More on Time Management

Reading a John C. Maxwell article in the September 2017 edition of Success about time management, entitled “4 Tips to Set Yourself Up for a Better Tomorrow Today” got me thinking.  On a hunch, I went back and reviewed several other articles, publications and the ActionCOACH TimeRICH seminar on the subject of time management and was able to confirm my conclusion that

Time Management is really Self Management!

This is not exactly a new idea, I’ve said this during numerous presentations.  So why highlight it now in this blog?  It seems to me that many of us brush off the importance of time-self management.  Taking an “I am what I am” attitude rather than seeking to improve our use of our time.  Thus, I am going to reiterate a few of our top self-time management tips:
  • Set personally motivating goals – if your goals are truly important to you, you must strive to connect every activity to them. In the article, Maxwell encourages creating a Priority Inventory, another way of looking at the connection of your goals to your activities.
  • Don’t finish today until you plan tomorrow – Maxwell explains two concepts in his article; be deliberate in your use of time, and hone your decision-making skills. Once you increase your awareness of your goals and their relationship to your activities, you will become more deliberate in your investment of time.  The decision as to what to address and what not to address will become easier, enhancing your self management.  Remember, every time you say “YES” to something, you are saying “NO” to many other activities.
  • Create a Default Diary – a schedule of how you intend to invest your time on “normal” days. Your Default Diary (Ideal Week or Default Calendar, we use these terms interchangeably at ActionCOACH) accomplishes many things; it sets your time expectations, and communicates them.  You will feel uneasy when your activities conflict with your internal clock once it has been set via your Default Diary.  Many of my clients use their Default Calendar as a communication tool with their teams, using the tool to create “deep thinking” time slots.
  • Delegate – Effective delegation is the key to successful time and self management. None of us are expert or skilled in all aspects necessary for the success of our businesses or lives.  We are faced with the choice to do it all, abdicate or delegate numerous times every day.  Should I change the oil in my car myself?  Should I abdicate the oil change by simply dropping off the car at my local service station? Or, should I effectively delegate the oil change by carefully selecting the service station or dealer, asking them about the oil and filter they are going to use, and all the other details related to the oil change?  I used this example to exemplify the fact that we can all delegate to our extended team even if we have no direct employees.  When delegating, John Maxwell makes the point the we should not mistake activity for advancement.  This applies to those we delegate to, as well as ourselves.
John C. Maxwell included the following quote in the article:

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Improve them, and they will become the brightest gems.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Remember, you cannot replenish your time, once a moment is gone, it is gone.  As Steadman Graham said at one of our ActionCOACH conferences,

“Time is the great equalizer.  We all have 24 hours in a day.”

His message continued to say that the very wealthy use their time more effectively.  How are you investing your precious time?  My colleagues and I at ActionCOACH are uniquely qualified to assist you toward effective delegation and successful self and time management.

2016 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 4

The first speaker of the afternoon on the second day was Chris Cooke of Luv4 Marketing one of the ActionCOACH strategic partners.  Luv4 has enrolled me and many of my colleagues in a social media master class.  In addition, we are able to offer a comprehensive marketing class to our clients via our strategic partnership.  My BFOs from Chris were:
  • Leads generated on the internet will not necessarily be successful if they are directed to a crappy website or landing page.
  • Internet leads will research you online, just like you research companies you are considering doing business with.
  • Your sales process must be revised to reflect the unique methods necessary to maximize your conversion rate of online leads.
Our chairman Brad Sugars wrapped up the afternoon and the BEF with mostly housekeeping announcements and one major BFO:
  • In order to improve your conversion rate, keep an Objection Log. Work answers to your most prominent objections into your sales process and materials BEFORE they arise.
The next two days were devoted to the annual North American Coach conference.  We were introduced to several new strategic alliances.  In addition, there were many speakers addressing best coaching practices and client strategies that worked for our clients.  The following are some of the highlights: In a session about KPIs, one of my colleagues showed a clip from the movie Money Ball Ball (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGf6LNWY9AI) to highlight using KPIs to overcome biases.  He then introduced the concept of subdividing KPIs into Leading, Lagging, People and Productivity KPIs, which was a BFO for me, having only thought of KPIs in general. KPI Examples Slide Balance KPIs Slide By the way, if you are not familiar with Net Promoter Score, I will cover NPS in a upcoming blog, stay tuned. In addition, he also had the audience do the following exercise: KPI Table Exercise Slide You should too. Another colleague of mine ran a great exercise based on the ActionCOACH formula for change:

