Leadership

Leadership, Crafting Culture and Management

What’s Your Biggest Leadership Challenge?

Tell me your current leadership challenge.

I’m working on a leadership series for next week’s episodes of the Grow Great Daily Brief podcast. I need your help.

Tell me the one big leadership challenge you currently face. I won’t be quoting anybody or using any names. I’m only looking for information to help me create content that will be helpful. You’re safe with me.

Where you’re at in your career, your experience, your personality, your skills, your gifts – all those things that provide the CONTEXT of your life have an impact on your answer. It’s among the many reasons I’m so intent on telling my audience – and my clients – “You’ll figure it out.” I’m just here to help you do that.

Growing great is a process. It takes a lot of work, a significant investment in time and a relentless curiosity (that’ll be an episode later this week – curiosity).

Email me at RandyCantrell [at] gmail [dot] com and let me know your answer to the question. I appreciate your help.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Grow Great: It’s Still About Your Leadership

Over 20 years ago I distilled business building into what I called the “trifecta” of business building:

  1. Getting new customers
  2. Serving existing customers better
  3. Not going crazy in the process

It’s always been about growing, improving and transforming. Mostly my own leadership. And boy did it sometimes need heavy doses of all three. While my intent may have been well placed, my execution was often way off the mark. 

Almost 3 decades of C-Suite experience running companies and committing just about every foul possible taught me a thing or three. So when I stepped away from the daily grind of operating multi-million dollar businesses some years ago, I committed to helping top-level leaders and business owners overcome the disadvantages of the natural siloing that happens when you’re the #1.

That’s what the Grow Great podcast is all about. Your leadership. Your challenges. Your pain. Your opportunities. 

It’s about the whole YOU. 

If you’re an executive, a leader, a business owner – Grow Great is aimed at helping you with weekly insights, experiences, stories, perspectives and whatever other resources we can marshal to help you grow, improve and transform. It’s not about the leadership at the office. It’s about your ability to lead an improved life. 

It’s time to stop hiding and start making better decisions. It’s time to stop feeling like a winner in one arena while feeling like a failure in some others. You didn’t get where you are by thinking about what isn’t possible. You did it by aiming at what is possible. And you proved it. So don’t stop climbing now…the best is yet to come.

I hope you’ll subscribe. Drop me a note. Tell me about yourself and what’s going on with you. I’ll help you by asking you a question, “What’s the one thing you wish somebody would help you with right now?”

Subscribe to the podcast

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Thank you!

TPA5035 - Listening: Leadership Job #1 - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

TPA5035 – Listening: Leadership Job #1

TPA5035 - Listening: Leadership Job #1 - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

The owner was pompous. He relished being “the boss.” He was middle-aged. I was in college. This was retail. I was selling stereo gear and going to school. He was just another boss teaching me how NOT to lead and manage. Fact was, in my opinion, he wasn’t good (or effective) at either. But thankfully he had a manager who both good and effective. In that one job, I was able to watch and learn both sides of the coin. How not to do it. How to do it.

Here we were on the frontlines of retailing serving customers for hours each day. We heard their questions. We heard their requests. Every day we stood toe-to-toe in conversation with our customers. The owner never sought out our opinions or insights. It frustrated all of us. 

Instead, he barked out orders, passed down edicts and made policy changes that seemed whimsical. I never remember him approaching us, or asking us to approach him. Daily I’d think, “There’s quite a bit of brain power running around here. Why doesn’t he tap into it?” The answer was pretty simple: he was too busy being “the boss” to care. Like so many bosses, he behaved as though he were the smartest guy in the room (any room). Who were we? A bunch of college kids! Nobodies. 

Bosses of all ilks are susceptible to the same blind spots. Getting it wrong by diminishing the value of their team. Collectively and individually. 

Come on, you’re the boss! There’s no way your team members can know more you. No way they can know better than you. Why should you engage them in problem-solving?

