What are you prepared to do?! (cue Sean Connery)

What are you prepared to do?

Eliot Ness knew when to double down. And don’t bring a knife to a gun fight either!

Business success requires you to get down in the dirt and fight. It’s not theory in a business book. It’s day to day, minute to minute, choices.

Your “non” choices can hurt you even more than your active choices. “Decision by not deciding” is usually more deadly than making a wrong choice. Unfortunately, it’s not all that uncommon. There are no points in life for “not deciding” your way into a mess, but we often treat the messy results as “not my fault” because we didn’t actively choose our path.

So what are you prepared to do?! (Feel free to re-enact Sean Connery saying this line in The Untouchables. It will make you smile.)

1. What are the five most important things you need to do to immediately impact your success?

2. What are the five problems/situations/people you’ve been dodging/ignoring/sweeping under the rug?

3. What are five things you’re currently doing that aren’t driving revenue/creating the change you want but still need to get done? Can you delegate them, minimize them, automate them?

Taking Action:

Sit down for  15 minutes. Make the lists. Title them: Do, Deal With, Delegate. (I’m hoping you can tell which is which!). They don’t have to be perfect. They do have to be items that would have significant impact on your business revenue/project success/ enjoyment of life.

Next Step:

Do, deal with or delegate one thing on each list. Right now. Yes, now.

No, not next week. Not when your horoscope suggests you turn over a new leaf. Not after American Idol. Now.

And decide which thing you will Do, Deal With or Delegate tomorrow.

Eliot Ness and Jim Malone would be proud of you.

Need a reminder of what a blood oath is? Watch here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

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#3 of 3 Great Reasons why what Worked for you Before, isn’t Working Now.

rapid rise and descent of a business strategy

Your strategy was working great, then it stopped? Here’s three reasons why it may have stopped working

It was Working.

Now it’s not working.

Why?

It’s hard to continually grow success. With rare exceptions, the line to the top of the success platform is more often a series of “one step forward, two steps back, a side step, a loop de loop,” and then, finally, “up we go”. One of the most difficult things to come to terms with in both business and personal life is when something that had worked so well for you previously is now not only not working, but may actually be working against you.

So why isn’t it working?

Joined us in the middle? See Reason #1 and Reason #2

Reason #3. Your product is wearing the wrong clothes.

Your product/business/idea may be great, but it may be dressed in the wrong packaging for your intended audience. Now this isn’t usually the main driver, but can be why growth has stalled. What do “the wrong clothes” look like?

  • Your high tech/impulse purchase product isn’t optimized for mobile access, or you created a high tech mobile product for a “not very high tech” audience. You may have reached the saturation point for the people that recognized your product in the space it is in, but you may be missing a much larger market that is playing in another playground.
  • Your choice of market place isn’t reaching the maximum audience.  Are you a retail store? Are you in a indoor mall? How is your foot traffic vs the foot traffic at a strip center (and yes, it was a very different story 10 years ago)? Or maybe you’re a business website with a non-visual based business who is doing all your marketing over on Pinterest.  Blogging when your audience wants podcasts? It may not be that you’re located in a bad place, you just may not be located in the optimal place.
  • Your packaging doesn’t match what your audience’s expectations. Are you a luxury business with a pre-canned, pre-formatted word template for everything from invoices to your website that reeks of beginning Microsoft 101? Is your website loaded with “Coming soon” and a copyright date of 2011 running across the bottom?

 Well that’s just great, Jeanne. So what do I do now, Little Ms. Fix it?

Read our next article, Charging Back Uphill, Blasting out of a Stall. 

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Is your “Confirmation Bias” Backing you into a Corner?

are your confirmation biases blinding you?

Confirmation Bias + Misplaced focus = Epic Failure

Confirmation Bias is a common phenomenon where humans view large quantities of evidence and choose to give greater weight (or even all the weight) to those items that support their theories. Think of it as a recipe for disaster:

Confirmation bias + Excess focus on the areas we know best (regardless of their importance)Epic Failures a.k.a. Projects that consume a ton of energy and yield little in the way of results.

In her recent book, “The Upside of Down” Megan McArdle gives two great examples of “confirmation bias”, one dealing with the “Truthers” who claim the 9/11 bombings were a secret government project and the other example an examination of how different groups view the reasons for the recent financial crisis, each “team” selecting the evidence that support their theory and rejecting other bits of evidence.

Lately it has become easier and easier for all of us to ignore or reject information that runs contrary to our internal views. Depending on your politics you can select a news channel that will then present the news in a slant that will endlessly confirm your world view. Any dissenting opinions will be cut off, minimized or mocked.  The speed at which an internet based news society disseminates information also allows for a minimum of in-depth journalism, much less fact checking.

