Ideas to Inspire Your EXTRAORDINARY
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In Part 1 of this series, I shared guidance on how to examine and think about the structure of your business. As a quick review, structure focuses on how you are organized to deliver your business outcomes. I appreciated the many comments that I received about the ability of business owners and leaders to relate to the ideas that I shared.
Today I want to talk about how you get work done - the mechanisms, systems, and processes that facilitate the accomplishment of individual, connected, and interdependent tasks. This is one of the most beneficial business levers for reducing cost and increasing productivity, two significant contributors to profitability, and yet it is often neglected.
If you are fortunate, you have survived the teenage years of your children and are enjoying your home, free of the daily clutter that they create. If you are like me, however, you are in the messy middle of the teenage years, which is quickly confirmed by a glimpse into their bedroom.
Although this is not an actual picture from my home, it could be, and I know that I am not alone in choosing to keep the door shut, while regularly imploring my girls to clean up their rooms.
Before we examine why this happens, let's talk about why it matters.
> It's distracting - cluttered space, cluttered mind
> It's uninviting - do you want to hang out here?
> It's disruptive - can you find what you need?
> It lowers self-esteem - can you be proud of this?
There are many rational reasons to explain why this is happening, so let me clarify a few misconceptions.
What we have here is a failure to adopt systems and processes to keep a tidy bedroom.
In the daily hustle and bustle of their teenage lives, jumping to the next activity or distraction (Hello FaceTime Friend), the extra steps of putting towels in the hamper (vs. throwing on the floor), hanging clothes (vs. piling on the bed), etc. never forms into a conscious thought, and thoughts are the antecedents to actions.
This is similar to what happens in business. With the pace and demands of growth, most business owners lack the time and energy to give proper attention to the processes that underlie how the work inside of the company gets done. So like my children, the task quickly becomes overwhelming and results in paralysis that only serves to compound the issues further.
Good process fuels productivity and cost savings by
Sales, inventory, and customer pipeline are just a few of the KPIs that most businesses monitor regularly, but the key to sustained growth is to build your internal systems and processes to match the demands created by growth. Ideally, the planning and execution of process changes occur just before the business is tested by the demands of new growth and that is why cleaning up your business processes needs to be on your spring cleaning to-do list.
Want to learn more about how to get started? Let's schedule some time together - the first conversation is always free!
I may not be the homemaker of my mother's generation, but I do make it a practice to "deep clean" my home twice a year and one of those time is usually in early Spring. Despite my best efforts to keep belongings in their designated place, inevitably I find that those appointed places begin to look cluttered and disorganized. Even though I do not suffer from OCD, I find that I hit a tipping point in which the detritus of life becomes distracting, discouraging, and ineffectual. Typically, my compulsion to spring clean looks something like this...
This is also the time when I rotate apparel - hats, gloves, boots, and scarves move to the basement closet along with winter coats; sweaters move to the top of the closet and summer clothing moves to the more accessible lower shelves. It is during this rearrangement of clothing that I purge items I no longer wear or are looking tired and make my mental shopping list for pieces I want to add to my wardrobe.
As I complete these tasks, my happiness grows, and a sense of serenity is restored. Additionally, I often catch items on clearance at the end of the season and then promptly forget about them. So each cleaning cycle offers a discovery of hidden treasures that build my excitement for the climbing of the thermometer.
As a business owner or leader, Spring arrives six weeks before the second half of the year making it the perfect time to assess your organization and tweak a few things to ensure that you are positioned to hit full stride at mid-year. A great place to start is your organizational structure.
Structure, used as a dynamic business lever, is an accelerator for growth.
Many companies make the mistake of treating their structure as a static business design element, only to find that when their sales take-off, they struggle to keep pace.
Smart businesses manage a healthy tension between doing more within the boundaries of their current organization structure and investing in strategic changes to the structure in preparation for their planned growth.
If you are planning to make 2019 your best year ever, now is the time to assess your organizational structure before it becomes distracting, discouraging, and ineffectual.
Need some professional help? LET'S CONNECT! My expertise and years of experience in organizational design combined with my affordable prices make this spring cleaning effort an excellent investment. The first conversation is always free, so what are you waiting for?
As we head into the third month of the new year, I want to continue the conversation about improving your business performance by reducing employee turnover. As discussed in my recent LinkedIn article (read), focusing on improving retention of your best employees is a critical, strategic play to reduce turnover. There are many actions that you can take as a business owner or manager to improve turnover. For now, I want to focus on what I have experienced as having the greatest impact - cultivating talent.