Have you ever seen an episode of that TV show, Undercover Boss? Todd Pedersen, CEO and Founder of Vivint, Inc. appeared on one episode back in 2015. One scene reveals how it’s not about being the smartest guy or gal in the room. It’s about asking questions and listening. Todd is working alongside a woman who works in the call center. Vivint was founded by Todd as a home security company. The call center is deep in the trenches of the company’s service priority. This is the front line of customer interaction with the company. These employees wear headsets as they’re fielding many phones each hour. Todd has a headset and the employee who is training him also has on a headset. That way, Todd is able to listen in on the same call and he can take a call with his trainer on the line, too. She takes a call. The static is so bad she can’t hear the customer. Professionally, she does her very best to help the customer, but it’s painful for both her and the customer. The headset is constantly cutting in and out. When the call ends, she complains to Todd that they’ve been lobbying for upgrades to their headsets for a long time, but it seems nobody listens. The VP of the division isn’t responsive to their input. 

You can see Todd begin to fume. Here is his company, in a high tech industry, with phones that are scratchy and can’t maintain a good connection. As I watched it, back when it first aired, I was reminded of what I’d read back in 1987 by Scandinavian Airlines System CEO, Jan Carlzon, in the book – Moments Of Truth. If the flipdown trays on the planes have coffee stains, then passengers wonder if the maintenance is any good. He said,

SAS is ‘created’ 50 million times a year, 15 seconds at a time. These 50 million ‘moments of truth’ are the moments that ultimately determine whether SAS will succeed or fail as a company. They are the moments when we must prove to our customers that SAS is their best alternative.

Todd Pedersen knew that, but like so many leaders in growing companies, he realized he had lost touch. Worse yet, he had a boss working for him, the VP of the call center, who wasn’t listening. Nobody was listening to this hourly worker who was answering tons of calls from customers every single day. They’re smarter than her. So they thought.

Pedersen revamped the entire phone system. 

Leaders make decisions. Our job is to serve the people we’re commissioned to lead. We forget that. We may wrongly think our job is to be large and in charge. And we most certainly have management responsibilities. But the work is different. Congruent, but different.

Leaders lead people. Managers manage the work done by those people. 

In YOU both roles are rolled up into one person. One position. It doesn’t matter if you’re the owner/founder, CEO, VP or a team leader of a small band of employees. The scope and scale of your work may differ from others, but leading and managing are still the role — and the job. And you can’t do either of them well if you can’t make good decisions. You can’t make good decisions if you limit the information and data available. And you do that every time you refuse to listen to others. Their insight, experience and knowledge will make you better. If you avail yourself of it. 

Todd Pedersen’s VP could have listened to the front line people who worked under his leadership. But he didn’t. He failed. Fact was, based on the big problem with the phone systems, he was failing as a leader and a manager. He could have wildly succeeded as both if he’d listened, made a proper determination and acted. If you’re the CEO, why do you need a VP like that around? You don’t. He serves nobody! 

What Can You Do Today?

  1. Privately, one-on-one, approach your direct reports with a single question, “What’s the one thing you need from me today to help you do your job better?”
  2. Then shut up and listen.
  3. Take in the information from each of them and follow up for clarification if you must, but make a decision.
  4. Take action.

Many leaders are appropriately concerned about culture. Some engage months of consulting to help them figure out ways to improve their culture. Save your money. Start asking better questions aimed at helping you better serve your team members, then listen. Not to patronize them, but to take meaningful action that will elevate everybody’s performance. Ping me and let me know how that works out because I already know how it’s gonna work out. Your culture will improve very quickly as team members realize you’re really interested. You care. You listen. You do something about the problems. 

Oh, and one final thing. Don’t forget to thank them after you hear what they have to say. 

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

TPA5034 – Grow Your Business: Managing The Changes By Improving Your Decision-Making

Business is summed up in the trifecta of business building: getting new customers, serving existing customers better and not going crazy in the process.

You’ve owned and operated your business for almost a decade now. Like most, those first years were touch ‘n go. Moments of exhilaration followed by periods of…well, near despair. You didn’t care. It was going to happen or you were going to die trying. It’s the commitment every founder experiences. The energy required to break away from earth’s orbit is immense. So it is with every business owner at the beginning. 

Thankfully, around year 4 you started feeling like this was going to actually work out. Success started being somewhat predictable. And new challenges started popping onto your calendar. Growing pains. 

Finding good employees. Training them. 

Generating more sales to feed the beast. Sales are in constant need of attention. If not sales themselves, margins! There’s always pressure, but you’ve just got to figure out new ways to generate predictable results. 

Operations challenges abound. Basic things like answering the phones promptly and correctly, to following through on customer service corrections. 

