Better, Better, Maybe Not?

The notion that we can constantly make ourselves and our companies better, in theory, is a great idea. But when does it become too much? For me, the best way to answer this question is to notice our strengths and work to enhance them. As an executive life coach, I refer to this as discovering and working in our genius. Sometimes we become so focused on achieving that we cannot appreciate who we are or what we have already accomplished. When we are constantly reaching, it's a recipe for perpetual dissatisfaction.  What? Wasn't I just quoting Florence Nightingale a few weeks ago, who said discontent leads to innovation? Yup. It is indeed a delicate balance, isn't it? For me, the subtle difference between striving to make the world a better place and pausing to celebrate accomplishment comes with self-awareness. The stoics said it well. We must be careful not to become reactionary or to accept, without question, the status quo. We must know ourselves, know our geniuses, and...
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The Gift of Feedback

Feedback is a gift. It is an opportunity for personal development and, ultimately, leadership development. And, it is hard; Very hard. I am not sure which is harder, giving feedback or accepting it. Recently I was with a small group of fellow coaches, several of us long-tenured, and we were discussing this very topic. We spent a couple of hours working with each other to improve our skills at both. I mention long-tenured, as a reminder to myself, that no matter how skilled we think we are at this, it is hard, and requires constant practice. Following are the reminders I heard. When giving feedback: Start from a place of care, ask yourself what outcome you want to achieve from the feedback, and get clear that you really believe that outcome is possible, i.e., is the person capable of the behavior change you want to see? You can earn trust with truthful, specific, positive feedback (TSP as speaker, Michael Allosso, calls it). When giving constructive...
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With Diversity, Comes Diversity

What does this statement even mean? Homogeneous groups have similar backgrounds, preferences and personality styles. Often homogeneous groups are homegrown with few additions from "outside."Diverse groups, on the other hand, may differ in traditional ways, i.e., gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual preference. Members may also differ in terms of their personality styles and backgrounds. Finally, a group's diversity may come from changes in membership as outsiders join and integrate into the existing culture. Diverse leadership teams are hard...they are harder to build, unlikely to come to a consensus, and are more likely to have conflict. So, why bother? Because... they are harder to build, are unlikely to come to a consensus and are more likely to have conflict, they make better decisions. Research studies prove this out. And, diverse groups only work when they can come together as an integrated team. The word integration is rarely used today in the context of a diversity conversation. It harkens back to the 1970s...
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Is it Time for a Different Approach to Strategic Planning?

This is the time of the year that most companies begin their strategic planning process. While it's fun to host and participate in an off-site, the end result sadly is often put on a shelf until next year. Mostly the plan is a continuation of the last one, and mostly the plan calls for growth, usually growth that is based on internal expectations. And, unless the plan is translated into numbers and then becomes part of the budget, expectations are infrequently measured against actual outcome. No wonder the reality of strategic planning and the hope are often not aligned. If you are interested in doing it differently this time... Chris Bradley of the McKinsey Consulting firm offers four practical suggestions to tackle the particular problem of bold forecasts and timid actions: Don't hide the hairy back in the bottom drawer Calibrate your projected results to the outside view Build a momentum case Focus on moves, not promises This short article Hockey Stick Dreams and Hairy Back Reality should be required reading...
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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...
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Now That We Are Here

Business is good for most companies and has been for quite some time.  And yet, the economic signals are there; we are nearing the end (are perhaps at the end?) of this long economic recovery. Your industry may have more runway, or you may be in an industry that is a leading indicator. Regardless of your industry position, an equal perhaps more important question to ask is, what percentage of your customers fall into each of these categories and those in-between? In short, are we diversified? Anyone who has hired an investment advisor knows, all of them advise first and foremost, to build a diversified portfolio. And, despite all the data supporting the long term benefit of diversification, some investors believe they can pick the winner or time the market. There are LOTS of stories in the investment press about the risks and consequences of these choices. Those of you who are frequent readers know that my background is in financial services and investments and I often compare running...
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The Power of Habit, Avoiding Decision Fatigue

How many times during the day do we pause and ask ourselves what was I intending to accomplish today, how did I end up here? According to one study, the cause of this is decision fatigue. Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. Conversely, the more of our key behaviors we can put under the automatic and more efficient control of habit, the more likely we are to accomplish the things that truly matter to us. How different would your life be, after all, if you could get yourself to sleep 8 hours at night, exercise every day, eat healthy foods in the right portions, take time for reflection and renewal, remain calm and positive under stress,...
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Cyberattacks are the Silent Killers of SMBs

One of the top five concerns noted in Vistage's recent report Decision Factors H2 2018, is cybersecurity. If you have employees, customers or financial data, you are a target for a cyberattack. Cyber criminals are aggressively targeting small and midsize businesses (SMBs), and cyberattacks are increasing in complexity, frequency and severity. For many SMBs, those attacks are leading to loss of data, cash, customer records, employee information, leadership credibility, and employee and customer trust. Yet many SMBs still haven’t taken the proper precautions to protect themselves. Cybersecurity is a silent killer, it can shut you down like nothing else, says Joe Gavin, Vistage chief research officer. Here are his suggested actions to protect your business: Assess the strength of your cybersecurity - To gauge the strength of your cybersecurity, use a reputable tool — such as the Cybersecurity Framework offered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Create a layered defense - A comprehensive cybersecurity plan has three core components: people, process and technology. Call on a...
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Talent shortage goes critical

One of the top 5 concerns noted in Vistage's recent report Decision Factors H2 2018, is talent shortages. The unemployment rate at 3.9% is near an 18 year low. Last week, the DOL announced the number of Americans applying for unemployment fell to a near 49 year low. By measure of most economists, we are at full employment; some say we are past that. Additionally, there is a growing mismatch between skills desired and skills available. In short, demand exceeds supply on several levels. Joe Gavin, Vistage chief research officer, offers these suggestions gleaned from experts he interviewed: Change how you retain talent - Quoting Fabiola Brumley, Southeast regional executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, "To hold on to your best people, try supplementing employee benefits with non-traditional benefits, such as financial counseling or a reward system that recognizes high performers. Additionally, Joseph Quinlan stresses that companies should be “much more flexible — not just for millennials, but for the aging cohort as well. There are a...
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Cost pressures broadening and growing stronger

The #1 concern noted in Vistage's recent report Decision Factors H2 2018, is rising costs. As we near the end of the current economic cycle, for the first time, in a long time, in addition to a typical cyclical tightening, we are also experiencing inflation. Wages are rising, the Fed is raising short term rates, and commodity prices are rising. Add to that the tariffs and businesses are under cost pressure that has not been with us for a long time. The resulting profit declines are a double-edged sword as the impact is on both you and your customers. What to do? Joe Gavin, Vistage chief research officer, offers these suggestions: Raise your prices - 56% of Vistage members are already saying they have, or plan to raise prices. Now is the time to get ahead of the expected continued pressure on price. Talk with customers about their long-term plans - A transparent conversation can lead to a strategic discussion of how you...
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