aligning your company’s executive team, we’d love to help.

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

*Verne Harnish created the “Rockefeller Habits” based on the leadership and management principles used by John D. Rockefeller. #1 of 10 Rockefeller Habits: “The executive team is healthy and aligned.”
Soccer Team

3 Powerful Business Lessons from a Colombian Superstar Turned Coach…

Soccer Team

To everyone else, Hugo Galeano (#4) was a Colombian soccer superstar. To my son and our family, he was a defining and positive influence who exemplifies the lasting impact a great coach can make. Hugo’s actions gave me three timeless lessons that I’ve tried to embody when I am coaching other CEOs and their teams.

In Colombia, Hugo was a superstar athlete and national hero. He had it all – skill, speed, money, fame. He eventually left Columbia after the 1998 World Cup – years after the tragic 1994 World Cup in which one of his teammates was murdered for an own goal. When we met him in 2001, he was living in Charlotte far from the notoriety he enjoyed in Colombia. He was still playing soccer at the USL level with the Charlotte Eagles but he was also coaching a group of 12 year-old boys. One of those boys was my son.

1. A great coach isn’t focused on himself – he’s focused on the team he’s coaching.

Hugo was a Colombian hero and his native language wasn’t English. In spite of his fame and difficulties with English, he clearly communicated to all (kids, parents, and other teams) through his HUMILITY and ACTIONS that this gig wasn’t about him. It was about the kids – individually and collectively as a team.

2.  A great coach sees the potential in others and helps THEM see, believe, and achieve it.

At first glance, many of the kids assigned to his team weren’t the top athletes in the league. My son was a goalie initially largely because he could wear cool gear and not have to run as much as the others. In one of the early games, he was scored on unmercifully. Yet, Hugo saw potential. He helped my son see the potential he had within himself. Under Hugo’s mentoring, I saw my son develop a passion and belief that he could become a great goalie. He blossomed into an intensely focused, accomplished athlete who excelled as a goalie throughout high school and college. He is now an active CrossFitter. Hugo was the coach whose wisdom, humility, and encouragement unlocked my son’s potential and positively impacted him, his team, and our entire family by his example.

3. A great coach facilitates daily discipline and short-term milestones to realize the team’s ultimate goal.

Hugo tapped into the individual and collective goals and dreams of the kids. With those goals and dreams set as the destination, he encouraged THEM to find the drive from within to adhere to the daily discipline of the fundamentals so that when it came time to meet their competition, they were ready. They set long-term goals, worked on short-term tasks, and worked together as a championship team because of it.

Does your team have alignment in your long-term goals? How well are they working together on the short-term priorities necessary to reach your long-term goals?

Eliminate The Fear Of Focus

Businesses have natural growth curves just like people or animals or plants: When they’re new, growth is exponential, but within a short time it slows.2902351751_c30aacdaf8_o

Most small to medium-size companies start with very healthy growth. Systems and processes go on the back burner as the drive for new customers and new revenue streams heats up … but then revenue plateaus, seemingly for no reason.

There is usually an inflection point where the growth stops and complexity begins. It’s the nature of how companies start and grow, and it’s not a reflection on the founders or management. But it’s a major reason why there are so few U.S. companies that exceed $10 million in revenue.

The most common root cause for this plateau is that the company is trying to do to many things well, and operationally it’s spread so thin that mistakes happen, re-work is abundant and the once-common referrals stop coming in.

How To Break The Plateau

The answer to this problem is Market Focus. The management team must Crush the Fear of Focus with a Breakaway Move to return to Gazelle-like growth … 15% per year or more.

A Breakaway Move has 4 major components:

  1. Extreme Focus on the Core Customer’s persona.
  2. Extreme Focus on the market segment you want to own – a segment that you’ll be aggressive with a “play to win” (vs. a “plan not to lose”) mindset.
  3. Extreme Focus on solving your Core Customer’s NEEDS – not WANTS – within the market segment.
  4. Extreme Focus on operationally tuning the organization to deliver like crazy for this specific customer group.

Don’t stop doing all the work you are doing for existing clients and risk cash-flow problems. Instead, intentionally focus all of your sales and operational focus on a Breakaway Move that will result in more revenue, higher profit margins, more referrals and (best of all) happier employees.

Work with your team to discuss these 4 steps; you’ll begin to overcome the Fear of Focus once a real plan is in place. You’ll naturally start saying “no” to more things and “yes” to the opportunities that drive your economic engine.

(Image: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos / 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

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)
Sink or Swim

A Careful Look at Your Company’s Values: Swimming or Flailing?

Sink or Swim

I’m assuming that your company, like many other companies, has gone through the exercise of defining at least one or all of these five buoys for your company’s brand – Mission, Core Values, Brand Personality, Desired Customer Experience, and Brand Position. (If you haven’t gone through that exercise yet, I encourage you to enlist an experienced facilitator to help you do so.)

In this article, I want to simply encourage you to take a panoramic view of your own company’s Core Values from your employee’s perch. Why? Because I’ve seen two specific scenarios at play across a myriad of companies that can have either invigorating or dangerous results:

  1. Active and swimming along? The company’s Core Values have been articulated AND are purposefully (not to be misconstrued with “perfectly”) nurtured and reinforced throughout the entire culture. The employees are expected to know the company values but more importantly, they see management demonstrate, recognize, and reward behaviors that are in harmony with the values.
  2. Frustrated and flailing? The company’s Core Values have been articulated BUT are viewed to be disconnected from the reality of the culture. These values are seen by many employees merely as “corporate mumbo jumbo” found on internal presentations and plaques or external marketing hype via company websites, social media, literature, advertising, and PR because they see the words (and may even be able to articulated the values on cue) but the behavior demonstrated from management is inconsistent at best.

What is your scenario? Get honest with your answers to the following:

  1. Can you effortlessly recite the Core Values of your company?
  2. Can all of your customer-facing employees?
  3. How about EVERYONE in your company?
  4. If not, why not? Are there too many words to remember or to provide focus?
  5. Besides simple mental recall and verbal recitation, are these values visibly and consistently being lived out by management?
  6. How are these values being taught and reinforced throughout the organization?

A high-stakes example. One of my first assignments within a Fortune 100 company was initially viewed by the company as a “communications” issue that needed resolution. This company had a notable track record for completing successful acquisitions with military precision. However, a very large acquisition hadn’t yielded the same expected results as previous acquisitions had and the company suspected that messaging was a major contributor to the sub-par performance in this new multi-state territory. This sub-par performance required attention. It also created a job opportunity for me.

Clear, concise, and consistent. My first day on the job, my boss scheduled a meeting with me to outline the “measures for success” for my new role. A central element of that meeting was her clear articulation of the company’s values and the company’s expectations for me. Not only did she state the company’s values at that meeting, she consistently modeled those values for me and her other “direct reports” throughout my entire tenure at this company.

The first couple of weeks within this company, I experienced similar modeling from executives who, like my boss, were seasoned and well-respected veterans of this company. The culture was THICK and tangible based largely on the three values articulated to me on my first day. These values immediately resonated with me beyond my intellect and hit me squarely in the heart. They were:

  1. Do the right thing.
  2. Foster teamwork and trust.
  3. Have a passion for winning.

Those values were simple to understand, presented with memorable examples, and prioritized. They were freeing, empowering, and aligned with my own values as well as my personal mission to make a positive difference in the lives of others. These stated values transcended corporate mumbo jumbo and helped me find a noble purpose in the midst of working in Corporate America.

Positive reinforcement. The values weren’t merely words. They were reinforced in the culture. Within the first few days, peers informed me that there was even a rare, prestigious, and highly coveted award (a Waterford crystal hand grenade) that was given by the Chairman and CEO to exceptional employees who exemplified these values in above-and-beyond situations.

Trouble on the horizon. After my first couple weeks of orientation at the corporate headquarters, I hit the road and began my quest to uncover why the messaging wasn’t helping the company realize the same results it had in other substantial acquisitions. I met with general consumers, customers with specialized business needs, front-line customer service personnel, mid-level sales people, in-market marketing professionals, and regional executives across an 11-state footprint. In doing so, I discovered two notable things:

  1. There was in fact a messaging “disconnect” that impacted internal audiences and external customers differently. Frankly, that was the easiest thing to fix.
  2. There was a marked difference between transplanted, legacy executives who were strategically placed in leadership positions throughout the new footprint by the ACQUIRING company. The transplanted execs knew and modeled our values in the same manner I had witnessed at the corporate headquarters. They modeled empowerment. However, it also became clear that members of the ACQUIRED company had been greatly impacted by the negative press surrounding the historic acquisition and the natural fear of the unknown. They weren’t fully aware of the surprisingly entrepreneurial culture that was suddenly available to them and the empowerment that our Core Values enabled. This was a huge disconnect but I saw it as a huge opportunity if we addressed it as thoughtfully and deliberately as my boss treated my first day on the job.

Benchmarking the Ritz-Carlton. Since cloning my boss wasn’t really an option for systematically conveying our Core Values to the thousands of newly added associates, I decided to look to a company I had observed and deemed to set the gold standard for articulating, reinforcing, and consistently demonstrating their Core Values: The Ritz-Carlton. We had already defined our Core Purpose, Core Values, Brand Purpose, Desired Customer Experience, and the Role of Associates. We just hadn’t been consistent, deliberate, and systematic in our training and communication throughout the organization. We used the Ritz-Carlton as a benchmark for conveying this information via a simple wallet card given personally, one-on-one, cascading throughout the organization in attempts to recreate the experience I was given by my boss (and now long-term mentor).

Tangible results. While we didn’t necessarily reach the consistency and same standard of excellence set by the Ritz-Carlton, this effort contributed to some significant results. The 18-to-24-month assignment initially presented to me turned into a less-than 12-month assignment as we saw a turnaround in some key metrics we were measuring shortly after the company-wide roll-out of our “brand conversation” with the brand wallet card as a reminder of the conversation. A few results included:

  1. Products sold per day/FTE increased by 31%.
  2. Core product sales grew by 220%.
  3. Unaided brand awareness grew by 357%.
  4. Brand preference grew by 415%.
  5. Brand consideration increased by 600%.

Granted, these results weren’t due solely to this initiative as we had many talented associates focused on addressing the challenges. We modified our advertising messages along with other initiatives. However, leaders at the highest levels of the organization acknowledged the importance of this particular initiative as it was central to who we were.

Application. I wanted to bring to our executive team something that was proven, aspirational, and applicable. The Ritz-Carlton provided the example we needed. I still maintain that The Ritz-Carlton set the standard for the consistent delivery of their “Service Values” (Core Values) throughout their organization. They work diligently on training and reinforcing these values as well as other articulated elements of their brand experience. Clearly, there are other companies doing a great job out there but I am grateful for what I learned from The Ritz-Carlton in the midst of this critical assignment as well as the experience I’ve enjoyed every time I am fortunate enough to stay at one of their properties.

Solomon once wrote, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Given that truth, we can enjoy great results by learning from others who have succeeded in areas we long to improve. By taking an honest look at our own situation and adapting, refining, and applying things that have proven to work for others in order to address our short-comings, we can positively impact our employees, customers, and our bottom line.