There are days where you feel like you’ve been in a 3-day knife fight. You feel bloodied, exhausted and you even catch yourself sometimes questioning the pain of it all. You know you’re not going to quit, but there are days where you start questioning your sanity. 

So it goes with the trifecta: getting new customers, serving existing customers better and not going crazy in the process. For years you’ve lived by the mantra, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” You’ve embraced that because mostly it’s true. Sure, you’ve got some really terrific people. You’ve also got some not so great people. And you’ve got some really solid outside people who serve you like your attorney and CPA. Your contact list has never been bigger, or broader. But the changes and growth (and the challenges) have somehow put you on the “Be Careful Island.” This is where every business owner finds themselves as the business grows, expands and gets increasingly more complicated. You’re the #1. You know what you know and you’ve got to be careful about who you talk with, and what you talk about. It sparks a feeling that’s more of a question, “Is there a better way?” So you wonder.

I don’t know any business owners who has felt differently. We only know what we know. It’s our experience. Each day we’re living our life, both real and imaged (in our head).

You’re smart. Experienced. Wise. There are some things you’ve known most of your life – since you were just a child. Friends matter. Acquaintances, too. Family certain matters. All these people in your life serve a vital role for you. They always have. There’s just this thing that has happened since forming your business. You’re living a different life. Marching to a different drummer as a business owner. Not everybody understands what you understand because they’re not experiencing the same thing. They struggle to relate. You struggle to help them relate. 

Mostly, your drive to grow your business hasn’t slowed. If anything, it’s amped up higher over time. What was once thought impossible in those early days is within reach today. And what might tomorrow be if we could only solve a few key issues? It’s exciting to think about.

Pressure builds. You’ve got more employees than you’ve ever had. Costs continue to rise. Margins are always under pressure. Just the other day you sat back in your chair lamenting that you’re putting out fires you thought you had already put out. They somehow continue to smolder and flame up again. Over and over. “Just once I’d like to fight a new fight,” you said to yourself. It seems the same things that vexed you yesterday are still vexing you today. 

You’re not ready for help because it’s in your DNA. You’re the Captain. This is your ship. You’re in charge. “If it is to be, it’s up to me!” Besides, only weaklings need help. But deep down you know that’s completely false. You learned it when you just a kid. The people around you make all the difference in the world. Except, now you’re lacking some really important people because your station in life is different today.

Let’s consider all the roles ascribed to people who may be able to help. These are merely definitions. There’s no judgment here because this is a judgment-free zone!

Mentor – an experienced and trusted adviser

Peer – a person who is similarly equal to another in some way (my definition as it pertains to The Peer Advantage)

Coach – one who instructs or trains

Consultant – one who gives professional advice or services

Advisorone who counsels

Confidant – a person with whom one shares a secret or private matter, trusting them not to repeat it to others

Friend – a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection

You’ve got people in your life who have filled one or more of these roles. You know their names. You know what value they delivered to your life. You may not have thought of them using these titles, but it’s not about the names as it is the functions. The service!

Daily leaders just like you face many decisions. The organization is waiting on you for the decision. Some are big, most aren’t. Some are critical, others seem almost insignificant. Doesn’t matter. They still need to be made. Because until a decision is made everything is on pause. Or stop. And business can’t grow if we’re paused or stopped. You can’t grow if you’re paused or stopped.

Change surrounds you. Remember the morning you got a text before you even left the house? You got blind-sided with an issue that wasn’t even on your calendar. Suddenly, the change dominates your day (maybe longer). Your daily life is like a commuter driving to work in a car that’s perfectly fine. Until he has a tire blow out. Tires weren’t on his mind. His tires were fine. Until they weren’t. Now, he’s shopping for tires and trying to figure out when and how to get this problem solved. This is your life. Except it’s much more complicated than buying a new tire. That decision is easy!

Change dominates every business and every market. As the leader, your ability to help your company navigate that change is crucial to your future. Yesterday’s success is something for which you’re thankful, but it’s not going to get you where you want to go. Ever present on your mind are your employees and customers. Many people are depending on you. Decisions have consequences. Or rewards. And some changes require decisions for which there are no “do over’s.” You must get it right or suffer significant pain.

This is where insight and deeper thought would really help you. So some quiet time. Asking hard questions of your direct reports. It’s all helpful. But is it enough? Maybe. Maybe not.

