Recession throws open the window for change

December 15, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

In recent months I’ve been referring to the recession as a new and more complicated jigsaw puzzle that leaders need to figure out – and just to keep it interesting, the puzzle is picture-side down. I’ve also been encouraging leaders to get clarity on what they want their company to look like on the other side of this recession. The message is simple: change, adapt and fix what isn’t working. Everything is on the table and subject to the “if it’s not creating lift, it’s creating drag” acid test. No-compromise leaders are ridding their companies of drag and they’re doing it quickly.
The only upside to the recession is that it has everyone’s attention. People understand the uncertainty of these times. They get it that tough decisions – unpopular decisions – must be made for the companies they work for to make it safely and strong to the other side of the recession. A little sacrifice today to ensure a secure tomorrow is the rule of the day.
I received an e-mail from a coaching client last week who was agonizing over her employees’ expectation for their annual Christmas bonus. It was a challenging year and deep down, this leader knew she had to make a no-compromise decision. Here’s what she wrote:
“There was a buzz going around for the last couple weeks if I would distribute the annual cash bonuses at the holiday party. Rather than waiting until the party for them to find out, I brought a TYD summary of last year’s numbers and this year’s to our Friday morning huddle. There were 25 employees at this huddle. I knew that those who were not working on that day would find out within minutes.
I asked them if they thought it would be a good business decision to hand out cash when we need it right now to get our business healthy again. I asked them if they wanted me to jeopardize losing their health care benefits and vacation pay by not running a lean ship right now. I told them that our ‘bonus’ this year is that we all still have jobs, myself included. Not a word was spoken – no questions asked. Staff came up to me following the huddle and thanked me.”
“Bravo,” I said. “This is a perfect example of the open, accountable and respectful strength of a no-compromise leader who is doing what needs to be done.”
The recession has certainly thrown open the window for positive change. More importantly, to fix all of those problems, issues, behaviors, practices and “entitlements” that have been waiting to be fixed. For many, it’s time to confront the elephant in the living room because you won’t make it through this recession dragging that elephant along.
I end this Wake-Up with a Neilism that is so right for these times: “No compromise has only one setting – whatever it takes.”
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

In recent months I’ve been referring to the recession as a new and more complicated jigsaw puzzle that leaders need to figure out – and just to keep it interesting, the puzzle is picture-side down. I’ve also been encouraging leaders to get clarity on what they want their company to look like on the other side of this recession. The message is simple: change, adapt and fix what isn’t working. Everything is on the table and subject to the “if it’s not creating lift, it’s creating drag” acid test. No-compromise leaders are ridding their companies of drag and they’re doing it quickly.... Read More

In recent months I’ve been referring to the recession as a new and more complicated jigsaw puzzle that leaders need to figure out – and just to keep it interesting, the puzzle is picture-side down. I’ve also been encouraging leaders to get clarity on what they want their company to look like on the other side of this recession. The message is simple: change, adapt and fix what isn’t working.…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

In these crazy times, there is “More Than Money”

December 8, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

It was July 2006 and I was just leaving my office to catch a flight. Wanting a book to read on the flight, I reach for True to Yourself: Leading a Values-Based Business by Mark Albion. Throughout that two-hour flight, Mark’s words and thinking touched me so deeply, that as soon as I entered my hotel room, I emailed Mark requesting an interview. (Click this link to read the entire interview.)
Albion’s message focuses on the importance of aligning one’s values with growing a business. Too often in the pursuit of profit, leaders disconnect with their values and forget why they got into business in the first place. Albion reconnects profit with the passion that fuels business growth.
More Than Money
Mark’s new book, More Than Money: Questions Every MBA Needs to Answer, is the perfect sequel because, in less than 100 pages, it asks the right questions to isolate what’s truly important to you. He puts a megaphone on that little voice inside you and gives you the courage to listen, understand and respond to its meaning.
Mark says, “Your passion will allow you to get lost in something bigger than yourself, as it is that passion – your will, not your skills – that will define you and make you great. That’s how you find yourself: by getting lost in something you feel has importance beyond yourself. It may be addressing a social challenge, building a company, or collaborating with colleagues to meet a deadline. And when you can meet a business need and a social need, especially if it is personal, the feeling is priceless.
When you get good at something you don’t want to do, you feel as if you’re dying a little bit each day – that your soul is being sucked out of you. Worse yet, it takes time to realize what’s going on. Maybe you don’t enjoy your work as much as you used to, or you aren’t performing as well as you know you can. Maybe Sunday nights are a misery, causing you to wake with a knot in your stomach Monday morning. Maybe you’re wondering, ‘How did I get here?’ That’s why I agree with the late George Burns: ‘I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate.'”
Here’s a cool way to experience his new book. Watch this 3-minute animated movie telling the story of a cocky MBA graduate trying to educate a fisherman in a small village. In the end, it’s the MBA who gets the education. Please give it a try, and if you like it, pass it on to friends, family and colleagues. (YouTube video.)
With all the stress and uncertainty of tough economic times, More Than Money is a needed and timely prescription to find and stay connected with your passion for life and work. I know you’ll enjoy and benefit from it as much as I have.
To purchase More Than Money on Amazon.com, click this link.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

