Monday, May 25, 2015

Leading With Integrity

"The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office."  --- Dwight D. Eisenhower recently posted the top key issues in need of improvement. The number two top choice was, "Lack of management integrity."  Out of all the problem issues the surveyed employees could have chosen, including poor pay scale, poor working conditions, lack of advancement opportunities, the number two issue was a visible sign of management lacking integrity.

Most of us believe we do lead with integrity and that it should show to our team members at all times.  The issue isn't really if we are showing our integrity to our employees on a regular basis, but if we really feel the need to show it.  In other words, do we put on a show of integrity or does it flow naturally from our inner being?

To simplify the matter of working with integrity, here are three key points you can use to ensure you will always work with integrity without even trying:

1.) Adopt a Set of Values-  Country singer Aaron Tippin once sang, You've Got To Stand For Something, (Or You'll Fall For Anything).  It's true.  If you are not following a set of core values that guide your business practices, you'll catch the next wave of whatever someone else comes up with.  It could be the hottest trend in business, but if you jump from trend to trend, your employees see you as lacking substance, values, and integrity.   Adopt your own core principles and stick to them.  Some of the best, time-tested ones still produce success in business.  These include honesty in all transactions, treating employees fairly, treating customers fairly, never cutting corners, and stand by your word.

2.) Share Your Values - As you know, one great way to learn something is to teach it to others.  By sharing your core values with those in your business, you are sharpening your value senses and building your integrity muscle.  This exercise serves a dual purpose: it reinforces your values, anchoring them to your inner being while spreading the message that the business will be run with integrity at every level.

3.) Stay Away from Junk -  Years ago I read an article by professional triathlete Scott Tinley about focused training.  One of things I remembered most about the piece was Tinley advising to stay away from television and people with bad attitudes.  The same holds true for sticking to your core values and working with integrity.  The weirdness of the world and the scams in business can often make the man or woman of integrity feel like they are Lone Rangers in the world all alone.  That's okay.  Keep the pace you are running and don't sway to the left or the right.  Surround yourself with people with like-minded principles or form or join a group of people who choose to do business the right way.  This accountability will serve you well in leading with integrity.  You will no longer have to show or prove it to your employees-- the evidence will be clear!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Kissin Don't Last, But Cookin Do!

"Research indicates that employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company."  --- Zig Ziglar

Some business leaders learn that if they can give a few tokens of appreciation or whatever the gift card, bonus, and vacation of the month is they read recently, they will have loyal, dedicated employees.  This management philosophy is not only untrue, but it is detrimental to the health of your organization.

Just like in long term relationships, the kissing is fun, but it doesn't make for a meaningful, longterm courtship.  For the employee/employer relationship to last, it must have three key ingredients that are as easy as ABC: 

1.) A: Approve the Work-  Of course your employees want money, they have bills to pay too.  But studies have shown that is not the greatest motivating factor.  Your employees want approval for the work they are doing.  They want to know that what they have put their time, energy, talents, knowledge, and skill into is doing some good for somebody or something.  The best thing you can do for them is to provide them feedback on their performance on a regular basis and not just as an annual review.  This feedback serves two purposes: It allows you to make any course corrections on the employee's performance and it lets the employee know that they are appreciated, whether it was for a corrective interview or a pat on the back, both serve the employee well and both provide encouragement. 

2.) B: Be Open - Business leaders that keep secrets from employees are recognized by the staff as untrustworthy.  It is not that you have to open your checkbook and show them all accounts, but you should share, on a regular basis, new developments, new projects, new bids, and anything that affects the outcome or direction of the business. Keep in mind that when they came on board, they were hoping to make a difference in the company (if you hired otherwise, revisit that hire and find out if they are someone you want to keep), so if they are kept in the dark, you are hurting your business.  Start a town hall meeting, meeting of the minds, or whatever you want to call it to inform everyone of your plans and where the company is going.  You'd be surprised how loyal and dedicated they will become to your mission when they know that you trust them enough to be open about the business.

3.) C: Cook, Don't Kiss -  Kissing is the easy part of a relationship.  You just purse your lips, move close, and... well it is easy.  But cooking takes time.  If you love the one you are with, you want to cook a great meal that makes them smile after every bite.  Business leaders can learn to cook for their team members by learning about the team.  Taking the time to study the history of the employee, their aspirations, their ambitions with the company, their likes, dislikes, dreams, and passions.  Of course it is a lot of work, but there is a lot of working in courting where you have to learn the same things about that person.  It takes some energy, but it is worth it.  

