The Feather Pillow

the feather pillowThe sounds of thudding on the roof were loud and unexpected. After a moment, I realized the sounds were not coming from the roof, but the second story. What was she up to? And just then, my dog appeared. She was quite pleased, smiling broadly. With a feather in the corner of her eye. She had just shredded a feather pillow. Thousands of small feathers were scattered across my room. A mess to clean up, and, given the quantity of feathers, I’m sure they will continue to pop up over the coming weeks. She was just being a dog and enjoying herself while she shredded away. And while she has learned a lot about manners in the relatively short time I’ve had her, clearly there is more work to do to set the boundaries and expectations.

People in business do what they think is natural and right every day. They are proud of their work and eager to show it to you. And sometimes, as they stand there proudly, you will be shocked and dismayed. You know that like the feather pillow, there is a mess to clean up and there will be lasting effects. But before you go ballistic, think about whether you have set expectations. Your people are likely doing their best with good intentions, but may not be clear about expectations. How are you making sure you don’t have a feather pillow moment of your own?

Time is Your Most Precious Resource

Time is your most precious resourceIt is Monday. How often does this happen? You walk into work and look at your calendar to find a series of meetings, many of which you dread. Maybe they don’t have an objective designed to get to decisions. Maybe they are designed to share information that can be done via memo instead of a meeting. They are all time sucks that have a low return on your time. But, because they all appear urgent, you spend your time there instead of sitting back and determining whether the activity needs to be happen or can happen a different way. The reality is, you only have so much time in a day and it should be spent on in the highest impact areas.

Time is the one thing you can’t get more of. You can always find more money, equipment, etc. I don’t say that lightly, because finding more of those can be hard. But once time is gone, it is gone.   And we all have a finite clock that we work with, so where we spend our time matters. What actions are you taking to make sure you are spending your time wisely?

Knowing the levers

knowing the leversDo you know how much money you make on each of your products or services? Almost everyone I have worked with over the years says unequivocally yes! The only thing is, they really don’t. Over the years, a series of allocations and convoluted processes have been developed to try to understand better where money is being made, only to obscure the real profit drivers. Costs get divided into buckets, then divided again, and again so that the true cost is no longer understandable. As times changes, levers get pulled and the results are not as expected.

To regain control of the business, the first thing that needs to be done is peeling numbers apart and making them understandable. Getting away from allocations that distort the numbers is critical. Income statements should reflect the business with key drivers on separate lines. Most importantly though, is getting to profit by product or service. Getting as close to actuals as possible is important because if there are variances developing, that should be a signal to look at price, or that cost controls need to be put into place. The effort in going through this type of approach will highlight key levers in the business and provide information to make better decisions in how the business is run.

Creating a raving fan from a service hiccup

creating a raving fanIf you have a hiccup in service, this is the way to make a raving fan. We all know traveling isn’t what it used to be, breathing a sigh of relief upon arriving at the final destination. This time, the adventures weren’t quite over when I arrived ready to check in at 4:30. The receptionist advised me that my room wasn’t ready yet and would be in about an hour. Without any prompt or comment from me, she offered to buy me a cocktail in the bar for my inconvenience. By 5:00 my salad from lunch had worn off and I decided to have a few oysters to go along with my champagne. Not a bad way to pass the time. 6:00 rolled around and my room was ready. I stood up, asking the bartender for the check, expecting to pay for the oysters, etc. He said it was all taken care of. At the Four Seasons San Francisco, they know how to deliver top end service and turn what could be a frustrating situation into a pleasant one, creating a raving fan.

Service interruptions happen for one reason or another. Many times the response from the person delivering the bad news is “it’s not my fault” that you are not getting the service expected. And it is not. But the person on the receiving end doesn’t care whose fault it is, They just want what they believe they paid for. That is where the company has the ability make either a raving fan or a disgruntled customer. People on the front line have a tough job. Giving them the training, flexibility and authority to create a good experience is what differentiates companies with good customer experiences from those that you see in the news or on social media. How are you empowering your people to create raving fans?

Are You Good or Lucky?

