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  • Aspire » Inspiretitle_li=Leadership

    24 Nov

    If you’d prefer to listen to this post, click the start button below – and leave us a comment when you’re done!


    Thanksgiving Parade Picture from Martha_Chapa95 via Flickr

    Thanksgiving Parade Picture from Martha_Chapa95 via Flickr

    There is no other single day of the year that causes us to pause and give thanks more than Thanksgiving.   As the biggest travel holiday of the year, more friends and family are gathered together during this period, than any other holiday.  We spend time with family, we usually eat way more than we should, and we give thanks for what is good in our lives.

    Business owners may not have an official thanksgiving day, although I think some would say it is the day after they finish their YE taxes. ;-)    But as a business owner or manager we all have so much to be thankful for.  Not just once or twice a year, but every day of year.   Here are 4 that I think we all should raise a glass and have a toast to:

    Always Be Thankful for….


    It has changed the way we do business. The world can be your market place.  Today even the smallest companies can look as big as they want on the internet.  Brick and Mortar is not a requirement or measuring tool for success.  “The Cloud” has allowed businesses to be more remote than ever before.  The ability to access information, network and share ideas, and outsource business functions has never been easier; and it will only get better.  Be thankful and leverage this.

    Social Media.

    Technology created it and there are negatives with everything, but the positive impact of social media is changing the game of traditional marketing and how we connect with our customers. Big advertising budgets are often being replaced with leaner more targeted social media strategies that can connect and interact with their target markets instantaneously. Be thankful and tweet it, pin it, or share it!

    The USA.

    It is easy to find things to complain about when it comes to owning or operating a business.  We all hate taxes, over regulation, etc. etc. and globally there may be other countries that are more business friendly.  But, the powerful blend of culture, resources, and the laws that guide our country are unmatched. The bottom line is, the USA still offers tremendous freedom an opportunity to those who choose to go out and get it.  Be thankful for our freedom and all those who gave their lives so we could have it.

    Employees, Business Partners, Friends, and Family.

    The anthem of the business owner in independence. But the people we surround ourselves with ultimately have a huge impact on long-term success. Take stock in the people around you.  Thank them for their contributions and support. Let them know they are valued and appreciated.  These people (esp close friends and family) are often the people who support you the most and are acknowledged the least.  Be thankful they are in your life and let them know.

    On this Thanksgiving, we would like to thank all of those who have contributed to our successes in life and in business, especially our families.  It is through your trust, support, understanding, and encouragement we are where we are.

    Finally, we are thankful for our clients who allow us to help them in their businesses and entrust us to be part of their business success story.  We are thankful.

    What are you thankful for?  We always appreciate your comments.  Happy Thanksgiving!

    Chris Steinlage   Kansas City Business Coach

    18 Nov

    Prefer to listen to this post? Click the play button below and let us know what you think in the comments below:


    Frustration stress and writers block

    Do you spend a lot of time avoiding failure?

    How do you react to a failure on your team? Unfortunately most of us in a business environment view failure as unacceptable and will go to great lengths (including not trying something) just to avoid the risk of failing. And to make matters even worse, failure of any kind within the team is usually punished harshly, sending a clear message that a new approach or pushing the envelope is a bad idea.

    Everyone loves success and winning…and if you can skip directly to that point in everything you do, then you’re set for life and you should be writing books about your magical abilities. However for the rest of us, the problem with success when you look at the big picture is that you don’t learn anything from it. When you’re successful you’re just going to to duplicate whatever you just did – there’s no incentive to learn or to grow.

    Failure on the other hand, gives you a lot to think about and a huge incentive to learn a lesson, to change and get better.

    Henry Ford said it very elegantly:

    “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

    The world is changing – and those changes come faster every day. The long term winner is going to be those who focus on learning and growing and the only way to learn and grow is from failing.

    Consider the recent sad tragedy with the Virgin Galactic Space crash, in one of the last few test flights before they planned to launch commercially Space Ship Two crashed shortly after separation from the launching platform ship. One pilot died and the other is severely injured. No one wanted this failure to happen but now that it has, Virgin Galactic has a choice – they can either stop trying or they can learn from this and come up with a better solution…learn and grow.