The best way to manage change is to manage your decision-making. How can you do that? There are many ways. I don’t suppose it’s a one-size-fits-all kind of a deal. But I do know there’s one resource that every single business person could benefit from – joining forces with other business owners who are all experiencing similar feelings, thoughts, and challenges. People with whom you can easily relate. People who understand what you’re going through and are committed to helping you — because they know you’ll do the same for them. 

From the foundation of our country U.S. Presidents have surrounded themselves with advisers capable of helping them see all the various sides of an issue. These advisers don’t make the decisions. That’s always resided with the President. As the #1 you are tasked with that responsibility and authority. 

President Washington had some pretty good company surrounding him. Names like Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams. Do you have any doubt that President Washington relied on these, and other men, to help him see things more clearly? To examine perspectives he may not have considered on his own? Every U.S. President has been and still is currently surrounded by people who provide insights, perspectives, differing viewpoints and other useful services in order to help him make better decisions. 

You’re not running a country, but your decisions are important. Their impact is big. You owe it to your company, yourself and everybody who is impacted by your decisions to grow, improve and transform so your business can grow great. U.S. Presidents have seemingly limitless resources to put people around them who they feel will best serve them, and our country. You’re at a disadvantage. Sorta. 

I’m going to introduce another phrase that incorporates one of those titles of people who serve us, The Peer Advantage. This is an important one because frankly, it encompasses each of those earlier roles or titles: mentor, peer, coach, consultant, adviser, confidant, and friend. The Peer Advantage is all of these roles wrapped up into one. When we seize an opportunity for The Peer Advantage we’re in a safe place where nothing we do or say will used against us. Where we can speak freely from our heart about what’s troubling us, or where we need help. Where we can brag about our successes and be given words of affirmation to fuel our confidence to even higher levels. Where we can learn and teach. Where we can listen and speak. Where we can be helped and help. Where we can sit side by side with people who get us and respect us. And people who deserve that from us, too. 

The outcome – the result – is perhaps the most powerful decision-making improvement tool ever. And it’s not based on technology or a fast computer. It’s not math or science-based. It’s not digital, it’s analog. It’s people helping people. It’s people willing to be served and willing to serve. It’s small. Intimate. Personal. POWERFUL. 

The Peer Advantage isn’t about people telling you what to do. It’s about people asking questions to help you figure out what’s best for you to do. It’s people pushing each other to achieve heights they may have never thought possible. 

You make many investments in your business. Maybe you buy merchandise. Sometimes you make a great buy that will garner extraordinary margins. They don’t come around nearly often enough, but when they do — you’re excited. Everything you do has a cost. And a return. Sometimes the return is negative. Things don’t always work out. 

The Peer Advantage has a cost/reward just like anything else. You’ve likely heard that adage about pointing the finger at somebody. When you do, you’ve got 3 more pointing back at yourself. That’s a 3:1 negative ROI. Well, The Peer Advantage is at the very least a 7:1 ROI because it consists of 7 business owners who are all committed to their growth and improvement. Like you, they want to make the best decisions possible as they navigate the changes in their industries and companies. Like you, they’re willing to let others help them see things more clearly by asking questions and sharing experiences. And like you, they’re also willing to provide that help to the others in the group. The Peer Advantage is likely the smartest room you’ll ever enter because the power is the collective. It’s the room. It’s the total group working jointing together to push their businesses to new levels of financial success. 

But honestly 7:1 is the bare minimum ROI. Have you ever made a decision that had a 6-figure outcome? How about a 7-figure outcome? Sure. It happens. What if a decision were impacted by a question you’d not considered? Or by a shared experience that was outside your own experience? What if you made a decision based on insights you hadn’t considered before – insights provided by somebody else (as Dr. Henry Cloud calls them, “The Power Of The Other”) – resulted in a 6-figure more favorable difference? Or a 7-figure more favorable difference? The ROI can (and often does) soar over time as the collective becomes tighter and better able to serve each other. It’s like that credit card company slogan, “Priceless.”

