Winning Teams Are Created

Companies operate best when everyone is working together as a team. Teams do not exist because they show on your org chart and you say they are a team. As leaders, we bring a group of people together and develop them into a team.

People have a natural desire to be part of a tribe. Most people are not content with just having a job. They want to be part of something. They want to feel that they are contributing to the achievement of a goal or success. They want to be recognized for the results they produce.

What Makes A Team:
Too often, we do not consider what it takes to create a team. It takes understanding each member to make a team click. Teams are made up of individuals with unique skills, personalities, motivations, and needs.
To start, have the right people on a team. You do not want them to be the same. Each person brings skills and a perspective that makes the team stronger. Some team members are leaders. Some are quiet. Some see the big picture. Others are great with the details.
Everyone needs to feel safe, cared for, recognized, and supported. Regardless, they must feel that they belong.

Teams Reflect Their Manger
How do teams get to the place that they are a functioning team? Teams reflect their leader (coach). Change begins with their manager. Your perspective, leadership style, and efforts can build a team – a team that works, wins, and everyone is a player. You create the culture in which a team can thrive and perform.

Steps To Take

  • A vision worth striving for: People want to be part of something that matters. Inspire them with a vision. Define roles and responsibilities, so everyone is clear how they are to contribute.
  • Set Goals. Measure Progress. Coach to Win: Define what success is for the team and each position on the team. Everyone wants to know the target they are expected to meet. Make sure you and each person have a way to measure their progress. Meet with the team and each individual regularly to coach them. Each person needs to have personal and professional goals. Find this out and help them create their plan to get there.
  • Be Consistent: Be consistent in your leadership. Include fairness, kindness, care, listening, clear expectations, and nurturing a sense of belonging.
  • Feel Heard: Make sure each team member’s voice is heard. Spend time listening to people individually and in team discussions. You may need to make space for a quieter member to share their point of view. Listen. Use your intuition.
  • Inclusion: Build a culture of inclusion, making sure no one is left out. Take action to keep everyone engaged.
  • Communication: Model ways to communicate. That is easy when things are going well. Model how to express frustration constructively. Adopt the perspective that it is rarely “a people” problem. Most often, frustrations, yours and team members are due to a lack of clarity or lack of an effective system. State problems and find solutions from that perspective. What’s missing that is causing the frustration?

Start Now
How do you know if you have a team, a whole team? Everyone is engaged. Everyone is making progress toward the goal. Each team member contributes to innovation or improvement.
It is never too soon to build the culture in which a team and team members can thrive. Don’t let things slide. If it does not feel right (trust your intuition), then something is wrong. Work with your team to find a solution.
Adopt the perspective that people work with you, not for you to achieve a result. See how this changes how you lead.


A Plan for Growth

Most companies are eager for growth, but more clients and more sales can be a dangerous goal without a plan.  I have seen companies grow successfully. I have seen companies bring in all the sales they ever dreamed of only to have it destroy their business.  The difference is patient planning.

When an owner or CEO decides to focus on growth, there are steps to take.  All aspects of a business are impacted by growth. Planning for this impact creates a sustainable business.   Your business is unique, and every company has core elements that are the same.

VISION What is the vision for this business?  Where do you want your company to be in three, five, and ten years?  Decisions you make and actions you take are achieving your vision.  Considee our vision what you want your company to be known for – your brand reputation. Whom you want to serve? What products and services are at the core of your company? What kind of company culture will best deliver on your commitment to your customers?  A vision is a high-level view, but then there are the nuts and bolts of it.  The devil is in the details.

POSITIONS, PEOPLE, AND SYSTEMS What are the specific objectives for growth and the metrics you want to achieve?  What staffing will be needed to support that growth? An excellent recruitment and hiring system is at the core of a successful company.  You need to identify the positions the company will need to handle growth and by when.  Next, have the right people in the correct positions.  Those people need the support of written processes to do their job the way you want the work done.  An effective management system mentors your people to produce consistent and reliable results,

FINANCES OF GROWTH Understanding the finances of growth is vital. What will it take to create and deliver on your growth metrics? Will the increase result, not just in sales, but in the net income you are targeting.  Growth often means investing in the company’s resources. Strong financial systems, goals, and a cash flow plan keeps the company profitable as it grows.