    “Space is hard – but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together,” – Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic

    The good news for almost all of us in the business world is that failure is rarely a matter of life and death (although it sometimes comes across that way). I’m not suggesting you should be seeking out failure but you have to allow it to be a possibility and when it happens you should celebrate the opportunity to learn from it.

    How to Incorporate Failure into your business

    1. Change your perspective (and your team’s perspective)

    Nobody likes to fail, but realizing that it’s the only way to truly move forward, the first thing you have to do is change how you look at failures. Historically you may have looked at a failure as a huge setback, maybe you got mad or depressed and reacted emotionally. However if you look at a failure as an opportunity to learn and improve – for you and for your team then the next failure takes on a different aspect and becomes something you can work with.

    “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”  – Winston Churchill

    2. Engineer opportunities to learn (and to fail)

    In his book Great by Choice author Jim Collins suggests the idea of firing bullets before firing cannonballs. He learned that the most successful companies that he studied had a practice of launching new ideas or products in a very small and controlled way – which let the team fail and learn without causing a major impact. Do you have a great idea that you’ve wanted to try but held back on because you didn’t know if it would succeed? Come up with a way to trial the idea in a way that a failure won’t really hurt but could still teach you a lot.

    3. Celebrate Failures of Commission

    If you really want to make a tangible change to your culture and your environment then it might be time to adopt a ‘failure of the month/quarter/year’ award. The idea is that you want to encourage your team to try new things and even when they don’t work out they should be rewarded or at least recognized in a positive way for trying. To be clear, you’re rewarding people who purposely try something new, not someone who just got lazy and screwed up. It may feel unnatural at first, but it will send a strong message that you truly value creativity and innovation.

    How do you deal with failures? Do you have some other ideas on how you could promote the idea of failing forward at your business? We’d love to hear your thoughts – if you have a minute, share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    06 Oct

    Prefer to listen? Click below to hear an audio version of this week’s blog post:


    Great Idea

    Have you ever tried to roll out a change at work and didn’t get much of a response?

    Quick example – a client decided it was critical that his team started actively tracking their time, at least at a high level. He needed to know what they were working on (billable or not) and which client it was supporting. He had a lot of good reasons for the change – improved billing, better forecasting for his cash flow, a better sense of where his employees were getting stuck, etc. And it wasn’t a big change – maybe a couple of minutes a day at the most.

    The result? About half his staff started complying, although not consistently and the other half just couldn’t seem to get it done. They weren’t being defiant; it just wasn’t something that was convenient or top of mind.

    Motivation and change are challenging. We’re hardwired to fall into habitual behavior (think about the last time you brushed your teeth – did you consciously think about any of that process?). However that doesn’t mean change is impossible – here are 5 ways to think about change and motivation that might spark something for your situation.

    1. Change the Path / Change the Environment

    It doesn’t take much of an impediment to change (or keep) a certain behavior. If you’re addicted to Ice Cream bars and you decide they’re not good for you, willpower might be able to keep you from eating them some of the time, but if you take them out of your environment, make it difficult to have one, it’s a lot more likely that you’ll stop eating them for good. Find ways to make the behavior that you want to encourage easier to do.

     2. Look for the Bright Spot – Build on What Works

    It’s likely that you are sometimes getting the outcome you want. Maybe you have a team of 5 salespeople and 2 of them are successfully selling your new product and the other 3 haven’t made any progress. Rather than deciding the product is a bust (or that you’ve got 3 bad salespeople) take a few minutes to figure out what your 2 successful sales people (your bright spots) are doing to make it work. Are they talking to different people? Using a different angle for the sale? Packaging it differently? It may turn out to be just luck and coincidence, but it’s more likely that you’ll find something you can use to get everyone on board.

