Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Action: The Secret to Getting What You Really Want

Realizing your ultimate goals requires action; Not a short, flashy burst of energy or a frenzied effort going in all directions, but a methodical, persistent effort until the goal is reached and results are realized.

To quote from Jim Horan in the Foreward of this book: “The pathway to the next level of success is not with higher levels of activity. You are doing too much now! Nor is the road to success about going faster or working harder. You broke the sound barrier too many times this year and you already work too long and too hard. Your work style is not sustainable …”

Fortunately the problem of how to take action in a way that gets predictable results was solved 2000 years ago and is a mature discipline found in most companies today. I am speaking of Project Management – a collection of tools, methods, and practices that get things done

The good news is that we do not have to become a certified Project Management Professional to take advantage of what Project Management has to offer. We can benefit by asking these questions and writing down the answers:

  1. What is it I am building?
  2. When does it need to be completed?
  3. What needs to be done in order to deliver the goods?
  4. When do these things need to be done and who will do them?

I found that a simple, sequenced list of tasks with estimates of how long each will take and who will do them goes a long way to providing the “punch list” of items necessary to be completed to realize the goal of the action we set out to take.

So think about what you need to get done to realize your goals and objectives. Choose one action item and make a list of the tasks that must be completed to finish the action item or project. Start at the top of your list and work through to the bottom. You’ll not only get things done that matter, but leave each day knowing where your time went and what you do each day really matters.

 

 

Scorecards: Knowing What You Are Doing Really Matters

How to spend your time on what really matters and know what you do is making a difference. 

One of the biggest concerns I hear from executives is the gnawing feeling that is created by being busy, even consumed each day but not really knowing for sure they are spending their time on things that really matter and that what they doing makes a difference. Am I just spinning my wheels or really getting somewhere?

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to take these questions off the table is to create a scorecard for each key objective and faithfully update it monthly.

What is a scorecard? A scorecard is a simple graph that charts a key objective’s value over a time, usually each month over 12 months. The most effective scorecards also compare each current month with last year’s number, as well as each month’s planned number set at the beginning of the year. Some scorecards also incorporate a forecast number for each month that provides a reality check and a predictor of what the number is likely to be given current sales and marketing information.

My clients find them particularly helpful in their weekly and monthly planning efforts. Nothing focuses people more than the realization they are accountable for reaching a number at the end of the month. Seeing that goal at the beginning of the month naturally helps them to ask, “How am I going to hit that number this month?” “What do I need to do this week and each day to make that a reality?”

How To Create A Scorecard

Creating scorecards takes a small investment of time but fortunately there are tools out there that make this job relatively painless.  MicroSoft Excel, Google Docs, Numbers for the Mac all have the capability to quickly and easily create a chart from a spreadsheet.

My One Page Business Plan clients easily create them by filling in their data for each objective and the online system creates that graph automatically. You can also find an example set on the DVD in each of the One Page Business Plan books.

Accountability Is The Key

Creating the scorecard is a good step in the right direction but the real power comes from updating and reviewing them faithfully each month. This creates a sense of commitment and accountability. There is something about seeing your results in a graph that brings us back to reality. It is a very motivating experience to see the fruits of your efforts as you meet or exceed your objectives. It’s also a great motivator if you’ve fallen short.

In either case exploring what contributed to the results and acting on those factors ensures continued performance improvement going forward. Once you a deeply committed to this simple process you will never wonder if what you are working on really matters or exactly how doing what you do is making a difference: it’s all in the scorecards.

The Biggest Mistake You Can Make With Your Team Members

Whether your running a project, managing a team, or leading a company, what’s the biggest mistake you can make with your team members?

It depends … it depends on the person. You see, everyone is unique – we all know that. But the problem is that the most important things to know about your team members isn’t readily visible.

What they are passionate about shows: you see the energy whenever they talk about it or are doing it.

When they are at their best shows – it’s outwardly visible as when they are in stress.

But the most important part of them, their needs and expectations, are on the inside – they don’t show. And when their needs consistently go unmet there are problems. That’s when the stress behaviors start to kick in. By then it is too late.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know the biggest mistakes you could make with your  team members – on an individual basis?

