Monday, December 14, 2015

Fire Your Consultant!

"All too many consultants, when asked, 'What is 2 and 2?' respond, 'What do you have in mind?" --  Norman Ralph Augustine 

There is a often repeated story of the consultant that was hired to fix a piece of machinery in a factory.  When he arrived, he took a hammer and tapped twice on the machine and it started running.  

A week later the CEO received an invoice for $1,500.  The CEO called to complain and demand a breakdown of the invoice and stated, "All you did was hit the machine with a hammer."  The consultant kindly responded that the cost for hitting the machine was only $1, the remainder of the invoice was for knowing where to hit.

Though an interesting story, and many consultants use it as a defense for justifying their charges, what the story lacks is commitment from the consultant.  You see, he uncovered the problem and provided a solution... for now.

If you've retained a consultant and he or she is not committed to your business, the best you can do for your business is to fire them and do so today.  Fixing a problem without commitment is what a plumber does.  Nothing wrong with this approach, at least for the plumber.  But when you hire a consultant, you want to at least know that they have your long-term interest at heart. 

Here are three key factors that the consultant you hire should have in order to help your business succeed. They should:

1.) Feel the Pain- A business consultant should understand and empathize with your situation. He or she should feel what you are feeling in order to seek and provide a solution.  When you explain your issues, they should feel the hurt and frustration that you do. When you are angry they should be just as ticked.  When you cry, they should taste salt.  They should step inside and become owner, leader, or manager in your organization and wear your shoes.

2.) Take ownership of the problem-  The consultant that you hire should own whatever the problem is.  It should be as if the problems were transferred to the consultant and completely off the plate of the business leader.  The consultant should convey sufficient confidence and competence to the business leader that the leader hands over the issue to him or her.  The consultant needs to take the issue home, sleep with it, eat with it, bath it, and own it.

3.) Follow-Up - This is typically an area where most consultants fail. They tackled the problem, washed their hands, and forgot about it. The client is left feeling alone again hoping that the issue was completely resolved and that someone will follow-up to make sure.  Tragically, the business leader uncovers another issue, but is unsure whether the consultant cares enough to fix another problem and so delays contacting him.

Your business is too precious to allow an outsider with no blood in the game to come in and tinker with.  If your consultant doesn't feel your pain, own the problem and then follow-up with you long after the invoice is paid---fire them.  Though rare, you can find those who will possess these three qualities and walk with you through the trenches providing solutions along the way.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Enjoyed A Piece of Apple Computer Treatment Today

While in very much a hurry today, I realized that my Dell laptop, of which I paid a handsome sum for a few years back, decided to act weirdly.  Of course this was not a good time for this kind of thing to happen because I am scheduled to conduct a harassment training session for a company here in Orlando in about five days.  I was stuck.  Stopped in my tracks by a non-working, frustrating- building, piece of junk and future doorstop.

Needing a laptop to present some critical figures and informative case studies as well as state and federal laws to my audience, I went onto an Apple site and found a chat feature.  I threw my issue at the feet of the customer service rep and waited to see if this person could magically provide a solution.  I was not disappointed.

My Apple representative was superb!  My first question to her was that if I go to the Apple store, (which is about 45 minutes away because of Central Florida traffic), and bought a MacBook Air, could I plug in my InFocus projector?  She immediately chatted me back a link to an adapter that I would need.  Then, a minute or so later, she sent another link to one that was about $6 cheaper.  I was impressed.

I told her that I would go to the Apple store on Thursday when I had some time and purchase both the computer and the adapter.  She suggested that if I order it online before 5:00pm that I could have the items on my doorstep on Thursday, two days away.  Great!  I placed the order while still chatting with her.   She walked me through the process and stayed online with me until I received my confirmation.  She then asked me for the order number that I received via email so she could confirm that everything was in order.

Just wanted to share with you that this is the way it is done.  No hesitation.  No pressure.  No frustration.  No guessing how to do things.  No wondering if I made the right decision.  This customer service rep held my hand through the entire transaction.

How about your business?  Does your team go the distance with your customers?  Please let me know.  I would love to share your story with others.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Do You Know Your MVV?

"A mission statement is not something you write overnight... But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life."---  Stephen Covey 

Thankfully the economy is picking up steam and most of you are back at, or exceeding, 2008 successes.  Congratulations!  But let's not be sitting on our laurels.  (Mary Kay Ash once said that a laurel sat upon isn't worth anything).  Now is the time to market like its 2008 and you really, really, really need the business.  It is also a time to make sure all of your team members are on board with the company's mission and vision.

If business has been so good that everyone is being pulled in all directions just to keep up, or even if you've hired the best you can and all is running smoothly, make time this month to review your Missionand Vision Statements to make sure you are on course and communicating your Values.  

Knowing these inside and out provides clarity for your brand and helps you to better communicate this brand to your team members and customers.  

Here are three quick ways to get this accomplished:

1.) What do you Value? This is the starting point for the Mission and Vision Statements.  Knowing what you value establishes the foundation for everything else in the business.  It gives direction and serves as a light in the darkness when things may go south.  When you know and understand what it is that you stand for, every decision you make becomes easier because the cloudiness isn't there.  The fuzziness doesn't exist because your compass is clearly showing you the way.

2.) See if the Mission is impossible-  If you pull out your Mission Statement and it is covered with dust, give it a quick review to see if it still applies.  If it doesn't, if your business no longer follows the plan, chunk it!  Schedule a time with your team to re-write one and this time plaster it all over the office, shop, restrooms, smartphones, and vehicles.  This will save you countless hours of aggravation and disappoint later.  Your Mission defines the direction of the company.

