Archive for October, 2009

In the business that i own, i am fortunate everyday to have the opportunity to meet with other business owners, executives and leaders from a broad cross-section of industries

In the business that I own, I am fortunate everyday to have the opportunity to meet with other business owners, executives and leaders from a broad cross-section of industries.  Up until about 60 days ago, there continued to be a sense of optimism and confidence that they would survive and even prosper in, what was becoming, a soft economy.  They continued to make strategic investments in their businesses, were hiring additional staff, (where warranted), and still planned for 2009 and beyond.

 We all know that as each day passed, the economic conditions worsened dramatically; more than anyone could have anticipated or planned for.  Orders were put on hold, projects were delayed, receivables began to be unpaid by multiple clients and thinking with an investment mentality became an afterthought.  Survival became the rule of thumb!  As if overnight, the question for most became “What do I need to do to make sure I can keep the doors of my business open and my lights on?” 

It is my belief and experience that these are the times when Superior Leadership is called to the table; “in fact, not just called, demanded to come!” These are the times when leaders who possess the skills and experience to bring their businesses through hard times are the ones who excel. 

So, what are the five reasons why Superior Leadership is critical in these times?

 1)      Employees need to see hope and feel a real sense of optimism.  They need to be presented with a picture of a more positive future.  A future filled with opportunity for growth and success; against the present environment of negativity and uncertainty.  Superior Leaders will continuously present a vision of the future with both short-term and long-term objectives clearly defined.  They understand that they must still look out to the future.  They will rise above the current challenges.  They will share how the company made it through prior periods of economic hardship and how it came out stronger and more prepared to take advantage of market opportunities.  They will repeat this message as many times as they need to in order to encourage hope and boost morale. 

Leaders need to be optimists. Their vision is beyond the present – Rudy Giuliani

 2)      Superior Leaders understand that incremental margin growth is essential to maintain a positive cash flow.  Incremental margin growth starts with a review of customer by customer profitability.  It continues with a review of all overhead items and all current processes to determine where efficiencies can be created.  During all of this, Superior Leader will still encourage new ideas – not necessarily use them – but be sure to keep them “on file” for another time. This is a time, more than ever when leaders need to engage their employees; when employees need to feel as though they have a stake in the company. 

 The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand – Sun Tzu 

3)      Superior Leaders will not allow an environment of mediocrity to prevail.  They will not allow external conditions to be used as an excuse for underperformance.  They will demand an immediate review of all personnel.  They understand that there is no room for “compliance” alone – just meeting expectations is not enough.  “Discretionary Effort” is a requirement – exceeding expectations needs to become the standard. “Top performers” will need to be supported and incentivized, “high potentials” will need to be trained and coached and “C” players will need to be let go.  Superior Leaders understand how critical it is to make these tough & unpopular decisions during these times: cut excess overhead, salary, benefits, etc.   

Executives owe it to the organization and to their fellow workers not to tolerate nonperforming individuals in important jobs – Peter Drucker

 4)      Superior Leaders will use their high level of Emotional Intelligence to engage and support their staffs.  Dan Goldman defines Emotional Intelligence as “the capacity to recognize our own feelings and those of others, to motivate ourselves, to manage emotions well in us and in our relationships.”  In these difficult economic times, it is important that the leaders leverage their “EI.”  They need to stay sensitive to the messages that they put out, remain confident and in control of their emotions and be particularly empathetic of others’ thoughts and feelings.  It is a time when Leaders need to actively listen but at the same time, they need to lead.  As during any time of great crisis people need a “leader.” The balance of the two (listening and leading) makes for a Superior Leader. 

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish – Sam Walton

 Teamwork and even higher levels of accountability to agreed upon actions are critical at all levels during these difficult economic times. 

A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved.

He inspires the power and energy to get it done – Ralph Nader

 The months ahead will be even more challenging and filled with uncertainty.  As a business leader you need to ask yourself some important questions:

 Am I projecting confidence and presenting a clear vision?

