Friday, 28 December 2012

"The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A fable for mangers and their employees" By Patrick Lencioni

There are several schools of management thought and thousands of books on the subject. Management theory can get pretty deep and technical. That's probably why most of it doesn't really work. How about your employees? I realize managers try not to know their employees on a personal level because one day they may have to fire them, but what does this do?

 People spend over 30% of their time on work related tasks. This is time spent away from family, friends and other activities. Gallup shows that 91% of employees are either disengaged or actively disengaged which means that they hate their work. Why do something you hate? All work has aspects that you will not like doing. Regardless, hating something that encompasses 30% of your time is really heart breaking and costly. Can this be fixed? The short answer is yes.

 "Three Signs of a Miserable Job" spells out three principles that are notoriously simple. The level of simplicity is probably why most organizations do not do it. I will chat about each one.

 1. Anonymity – People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. Belonging is a core requirement for humans one rung up from safety on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Belonging is so strong that you can parallel this to gang life. Gang members relate to each other and will do anything for another member because their desire to belong is human nature. Managers fear getting close to their employees because they may have to fire them one day. This is really unfortunate and can be fixed. The success of Facebook and social media companies today solidifies this notion that people need to belong. As an effective manager, it is your job to be genuinely interested in your people. There is an old saying in sales that applies here: People don’t care what you know until they know that you care and people buy from people they like. Why would it be any different from an employee / manager standpoint? It isn’t.

 2. Irrelevance – Everybody has a purpose and wants to perform. The goal is to help people become more of what they already are and help them perform for the company. In order to do this, people need to understand how their work is relevant and who depends on them. This is a bit easier to identify if you are customer facing but if you are in the back office then it is harder to see unless your manager points it out to you. Here is an example in our organization. Our software developers have to build great products or we cannot sell and create revenue. If they make bad products then our support staff’s lives become a living hell because customers are unhappy. Development makes a huge impact on customers, service and the company. EVERY position in the company has an effect just as powerful as this one. If we don’t acquire new customers as sales people then it does not matter how good the product is because the company will go out of business. Everyone needs to know that their job matters. It is the manager’s job to bring this out and show it to their direct reports.

 3. Immeasurement – College and professional sports generate billions of dollars per year in revenue. People love sports and love to compete. Would they love it if there was no scoreboard? Would they watch if there was no winner and no loser? Absolutely not! The same holds true for every job in every company. Each person has to have their own scoreboard and they need to be concrete and tied to relevance. This is the secret to great cultures. This is how to build employee engagement. Organizations with engaged employees grow 2.6 times faster than organizations with disengaged employees. You compound that year over year and you have the makings of an outstanding organization with huge competitive advantage.

I hope you found this short summary useful. Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!

 Until next time,
Joe at Success Progress


Friday, 21 December 2012

Mitigating Failure in Small Biz

E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work 
and What to Do About it
by Michael E. Gerber

FACT: 75% of small businesses fail in the first 10 years and 50% fail in the first five. These stats are horrible and with the right strategy, can be mitigated. E-Myth Revisited explains how to do this, as well as why most businesses fail in the first place. Franchise businesses succeed 75% of the time over the same 10 year period. We'll contrast the differences in this summary. 

Michael argues that three personalities are required to run a business and they all have different agendas. They are the technician, the manager and the entrepreneur. The tech wants to just do the work, the manager wants to organize the work and keep order and the entrepreneur wants to strategize about the vision and the future. Problems arise because most people who start the businesses are technicians only. They have to do everything themselves and end up buying a job and working triple time to get everything done. The personalities are required for a business to be successful but when there is only one person i.e. the plumber, hair stylist, dentist etc. who start the business then these personality types conflict. 

Here I cover three of Michael's key points:

1. Infancy, Adolescence and Maturity – These are growth stages in any business and if they are not handled correctly, then bankruptcy is the conclusion. Infancy consists of starting the business with you doing all the work. Adolescence is when you hire your first employees. Typically what happens is that the employees are thrown into the job with no training and they become your right hand. Maturity happens when the business finds its legs and is able to scale growth.

2. Why do franchises succeed and small businesses fail? The number one reason is that the franchise is a crafted system and the small business is started on a whim with no real experience. The franchise model is strong because it gives all the necessary training, steps and systems to succeed. McDonalds is the greatest franchise to prove this. They can hire low skilled workers to run the system successfully. This is important because everything is covered and checklists are required. The system is the business. The small business does not have this luxury and usually dies because of it.

3. Systems and Scalability – We can learn a lot from franchise businesses. They are always honing and creating better systems so the business can run by itself. I can personally attest to the power of this. My business is in enterprise software. When the business was first starting, 80 hour work weeks were standard. We did everything without a roadmap just to keep the business going. When I stepped back and asked for help, it allowed me to work on the business instead of in it. We now have systems in place that allow us to control quality, deliver on time and keep happy customers. This is not easy to do. System thinking is detailed oriented and is a culture change with the people. I can tell you that if you have a small business and want to stop trading HOURS for DOLLARS then start scripting and creating systems so the business can run without you. 

The goal of creating a business that can run without you is lofty but definitely attainable. The best example of this is Warren Buffett. He owns excellent businesses and does not run them at all. He has the right people in the right places and it frees him up to do what he does best which is capital allocation.

Work on creating business systems so you can have more time to either grow your business or spend time with your family. Working a 100 hours per week and having the business stress for a simple pay check is not the way to a happy life style. Creating systems is the way to true income independence and freedom. 