3.) How is your Vision? - The Vision Statement is different from your Mission Statement in that it defines the optimal desired future state, or the mental picture of what an organization wants to achieve over time.  It functions as the North Star providing guidance and inspiration as to what an organization is focused on achieving in five, ten, or more years.  Does your Vision Statement do that?  Is it relevant to where you see your business down the road?  If not, like the Mission Statement, schedule a Vision Statement building party and nail it down.

Do you know your MVV?  When you do, the direction of your company and the brand of your business is easier to communicate, easier to focus on, and easier to achieve.  What are you doing today with your business?

Friday, August 28, 2015


by Stephen Duncan

Hard work pays off. Everyone knows this to be true. There is, however, a difference between working hard and simply overworking. In the workplace, the ability to work long hours and being on-call 24/7 are generally traits that are applauded, but studies have shown that overwork is not always beneficial to the employees themselves or the company at large, and can in fact be harmful in the long run. Here’s why: 

1. Overworking can lead to a number of health problems

Impaired sleep and memory, diabetes, headaches, stomach tenseness, and depression have all been linked to overworking. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health also discovered a link between overworking and alcoholism, noting that employees who work long hours are 12% more likely to partake in “risky alcohol use.” Related studies have shown that humans possess finite capacities for extended, uninterrupted concentration, and have concluded that short breaks are essential for long hour work sessions.

2. Overworking can make employees worse at their jobs

In addition to the health risks, overworking can also diminish one’s energy and senses, which can in turn lead to increased difficulty in essential job traits such as judgment and communication. These fatigue-induced problems could surface in a number of different forms: employees who are overworked could be more likely to lash out when they are upset, they could struggle more with making important decisions, they could have more trouble identifying and handling problems, or they could simply have a more negative outlook in the workplace altogether. It has also been statistically proven that a mere 1-3% of the population can get away with sleeping only five or six hours a night without suffering from any performance-related consequences.

3. Overworking can make employees lose sight of their goals

Along with possessing a dulled-down skill set, studies have shown that overworking can cause employees to become more distracted, and as a result, lose sight of what they are ultimately working toward in the first place. Interestingly, these studies have been linked to Facebook usage patterns. A study conducted by the social media management company Vitrue indicated that the highest Facebook usage occurs in the day during the middle of the afternoon (around 3:00 PM), in the peak hours of fatigue for most people.

4. Overworking doesn’t actually result in more output
New research done by John Pencavel of Stanford University has shown that employees who put in 70+ hours of work a week do not actually produce more output than those who work 50 hours a week. Additionally, Erin Reid of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business found that managers could not even differentiate employees who worked 80 hours a week from employees who simply said they did but actually worked less. 

The evidence is clear—overworking is overrated, and is not helpful in the workplace. Sure, working overtime once in a while can be beneficial, but when it becomes a habit, it produces disadvantageous effects. So how does one combat overwork when there’s so much work to be done? Every bit of research has suggested the same treatment:  small breaks throughout the day. A simple 15-minute break during work hours has been proven to reactivate one’s mind and energy, increasing one’s decision-making and communication skills, and putting their goals into perspective once again. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Keeping It Real

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."  ---  Mark Twain 

Most business leaders are trend setters; they don't follow the crowd and blend with the masses.  They typically set their own course and blaze paths for others to use.

But, unfortunately, some begin to lean toward what the latest fad might be and see if doing things the way others do them might work. When it comes to leading team members, these flavors-of-the-month tactics usually backfire.

Here are three popular strategies that can damage your work force along with alternatives for success and ways to keep your leadership style real:

1.) Caving Into The Union Mentality-  This happens when you read too many articles and watch too many nightly news programs about how employees are jumping ship to other companies that are "sensitive" toward the employee.  First, those companies rarely succeed and most of the stories you hear are based on garbage information.  Second, if you treat your team members with respect, pay them fairly (and not what the government says you should pay them!), you won't have to worry about employees leaving.  Don't bend to the small voices petitioning for mandatory sick time and more money for less work.  Set your standards and stay the course.

2.) Hiring Illusionists To Help Build Teamwork - I am all for hiring a consultant to provide quality training for team members.  Some areas of work performance need tweaking from time to time and companies can benefit from using an outside agent with special talents to fill the need.  However, some of those agents provide hours and even days of feel-good exercises and talks.  These are akin to eating a big bowl of ice cream-- feels good, tastes great, but you will forget about in the morning.  I've never met an employee who gave better customer service after walking over hot coals.

3.) Parking Spaces -  Giving an employee-of-the-month award has its merits if you are managing a McDonald's, but isn't usually much of a reward or an incentive to others for most other businesses in the long run.  To keep it real, offer an education for the outstanding employee so they can grow and manage even more.  Most employee rewards are based on the thought that employees love trinkets and Starbucks coupons.  These are good, fun things to have, but they are just like that big bowl of ice cream, good for the short term, but soon forgotten.

Instead, offer long-lasting rewards that keep the employee interested.  If the employee is in sales, send them on a trip to see a well-known sales professional offering a seminar.  Another great reward and incentive is to provide a course outside of work that helps with the employee's hobby, or a gym membership, or a baby-sitting service to give the employee and spouse a few nights alone.  You can get real creative with these, but the point is to provide a memorable, long-lasting reward.

Make it a point to not follow the crowd, especially when it comes to leading your team.  Keep it real and your employees will reward you with dedication and loyalty.

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.

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