Critical Time for Critical Numbers

January 19, 2009 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Every business leader needs to be on his or her game in 2009. The reason is simple: the state of the economy has removed virtually all margin for error. Today, even those little mistakes that in the past you would chalk up as business lessons, can and will cost you dearly. And for all of us, ensuring and protecting cash flow must be front and center in all activities – especially in your daily decision-making.
Identifying and driving key critical numbers are the two best ways to ensure that you and your team are playing your best game. Critical numbers are like laser pointers. You can’t help but focus on them to move them in the right direction. The problem is, too many leaders don’t unleash the power of critical numbers to create a sense of urgency to achieve the best business outcomes possible. Even if you’re using critical numbers now, there is definitely more energy waiting to be unleashed.
Here are some get-it-done strategies to use critical numbers to play your best game:
* Target just a few critical numbers at a time: Attempting to drive a laundry list of critical numbers is a sure way to waste energy and focus. Pick the two or three absolutely key numbers that will make a difference in your business performance. By channeling your team’s energy and focus on driving select critical numbers you create an unstoppable brut force. Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Keep it moving in the right direction.
* Clarify what the numbers mean: Trust me, there are members of your team that won’t get what the critical numbers mean and why it’s vital to move them in the right direction. More importantly, everyone needs to understand what behaviors actually move the numbers. Put the clarity up front and you’ll see positive results sooner rather than later.
* Fix a problem: At least one of your critical numbers should be targeting a problem that needs fixing. If your payroll percentage is too high, make it a critical number. If supply costs are too high, make it a critical number. Heck, if huddle attendance is a problem, make it a critical number.
* Scoreboard the heck out of them: Don’t say you’re on your game in 2009 if you don’t have a scoreboard to track the action. And if you’re not doing huddles around scoreboard updates, the scoreboard will become “invisible” and meaningless to many.
* Change critical numbers as needed: If a current critical number is doing fine and there is another number in your company that needs attention, change it up. It’s just another way to keep the game interesting and to continuously fine-tune performance.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

Every salon/spa leader needs to be on his or her game in today’s business environment. The reason is simple: the state of the economy has removed virtually all margin for error. Today, even those little mistakes that in the past you would chalk up as business lessons, can and will cost you dearly. And for all of us, ensuring and protecting cash flow must be front and center in all activities – especially in your daily decision-making.... Read More

Every business leader needs to be on his or her game in 2009. The reason is simple: the state of the economy has removed virtually all margin for error. Today, even those little mistakes that in the past you would chalk up as business lessons, can and will cost you dearly. And for all of us, ensuring and protecting cash flow must be front and center in all activities –…
Read More

Categories: Financial Literacy

You need to hear it and they’re afraid to tell you

January 12, 2009 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

The usual conversation among leaders is about needed conversations with employees regarding behavior and performance issues. And for those conversations that are guaranteed to raise your blood pressure, there are some fine books available such as Fierce Conversations and Crucial Conversations to help you through. But what happens when employees need to tell you about issues with your behavior and performance as their leader?
This communication blockage is more common than you think. In fact, there’s a darn good chance that you have employees in your own company that need to tell you things that you need to hear – but can’t. Even your most trusted and loyal employees are probably holding back. Why? The answer is summed up in one word…fear. Fear for their jobs. Fear of retribution if you are offended. Fear that it could send you off on one of your tirades. Fear that your feelings will be hurt.
It is imperative that owners create an environment where open communication on sensitive issues can occur without fear. More importantly, to be an authentic no-compromise leader, you need to be open to constructive feedback from employees. That’s how you get better. That’s how you mature as leader and build trust.
Here are some get-it-done strategies to hear what you need to hear:
* Leadership team meetings: Put feedback on your performance on the agenda. Let team members know that you need their feedback in order to be the best leader for them and the company.
* Performance reviews: Make “Where can I improve to support you better?” part of every employee performance review.
* Cool your jets: A leader’s instant defensive posturing to employee feedback is the most cited reason employees give to avoid initiating a conversation with their leaders. Rather than going defensive and shutting down the dialog, acknowledge how much you value the employee’s willingness to share feedback with you.
* Listen. Don’t talk…just listen: Allow the employee to speak. Encourage them to go deeper with statements like, “This is important for me to hear, please explain more.”
* Get it all out: Before the conversation ends, ask, “Is there anything left unsaid?” This is one powerful question that ensures that everything has been placed on the table for discussion.
* Change: The worst thing you can do is listen, encourage, give hope – then do nothing to change your own behavior and performance. Compromising leaders live in a world of entitlement and denial. No-compromise leaders adapt, grow and build a culture of trust.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

The usual conversation among leaders is about needed conversations with employees regarding behavior and performance issues. And for those conversations that are guaranteed to raise your blood pressure, there are some fine books available such as Fierce Conversations and Crucial Conversations to help you through. But what happens when employees need to tell you about issues with your behavior and performance as their leader?... Read More

