Growthinkers, I am excited to say that today is Growthink Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Jones' 8th anniversary here with the company. Jeff, thank you for all of the hard work and great attitude over the years and here's to many more!!
Macaroni Cheese, Sweet Fries, Pork and beer for dinner and a fried donut for dessert. Good prep meal for 8 hour client strategic planning session with 22 executives tomorrow. Life is good.
I want to congratulate Andrew Bordeaux on his promotion to Chief Operating Officer of Growthink Publishing.
Effective immediately, Andrew will be taking a much larger role in managing the operations of Growthink Publishing. We look forward to Andrew's leadership and management as we continue to grow.
Thank you to all of the team members who joined us for bowling night last evening. It was a terrific fun and a great way to spend time with the team!
Special Acknowledgement to Sean Harty who had the high score of the night with 185!!!!
Special thanks to Jeff Jones, my evening Co-Host and our fearless leader and bowling coach, Jay Turo.
Great work to the team who volunteered yesterday at Crenshaw High School for the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (nfte.com)! It was exciting to see the team help students plan out their businesses for the business plan competition.
Receiving notes like this from satisfied Growthink clients are a great way to start the day - BIG kudos to Engagement Manager Brian Yanez for a job well done!
"I'd like to thank you for your tremendous hard work on this project. You're availability and attention to detail, as well as your incorporation of your business/marketing expertise into our ideas and requests to create the plan we are looking for was extremely professional and well done. I would recommend Growthink to anyone needing these type services. Looking forward to taking our final, polished plan to our investors."
and from his partner:
Thanks for the updated info - it really looks amazing.. we TRULY appreciate all your hard work. You are very talented, and we thank you for your amazing services.
"Culture eats strategy for lunch."
~~ Peter Drucker
Business leaders reach C-Level status by developing innovative business plans, out maneuvering the competition, and shifting strategy when circumstances dictate.
Why then do so many C- Level executives achieve only marginal results – or fail out right?
Here’s the answer: It’s the “human element” – the corporate culture – that often derails potentially profitable organizations – and careers. For example, interpersonal conflicts and behaviors waste valuable time – and divert attention from your mission and vision. Team disputes stall or sabotage key projects. Communication lapses during a crisis cause additional unnecessary complications.
Ailing corporate culture threatens the bottom line – and can challenge the leadership skills — as well as the viability — of even currently profitable organizations.
Here’s the good news: ailing workplace cultures can be transformed. This transformation always starts with you – the leader. After all, corporate culture changes every day. And it’s you – the leader – who determines the nature and direction of these changes.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Tip #1: Follow your employees. Successful corporate culture transformations begin by paying attention to your most valuable asset – employees who show up ready to work.
Of course, the pursuit of your mission and vision — looking forward — is your top leadership priority. That’s why it’s essential to stimulate the next idea within your organization. Otherwise, your visionary goals are never reached.
Too many leaders forget: it’s what happens after you float your idea that really counts.
Ask yourself: are your employees free to shoot your ideas down? Or modify them so that “your idea” ends up a much better idea? Everyone has influence and demonstrates leadership in successful organizations – no matter what their position within your organization.
Tip #2: Set the ground rules. How individuals within organizations communicate among themselves, make decisions, and resolve conflicts are issues to tackle early on. It’s critical that everyone knows “the rules” from the onset. Otherwise, when critical situations arise, you’ll be figuring out the process – not effectively addressing the immediate problem or crisis.
As mentioned before, it’s best to hardwire “the rules” from the start. Sometimes that’s just not possible. It’s never too late to train your employees – cost effectively – to improve your corporate culture. .
Tip #3: Stand apart – and just listen. How does your organization feel to a casual observer or potential customer? Ask yourself: what do you rub against when people spend with my employees? Were those staff members really talking derisively about a client in the elevator? Does bad-mouthing of supervisors or co-workers routinely take place in full earshot of other employees and customers? Are staff conflicts played out in full view of customers?
These observations – like nothing else — alert you to immediate necessary corporate culture changes key to the survival and growth of your organization.
I'm sure it's happened to you: You're in a tense team meeting trying to defend your position on a big project and start to feel yourself losing ground. Your voice gets louder. You talk over one of your colleagues and correct his point of view. He pushes back, so you go into overdrive to convince everyone you're right. It feels like an out of body experience — and in many ways it is. In terms of its neurochemistry, your brain has been hijacked.