Real World Examples

For example, the biggest mistakes you could make with Jane are:

  • Excluding her from team activities or questioning her popularity
  • Failing to follow through on financial commitments made to her
  • Telling her that she has done well when that is not really true
  • Making light of her emotional issues
  • Making her conform unnecessarily
  • Pushing her to make up her mind quickly

But the biggest mistakes you could make with John are:

  • Beating about the bush with him
  • Forcing him to participate unnecessarily in group activities
  • Failing to make it clear exactly who is in charge
  • Telling him that he has done well when that is not really true
  • Interrupting when he is concentrating
  • Making him conform unnecessarily

Notice how different these two employees are with respect to their needs and the kinds of things you can do that could send them.

The Tool

About five years ago I found an inexpensive tool that I’ve been using with my clients ever since to help them quickly discover the likely triggers individuals on their team have. It’s called the Biggest Mistakes You Could Make Report produced by world-renowned personality experts Birkman Consultants International.

Getting Maximum Value – Putting the Tool to Work

While there are great benefits of having this information, I’ve found that most of my clients find the real value by using the report as discussion points with their individual team members. Simply asking their team members to look over the report and highlight the sentences that seem the most true primes the pump for self-reflection and awareness on the part of the team member. It opens the door for a very productive conversation as the two of you explore and discuss the points starting with the most significant.

Some helpful questions to answer are:

  • What is the most important point you’d like me to pay attention to?
  • Can you think of any examples in your daily work where these things come up?
  • How would you like me to respond instead?
  • What underlying strengths do you feel these points bring out?

I’ve also had good success when the team member asks other trusted team members, family, and friends to look over the points and highlight the most accurate. These responses can then be combined and compared. Patterns may emerge that highlight major themes which may provide some additional light on triggers to stress behaviors as well as surface hidden strengths of the team member.

Strengthening Couples, Kids

I’ve had such good success with this report my clients have even asked to use this as a couple or with their kids especially those parents raising teens. When done in a spirit of humility and curiosity, it’s been a way to open clogged communications lines and results in a happier, more peaceful home environment.

Take Action Now

If your relationship with a team member is strained and taking its toll on getting results please email me at bbranson@strategicbusinessarchitects.com to learn how you can take advantage of this tool. If are an existing premium client I will provide you with your report at no additional cost. If you are not yet a client, let me know. It will be the best $35.00 investment you’ve made all year.

 

5 Reasons Small Business Owners Need A Written Business Vision

One of the mistakes the majority of business owners make in building a profitable business is not creating a short, written statement that envisions key aspects of their company 3-5 years into the future. Why is that a mistake? With your time in such short supply, why should you use this scarce resource to write down how you see your company in the future? Is it really worth it?

These are very common questions I hear every day from my clients. In answering the last question I like to reflect back to my boyhood. From a young age I liked building things with my hands. One of my favorites was building tree houses.

Today I still like to build things with my hands but I use a keyboard and mouse instead of a hammer. Through this process I’ve learned that while there are a lot of lessons and similarities between building businesses and building tree houses, some things are critically different. Planning is one of them.

You can successfully build most tree houses without a written plan. You design and build as you go and use whatever you can find lying around the yard. Attempting to build a business the same way leads to disaster.

That said; let me get specific about why you should invest the time to write down your business vision. Here are 5 reasons you should take time now to create a written business vision. Doing so will make the difference between a mediocre business and one that thrives:

  1. It takes less time that you think. On average, this activity takes 30 minutes or less with the right tools. Why? Most likely it is already in your head. We are just transferring and organizing the information from your head on to paper.
  2. It provides a solid destination to navigate towards. Like any successful travel experience, it always begins with the destination in mind. How can you get there when “there” is unclear? Putting in writing makes it possible to establish a shared vision of success with your employees, suppliers, and financial backers.
  3. It helps you focus. Having a specific, time-boxed goal in mind can ensure you are focusing on the right things – things that will move you along the path to where you want to end up.
  4. It helps you evaluate. Having a measurable destination provides an effective measuring stick you can use to evaluate decisions of all kinds in your business. When clients want my input on their decisions I always weigh the consequences of these decisions against the ultimate goal in the future. I like to ask, “Is this action helping you move closer to your goal, or is it detracting from your goal?”
  5. It helps you prioritize. Once you’ve decided to take certain actions you’ll also need to sequence and prioritize the work to be done. Here are again we use your written goal to decide not only what to do and when.

Why not take a few minutes right now and write down a few ideas about where you are taking your business and your life in the next 3 years? Let’s turn that tree house into a mansion!