KNOWING YOUR TARGET MARKET. You are making sure that growth brings in your ideal customers, clients, or patients.  Attracting the wrong market is a drain on every aspect of the business.  A well thought out marketing strategy is needed before a lead generation process. The goal is a lead generation process that attracts a consistent flow of the right customers.

DELIVER AS PROMISED Before launching a lead generation process, understand your company’s capacity to deliver on promised products and services.  Can your company provide the products and services promised? You want to keep the customers that the lead generation system attracts not just make a sale.

HIGH CONVERSION You’ve invested time and energy in planning for growth.   An effective lead conversion process that converts leads at a high rate makes all your efforts pay off. Look at the goal for sales and the plan to achieve those goals.

A BUSINESS PREPARED FOR SUCCESS Before growth comes planning and preparing the business.  Doing this the right way builds on your brand reputation, generates revenues you have not seen before, supports a staff that feels good about the work they do, and your customers, clients, patients would not go anywhere else.


Foundation for Developing Leaders

Business owners often contact me for leadership development services. They ask, “Can you train my people to be leaders?” 

Developing leaders is an important goal. There is work to do before I can train leaders, and training alone does not make people leaders.

Objective: To begin, I ask the owner for reference materials. Do they have a long-range strategic plan, a statement of core values, and promise to their clients/customers? The response is often wondering what these have to do with leadership development. 

A person cannot lead without knowing the company’s long range objective, the culture inside the company, and promise to clients/customers.

Some companies have these foundational documents. Most do not. I work with clients to develop and make sure this foundation is in place, and there is a strategy for them to be embodied by everyone in the company.

Leadership, as expected, starts at the top. The top can be the owner/principals, the CEO/President, or an Executive Team. In whatever way decisions are made in a company, these foundational documents must be developed, written, and shared.

Structure: What is the organization’s structure today? What structure will achieve the strategic objective? The structure you have today may not be what you need to succeed or grow. It is far more productive to determine the positions you will need in three to five years. I work with leaders of a company to think not about their people and where to put them. I want them to think about the structure the company needs first. Consider each position and the result it will produce. Once we have a working structure, we can see where people fit. This is a challenge for most leaders, so I help them approach this strategically.

Leaders: The new organizational structure shows the reporting lines. We want to make sure this makes sense and is manageable. Who are the people in your organization who are leaders or potential leaders? Whom do they manage? How many people report directly to them? The structure is for three-five years out to prepare for growth.

Responsibilities and Authorities: Companies can have flat or hierarchical organizations. Each leadership position must have clearly defined and written roles and responsibilities. They must be clear about their decision-making authority.

Agreement: Leadership conveys to eveyone the structure and purpose of each position. The lack of clarity and consistent application of the plan creates confusion and conflict. Securing everyone’s understanding and agreement is essential. I work with clients to develop strategies to obtain agreement.

Develop Leadership Skills: Once all of this is in place, your people are now ready to be coached and trained in their leadership role.


Problem Solved

Your angry or perhaps just frustrated. Someone isn’t doing what you need them to do. Worse, someone is not doing what you specifically asked them to do. Others make mistakes. As a business owner, it can be frustrating because you cannot do it all yourself. You depend on people to scale a successful business that does not rely on you putting out fires and fixing things.

Being frustrated with people or even firing them because they are seen as the problem is a common and unproductive response because it does not address the root cause – you. A business is always a reflection of the owner’s good and bad aspects. We all know this, even if it is an unpleasant thought. Therefore, a problem can only be solved starting with you, the owner, or the manager.

When you notice the same problem or frustration appearing again and again, solve a problem for good:

  1. Begin by clearly stating your frustration.
  2. When you are clear, write it down.
  3. Write the result you want instead. 

Example: If you are frustrated that the sales department rarely does what you tell them to do, then the result you want is for your sales team to conduct sales in a way that converts sales at a high level. Another example may be the production crew frequently forgets to power down the equipment. The result you want is for the production department’s equipment to be powered down entirely every day.