Unfortunately we do that inside of the business world as well. Labels such as “negative,” “nit-picky” or “impractical” can be accurate, but they can also be used to ignore dissent, or worse yet, critical red flags. As a business leader, if you’re committed to doing great things, you need to be open to listening to your critics. There may be a nugget of gold in there.

Years ago I worked at a dot com. After working there for several months, I was told we’d be launching free websites for real estate agents, then charging for them at some distant later point. Having come from an accounting background I asked some questions about the timing of the future revenues vs. the cost of extending the free sites for an indefinite time. I remember being told very clearly (and somewhat condescendingly,) that I “didn’t understand the model.” I went home that evening, questioning myself, my brain, even my ability to function in a changing world. I ran the numbers, researched other similar models, and calculated the rough costs of the tens of thousands of dollars I knew that the company was spending each day. (Our “burn rate” was to the tune of about 500K per week). I decided I was simply “not getting it” clearly a dinosaur unprepared for the new world of the internet based business model. I was 33 years old and a dinosaur.

I was wrong. I understood the model. The company, however, did not. They shut down 8 months later, having been unable to convert the “business model” into a sustainable business fast enough. The investors were unwilling to provide any more funds as well. They apparently didn’t understand the “business model” either.

As you create your plan, your vision, listen to the dissenters. Ask questions, probe for why. Punch holes in your own plan. Play devil’s advocate and picture a model that operates on entirely different assumptions than the model you chose. Why is your model more valid? Where are your confirmation biases? When you’ve uncovered them, and examined the dissenting evidence and factored it into the model, that’s when you’re ready to begin!

Need some more ideas on how to make sure your project is ready to go? Start here.

Worried about your blind spots? Read this.

Afraid you aren’t seeing the bubble you live in? Try this.

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Pull the Tooth.

rotten tooth

Ignore at your own Peril

What aren’t you doing? What are you spending all your time, your energy, your thinking, and inevitably, your business resources, NOT doing?

There’s always one thing. And it takes a ton of time and energy to ignore it, work around it,  to sidestep it. We procrastinate, or worse yet, design elaborate ways to avoid doing that one thing.

Maybe you need to cut off the client that makes you crazy. Maybe you need to fire someone. Maybe you need to admit that the plan just isn’t working. Do you need to make a sales call you dread? Remedy a customer situation that went sideways? Tell an employee they’re not cutting it? Find a new supplier? Admit that the big number you’ve kept on the “Accounts Receivable” ledger, just isn’t ever going to be paid?

What would happen if you did it today? Yes, there might be some pain, or even a little bloodshed. But in the end, you’ll be able to focus on what you need to do to go forward. And you will be amazed at all the time, energy and space “pulling the tooth” will free up.

Just do it. Today.

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Uncomfortable Conversation #1: “We need to shut down a business line”

 

Empty interior of building

Making the Tough Call isn’t Easy

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” Tim Ferris

The Situation:

Your team, after doing your research, running the numbers and looking at a challenge from every angle has come to the conclusion that a business line or project needs to be closed.  This will impact staff, facility leases, and even some customers who have come to rely on the services or products of that team.  You need to present the information to the Sr. Leadership team, two of whom made their careers by working in the very business you are proposing to close, and some of their protégé’s are working in that division right now.

What you wish would happen:

  1. Someone else would do this. Anyone else. Maybe that external auditor could suggest it.
  2. You could just drop the anonymous suggestion in a suggestion box.
  3. A recruiter would call you with the job of the century this morning so you could skip the conversation entirely.

Things to have with you:

  1. A clear, simple visual of financial projections that can be viewed at a glance, along with much more detailed information in a separate package. Graphs or charts are a good option for the overview.
  2. A plan showing the impact of keeping the line open, vs. the costs and impact of closing the line. Do one for best case, worst case and average scenarios for each option.  Be sure to incorporate your country’s or state’s requirements for staff reductions etc., in your projections (i.e. legal notice, severance. Also include the non-staff costs – leases, equipment etc).
  3. A clear proactive plan for notifying staff, customers and media (if applicable) along with a budget and timeline for the wind down effort.

Having “The Conversation”:

  1. Pick your spot. Don’t just slide it in during a random meeting or a regular staff meeting. This calls for a special meeting to just focus on this issue.
  2. Line up your sponsors beforehand.  This means having lots of one-on-one small, private meetings with discreet senior people to serve as advocates.  If everyone at the meeting is grappling with a new idea at once, the normal response would be to shoot it down or delay it.
  3. Expect that there will be delays.  Most executives will want to do a deep dive on your methodology and your numbers. (That’s what the supporting details in Item 1 of “things to have with you” are for.) However, make sure one of your exhibits shows the costs of delaying the decision by more than a month.
  4. Be sure to acknowledge the human costs involved as you discuss the topic. This is a fine balance; do not recount every detail of every family that will be affected (“Of course we’ll have to cut Mike Smith, and he’s the sole provider for his widowed mother, her six children and he has a disabled son at home”) but don’t go to the opposite extreme either, treating staff as widgets that need to be offloaded.  That will make people question your judgment. Suggest areas of opportunities for the people in the affected unit, by pointing out growing units that require similar skill sets or staffing. If there truly is no internal option, suggest an outplacement strategy.

