The weather is finally beginning to cooperate. It is actually looking a lot like summer. That means golf, tennis, or escape to the shore or the mountains for long weekends. It may even mean taking an extended two or three week vacation. Sounds like great fun. The willingness to take time from work to avail oneself of the great weather varies from leader to leader, owner to owner. The two biggest factors are the mindset of the leader and the perceived mindset of those reporting to the leader.
Some leaders take full advantage of their time off, without giving a thought to how others may perceive it. They are confident in their power and authority and do not care how others react. They have achieved a certain level in their career, and with that achievement comes the “right” to take time when they want it. They expect others to carry on in their absence
Others feel the same way about having the right and freedom to take time, but still give thought to the impact on others. They have a higher degree of emotional intelligence and understand what others may be feeling. They understand that it is natural for workers to be jealous of the greater freedom that leaders have, and to perhaps let down in their efforts when the leader is not around. They understand that this does not make the workers bad people or bad employees- it makes them normal. So preparations must be made. People must be given notice so they can plan accordingly. A boss going away should not spring it on the troops the day before he goes. There should be planning, meetings, accountabilities should be set, and the desired level of communication should be created. The leaders who prepare the troops, look at situations through multiple lenses, not just their own and are much more 720thinkers.
If a leader is planning on playing golf every Thursday during the summer, rather than hiding it from his team, he should make it clear that this is his plan. That way the team can plan around that schedule. And the boss can avoid multiple cell phone calls on Thursdays. And of course, the boss must be “present” when he is present. He needs to be engaged. He needs to perform. He needs to hold folks accountable. If he is perceived as being a good boss doing a good job, the workers will not resent his absence when he plays golf. The more he shirks his responsibilities, the more Thursday golf is just part of a feeling of negativity workers may develop.
It comes down to the psyche of the leader vs. the psyche of those being led. If there is mutual trust, there should be no problem with the leader taking time away from the business to enjoy herself. Unfortunately, mutual trust is only one of four possible scenarios.
Take a simple cube divided into four boxes. The vertical side is “Reason to worry” (another way of talking about the employee attitude), with the top boxes being “high” and the bottom boxes being “low.” The more the employees resent the boss taking time, the higher the reason to worry. The horizontal side is “Amount of worry” (the leader’s attitude), with the left side being “low” and the right side being “high.” Obviously, the higher the “reason to worry”, the more work the boss needs to do on the company culture and the employee engagement. Also, the boss may need to increase his “amount of worry” to gain an understanding of why employees feel the way they do.
If a boss or leader wants to enjoy a guilt free summer knowing work will be done and done well in her absence, she needs to develop a high level of mutual trust in the organization. This can be hard work that takes place year round, not just before golf season. Company culture is key to success and trust is key to culture. If workers know a leader is holding up her end and being accountable to them, they should have no problem with her taking time off. If workers feel a leader is bailing on them without regard to their needs or the needs of the company, there will be no trust, no engagement and no longevity. Enjoy the summer after building up to it in a successful manner.
When we think about the word “fit” with regard to business, it could be used in several ways. The simplest could refer to actual dimension – fitting physical resources into a given space. The more complex definitions address whether a given business fits into its marketing or brand niche or even in the community in which it resides. These and other measures in between are all important ways “fit” is critical in the business. A previous blog post discussed the need for employees to fit in their roles within a company. This is crucial to productivity and team effectiveness. And employees must align with the company as a whole on vision, values, behaviors, attitude and ethics for the relationship to work.
Typical entrepreneurs starting a business and then gaining traction are not overly concerned with whether each customer or client they are working hard to acquire actually fits the narrow profile of “ideal customer.” The idea is to grab customers whenever and however possible and not look too closely at each one at the time. Twenty first century companies are capturing as much data as they can about each customer, which they will, at some point, examine to discover macro-trends. They may use that data over time to hone their marketing pitches but they are not normally using it to decide whether they should or should not do business with a given customer.
An online retailer may not have any way of knowing if a first time shopper is a good fit. But what about the return shopper who has a track record of buying and returning multiple items and never keeping anything? Or the one who returns items after wearing them saying they don’t fit or are poor quality? Or the one that always takes advantage of the lifetime guarantee?
A service business should know after a single engagement whether a client is one they want to do business with again. A client changing his mind all of the time, or asking for “do overs” can be costly and frustrating.
An established business may choose to jettison clients that don’t fit because they recognize that they are literally not worth their time. Younger, hungry businesses may not be able to look through that lens. Their definition of “fit” may need to mature based on experience.
What about vendors? Does a business need to find a fit with its vendors? To answer that, one has to consider what “fit” looks like. The best vendors meet the company’s needs – timely delivery of goods and services, good quality work, fair payment terms, flexibility when needed. Some even find ways to partner with their customers in win-win programs, some may finance inventory during holiday or other seasons and some may offer support via sales and marketing dollars or resources.