You can put a band-aid on the problem by reminding people to do what you told them to do, but how many times have you done just that. Issues have to be solved and eliminated at the root cause, requiring curiosity and a willingness to analyze a situation. If you are impatient and want to solve it with the first thought that comes to mind, you are using the band-aid method. The problem will reappear.

Your Contribution to the Problem: Finding the root cause starts with asking, “What am I doing to contribute to this frustration?” As the leader, and knowing the business is a reflection of you, discover how you are part of the cause. You may not have developed a reliable system for your team to convert sales in the example above. Perhaps you have not held people accountable to power down equipment. Maybe you have not taken the time to find out from the production manager what he needs to make sure the equipment is powered down each day or not mentored the sales manager enough to get results from his people. There are so many ways in which leadership impacts results.

Others Contribution to the Problem: The obvious next step is to identify how others may be contributing to the frustration. For example, the sales manager and the production managers do not hold their people accountable. Perhaps managers have not sufficiently trained their staff. 

Missing System is the Problem: Most frustrations and issues are a systems problem, not a people problem. Written systems may not exist, or a written system does not produce the intended result; when design and document a system that delivers the desired results, the problem is eliminated.

If we change how we think about frustrations, find the root cause and a system solution, we can spend our time creating the business and the life we desire.


Pay Transparency. Is your company ready?

0024MasterFileThere are three words every business has to consider as they plan for the future – mobile, global and social. That does not mean that every business must embrace any or all of these trends but most are, and the millennial generation certainly is. Mobile, global and social will continue to grow.

These trends are showing up in expected and unexpected ways. One of the most game-changing trends is pay transparency. Millennials expect to know everything. They grew up getting answers to everything on the Internet, so it comes naturally to them to ask for information including what everyone is paid.

Pay transparency is a change in the culture of business. I can hear you gasp, but that change is coming. You can get there kicking and screaming. You can be late to the party, or you can embrace change and become leaders in the movement.

President Obama showed his support for pay transparency by his executive order that companies with 100 or more employees under contract with the federal government report salaries by age, gender and job group. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as individual states, are enacting regulations to support pay transparency efforts. Don’t faint. Welcome to the new millennium of transparency whether you are in the US or another country, transparency in many forms is coming. Pay equity is being driven by long-standing pay discrepancies for women and out of proportion CEO compensations highlighted by the media during the economic downturn.

Transitioning to pay transparency takes time and planning so don’t post everyone’s salary and benefits just yet. Posting salary information is not the goal either. Pay transparency requires planning, communication and clear understanding.  Many companies already have pay transparency, typically smaller, trend-setting businesses that want to change the culture of business. They may be the first, but all will follow as the trend continues.

Pay transparency changes everything in a company. The gender gap is exposed and resolved. It eliminates the petty speculation about what the other person is paid. It makes companies honest in their assessment of their talent. It’s all transparent.

Before making pay information available, there is a lot of work by management to take a good hard look at their pay structure, to understand it, make it understandable for others and fix mistakes in the current practice. Develop a plan for grades and raises so that when staff finds pay information they also see the plan.

Once management has a clear way to explain their salary and benefits plan and to account for the formula so that each person can see their path to growth in the company, then you are ready to share information not by posting it but by explaining it with your staff. Inevitably there will be plans for adjustments. The goal is that no one feels bad about his or her pay and benefits. They know where they are and why. In this way, they know what they need to do to improve their position in the company.

The toughest part may be for the CEO and management to own up to their pay if it is way out of line with the staff. There have been many stories of CEOs making 100s of times more than anyone else. It is hard to justify that when you share staff pay as well.

There is no argument that pay transparency is a rough road for some companies and not so difficult for others but in any case, it is coming for everyone so beginning to think in those terms will serve your business.

A Business Not Dependent On You

The biggest challenge of a business owner is not having the business dependent on them. There are many reasons why it is. One is the belief that they cannot depend on others to make the right decisions.

For a business to scale, the owner must work continuously to remove themselves from the company’s work, and that includes the management of everyone. Consider an organizational structure in which your people work with managers and a handful or less report directly to the acting position you hold as CEO, President, etc. I call it an acting position so that you have the freedom to replace yourself in that position in the future. A business not dependent on the owner is far more valuable than one that is.