In situations of high stress, fear or distrust, the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol floods the brain. Executive functions that help us with advanced thought processes like strategy, trust building, and compassion shut down. And the amygdala, our instinctive brain, takes over. The body makes a chemical choice about how best to protect itself — in this case from the shame and loss of power associated with being wrong — and as a result is unable to regulate its emotions or handle the gaps between expectations and reality. So we default to one of four responses: fight (keep arguing the point), flight (revert to, and hide behind, group consensus), freeze (disengage from the argument by shutting up) or appease (make nice with your adversary by simply agreeing with him).
All are harmful because they prevent the honest and productive sharing of information and opinion. But, as a consultant who has spent decades working with executives on their communication skills, I can tell you that the fight response is by far the most damaging to work relationships. It is also, unfortunately, the most common.
That's partly due to another neurochemical process. When you argue and win, your brain floods with different hormones: adrenaline and dopamine, which makes you feel good, dominant, even invincible. It's a the feeling any of us would want to replicate. So the next time we're in a tense situation, we fight again. We get addicted to being right.
I've coached dozens of incredibly successful leaders who suffer from this addiction. They are extremely good at fighting for their point of view (which is indeed often right) yet they are completely unaware of the dampening impact that behavior has on the people around them. If one person is getting high off his or her dominance, others are being drummed into submission, experiencing the fight, flight, freeze or appease response I described before, which diminishes their collaborative impulses.
Luckily, there's another hormone that can feel just as good as adrenaline: oxytocin. It's activated by human connection and it opens up the networks in our executive brain, or prefrontal cortex, further increasing our ability to trust and open ourselves to sharing. Your goal as a leader should be to spur the production of oxytocin in yourself and others, while avoiding (at least in the context of communication) those spikes of cortisol and adrenaline.
Here are a few exercises for you to do at work to help your (and others') addiction to being right:Set rules of engagement. If you're heading into a meeting that could get testy, start by outlining rules of engagement. Have everyone suggest ways to make it a productive, inclusive conversation and write the ideas down for everyone to see. For example, you might agree to give people extra time to explain their ideas and to listen without judgment. These practices will counteract the tendency to fall into harmful conversational patterns. Afterwards, consider see how you and the group did and seek to do even better next time.
Listen with empathy. In one-on-one conversations, make a conscious effort to speak less and listen more. The more you learn about other peoples' perspectives, the more likely you are to feel empathy for them. And when you do that for others, they'll want to do it for you, creating a virtuous circle.Plan who speaks. In situations when you know one person is likely to dominate a group, create an opportunity for everyone to speak. Ask all parties to identify who in the room has important information, perspectives, or ideas to share. List them and the areas they should speak about on a flip chart and use that as your agenda, opening the floor to different speakers, asking open-ended questions and taking notes.
Connecting and bonding with others trumps conflict. I've found that even the best fighters — the proverbial smartest guys in the room — can break their addiction to being right by getting hooked on oxytocin-inducing behavior instead.
As CEO, you know that you cannot build a world-class company unless you maintain a world-class team. But how do you know if an executive is world-class? Beyond that, if she was world-class when you hired her, will she stay world-class? If she doesn’t, will she become world-class again?
These are complex questions and are made more complex by the courting process. Every CEO sets out to hire the very best person in the world and then recruits aggressively to get him. If he says yes, she inevitably thinks she’s hit the jackpot. If I had a tattoo for every time I heard a CEO claim that she’d just hired “the best VP in the industry,” I’d be Lil’ Wayne.
So we begin with a strong bias that whomever we hired must be world-class even before performing one day of work. To make matters worse, executives who start off world-class often deteriorate over time. If you watch sports, you know that world-class athletes don’t stay world-class for long. One day, you are Terrell Owens and the next day you are Terrell Owens. While executives don’t age nearly as fast as athletes do, companies, markets and technology change 1,000 times faster than football. As a result, the executive who is spectacular in this year’s 100-person startup may be washed up in next year’s version when the company has 400 people and $100 million in revenue.
The first thing to understand is that just because somebody interviewed well and referenced checked great does not mean she will perform superbly in your company. There are two kinds of cultures in this world: cultures where what you do matters and cultures where all that matters is who you are. You can be the former or you can suck.