(D x V) + F > R

Step 1 – write out a challenge you would like to eliminate Step 2 – write out your Vision of when the challenge has been eliminated Step 3 – rate your Vision 1-10 (btw if your vision is not a 10, rework your vision) Step 4 – rate your Dissatisfaction with the current situation 1-10 Step 5 – write the consequence of not eliminating the challenge Step 6 – R – list your top 3 resistances to the changes needed to eliminate the challenge Step 7 – write out the First Step Step 8 – Be x Do = Have – write an I Am related to the Being needed to overcome the challenge. (The I Am statement will influence your unconscious behavior related to your DISC) Step 9 – Four steps to learning – Step 7 moved you from u-i to c-i / what needs to be learned to move to c-c? 4 Steps to Learning Slide Step 10 – question how DISC is effecting behavior (both yours and your team’s) toward solving the challenge

Finally, another colleague presented a process for creating “I’ll be happy when …” and personal purpose statements.

To create your “I’ll be happy when …” statement

Write your top 2 personal goals Write your top 2 professional goals List how you will feel when those goals are achieved

Use your top goals and the above list to Create your “I’ll be happy when …” statement

To create your personal purpose statement

List your 2 most positive and unique skills and abilities For example: Experience and Insight

List how you demonstrate these skills Coaching & Mentoring

What does a perfect world look like to you?  Harmony between having positive impact on many clients and enjoying my 70s with my wife and family

Put all 3 together into 1 statement I use my experience and insight to assist my clients to build very successful businesses that create many great employment positions in their communities.

 I trust you will find some ideas in this BFO series of blogs that will accelerate your success.  My colleagues and I are available to assist you in implementing the concepts presented in these four posts.

2016 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 1

I must say, the Business Excellence Forum (BEF) gets better each year.  There were more than 500 business owners, executives, team members and business coaches in attendance.  With that many attendees, there were plenty of formal and informal exchanges of ideas and best practices. This year’s forum had some amazing keynote speakers whose presentations yielded many Blinding Flashes of the Obvious (BFOs).  The following are some of the BFOs that struck a chord with me.  I am sure that some of these will have a similar affect on you. Our first speaker was world-class branding expert Sally Hogshead www.howtofascinate.com (yes, that is her real name “With a name like mine, I had to be successful.”) discovered a new way to measure how people perceive your communication, through the Fascination Advantage® system. Sally is the author of two books “How The World Sees YOU” and “Fascinate – How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist” Before researching the science of fascination, Sally rose to the top of the advertising profession in her early 20s, writing ads that fascinated millions of consumers. The title of her presentation was “How to FASCINATE: From First Impression to Lasting Value”
  • Over deliver in One area – Stop trying to be all things to all people
  • You do not have to fix anything – you do have to accentuate your most valuable areas
  • Avoid your competitive disadvantages
  • Every time you communicate, you are either adding value, or taking up space!
  • IMG_7875 small
  • Sally told of going to an theme park where she saw a ticket booth that sold tickets to two rides.  The orange ticket was for a ride with multiple safety warnings.  There was a long line at the entrance to the orange ride.  The other ticket was green, there were no safety warnings posted about that ride.  Also, the was no line for the green ride.  She went on the orange ride, it was great.  Later, she got curious and went on the green ride.  She found the rides were IDENTICAL.  The business point is the theme park understood their target customer’s value proposition and desire for a little danger.  Do you completely understand what your target customer values?
Our next speaker was serial entrepreneur Troy Hazard, www..troyhazard.com author of several books including “Future Proofing Your Business” and “The Naked Entrepreneur”.  The title of Troy’s presentation was “Purpose, Passion, People & Profits”
  • Always respect the business corrections and cycles
  • There are 4 cycles
    1. Your Revenue
    2. The Economy
    3. Your Industry
    4. The emotional cycle – market sentiment
      • Opportunity occurs where these cycles converge
  • In addition to understanding the value your business brings to your market, you as a business owner, must know what you want your business to do for you
  • Every day Troy asks himself and his team the following two questions:
    1. “What is your greatest success and what can I learn from it?”
    2. “What is your challenge and how can I help you?”
  • The five keys to leadership he learned from being a father (E I E I O)
    1. Engage energetically
    2. Inspire greatness (strive to have tomorrow be better than today)
    3. Evoke conscious thought (give everyone a voice)
    4. Involve everyone (don’t under estimate before you understand)
    5. Organize Yourself first
  • Use your ideal (3 – 5 years from now) organizational chart to challenge your team to become who they need to be to fill the positions above them
This is just my BFOs from about 60% of the first day of BEF.  The best Troy Hazard BFOs are yet to come.  To be continued …