In a start-up or early business stage, a business owner may be willing to use any vendor that provides credit or decent payment terms. This may not be enough to sustain a relationship as a business becomes more successful. If a vendor, even a valued one, is discovered to have very different values or ethics it can cause a problem. Having biased views or treating employees poorly can be another reason to end a relationship. If there is not a values fit, there is at the very least dissonance in the relationship. Business practices, even legitimate ones, can sometimes be difficult to accept. Sudden changes in payment terms or delivery times or supply chain logistics can turn a vendor relationship sour. A business owner needs to define what a good vendor is and then be willing to eliminate those that do not fit the definition.
A company needs to fit into its community. A strip club in a residential neighborhood will not cut it. Nor will a junkyard in the wrong location. Business owners need to be aware of where they can fit in as good corporate citizens and fill a positive role in the community. Fit in this arena is usually based on the use of the property, the community’s regard for the activities of the business and how noticeable those activities are, the amount of tax revenue a business may bring to the locality, the number of jobs the business provides and perhaps most importantly, the image of the business and how that impacts the adjoining residents and businesses. If the activities of a business bring down the value of surrounding real estate, there is not a fit. If the activities of a business subject nearby residents to any safety or health concerns, there is not a fit.
If the community grows up around a business and its composition changes, a given business may no longer fit. The leaders have to recognize that and consider the newer needs of that community.
So, in answer to the question asked in the title of this post, “fit” can be relative. A business may find a fit when common sense is buried or desperation is close to the surface. Humans can convince themselves of anything. Look at the number of football teams that will take a chance on a player that blew up his two previous teams. Somehow, they believe they can make him fit in with them. If owners pause long enough to catalogue what is important to them in their relationships and then weigh every candidate against that list, they can have a relatively clear picture of whether the relationship will work. If they choose to ignore the list for other reasons, it may work for a while, but not long-term.
Fit is important. Ignore it at your risk. If you stretch your values and beliefs to create a fit, it will often come back to bite you. If a business owner is in a mindset of abundance rather than one of scarcity, there will always be more customers, vendors, potential employees and even places to house the business. Find a fit.
Yes, the year has sped by. We are literally days away from 2014. It seems like a good time to do some 720thinking review and reflection.
All too often , the annual business review is an event, not a process. We, as 720thinkers, take this time to use the process and polish our lenses to ensure that we capture the most clear, honest and relevant data, information and feedback as possible. The concrete review is easy, finances are usually red or black. Surveys, endorsements and testimonials often make it to the business websites, but, believe it or not, even anecdotal comments and commentaries (come on even the negative ones) can help the most successful or the most floundering company to help tee-up 2014 to be a more successful year. For starters, collect those random post-it notes, scraps of paper or napkins that you penned a crazy idea while kibitzing in a bar, organize and scan into a file and take time to reflect and review. You never know what “gem” might be hiding that can take your business to a whole new level or in a very different direction.
This exercise is not for the faint of heart or New Year’s Eve. Even starting now, quite frankly is a little late, but at the old saying goes, “it’s better late than never.” And, because it’s a process, we suggest that successful businesses can start the process now using it as a benchmarking opportunity for the future. Because 720thinking is so multidimensional, we have adopted and adapted the following four tools to help organize the process for you. Include as many of your trusted advisers as possible.
1. No matter the size of the business, how does your internal culture stack up in comparison to the “good to great” companies?
2. How widely is the external brand of your product or service known?
3. What has affected your business decisions over the course of the year?
4. How well did your communicate your value, quality, and product or service to the does the “world”?
5. What are your clients, stakeholders, partners, employees, investors, prospects and suspects perceptions of your business FORCES:
6. How have you used the following multipliers to add to or detract from your business? Consider describing and defining very specific behaviors that supported or violated these six values.
These simple questions can be used in your year-end process tohelp review and reflect on those lost opportunities, learn from those catastrophic events, or build on those marvelous successes. Keep in mind, this is just the start of a much bigger process. What about it, are your up to using some 720thinking to “mine your business?” Because if you are, you will find it essential to take charge and makes changes in your major business strategy and objectives, set new goals and take much more deliberate and committed action towards success.
Knowing the location of the trigger is a key data point when handling firearms, as the trigger is the mechanism which actuates the operation of the gun. Every gun user should be familiar with that trigger, how much pressure is needed to make it work, and of course, where the gun is pointed when it is pulled.
In a more general sense, as a noun a trigger is anything that initiates an action or a series of actions and reactions. It can also be used as a verb to mean to initiate or to set off. So, triggers are catalysts. Things can be calm and moving along smoothly and then something is said or done and tumultuous change takes place. In certain circumstances, such as diplomacy and negotiation, there may be an overriding strategy to avoid triggering any sudden outbursts or disruptions.