     3. Plan Ahead – Focus Your Willpower

    There have been a bunch of studies that show that your willpower is a finite, but renewable resource. When you’ve had a challenging day, when you’re tired, when you’re hungry it becomes a lot more difficult to step up and do the right thing just based on willpower. Knowing that, it becomes important to recognize when you’re most likely to fail at implementing a change and plan around it. Let’s say you have committed to writing a weekly blog article but you know that it’s almost impossible to concentrate at the end of the day. Block out time on your calendar first thing in the morning to give yourself a clear uninterrupted window to write – plan ahead.

     4. Make it Fun

    Australian software company Atlassian came up with a concept they call ‘Fed-ex’ days, where once a quarter they give their software developers 24 hours to work on whatever they want – it could be a new product, a fix to a problem, etc. The only rule is that they have to ‘Deliver’ (that’s the Fed-ex part). They present their idea at the end of the 24 hours – on a Friday afternoon in front of the whole company with cake, beverages and the winning idea gets recognition and a prize. Atlassian credits a huge part of their growth and success to the ideas that have come out of these fun team events.

     5. Think Big – Why are You Here?

    It turns out that most of us, once we’re making ‘enough’ money are really motivated to do our best work because of big ideas. If you want to tap into that extra well of energy, inspiration and ideas that all of us have, then you need to find a way to Think Big. What’s the big idea behind your business (beyond just making money)? Why was it started? What makes you get up in the morning? How are you helping people and is that a worthwhile cause? The more you can tap into the big idea, the more people on your team who also buy into that big idea will give their heart, soul and free time to making that big idea come to life.

    What happened to my client who wanted better time tracking? He found a way to automate collecting the time for most of the work, leaving just a quick review and send at the end of the day. He changed the environment to make it easier and faster and now everyone is actively tracking their hours – soon it will be a habit.

    How do you make change happen in your world? How do you motivate your team to take the right actions? We’d love to hear your thoughts – leave us a comment with how this impacts your world.

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    29 Sep

    Click below to hear an audio version of this week’s blog post:


    champagne bottle eruption

    On Friday evening, Sept. 26th the Kansas City Royals did something they had not done in 29 years, when they clinched a berth into the MLB post season and the celebration was on.  It was a great moment not only for the team and franchise, but all Royal’s fans.  Way to go Royals!  Your business may not have a celebration budget that include cases of champagne, Oakley goggles for eye protection, or a cleaning service eager to tackle the aftermath, but that doesn’t make your successes in business any less significant than winning a pennant race.

    It is easy for business owners to get so wrapped up in the daily grind we forget to celebrate the successes we are having along the way.   Not finding that time during the first few years of owning my dealership is one of the things about those days that I regret the most.   My team was “all in” and we were consistently reaching new levels of growth (bottom line and top line) year over year.   It was nearing the end of the 3rd year when it dawned on me, that we had hit some pretty significant milestones and we had never really celebrated the victories. My experience (and a lot of studies) has shown that you and your employees will be more motivated and more charged up if you can authentically celebrate an achievement.

    So what can you do?

    It doesn’t have to be expensive.  This may be the biggest misconception about celebrating an achievement.   It isn’t about spending a fortune every time something good happens.   But it is about recognizing excellence, whether that’s a sales goal, the number of days without an accident, someone going above and beyond, or collectively reaching a production goal.   It’s about putting a smile on the faces of those who helped achieve the result, letting them know they matter, that their efforts made a difference.   And yes, this includes your own family and friends.

    Here are 5 meaningful yet inexpensive ways to celebrate success:

    • Personally thank those who contributed to the success. How many times do we forget to simply look an employee or customer in the eye and say “Thank you”.  If you don’t have employees, maybe it is a spouse or business peer who supports you.
    • When an employee with a family goes above and beyond with extra hours of work or travel and you know it impacts their personal life. Send a hand written note to their home address and thank their family for the sacrifices they made in completing the project/sale.
    • At company meetings, recognize employees in front of their co-workers who displayed actions in the work place that exemplified one or more of your company’s core values. The acknowledgment could be for something done internally in your business or externally with a customer or at a community event.
    • Take pictures of the event so it can be shared in a newsletter, put in a frame, or included in a newsletter. Pictures are worth a thousand words, but you first need the picture.
    • Breakfast burritos, Pizza parties, or one of my favorites (if your business location allows) is the owner or management team grilling hamburgers and serving their team.