TGIF & Happy Holidays,


Friday, 14 December 2012

Navigating Important Conversations

I decided to write about this book because it's packed with relevant information on handling difficult conversations. "Difficult Conversations" happen in all areas of life – think about your relationships and work. This book is very relevant if you are responsible for other people. I recommend highly you read it if you are a leader and/or a manager of any group. What makes these conversations so hard to face is the fear of the consequences – whether we raise the issue or try to avoid it. These conversations are almost never about getting the facts right. They are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations, and values. They are not about what is true; they are about what is important. 

Whether you're dealing with an underperforming employee, negotiating with a client or disagreeing with your spouse, we attempt or avoid difficult conversations every day. The book is relevant in understanding why we avoid these conversations and give us insight into how to handle them correctly. Especially for the organizational leaders listening to this summary, the following is true: The ability to handle difficult conversations well is a prerequisite to organizational change and adaptation. Each difficult conversation is actually three conversations: 

1. The “What Happened?” Conversation – Most difficult conversations are about disagreements to what happened, who’s right, who said what, who did what and who is to blame. We often fail to question one crucial assumption upon which our whole stance in the conversation is built: I am right, you are wrong. This simple assumption causes endless grief.

2) The Feelings Conversation – Every difficult conversation involves feelings. Are my feelings valid, Should I acknowledge or deny them, put them on the table or check them at the door? What about the other person’s feelings. What if they are angry or hurt? 

3.) The Identity Conversation – This is the internal conversation we have to ourselves about what this situation means to us. Are we competent or incompetent? Are we a good person or bad person? Are we lovable or unlovable? 

"Difficult Conversations" addresses how to approach these situations in life. It also gives you sound strategy to navigate through these conversations.

1. What’s the purpose? When to Raise it and When to let go. Do we bring up the issue or let it go? This is an art form in itself. You need to know when to pick your battles. There is an old saying – It is not worth it to win the battle if you are going to lose the war. Before you raise the issue, work through the three conversations and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Also, is there another way to solve the problem without the conversation? Remember that action speaks louder than words so your actions could solve the problem without the conflict.

2. Begin from the Third story – Think like a mediator that has no emotional ties. Thinking objectively from the outside gives you a true picture of what is going on. If you think from the standpoint of having no stake in the outcome then you can be very objective in your thinking.

3. Learning – Listen from the inside out – This is really the most important aspect of the whole book in my humble opinion. Your ability to actively listen makes it much easier to have great relationships and solve problems. Active listening requires what I call “whole body listening”. You need to be present and focused on the other person. This gives you the true ability to understand their point of view fully. Remember understanding does not necessarily mean agreeing with the otherperson. The learning that will happen through active listening will lead to positive outcomes most of the time. 

I hope you have found this blog post useful. For more on this topic, I suggest you pick up the book! Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.



Friday, 7 December 2012

Care, Crush, Cash

"Crush It" is a great how-to book on using social media and being real with yourself about what you do. Gary is very passionate about his what he does. The key to his success is blending who he is with what he does. This is very important because a person's BS meter will go up if you are not genuine. I can tell you that I spend a lot of time on work. I love my work, and it would be a cardinal sin, in my opinion, if I hated it. This book will help you understand and find your true passion and monetize it.

Think about it. You spend roughly 2000 hours per year at work. This does not include drive time, traffic, at home preparation or extra hours at the office. This is roughly 30% of your life. Do you hate it? Unfortunately many people do hate their work and will not do anything to change it thus you end up trading valuable time for dirty green paper. This is a tragedy. What if you could meld what you love with what you do to make money? Seems like a simple enough question but most people won’t put the sweat equity into making it a reality. I suggest you put the hard work in now and make a mid-term plan to do it and you can send me a thank you later. Crush it will show you what Gary did to make this a reality. Note: This requires work but if you are doing what you love then it doesn’t matter.

This short book is packed with useful tips on using Social Media, your passion and your time to craft a wonderful career. I already touched on passion so I will profile three more things.
1. Great Content – Once you decide what to work on then do research and add value through content. If you read blog sites you will see what I mean by great content. This does not mean you need to be a literary expert to create great content. Think of it more as useful advice. People are driven by pain and pleasure so depending on your passion you either create the content to eliminate the pain or create it to create pleasure. Do this with energy and fire and good things happen.

2. Community – There is a difference between connecting and community. Think about this – how can you be true friends with 100,000 people? The real answer is – you can’t. You can be acquaintances but true friends belong in YOUR community. This means that you invest in them just like they invest in you. This is a two way street and Crush it profiles ways from Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to maximize the community.

3. Monetize – Quick piece of advice. Don’t focus on the money. If you create great content, build a real community then the money will come. You can monetize your business several ways including – affiliates, product sales, intellectual property selling, advertising, teaching etc. The list goes on and on…. Remember – once you have the community and they are interested in your “Thought Leadership” then they will buy from you because it will help them.
The best marketing strategy according to Gary is to CARE. I agree with him. I can tell you from a standpoint of my business that we offer our clients a minimum of 110% guarantee. I know this makes them comfortable and I don’t want them to waste their time. Our average order size is $25,000 so an extra $2,500 to them if they make the wrong decision shows that we CARE. I hope you have found this short video summary useful. The key to any new idea is to work it into your daily routine until it becomes habit. Habits form in as little as 21 days. One thing you can take away from this book is to start building your community through Twitter by following people. When you do this daily based on your passion then you can have two way conversations in which you can help them based on your passion.