Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone

People and organizations are often driven to do their best work during times of challenge.

How can that be?  Don’t we do our best when we’re relaxed and comfortable?

The truth is, some people work at optimal levels only when faced with a looming deadline.

Think about a time you were preparing to leave on vacation.  Wasn’t your last day in the office the most productive day you had in months?  Did you marvel at the vast array of completed tasks or how easily you managed to identify and discard the unnecessary jobs that had been hanging out on your to-do list for weeks?

According to Robin Sharma: “If you’re not a little scared each day, you’re not making much progress.”

Push yourself.  Find a goal that excites you.  Set a crazy expectation and then work like hell to make it a reality.


Feeling Like a Baby When It Comes to Online Recruitment?

The great thing about online recruitment is that it’s cost effective and increases your reach.  The bad thing about online recruitment is that it’s cost effective and increases your reach.  What?

It’s true.

Because it’s so inexpensive and far reaching, it’s easy to embark on a path that yields mountains of responses yet provides little in the way of high-quality hires.  The trick is to write an effective ad; one that generates interest and gets the right people to respond.

3 Steps to Writing an Effective Online Job Ad

1.  Grab attention with a snappy job title.

Most candidates will decide which job ads to read by first skimming a page full of job titles which may or may not include a dozen or so words from the ad itself.  You are literally competing for attention.  Choose your job title wisely.  It doesn’t matter that HR calls it Prepping Clerk III — you  need something catchy like Documentation Hero.

2. Make the job description all about the applicant.

Winning job ads can expect a full 9 seconds of attention from those who click through to the full text ad.  Guard your first 12 words jealously!  If you’re like most employers you will start out with a description of your company.  Yawn.  Make the job description all about the applicant.  If you must include a paragraph about your company, place it at the bottom.

3. Tell them what they need to know.

The geographic location of the job, mandatory requirements such as experience or education, and whether relocation costs or foreign sponsorship will be considered are important elements.  That last point may seem unimportant until you consider that your advertisement will be seen by folks around the globe.  Stating your ability to accommodate applicants from other areas will reduce the number of unusable applications and free your staff to focus on the right candidates.

If you’re still feeling a bit daunted by the whole online thing, you may want to invest in some training.  Here is one example of the hundreds of courses that are available.

With a little forethought, e-cruiting can form an effective foundation of your recruitment strategy and a become an ongoing source of talent.

Jack Welch and the 4E’s of Leadership

I learned about this book from the CEO of one of Canada’s largest staffing firms.  We had moved onto the topic of organizational and personal leadership when he brought up the 4E’s.  I had to admit that I had not heard of this and made a silent commitment to read the book as soon as I could get a copy.

I was not disappointed.  Jeffrey A. Krames does a good job of presenting Jack Welch’s viewpoint on the qualities of great leaders.  Here is a quick synopsis.

The 4E’s of Leadership According to Jack Welch

  • The 4E leader has Energy
    Welch’s ideal leaders have boundless reserves of energy and a strong penchant for action. They embrace change and love the thrill of the game.
  • The 4E leader Energizes
    Energizers inspire, mobilize people to act, and spark others to perform.  They don’t engage in turf wars, operate in silos, or tolerate backbiting behavior.
  • The 4E leader has Edge
    Individuals with edge have a competitive spirit and know the value of speed.  They’re confident; they know when to green-light or red-light a project or acquisition.  They don’t get paralyzed by paradox.
  • The 4E leader Executes
    Individuals who have the fourth E get things done.  They consistently deliver — in many cases, not just meeting their goals, but blowing them away.  They understand that the first three E’s are of little value unless they are leveraged to produce results.

The book doesn’t stop there — the remaining sections are devoted to practical examples from recognized leaders such as Jeff Immelt, Larry Bossidy and Robert Nardelli.

Investing In Your People

Providing timely feedback is the best way to show your people you care about them.

There is an important distinction between feedback and criticism.  Criticism focuses on the past by pointing out what went wrong while feedback focuses on the future by discussing what adjustments might be made next time.

Feedback proposes possibilities.

Imagine that one of your superstars just presented his quarterly results to you.  In the absence of feedback this is still a positive conversation.  However, the addition of feedback in the form of helpful probing leads your rock star to decide which elements could be even better in the coming quarter.

Feedback questions that stretch one’s abilities are important to achievers.

Try these:

  • What went well that you want to do more of next quarter?
  • Is there anything you need to stop doing?
  • What do we need to watch for so that you don’t get pulled off course?
  • Is there a particular area where I can help you?
  • What do I do / what does the company do, that hinders your performance?

It’s Not Enough To Hire The Best – Great Leaders Add Vision, Stretch Goals & Accountability To The Mix

Even superstars need a lift every now and then.  And sometimes they need a push to get out their comfort zone to reach for that next level of achievement.

I’ve heard managers say they hire great people and then stay out of their way.   It amazes me each time I hear that.  Maybe that’s why so many companies have double-digit turnover rates.

~Great leaders challenge and stretch their people.~

Nothing merits a leader’s attention more than a motivated achiever.  Here are some tried and true coaching questions designed to edge the conversation out of the mainstream and into the margins where you can play.