Rapid Business Planning: An Essential Ingredient for Business Success

Shrinking business cycles make old ways of business planning obsolete and ineffective. Consumer preferences and markets are changing rapidly. The utility of the Internet along with breath-taking advancements in technology have made it possible to shrink product development and testing cycles from years to months or even weeks in some cases. In today’s web-enabled economy, speed is king: the first to market often enjoys competitive advantage over its peers and can enjoy market dominance.

Rapid business planning is a must in today’s competitive market space. Solopreneurs just don’t have the time or the interest to do it the old way and solopreneurs and larger companies alike find the old way isn’t fast enough to stay competitive. As important as rapid business planning is to the equation, the solution must extend beyond the planning phase to rapid execution and management to be effective.

Therefore, rapid business planning is built on the premise that effective, actionable business plans all answer five questions:

  1. What are we building?
  2. What are we known for?
  3. What will we measure?
  4. How will we grow our business this year?
  5. What is the work to be done?

Focusing on these five questions keeps the process simple, succinct, and lays the foundation for alignment, another key ingredient all successful businesses enjoy. Can you and your employees answer these questions in three minutes or less? Are your answers consistent?

As we rapidly approach a new year perhaps you should consider these questions. Better yet, sign up for my complimentary mini course, “5 Steps to a Better Business.” Just fill out the form on the right and for the next 5 days you’ll get 5 valuable lessons in your inbox each day. Taking less than 20 minutes each day to read and respond to the lesson material you’ll have the basis for an actionable business to guide you to a success year!

Business Planning: Trends That Make The Old Way Obsolete

The old way of writing a business plan was born at a different time in a world that hardly resembles the world we work in today. While old style business plans have some validity and are required for things like attracting venture capital or securing a line of credit or funds from a lending institution, what most business leaders are looking for today is something that is faster, more pertinent to their daily actions, and helps get them and their employees get focused on things that really matter.

Here are just a few trends that make the old style of business planning obsolete:

  • Business change cycles shrinking from 6 years down to 6-18 months
  • Major technology innovations and shifts every 8 months
  • Power shifts from the corporate marketing department to the consumer
  • Very low cost of entry due to cheap, plentiful and powerful business and communication tools
  • Viral marketing through social media
  • Cheap, global reach using the Internet

These trends have changed the face of business forever rendering the old style of business planning obsolete and ineffective. For each of the trends above there are pertinent implications for business leaders, solopreneurs, authors, consultants and coaches. The problem is that because the old business planning tools have such a bad reputation today (and don’t work anymore) the same players above have embraced no planning tools at all bringing about loads of frustration, wasted fortunes, and burn out.

In the next series of posts we’ll explore the implications of each trend resulting in what to look for in an effective planning method that works in our business world today. We’ll end by showing there is something between the old style way and no planning at all.

Not Your Father’s Business Plan – Introduction

Things have dramatically changed over the past 30 years and yet the tools and methods used in business planning have changed very little in that same period of time. It’s no wonder that most small and medium sized businesses do not have a written business plan. Those that do rarely use it in their day-to-day business operations or for guiding the myriad of business decisions made each week.

Over the last 12 months I have reviewed many business planning packages and methods taught in a number of government, university, and private sectors. I found that almost without exception these plans and methods focus on getting financing from banks or funding from venture capital firms.

Completed plans range in length from 15 to 35 pages and are filled with financial prognostications and charts that will have little resemblance to reality within 6 months of being in business. Unfortunately this has given business plans and business planning a stigma in the business world. I find many that are turned off by the very suggestion of creating a business plan.

On the other hand, almost every business leader I meet seems to have a deep-down, gnawing sense that they need something to help them focus on what is important, with an eye toward the future, that translates directly to what they and their associates should be doing today that will make a real difference in their business.

What follows is a series of posts that explores the reality of business planning in today’s world, not the world our fathers worked in a post World War II economy.

In my next post I’ll provide an overview of the relevant trends with all live and work in, especially those affecting how we make plans for our businesses or departments.

Finding Your Strengths: The Role of Personality Assessments

Personality assessments play an essential role in planning and building a successful and rewarding business. As I’ve worked with various clients and employees over the years, I’ve noticed a distinct difference in the results and satisfaction those that have taken advantage of personality assessments have enjoyed and those that didn’t use them. In this post-series we’ll explore 3 reasons why I feel this is so.

SO WHAT’S SO IMPORTANT ABOUT PERSONALITY ASSESSMENTS, ANYWAY?