It was July 2006 and I was just leaving my office to catch a flight. Wanting a book to read on the flight, I reach for True to Yourself: Leading a Values-Based Business by Mark Albion. Throughout that two-hour flight, Mark’s words and thinking touched me so deeply, that as soon as I entered my hotel room, I emailed Mark requesting an interview. (Click this link to read the entire interview.)... Read More

It was July 2006 and I was just leaving my office to catch a flight. Wanting a book to read on the flight, I reach for True to Yourself: Leading a Values-Based Business by Mark Albion. Throughout that two-hour flight, Mark’s words and thinking touched me so deeply, that as soon as I entered my hotel room, I emailed Mark requesting an interview. (Click this link to read the entire…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

Delivering the no-compromise personal touch

December 1, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

I just read a news release about a small suburban Chicago retailer whose strategy is to defy the forecasts for a gloomy holiday season by delivering that special personal touch to customers. Sue Opeka is the owner of The Present Moment that sells affirmational and motivational gifts such as placards celebrating family and friends. Opeka has focused on making her store a place where customers can come for a free cup of coffee, a cookie and a break from all the bad news on television and in the papers. Does her personal-touch strategy work? It sure does. Sales at her store have been up 15 percent for the past four months.
At a time when a lot of customers seem to be holding back and wondering what the financial crisis is going to mean for them, savvy business players are on the offensive and rethinking new ways to compete and thrive through tough times. And when the strategy is targeting the heart of the customer service experience, it can be just what salons and spas need to create that needed lift through the holidays and beyond. What’s even more enticing about this strategy is that it costs little to implement.
If you’re thinking, “We already do the personal-touch thing,” think again. If you and every employee in your business were given the ultimatum to deliver true and authentic no-compromise personal-touch experiences or lose every customer to a competitor, how much better would everyone perform? What level of personal touch would your clients experience now? Describe it. Define it. Systematize it. Then, hold everyone accountable for delivering it all day, every day.
Indifference is the nemesis of customer service. That’s right, indifference – that “attitude” clients encounter every day from employees that take their needs, time, money and loyalty for granted. Indifference may be present a lot or a little, but it’s a sure bet that it’s lurking somewhere in your business – and you need to find it and fix it fast.
Delivering the no-compromise personal touch to every client is a game changer. It ups the ante and channels your team’s energy around the single most important asset your business has, your clients. It turns a visit to your salon/spa into something significantly more special and meaningful. It “serves” clients in the most nurturing way possible by anticipating their needs and delivering the unexpected. And what environment is more suited to be a haven from the stress of the world than a salon/spa where touch is everything?
I know I’m preaching the obvious here. I also know you can do better – a lot better – delivering the personal touch if only you and your team take it on with no compromise as your one and only standard.
The Holidays are only weeks away. If delivering the no-compromise personal touch to your clients is just one puzzle piece to making it through these tough times unscathed, go for it. If it generates just $1 more in sales, go for it. If it sells one more gift card, go for it. If it puts a smile on a client’s face, no compromise says, “If it needs to be done, get it done.”
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

I just read a news release about a small suburban Chicago retailer whose strategy is to defy the forecasts for a gloomy holiday season by delivering that special personal touch to customers. Sue Opeka is the owner of The Present Moment that sells affirmational and motivational gifts such as placards celebrating family and friends. Opeka has focused on making her store a place where customers can come for a free cup of coffee, a cookie and a break from all the bad news on television and in the papers. Does her personal-touch strategy work? It sure does. Sales at her store have been up 15 percent for the past four months.... Read More

I just read a news release about a small suburban Chicago retailer whose strategy is to defy the forecasts for a gloomy holiday season by delivering that special personal touch to customers. Sue Opeka is the owner of The Present Moment that sells affirmational and motivational gifts such as placards celebrating family and friends. Opeka has focused on making her store a place where customers can come for a free…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

