Optimize vs. Maximize

When I googled optimize vs maximize, I found this comparison “Maximize is about raw return, about getting maximum revenues and profits. Optimize is about ROI—seeking results relative to the investment required.

So why would we ever choose to maximize? Yet some of us default to the maximize choice without even thinking about the difference.

  • How often do we notice something, point it out, and then regret it later, wishing we had kept quiet? 
  • How often do we wait for more or better information and miss an opportunity?

There is both a time factor and a human factor to optimizing ROI. We often wait too long and strive for that final 5%, hoping to have perfect info upon which to base our decision. 

Or, instead of building up the confidence of the person doing the job, we ask for one more change, one more fix, and lose the opportunity to show appreciation for what the person has already accomplished.

In our quest for excellence, we sometimes forget that perfection and excellence are not the same, that excellence can be knowing what to accept as good enough and what to overlook.

Here’s an idea.

Today, instead of looking around and noticing what is missing, what if:

  • You look instead for what is right?
  • You see a critical item that is working and give someone specific, positive feedback?
  • You decide to overlook something that may be good enough given its relative importance, even if it isn’t exactly what you wanted?

Sometimes, It Really Is That Simple

In this complex world we live in, we sometimes ignore the obvious. Today’s technology tools enable us to test and analyze just about anything.

While these tools have led to innovation and life-saving discoveries, I have begun to wonder if the complexity of our society is also leading us to miss the simple answers. Are we missing the obvious along the way to finding a solution?

The following experience happened a while back, and I often use it to remind myself to pause and look first for a simple answer, even when it may not seem obvious.

My internet service was continually cutting out. It would go down for a few minutes, sometimes an hour or so, and would always come back on its own. This situation continued for months. I called for service many times, and each time, the provider sent a new technician to search for the source of the problem and fix it. They replaced modems, replaced wires, and genuinely tried to fix it. 

I became convinced the problem must be with the wiring in the building, so I hired an independent company who came out and checked the internal wiring. Every expert, and there were many, said it should be working. But it wasn’t. 

Finally, I called a technician whose name I had kept because he had been particularly helpful in the past. I told him the whole story, and he sent his supervisor out. The supervisor asked a few questions, listened to my story, and solved the problem in 5 minutes. 

How did he do it?

The answer sounds like one of those brain teasers. Actually, I guess it was. What he did was simple. He asked a few questions, listened to my answers, and since everyone else had looked for a complex problem, he began by looking for a simple one. It turned out he was on the right path. There was a loose wire where the system attached to the building. He tightened the wire, and I have not had a problem since!

My takeaway from this…

When something isn’t working, pause. Then ask questions, listen carefully to the answers, and begin by looking for a simple rather than a complex cause and solution.

Is It Capacity Or Is It Making Choices?

As an Executive Life Coach for CEOs, I’ve seen several common traits in those who have successfully grown their businesses. I’ve told stories in the past about the importance of having a vision, having the right people, and having strong execution. Another more subtle characteristic shared by successful leaders, they seem to have an incredible “capacity.”

Webster defines capacity as:

  • the potential or suitability for holding, storing, or accommodating 
  • an individual’s mental or physical ability
  • the faculty or potential for treating, experiencing, or appreciating
  • the facility or power to produce, perform or deploy: maximum output

It’s this facility for maximum output to which I am referring, the ability to take on more, handle more stress, be present regardless of outside circumstances, or simply do more. It’s more than ability, it’s, well, capacity.

And, here’s what I observe. While it appears that these leaders can simply handle more and do more than others, they also can choose. To make a choice and accept that when they choose, they may disappoint someone. And they allow themselves to be okay with that.

 

Set Boundaries

As we come to realize that these “interesting times” are likely to be with us for some time, we are also beginning to accept that we must find ways to adapt.

While the form that adapt and accept takes will be different for each of us, one thing is true for all of us; we must focus on what we can control, be mindful of determining what that is, and set boundaries.

When I said this to a client recently, he asked me what I meant by boundaries, here is my reply.

For those who see ourselves as servant leaders, especially those who are people pleasers, setting boundaries begins with putting ourselves first. It is only by “putting our oxygen mask on first” and following three key steps that we can be in service to others.  