Personality assessments help us in at least 3 important ways:

  1. They help build our self-confidence through self-knowledge and awareness
  2. They play an important and necessary role in our personal brand development
  3. They provide the necessary foundational information for deciding what you should focus on in your business and what you should delegate. Done properly we  spend the majority of our time on those business activities that will give us the most enjoyment and personal satisfaction and success

BUILDING OUR SELF-CONFIDENCE

While the reasons my clients come to me vary in many ways, there are some common themes I see in each regardless of age, time in their career, or whether they are running their own business or working for someone else. . Most are experiencing:

  • some level of confusion about who they are and what they really want to do
  • varying levels of anxiety or discomfort over their situation
  • a gnawing feeling that what they are doing isn’t providing the optimal personal satisfaction they’d like to enjoy and feeling like they are not making the greatest contribution they know they are capable of

All these things usually translate into a level of self-confidence that is not optimal. For some, their level of self-confidence is only mildly annoying while others it can lead to self-defeating behaviors and attitudes and even be destructive to their businesses and personal life. In my work with clients, I find self-confidence to be at the foundation of business success and satisfaction.

The good news is that most personality assessments provide the necessary information to understand one’s greatest strengths which increases a person’s personal understanding and awareness giving them a strong sense of who they are and what contribution they bring to the table. It also provides the groundwork for building a compelling personal brand and doing the work that most closely match the individual’s strong areas.

Selling Success: What Your Personality Style Reveals Part 1a

Our success in selling is influenced a great deal by the style of our personality. There are four important dimensions to our personality that I’ve found helpful in finding success in my own selling efforts and in helping my clients not only improve in this area but also find much more enjoyment and success at same time.

This post focuses on these four dimensions in order to lay the ground work for personal application later in this post series. In this series I draw heavily on the Birkman Method, the personality assessment tool that I find the most accurate and revealing  of all the products out there. It is the primary tool I use for this purpose in my consulting and coaching practice.

If you are a manager or business owner and are unsure about why you should care about selling, please see my first post in this series to learn what every successful business leader knows about selling.

Who Are You, Really?

Have you ever wondered what makes you unique? How do you describe yourself to others? What holds your interest? Gives you energy? The Birkman Life Style Grid® (LSG) can help you answer these and many other questions. In fact, it tells us a lot about what we and others:

  • like about selling
  • the approach we are likely to take when we sell
  • what we need from selling
  • what we might do when we are stressed about selling

The Four Dimensions

The LSG is a simple 2 x 2 matrix we’ll use to plot various aspects of our personality at a 30,000 foot level. Each side of the matrix represent the four dimensions we’ll be using.

In the simple diagram below we see that the top half of the matrix represents how direct a person may be or prefer and the bottom half represents its opposite: indirect.

The other sides of the matrix are associated with preferences that are task-oriented versus people-oriented. These are represented in the diagram below.

Putting it all together we have the framework to begin understanding the four major personalities we’ll be using to improve our selling, increase our satisfaction doing it, and see better results by applying what we learn from the model.

Next up, we’ll discuss the four personality types this model depicts and how we’ll put it to use towards improving all aspects of our selling activities.

Selling Success: Which Personality Does Best?

Ask anyone you work with if they think it takes an outgoing personality to be successful at sales. I’ll bet the majority of people you ask will agree that it takes an “extrovert” to do well in the sales field.

What do you think? What has been your experience? Most importantly, what does this have to do with running a business??? The answer: More than you think! And because of that this post series is dedicated to helping you understand how you can use the strengths of your unique personality style to do a better job of selling – something every successful business leader is good at.

The Selling Aspects of Running a Business

Whether you are a solopreneur or running a division in a large corporation your ability to sell has a great bearing on the amount of success you realize from day to day. If not optimal, you may be wondering why you don’t consistently get the funding or people you need, why a key vendor isn’t excited and engaged on your project, or why your employees seem to be apathetic and lax about their jobs. If you have ever noticed these things, then this post series if for you.

The fact is as leaders we are selling every day. Here are just a few ways selling comes into the picture:

  • Obtaining financing for your business
  • Obtaining funding for key projects
  • Getting the people you need
  • Motivating your employees
  • Getting key vendors excited about working with you
  • Attracting strategic partners

These are just a few of the ways that selling comes into the picture each day. With so much at stake, my hope is that I peaked your interest in the topic because my premise is that no matter your personality style, you can be successful at selling. In the next post we’ll be covering what your personality type likes about selling, your usual style, what you need from the selling experience, and how you might react when you needs are not met.