The kissing is just fluff-- plaque, extra day off, gift card--- all good things, but they are just kisses.  The cooking is reaching deep and finding what makes that person excited and giving him or her those new tasks to learn, or time for classes, mentoring them, teaching them to sell, and so forth.

Begin to cook more and kiss less today.  Print this page and post as a reminder of what you will be implementing this week. Teach them to your management team.  If they don't know how, start your own "cooking" school.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Voice: Lessons for Business Leaders

" Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they're making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And that's the difference."  --- Lou Holtz
Viewed by millions since its debut in April, 2011, The Voice provides opportunities for contestants to show their talents to be judged by successful music artists.  These judges have their backs turned to the contestants and buzz in if they want have that person on their team.  Though an interesting entertainment concept, the show also offers some good, applicable leadership takeaways. Here are four we can all use as reminders when it comes to dealing with employees:

1.) We learn more from listening to our team members.  The judges on The Voice are seated with their backs turned toward the contestant and are forced to listen without biases or making judgements based on appearances.  In the same way, leaders need to listen to what the issues are before making any rash decisions.  Those folks in the trenches may be able to provide helpful information that can save the company money or offer a better way of performing certain tasks. Give your employees the spotlight and the microphone and really listen.

2.) There will be some duds we will have to let go of.  Regardless of how some in government want to create schools where everyone is a winner, and nobody loses, we all know how it works in the real world. There are some that are talented, smarter, faster, and better than others. We want those on our teams.  We will have to send the others home or let our competitor have them.  It is wonderful to be helpful and charitable, but not at the risk of your business.  By building a strong, healthy business, you are able to give back more to your community, but you first need the right people in place.

3.) Be on the lookout for talent, even if they are already with another company.  Eyeing the competition for talented folks with a winning attitude is simply smart business.  Keep a watchful eye on who your competitors are hiring and snatch them as soon as they become available.

4.) Constant coaching develops successful team members.  The Voice judges or coaches work with their selected candidates and prepare them for doing battle on the stage against other candidates.  We can do the same with our employees.  Providing coaching on a regular basis not only increases the likelihood of a better performing team member, but also instills a sense of loyalty from the employee because of the realized effort we as leaders are putting toward their career success.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Don't Let the Government Run Your Business

" The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." --- Ronald Reagan

On the Orange County primary election ballot is a proposal to guarantee earned sick time for employees of businesses of Orange County.  The proposal states that, "Orange County will adopt an ordinance providing that employees of businesses in Orange County earn up to 56 hours of sick time each year unless the business provides more- with pay required only in businesses with 15 or more employees as defined - to seek medical care, recover from illness/injury, care for a family member as defined, or use when necessary during a public health emergency, with such ordinance enforceable in court."

The ordinance is not needed.  In fact, the ordinance should have never made it to the ballot, (but that is another story and one that reflects unfavorably on our current Orange County Commissioners).  Businesses that already provide benefits for its employees are doing all that they can to attract the best talent in town.  Those businesses that don't, lose talent.  That is called competition in a capitalist market and one that has worked wonderfully for one hundred years.

Several states are going the way of government controlling how businesses operate.  In San Francisco (shocking!), Vermont, and within the Federal Government, part-time employees have the "right" to request schedules that revolve around child and elder care, school, and other activities outside of the business.  At this time, business owners are not required to conform, but they are required to listen and take such scheduling into consideration.  Government is looking over the shoulders of those business owners.  Business owners are waiting for the next shoe to drop.

While these may seem like harmless intervention by Uncle Sam, it is only a foothold into much more control to come.  To stay out of the spotlight and be told how to run your business, here are few key points or reminders to keep Big Brother at bay:

1.) Be nice -- Businesses with the greatest reputations of treating people respectably are simply doing the right things on a continual basis.  The smart players begin treating people right before the hiring phase begins, constructing want ads and holding job fairs in a way that attracts the best talent available.

The niceness continues after the team members are on board with generous compensation, great training programs, and fair benefit packages.  Simply treating people nice does work and helps to increase productivity and boost the bottom line.  Make sure your management team is being nice and follows your core business values and principles.