To begin, let's discuss the purposeful analogy of cultivating. Throughout my childhood, my father and his brother grew most of the vegetables that my family ate. My mother would have dinner ready when my father arrived home from work so that he could eat and then head to my Uncle's home where they farmed together. He worked most evenings until dusk, from early spring planting into the last of fall harvesting. It was work that took commitment and dedication, and it brought immense satisfaction with each delicious meal that we enjoyed. Whether planting by seed or seedlings, the same land preparation was required. The soil was tilled, often with nutrient material mixed into it during this process. Next planting furrows were lined into the soil before the planting could begin. Once the garden was planted in early spring, the work did not end; rather, regular tending and maintenance of the plants were required to ensure an abundant harvest. This included training beans onto poles, removing weeds that would rob the vegetables of important resources, pruning runners to increase production, treating pests, and so on.
Why did my father and uncle give so much of their personal time to farming instead of buying vegetables at the grocery store, as so many others in our community did?
As business owners and leaders, we are keenly aware of the costs and effort expended to recruit new employees; and yet, once those recruits walk through our doors, we step away and leave them to figure things out for themselves. This approach is akin to a farmer dropping seeds along the furrowed ground, walking away from the field, and returning in a month to find that many of the seeds have been stolen away by birds, others have rotted in overly damp soil, and less than 40% have begun to sprout.
In addition to meaning preparation in the context of gardening, the word cultivate is synonymous with these words - FOSTER, NURTURE, and ENCOURAGE. To get the highest possible return on our investment known as hiring, our work cannot stop once the position is filled. Our systems, processes, and culture must be designed to firmly plant each employee into the company so that strong roots are formed.
As with plants, each individual has specific needs and tolerance levels. If the fertilizer or light is too strong, the plant begins to brown and becomes less healthy. Similarly, you must adjust to individual employee needs. Some need more specificity about their role or guidance in completing tasks, while others experience that same level of attention as micro-managing their work.
Regardless of these nuances, all employees thrive when they receive regular and authentic appreciation for their work and experience feeling of success in their role and belonging in the company that they have joined.
After several weeks to months on the job, if you have created a strong medium for "roots" to form, employees will show strong, healthy growth. This can create the need for a bigger container and the expansion of your responsibilities in tending their continued maturity as an important member of your team.
Let me conclude by stating the most important part of this analogy - The gardener must be present and have his/her hands in the soil regularly.
As the owner or business leader, it is healthy for you to delegate tasks. Delegation, however, is not the same as abdication. Just as with my father and uncle, economics, quality and value are important outcomes in business. Whenever you know that you can save money and get better quality, you have the start of a powerful value proposition.
If you have a small company where you know every employee by name, get directly involved with the steps outlined above. If your organization has many layers of management, lead the charge in establishing the systems, processes, and culture that reinforce cultivation of talent throughout the company. Consultants specializing in organization development, such as me, are great partners in assisting with the design and implementation of these. If you are ready to make talent cultivation part of your employee retention strategy, let's connect!
PS - My special discounts for coaching and consulting work expire at the end of this month, so don't delay.
In celebration of Valentine's day this week, I am writing about my appreciation of a dear friend, colleague, mentor, and coach, Geri. Whose peer coaching and mentoring have you valued over the years? Join me and express your appreciation this Valentine's Day to the colleagues in your life that have aided you on your journey to becoming your best self.
My appreciation and respect for Geri is the result of deep and powerful conversations I had with her during one of the toughest years of my career. What is the real stand-out here, and this is really about who Geri is as a person, is that she showed up for me with support, coaching, and tough love when needed, and she and I had only been working together for a few months. On paper we were peers, but in reality, she had more wisdom and experience than I had accumulated at that stage of my career. From the very beginning, however, what made her stand apart from all my other peers was how she showed up in every conversation. Geri made curiosity the center of all communication. She was not judgmental or engaged in one-upsmanship parrying in meetings. Rather she was truly interested in learning about the thoughts and perspectives of others around her. She didn't seem concerned about being right or being the smartest. When you engaged in dialogue with Geri, her focus was only about supporting the best conversation and creating something mutually beneficial. I think that it was this characteristic that made it easy for me to show my vulnerability and ask for her coaching to help me build new skills at showing up differently in my conversations and interactions with those I sought to influence.
