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  • Aspire » Leadership

    19 Dec


    It’s a simple idea…the best ideas always are.  2 people can accomplish more than 1 person on their own, but the real trick is that 2 people working together can accomplish a LOT more than 1 person…or even 2 people working independently.  Bottom line, if you want to achieve more, you’ve got to have teamwork…and teamwork starts with leadership.

    Joe Calhoon would describe it as the critical importance of having everyone On The Same Page, which is also the title of one of his books.

    I was fortunate to hear Joe speak at an event last week and he covered a lot of important ideas – I don’t have the room to cover the entire talk, but here are a few of the key points that really stood out to me.

    You’ve got to have a plan!

    Only about 12% of businesses take the time to put together a written business growth plan…and it’s no coincidence that those businesses perform much better than their peers who are reacting and drifting.

    The thing is – the plan doesn’t have to be overly complicated.  You don’t need a 40 page executive summary in front of a 200 page business plan.  Joe advocates a 1 page plan and I’ve worked with clients on 2 page plans.  What’s really important is that you’ve gone through a planning process and you can easily communicate what’s important and how you’re getting there.

    Employee Engagement will make or break you!

    According to studies, about 28% of employees are actively engaged in their work.  An engaged employee is one who fully buys into what you’re doing and proactively does what’s needed to help the business be successful…the kind of employees you want and need to have if you are going to make it, much less thrive.

    Conversely 50% to 60% are disengaged…which matches up with a study I found earlier this year that over 50% of employees are very unhappy with their job.  Disengaged employees show up to work most of the time, do the bare minimum to keep their job and generally avoid any kind of proactive or creative endeavors.  It’s an awful existence for the employee (imagine coming in every day to a job you hate) and it’s even worse for the business owner.

    The difference between a business with a high level of engagement and a typical business is night and day.  It’s the difference between dragging a heavy weight behind you and having a supercharged engine help you push up the hill!

    Keep it simple!

    The other thing that really resonated with me was the need for leaders and business owners to keep it simple.  We live in a complex world…and it’s getting more complex every day, but complexity confuses…complexity keeps people from taking action…complexity doesn’t get talked about (at least not in a positive way).

    Simplicity doesn’t mean dumbing things down, simplicity is about finding the core idea, the MOST important things and keeping the focus on that.  I love the idea of being able to tell people what you’re all about in 1 or 2 sentences…even better 10 words or less.  Try it – it’s not easy, but it is amazingly powerful if you can get there.

    Thanks Joe

    Joe covered lots of other important ideas and I would strongly encourage you to catch him at a future speaking engagement if you get the chance…and until then, check out one of his books and start thinking about how you could get your team on the same page!

    Have you heard Joe speak?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by The Happy Rower

    29 Nov


    Can you believe New Year’s Eve is almost here?  We are closing in on 2012 very quickly and It’s that time of year when everyone starts reviewing the goals they had for 2011 and thinking about 2012 goals. 

    The approach and complexity of this process is all over the board. From the dreamers who repeat the same goals from year to year yet they never seem to get out of the starting blocks to the serious analytical types who have meticulously measured every step of progress from day one and are constantly reevaluating their direction.  Although there’s not 1 right way to do things, my hope is you tilt more towards the latter of the two approaches.

    A goal is a dream with a deadline. – Napoleon Hill

    Since you are reading this I am going to take the liberty of assuming:

    #1) You have some goals.

    #2) Your goals are in writing.

    #3) Your goals are tracked at least in some degree.

    But at the end of the day, what is the differentiator that propels some people to achieve their goals while others appear to be working just as diligently, but are not having the same level of success?

    If you have ever been involved in any type of manufacturing, you are probably familiar with the word, Kaizen. It is a Japanese word meaning “improvement” and it defines a way of thinking.  In manufacturing it is about continuous improvement and is the foundation of the Six Sigma and Lean movements. 

    With Kaizen, you are continuously looking for the bottle neck that is keeping you from doing something better, cheaper, faster, and more efficiently. Companies embracing this “continuous improvement” mentality assemble teams to dissect specific areas of manufacturing to determine what the biggest bottle neck is and how they can improve/reduce/remove it. These are called “Kaizen Events”. The results of these events are often transformational for the business.

    Try this!

    My challenge to you and your team as you think about 2012 and your goals is to perform a “Kaizen Event” on the goals you have struggled to achieve in this past year. What is the bottle neck that is challenged you in achieving it? How can you improve/reduce/remove it? Blaming it on the economy is unacceptable. Whatever your industry, I am sure we can find examples of like businesses who are succeeding. So skip the easy way out and find the real obstacles.

    Then, as you establish your goals for 2012, incorporate your findings and use the same process going forward into the New Year when ever you get stuck.  I think you will find it very empowering…and you’ll make a lot more progress!

