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It’s true- you have influence.  People notice your actions and your words.

If you are a leader – at work, at home, in the community – in any capacity, people do pay attention to what you do and what you say.  Every interaction or observation can leave a lasting impression.

It’s up to you to decide if the impression left will be positive or negative.

I was reminded of the impact individuals have on those around them several times recently on both a personal and professional level.  It can be frightening and humbling.

Frightening when you realize that you don’t always live up to your own expectations much less the example you want to be for others.

Humbling to realize that no matter your circumstances, you have an impact.

It can also be energizing. As a leader in your company and your neighborhood, you have the potential to quietly make a tremendous impact – often without saying a word.

Are you living up to your stated values and beliefs?  Does every interaction make a deposit or withdrawal from someone’s emotional bank account?  Are you living life as a servant leader putting others first?  Does your presence inspire your team?

If you can answer “yes” to all the questions above, you are a leader no matter what your role.  You have influence.

I’ve read a number of blogs and articles recently about how successful people start their day or the habits they follow.  As I reflected on the insights in those articles, two things became apparent.

First, people want to implement simple changes to make them more productive.

Second, helping businesses improve their processes is enhanced by helping individuals make the most of their time.

In light of those “aha moments” here are some easy-to-follow habits to help you use your time well.  Not everything will work for everyone, so try them and see what works for you.  The important takeaway is for you to feel more organized, in control, and less stressed by adjusting your routine.

Take control of your email.

  • Don’t leave messages unread when you leave for the day. Otherwise you are starting off the next day already behind.
  • Respond, file, or delete email when you read it the first time. If you need to take action later, flag it or leave it in your inbox.
  • Create rules for emails you receive on a regular basis, especially ones that are informational only. Let your email client help you keep the important ones front and center.
  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists you no longer value to eliminate clutter.

Start your day right.

  • Check your email first thing in the morning when you get up. Reply to the ones needed and send any new messages on items that are on your mind.
  • After your morning check-in is over, get some exercise and eat a good breakfast.

Build a routine and eliminate unnecessary decisions.

  • Eat the same thing each morning or prepare breakfast in advance the night before.
  • Pack your bag for the gym the night before.
  • Put the items you need for the day together so you can grab them all at once as you head out the door and not have to track things down (or forget them altogether).
  • Take a 5- or 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon to walk around. Getting away from your desk helps clear your mind re-energizes your body.
  • Keep a To Do list and mark off items as you complete them.
  • Give yourself deadlines.
  • Periodically clean your desk by throwing out or filing items that have accumulated.
  • Put time on your calendar to reflect on your business or job and what you need to do to make it more valuable or profitable.

It is not unusual for business owners to tell me they want more accountability in their organizations.  My first question for them is usually something like “what’s keeping you from holding people accountable?”

 

I know it is easier said than done.  Driving accountability can be more difficult for some people than others.  People are afraid that holding the line on performance and values may be uncomfortable or even make them unlikable.

 

Actually, I think the opposite is true.  A culture where expected results and behaviors are known and followed is freeing.  It removes ambiguity and doubt.  It makes conversations easier.

 

If your company struggles with accountability, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I tend to avoid difficult conversations about performance and behaviors?
  • Have I set clear goals for the company?
  • Does each team or individual have specific KPIs?
  • Do the metrics we track move us toward our goals?
  • Is there dissonance between our words and our actions?

 

Once you’ve addressed any of the challenges above, you still have work to do.  Driving accountability is part of building culture.  It is not a “one and done” activity.  It takes commitment, dedication, and follow-through from leaders to make accountability a part of a company’s DNA.

Today I read an article that called HR the department responsible “for policing personnel actions and culture.” That struck me as odd.

Culture shouldn’t be policed. Leaders model and nurture it; employees create it.

Culture is the environment and personality of a company. It is the result of thousands of interactions a day between employees in every group at every level.

If the actual culture doesn’t match the stated company culture or values, there is a disconnect that causes confusion – or worse – mistrust.  It is fine to aspire to a desired culture as long as you realize 1) the difference, and 2) that you aren’t there yet.  Mismatch between the stated and actual culture fools no one.

If no one takes ownership for building and managing culture, culture still happens by default.

HR may do things to encourage culture, but a single department can’t force a culture.  HR’s roles are to advise the leadership on issues of culture and to ensure rules and laws relating to personnel are applied correctly.

Some may argue there isn’t much difference between policing and building a culture.  I believe there is huge gulf between the two in terms of approach and attitude.  Do you want to work for a company where culture is policed or one where culture is intentionally created?

It’s a safe bet that if you do a quick internet search on business priorities that increasing topline revenue, improving sales performance, and increasing company value will show up in the top results.  Growth matters.

To misquote Gordon Gekko:  growth is good.

