Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

You can try to grow hair… or just buy a good hair piece!

Despite all the great advances in growing hair, some people just won’t have success. They can choose to stay bald… or just get a good hairpiece (or similar ‘replacement’). The point is that your body is your body and sometimes even the best science (or art?) can’t change it. However, there are things we can do to ‘offset’ for whatever challenge that might present. People do it all the time with artificial limbs and the such in order to gain ‘normal mobility’.

So why do some small business owners try to be somebody they are not when it comes to ‘natural personality traits’. More specifically, some owners are fabulous technicians and/or fabulous sales people who do not have the capacity to become great managers (or even great leaders). So they remain ‘frustrated technicians/sales people’ feeling like they are on a treadmill never seeming to be able to get their organizations to the ‘next level’ of growth; i.e. they take 3 steps forward and 4 steps back at each attempt. One would think they’d recognize this pattern and have the insight to recognize what they need: a good ‘business manager’ to ‘mind the store’. This happens frequently in professional practices (e.g. medical offices, CPA firm, law firms and engineering/architectural firms). It happens in business services (e.g. water testing, construction) and a host of other environments.

The owners might even acknowledge this but use “I can’t afford to hire someone for that role” as the ‘justification’. Yes, it is a bit of a ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario, but that’s where planning– and courage– come in to play. In over 4 decades of having to deal with this issue for clients, I believe there are numerous ways to overcome this dilemma — without ‘betting the ranch’. If you find yourself in this situation, drop me a line and I’ll happily take a look at your situation and prescribe some possible courses of action for your SPECIFIC situation.. at NO CHARGE. I’ll also be happy to send you a FREE copy of my new book (.pdf version) or you may wish to purchase the audiobook version at iTunes (only $9.99). Set Yourself Free-How to Have a Thriving Small Business…And Enjoy It! will give you many insights into this issue and MANY others. I hope you will take a moment to read more about it. Feel free to call me at 518.369.7101 or email me at: stan@fambizdoc.com

Leadership…. How you doin?

If you are in a leadership role, it might be enlightening to step back and take stock of yourself regarding these traits. I could suggest more formal and objective ways, but for now, I think just taking a “peek” at yourself from a distance is a good start. You will likely identify those areas that require the most attention and offer the greatest potential payback from additional development. You will find that it is difficult to focus on more than a few areas at one time. So, do not get overly ambitious.

If you have the heart for it, and if you use a competent and objective, third party (called consultants), you might even try to determine how your peers and subordinates view you. In Organizational Development circles, this is known as “360 degree feedback”. This can be an eye opener (good and bad). Supposing you do this and learn that your rating in certain areas is not to your liking? What are your options? You can say, “Nobody’s perfect!” and continue functioning at less than optimal. You can walk around feeling guilty or ashamed for being imperfect or you can decide to engage in a program of self- development.

Sometimes this takes the form of listening to cassette tapes, reading books, completing questionnaires and the like. You can also hire an executive coach to work with you one-on-one. Another option is to bring in a trainer to provide seminars and workshops intended to teach you new skills (or hone existing ones), tune up your attitude, and help you and your teammates to function better as a team. After all, who said only the leader needs development?

You probably already use many of these tools. My only hope (not a modest one) is that by simply bringing this to your attention, you will invest the time to focus (the operative word) on your leadership development. My main premise is that everyone has some degree of leadership capacity in them. You see this during times of crisis when a non-leader takes control of the situation. This is manifested in the military through astounding acts of heroism. An astute leader recognizes when he/she is not as effective as they want and need to be. Take a moment to review the checklist above to reflect on your situation. Perhaps this will give you a clue where you need to look deepest. Good luck on your search to discover and develop the best that is within you.

For more information, please contact us or e-mail us at stan@fambizdoc.com

Taking the Guesswork Out of Sizing Up Employee Candidates

“Getting the right people on the bus” (from Good to Great by Jim Collins) is one of the toughest jobs small business owners have. Sadly few owners are familiar with a valuable tool that helps remove much of the guess work of knowing the ‘natural personality makeup’ of candidates. Some owners think they have a knack for figuring out what type of person they are interviewing (driver, amiable… and the many labels described in the various personality profiles). While they may be close, they get ‘no cigar’ because it’s far more complex than that if you really want to make an intelligent choice among two or more qualified candidates.