You must hold your people to a high standard, but what is that standard? I discussed setting this standard in “Old People”. In addition, keep the following in mind:
- You did not know everything when you hired her. While it feels awkward, it is perfectly reasonable to change and raise your standards as you learn more about what’s needed and what’s competitive in your industry.
- You must get leverage. Early on, it’s natural to spend a great deal of time integrating and orienting an executive. However, if find yourself as busy as you were with that function before you hired or promoted the executive, then she is below standard.
- As CEO, you can do very little employee development. One of the most depressing lessons of my career when I became CEO was that I could not develop the people who reported to me. The demands of the job made it such that the people who reported to me had to be 99% ready to perform. Unlike when I ran a function or was a general manager, there was no time to develop raw talent. That can and must be done elsewhere in the company, but not at the executive level. If someone needs lots of training, she is below standard.
It is possible to take the standard setting too far. As I discussed in “The Scale Anticipation Fallacy”, it’s not necessary nor is it a good idea to evaluate an executive based on what her job will be two years from now. You can cross that bridge when you come to it. Evaluate her on how she performs right here and right now.
On Expectations and Loyalty
If you have a great and loyal executive, how do you communicate all this? How do you tell her that despite the massive effort and great job she is doing today, you might fire her next year if she doesn’t keep up with the changes in the business?
When I used to review executives, I would tell them: “You are doing a great job at your current job, but the plan says that we will have twice as many employees next year as we have right now. Therefore, you will have a new and very different job and I will have to re-evaluate you on that job. If it makes you feel better, that rule goes for everyone on the team including me.”
In giving this kind of direction, it’s important to point out to the executive that when the company doubles in size, she has a new job. This means that doing things that made her successful in her old job will not necessarily translate to success in the new job. In fact, the No. 1 way that executives fail is by continuing to do their old job rather than moving on to their new job.
Finally, what about being loyal to the team that got you here? If your current executive team helped you 10X your company, how can you dismiss them when they fall behind in running the behemoth they created? The answer is that your loyalty must go to your employees—the people who report to your executives. Your engineers, marketing people, sales people, finance and HR people who are doing the work. You owe them a world-class management team. That’s the priority.
I recently sat down with a friend who was down on his luck. His situation, which had been worsening for years, felt hopeless. Like so many Americans, he was in a state of despair and just couldn’t get unstuck.
When I asked him what he was doing to improve things, he rattled off a long list of obstacles. He had obviously spent many thoughtful hours contemplating all the things that were holding him back. All the reasons he couldn’t change direction.
To be sure, he was facing many real roadblocks. Many of the same issues that are plaguing our country. But he really didn’t answer my question. He was solely focused on the problem and refused to let his mind explore possible solutions.
I decided to press him. “Okay. I get that you have many, many tough obstacles. How about this… Tell me ONE thing you could do to improve things? Just one. Doesn’t have to be game-changing. Just one small positive action.”
When the pressure of solving the world’s problems with a magical potion was off, the conversation took a sharp turn for the better. “Well, I could go to the library and start learning more about my industry to become better at my job.”
“Great! Go on,” I beamed.
“I could start going for walks three times a week to drop some extra weight. I could also cut out fried foods. Oh, and I could spend more evenings engaging with the kids instead of hitting the couch.”
The guy who had been as tightly closed as a Wal-Mart on Christmas day transformed before my eyes. His energy skyrocketed. His list of small ideas compounded into a solid plan of attack to turn his life around.
While it’s overwhelming to try to solve all your problems at once, the act of putting just one small change in place can create the momentum you need. Find one thing you can do to improve your condition and do consistently it for a week. It will jumpstart your situation like a triple shot of espresso.
Here’s a powerful way to look at it: You are getting paid to train. Athletes spend 90% of their time in training, and because their performance improves they command huge salaries on the field. Your career is no different, except there’s a slight delay. When you study your craft, go to the gym, eat healthier food, read a book or take a class, that is a high-paying effort that will be paid out in future earnings since you’ll be better equipped to drive your career forward.
The same is true in our community. We need to identify positive action and get moving instead of wallowing in hopelessness. We need to attack our challenges with vigor, and realize that with each small step forward, we’re earning a high rate of return by ensuring a brighter future. This week, look around and find a single change you can make.
One small step. The payback will be priceless.