2.) Be prepared -- Unfortunately, groups will persuade government officials to force businesses to do things like offer mandatory sick time because they do enjoy a handout.  Some things you can't fight, but others you can prepare in advance for.  Things like having great policies in place and communicating those to your team members works wonders.  Keep everyone on the loop regarding new laws, regulations, and upcoming changes.  Communicate over and over again the direction the business is taking and what and why the business offers what it does.

3.) Be Vocal -- You, as the employer, still have rights, at least still in the state of Florida.  Times they are a-changin', but you can make a difference.  First, get really involved in your industry associations.  Every industry has some supportive organizations that provide a voice on your behalf.  Some are stronger than others, but all are worth getting involved with.  

Second, stay in tune with what your local government is doing.  Write or call your local representative to let them know how you feel.  Be prepared to offer solutions and not just complaints.  When they do something right, let them know by dropping a note or calling them.  The key is to stay in touch.

Finally, let your team members know what is happening in your industry.  Give them periodic updates in case they don't know and let them know how you will be addressing in issues that may affect them or your business.

You don't need or want government interference. Adopt these pointers today to protect your employees and your business.

Monday, July 14, 2014

World Cup Lessons

"Winning is not everything, but wanting to win is." --- Vince Lombardi

Billions were tuned into the final match in the World Cup between Germany and Argentina.  I can see why some consider soccer a dangerous sport because I almost passed out while watching it.  Well, more like dosed off.  I'm sure it is fascinating to some, because it is considered the number one sport in the world, it is just not my cup of tea.  However, I did pick up on some pointers from the World Cup that can be applied to business.

1.) Delegate the details.  With so much activity surrounding the World Cup, if the details aren't addressed, chaos can ensue.  Instead of trying to manage every portion of the game, the stands, the media, the travel, etc. World Cup officials put point persons in charge of various segments of the event.  Every point person reported back to the head organizer.  The same should apply to your business.  Instead of working on all the details, which will eventually lead to the death of your business, delegate areas of concern in your business to others. After you've delegated it, leave it alone.  Trust your people.

2.) Winning is not everything.  Brazil was trampled by Germany. Brazil knew they would win.  Their fans knew they would win. However, not only did they lose, but Germany embarrassed them with a score of 7 -1.  That is a big margin in soccer, but Brazil will continue to dominate future matches using what they've learned in this World Cup.  They will be on top again because the players, coaches and managers will review films, dissect plays, and improve on conditioning for future world matches.

3.) Keep your team energized.  Every team participating in the World Cup wanted to win, but all during the waiting and anticipation, the team leaders kept their players loose and motivated.  This can be a daunting task as the personality of each player must be in tune to the goals of the team and a clear-cut direction of the mission must be restated whenever possible.  Players can lose perspective and get distracted with all of the hype surrounding the World Cup.  The same is true with your business.  Distractions abound and without a repeated statement of vision and mission, team members can lose focus.

Like the World Cup, your business is in a competition on a daily basis.  You are fighting for contracts competing against others in your industry; you are fighting to ensure that all of the details of your business are addressed; and you are fighting to keep your team energized and focused.  The major difference is that the World Cup is once ever four years and your business is in it to win every day.  Make it a point to address these three key areas and remain in the winning game.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Don't Be Afraid

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." --- Plato 
Business leaders have a lot to fear in today's market.  These are the days when it is good to have friends and peers to lean on and to share some of the problems and frustrations you face on a daily basis.  You can no longer look to the federal government for support; they are not your friend. State officials, at least in Florida, have been moving slowly toward a anti-business stance as well.  If you find yourself in a position with no one to voice your concerns and fears to, feel free to give me a call.  However, fear is oftentimes based on false assumptions.  Truth shines a light on fear.  Where truth can't be found, fear takes its place.  Here are three common fears followed by a bright light, or truth, to eliminate those fears.

1.) Fear of firing an employee.  During the Industrial Age, some businesses mistreated employees, used children for labor, and had unsafe working conditions.  Over time, the US government implemented laws to protect employees from these business leaders and to help ensure a safe working environment.  Through the years, these types of laws have increased to give employees more of an advantage over their employers and to make it easier for attorneys to make gobs of money representing terminated employees.  

Florida is an "at will" state which used to mean that you can fire an employee or the employee can quit without giving a reason.  Times have changed and it behooves the business leader today to document a case leading up to, during, and after termination to keep on file in case the employee decides to retaliate in some way.   Thankfully, Florida courts still lean in favor of the employer in termination cases as long as you can avoid issues currently under protection (e.g. "I fired him because he is handicapped," or, "I fired her because she is pregnant").  If you avoid the obvious and keep good records, you have nothing to fear when firing an employee.