The purpose of this brief blog isn’t to teach you all there is to know about ‘personality profile’ tools (manual and electronic/online) but rather to make sure you know how beneficial they can be in helping you to AVOID bad choices. Too often we (unknowingly) favor a particular candidate for purely emotional reasons and we overlook (negative) traits that are evident during the interview. Worse yet, we overlook traits that we can’t spot during the interview/assessment process. That’s a kiss of death. Even worse is NOT hiring a candidate that we incorrectly assess. For example, we might take ‘directness and a little assertiveness’ as AGGRESSIVENESS simply due to the situation or the type of question posed… or a myriad of causes. Yet the candidate was actually the right one if we understood his/her makeup more accurately.

Simply put, it takes a lot more inquiry and observation than most interviews will allow to truly figure out a candidate’s personality type. Yet, there is ample evidence that personality makeup can impact how well one will succeed in a particular role and in a particular environment. So, why do it ‘blind folded’ when there are many legally-validated tools to help nail down that one element in the selection process.

To learn more about this, you can read about some of the most common personality types and some popular profile tests in my new book (below). You can also do a web search just using ‘personality profile tests’ as the key word(s).

Some small business owners don’t want to spend the money or take the time to familiarize themselves with this concept and the tools for such. Their inaction stems from one or more factors; e.g. 1) fear of the unknown; 2) penny-wise/pound foolish cost-savings attitude; 3) skepticism about the validity of these tools and whatever!

Their mindset about this subject could make a huge difference in unlocking the full potential of their business. As I say in my book, Set Yourself Free – How to Have A Thriving Small Business… And Enjoy It!, you must be ‘open to discovery’ and learn from experience (even if you’re certain it’s a predictable failure!) so long as you are not betting the ranch. I call it a ‘calculated risk’ – not suicide.

I hope you will take a moment to read more about it. Feel free to call me at 518.369.7101 or email me at: stan@fambizdoc.com

Are Things Slipping Through the Cracks?

If you’re like most small business owners I’ve worked with, you probably find yourself wondering how it is that no matter what you say or do to clearly communicate, motivate and reward people, there is always someone who ‘drops the ball’. Oftentimes, the common REACTION is to consider such ‘bad behavior’ as either intentional, or simply unintentional neglect, oversight, or just attitudinal.

In fact those might be the cause; however, my experience is that the most common reason is SYSTEMIC. In other words, the people don’t have the right systems in place or don’t use them – to avoid such ‘slippage’. W. Edwards Deming, noted international consultant, made this point by saying “… the fault lies not within the people, but in the systems they use.”

This is not to excuse people from the responsibility of their assigned duties, but it helps us to focus on what is usually the ‘cure’ to most ‘slippage’ situations I have seen. Oftentimes, ‘lack of training’ is a part of the ‘system’ that is missing. Likewise it may be the lack of ‘reminder’ systems; e.g. something as simple as a calendaring or contact management system… or the failure to use it!

All that being said, I believe the root cause begins with the mindset of the owner and/or the individual who is allowing things to slip. I was once given a lesson by a former boss (who eventually made me his partner) that “People do what you INspect… not what you EXpect.” At first I thought he meant I had to micromanage everything I delegated. What he meant was that there is a combination of things needed to avoid things slipping through the cracks: mindset, processes and systems.

So I always recommend that everyone adopt the concept of ‘delegation’ (still owning the responsibility for the outcome) as compared to ‘relegation’ (washing your hands TOTALLY of it). Equally important, make sure you have a system in place that will provide periodic ‘follow up’ and/or feedback. This is especially true when you are working with someone with whom you have not had a lot of experience. No sense learning the hard way!

You can learn more about this (especially in the section dealing with personality types) in my book, Set Yourself Free – How to Have A Thriving Small Business… And Enjoy It! because personality type is also part of the ‘human system’ that you need to work with.