The usual conversation among leaders is about needed conversations with employees regarding behavior and performance issues. And for those conversations that are guaranteed to raise your blood pressure, there are some fine books available such as Fierce Conversations and Crucial Conversations to help you through. But what happens when employees need to tell you about issues with your behavior and performance as their leader? This communication blockage is more common…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

What’s tolerable in good times is intolerable in bad

January 5, 2009 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

As we begin 2009, there are some new absolutes being thrown into the mix. First, 2009 is going be an economic rollercoaster ride as the realities of the recession settle in. Surely the retail sector is going to take it on the chin with a parade of bankruptcies and closings. Manufacturing will need to reinvent itself to take efficiency and corporate responsibility to an entirely new level. Likewise, the service sector will need to adjust to a much more conservative, value conscious and cautious consumer. Simply put, 2009 is going to be the year of not only fixing what’s wrong in business, but evolving quickly into significantly more disciplined no-compromise entities. And here’s the catch – doing so is not an option.
Success in 2009 and beyond is for those that can change and adapt. Hang on to “business as usual” thinking and behaviors and the odds are against you. It’s true the “good times” are behind us. But it’s also true that very good times lay ahead. In fact, for those riding the crest of change and reinvention, the good times are that much closer.
Here’s your first mission in 2009: Get real about what you’ve been dragging along … and get rid of it. There is no other way to explain it other than, “What’s tolerable in good times is intolerable in bad.” Here’s a quick no-compromise hit list:
* Employees: Every business seems to accumulate its share of employees that consistently fall below the line of acceptable performance and behavior. These employees may have been tolerable in good times, but you’ll never make it to the good times dragging them along. Make the no-compromise personnel decisions now.
* Spending: Good times can cause compromising spending behaviors. Benefits, bonuses, generous pay raises, equipment, programs, assistants, and all the other stuff that was tolerable in good times is now intolerable in bad. Make the no-compromise spending cuts now. In fact, use a meat cleaver to trim every bit of fat.
* Accountability: This encompasses every quality standard, policy, system, job responsibility, client need, problem solution – every darn thing that has “get it done – get it done right” attached to it. All those behaviors that you were tolerating in good times are nothing more than the drag of compromise. If you want to make it to the other side of this recession and the good times that await you, become the no-compromise leader your business needs now more than ever. Everything is riding on your decision to engage at the no-compromise level.
Rest assured, in 2009 your competition is going to thin out. They’ll pay the price for continuing to tolerate the intolerable. By taking decisive action now, you’ll ensure that you’re not one of them.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

As we begin 2009, there are some new absolutes being thrown into the mix. First, 2009 is going be an economic rollercoaster ride as the realities of the recession settle in. Surely the retail sector is going to take it on the chin with a parade of bankruptcies and closings. Manufacturing will need to reinvent itself to take efficiency and corporate responsibility to an entirely new level. Likewise, the service sector will need to adjust to a much more conservative, value conscious and cautious consumer. Simply put, 2009 is going to be the year of not only fixing what’s wrong in business, but evolving quickly into significantly more disciplined no-compromise entities. And here’s the catch – doing so is not an option.... Read More

As we begin 2009, there are some new absolutes being thrown into the mix. First, 2009 is going be an economic rollercoaster ride as the realities of the recession settle in. Surely the retail sector is going to take it on the chin with a parade of bankruptcies and closings. Manufacturing will need to reinvent itself to take efficiency and corporate responsibility to an entirely new level. Likewise, the service…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

10 No-Compromise New Year’s Resolutions

December 29, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

As we approach the end of the year, it’s a great time to re-evaluate where you’ve been for the past year and where and what you want your business to look like going forward. To that end, here are 10 No-Compromise New Year’s Resolutions to help you lead your company and your team toward success in 2009 from the strongest position possible – the position of No-Compromise Leadership.
1. Always put people before profit. Period. Do that, lead them with passion, trust them to do the right thing, give them the freedom to do it, help them have fun and the profit will come.
2. Listen and really hear what employees have to say. They are the front line of your business that customers see and hold the insights to make things better. Respond to their suggestions and make them feel valuable.
3. Always clarify expectations. People need to know where they stand and where they are going. Paint a high-definition picture of your desired outcome, then establish progress checkpoint dates and times. Start each day or shift with a huddle. Provide positive and constructive feedback at every turn. Share the information they need to do their jobs.
4. Create equality and fairness by eliminating double standards. This means the same rules that apply to your team apply to you – that all team members are treated the same. It also means you and all your team members will roll up your sleeves and pitch in when needed and that you never talk about, gossip or degrade an employee to others.
5. Tackle the tough stuff before it gets out of hand. Right now, you know exactly what’s on that short list of problems and issues your company needs to address. Address and fix them now because it’s easier to stamp out a matchstick than a blazing forest fire.
6. Never put off a crucial conversation, even if it’s outside of your comfort zone. When you avoid or fail to act on an issue or problem, you are dealing with a leadership blockage. Acting from emotions can interfere with your ability to see and confront reality and lead to great frustration on both sides. Once you do, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.
7. Raise the bar on customer service to the highest rung. Customer loyalty comes from delivering extraordinary service, quality and value with a no-compromise passion. No matter what business you are in, customer loyalty drives the true growth leaders. It starts by listening to your customers and your front-line team. Never accept inferior performance or poor quality service. Your customers will notice, whether or not they tell you.
8. Protect the financial integrity of the company. Accountability at all levels of the company to adhere to its financial control systems is the determining factor of your company’s profitability performance. You need to create a cash-flow projection, to live your plan, to pay attention to all your financial reports, to understand your financials, build cash reserves and manage debt.
9. Achieve maximum consistency through accountability to your systems. Systems give your business predictability. They reduce the chances of things going awry, spinning out of control or otherwise becoming more stressful than necessary.
10. Create a no-compromise culture that is pure world class. Strengthen, nurture and protect your business culture from contamination at all costs. Great leaders aren’t great because they’re innovative, understand numbers or have good communication skills. They’re great because they design, build and fiercely protect the cultures they are empowered to lead.
Happy New Year!
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