Growth tells us you are meeting a need in the market and customers see value in what you do. Growth gives your team more opportunities and expands your horizons. Investors are happy. If you ever watch ABC’s Shark Tank, you know that history and forecasts of growth are major areas of concern.

But it’s not all rosy. You must be prepared for growth and have realistic expectations.

Growing your company may require capital or decreased profitability while you invest in the future.

Your team may need to find newer, better ways to accomplish their tasks to be more efficient and maintain profitability. What got you here may not support you at the next level.

The company may outgrow the capacity and capabilities of its employees. This is especially true of leaders as the company moves from an idea to a company to a professionally-managed firm.

Strong leaders can navigate these obstacles by taking a long-term approach and making tough decisions at the right time.  You must be prepared to protect the business.

However, there are two challenges of growth that can be devastating if you aren’t intentional about protecting them:  maintaining culture and customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is obvious. You won’t stay in business if your level of service drops. Customers have other choices.  Can you maintain your current level of satisfaction while adding more customers?

Culture, however, is easy to ignore if you aren’t intentional. Rapid growth may mean rapid expansion of your team. Hiring strategies must include finding new team members who embrace your values.  Leaders must work harder to model, foster, and communicate values as the team gets larger.  “Culture eats strategy.”

Growth is vital, but exceeding your ability to absorb growth is dangerous.

I’ll admit I’m a fan of survival reality shows like Survivorman and Naked and Afraid.  These shows are entertaining to watch and you can learn lessons from them too.  I find The History Channel’s Alone to be one of the more engaging ones.  The contestants aren’t just fighting the elements for their survival – they do it by themselves.

If you aren’t familiar with this show, individuals are put in remote locations where they will have no contact with any other humans.  They are allowed a limited number of survival items including a satellite phone so they can tap out.  They must find food and build shelter.  The last one remaining wins.

Having watched several seasons, there are lessons that the survivalists learn that apply in our businesses too:

Priorities matter.  Survival means finding food sources, having fire, and building a shelter.  Most contestants begin with either building a fire or creating a rudimentary shelter.  They know that when the evening comes these will be the two most important items they need.  Catching food, exploring the area, and other things are important but they must do what’s most important first.  Otherwise, their ability to remain in the contest is quickly diminished.  They can’t do it all at once, which leads to the closely-relates lesson of…

Pace yourself.  One of the first lessons that the contestant learn is to pace yourself.  Survival isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon.  One Day 1, everyone is full of energy and excitement, but reality kicks in as soon as they are dropped off.  These men and women are in it for the long haul.  Sustainable food supplies and a warm, dry, secure shelter are paramount.  With limited tools and possibly small amounts of food, they can’t operate at 100% every day to secure those needs.  They pace themselves so they have the energy and resources to reach their long-term goal.

Adapt.  The contestants, like many of us, may catch a lot of fish one day and none in the same spot for days after.  Long rainy days may limit what they can do outside their shelter so they do what they can inside.  As the weather changes, a warmer shelter may be needed.  The survivalists change their tactics when the environment or the situation changes.  They stop doing what doesn’t work.  Doing the same thing when it no longer serves their purpose or meets their needs is a poor survival strategy.

Going it alone is difficult.  The emotional toll of being alone wears on the contestants.  Their video diaries show the emotional and mental battles they wage in addition to fighting the elements and nature.  Many of the contestant drop out for emotional reasons rather than physical ones.

Entrepreneurs and business executives face the same challenges.  We must prioritize what’s important and ensure it gets done above all other things.  We can’t run ourselves or our teams hard too long without time to recreate and regenerate.  We have to change our tactics, services, and markets to stay relevant.  And we need others – both internally and externally –  to help us shoulder the burden of leadership.

These may be the two most important – and least-asked – questions.  “Why?” makes you think about purpose.  “Why not?” opens you up to new possibilities.

Let’s start with why. The answer to this question identifies the reason behind a decision or an action.   It is purpose.  Motivation.

If you are making sound decision, your why for anything you do is based on your values, your passion, and your goals.  A trifecta of motivation.  The reason for doing something is due to your strong belief that it is right and good to do based on what is important to you, and it helps you reach an objective or milestone.

In business, why has huge implications.  Every action your team performs, every product or service you sell, and every decision you make should move you toward your goals and be in line with your values and purpose.  If not, you are wasting both time and resources.  Can you afford to do something simply because you’ve always done it that way without considering a new approach?  Should you even be doing it at all?

Of course, to answer these questions you must know your purpose, values, and goals.  Not in some vague way but with specificity and clarity.  If you can’t do that, this is your starting point.

Let’s move to why not.  Asking this question forces you to consider new ways of doing things.  It gives you freedom to think of alternatives, to try new methods, to reinvigorate your team, to reach your goals faster.  It helps you stay relevant.  It allows you to dream and try new things.