If you want to learn more about this subject, I hope you will take feel free to call me at 518.369.7101 or email me at: stan@fambizdoc.com

Personality… You’ve got it! So what?

That old song, Personality (1959), by Lloyd Price sure gets my feet moving and the words say it all. However, he wasn’t talking about just personality. Yet, isn’t that what we are looking for in the ideal employee … the right personality traits?

Some say, “Hire for personality traits because you can teach skill sets” (assuming that person possesses the aptitude to learn those traits with proper training). I agree with the underlying basis of that statement yet many employers do little to assess those personality traits in candidates before hiring other than to guess from interviews. Even with several people interviewing a particular candidate, there is much room for bias, poor questioning, and poor listening by interviewers. And then there’s a candidate who can ‘play the personality’ during the interview and seemingly provide the right answers. Worse yet, many interviewers are looking for someone ‘just like themselves’ when what they really need (for the best fit) is someone who is NOT like them.

Hiring the wrong people for the job (or good people who belong in a different role) is very common and the cost is much higher than most employers realize… because the cost is not just ‘wasted salary’ but the ‘opportunity cost’.

If you would like to learn more about this subject, and avoid falling into this trap, check out my new book, Set Yourself Free – How to Have A Thriving Small Business… And Enjoy It!

I’ve taken some very complex subject matter suited to psychologists and philosophers and presented it in a practical and understandable format. You may not become an expert but you’ll surely have a working understanding that can be put to use immediately.

I hope you will take a moment to read more about it. Feel free to call me at 518.369.7101 or email me.

Walking the Talk

Okay. I have a confession to make. I’ve been guilty of what I accuse my clients of… ‘thinking about’ but not ‘acting’ on changes I need to make. No, it’s not about my weight, but my use of social media tools. Yes, I’ve started to ‘look’ but I haven’t ‘leaped’. So after thinking about my mindset, I figured out my reluctance wasn’t for all the ‘valid’ reasons I had but more because it was like moving to another planet. I’m pretty savvy when it
comes to computers but something about this ‘social media thing’ felt different than when it came time to learn other computer tools. I think it was because I identified it with ‘the young crowd’ and felt it wasn’t something ‘an old professional guy’ should be doing. How’s that for being nuts? Well, I’m human too!

To add insult to injury, I also realized that I had to set a good example for my clients; so, I decided to follow the advice in my book (below) and change my MINDSET! I am arranging for a ‘young’ tech savvy social media guru and having her walk me, step-by-step, through the while “social media’ process (this blog is my first venture into that realm). I expect her to enable me to actually DO all the things I should/could be doing to take advantage of the technology… using ‘best practices’ to avoid missing opportunities, and wasted effort. I’m particularly interested in it more for my book than for my consulting practice because I do want to reach ‘the world’ with my book but not necessarily so for my consulting.

My main issue with social media (e.g. LinkedIn) is that I don’t want to share my contact base because every potential vendor would love to get ‘connected’ with my hard-earned contact base. I know there are some controls but I’m not 100% comfortable they will provide the level of security/control that I need and even experts have told me my concerns are not unfounded. So, I’ll proceed cautiously and limit my involvement to my book – even using a separate email account and such. I will NOT invite all my contacts to this account so as to have them ‘private’.

I’m sure that many of you can teach me more about this subject and I welcome your feedback. I hope you will take a look deep into your mindset and see what is holding you back from using the tools (whether computer related, systems changes, or people changes) to achieve your goals. We are the ones who hold the key to unlocking our potential and sometimes don’t realize it.

Wow! I feel better already. Thanks for listening :)

If you want to learn more about how to set yourself free, take a look at my new book, Set Yourself Free – How
to Have A Thriving Small Business… And Enjoy It! because you do have choices.

Feel free to call me at 518.369.7101 or email me at: stan@fambizdoc.com

I don’t have time!

Yes, we’d all be millionaires if we got a dollar each time we heard this from others… or perhaps ourselves. How can one deny the reality of this when the actual workload is beyond our physical and/or mental capacity? It’s no excuse… just a ‘reaction’ to indicate that whatever else we are being asked to consider is simply not as important as what we already have on our plate.