In today’s world, this begins first with setting aside “me” time. Me time can include exercise, meditation, watching TV, whatever works for us to relax and recharge.

Next, it’s making time for thinking and planning, “library time” as a client of mine liked to call it. Focused thinking time is essential for identifying the things we can control and staying focused.

Finally, it’s about calendar management. We can only accomplish the first two steps if we do this one. Our schedules must have boundaries. If we are fortunate to have an assistant, we can ask them to be the gatekeeper. And, calendar management apps (I use Calendly) can be equally useful. These apps have advanced settings that allow you to set buffers between meetings, a maximum number of meetings a day, etc. Set this for yourself so that you can be fully present and productive throughout the day.

If you are looking to grow or get unstuck and cut the time to action to six months or less, there is no better time than now to contact me.

Oops, I Was Thinking Out Loud

How often have we said this to ourselves and discovered unintended consequences? As leaders, we know that others are always watching what we do and listening and reacting to what we say. And, when we are with our office staff, in the factory or the field, most of us are conscious of what we say and how we show up.

I wonder though, if we have this same awareness as leaders when we are with our leadership team. Or, for that matter, when we, as members of the leadership team, are with our bosses and our colleagues. You may be thinking (silently?) so, are you saying I want to be aware of what I am saying all the time? Yikes!!

My sense is the answer is yes. When we think out loud, sometimes we create expectations, alarm, or even actions that we did not intend. Recently, one of my clients shared this story: “I was sitting in my office with my VP of Operations, I was thinking out loud, wondering what we needed to do next to get to the growth goals I have. I was going on and on about my frustrations and concerns. The next day, he came back to my office and asked me if I was planning to sell the company. He apparently had gone home and thought about what I had said all night.

In my own experience, when I have the presence to say, “May I think out loud for a moment?” or “Can I just vent for a moment?” that frames the conversation. And sometimes, this pausing reminds me that it is best to ‘zip it.’

What has been your experience?

Let’s work together. You can learn more about my leadership coaching and peer advisory boards here. 

Are You a Prey Dog?

I had an interesting conversation the other day with one of my clients. He was comparing drive in humans to the prey drive his dogs have. Not being a dog owner, I hadn’t heard this term before. He explained that prey drive is exactly what the words describe, a drive to go after prey. And, a large part of dog training is around managing their prey drive.

It’s this drive that causes some dogs to run after anything and everything and sometimes bring it home dead. According to dog trainers, the stronger the prey drive in a breed, the more critical it is to train your dog to have what they call “a strong recall”- coming when called.

You are probably wondering by now, where is she going with this?

Bringing it back to humans, the discussion was about the human prey instinct. For those of us who are driven to succeed, what are we doing to manage our prey dog-like instincts so that we aren’t always running after anything and everything?

  • When we achieve the goals we set for the quarter, are we off and running after the next period goals without pausing and enjoying the prey we caught?
  • On a beautiful weekend day, are we focused on getting things done instead of enjoying the day?
  • What are we doing to develop a strong recall, so we enjoy the ride, while are taking it?

Elisa K Spain http://elisaspain.com/leadershipcoach/

Friction

Friction slows things down and makes motion difficult — it’s basic physics. We also know less friction eases movement and increases speed. When things are faster and easier to use, commerce happens.

And, when friction is present, movement slows or worse yet, simply stops.

We see this all the time with technology adoption. Have you found yourself abandoning a website, because you forgot your password and the reset didn’t work? Or the website was slow and you were busy? Or, the app on your phone crashed? Or? Or? Or?

Recently a friend abandoned attending a show with us because try as she might she couldn’t get into the website to buy a ticket. I have been thinking about friction ever since.

Wondering what each of us may be inadvertently doing to create friction for our customers, or even for ourselves? None of us sets out to create friction and yet it happens all the time.

As the economy tightens, perhaps now is the time to hunt down friction everywhere it occurs – with customers, employees, vendors – and seek to eliminate it, so that we can maintain or grow our slice of a perhaps more challenging pie.

