Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When your “A”s become “B”s and “C”s

A rising tide lifts all boats. When a company is doing well, growing sales, achieving customer satisfaction, etc., it is easy to see all the members of a management team as “A” players. After all, if the company is successful, why would anyone be seen as holding the company back? On the other hand, when a company’s sales or its market share declines, or when customers start canceling or pulling back on orders, etc., it is easy to look around and ask, “who is at fault here?” With the 20/20 vision that comes with a crisis, the CEO begins to see more clearly, and can more readily distinguish between excellence and mediocrity.

The reality is that very few companies have 100% “A” players on their management team, and almost every company is tolerating a “B” or even a “C” player most of the time. Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Smart CEOs do see the opportunities in the difficulties of today’s economy. The pie is shrinking, so to stay even or grow, and effectively compete in a challenging economy, more companies are aiming at a bigger piece of the pie - increased market share.

To achieve increased market share in a down economy may require painful analysis about what it will take in terms of executive talent, and acting decisively to improve the company’s ability to compete. The winning formula often means strategically replacing the sub-par person with a real leader, an impact player who can increase market share, revenue, performance, etc. Ask yourself if you’ve been tolerating a “B” or a “C” for too long, and if you can achieve your goals for next year with the team you have. If not, make the tough decision now, and upgrade your team.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Big 3 Bailout - I Vote NO

I’m opposed to the big 3 bailout. I think it rewards dinosaur companies for moving too slowly and too stupidly to be able to compete with more nimble companies. I haven’t owned a US car since the early 80s, and when I get rentals, I am unimpressed by US product.

Honda and Toyota turn out higher quality cars, in the US , while paying their people 60% of what GM pays. And, they have anticipated the market by producing higher MPG cars too. What is wrong with this picture?

We keep rewarding companies who screw up (like Wall St. bailout) and that sends a message to CEOs to keep doing what they are doing – badly – because they will be rescued! Do I sound angry? I guess I am! I am a real capitalist, and I believe in natural and logical consequences of our actions. People, companies and governments don’t change unless they experience pain that changes their paradigm. Our economy might have to take a few hits in order for US business to learn to act more ethically and responsibly.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Accessing Your Resources - Your Highest and Best Use

In the winter of 1776, Thomas Paine said “These are the times that try men's souls”. He was describing the challenges encountered in the American Revolution. Recently, at my Vistage CEO group, our speaker (a Vistage speaker of the year), Michael Allosso, gave a talk called “You on Your Best Day.” This talk reminded me of the importance of using all of my resources, to find my highest and best use, and be at my best everyday. This is particularly important now, with the state of our economy, and the post-election uncertainties we are facing. Here are the 5 ways I tap into my resources:

  1. Remember peak experiences: Thinking of the times when I have excelled, where I produced extraordinary results, and asking myself, what was it about me that enabled me to do that? The innate skills that enable us to do excellent work, in business or in our personal life, are always available as a resource to be reused again. Sometimes we forget these skills are there! Don’t stop at one – keep going until you have a strong list.
  2. Ask others: What do people like best about you? We did a survey of our customers a few months back, asking them what aspects of our process and our services they liked best. They mentioned attributes we don’t always remember to discuss. It was very informative in terms of how we can be approaching new customers.
  3. Differentiation: What is it that I can do that is unique, special, different or better than the way my competitors approach the same thing? This is an asset with value.
  4. Unconditional Giving: I tell everyone I’ve placed in a job to put me on their contact list as a resource (about anything they need) – forever. If you network a lot, you probably can steer anyone to a resource that can solve their problem. Offer to do this, and the payback will be automatic. Be a resource, without a quid pro quo expectation, and people will always want to work with you. Allosso says, “People should be better as a result of having spent time with you.”
  5. Focus: I am easily distracted. I’m a possibilities and alternatives thinker, so I’m always wondering about something else. Being fully present helps me concentrate on the task at hand, and apply the particular resource I intend to bring into play that day. This makes me more effective!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Moving Forward

The election is over, and today I’m all about moving forward. I heard from a business friend who was not happy with the result, and I wasn’t sure how to respond. It is a challenge to rise above negative feelings about such an emotionally charged election. Each of us probably has one candidate, national or local, or one initiative or proposition, that we felt strongly about, that didn’t win. It is water under the bridge. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives.

When successful business people get bad news, they ask themselves “What do I need to do next?” They immediately assess the new information, and create a plan for how to deal with the reality. They examine the present situation, evaluate obstacles, decide on a new course of action, and aim at a specific, measurable result.

Ask yourself: What do the election results mean, in terms of what I need to do next, professionally or personally? If we live in the present, stay action oriented, focused on goals, and let go of any negative feelings, the country and each of us personally will be better off.
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