Is your approach to “empowerment” a setup?

August 17, 2009 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

“Empowerment” is one of those overused terms that achieved pre-eminent status in the world of business jargon. Without question, every leader strives to achieve that seemingly elusive state where leadership teams and employees actually think, behave and make decisions like a business owner. So why is it that in all my years of coaching leaders and companies, only a handful of companies can truly proclaim that they have an empowered workforce? The answer is simple and may even be tough for some leaders to swallow.

FACT: Too many leaders fail to understand that empowerment is an outcome. It is not something a leader bestows upon others. Empowerment is best described as a process of preparing individuals and teams to be confident, assertive and accountable. In order for that to occur, leaders must be willing to invest the time, training, mentoring and resources before relaxing and letting go of the controls. Rush or short-change the preparation process and you’ll see those you empowered hesitating to take action and/or making bad decisions. Some of your more over-confident team members will even charge off into roles and decision-making they are totally unprepared for. (more…)... Read More

“Empowerment” is one of those overused terms that achieved pre-eminent status in the world of business jargon. Without question, every leader strives to achieve that seemingly elusive state where leadership teams and employees actually think, behave and make decisions like a business owner. So why is it that in all my years of coaching leaders and companies, only a handful of companies can truly proclaim that they have an empowered…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

Present a “State of Your Company” address

August 10, 2009 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Every January, the president of the United States does a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. The address not only reports on the condition of the nation, but also allows the president to outline his legislative agenda and national priorities to the United States Congress. Given the economic turmoil that began in earnest last year, and the now early indications that the economy is showing signs of recovery, this may be the opportune time for you to present a “State of Your Company” address.
If your initial response is, “Huh?” consider this: Every business and employee has been affected in some way by the recession. As a leader, it is likely that you made some tough decisions to ensure the wellbeing of your company. Expenses were cut, certain projects were put on hold – and employees may have been laid off. Even on a limited scale, such decisions send unsettling vibrations throughout a company culture as employees contemplate that most fundamental question: How will the recession affect me?
Strategically, presenting a State of Your Company address has the potential to reinvigorate your company’s performance by sharing with all employees exactly what the state of the company is and how making tough decisions allowed it to weather this economic storm. Most of all, it provides you with the perfect platform to share your vision and leadership agenda for growing the company. This is all about information flow and allowing your team to have absolute clarity on where the company is going. A Neilism: Absolute clarity is like business GPS. It sets the where and the how.
Here are some no-compromise strategies to present a State of Your Company address:
* Find the right setting for the address: Do not hold the address where you normally hold meetings. The president has the distinguished podium in the House of Representatives. You need to select a site that communicates the importance of this address. Is there a meeting hall at City Hall that you can rent. Does your local college or high school have an auditorium you can use? Is there a company in your area that has a training facility available? If all else fails and you have to use your facility, hang red, white and blue banners around the space. Don’t forget to get a podium.
* The announcement to employees: Send or hand every employee an invitation to attend your State of Your Company address. Design and print a folded invitation that looks official. You can even put one of those gold foil stickers imprinted with your corporate seal on it. (You rarely get to use that seal so now’s your chance.)
* Prepare your speech: The president has speechwriters and edits it until the address is perfect. If you’re not good at writing speeches, ask for help. You will find accomplished speechwriters at colleges and acting schools. Work on your speech and keep refining it. If it doesn’t go through at least six revisions – it’s not done. Rehearse and rehearse some more.
* Dress “presidential”: You want to look like a leader. Put a lot of thought into how you want to appear to your employees for what could be the most important address to all of your employees.
* Keep the entire event “official”: This isn’t a party. No food. No music. No fan fare. Keep the entire evening official. Don’t forget to have someone introduce you.
* Have some fun: This is all about nurturing and reinforcing your company culture.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

Every January, the president of the United States does a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. The address not only reports on the condition of the nation, but also allows the president to outline his legislative agenda and national priorities to the United States Congress. Given the economic turmoil that began in earnest last year, and the now early indications that the economy is showing signs of recovery, this may be the opportune time for you to present a “State of Your Company” address.... Read More

Every January, the president of the United States does a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. The address not only reports on the condition of the nation, but also allows the president to outline his legislative agenda and national priorities to the United States Congress. Given the economic turmoil that began in earnest last year, and the now early indications that the economy is showing…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

Is Your “Information Flow” Really a Drip?