In other instances, leaders are looking for the right triggers to initiate the change they desire within their organizations. As we all know, change is difficult. For many, change presents personal challenges. The two biggest obstacles to change are (1) Can I do it? (2) What is the benefit to me if I do it? Many who get past the first question get stuck on the second. This sometimes happens because organizations have a history of pursuing “flavor of the month” initiatives, only to back away from them over time. Because the company has failed to show a lasting commitment to its own change initiatives, workers don’t give the next ones any credence. They see the effort they might put into effecting any change going to waste because they know leadership won’t hang in there.
John Kotter, one of the world’s thought leaders on change ( the author of Leading Change and A Sense of Urgency) argues that leaders often fail in bringing about change because they do not create and communicate a sense of urgency around the change. “We are going to try this and see if it helps” is like dipping a toe in the water. Stating that “If we do not make this change, we are going to be out of business in six months” should create that sense of urgency. It should be a trigger to change.
B.J. Fogg, the founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University has created a behavior model with two axes, one for ability and one for motivation. In his view triggers are most successful when the desired behavior change is easy (or relatively easy) and motivation is on the high side. If change is hard and motivation low, triggers tend to fail.
For triggers to work, the leader must have credibility and must demand accountability. Empty threats are meaningless. Do you remember the children’s story of Peter & The Wolf? From that story comes the phrase “crying wolf.” Leaders who have cried wolf in the past will have a difficult time finding the right triggers to catalyze the desired change.
The leader desiring to bring about change needs to be credible. If there are past credibility issues, credibility better be rebuilt before new initiatives are offered. This can be done through careful and open communication, including an apology for past behaviors, a clearly stated vision of the future and the path to achieve it and a realistic appraisal of the consequences if change does not occur. In stating the consequences the leader must make it clear that all will be individually accountable, and actions have to back up the words.
Some workers may have to be shown the way to change step by step to prove to them they can do it. It might be that others really are not capable of the needed change and then the leader needs to back up the spoken words with action.
Change is hard even with the highest level of motivation. Therefore, leaders need to be strategic in their thought process. Making individual changes without looking at what they do to the entire system or organization can be disastrous. Those changes can be negative triggers which can start a landslide of problems.
Before announcing change initiatives or cramming changes down the collective throat of an entity, think of the following:
These are all predicates to positive change. Face it- technology and innovation are bringing about change at an ever-increasing rate. Every leader has to be current, aware and prepared to adapt, which means their teams need to be agile and prepared. And they have to be motivated to follow the leader. Without the proper motivation, change will not be triggered.
In the Star Wars saga created by George Lucas, there is reference to the “Force.” Lucas defined this “force” as, “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds and permeates us. It can be good or evil.”
There is an “energy” that surrounds and permeates every corner of our business. It has a crucial impact all aspects of our business, affecting our morale, motivation, finances, quality, service and long term viability. As with any force, there needs to be positive discipline, direction and focus across all levels of the organization so that the energy moves us in the right direction. Therefore, finding and channeling this “force” within our business now becomes a major imperative to determine to what degree our business is driving towards success or towards failure.”
This business imperative requires, what we 720thinkers like to call, a key business strategy called Mining Your Business. This process is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it a quick fix. Instead, this is a dynamic process that requires an extensive commitment of analysis, critical thinking, objectivity and ultimately positive focused action.
Although there are many layers to this process, I would like to share with you two things that will help you to find and channel “positive” forces within your business.
1. An external organizational 360 degree audit. This audit needs to include customers, vendors, stakeholders and strategic partners. The purpose of this evaluation is to help your company take a step back and determine the issues that can serve as threats to your brand while simultaneously identifying those opportunities can help you stabilize and grow future business. To follow are some sample questions that can help in your audit process.
2. An internal organizational 360 degree audit. This audit needs to include a comprehensive cross section of your organization. If you are the owner or CEO, use the board or investors, to serve as your boss, ask peers or colleagues, ask direct reports and other levels deeper and further away in the organization to give you honest and as often as possible, anonymous feedback. The purpose of this internal diagnostic is to take the organization’s internal “temperature” to determine how hot (fully engaged, passionate team players) or cold (disengage, indifferent hostages) is your culture. To follow are some sample questions that can help in your internal evaluation process.
As you probably have guessed, these are just two small step in doing some serious evaluation of the “force” within your business. The truly successful organizations make this an annual process. We are almost at the midpoint of the final quarter for this calendar year. If you don’t want to see money, talent, customers and resources go down the drain, consider investing some quality time and energy in determining if the energy that “permeates and surrounds” your organization is the positive force you want and need to drive your company to success in 2014.
And, “May the force be with you!”