Most times it’s a valid response, but many times it’s just a knee-jerk reaction to feeling overwhelmed. I can’t count the number of times I have offered a business owner a great opportunity to promote their business for FREE on television (15-minute spots) or attend a powerful seminar that directly addressed issues of great concern to them only to be greeted with “I don’t have time.” We all know that one. I wonder what different choices owners would make if there was a tax for not considering what was being presented before they could use that phrase. It’s almost like a person who was drowning in a rip tide saying “I’m too busy to catch that” to the person who was asking them if they could use a life jacket!

Yes, I know you’re probably saying to yourself, “Stan doesn’t really understand how many sales people and others would have me in a worse situation if I gave them my precious time.” True but what if I could give you a way to filter out such ‘wasters’ and look at ways to take advantage of those who could add value… to getting you out of the rut (rat race, rat trap, endless treadmill… call it what you want). Well then pay close attention if this interests you.

It’s called the ‘art of selective neglect.’ Some call it ‘prioritization’ but that implies that all things will still be on the table for consideration. I take it a step further and suggest that most people have stuff that wouldn’t make a difference in the world if they NEVER did it! They just haven’t thought it through closely enough. If they did, they would either NEVER do it or simply delegate it to someone else and hope for the best.

By doing this, they free themselves up to receive the ‘gifts from heaven’ to which they might have otherwise said “I don’t have time for that”.

If you want to learn more about how to set yourself free, MAKE TIME to look at my new book, Set Yourself Free – How to Have A Thriving Small Business… And Enjoy It! because just might ‘earn’ some free time from it.

Feel free to call me at 518.369.7101 or email me at: stan@fambizdoc.com

Drama… Small Businesses Should Have An Emmy Award!

I know this may come as no surprise, but the amount of ‘drama’ one can find in even the smallest of small businesses would put most soap operas to shame! It never ceases to amaze me how much ‘stuff’ becomes the subject of internal conflict and other dynamics which have one common result… NO GOOD. While there is a place for constructive conflict, there is no room for the kind of drama that comes from such things as poor communication, hidden agendas, egos run amuck, employees on a power trip, owners/managers who are either permissive or abusive towards employees and poorly selected and lead employees (or owners). Be assured this is not an exhaustive list because the reasons are only as limited as the imagination and personalities of the participants. The number of possibilities becomes endless when you add the component of ‘family dynamics’ to the equation!

Small business owners (SBOs) pull their hair out (if any is left) because it’s one of the most common causes of mental fatigue in their lives and often makes them feel more like therapists than entrepreneurs. As many SBOs have said to me (indirectly if not directly), “I’d love owning my business if I didn’t have to deal with employees.” The sad truth is that ‘dealing with employees’ is part of that responsibility and when that becomes a ‘nightmare’ it is usually a sign of leadership gaps – which includes ‘getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off… as noted by Jim Collins in his book, Good To Great. Another common mistake I see is keeping the wrong people on the bus far too long and
not having a recruiting program that gives you choices to bring the right people on the bus.

Many SBOs and their managers don’t realize they are ‘beating a dead horse’; i.e. trying to change people who have neither the capacity to perform nor the desire to behave in a productive manner. Terri Kabachnick, author of ‘I Quit But Forgot To Tell You, describes the ‘disengaged employee’ who is not unlike a zombie; i.e. you can see them moving about but they are not really ‘there’ at the same time. These folks take up space, contribute little… and often get away with it.

If you feel trapped by people like this, then you may want to learn more about it in my new book, Set Yourself Free – How to Have A Thriving Small Business… And Enjoy It! because you do have choices and there is an effective process to get out of this dilemma.

I hope you will take a moment to read more about it. Feel free to call me at 518.369.7101 or email me at: stan@fambizdoc.com

Leadership – How are you doing?

Many companies often devote resources to develop the business and technical ends of their operations without paying sufficient attention to developing the leadership capacity of their people. When this happens, they find their business out of sync. In other words, the organization has not been sufficiently developed to take maximum advantage of the resources created to support the organization (e.g. computer systems, sales and marketing systems, production systems, etc.).