August 3, 2009 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Right now, this very moment, how many of your employees know exactly what the immediate and most critical objectives are for your business? How many know what needs to be accomplished this month, this week – today? How many clearly understand your expectations for their individual performance? Would you describe your company’s “sense of urgency” as fast or slow? The common denominator for each of these questions is “information flow.” With it, there is focus, urgency, efficiency and productivity. Without it, there is frustration, fragmentation and missed opportunities.
Achieving higher levels of organizational performance always requires a change in the collective behaviors of teams. It doesn’t matter if a company is in a crisis situation or striving to reach that next level of success, it’s ability to disseminate key information will determine how quickly behaviors will change. However, too many leaders routinely and grossly underestimate the level of information flow that is required for measureable results to occur. And when information drips rather than flows, the crisis continues. And, the quest to reach the next level morphs into pipedream.
Here are some no-compromise strategies to ensure that information is flowing rather than dripping throughout your company:
* Information flow x 10: What would happen if you took your current level of information flow and multiplied it by 10? The answer is simple; there would be an immediate and measurable gain in the overall performance of your company. Ratcheting up the level of information flow is like putting your company on a GPS heading toward success.
* Find the information flow bottlenecks: Every company has them – and you may be one of them. Yes, leaders are notorious for having high expectations and not backing them up with the necessary information to clarify their expectations. Are one or more of the team leaders a bottleneck? Are there key players on your team with conflicting agendas? The only way you’ll discover the bottlenecks is to spend quality time with your leadership team and employees. If they cannot articulate where the company is going and what its immediate objectives are, there is an information flow bottleneck.
* What, why & how is the score: Everyone needs to know. Everyone needs to play. From daily huddles around the company scoreboard to daily leadership team briefings, the only excuse for not driving information flow is laziness and procrastination. We’re in the information age and we have some amazing technologies to drive it. From conference calls, web-based video meetings and online file sharing, to text messages, emails and alerts in most business software, there is no excuse for anything less than rapid-fire information flow.
* Get into the grove and make it stick: Ratcheting up your information flow systems will require you as the leader to adapt and commit to new disciplines first. Don’t expect everyone else to commit to an information flow system that you routinely compromise. The only way to ensure accountability down through the employee ranks is for accountability to be locked in at the top.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

Right now, this very moment, how many of your employees know exactly what the immediate and most critical objectives are for your business? ... Read More

Right now, this very moment, how many of your employees know exactly what the immediate and most critical objectives are for your business? How many know what needs to be accomplished this month, this week – today? How many clearly understand your expectations for their individual performance? Would you describe your company’s “sense of urgency” as fast or slow? The common denominator for each of these questions is “information flow.”…
Read More

Categories: Information Flow

Can you really implement change?

July 27, 2009 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Companies are like people; they develop habits and patterns of behavior that impede productivity, slow growth and create useless drama. And just like people, replacing bad habits and behaviors in a business with new and more efficient ones can be a daunting task. Leaders routinely discover that their best intentions to change behaviors create new challenges. So much so, leaders run smack dab into their culture’s natural resistance to change. It’s tough enough to change one’s own habits and behaviors – changing the deeply embedded habits and behaviors of teams of people is an entirely different undertaking. They’re called “culture shifts,” and successfully completing one is hallmark of the no-compromise leader.
Culture shifts are much like the Venus Flytrap. They entice you in with the promise better times, growth and profits until you’re so engaged – it then slams shut and devours you. I’m sure that any leader that attempted a full-blown culture shift will agree with this analogy.
Don’t despair. You can successfully navigate a culture shift – if you’re prepared and understand the dynamics that are involved.
Here are some no-compromise strategies to help you successfully complete a culture shift:
* Culture shifts take time – a lot of time: The amount of time your culture shift will take is based on on three factors:
1. You: Your ability to relentlessly communicate, stay focused and stay the course.
2. The size and complexity of your company: This includes layers of management, departments, divisions and the geographical nature of your company, such as multiple locations or multinational operations.
3. The current state of your company and its culture: Specifically, the more out of balance your business is with respect to The Four Business Outcomes, the more energy and time it will take to move it through a culture shift to no compromise.
* You must be committed to go the distance: It could take 12 to 24 months to completely shift a culture. Repeat: 12 to 24 months. If you’re looking for a quick-fix culture shift strategy, forget it – it doesn’t exist. You must be committed 100% to see this through. A 99% commitment is enough wiggle room to cause it to fail.
* Not everyone is going to survive the shift: Change resisters will get on board, quit or be relieved of their obligation to work for your company. If you allow them to stay, you’re compromising and compromise at the leadership level kills culture shifts.
* Small wins add up: Lots of small wins build momentum and unity in a culture. Celebrate even the smallest of wins. The more you celebrate, the faster the shift.
* Sense of urgency: You can’t shift a culture without it. Find it. Fuel it. Relentlessly drive it.
Caution: I’ve seen companies make wonderful culture-shift strides in a matter of months. However, too many leaders misinterpret these rapid and positive “strides” as being farther along in the culture shift than they actually are. Such misinterpretations can cause you to ease up on the urgency factor far too soon, causing the culture shift to stall. Once stalled, it’s extremely difficult to get a culture shift moving again. It’s simply human nature for old, comfortable behaviors to snap back in a heartbeat when discipline and focus are compromised.
Recommendation: In my book, No-Compromise Leadership, I devote an entire section to “navigating the culture shift to no compromise.” It even includes an 18-month timeline of “must do’s” and “what you should see.” Read it before you hit the launch button.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

