Category Archives: leadership

Feel like you’re going backwards? Read this – 3 ways to launch forward!

Often in life and business, we face setbacks that feel like we are going backwards.  Here are 3 ways to break out of that negative thinking:

1)  Regroup – gather all of your energy inward and ignore the negative all around you.  Deep breaths…….  and more deep breaths………  sometimes moving into silence to contemplate helps rejuvenate your energy.

2)  Set your target date and goal – Focus only on what you want to accomplish.   Ignore the negative all around you.  Imagine all barriers and distractions fading away, disappearing into thin air.

3)  Give 100% of your effort and energy to your target, and only your target.  The most successful people have a single-minded attention to what they are wanting to accomplish.

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Moral Dilemma Stories and 3 questions to help you find a solution

I have had several moral dilemmas posed to me in the past few months – an unusually high number that I believe is related to the difficult economic times that we have faced in recent years.  Each situation was very different, but the approach to resolving each situation has the same pattern.  Here are a couple stories to illustrate:

Dilemma #1 –  A friend’s startup company “ABC Co” just climbed out of significant debt in the past 18 months and has been profitable for 3 months.   ABC Co’s largest customer, comprising 25% of revenue, goes out for bid on the services provided by ABC Co.  The Customer’s senior manager over supplier accounts asks for a confidential meeting with ABC Co and essentially states that he would guarantee that ABC Co wins the bid if ABC Co hires this manager away into a current job opening with ABC Co.

My friend replies that he wants to win the bid and keep the Customer’s business based on ABC Co’s merits, and that ABC Co’s hiring would go through proper protocols, not be circumvented by side deals.  The manager becomes angry and strongly influences the bid against ABC Co.   My friend loses a large customer and the winning solution is actually marginally workable because the manager who controlled the bidding was unfamiliar with some complexities of the services required.

The dilemma?  Should my friend approach the President of the Customer company (who is a colleague in other matters) and disclose the manager’s unethical proposal, or should he honor the manager’s request for a confidential discussion?

1)  Has ABC Co done anything illegal, immoral or unethical to date?  No.  First rule is always stay within the law.  

2)  Has ABC Co kept its promises?   Yes, it agreed to treat the manager’s conversation as confidential, although perhaps in hindsight this promise was a mistake.  Second rule, always keep your word, unless keeping your promise will put you in jeopardy of Rule #1 above. 

3)  Will either alternative (keeping ABC Co’s promise of confidentiality, or breaching ABC Co’s promise) destroy someone else [the Customer]?  No, the results of a marginal winning bidder might “hurt” the Customer business a bit, but won’t bring the Customer’s enterprise to its knees.  Rule #3: only consider other alternatives if keeping Rules 1 and 2 will destroy someone or something unfairly.

The Solution:  My friend decided not to disclose the manager’s unethical proposal, since it might only come across as sour grapes, and because there was a possibility ABC Co fairly lost the bid based on other unknown facts.  He gracefully acknowledged losing the Customer’s business to the President, then asked the President to provide candid feedback to him so ABC Co could learn from its mistakes and do better next time.   The hope?   To learn a lesson from this process and make an unbeatable proposal next time to win the business back.    If  the manager’s decisions were so hugely detrimental  that they would destroy the Customer’s business, then my friend would have changed his mind and a) disclosed to the manager his intention and then b) enlightened the President regarding the manager’s unethical proposal.  

Side note:  In my own workplace, I have seen customers return to our business 2 or 3 years later after we took the high road and lost a deal.  They end up being the most loyal of customers in the long term, because we kept the relationship paramount, more important than a single deal. 

Dilemma #2:   A client I work with came across a purchasing opportunity that was a once-in-a-lifetime find.  This item was extremely rare, offered at an unheard of low price.  However, the seller was managing a competing business under receivership and would only sell the item for cash: no receipt, no bill of sale and no paper trail.

The Dilemma?  Should my client buy the item, which is likely “hot” and without legitimate title attached, or turn the deal down?

1)  Has the client done anything illegal, immoral or unethical to date?  No.

2)  Is taking this opportunity illegal?  Yes.  You’ve got your answer already.  Think about the risk of buying a hot item and tarnishing the client’s reputation as a purveyor of stolen or illegally obtained items.