As we approach the end of the year, it’s a great time to re-evaluate where you’ve been for the past year and where and what you want your business to look like going forward. To that end, here are 10 No-Compromise New Year’s Resolutions to help you lead your company and your team toward success in 2009 from the strongest position possible – the position of No-Compromise Leadership.... Read More

As we approach the end of the year, it’s a great time to re-evaluate where you’ve been for the past year and where and what you want your business to look like going forward. To that end, here are 10 No-Compromise New Year’s Resolutions to help you lead your company and your team toward success in 2009 from the strongest position possible – the position of No-Compromise Leadership. 1. Always…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

Doesn’t want to mess up her “8”

December 22, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

I recently spent a day with a business owner who needed some help getting her business “unstuck.” All things considered, this was a successful business. It has a great location, impressive revenues, decent systems and a team of loyal employees. So, why is this business stuck? The answer is simple – the owner is stuck. It’s a classic case of a “reluctant leader.” And this reluctant leader’s affliction is more prevalent than most leaders would care to admit.
To gain a thorough understanding of where the challenges were, I met with members of the leadership team. In the true spirit of teamwork, they openly shared their concerns and recommendations for change. By mid-afternoon, the common denominator for all the challenges and frustrations was revealed. You guessed it, the owner needed to change first. As if in perfect unison, these caring and supportive managers were saying, “We want our leader to lead us.” I could see the owner’s discomfort level grow as her pattern of reluctant leadership was brought out into the open.
At one point, I asked all the managers and the owner to rate the business on a scale of one to ten, with ten representing excellent. Unanimously, they all said, “We’re an eight.” “Interesting,” I responded. “So what’s keeping you from moving up the two final points to be truly world class?” We all looked to the owner awaiting her response. After a few minutes of deep contemplation, she said, “I don’t want to mess up my 8.” Wow … this was a profound breakthrough to removing the roadblocks to achieving extraordinary success.
What was finally revealed here was the owner’s reluctance to become a no-compromise leader. Her settling for that “8” was keeping all of her hopes and dreams just out of reach. Her settling for that “8” assured inconsistencies in the execution of work and customer service. Her settling for that “8” chipped away at accountability and dialed down the sense of urgency in the entire company. It was a commitment to being something less than the true potential of an otherwise great company.
To move from that 8 to a 10 means that the boat will be rocked. It means that change will occur and everyone will be accountable. Yes, some may not like it and fall off the boat. Chances are, they should have walked the plank a long time ago. And since this business has been stuck at an 8 for so long, it’s going to require some extra rocking to get it moving again.
Yes, it was a day of breakthroughs. A loyal leadership team got to tell their leader how much they needed her to engage as their leader. An owner revealed her reluctance to lead and close the gap between something less and achieving true excellence. Together, they focused their energies on change and what it means to live the no-compromise mantra every day.
Are you afraid to mess up your “8” and be the no-compromise leader your business needs you to be? Chances are, it’s time for you to stand up and rock your boat before someone else does it for you.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

I recently spent a day with a business owner who needed some help getting her business “unstuck.” All things considered, this was a successful business. It has a great location, impressive revenues, decent systems and a team of loyal employees. So, why is this business stuck? The answer is simple – the owner is stuck. It’s a classic case of a “reluctant leader.” And this reluctant leader’s affliction is more prevalent than most leaders would care to admit.... Read More

I recently spent a day with a business owner who needed some help getting her business “unstuck.” All things considered, this was a successful business. It has a great location, impressive revenues, decent systems and a team of loyal employees. So, why is this business stuck? The answer is simple – the owner is stuck. It’s a classic case of a “reluctant leader.” And this reluctant leader’s affliction is more…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

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