Wednesday, September 24, 2014

There are no excuses for success.

     I've got a neat twice a week dialogue with a young man who requested leadership advice in exchange for his crafts six months ago. Over those six months I've listened to him describe various work situations and his accompanying perspective. Yesterday we had an AHA moment but up until yesterday, this young man did what every single LEVEL THREE LEADER does when provided with feedback; #1. blame others & #2. make excuses. I finally asked him if he was consciously aware he was doing this, to which he replied he was not. This time, I listened to a story that was followed up with what he could, should & would have done to take a leadership role in bringing about the desired success he sought. Eureka!

There's so much talk about how to be successful it's almost deafening but regardless of the good & great intentions the real test comes when it's time for the rubber to hit the road. We've said it before, the book of success does not need re-writing, it's contents simply need to be executed. Consistently.

Below are 10 tips to success we've benefited from implementing over two decades of business. 
  1. Maintain a clear focus. We're an easily distracted species, yet those who achieve a great level of success share a common goal; focus. They do not let themselves get sidetracked from the end goal until they have achieved or surpassed it. 
  2. Be willing to embrace failure. Failure is a precursor to success and if you're not one of those people who can take the lessons and apply them forward, you'll limit your ceiling of success.
  3. Take full responsibility for both failure & success. Blamers & reluctant leaders are not usually successful people. Successful people own both the failures and successes which enables them to learn & grow from their experiences.
  4. Be prepared to work smart & hard. With the volume of people on the planet, success often comes down to who wants it most. We seldom read stories of those who made it big because they were gifted success, with admiration.
  5. Master empowering others. Very few successes come from solo missions. In the professional ecosystem, you must hone your ability to lead & empower others to be as or more competent and confident than yourself for things to scale. 
  6. Master consistent. There are way too many examples of people being consistently inconsistent. Success is a formula that needs to be applied every day, across every play in order to work long term. 
  7. Say what you intend to do and then do what you said. The quickest way to differentiate yourself in a big-talking marketplace is delivering on your word. Make the statement that engages and then go out and get the job done. 
  8. Be prepared to go & do what the majority will not. Delay gratification, get up & go to bed early, treat your body well, and apply 1-10 across as many examples as you can. There's no traffic jam on high road to success. Believe me. 
  9. Be confident. Really successful people have a quiet confidence to understand what others may not; vision, process, zig-zags & solutions. There's a big difference between confidence & arrogance. Learn it.
  10. Master execution. A high percent of success-inhibitors stem from an inability to execute plays, processes & systems they way they are drawn up. Successful teams & organizations MASTER the art of execution. 
If you want to taste success, and become a LEVEL FIVE LEADER, you're going to have to be wiling, at minimum to master most of these basic yet essential fundamentals.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seek to be informed ourselves vs. entertained by others.

                        If we are to evolve, we must learn to think for ourselves.

The past couple of weeks have been a steady diet of drama in the media. Drama that boosts ratings, sells magazines and flat out consumes time and energy. I dislike drama. If it doesn't affect myself or those close to me, I'm inclined to pretend I'm paying attention while not really not paying attention.

I think drama, and it's perpetuation is like junk food for those who are to lazy to prepare healthy meals. Drama is normally associated by other people thinking for us and drama is BIG business. Here are five strategies to avoid getting sucked into the drama vortex.
  1.  Stay focused & busy. Busy, focused people don't have time to entertain drama because, well... they're focused & busy. 
  2. Avoid reacting to drama. Once people understand you're not their audience, they will (hopefully) get lost and find someone else (more like them) to share their perils of bullshit.
  3. Don't pay drama forward. Drama makes a living by virtue of mutation as it passes through the desired networks. It quickly becomes blown out of proportion.
  4. Challenge what you're being fed. Challenge it by being non judgmental and putting yourself in the shoes of those at the center of the conversations. We've all got faults.
  5. Invest in other forms of entertainment. The same mindset that's used to find drama can be used to find goodness and greatness. (and there's a lot of it).
Big business and small people bank on us subscribing to their entertainment. It's called fear mongering and it presents an opportunity to up-sell more bullshit. Let's entertain a new approach, something novel, requiring a little bit of work. Let's think for ourselves.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The key to success is execution.