change-exit-signCompanies are like people; they develop habits and patterns of behavior that impede productivity, slow growth and create useless drama. And just like people, replacing bad habits and behaviors in a business with new and more efficient ones can be a daunting task. Leaders routinely discover that their best intentions to change behaviors create new challenges. So much so, leaders run smack dab into their culture’s natural resistance to change. It’s tough enough to change one’s own habits and behaviors – changing the deeply embedded habits and behaviors of teams of people is an entirely different undertaking. They’re called “culture shifts,” and successfully completing one is hallmark of the no-compromise leader.... Read More

Companies are like people; they develop habits and patterns of behavior that impede productivity, slow growth and create useless drama. And just like people, replacing bad habits and behaviors in a business with new and more efficient ones can be a daunting task. Leaders routinely discover that their best intentions to change behaviors create new challenges. So much so, leaders run smack dab into their culture’s natural resistance to change.…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

Ten tips for business survival in these crazy times

July 13, 2009 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

There is only one word that accurately describes doing business in today’s economy. That word is “unforgiving.” The competition is relentless. Customers are more cautious, calculating and demanding with their buying decisions as well as their expectations. But it’s not the threats from the world around you that could throw your business into a tailspin. It’s what’s occurring inside your business that makes you vulnerable.
The key to surviving and thriving in these crazy times begins with leadership and its determination to win the business game. The mandate is simple: if it needs to be done, get it done.
Here are ten tips to help you win the business game:
1. No hesitation, procrastination, blame or excuses: Ignore even the smallest problem today and a bigger problem will be waiting for you tomorrow.
2. All lift – no drag: A business cannot maintain or gain momentum if it’s dragging anchors. Profit-draining projects, departments, services, products, locations and any other business function or entity that’s not performing needs to be fixed or cut. Unproductive employees – get them into the game or cut them loose. You get the picture.
3. Live your cash-flow plan: If you don’t have a cash-flow plan, you and your company are flying financially blind. If you have one, it only works if you’re accountable to it.
4. Have the tough conversations: Every leader has a number of tough conversations that have been waiting too long to happen. Employees need to know where they stand even if it’s not what they want to hear. If you’ve been fighting harder to protect an employee’s paycheck then the employee, it’s time for you and the employee to make a decision.
5. Innovate to grow: A crisis always seems to inspire innovative thinking. But why wait until there’s a crisis? Get you and your team’s creative juices flowing now. Create an environment and culture of innovation by creating think tanks and special project teams. The next new opportunity for your company is waiting to be discovered. Go for it.
6. Inspire a sense of urgency: Urgency is the energy that drives business growth. Urgency pushes leaders, employees and companies out of their lethargic comfort zones. Huddles, scoreboards, deadlines, goals, rewards, celebrations and more are all simple tools to keep urgency levels high. Yes, urgency comes from leadership. It rarely happens on its own.
7. Finish what you start: “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.” If this statement describes your company’s track record for getting things done, compromise is alive and well in your culture. This is all about accountability… and it begins with you.
8. Keep commitments: Broken promises or commitments compromise trust and contaminates business cultures. If you say you’re going to do something, do it.
9. Find that 20% growth: I absolutely believe that every company has 20% more growth waiting to happen – if it goes after it. There are new customers and opportunities for growth everywhere. The only question is, are you willing to do whatever it takes to go for it? Get out of your comfort zone. Make those extra 10 sales calls. It may even be as basic as holding everyone accountable to existing systems and procedures.
10. Lead with passion: If you truly believe in your company, its people and its mission, then let it show. Leaders that live in fear or feel like a hostage in their own company allowed their passion to fade away. If necessary, fall in love with your company again. Get fired up about the opportunities and rewards that await you. Let your passion out and your people will follow you.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

surviving-2009bThere is only one word that accurately describes doing business in today’s economy. That word is “unforgiving.” The competition is relentless. Customers are more cautious, calculating and demanding with their buying decisions as well as their expectations. But it’s not the threats from the world around you that could throw your business into a tailspin. It’s what’s occurring inside your business that makes you vulnerable.... Read More

There is only one word that accurately describes doing business in today’s economy. That word is “unforgiving.” The competition is relentless. Customers are more cautious, calculating and demanding with their buying decisions as well as their expectations. But it’s not the threats from the world around you that could throw your business into a tailspin. It’s what’s occurring inside your business that makes you vulnerable. The key to surviving and…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

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