How Complex Is Your Business?

While working with one of my clients whose medical practice has been growing very rapidly, the subject of maintaining organizational focus and culture came up.  As our discussion progressed I was reminded of a few flip charts Brad Sugars, the founder and chairman of ActionCOACH, presented at one of our conferences.  Brad first drew a two person company with one direct connection between the people. That flip chart looked something like this:Two Connections The next flip chart showed a three person company that had three direct connections between the people, looking something like this:Three Connections His third flip chart was a four person company with six direct connections: Four Connections Brad’s final flip chart was of an eight person organization showing twenty eight direct connections. Eight Connections My client, with a stunned look on her face, saw this and said “No wonder I’ve had so many problems controlling the growth of my business.” Just to recap: connections table The simple formula for this is:

Direct Connections = ((Number of People * (Number of People – 1) / 2)

Using this formula it is easy to see that the level of complexity in a company grows at a much greater rate than the company’s growth rate. Is your business starting to look a little bit more complex than perhaps you realized? So how are we to grow our businesses, maintaining organizational focus and effectiveness?  There are four key things you must accomplish in order to grow in control:
  1. Have a clear company Mission, Vision and Culture (MVC) – A strong and clear MVC that is aligned and congruent with your company’s Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is the cornerstone of healthy consistent growth.
  2. Communicate and Educate – You must constantly communicate your MVC and UVP to your team, both internal and external, and to your customers, both existing and potential. You must educate new team members and potential customers about your MVC and UVP and the Why behind them (Read Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why” for further insight).  And most importantly it is absolutely essential that you eat, sleep and breathe your MVC and UVP.
  3. Plan your organization – Although many like to promote flat organizational models, completely flat organizations quickly lose their effectiveness as they scale up. Thus it is vitally important to plan the organizational structure of your company.  At one end of the scale, completely flat will not allow for effective growth, at the other end of the scale, old fashion command and control will compromise creativity and nimbleness.
  4. Be Proactive – Most companies grow organically, without very much forethought or advanced planning. Too often companies reach the point of no return structurally and fail.  All of my clients have a vision of how their companies will be structured working backward from three to five years in the future.  You should do the same.
My ActionCOACH colleagues and I will be happy to assist you to develop your MVC, UVP and Organizational Structure, all of which will prepare your business for exceptional growth.