3)  Will doing either alternative bring someone or the business to its knees?  Yes.  an illegal act could trigger reputational risk that is irretrievable.  If the message sent to other employees is that illegal acts are condoned, this sets the stage for other, highly risky transactions that could also harm the business.

The Solution:  The client has to weigh the benefit of gaining a steal of a deal item, against the risk and magnitude of negative consequences, either legal, financial or reputational.

Side note:  I have seen situations like these go both ways — sometimes clients take the amazing deal and sometimes they turn it down.  However, I have seen more than one business lose long term relationships and future deals as customers and suppliers eventually figure out the “value system” of a business and decide to terminate dealings. 

Bottom line:  Choose your options wisely, consider the long-term implications of your choices, and protect your own reputation.

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12 Questions to Inspire your Business

Think of the best place you’ve ever worked in your career, or the most highly reputable business with whom you have been involved — what was the magic formula that made the workplace so special?

One of my favorite business books,  First Break All the Rules, offers the closest formula of 12 business attributes that have been distilled from thousands of interviews with the world’s most successful managers and organizations.  The book frames business wisdom in the form of 12 questions that are easily asked by any manager in any organization.  If your business answers these 12 questions with a strong positive correlation, you likely run a top notch group or organization that is inspired, motivated and achieving consistent business results.

Without giving away all of the secrets of this book, the 12 questions provide common sense clues to building an inspired team or organization.

For example, rank your department between 1 and 5 (1=never, 5=always):

“I have clear expectations of my job”

“I have all the resources I need to do my job”

“I have been given feedback (positive or constructive) within the last 7 days by my supervisor”  …..and so on

Those questions where your team answers in the lower quartile?   you probably need some work in that area.  I have used this 12 question template several times to create a baseline of morale and capability when joining a new department.  It’s a great tool to define opportunities for business change, inspire new business capability and build improved results within a team.

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SIPOC – An Amazing Way to Reduce Waste and Streamline Workload

DO you ever struggle to find tools that help employees streamline their workload?  Are your employees unclear on exactly what they should be doing, or WHY timely, accurate, complete and quality results are desired from them?  This tool, the SIPOC chart, is simple and easy to use for employees at any level.  It promotes better job understanding, then provides a means to streamline workload, increase efficiencies and reduce waste:

Every employee can think of his/her job as a “Process”.  Every “Process” is linked to Suppliers / Inputs and to Customers / Outputs.  The SIPOC chart breaks down each of these elements into a separate buckets, so employees can better clarify their role and linkages to others:

SUPPLIERS:  These are the people, departments, companies who request your services or provide you with materials, labor, documents or resources to do your job.  Think of all the people who call you, email you, provide you with information that you use in your daily job, those who provide you data, send you bills to pay, or who drop documents into your in-basket.

INPUTS:  The materials, documents, information, labor, services or items that land in your inbasket or in your work area that are needed to perform your job.  This could be delivered on paperwork, electronically, or even verbally.

PROCESSES:  The actual work or procedures you perform in your job.  Think of this as a series of steps that you perform during your average day.  Now break down these processes into those that “add value” to your business, and those that are time wasters (for example, cleaning up errors and mistakes)

OUTPUTS:  The results that you create in your job – reports, products, services.  Think about the timing, accuracy, quality and completeness of the outputs from your job.

CUSTOMERS:  All of the people, departments, companies or groups who may rely directly or indirectly on outputs from your job.

See the following example of an accounts payable clerk:

Once your SIPOC chart is complete, have your employee analyze his/her Processes to determine which are “value added” and which are “waste”.  In the above example, there may be significant time locating backup documents to verify invoices for payment.  There may also be some processes like “Error Correction” which much be performed when data is incomplete or invalid.  I have seen jobs where more than 50% of employee time is spent on correction and chasing down information – think how efficient an office could run without waste buildup in each position!

The Goal?

a) Eliminate “Waste Processes” within each job;

b) Train Suppliers to give you better, more timely or more accurate inputs;

c) Understand Customers and what Outputs they REALLY want.

Try this SIPOC analysis, see if you can streamline parts of your own job and department!

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