Are you good or lucky?Do you ever drive down the freeway and see people driving at 60 miles per hour or more with less than three car lengths ahead of them? Not a day goes by that I don’t see this many times over. And, there are typically a number of people driving in blind spots. It is surprising that there aren’t more accidents. The reality is, there is not enough room to stop at that speed and that distance should the need arise. The drivers are lucky, not good. But, they think they are good drivers due to the absence of accidents.

Do you have this situation in your business? Is the measure of success the lack of something bad happening? If so, it is time to take a step back and look at the risk factors in your business. High performing companies know their risk factors and they know the levers in the business to pull at the appropriate times. Their measures of success are positive measures of their performance. How are you making sure you are good, not lucky.

Your pace will determines your success

Your pace will determine your successLots of good ideas and good people exist in the world. The ability to turn them into a product or service that is valued and sought after in the marketplace is many times a function of pace. Pace, speed, sense of urgency. It’s all pretty much the same thing. It is what sets high performing companies apart from average or below average performers.

So what is pace? It is the ability to make decisions quickly and the ability to adjust to changing market conditions before the competition. It is a workforce that knows the goal and starts shifting before being asked because conditions have changed. You see it walking around- people move quickly, conversations are focused and action oriented, you feel the energy and buzz just by walking in the room.

Companies that have figured out how to move quickly have a better chance of success than those that don’t. How are you picking up the pace?

Was figuring it out worth it?

is it worth figuring outHas this ever happened to you? You get asked a question and think “I need to find the answer to that,” or you start a puzzle and just have to figure it out. It takes longer than you thought it would. Much longer. After hours dinking around trying to figure it out, you realize you just burned valuable time. It just wasn’t worth the amount of time you spent trying to figure it out.

Before you get stuck in this trap at work, ask yourself:

  • Is figuring this out worth it?
  • Am I the right person to figure it out?
  • Would you pay the amount of money out of your own pocket that the time costs?
  • If the right person is someone else, is it worth disrupting their efforts to figure it out?
  • What is the real value to figuring it out?
  • Can it lead to innovations in your business?

Sometimes figuring it out has significant value. Many times it doesn’t. How do you assess whether it is worth it to figure it out?

The Aha Moment

the aha momentIt is funny how topics seem to come up in swarms. This week the subject of the Aha moment popped up several times. Each conversation had remarkable similarities to the others. Each was a story teaching a new concept. Sometimes the explanations for the change came in multiple forms and forums. At some point, the light goes on and people get it.

People learn in different ways and in different forms. Some do better seeing the information in writing. Others prefer hearing information. Change takes repetition, and lots of it. People need to understand why the change is happening and what is in it for them. At some point – and you won’t know when it will happen – people will get it. How are you helping people in your business reach the aha moment?

What got you here isn’t going to get you there

what got you here won't get you thereOver the last few weeks, I’ve had conversations with a variety of people through different groups, all of whom have a different focus. The commonality is, each person is looking to take themselves or their organizations to the next level. They have all done well in the past, but to get to that next level, new skills are needed.

It’s a pretty basic concept, but one that isn’t always considered. It requires reflection, asking questions, self-assessments, and perspectives from others. The key is to identify what is needed to be successful in the future. What are the skills needed? What is that unique perspective that makes a successful business or leader? What skills and perspectives do you or your business possess today? What do you need to do to bridge that gap to where you want to be?

You’re a natural!

you're a naturalIt was one of those flattering moments when a peer said I was a natural. The reality is, I’m not. It had taken hard work over years to get to the point where I was ok. But it was a good reminder of a conversation I had years ago. I was speaking with a gentleman who was responsible for investor relations for our mutual employer. He was incredible to watch! He always greeted people warmly with their name and was solely focused on them. He was welcoming, always in command of facts, and never seemed to be ruffled. One day I asked him if he came by it naturally or if he had to work at it. He shared openly how hard he had worked over the years to develop his skills. Once he developed the skills and made them habit, it then became easy to continue them.

The reality is operating a business well is the same way. It takes a lot of hard work to make things look natural and easy, pleasing customers, partners and employees. Once the hard work of getting to where things work well and become habit, it is then easy to maintain and becomes second nature. What steps are you taking to make things look natural in your business?