Elisa K Spain http://elisaspain.com/leadershipcoach/

Are You a CEO or President of a Privately Held Business? If you are also a lifetime learner and want to learn more about my Vistage Group, click http://elisaspain.com/impact/

Trust Your Gut For the No

Often when we are buyers, we find someone or something we like and then work to find data (experience, accomplishments, etc.) to convince ourselves why this person or this product is something we should buy.

When it comes to interviewing for key candidates, Vistage speaker, Barry Deutsch recommends we take a more structured approach to interviewing to improve our hiring success. He recommends we start the process first by clearly defining the success factors for the role and then asking the candidate to tell us stories about how they have achieved this success in the past and how they will do it for us.

It dawned on me recently that this approach works in many (most?) situations when we are buyers. After all, when we are hiring, we are buyers.

So, am I saying no gut at all? All data? No. Absolutely, there is a gut to every decision we make, and in most situations, especially when we are buyers, trust your gut for the no. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. When hiring, it’s the behavioral questions that help us learn if a person is a cultural fit. If a person’s style, ethics or values don’t fit, it doesn’t matter if they can do the job.

When committing our time or buying a product, isn’t it really the same key question?

  • What are my expectations (success factors)?
  • What is the data that supports that my expectations will be met?
  • Then the gut question: How does this feel?

In short, if it’s not going well in the sales process, it has nowhere to go but down. If we are paying attention and listening, our gut tells us this.

Elisa K Spain http://elisaspain.com/leadershipcoach/

Are You a CEO or President of a Privately Held Business? If you are also a lifetime learner and want to learn more about my Vistage Group, click http://elisaspain.com/impact

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The Choice

 

The Choice

The intellect of man is forced to choose
Perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse. 

William Butler Yeats, 13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939

I came across this poem some time ago and was reminded of it in a recent discussion about “what matters”. We often talk about achieving balance; we perceive that it is the stress of modern times. Yet this poem was written in the early 20th century, a reminder that this quest is the human condition, a daily challenge of choice.  Here are the questions that come to mind:
  • Must we choose between success in life and work?
  • Or is it the search for perfection of one or the other that forces the choice? e.g., Albert Einstein was portrayed by his biographers as a poor husband and father. Was he, or was this the judgment of the biographers?
  • As we search for meaning in our lives, must we distinguish between what defines “life” and what defines “work” or is it possible to simply pursue what matters to us?
  • On this day devoted to mothers, what are you telling or demonstrating to your children about this question?

Elisa K Spain

Are You a CEO or President of a Privately Held Business? If you are also a lifetime learner and want to learn more about my Vistage Group, click here

Let Things Unfold At Their Own Pace

As leaders, most of us are action oriented. Something crosses our desk; we deal with it. An issue comes up with a customer, a vendor, an employee; we take action. And, sometimes, if we let things unfold at their own pace, we achieve a better result.

What?? Isn’t that avoidance or procrastination or fear of confrontation or, or, or?

  • Sometimes action is needed, and sometimes nothing is needed.
  • Sometimes, that annoying email doesn’t require a response.
  • Sometimes, when a negotiation stalls the best tactic is to leave it be, or
  • If the other side has already done that, let it rest.
  • Sometimes, doing nothing is simply the best strategy.

Two quick stories from two CEO’s I know:

First, a long term negotiation on a contract has gone on for several years. As an outsider looking in, one might wonder, why not bring this to closure. And, then we learn, it’s been 20 years of negotiation, minimal dollars spent, many thousands at stake. Even if it eventually settles, the present value of the money saved justifies the long process.

Another CEO negotiating with a former operating partner, still an owner. Sure would be nice to close that loose end, icky to have a former partner, a voting member. And then we learn, the former partner is in bankruptcy; looks like the CEO is going to pick up those shares at a significantly lower cost.

As Kenny Rogers says so well in the Gambler… “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away.”

For me it’s a reminder to pause before I pick up the phone or write that email about the matter I feel an urgency to resolve.

Elisa K Spain

Are You a CEO or President of a Privately Held Business? If you are also a lifetime learner and want to learn more about my Vistage Group, click here