The first step is a written clearly defined the strategic objective (your vision) for the business in three or five years. This vision shows leadership and gives the business and your people a purpose.

Once you have your business objective, you can determine the structure your business needs to operate successfully in three to five years without being dependent on you. Isn’t that your goal, to decide your involvement with the company (freedom)?

Once you have managers in place, develop them to become the leaders and managers, your business needs them to be. Give them the tools and mentoring they need to be successful.

Being a leader is different from being a manager. Some are more inclined to be managers. They are skilled at organizing the work, developing structure and systems for that work to be done, producing results, holding people accountable, and mentoring them to feel supported.

Some managers are leaders. You know who they are. They are the people who not only share your vision but also have a vision for their department. They are forward-thinking, have strategies to help achieve your strategic objective. Leaders inspire their people to follow their lead, be the best they can be, and work with them to achieve something. A leader helps their people see their work is not a job but rather their contribution to their department’s success and its contribution to the business’s success as a whole.

You are a leader in this same way. Developing great managers gives you the assurance that you can let go and assign responsibility and authority to them. Developing those who want to become leaders gives you the ability to create strategies for scaling the business and building a culture for everyone to succeed.

For all this to happen, a business owner imagines and builds a successful business that does not depend on them.

(Watch for a blog on how to create your strategic objective and an organizational strategy if you do not have them well established in your business already.)

When is the right time to get help with your business?

dreamstime_s_38738169Businesses owners who start a business based on their expertise or passion realize at some point that leading a company is a different set of skills and knowledge than doing the work of the business. They work hard, are good at doing the work, attract clients and make money doing what they love. Over time they burn out or lose their enthusiasm.  The business is too dependent on them and they have no time. They took the company as far as they can. Suddenly, is not as much fun and not as profitable. Other scenarios lead a business owner to ask for help. They want to sell or turn it over to someone to run for them. Often they say sales have flattened. They hired people and now they are not as profitable. They are frustrated as their people do not do the work as well as they did themselves. There are more examples though this makes the point that doing the work of the business is different than building a company that does the work.

Deciding that you need help with your business is the first step. You realize that you have done everything you know how to do, don’t know what you don’t know, have been running a business by the seat of your pants, that you are at an expert at doing the work but not sure how to lead a business that does the work and so on. All of these are insights for a business owner who sincerely wants a successful business that supports his/her life.

These insights lead to getting help. The type of support you seek depends on how you view the leverage for change. If you believe the problem is in the business, your people or the work, you may hire a consultant to come in. If you realize that your business is a reflection of you, which is always the case, you may find a business coach to help you change first then to work on the business and less in it.

There is a much harder choice yet to be made. You have been running your business your way for a very long time probably from the perspective of a technician. How do we get the work done? A technician is someone who knows how to do the work of the business. There is a much larger question at hand. How to lead and grow a business that does the work? A technician leader thinks at the moment, i.e., how to do the work, how to solve a problem at hand, pay bills and hire another technician to help do the work. A coach offers you the opportunity to change this relationship to the business and to develop a new perspective of yourself as a leader and a strategic view of the business. Where is the business going and how can we get there?

0024MasterFileChanging how we are in our business is hard. We have routines, habits, and ways that we do things. Our people and customers see us in a particular way and expect us to act and interact as we always have. If we do not change ourselves, then nothing changes. Changing things in the business does not change the future of the business. The future of the business begins with the owner working with their coach to change the way they think about their business, their role in it and how they lead.

Once the owner makes this shift then work on the future of the business can proceed. On the other hand, if the owner finds themselves not wanting to change their role, the way they think and approach their business, then it is not the time to get help. When ready, the owner will feel the uncontrollable urge to have the business stand on its own, to be a business they love leading and to have more life.

Self-awareness is not optional when you own a business. Knowing when you are ready to change your perspective and relationship to your business, is the right leverage for change.

Stop Using A To-Do List! Stop Now Before It Is Too Late.