2.) Fear of losing employees to my competitor.  This fear is understandable because you definitely don't won't your employees to jump ship, especially to go to a competitor and take your company knowledge with them.  There is a way to address this fear.  It may not be completely eliminated, but it can be reduced.

Communicate constantly with your team members.  Don't keep them in the dark about the condition or the direction of your business. Have a lot of face-to-face time with your employees.  Have a lot of meetings.  If you think you are meeting too much with them, meet some more.  Communication is key to keeping your talented team. 

According to the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top three reasons people leave their jobs to go elsewhere is because they 1.) want a financial stake in their work.  They want to know that what they do for the company gives them a piece of the company; 2.) want more resources and responsibilities.  They feel a sense of ownership and are highly motivated by responsibility; and 3.) hate working on things they are not good at.  

Understanding the importance of constant communication and the reasons people leave their jobs will help to eliminate some of the fear of losing your people.

3.) Fear of employees failing.  This is a big one I see on a frequent basis.  Business owners tell me, "My employees won't do it like I did it," or "I have to micro-manage my team in order to get the project completed correctly."  My response is always, "Well, then fire them."  That, of course, brings up fear number one in the owner's mind and the sweat begins to form on his brow.  Simply, it all boils down to the hard fact that if you didn't hire the right person to begin with, it is your fault and you should get rid of him or her.  But note that the key is to hire the right person, which means one with the qualifications that you believe can help to carry out your business mission.  That is one way to get rid of this fear.

Another way is to learn to begin trusting your team.  It is true, they are not like you... thank God for that.  They have other attributes you don't have and other talents, skills, and knowledge you don't have.  That is all great and helps to make for a well-rounded team.  Hire right, train them right, then get out of their way.

Friday, June 13, 2014

What Is Big Data? Use Your Illusion, Part 1

Reposted from Nate Smith's Adobe Blog:

