Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Get Close to your Competitors

This advice may seem counter intuitive but it can work wonders for you and your company.  The more you know about products and services in your industry the better prepared you will be to compete and innovate.

I made it a point to visit competitors as I traveled the country and would often call the president of another company telling him that I would be in town asking about getting together.  The response was almost always positive. Often we would meet at his office or store and many times the meeting evolved into a meal together.  Obviously we would be cagy about how much we shared but we both came out ahead in current knowledge of the business.  I have actually developed several good friendships in the process. The losers are the ones who stick their head in the sand and refuse to communicate with competitors.

Every industry is different and many companies have policies about this subject but I would urge you to push on this topic because there is so much upside opportunity to learn and often to the benefit of both parties.

Posted on 05/30/2012 2:03 PM by Joe Scarlett
Friday, 25 May 2012
Strategic Next-Level Leadership Planning 3 Key Questions to Ask:

Holding on to key talent, developing and preparing them for each level of leadership is critical.  The transition from management to true leadership can be daunting.    Ask yourself this…although your Senior Team has the strategic and financial skills to lead a great meeting – are they prepared to lead and inspire a great organization into the future? 

Development planning is an evolving process.  What had a star rising through the ranks as a project manager changes as they reach levels that require leading and inspiring others.  As our friend and author Marshall Goldsmith would say “What Got Them Here,  Won’t Get Them There”.   Do you know where “there” is?  Are your development plans for various levels of management ranks differentiated for those changing expectations?

Planning for succession is a difficult process and even more daunting since the fallout from the recession. Strategic planning initiatives that were once 5-years rolling – are now 3-years rolling (and sometimes 2 years) due to uncertainty.    However, as strategic plans evolve and time for planning now an everyday process, so should the leadership development planning to compliment those plans.   Is your “bench” solid with up-to-date leadership skills to withstand and lead through the changing tide and rolling strategic plans?  

Leadership is about vision and planning for the future.   If strategic plans only emphasis sales and financial focus without human capital, then they are missing a key component.  These evolving plans must also involve thought in who will carry out these plans and preparing them - developing them to be ready when the call comes to lead it themselves.

Posted on 05/25/2012 11:02 AM by Mary Fink and Janet Rives
Thursday, 24 May 2012
Vision: A Framework for Decisions

I have been working lately with several organizations on their vision statements, and have been reminded of the importance of having something out there, whether for organizations or individuals, that is drawing us toward it.  In the change material I teach, there is a skill that successful changers practice when change is thrust upon them, and that is to create a vision so powerful of the organization, department or even yourself once the change has been successfully implemented that it pulls you toward it, making it desirable to get there as fast as you can.  Many organizations create vision statements that are well crafted and look good on the wall, but that’s where it ends—with a wall plaque.  Those organizations who really think hard about their vision and make it something worthy of striving toward, and who then talk about that vision with everyone all the time are the ones for whom the vision is part of their success.  Peter Walsh said “You have to ask yourself, ‘Does this item or thought or response move me closer to my vision for my best organization or self?’  If it does great.  If it doesn’t, what is it even doing there in your organization or life?”  Vision is not an exercise in word-smithing.  It is an activity during which you define your best, most successful organization and then use it as a framework against which you make all significant decisions.

Posted on 05/24/2012 11:27 AM by Mary Fink
Monday, 21 May 2012
Guide your kids into the right career

We constantly hear about the lack of jobs for young people and yet openings for some positions never get filled. Although the situation is worse for those without a college degree the issue is broad based. So I challenge parents about the kind of career guidance you are providing to your offspring.

It may make you feel good as a parent to say “follow your dreams” but youngsters seldom have any clue about what they want to do and often drift from one idea to another.  As parents we have an obligation to try to guide our children to careers that are best for them in the long term.  It is our job to teach our kids about where the jobs will exist in the future.

Where is the growth? Where are the opportunities? Healthcare, engineering, computer sciences, business, accounting, etc. – you can probably come up with a better list than I can.  Help your children move into careers that have solid futures and good prospects of continued long term earnings.  When we give them solid guidance they are less likely to move back in with us!

Posted on 05/21/2012 11:29 AM by Joe Scarlett
Monday, 14 May 2012
Listening: STILL the Most Important Communication Tool

Many leaders talk about the importance of communication in their organizations, and for some of them, they think communication is primarily about transmitting a message, and they discount or ignore altogether the importance of listening.  We’ve all heard “we have one mouth and two ears and we should use them proportionately” or “listen twice as much as you talk” and that is all good advice, but there is another reason –we rarely get ourselves into trouble when we are listening.  It is when we respond that we put our foot (or both feet) in our mouths. 

So let’s review—listening is a good thing—it allows us to know what’s going on in the organization as well as in the lives of our colleagues, it allows us to learn, it is a powerful relationship-building tool, it is a must in conflict resolution and management, and it is critical in managing difficult conversations and negotiation.  It’s one of those things that isn’t difficult, we just have to be intentional about it.  So get listening!

Posted on 05/14/2012 1:03 PM by Mary Fink
Monday, 7 May 2012
Team with an "I"

We’ve all heard the saying… “There is no ‘I’ in Team”.  True.  However, the philosophy that the  you, I, me, my’s are non-existent in a team environment can be a misnomer.  You do exist, and it is your skills and talents that contribute after all.  

For many individuals they become part of a team and then paralyze themselves waiting to move as a team. Waiting to come up with ideas magically at the same time, and waiting for everyone to skip along at the same rhythm as though now they’re sewn together.

Don’t get me wrong I absolutely believe in teamwork.  It is essential to all strong and healthy organizations.  But here’s the secret: it’s not instant.  It builds.

Teams solidify in the blend and respect of everyone’s individual contributions, talents and strengths. Connecting those attributes with the goal and purpose of the team encourages not only accomplishment, but also stretch, creativity and new discovery. 

Assigning participants to a team does not a team make.   It takes, and here’s the word again, each “I” to be part of the team environment.  The leaders role is to establish respect for each “I” that strengthens and provides the unified group we all hope for. 

Only through each individual can an idea be presented and then adopted by the team.  

Moral of the story – the I in Team does exist – it is however, respectfully plural.

Posted on 05/07/2012 2:43 PM by Janet Rives
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