Organizing A Schedule For The WeekDo you use To-Do Lists? Stop and stop now. If your to-do list is really a busy list, you are in trouble. Honestly, I have a to-do list, but it does not exist on its own.
We can keep ourselves busy all day long. We put items on a list out of routine, because we believe they are important or need to get done but do they really make a difference?
Is your to-do list connected to your vision of success?  Does everything on that list help you achieve a goal that relates to your vision? If so, you are headed in the right direction. Are you asking yourself, “What’s a vision? I don’t have a vision.”, you are busy doing and not creating anything that will make your life or your work better.
An alternative way, a way that creates the life and the work you desire is to start there. Take the time to stop, reflect and write your vision for the life you desire including your work. Write your vision in detail so that you are clear exactly where you are headed and what you are creating.
Once you have your vision, then take out that to do list and tear it up. Create a new one. At the top, start with actions you can take today to move closer to your vision. Be thoughtful. Be strategic. Consider actions that support your personal and professional vision.
Of course, you will have other items on your list that are urgent for one reason or another.  Be selective about what you consider urgent.  Urgent from your perspective or someone else’s version of urgent.  Actions to achieve our vision are the most important actions we can take. They are also not urgent, so tend to get put off and never get onto our to-do list. We live day to day rather than moving every day toward the life we desire.
Start a new to-do list with actions that help you achieve your vision then stop. Do not make time for things that fill your time. Do not make time for busy time wasters, i.e. starting with email and spending too much time here. As an example, breeze through your email inbox for items that will help you to achieve your vision. Also look for any urgent items. The rest are time wasters and success killers.   Before you put something on your list, ask yourself, “How will this help me achieve my vision? Is this a distraction?  Why am I spending my time doing this?”  There may be a worthwhile reason but asking the tough questions will help you get where you are going and sooner than you expect.
With your new to-do list in hand, start with the most important actions you can take to move toward your vision. Work on those items first. Spend most of your time here. Each step makes a difference. Keep your vision in mind. Live it every day. Know what is important in your life and focus on that. Change from a busy to-do list to taking actions that achieve the life you desire.

Out of the Trenches & Focus on Growth

business man writing business strategy

When frustrated that your business is not larger notice where you spend your time. On a day to day basis are you focused on doing things or are you focused on what you can create?

Knowing where we place our attention and efforts tells us precisely what we are creating. Dr. Fred co-medical director complains that the clinic is not growing. When asked he admits that he spends most of the time where he is comfortable, treating patients. Dr. Fred is not spending time showing leadership or having strategic conversations with his co-Medical Director on how to innovate the clinic.

Sarah owns a telecommunications company and is frustrated by her role and her company’s growth even though they are profitable. When asked she admits that she spends too much time jumping in to solve a client problem, getting new customers and not anytime on strategic thinking and how to make her company run more profitably. Sarah admits that she does not know how to manage staff, design systems to create consistent results, so she is always putting out fires.

Jeff owns a data consultancy.  He and his wife are frustrated by the lack of growth when they provide a service their clients love. Even their customers ask why they are not bigger. Jeff admits he spends too much time in the trenches and not enough time building a business. He likes solving client problems and has less confidence creating a business that solves problems. He is worried that his highly skilled staff will leave if he cannot pay them better.  Jeff knows he has to change but does not know where to start.

Carol owns an accounting firm that grew the first five years rapidly then stopped. Carol admits that she did well when they were small but as they grew she learned that she does not know how to lead, is a terrible manager and would rather close her door and do tax returns for their clients.These stories are about people who are good at what they do so they succeeded at first then growth stopped. They started with a good idea, a great product or service and took care of their clients. As they grew, the needs for leadership changed. The staff no longer needed a leader was doing work with them. They needed someone to innovate and develop systems for staff to do the work of the business.

Owners who do not allow the change in their role own a company that does not alter. Jeff said that he did not want his business to Grow, Grow, Grow, Gone because he did not do what it takes to learn how to lead a company that produces the work.

Businesses stay where they are because the owner stays where they are. The company only really changes when the owner changes their perspective on the business and their role in it. Owners often resist this because they do not know how to change or how to do things differently.  They stay in old routines when getting out of their comfort zone is desperately needed. Change begins by not doing the work of the business but leading and managing the work of the business.

Owning a business large or small is a journey in self-discovery and takes commitment to change.  Getting to a place where you are ready to get help when you do not know what and how to change is the first step. You will know when you are ready to commit to a more strategic point of view. It is always possible to move a company from where it is even if it is hard to see that from the trenches.