For those of us involved in the col­lec­tion and analy­sis of data, we sim­ply can’t avoid the topic of Big Data. It now has the dubi­ous honor of being the most con­fus­ing buzz­word of the decade—and for good rea­son. It’s a label that is lib­er­ally applied across the tech­nol­ogy land­scape. From indus­try thought lead­ers try­ing to one-up each other to com­pa­nies try­ing to make their prod­uct releases more appeal­ing, Big Data has popped up every­where, and one can eas­ily feel over­whelmed try­ing to find its promised oasis of unpar­al­leled insight in a desert of attrac­tive look­ing mirages.
This is the first in a series of post­ings where I’ll be talk­ing about some of the illu­sions that I see sur­round­ing Big Data as it relates to dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing. My intent is to pro­mote the real­ity that any orga­ni­za­tion can take advan­tage of Big Data and that it doesn’t take mil­lions of dol­lars or mov­ing moun­tains to get started.
The Big­ger Picture
First, a real­ity of Big Data is that it can give you a high-resolution view of your cus­tomers. The illu­sion is that sim­ply hav­ing more data will some­how mag­i­cally accom­plish this.
Doing the same analy­ses on a deeper set of data will def­i­nitely increase accu­racy as you move from ana­lyz­ing sam­ples to pop­u­la­tions (which is fan­tas­tic!), but with­out tying in addi­tional data sets or doing dif­fer­ent types of analy­sis (addressed in my next post), new insights will be limited.
With Big Data, it is often assumed that we need to go deeper to gather all the infor­ma­tion we could pos­si­bly need. In fact, we should be going both broader and deeper, mean­ing we need to inte­grate our data sources together.  As data con­tin­ues to mul­ti­ply, more data will be avail­able tomor­row and from more sources than today, and most of it will be unstruc­tured. Who knows what is going to be dig­i­tized and datafied tomor­row? Our cus­tomers are inter­act­ing through mul­ti­ple chan­nels includ­ing mobile, video, web­sites, and point of sale con­tacts daily. Cap­tur­ing this unstruc­tured data set and join­ing it with another data set to see what shakes out—that is when we begin to get to the real­ity of Big Data.
Let me illus­trate: I had an expe­ri­ence this past sum­mer that was a prime of exam­ple of a non­pro­duc­tive use of Big Data. I bought a set of golf clubs from a national chain sport­ing goods store. I had a great in-store expe­ri­ence and even signed up for the rewards pro­gram. How­ever, a few days later, I received an email offer for 25 per­cent off the dri­ver I had just pur­chased. Whoops. All that equity the brand built with me started going down the drain. If their data col­lec­tion was fine-tuned and inte­grated, they would have known that I already pur­chased the club and would have sent me a notice of sav­ings on shoes or some other acces­sory. Instead, the notice served more as a slap in the face or “gotcha” than as a prof­itable mar­ket­ing event.
I’m sure that each team involved prob­a­bly thought they hit a home run. The demand-generation team that sent the email out prob­a­bly saw the per­cent­age of open emails go up. The team in charge of in-store point of sales saw another per­son sign up for the rewards pro­gram. The per­son­al­iza­tion team sent a golf-related email to some­one who has a golf inter­est. Sep­a­rately, the team that sent the email, the ana­lyt­ics team, and the per­son­al­iza­tion team were all under the illu­sion of suc­cess, high-five-ing one another in their indi­vid­ual silos. Was it suc­cess­ful? I have yet to take them up on any offers.
The dis­con­nect is obvi­ous when we peer in from the out­side. For what­ever rea­son (tech­ni­cal, orga­ni­za­tional, polit­i­cal, etc.), these teams are not com­mu­ni­cat­ing and con­nect­ing their data, which results in lost opportunities.
This is what I’m talk­ing about by mak­ing Big Data broad and not just deep. Com­plete, inte­grated data sets don’t have to be mas­sive to real­ize the promise of Big Data for busi­ness, which is know­ing your cus­tomers well enough to pro­vide valu­able expe­ri­ences that keep them com­ing back again and again.
At Adobe, we are get­ting a higher-resolution view of our cus­tomers because we are con­nect­ing data sets and gath­er­ing more data from wider, out­side sources. For exam­ple, Adobe doesn’t own Face­book, but peo­ple post a lot of infor­ma­tion about Adobe there. It is impor­tant that we cap­ture that data and get a closer look at it in rela­tion to all the first-party data we col­lect. As we layer other data (social, email, adver­tis­ing, etc.) on top of our Web data, the pic­ture of our cus­tomers becomes clearer and new insights are revealed.
Real­iz­ing the promise of Big Data can start with one con­nec­tion. You don’t need to boil the ocean. For instance, most Web ana­lytic providers have out-of-the box inte­gra­tions with many email providers. It’s a quick win for new insight and can help pave the way for orga­ni­za­tional buy-off as you un-silo more com­pli­cated data inte­gra­tion.
A word of cau­tion here though: keep in mind that with more data comes more types of analy­sis and more room for “data fit­ting.” One of the car­di­nal sins of data analy­sis is mis­us­ing data to jus­tify a course of action based on an agenda. Good data gov­er­nance will keep this to a minimum.
Striv­ing for Completeness
Let’s talk about data com­plete­ness a lit­tle more. A lot of orga­ni­za­tions that try to get a han­dle on Big Data will start to col­lect every bit and byte under the sun and then sam­ple their data sets, cre­at­ing more prob­lems. The key is to get closer to the pop­u­la­tion with the goal of com­plete­ness, not just a big silo of data. Full data sets pro­vide the free­dom to explore, much like a high-resolution photo, but this is where sam­pling can cause it all to fall apart, like turn­ing that high-res photo into a small JPEG file.
We can be more con­fi­dent with our pre­dic­tions with more sam­ple (or com­plete) data than with smaller sets. Frankly, that’s the whole point of cap­tur­ing data: to run ana­lyt­ics on it and pre­dict what offer or action is going to make our cus­tomers pull the prover­bial trig­ger on a purchase.
Big Ana­lyt­ics
Cut­ting through the hype and get­ting to the real­ity of the use of Big Data is nec­es­sary to improve your cus­tomer engage­ment strate­gies. The mis­con­cep­tion regard­ing Big Data is that once you’ve obtained it, your busi­ness will nat­u­rally improve its bot­tom line based on the infor­ma­tion you’ve received. The con­cept of data com­plete­ness, as well as being con­fi­dent in our cus­tomer pre­dic­tions using data, must be aug­mented by inte­grat­ing data sets. Only then can we use ana­lyt­ics to make sense of the data we want to take action on.
web analytics tool