Why not keeps you from becoming stagnant, stuck in the same place.  Markets, customers, technology, and trends are always changing, and your business must adapt.  You must find new ways to be more efficient and effective.  You must reach new customers.  You must stretch yourself and your team.

Author Louise Penny says, “Life is change.  If you aren’t growing and evolving, you’re standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead.”  Asking “why not?” can be scary but it is necessary.

When you do consider new options, your why and your why not must be in alignment and compliment each other.  In other words, your new possibilities should reflect your passion and goals.

I encourage you to take the time to reflect on your why and consider your why not.

“I’m too busy.”

“I don’t have time.”

“I have too many priorities fighting for my attention.”

Sound familiar?

In times where we are expected to do more with less and where immediate isn’t fast enough, we’ve all felt that way.

It’s worse when we think we must do it all ourselves.

That kind of thinking will make you less effective.  We all have the same amount of time in a given day.  There is only so much you can do, and while you can always do a little more, studies show diminishing returns for each extra hour worked; less time sleeping leads to increased mistakes and negative affects on health.

What is the solution?  Delegation.

The Oxford Dictionary defines delegate as entrusting a responsibility to another person.

There are several benefits to learning the art of delegation.  First of all, it allows you to have more time to do those things that only you can do.

Secondly, it helps you develop employees.  To effectively delegate, you have to clearly define the task, communicate the objectives, and explain its importance.  This gives the employee insight on the business they may not otherwise have.

Delegation also allows an employee to demonstrate skills you weren’t aware they had or to develop skills necessary for them to advance in their career.  Delegation is a key component of investing in your high-potential employees.

Delegation allows you to focus on what is most important for your business.  Effective leaders don’t allow their time and effort to be consumed by things than can be handled by others.  The more senior your role, the less time you spend “doing” and more time thinking and communicating.

By delegating, you maximize your efforts on those things that only you can and must do.  At the same time, you are building a stronger team, demonstrating trust, and teaching skills by allowing them to try new things.  Your company benefits because you are creating an environment where everyone is challenged and to put their skills to their highest and best use.

Stop trying to do it all yourself.  You’ll get more done by giving tasks away.

We all know what Return on Investments, or Equity, or Assets are but they may not tell the full story.  You need to get all you can from all your resources.  What is your Return on Resources?

Return on Resources???

You started and built your business on an idea, and then added sweat equity and capital to bring it to fruition.  Along the way you added people, provided training, invested in tools and software, began marketing, and possibly many other items.  Collectively, those are your company’s resources.  Why do you have them?  Because you need them to maximize your profits and the value of the business.

That’s where your operations come in.  Operations includes ALL the processes to keep your business running.  It’s not limited to how you deliver your products and services.

The goal of your operations is to extract value from every resource in your organization.

Let that sink in.  You only add people, equipment, processes, or services for one reason: to make more money.  Every employee, every tool, every asset, every decision should be contributing to reaching your goals in some way.  If not, it’s dead weight on your organization or consuming time and money that could be better used elsewhere.

Ask yourself if the value you are receiving from your resources is what you expected.

  • Do you add more people rather than look for ways to be more efficient?
  • Do new hires get up to speed and become productive quickly?
  • Are there products, services, or processes that add little value and should be modified or eliminated?
  • Have tasks, routines, products, or even employees been added slowly over time without a good top-down review to see if they are still needed?

If you aren’t making the most of your resources, let OPG help you maximize your return.

Let me clarify — wrong for YOUR business.

Your strategy should be as unique as you are.  If you can delete just a few key words and your plan is unidentifiable as yours, it may not be the strategy you need.

Strategy doesn’t begin with deciding what steps you will take to meet your goals.  It starts well before that.  It begins with your company DNA and an understanding of why your customers do business with you.  Without those foundational elements, your strategy misses the mark.

Company DNA

The company DNA is the combination of the core purpose or passion – the reason your business exists – and the values inherent in the organization. DNA drive everything in your company and it sets you apart from your competition.

Your position in the marketplace

Your customers choose to do business with you.  What is it that compels them to select you over others in a crowded market?  If you don’t know, there is one sure way to find out – ask them!

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as well as the opportunities and threats you face help round out your market niche and how you can leverage your unique position.

Armed with the info above, you can better define the products and services you provide with clarity which allows you to sharpen your brand and target your audience.

Now plan your strategy

Your strategy will set the goals you are trying to attain along with the steps you will take to achieve them.  They should leverage your unique purpose, values, and niche.  Every goal and action must be specific nad have owners responsible for driving them.

If your strategy isn’t more than a list of goals, doesn’t capitalize on the elements that make you unique, and and doesn’t leverage your strengths, it isn’t the right strategy for you.