Six weeks into the new year is a pivotal time for most of us in assessing where we are with the goals and energy we felt at the New Year. Setting goals or making resolutions is automatically an act of vulnerability because we are committing ourselves to do something that is beyond our comfort zone. Sharing that vulnerability with others can feel scary, but it also can generate a different accountability partnership that can spur greater success.
When you tell someone with whom you regularly interact what you are trying to achieve and the specific actions that you are committed to doing toward that goal, you can then invite that person to help you notice when you are on path, when you achieve victories (big or small), and when you have slipped into old behavior patterns that you are trying to change.
There is no doubt that we are conditioned to respond to rewards, and yet we often fall into the all or nothing trap, instead of noticing and celebrating the smaller steps forward that can string together into a much bigger outcome with consistency. That's where a peer coach is helpful. Let me clarify this idea by sharing more about my experience with Geri.
Early in my career, I was in an expert consultant role. My job was to go into a business situation, assess, and tell the business leader what s/he needed to do. In my new role, I was being asked to shift from expert to coach. This required developing and refining a different set of skills such as listening, asking generative questions that expanded and deepened conversations, noticing what was not being said, etc. These skills are in some ways antithetical to the expert consulting approach because they are much more tentative and focused on opening and broadening rather than narrowing and deciding - a more natural fit to my ENTJ personality. I invited Geri to observe me in staff meetings and client meetings to help me notice what was effective, when I made choices consistent with practicing my coaching skills, and missed opportunities to use those skills. The added benefit that I didn't anticipate at the time was the impact this had in facilitating my whole peer group and manager noticing me showing up differently. This resulted in changes in assumptions and beliefs about what work I was capable of doing and how well I was performing.
My growth during that time in my career was monumental because it fundamentally transformed my perspective, beliefs, and approach as a professional. I am certain that my ability to learn those skills and make them such a natural part of what I do would not have happened without the gift that Geri gave to me in agreeing to be my peer coach.
We have all heard that the greatest rewards often come when we take the greatest risks. Choosing to share your goals for self-improvement with others and inviting them to become part of your feedback and reinforcement system may feel like you are taking a risk. I believe, however, that this is the accelerated path to transformative change. Double down on your goals - ask a friend to be your coach or accountability partner and Ignite Your EXTRAORDINARY!
PART 3: Retaining your best employees
In the first article of this series, we pulled back the curtains and looked at all the ways that turnover costs you money. In Part 2 we examined the revolving door of new hires with two key approaches, using more effective selection techniques and learning more about why people are leaving. If you followed my coaching (and ignored that pesky voice in your head that was telling you, "Who cares why s/he resigned, s/he wasn't a good fit anyway") and chose to get curious and ask questions, use that information to work on what creates long-lasting, sustainable elimination of turnover costs - Retaining your BEST employees!
A LESSON FROM THE OG
For several years I had the privilege of teaching the Organization Behavior course in the business school of McKendree University Louisville campus. I always included the story of the Pike's Place Fish Market when we talked about highly effective organizations and here's why. I honestly can't think of many jobs that I would dislike more than working as a fishmonger - the smell, the gore, the pre-dawn start to every workday, the hard labor of setting up the ice displays, and did I mention the smell. And yet, on the brink of bankruptcy, owner John Yokohama and his crew embraced a bold idea - to become world famous. What happened from there not only saved the company with
So what am I suggesting that you learn from this?
There's lots of research and information available regarding why employees stay in jobs such as what is provided in the infographic below.
These ideas are accurate but provide incomplete understanding and answers. Many business owners make the mistake of increasing employee benefits or paying for professional training in an effort to "be more competitive" in the battle for talent, only to find that they are spending more money and still struggling with the same problem.
The reason is that these are not discrete items to be selected from a buffet of ideas. Rather, there is a complex interconnection among these ideas that must be understood and considered to create comprehensive and sustained improvement.
Grab your notebook; it's time to complete your final written assignment. By answering the following questions, you will have the ingredients you need to move from triage to healing and health:
Just like our bodies, a healthy organization is one that has harmony, balance, and functions optimally without creating stress on one or more systems. The goal of these questions is to generate thinking about what it looks like and feels like to be in a healthy state (vs. the turmoil of serial turnover). An honest assessment helps to identify changes that can be effected quickly to demonstrate commitment and build momentum. Remember to use the data from step two of the second part of this series, to help you focus your efforts.