  • Are we doing what it takes to maintain our margins?
  • Are we accepting “mediocrity” anywhere in our company?
  • Am I listening at a higher level to the thoughts and emotions of my staff?
  • Are expectations crystal clear?
  • Am I leading my company?

The answers to these questions lie within the minds and experiences of your managers and employees.  Survey them and get your answers. 

I’ve been blessed to find people who are smarter than I am, and they help me to

execute the vision I have – Russell Simmons


It’s far easier to make someone else a believer when you’re a believer yourself

It’s far easier to make someone else a believer when you’re a believer yourself.

Let’s say you have a health problem and you go to a doctor. You want him to listen, evaluate and investigate. When he makes his recommendation, you want to hear as much confidence as possible.

“Andrew, you’ve got the plague. Here’s a prescription that will fix you right up,” is a lot more reassuring than, “Andrew, I think you either have gout or it could be scurvy. Or possibly lupus. Then again, it might just be the flu or a bad cold. I’ll write you a prescription. Maybe the drugs will make it go away, maybe they won’t, and you might want to call me if you think they make it worse.”

A subordinate I’d inherited once asked me, “Do you think it would be okay if I got some sort of raise, eventually at least?” Hardly a question asked by someone convinced of the overwhelming force of his case. Maybe he was going for a pity raise.

A few months later, one of my top people approached me for a pay increase. She concluded by saying, “So that’s way a 20 percent raise makes such perfect sense. I know it’s not time for my yearly review and I know 20 percent is a lot more than normal, but obviously these aren’t normal circumstances. I just want to make sure I can count on your backing.”

She didn’t get the raise simply because she expected to get it. But she did get the raise. I got her more than she expected, bringing her into line with the top people in her position in the company. Which is exactly what she deserved.

Confidence sells. And the closer confidence gets to absolute conviction the more powerful it becomes. That’s why crazy people can sometimes be so convincing. Hitler never had a moment’s doubt or hesitation. He believed so absolutely an entire country was swept along in his insanity.

In the late ’80s, I was asked to consult on a start-up operation by a potential client who soon turned out to be a megalomaniac. The man was on drugs and under psychiatric care and absolutely convinced that he was going to revolutionalize consumer purchasing.
What was astonishing was how many intelligent people he’d pulled into his fantasy, including a high ranking ex-military officer and the chairman of the board of a leading Fortune 100 company. Investors were throwing money at him, and a telecommunications giant gave him several million dollars work of equipment on credit. None of them were bothered by the fact that the man’s conception of the business he was creating changed hourly. And that, because of that, no one, least of all the poor man himself, had any idea of what the final product he was developing might be.

Such is the power of confidence. In the late 90s of course, the above model became standard operating procedure for Internet start-ups.

Confidence is also why people too obtuse to understand what’s wrong with their position sometimes succeed in convincing others. As Bertram Russell said, “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

That’s not the kind of confidence you want to project. That type of confidence is fragile and brittle. And it’s too often revealed as false–ideally sooner rather than later–when it’s buffeted by reality. The confidence you need to project comes from having made your proposal the best it can possibly be, from understanding the downside and having made peace with it, from making the What’s-In-It-For-Them as potent as it can possibly be for each of the Thems you’re trying to bring on board.

And it comes from laying your cards out on the table, granting the people you’re dealing with their legitimate points when they have doubts. (Grant their legitimate points and the points you need to make your case become far more believable.) So they can make a completely informed decision. And knowing that if they do, in most cases, they should and they will go along with what you’re proposing.

That’s real confidence. The operative word being real. If you can’t do that with whatever it is you’re advocating, maybe you should be advocating something else.

Running a business can be tiring and have many demands on your time

Running a business can be tiring and have many demands on your time. When there are several things needing your attention, it is hard to attend to them all at the same time. Conference calls can be a great tool to help you keep in touch with employees and stay on top of things. They make communicating almost as easy as board meetings or conferences. Telephoning each person and planning the meeting is exhausting, plus you are not guaranteed they can even all come in spite of all your efforts. The following article shows how using these services can save time and money for business owners.

1. Very often a participant gets sick or goes on vacation after a meeting has been scheduled. This doesn’t really matter if the meeting can proceed as planned through the use of teleconferencing.