Using automobile racing as a metaphor, the car is only as good as the driver holding the wheel and the pit crew supporting the driver and the car. If you were thinking of doing some research on the subject of leadership development, you might go into shock when you discovered how many sites were available. If you checked out the web site of a popular Internet bookstore, you will have a choice of over 6,000 books on the subject of leadership. Just picking a book that suited you could be a career in itself!

After discovering how much information existed on the subject of leadership development, it seemed best to set a goal to have you work with the information that exists, and with the traits you already have rather than trying to impart new wisdom. Practicing as a management consultant for over 30 years has enabled me to see some of the best and worst leadership. These experiences have been in the setting of privately owned businesses and during 6 years service in the Army Reserves. The list of leadership traits shown below was compiled during a “brain-storming session” with about 20 leaders who are members of the Siena Family Business Institute. The basic question posed was, “What traits would you want in a leader in order to be willing to follow that person?”

While not exhaustive, this list is worth reviewing. Your comments are invited. Some people believe leaders are born. However, many management experts believe that leaders can be made. In other words, people can be developed into leaders.

This point of view has some validity, but it may be like saying “Anyone can learn to play the piano.” A retort could be, “Not everyone can become an accomplished pianist”. Perhaps it is fair to say that if someone does not have the inherent gifts to become a great leader, all the training and development in the world will not make him/her into one.

Nonetheless, management would be well advised to consider taking a hard look at how well it is doing to provide the encouragement and support to foster leadership development within its organization. The list below may be idealistic. Some great leaders were not highly endowed with all of these traits. There may appear to be some duplication or overlap among some of these traits (e.g. industrious/high performer); however, there are some nuances that make them different that cannot be addressed at this time.

LEADERSHIP TRAITS

Adaptable Industrious
Alert Initiates
Ambitious Integrity
Approachable Intelligent
Brave Intent
Caring Loyal
Competitive Open Minded
Conditioned Patient
Confident Poised
Cooperative Respectable
Consistent Reliable
Decisive Resourceful
Delegates Risk Taker
Enthusiastic Self control
Empathetic Sensitive
Fair Skilled Fighter
Faithful Successful
Friendly Team spirit
Hands-on Time manager
High Integrity Visionary
High Performer Wise
Honest

If you are in a leadership role, it might be enlightening to step back and take stock of yourself regarding these traits. I could suggest more formal and objective ways, but for now, I think just taking a “peek” at yourself from a distance is a good start. You will likely identify those areas that require the most attention and offer the greatest potential payback from additional development. You will find that it is difficult to focus on more than a few areas at one time. So, do not get overly ambitious.

If you have the heart for it, and if you use a competent and objective, third party (called consultants), you might even try to determine how your peers and subordinates view you. In Organizational Development circles, this is known as “360 degree feedback”. This can be an eye opener (good and bad). Supposing you do this and learn that your rating in certain areas is not to your liking? What are your options? You can say, “Nobody’s perfect!” and continue functioning at less than optimal. You can walk around feeling guilty or ashamed for being imperfect or you can decide to engage in a program of self- development.

Sometimes this takes the form of listening to cassette tapes, reading books, completing questionnaires and the like. You can also hire an executive coach to work with you one-on-one. Another option is to bring in a trainer to provide seminars and workshops intended to teach you new skills (or hone existing ones), tune up your attitude, and help you and your teammates to function better as a team. After all, who said only the leader needs development?

You probably already use many of these tools. My only hope (not a modest one) is that by simply bringing this to your attention, you will invest the time to focus (the operative word) on your leadership development. My main premise is that everyone has some degree of leadership capacity in them. You see this during times of crisis when a non-leader takes control of the situation. This is manifested in the military through astounding acts of heroism. An astute leader recognizes when he/she is not as effective as they want and need to be. Take a moment to review the checklist above to reflect on your situation. Perhaps this will give you a clue where you need to look deepest. Good luck on your search to discover and develop the best that is within you.

For more information, please click here to contact us or e-mail us at stan@fambizdoc.com