What’s working well for you right now?

What’s not working so well?

What are you committed to accomplishing in the next 90 days?

If you had no time restrictions, what would you do?

What are you hoping we won’t get to talk about?

Which goal are you most excited about?

Which goal leaves you cold and unmotivated?

Prospecting for Business: The Change Management Connection

Asking a prospect to consider your company over their current supplier is tantamount to asking them to take on a change management initiative.  Failing to recognize this keeps many otherwise skilled sales people from achieving their objectives.

People are naturally resistant to change.  That’s why all good change management programs start by describing a burning platform.  Some sales people will call this identifying pain.  A nicer way to put it is: What problem will my product or service solve.

If you’re not offering a solution then you will be forced to attract new clients based on price – something no consultative sales person should be willing to do.

Is Autocratic Management Stifling Passion in Your Company?

Many companies undertook a more authoritarian management style to better weather the economic pressures of the recent downturn.  Now that the economy is showing signs of improvement, it’s time to loosen the reins and invite creativity and passion to fuel us toward greater productivity and accomplishment.

The table below compares the old command and control style management to a leadership style that ignites passion by leading people toward a common goal rather than enforcing compliance to top-down edicts.

Symptoms of an Autocratic Organization Evolved Behaviours Seen in High-Performance Organizations
  • Communication is generally downward.  Feedback is either not sought, or is invited only at certain times of the year.
  • Regularly initiate upward communication streams; encourage a fresh stream of new ideas.
  • Conflicting viewpoints are met with sarcasm or disrespect.  This keeps the autocracy intact by teaching others to refrain wherever possible.
  • Grow and mentor the organization’s emotional intelligence (EQ) and leadership quotient by inviting respectful debate and disagreement.
  • Tell the rank and file they are concentrating on the wrong things if they are coming up with new ideas.  Innovation is guarded by a small group of people.
  • Identify areas where more authority can be shared.  Make it ok to make mistakes – even celebrate mistakes as attempts at innovation.

Recommended reading:  Jack Welch and the 4E’s of Leadership (Jeffrey A. Krames)

Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done (Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan)

Good to Great (Jim Collins)

Planning For Growth – Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of 3.  In this segment we turn the plan into measurable behaviours that create results.  This is where the rubber meets the road!

In part one, we recorded some important goals.  Among them:

  • Field of play – Geographic scope, primary industry verticals, and product/service focus.
  • KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – The top 3 to 5 measurements that will tell us how we’re doing against plan.
  • Profit goals – Pricing strategy, margins or market price points.
  • Gap – Current run rate or performance compared to the company’s 12-, 24-, and 36-month goals

In part two we segmented clients according to strategic goals and organizational readiness.  Now we put it all together by using performance gaps to set annual goals and chunking the annual goals into quarterly and monthly milestones.  The most important thing to remember is that each milestone must be owned by an individual and have a defined delivery date.  Everything about the goal must be measurable.  Broad, fuzzy goals are useless.

Build in checkpoint meetings with milestone owners early enough that there is time for course corrections where needed.  You will find out at the first checkpoint meetings how well you defined the desired result and how much buy in you have from the management team.

I’m going to wrap up by quoting from Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done (Bossidy and Charan, 2002):

What exactly does a leader who’s in charge of execution do?  How does he keep from being a micromanager, caught up in the details of running the business?  There are seven essential behaviors that form the first building block of execution:

  • Know your people and your business.
  • Insist on realism.
  • Set clear goals and priorities.
  • Follow through.
  • Reward the doers.
  • Expand people’s capabilities.
  • Know yourself.

Recommended reading:  Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm (Verne Harnish 2002)

Planning For Growth – Part 2

In part one, we established a strong foundation for our business plan by recording core organizational beliefs, baseline metrics, and annual goals.  Now we move on to the market and client base.

Take some time to describe the elements of an ideal client for your product or service.  Are you best suited to a certain industry?  Do you fare better with start ups, or is your offering more suited to mature enterprises?  What type of relationship works best?  Method of communication, annual spend, location, and access to decision makers are some other considerations.

Once you have the ideal account mapped out, conduct a thorough review of your actual client base.  Look for opportunities to maximize relationships.  Check the profit margins against deliverables required by any contracted terms of service.  If you typically measure accounts by sales dollars only, try looking at them from a profit perspective instead.  Are extra services eating away at the margin?  Could you renegotiate some of the deliverables to move them toward a fee structure?  Consider existing relationships before making large-scale changes that could jeopardize your future with the client.  Even if you only get to adjust a few accounts, you and your team will be better versed in true client contribution – a skill that should pay you dividends today and into the future.

Now review target and prospect lists using your knowledge of the ideal customer.  Can you leverage commonality within industry verticals to maximize marketing plans?  Perhaps choosing a quarterly theme for the entire team will move your business ahead faster.  Verne Harnish presents some interesting ideas on using themes in his book: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.

Part three is all about execution.  If you don’t want to miss the next installment, feel free to use the RSS button at the top right of this page.  Or subscribe by email by clicking on the subscribe button on this page.