Three Mini Blogs

Effective Delegation – Step 1 I’ve been rereading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.  In 7 Habits, an important distinction is made between “Gofer Delegation” and “Stewardship Delegation.”  I realized that in my ongoing series of blogs on the subject of Effective Delegation I failed to make clear that the series is focused solely on Stewardship Delegation. Aside from deciding to actually begin delegating and having a plan as to what items to delegate, the first step in delegating any responsibility under Stephen Covey’s and my definition of stewardship delegation is defining and communicating the Desired Result.  Once the desired result is clear and understood by both you (the delegator) and the person you are delegating to (the “delegatee”), they are enabled to take responsibility to deliver that result.  It is up to the delegatee to determine how the methods that will be implemented to deliver the desired result.  This mutual understanding of the target is the foundation upon which leverage and success is built.   A Strong Reference to an Article (and Book) In the January 2016 edition of “Success” magazine there is a wonderful article by Amy Morin entitled “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do excerpted from her book of the same title.  Here are the headlines, please read the article or the book for the details:
  1. Waste time feeling sorry for themselves
  2. Give away their power
  3. Shy away from change
  4. Squander energy on things they can’t control
  5. Worry about pleasing everyone
  6. Fear taking risks
  7. Dwell on the past
  8. Repeat their mistakes
  9. Resent other people’s successes
  10. Give up after their first failure
  11. Fear “alone time”
  12. Feel the world owes them something
  13. Expect immediate results
I’m sure you will benefit from learning more about this important subject.   Headline in a Newspaper The other day I read the following headline “Pressure on Apple for Its Next Big Thing.”  This headline reminded me of one of the key things I learned when I was consulting at a company in the midst of a turn-around attempt.  The simple lesson is that there is never a “Silver Bullet.”  The company I was working with got into deep financial trouble because they keep searching to the one product that would save the business.  In fact they already had an excellent product offering that they could not reliably and consistently deliver.  One by one their retail customer base stopped ordering from them. You may be thinking that their silver bullet was fixing their fulfillment process.  Their inability to fulfill orders was a result of several factors including poor inventory control, poor bookkeeping and a lack of sales analysis, to name just a few.  One of the main messages of the ActionCOACH 5 Way Formula – Business Chassis is that your business can achieve massive results if you cover your bases and grow your business in balance. My colleagues and I will be happy to work with you to implement any of the concepts mentioned in the blog.

Getting Through Those Conversations You Don’t Want to Have

I was recently reading a great article in Success Magazine by Shelley Levitt about difficult, delicate and distasteful conversations.  Several of the points in the article bear repeating with emphasis.  But first some background.  Many managers, leaders or entrepreneurs work very hard at avoiding these kinds of conversations.   This is a big mistake for a couple of reasons:
  1. As we say in many of our ActionCOACH presentations, the earth is round. Therefore, ignored issues and problems sooner or later come around and bite you in the butt.
  2. And ignored issues usually grow in severity the longer they are not addressed.
In the best-seller Difficult Conversations: How to Address What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen the authors make the point that leaders and companies that can adroitly confront what matters most, “will leave their competition in the dust.”  And a note to those of you who have risen to a level of leadership that requires you to begin to have difficult conversations; you cannot get promoted past having to have distasteful conversations, the opposite is true.  In fact inability to handle these conversations is one of the most common reasons people don’t succeed according to Heen. Here are a few suggestions for having successful professional conversations:
  • Be courageous. These conversations take courage, and there is no perfect time.
  • Be proactive. Don’t wait until an issue gets too big to be corrected.  Most of the time it is much more productive to make small incremental adjustments rather than having to correct major problems.
  • Plan the conversation. Pick an appropriate venue.  Avoid a spontaneous delivery fueled by anger or frustration.
  • Be direct and clear. Do not talk in tangents.
  • Be specific. Avoid generalizations.  “You were late returning from lunch three times last week” is much better than “you always come back from lunch late.”
  • Discuss Consequences Not Intentions. “When you are late with KPIs that causes many other delays” not “It seems you don’t think that on-time KPIs are important.”
  • No Buts. “Your suggestion to improve operations is great, but you need to design the next level of details” sounds critical, shutting down creativity, while “Your suggestion to improve operations is great, and you need to design the next level of details.” Is much more likely to open a productive dialogue.
  • Two Ears, One Mouth. Shut down your inner voice and simply listen.  “Listening is the most persuasive weapon” says Heen.
If you wish to get even better at difficult conversations and to accelerate your timeline to success, my colleagues and I at ActionCOACH would be happy to have a complementary, no obligation coaching session with you to better determine how much value we can add to your business.  Simply click the Free Business Coaching Session button near the top right of the screen.

What is Your Product or Service?