If you are ready for change and want help, there are resources available. If you would like to discuss the changes you would like to see in your business, contact me. I would love to hear your story and see how I can help.  The first step is your commitment to change.

Best wishes,  Kay

Design Thinking vs. Problem Solving

business man writing business strategyDesign thinking has been around a long time.  Herbert Simon’s wrote about it in his 1969 book, “The Sciences of the Artificial.” From there the principles have been applied beyond the sciences to technology, education and business. Design thinking is a creative approach to goals and solutions.  It replaces our tendency to solve problems.  Design thinking is a creative process that allows innovative solutions.

The problem solving approach often comes from the wrong question and a limited perspective.  How do I fix the problem at hand?   As a business coach, I do not favor this approach as it does not create fundamental changes nor long-term sustainable solutions.  If we forego finding how to solve a problem, we ask a different questions.

The problem might be staff are not coming to work on time. The company’s systems are not producing desired results.  The supply chain is falling apart. Work is not getting completed on time, customers are lost and the business suffers.  That is a problem.  Rather than solve the problem from this perspective, consider the goal.  Staff are engaged, understand the value of their work, see their position as a mini profit center and are motivated to contribute to the success of the company. Systems produce results that support the company brand.  The company is nimble enough to adjust to changes int he marketplace.

In its simplest form, problem solves want to solve a problem and design thinkers want to find solutions. Problem solvers may create consequences for tardiness, press for systems compliance or shoring up the supply chain.  Design thinkers find ways to create a culture of excellence in which being late is not something staff would be motivated to do, to innovate systems and rethink relationships with suppliers.

Design thinking employs divergent thinking. It is the ability to come up with several variant and innovative ideas rather before finding the right solution right away.  While there is not one way to approach design thinking, there are common elements that include creativity, teamwork, user empathy, curiosity and positive thinking.

When approaching a problem, design thinking wants to re-design.  This begins with knowing the right question.  What needs to change?  What is our company vision?  This is strategic thinking.  When it is difficult to define the problem and the question,  design thinking can begin with opening the conversation to reveal both.

As a social process, design thinking brings additional value to the experience for those involved, creating opportunities for creativity, innovation and orchestration. Various ideas and approaches can be tried, measured and redesigned as needed to produce desired results.  To be effective, companies would need to be open-minded, collaborative, innovative with the courage to change.

A core component is the willingness to prototype, try different ideas to determine which design produces the desired results. My favorite example of design thinking came from Henry Ford.  He did not try to solve a problem but to design a solution.  Henry Ford understood this when he said, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said ‘a faster horse.” and no one would have said a car.”

For more information on design thinking for businesses.

What should you do today?


Starting from the life you desire.

When we work with a to-do list or wake up thinking about our day, we are missing the point. Sometimes we just move from one moment to another, from one thing to another without a second thought as a matter of routine. Other times we are focused on one thing that we feel we need to do.  Every day started in any of these ways can be a wasted day.

Wasted in that these approaches do not move us forward in any way. We just fill our day, being busy, doing things without regard to whether any of our actions are getting us where we want to be.

What if, we started each day reflecting on our life, where we are and where we want to be? Don’t be afraid of where you are or to dream. Starting our day with our vision in mind changes our perspective, realigns our values and creates different choices. Don’t think about this. Take a moment to try it.

  • Stop right now and reflect/meditate on where you are now – in every aspect of your life. Don’t judge yourself, just notice. Write it down.
  • Next, reflect/meditate on the life you desire. Don’t think, just image until you are clear.
  • Now reflect on what you can do today to align with any aspect of the life you desire.

Don’t get me wrong; we may work that to do list or maybe not. Too often what we chose to do is a reaction to something or just a matter of routine. Acting in this way keeps everything the same with maybe a superficial, temporary change.

On the other hand, when we keep our focus on where we are going, the life we desire and act from that perspective, we create real change from where we are to where we are going.

Try a new way of being. Take five minutes (or longer) each day to begin by focusing on where you want to be in your life then act from that perspective. Do not be distracted by routines or being unconscious to yourself. Starting each day with your eye on the bigger picture will change everything.