    If you can to this with a group of your peers you will have more success, so I would encourage you not to complete this solo. Understand, self-diagnostics can work, but you risk becoming a race horse with blinders on – be aware of that. Whatever your approach, find the bottle necks in your goals and open them up.

    Have you ever looked for the obstacles in your goals? How did you open up the bottle neck? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Chris Steinlage  Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by meddygarnet

    12 Sep


    In Jim Collin’s book “Good to Great” he discovered that one of the key drivers for great companies was the consistent ability to “Confront the brutal facts”. 

    “Great organizations lead with questions, not answers. If the organization openly confronts the brutal facts of each situation, the right decisions will often become self-evident..”

    Basically it’s the ability to do a completely honest and thorough assessment of your current situation – be willing to hear and face the truth, no matter how painful and bleak it might seem.

    One common area of brutal facts for many companies centers on employees and their costs.  To start with you need to make sure you’re following another one of Collins key tenets…having the right people on the bus…and in the right seats.

    This process includes taking into consideration the employee’s strengths and weaknesses and matching them with the roles and responsibilities in your business. It also means having systems and training procedures to ensure they have every opportunity to perform at their highest level. You have to give them the tools to succeed.  Everyone wants to succeed and do a good job, but if you don’t have the right people in the right roles with the tools and support they  need, you are going to fail. 

    When’s the last time you really looked at how your employees fit in your business as it is today?  Do you have the right people in the right roles?

    What about confronting brutal facts when the issue is employee numbers and costs?  What do you do when forces outside your control create an environment of change, change that will affect your current staffing needs?

    Example – The US Postal Service

    Although it has been developing for some time, the US Postal Service will remember the fall of 2011 as the time they were forced to deal with changes that are affecting them in a monumental way.  Caught in this transformation are over 500,000 US Postal employees who for the most part have all been doing their specific jobs perfectly well. However, the internet has changed how we communicate & conduct business…forever. Changes are needed to rescale a US Postal Service into an entity that has the potential to sustain itself, which will undoubtedly mean fewer employees. It has to be dealt with; it is a “brutal fact”.

    I don’t know what’s going to happen with the US Postal Service, but what happens all too often in the small business world is a lack of confrontation.  Business owners do not want to accept that a significant change is taking place and so they keep doing what they do in hopes that it will get better on its own. First a few weeks pass, then a few months, and sometimes it turns into years. If they would just truly look at their market trend, at their data, their cost structure, confront the brutal facts, it would be clear a change needs to take place.

    In my personal experience, the longer I waited to make an employee change the higher the number of people I negatively impacted. I realized as a business owner, it is imperative to make decisions that keep your business financially sound at all times. If you don’t, you are jeopardizing the livelihood of all the employees and not just the few that may no longer have a place in your organization.

    For a small to medium sized business owner this can be a particularly sensitive matter because employees often feel like family. It is completely different than terminating employees for performance issues or when they simply don’t fit your culture. The “brutal facts” are often painful, but at the end of day a downsizing of the company may be the best solution for your company to once again experience momentum and growth (and ultimately add employees again).

    Where do you stand on your cost structure?  Are you in the red or the black?  Do you need to consider cutting headcount to make sure you’re still healthy?

    Have you confronted the Brutal Facts when it comes to your financials?  Has your world changed and you’re not willing to confront it?  We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please share your comments below.

    Chris Steinlage  Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by bruckerrlb

    22 Aug


    If you’re like most entrepreneurs, there are plenty of days you don’t feel much like a leader, but as a business owner, that’s a major part of your job description, a huge driver for success…or failure. Are you focused on being a great leader?

    Leadership is needed in all kinds of places, it’s not just about business owners, it’s a universal requirement – it’s something everyone will step up to at some point in their life. Some feel they are called to lead in areas of high visibility while others may lead in areas where their leadership almost goes almost unnoticed but is important just the same. Teachers (or even our role as parents) are examples of unnoticed leaders, but effective leadership in those roles is profoundly important to the development of a child. 

    As a business owner what your business really needs is effective leadership from you!

    Read More…

    08 Aug


    I ran into a quote the other day that I really liked:

    The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.   – Stephen Covey

    It’s a simple idea, but almost every business owner I know struggles with this at some point and many of them struggle with it all the time.  Part of being an entrepreneur is being not only open to new ideas, but excited about them…maybe even having a touch of Attention Deficit Disorder in some way.  So it’s natural to lose focus and check out the shiny, exciting ideas that you could be spending time on.

    The problem with this is that it can make you extremely unproductive.

    There’s a big difference between being busy and being productive – I threw together a quick illustration that hopefully makes the point!

    image           image

    If you’re in the ‘Busy’ mode, it doesn’t really matter how efficient you are with your time, you’re not really getting much done (or at least not anything important done).  Alternatively, if you’re spending all of your work time focused on the main thing, even if you’re not quite as efficient with your time, the end result is going to be really high productivity.

    So are you busy or are you productive? 

    Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    photo by Nina Matthews Photography