As promised in my last Blog “Is Your Business Commodity or Value Based?” I would like to discuss the definition of your product, the total definition of your product, the real definition of your product.  First, a little background.  I have too often encountered business owners and professionals who stop at the obvious definition of their product, “I’m a pediatrician, I provide medical care to kids,” never either consciously or unconsciously going deeper.  And if the owner doesn’t fully understand what his or her company is delivering, what are the chances that their team consistently delivers the complete product?  That is why I consider understanding of the complete definition the product or service of a business one of the fundamentals of having an exceptional business. In my last Blog, I said “Once you have determined your clients, customers or patients (CCPs) definition of value, you must marry it to your product or service in order to have your UVP (Unique Value Proposition).”  Without a genuine UVP, you are doomed to playing the features leap frog game with your competitors.  So how do we marry our CCPs definition of value with our product or service? The answer is simple, but not easy.  You and your team must answer “Why should I be your customer?” from the customer’s point of view.  One way to accomplish this is to try this exercise that I use with my clients; make a list of 100 reasons someone who fits the profile of your ideal, not your only, customer should do business with you.  The easy part is putting the first five or six on the list.  After that it gets progressively more difficult.  I must be honest and tell you that only one client has gotten to 100.  After eliminating the duplicates, we got down to a list of more than 80 value elements, each of which were part of their Total Product Definition (TPD). Returning to the pediatrician, in addition to providing medical care to kids, her TPD includes such factors as; ease of parking, short wait times for appointments and in the waiting room, waiting room decor and activities, how friendly is the team, is the office child and parent friendly, to list just a few of the more obvious examples.  Note that the list should include both tangible and intangible items.  The tangible items, such as very short wait time, are easier to copy than intangible items such as having a friendly office atmosphere. Once you have determined your TPD, you must constantly communicate it both internally and to your CCPs.  That means you and your team must live it, breath it, understand it and consistently deliver the TPD to your market.  Your TPD is your competitive advantage, the deeper and more detailed it is, the harder it is for your competition to duplicate. My ActionCOACH colleagues and I will be happy to assist you in developing your Total Product Definition.

Why You Need Written Plans

“Planning without Action is futile, Action without planning is fatal” Unknown

One of the most profound concepts I have embraced since joining the ActionCOACH team is the many positive results of having written plans.  It is commonly believed that those who have written plans outperform their contemporaries by a large margin.  While the often quoted alumni studies at Harvard or Yale are urban myths, one actual study conducted by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, (to you can read her research summary click here) provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools:
  • Accountability,
  • Commitment and
  • Writing down one’s goals. This study demonstrates that writing one’s goal enhances goal achievement.
You may fall into the group, along with the vast majority of people, who tried writing a plan on one or two occasions only to conclude that planning does not work.  Perhaps, you bit off more than you could reasonably accomplish, set unrealistic deadlines, did not set deadlines or your plans and goals were not specific enough.  Maybe you believe or concluded that planning is useless because plans are obsolete as soon as they are finished.  Regardless of your reasons for not planning in the past, I urge you to consider planning your business and your life starting now for the following reasons and benefits. First of all, planning is an ongoing process.  The main value of planning is periodically thinking about your business and your life in an organized manner.  When a planning process is followed, several things naturally occur:
  • You attain focus – you weed out the noise that naturally occurs in your life
  • You prioritize – things in a logical order prevent you from over committing (biting off more than you can reasonably accomplish).
  • Your filters open – your conscious and subconscious mind are opened to collect the resources, knowledge and partners you need to achieve your goals
  • You communicate – a plan is a great communication tool to use when you delegate and seek assistance
  • You create a great “rallying point” for your team
As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  We all have only twenty four hours in a day.  Effective use of time has a direct relationship to a person’s level of success.  It is what separates the successful from the unsuccessful, in all aspects of life.  Having plans will greatly increase the results you achieve from your twenty four hours. Finally, and most importantly, most businesses develop and grow organically, with little or no planning.  Many grow and reach a “point of no return” where, for example, they may be supporting an inefficient or counter-productive structure, the right people in the wrong roles or the wrong people in the right roles, or worst of all the wrong people in the wrong roles.  Their business may not be able to adjust to current market conditions in a timely fashion.  They might have over-expanded, under-expanded, passed on a promising opportunity or pursued a disastrous opportunity.  These situations become disastrous after a business passes the point beyond which it cannot “undo” and restart without more investment of time and capital than is available.  Thus, it is essential to avoid growing organically and hitting the point of no return by adopting a planning process as early as possible and of course sticking to it.  You can either have a reactive business or a proactive business.