What will happen next (most likely):

  1. Understand that once you have “dropped the bomb” you lose control of how the information is absorbed and acted upon. Don’t be so strongly wed to your proposal that you devalue attempts at compromise or restructuring. Simply stay firm, polite and open to input. Use your alternative case scenarios to help look at various options that may be proposed.
  2. Once the decision has been made, having the clear communications and action plan ready is imperative.  If you have executives who argue for delay, and it appears that even with delay, the company will have to cut the unit, you will want to point out that doing it sooner rather than later may allow the company to allot a greater amount of resources towards the displaced staff than waiting will.
  3. Take the heat. No matter who makes the final call, you and your team will eventually be “outed” as the architects of the plan. That means you’ll have some team members, even those who get to stay, looking at you in a different way.  Respond to inquiries with a firm, compassionate response and rehearse other team members as well. This is also not the time to upgrade to a better car (even if you’ve been saving forever for it) or take a long exotic vacation.  Low key empathy is the best response.

This post is part of our “Uncomfortable Conversations” series. Our next Uncomfortable Conversation: The project budget has cost overruns. Big Ones.

Have you ever been the “lucky” person who got to deliver this piece of bad news? Share how you did it and what did or didn’t work in the comment section!

book by Jeanne Goldie

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Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

 

Uncomfortable Conversations: The Key to a Successful Turnaround

 

unpleasant discussions

It’s never good when someone says “We need to talk.”

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” Tim Ferris

Getting a business or any team to change direction can be challenging. Throughout the process you’ll be gathering supporters, convincing stakeholders, working to change the minds of doubters while overcoming roadblocks.  And you may be doing it all without official authority or only lukewarm support.

It’s great to have a vision, but how do you get buy-in? You’ll likely have to have many uncomfortable conversations, usually prefaced by a few sleepless nights where you endlessly run variations of the encounter in your head.

We’re going to share what we’ve learned about uncomfortable conversations: how to have them, how to choose your words and how to maximize your opportunities for success.  And, most importantly,  how NOT to wind up dead in the game of “Kill the Messenger.”

Because if this was easy, everyone would do it!

Upcoming topics include:

What are some of the Uncomfortable Conversations you’ve had to have? Share in the comment section!

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Rule #10: Celebrate the Victories, even the Small Ones

Victory Celebrations

It’s okay to celebrate “4 out of 5” of our solutions worked today!

When you’re leading a significant project, especially one that may not generate instant results, it’s important to celebrate your victories along the way. When you first create your plan, put in some milestones to celebrate, and rejoice at some of the milestones you couldn’t predict.

Celebrate when the computer coding finally works the correct way. Celebrate when half of the employees fill out the new form. Recognize those who “got with the program” and did something to support the plan.

Let the whole team know when any progress is made, was there an uptick in sales? Did the supplies bill go down by 10% last month? Did 5% of the donors give more than they usually do? Client cancellations decrease? Chart it; use one of those old fashioned thermometer posters if the workplace has a central gathering place. Post your scorecards. Show the progress in some tangible way.

It’s rare to get dramatic results overnight. Some days a victory may even consist of “At least Joe in Accounting only rolled his eyes three times when we were presenting.” (Those victories are best celebrated privately by your working team, don’t post them on the scorecard!).

Momentum comes with motivation. As the leader, it’s your job to keep the momentum going.

Next up: The Super Duper, Top Secret Rule You need to Know from the Very Beginning.

What’s the best Victory Celebration you’ve been a part of? Share in the comments below:

Did you miss the first nine Rule of Beginning a Turnaround? Find them here.

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10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround

improving your results

Things to consider as you plan how to get from “here” to “there”.

 

  1. Know if you’re an Aspirin or a Vitamin.
  2. What you Knew on the Very First Day is What you Need to Know Now.
  3. Weigh the Opportunity Cost.
  4. Do the Math – Follow the Money.
  5. Find your Allies.
  6. Build a Measuring Stick.
  7. Locate the Elephants.
  8. Understand the Art, Science and Use of Duct Tape.
  9. Change Does Not Occur in a Vacuum.
  10. Communicate and Celebrate the Victories – even the small ones.

+ The Super Top Secret extra rule you always need to know from the beginning!

We’ll drill down on each of these over the next ten days, and share lots more info on the details over the next few weeks. Looking forward to your comments.

book by Jeanne Goldie

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© Jeanne Goldie 2015