When the leader steps up

November 24, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

These are truly uncertain times where the relentless barrage of bad economic news can rattle even the most steadfast of leaders. I’m hearing it every day, in every class and in every coaching call. The stress all leaders are feeling is real and it’s becoming more obvious. Well, I figured it was time to offer you a change of perspective – a kick in the butt to get you back in the leadership game.
My friend, Dr. Lew Losoncy, has the perfect philosophy for these times – and he says it in only three words: “What is, is?” Relax. Take a moment to digest these words. Think about the profound meaning these words have today. Think about how these words have helped people to overcome the worst things life can throw at them. Now, think about your business and all that’s right with it. Think about all the clients who depend on your services and products for their sense of well being. Think about those employees that in good times and bad continue to believe in you.
What is, is? It may or may not be the reality or situation you want to be in, but what is, is? The past is the past. It’s locked and archived and can never be altered. The only control you have is to begin at “What is, is?” and move forward with resolute determination to lead your business through these uncertain times to reach the good times that are waiting for you to arrive. It’s time to shake off the funk and fear, and step up to lead like you’ve never done before. There is nothing standing in your way to prevent you from doing this except your determination to create a new and better “What is, is?” tomorrow … and the day after … and the day after that.
Last week, I did an online course called “How to Kick Butt in an Uncertain Economy.” My message was solid and straightforward: engage as the leader, turn your systems on and focus on only those key drivers that will have the most immediate and greatest impact on driving your business forward. I also drove home how vital it is to make tough decisions targeted at trimming costs and eliminating any and all drag that’s slowing your business down. The next day I received an e-mail from one of the attendees that said, “I did not know that when I signed up for your online “Kick Butt” course that it was not about kicking butt as in increasing sales and doing well, rather, it was about you kicking me in the butt to turn intentions into actions.” Bingo! He got it. It’s time to step up and lead.
I urge you to talk to every one of your employees and communicate Dr. Lew’s “What is, is?” philosophy. Talk about what needs to be done, and everyone – including you – must be accountable for creating a new “What is, is?” Address the tough stuff head on. Step up and lead your company. You’re the only one that can. That’s what no-compromise leadership is all about.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO8

These are truly uncertain times where the relentless barrage of bad economic news can rattle even the most steadfast of leaders. I’m hearing it every day, in every class and in every coaching call. The stress all leaders are feeling is real and it’s becoming more obvious. Well, I figured it was time to offer you a change of perspective – a kick in the butt to get you back in the leadership game.... Read More

These are truly uncertain times where the relentless barrage of bad economic news can rattle even the most steadfast of leaders. I’m hearing it every day, in every class and in every coaching call. The stress all leaders are feeling is real and it’s becoming more obvious. Well, I figured it was time to offer you a change of perspective – a kick in the butt to get you back…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

The Holidays: Lead your team to victory

November 10, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

I just completed a Podcast with John DiJulius, author of What’s the Secret: To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience. The first point John made was about the economy and how he avoids watching, reading and getting wrapped up in today’s gloomy economic news. “I need to stay positive so I can deliver my best to my company and employees.” At no other time does John’s message ring true than this Holiday Season that the news media and analysts are already projecting to be one of the weakest in years. The question is: what are you going to do to make this the best Holiday Season possible?
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re in – now is the time to shake off the funk of negative thinking, shift into no-compromise leadership mode and lead your team to a fourth-quarter win. The key words here are, “lead your team.” You’ve got seven weeks to play the business game like you’ve never done before.
Here are some red-hot strategies to make this Holiday Season a winner:
* Chaos yields to vision: When one voice rises above the noise with clarity, purpose and direction, others listen. There’s no doubt that achieving a win this Holiday Season is going to take more leadership and focus then ever. Now is the time to ratchet up information flow, set incremental daily and weekly targets … and cheerlead your team like you’ve never done before.
* Systems rule: Too often I hear leaders say, “We already do that,” Unfortunately, their critical numbers tell the truth. Many businesses have systems but fail to turn them on. Accountability and the relentless quest for consistency must be inherently bonded into every system if the desired results are to be achieved. For example, if you have a system for product recommendations and pre-booking, is it “turned on” and running with the precision of a Swiss watch? If not, confront reality, flip the switch and get to work.
* Go for that 20%: I’ve seen my “20%” theory proven time and time again. It’s simple: there is another 20% in sales and growth waiting for you and your team, so go for it. When you put the excuses, blame, insecurity and blockages aside, you’ll see it and achieve it. You’ve got seven weeks to take it and prove me right. You’ve got nothing to lose by trying. No compromise.
* Bring your game face: If you’re intent on ending 2008 with a win, you’ll need to bring your game face to work every day. The demeanor of the leader sets the tone for the team. If the leader is energized, determined, positive and focused, the team will be too. The leader creates lift or drag. You’ve got seven weeks to lift your team to the mountaintop. No compromise.
So there you have it – a seven-week leadership game plan for winning this Holiday Season. The question again is: what are you going to do to make this the best Holiday Season possible?
A PERSONAL NOTE: My new book, No-Compromise Leadership, has been among Amazon.com’s top 25 “Leadership” books for over a week. It’s been as low as #7 … right behind Marcus Buckingham’s First Break All the Rules. I am both excited and honored to have my book in such esteemed company. Yeah, it’s that cool.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

I just completed a Podcast with John DiJulius, author of What’s the Secret: To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience. The first point John made was about the economy and how he avoids watching, reading and getting wrapped up in today’s gloomy economic news. “I need to stay positive so I can deliver my best to my company and employees.” At no other time does John’s message ring true than this Holiday Season that the news media and analysts are already projecting to be one of the weakest in years. The question is: what are you going to do to make this the best Holiday Season possible?... Read More

I just completed a Podcast with John DiJulius, author of What’s the Secret: To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience. The first point John made was about the economy and how he avoids watching, reading and getting wrapped up in today’s gloomy economic news. “I need to stay positive so I can deliver my best to my company and employees.” At no other time does John’s message ring true than this…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

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