We Are Human, We Make Mistakes

I just returned from a family vacation to the Caribbean.  My entire family had a great time, lots of fun, beach, pool, golf and meals.  In addition there were many great conversations about life, family, the state of the world and business, with the family as well as friends, both old and new. Near the end of the vacation, the subject of customer service was brought up after a round of golf with my wife and grandson.  Upon arriving at the clubhouse we were delayed for more than 30 minutes waiting for both my grandson’s and my golf clubs.  It seems that both golf bags were misplaced after our round of golf two days prior. After the delay, we were offered loaner clubs and a couple of balls.  When I mentioned that I had no golf golf glove to the person behind the counter in the pro shop, I was answered with a blank stare.  We started our round of golf and after a few holes the very apologetic starter delivered our clubs.  He explained that they had some new employees who were putting golf bags anywhere they felt like, rather than the bins assigned to them.  Did this golf club miss an opportunity to wow me?  Did they fail to gain positive comments from me when my friends, associates and clients ask me how my trip was?  You bet they did!  They could have offered to credit my round of golf, but they didn’t.  They could have offered me a golf glove in addition to the two balls I was given, but they didn’t.  Any of these offers would have had much more perceived value to me than they would have cost the club to provide.  Instead, they offered me lame excuses and demonstrated that they do not properly train their employees.  More importantly, they failed to give me a reason to recommend their facility to my golfing community.  Simply put, they do not understand how to deliver true customer service. We are all human.  We all make mistakes, as individuals and as organizations.  It is how we respond to our mistakes that distinguishes us from our competition.

Effective Delegation Part 3 – What You MUST Delegate If You Want Your Business To Grow

As part of my on-going series about the art and science of effective delegation, and in response to questions I have been asked, I have developed the following Top 10 List:   The Top 10 Items You MUST Delegate

10. Activities that will speed up your cash flow – This includes collection calls, invoicing on a timely basis, responding to inbound customer inquiries, processing and shipping orders and making it easy for customers to buy from your business, to mention just a few.

9. Tasks that are already streamlined and documented – This is one of the keys to achieving both leverage and consistency in your business. Without leverage and consistency your business will become increasingly chaotic as it grows, if it grows at all.

8. Tasks that involve government or other outside, often-changing regulations – You simply do not have the resources to keep up with regulations. Make sure to delegate to trained professionals whose job it is to be up to date.  For example, a while ago I was introduced to a customs lawyer.  She told me that her new law practice was booming because U.S. Customs is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.  She mentioned she found many companies that have been importing materials for years, always completing the paperwork the same way that are un-wittingly, no longer in compliance.  Worse yet, the potential penalties are many times larger than before DHS was formed.

7. Anything that you want your team to master – You will never achieve leverage in your business if your team does not master operational tasks. Mastery supports consistency.  Consistency is a prerequisite to growth.

6. Tasks where you are the bottleneck – If everything goes through you, your company can only work at your speed and capacity.

5. Areas that are beyond your skill-set or competence – Simply put, if you are not good at it, you shouldn’t be doing it.

4. Anything that you shouldn’t be doing – If you are tempted to do that low-value task that is not time sensitive, stuffing envelopes, shredding out of date documents, etc., you are keeping yourself from adding the most value you can to your business. Remember, all of us ultimately are compensated for the value we add, not for the time we devote.

3. Tasks that keep you from growing your business – The main responsibility of ownership, whether you actually own a company or simply take ownership of your responsibilities, is to develop and grow your business.

2. Anything you hate to do – If you hate it, you most certainly will not do it well.

1. Anything that requires specialized knowledge – You cannot possibly be an expert about every subject necessary to build a successful business. You can never go wrong delegating to expertise on an as-needed, demand basis.

Bonus – Any subject where you can benefit from someone else’s experience – We are not omnipotent; learn from the mistakes of those who went before you.

One very important word of caution: You must not abdicate any of the above; you must learn and practice effective delegation. Please share your experiences and results from delegation or abdication with my growing community.