2. In order to successfully grow a business, it is important that executive managers be aware of problems experienced by workers, inclusive of both team and work relationship issues. Management also needs to be aware of which products are selling most effectively and which are not doing so well. One means of communicating this vital information is teleconferencing, which allows people to communicate key success factors without having to be in the same location.

3. Supervisors can now organize and have meetings with their subordinates via teleconferencing. This ingenious idea grants the employer opportunities to have meetings with employees who are at home, in their cars, or anywhere else by simply using telephones or the access to the World Wide Web. With teleconferencing, managers have fewer problems with employees missing important meetings due to the employees’ absence or tardiness. Teleconferences allow both managers and employees to attend no matter where they are located.

4. Aside from creating the necessary agenda, these services manage every element of the conference call. Once the meeting time and date are chosen, each participant is contacted with teleconference instructions and the meeting is conducted on the telephone.

There are a wide variety of teleconferencing companies. Do your homework – each one offers different plans. You can pay by the month or pay on a per minute basis. This way, you can have a number of participants briefly involved in the final decision making on important project elements. As many as ten people can take part in a conference call at one time, which provides enormous advantages.

Studies have shown that meetings are the primary place where executive choose the candidate to promote to higher positions

Studies have shown that meetings are the primary place where executive choose the candidate to promote to higher positions. Executives choose the person on the basis of his or her actions in the meetings. The main reason behind this is that the executive think a meeting as an opportunity to observe every employee present their and evaluate his or her leading skills. This is what the executives look for in each of their employees-

1. The planning skills of the employee  

A person who has leadership qualities will always plan ahead and know his goals. Good leadership always requires predetermined goals and effective planning to achieve them. A good leader has the ability to set the course of the efforts and change them according to the change in situations. A good leader is aware of the fact that in order to get the best performance from the team, he must communicate with them regularly and make them aware of the expectations he has from each of them. Hence, the executives observe the planning of their employees. They notice if the employee who called the meeting has prepared an agenda or not and if he has informed everyone about it or not. Also, the effectiveness of the agenda is also very important. It must tell everything about the forthcoming meeting. If an employee fulfills all these requirements then he is considered to be worth a leading post.

2. The efficiency of the employee

A meeting is just a small aspect of the bigger process. This whole process begins when the objective and agenda of the meeting is decided. Once the agenda is fixed, the person who is going to head the meeting informs everyone who is important to the meeting about it. He must communicate them and tell them about their expected contribution in the meeting and also inform the employees who will be given responsibilities after the culmination of the meeting. This assures a smooth running during the meeting and it will turn out to be an efficient, smooth and effective affair for everyone. Hence, in order to prove that you are leadership material, you must make the meetings chaired by you as efficient as you can.

3. Employees power to find logic

A good leader is also a good listener. During the meeting, he listens to the things people have to say, very carefully. A good leader must have the ability to analyze different thoughts and decide about the best possible solution to every problem. He has the ability to know whether a particular idea can contribute to the efforts of the team or not. A good leader must know whether his team is working efficiently or not.

4. The productiveness of the employee

The executive study and analyze the conduct and comments of each of their employees present in the meeting. They notice which of the employees are supporting other team players. They also notice people who are trying to contribute with their ideas as it is very important in order to think creatively. Also, the level of seriousness of people towards the task at hand is also very important. You must remember that if you are not productive then it will be visible in form of fear, misinterpretation of expected performance and ineffective working skill. The person who doesn’t perform well in meetings should take coaching to improve himself.

5. The employee should be in control

Other than listening to what people have to say, a leader requires many other qualities. That is why the executives observe the conduct of their employees during meetings. They want to find out whether the person leading the meeting is following the prescribed to take the meeting towards a conclusive end or not and whether he is working towards getting a good result with the team or not. They also observe the other employees to find out whether they feel good about the conduct of the meeting or not.

The person who proves his mettle in all these fields should be considered to be promoted to a leading post. That is why, while selecting a new candidate for a leading post, the executives first observes his conduct in the meetings. 

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