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They're Not Entirely Who You Are - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They’re Not Entirely Who You Are

CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They're Not Entirely Who You Are - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

Bernard (Bernie) started his company in 1989. He’ll readily tell you that it wasn’t easy. Many years were spent feeling “more married” to the business than his wife, Ruth. Ruth confirms it. But they managed to endure the hardships, long hours and mad scrambles to make payroll. By 1993 the business was generating a few million dollars in gross revenue. Bernie and Ruth weren’t yet earning the kind of the money they had hoped, but they persisted. By 1996, seven years in, they felt they were escaping the gravitational pull of failure that snatches so many business start-up’s. 

Bernie was always proud to tell people he was the President of his own company. Entrepreneurship wasn’t something he applied to himself. Instead, he was just a business owner and that moniker was glorious enough to suit him. 

Over time the company has experienced up’s and downs – often influenced by the economy. Not unlike many small businesses. Bernie figures he’s experienced just about everything in the 25 plus years he’s been running his own company. Thankful that he’s been successful, and able to achieve a high income, he and Ruth have raised three children. Their youngest is due to graduate from college this year. 

Bernie sits with the calm confidence of a seasoned warrior. I know that look. It’s a look I see sometimes when I look in the mirror, or when somebody takes my picture unexpectedly while sitting in a meeting. We’re not rookies. The street fighting skills of building a business have weathered us, but not worn us completely out. Yet. 

He laments a truth we both know and understand. There’s more to him than his business. Very few people – other than his family – know him outside the context of his business. He remembers a time before he started his company. “I was a nobody,” he says. But he doesn’t quite mean that. Not literally. He goes on to talk of his circle of business acquaintances – he calls them “friends” out of habit. But they’re not friends in the traditional sense, or in the ideal sense. That is, they’re not people with whom he can shell it down. As he puts it, “I can really be myself.” 

It sparks conversation about how as business leaders – business owners – we’re not entirely the roles or titles we wear. He wears the title, President. You may wear the title, CEO. Or, Founder. Or, Owner. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you understand it’s just one aspect – admittedly, a very large aspect perhaps – of who you really are. 

Bernie isn’t a President to Ruth. Or to his children. But he confesses that to most everybody else, that’s exactly who he is. There’s a sadness in his eyes as he speaks. “Some days I feel like I’m just another asset or resource of the company,” he says. “It can be easy to stop feeling human almost.”

Human. Being human.

Feelings. Emotions. Fears. Concerns. Sadness. Joy. Dread. Anticipation. 

These are human. We don’t speak in those terms when we’re “doing business.” We should. Because business is human. Businesses are operated, led and managed by humans. Businesses provide products and services to other humans. It’s all human, but we avoid the humanity of it all. Too often.

Are you a CEO, President, Founder, Owner who sometimes (maybe often) feels that way? Do you find yourself feeling isolated, unable to find people with whom you can be human? 

I’m in a phase of my own career – after spending over 30 plus years leading businesses – where I’m vigorously pursuing helping business owners and leaders find greater significance and higher levels of achievement. No, it’s not always easy because growth, improvement, and transformation demand asking hard questions. They need collaborators who care enough about us to serve us. People with whom we can be vulnerable without fear that what we say, or do will be used against us. Surrounded by people who won’t judge us, but instead will offer us their insights and experiences to help us decide for ourselves. Not people who will tell us what we should do, or people who want to live our lives for us. Instead, people who understand us and want us to reach new heights — and want us to help them do the same. A reciprocal relationship unlike any we may have ever had before. 

That’s my work. It’s where I began investing, to prepare for 2018 and the establishment of THE PEER ADVANTAGE

The “pitch” is simple, but powerful. 

Seven business owners from around the United States. Any industry. Any location. Any revenue level. People who are driven to grow as people (and yes, owners driven to grow their businesses, too). It’s about people joining forces a few times each month to push themselves individually and collectively. People willing and capable of being vulnerable with one another knowing that’s where the real value is found – in being human with each other! 

There’s no selling to this. As much sales DNA as I have, I’m the anti-sales guy in this effort because experience has taught me that people see the value in challenging their own growth, or they don’t. Those who don’t aren’t fit for the task. Honestly, nor are they the kind of business with whom I want to associate or serve. 

Learn more by going here. Complete the “application” without obligation because it’s merely an application to spark a conversation where we can find out more about each other. Together we can decide if this is something that’s right for either of us. It has to be right for both of us! Because we’re all in this together! I look forward to meeting you and finding out more about you and your company.

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

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