     Whether in sport, business or the sport of business more times than less, the key to success lies squarely on people's ability to execute. Execute the plays as they are drawn up or the operation systems as they are configured. So if there are only a finite number of  championship teams across any league and one in five businesses makes it to the five year mark what are the factors limiting our ability to execute.
  1. Experience. Experience is something that comes with time & tenure. As we venture further into mature business life, systems & operations become more complicated which take more time to learn. The better the plays & systems have been configured and communicated, the flatter the learning curve. Given the transient nature of our modern work environment, our ability achieve stability & consistency adversely affect our ability to achieve consistency which affects our ability execute. 
  2. EGO. So much time & effort are spent building people up in the early stages of their lives & careers that sometimes they begin to believe their our own hype. Suddenly they convince themselves they no longer need the support & expertise from those in coaching & managerial positions. Further, with the access to information, we have WAY more know it all's believing they can build better mousetraps than those before them. This begins the race to the bottom and impedes our ability to execute.
  3. Outdated operation manuals. There are many times when the play books or operations manuals are simply out of date yielding a competitive disadvantage. If left unchecked, this deeply hurts our ability to execute to the extent we'd like to become that winning team or organization.
  4. Distractions. There are too many distractions in our modern day work environment vying for our focus and making it difficult to stay on task. In most cases, few of us have learned and then  demonstrated the discipline to compartmentalize our focus and attend to the immediate tasks & responsibilities. Our minds wander, our actions follow as we are taken further away from the desired execution outcomes. 
  5. Bigger Picture Attitude. More than less, the ability to field a championship team or organization relies heavily on the teams ability to operate outside of themselves. Team success, is the sum total of the individual parts. When we introduce unmotivated, self serving parts into the team scheme, it brings the machine to a halt quickly and stops our ability to execute. 

Ask yourself if where you'd like to be is where you actually are? If the answer is no, chances are it's an execution problem. The good news is YOU have direct control over it. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Please don't bandaid a broken system.... Again.

In the midst of this years teachers strike, I was forwarded what I thought was a well written article (authored during the 2012 strike). While I do not profess to have all the answers to what is obviously a complex problem, I would suggest the manner with which we continue to address this issue across multiple public sector examples may warrant a revisit in the name of sanity for all involved. I though the article written by Herbert offered a decent alternative to how we're addressing things now. 

Like most striking workers, BC teachers tend to believe they are underpaid and overworked. And like most employers today, the BC government is facing tough economic times and can’t afford to be generous with its workers.

It’s a classic labour relations standoff that stems from attitudes deeply imbedded in human nature and driving the almost universal belief that one’s work is not valued properly.

In market economies this belief is tamed by the invisible hand of competition. Employers who have unfilled vacancies pay more. If they are swamped by job applicants, they pay less. In the end, workers find jobs with the highest pay they can get and employers can afford to pay.

The market solution to the determination of workers’ pay was damaged when governments passed legislation allowing workers to form unions and permitting them to strike without having to pay for damages.

In the private sector, the ability of unions to extract benefits for their members through strikes is limited by market forces.  If union demands are excessive, employers go bankrupt and the workers lose their jobs. 

However, in the public sector, unions face no such limits.  Politicians typically put up some resistance to union demands, but in the end give in and raise taxes to pay for the increased costs. Small tax increases do less electoral damage than do public sector strikes. 

As a result of this game, public sector union members now enjoy compensation levels much above those for comparable private sector work. But the game is now over. Deficits are unsustainable, debt has become excessive, and the public opposes higher taxes. Politicians everywhere are looking for ways to deal with this new reality.

In British Columbia they have chosen to freeze the salaries of public sector employees. This policy has been accepted by all public sector unions, except that of the teachers. 

Fights between the BC teachers union and the government have a long history and transcend party lines. They will always be there.  Give people the power to decide what they should be paid, they will always try to use this power to get what they want.

The only permanent solution to this problem therefore is to deprive teachers of the right to strike. The government that granted that right can also withdraw it.  Such a policy is consistent with the widely held view that anyone who does not want to work for an organization that is prohibited from striking is free to work for one where the right exists. 

The policy will restore the role of market forces.  The government as the employer will rationally set wages so that there are neither unfilled vacancies nor teachers looking for work. School curricula and working conditions for teachers will be set in response to demands from parents and the political pressures they generate with input from teachers.

To prevent only strikes but also increase the effectiveness of the educational system, the government should change the current system further by giving all parents vouchers that they spend on schools, which through competition are induced to provide the type and quality of education parents believe their children need.

Under this system, governments continue to meet their commitment to provide universal access to education.  The big difference is that parents indirectly hire teachers that meet their standards, replacing the current system which sees teachers hired directly by government agencies that are much less sensitive to their children’s needs than are parents. 

The use of vouchers will end some current practices that make contributions of questionable value to teaching effectiveness as determined by parents.  Such practices involve time for preparation, further education and other conditions negotiated by the union.  Merit will take the place of seniority in setting the pay of individual teachers.

The special needs of some students are readily accommodated under the voucher system by providing them with vouchers that compensate schools for the extra cost they need to incur.

There is no time like now for at least a debate, if not action, on the possible prohibition of strikes by teachers union and the universal use of vouchers. The public is tired of strikes, the deficits and debt caused by excessively generous wage package in the past and never-ending demands for better and costly working conditions. The public is looking for political leadership to deal with these problems, not just the band-aid solutions offered by the type of legislation now used.

Author Herbert Grubel 
March 14 2012.