    When it comes to celebrating, the bottom line is you don’t need to have cases of champagne to make your business Royal.   What you do need is an intentional effort to acknowledge those who contribute to the successes of your business as they are achieved. Throw in some sincere gratitude, public acknowledgement and some time to reflect on things and your business will be royal too!

    Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals for all their accomplishments this year.  Feel free to share any thoughts about the Royals or ways you celebrate at your business in the space below.   We always appreciate comments.

    Ned Yost Celebrating by Charles Sollars via Flickr

    Ned Yost Celebrating by Charles Sollars via Flickr

    Chris Steinlage  Kansas City Business Coach

    25 Aug
    photo by Jan-Erik Finnberg via Flickr

    photo by Jan-Erik Finnberg via Flickr

    With most of the schools back in session, the number of buses on our roads has increased significantly; latest estimates have the number at about 500,000 school buses in the U.S.  All those yellow school buses created the opportunity not only for a PSA to be a be aware the buses and 26 million students riding them, but to think about your own (business) bus as well, even if it is just metaphor.

    The Business Bus….

    In his 2001 best seller “Good to Great”,  Jim Collins used this bus analogy; you have to get the right people in the right seats on the bus.  Starting with the bus driver’s seat; think of the bus seats as an organizational chart of your business.  Every seat contains a list of duties and responsibilities and it the bus driver’s responsibility to see that the right people are assigned to the right seats.

    As a business owner you are the driver.  There can only be one driver.  You may have a management team; you may be part of ownership group that allows different drivers behind the wheel at different times, but at the end of the day there can only be one driver.   Every business must have a bus driver, the place where the buck stops, the person who is ultimately in charge of everyone on the bus (or in the business).

    Filling the seats…

    Once a seat is filled, the (owner) bus driver needs to monitor the person they placed in the seat, but they need to let them do their job.  This is where so many small businesses repeatedly take steps backwards; the owner(s) need to stay out of other people’s seats!   The seat contains duties and responsibilities; you placed someone in that seat to complete those tasks.  Once you do that, you need to allow them to do what was asked of them.  There isn’t room in the seat for you too!

    Disrupting the seats….

    Although it can happen in any business, for some reason this seems to be a bigger problem with family owned businesses more than others.   In family businesses, there often are multiple owners and even though they have agreed to sit in certain seats (their org chart) they are always bothering family members in other seats they have agreed to stay out of.   All it does is creates havoc and stress on the business.

    To make matters worse, rather than asking them to step into a private location and discuss a difference of opinion they stand up in the front of the bus and undermine or question their authority in front of all the other people on the bus.   Which ultimately leads to the absolute worst scenario of all….(again metaphorically speaking) they  throw them the under the bus.

    “You’ll never get the right people in the right seat on the bus, if you are constantly throwing your people under it!”   – Aspire Business Development

    If owner(s) are constantly being disrespectful of their peers or their managers in front of all the other employees by questioning their actions, discounting their procedures, or overriding their requests,  how are those being disrespected ever supposed to win the respect of everyone else in the company?   Not only is it personally disrespectful, but it diminishes the importance of the tasks they are responsible for in the first place? You reap what you sow.  You may need to change the seats people sit in, you may need to let someone off the bus, but do not throw your people under the bus!

    Remember as the driver (owner) you have the ultimate responsibility for the bus. Even if someone else is struggling in their seat, that’s on you. You can help fix it, you can replace them, but you can’t blame them for struggling.

    So what do you think?  How do you think your Business Bus is doing?  Do you respect the people you place in the various seats on your bus?  Do you compliment them on the bus in front of everyone and talk to them about issues in private?    We would love to hear your thoughts on this in the space below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach