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Learn to Win by Racing

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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.

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  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!

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)

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)

How Will You Double Your Business?

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It’s getting cooler outside, leaves are falling, and it’s now Annual Planning season for your business. Interest rates have been low, unemployment rate is around 5%, and the economy has been growing slow and steady for the most part.

You have to ask, how long will this last? I can’t believe how much residential and commercial construction is going on around Charlotte, NC, these days. It looks like 2007-08 to me, and it almost feels like it too.

Every year I have a professional theme I like to deep-dive with my own business and with my coaching clients. This year it has been Core Customer and Buyer Personas. Last year it was getting Discretional Effort out of employees.

I’m going to get out front and announce it now: 2016 is going to be about creating a serious plan to double the business and get the Winning and BreakAway Moves in motion. The last thing I want to happen is to be stuck in the middle of the pack when the economy flatlines or slows down.

Take extra time this planning season to drill into the 3-5 year growth plans and ask your team these questions.

  • How long will it take to double revenue? Hint…. use the rule of 72. Take 72 and divide it by your estimated (or desired) annual growth rate. 33% is about 3 years (check the math).
  • How much revenue will come from your existing business lines and sales capacity?
  • What is the gap between how much you can grow without really changing anything and your target revenue number?
  • How will the operations side of the business need to change?
  • What are 3-5 Winning or BreakAway Moves that can generate that new revenue and profit?
  • What new capabilities will you need to acquire?
  • What new people, contacts, advisors, coaches, etc. will you need to leverage to accelerate, to get you there faster?
  • What components of the Winning and BreakAway Moves do you need to execute on in 2016 to get the proper momentum?

The purpose of the 3-5 year focus now is to get the momentum going strong in 2016 while you still have an economic tailwind. Get the plan moving, test your assumptions, engage the full team, name your plan to double. There are always a few companies in each sector that seem to defy gravity in slowing economies. Decide now this is going to be YOUR company.

(Image: skitterphoto.com)

Create A Personal Race Plan To Win

It’s hard to win a race without a plan. This is pretty much true whether you are lining up in a mountain bike race with a bunch of hammers or trying to grow your business.

A personal “Race Plan” drives each employee’s priorities within their job function AND drives the priorities of the overall business.

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If you’re not sure whether your team members are operating with personal Race Plans, here are the questions you need to think about:

  • Do each of your employees, or at least your key employees, have a personal Race Plan?
  • Do they have a Race Plan for each quarter?
  • Has their plan been shared with the team?
  • Are they tracking their plan, publicly leveraging peer accountability?
  • Is your team helping each other when things fall behind?
  • Do you (the owner/leader) know when plans are going off track early so you can implement easy fixes vs big cleanups?

On Your Mark…

Here are some steps or ideas to create and implement strong Race Plans:

  1. Recognize Race Plans are usually the last thing to get done during a quarterly or annual planning session. Everyone is mentally tired. Create a nice break, have some snacks, get up and move around, and create extra time to get Race Plans completed. Creating personal priorities is one of the most difficult functions the brain does, and you are asking it to work full throttle during a low-fuel time.
  1. Have your employees think about their personal quarterly priorities BEFORE the planning session. They may change during the session based in new input, but having a head start will pay dividends.
  1. Have each person spend 15-20 minutes quietly and individually working on their plan. Next have them meet in groups of three to discuss their plan, challenge it, and make sure it looks right.
  1. Have each person tell the full team their #1 goal and #1 priority for the next year or quarter. Does what they shared drive their Role or Function AND the overall priorities of the company?
  1. Create a display and a meeting rhythm to keep the Race Plans alive. If you are using a Green-Yellow-Red methodology to identify task status, just discuss the Yellows and Reds (the things that are due or overdue).
  1. Use the Race Plans as a mechanism to create team building and collaboration. Someone offering to step in and help move a Red task to Green is a beautiful thing.
  1. Encourage people to code Red things early. Don’t be caught off guard if a priority is in trouble. And really brag on people who are willing to help move priorities out of the Red. Make them look like superstars!

Race Plans win races. Help your team drive performance at the personal level and up and out, all through the organization!

(Image: Skeeze / Pixabay)

Become a Lead-Generating Machine

The sales process starts with the ability to generate leads, aka people who have an interest in learning more about your business. It’s the inability to create sufficient lead flow that prevents most companies from substantial growth.

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If you can get lead flow right, hang on and enjoy the ride! Or, let this continue to be your sales constraint and get left behind – or “dropped,” as we call it in the mountain bike racing world. Getting dropped sucks!

One you have identified your Core Customer and have clarity on the Buyer Persona, create a multi-channel plan to connect and generate leads. Buyers are not one-dimensional – they take in information from multiple sources, so you need to think about where they regularly find information, then hit them with information there.

12 Places Your Leads Might Find You

Here is a list of lead-generation channels to explore. Pick what is right for you based on your Core Customer’s Buyer Persona.

  1. Content marketing
  2. SEO and AdWords
  3. Create events – you are the subject-matter expert
  4. Outside sales teams
  5. Inside sales teams
  6. Outsourced door openers
  7. Group affiliations or sponsorships
  8. Partnerships – Channel Sales
  9. Trade shows or industry events
  10. Social media
  11. Traditional PR
  12. Write a book or do speaking engagements
  13. What else makes sense for your industry or your Core Customer?

Look for the 3-5 channels you can focus on. You might ask, “Why not just focus on one channel and go deep?” The answer is that things can change that are out of your control. I see many companies going all-in with an inbound marketing strategy tied to the Web hoping to make the phone ring. Great idea, but what happens when Google changes the content-ranking algorithm? Your 1st page rank is now number 4, and it will take money and time to get it back on top.

Instead, start by working with your team to create a list of 3-5 channels to focus on, and create 3-year, 1-year and 90-day targets and goals. Then create a 90-day action plan to put your multi-channel strategy into motion.

(Image: TaxCredits.net / Flickr)

Win With A Coach

Win With A Coach

By Robert Fish and Jeanne Clary

board-784363_1280When I talk to someone about Insight CXO and Gazelles, they often want to know what makes us better than the many other business growth coaches and methodologies out there. Even if they are familiar with Verne Harnish’s books, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up, or the Rockefeller Habits in general, they’re curious about why I, as a successful serial entrepreneur, have fully bought in to the Gazelles approach to growing a business — and why it works.

About a year ago, the owners of Kernersville, N.C., based EFI hired me to help them grow their business. Sometimes when a business owner brings me on as a business coach, the employees get anxious to know what that means for their jobs. Change is tough and the fear of unknown change can be even harder.

That’s one reason why I think the referral letter below from EFI employee Jeanne Clary is so powerful. She didn’t choose me or Insight CXO to come into her office and change their business, and she recognizes that the work to change isn’t easy — but it’s totally worthwhile. Please read what she has to say (below the picture of EFI’s team), and please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

— Robert

We contacted Gazelles and were introduced to Robert as one of their “best.” They provided us a couple of names to contact and interview. We started with Robert, as he was in N.C. He came to our office just about a year ago and spent a few hours with our team, and the rest is history, we never felt the need to interview anyone else. He is now a part of the family. It took us, EFI, several months to get our ducks in a row, prayerfully decide that we were truly ready to make changes, and then clear our calendars, as it would require a lifestyle change for our entire team.

On January 9, 2015, we met with Robert off campus for our very first planning team meeting. To say this was easy would be a fallacy. This meeting was hard, as we truly had to look at ourselves and say “wow, we don’t have real focus and direction, we are not on the same page, nor have we really defined who we are and where do we want to go.” OUCH! Do not get me wrong, Robert did not crack a whip, he just helped open our eyes. The meeting itself was educational, team building and fun, but with a big dose of reality too.

Since those initial meetings, we have meet daily as a team, monthly with Robert, have learned the Gazelle “lingo” (Rocks and BHAG were not part of our daily vocabulary), drawn a clear picture that the entire team looks at and sees the same thing, met opposition and worked through, launched a corporate-wide core values program, hired a quality manager (in less than three months reduced our scrap rate by 25+%), improved productivity and employee involvement considerably … the list goes on.

To say, “this is all a result of “Robert,” you would probably say “that seems like a far stretch,” and I would have to agree with you. BUT it IS a result of Robert coming alongside us, our talents, our values, our experience, etc., and guiding us, encouraging us, holding us accountable, reprimanding us (in his very gentle way when necessary), and being available to talk us through situations, push us back on track when necessary, etc., that we can truly say that is the value we have experienced through hiring Robert as a coach.

EFI is moving on the right path, we are growing with direction and focus, we are changing our lifestyle and way of doing business. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Robert as we continue to grow and take the next steps in increasing the value of our growing company through the Gazelle teachings.

— Jeanne Clary, EFI

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
BreakAway

Crush the Competition with a Breakaway Move Strategy

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You may know that when I’m not helping clients as head of Insight CXO, I’m fueling my passion for competition and training as a professional mountain bike racer. I envision business much like a race – initially, all of the competitors are in a tight pack, looking to gain any advantage that will put one ahead of the others.

Eventually, a few of the competitors begin to pull away from the pack to form a break – they’ve found something that differentiates them from the majority – but those racers still stick together in the lead break. However, at some point, one of those competitors makes a Breakaway Move™ – a strategy that enables him or her to separate from the competition and win the race.

In business, the Breakaway Move is something that has the potential to double revenue in the next 3 to 5 years. In order to drive top-line revenue growth, your company needs to have two or three Breakaway Moves it’s always working on.

New York Times bestselling author and leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith famously wrote What Got You Here Will Not Get You There. To find out if that’s true for you, ask your leadership team:

Will your existing products, services and capabilities be enough to drive serious top-line growth well into the future?

To help answer that question, project out over the next five years how much revenue each of your products or services will generate. There is probably a gap between that number and your desired revenue in five years.

One way to define a Breakaway Move is to explain what it’s not. Simply doing more of the same is not a Breakaway Move. Changing operations to increase profit is not a Breakaway Move.

Rather, Breakaway Moves drive top-line revenue. Working on Breakaway Moves may generate ideas and initiatives to increase profit, but it’s good to be clear on what Breakaway Moves are so you don’t stop short of creating revenue-generating ideas.

Where do Breakaway Moves come from? First, they come from consistent Breakaway planning sessions that leave room for flexibility (since things rarely happen exactly as they’re planned). Second, they come from looking deep into the world of your Core Customers:

  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their unmet needs?
  • What are their jobs to be done?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What will help them reach their goals faster?
  • What solutions can you provide to solve their problems?

Breakaway Moves must have a place in your annual planning process, both to make them a priority for scaling your business and because they can help you build a healthier, cross-functional team. Working together on ways to double the business is exciting and can make the team feel like they can win.

Are you ready to create your own Breakaway Move? Insight CXO has created a free toolkit, “8 Steps To Your Breakaway Move,” a step-by-step guide to get your team invigorated and thinking in innovative ways about how to push ahead of the competition and win the race.