Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

This Determines the Future Success of Your Business…

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As I look back across two decades of working with companies around the world, there are a few key ideas that I think are fundamental to business success, here is one of them:

 

The success of your business is directly tied to the quality of the people that you can get, grow and keep on your team – and the relationships they create with your customers.

I have yet to meet a single business leader that does not strongly agree with this idea, however I see a lot of businesses where they do not actually live this idea. Today I want to talk about the growth and development of top talent.

Once you get somebody on your team, there is absolutely no excuse for not investing time, energy and money in helping that person continuously improve.

Frankly, I believe this is the single most important investment you can make in your company, because without highly talented people who are steadily getting better and better, you have no chance of making your company better and better. I also write above that there is, “no excuse” because never in the history of humankind has there been more information available, much of it for free, to assist you in delivering world-class training to your people.

Here are just a few of the things that you should be doing:

  • Formal mentoring program
  • Creating a formal development plan for each employee
  • Creating an internal training department
  • Training classes taught by qualified outside instructors
  • Cross training
  • Benchmarking your training efforts against leading companies
  • Buying a copy of a book for each of your employees
  • Creating a lending library of top business books
  • Creating a lending library of training CDs
  • Getting your employees a membership to an audiobook service
  • Getting your employees a membership to a book summary service
  • Bringing in outside experts for a “lunch and learn”
  • Taking your employees to visit other companies
  • Sending out a newsletter with good information for your employees
  • Sending out a list of top podcasts they should be listening to
  • Sending out a list of YouTube videos they should watch
  • Investing in online/virtual training for your employees
  • Taking your employees to a major training seminar by an expert
  • Taking your employees to an industry event
  • Annual or semiannual company training conferences

These are just a few things that I came up with off the top of my head, I’m sure there are several more you could add to this list. But here is my point: if you are not doing all or most of this then you’re not truly serious about helping your people (and your company) to be as successful as possible. A good deal of what I have listed is absolutely free, much of it is very inexpensive, and only a few things require significant financial investment. But I can tell you this, not doing the things on this list is very, very expensive.

If you found value in this blog, I hope you will share it with your network.

***  I wanted to let you know about a very special event I will be participating in on March 12-14 at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in the incredibly beautiful town of Banff, Canada. It will be an exclusive retreat for leaders of fast growth businesses who are looking to engage with other leaders in pursuit of higher levels of performance. We have done this event twice in the past and it has been a resounding success. If you’re interested, here is a link to learn more about the program, we would love to have you join us!

Click HERE to find out more

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The Big Trends From 2016

shutterstock_150443150I am sitting in my hotel room in San Diego taking in the view from the 16th floor. I’ve just delivered my last speech of the year, it was on advanced sales, teamwork and the future of work. This year I had the opportunity to work with clients in six countries, dozens of different industries, from small startups to the Fortune 10. Here are a few big trends that stuck out to me as I look back over 2016.

Communications: I have not worked for a company in my entire career that did not have some sort of communication challenges, but this year they seem to be even more prevalent. In business after business I encountered organizations which had trouble clearly communicating their vision and strategy for growth, their purpose and core values, and the critical information needed to keep their employees engaged and aligned.

The key to successfully overcoming this ever challenging issue is simply to over communicate using every channel available; one-on-one meetings, town halls, weekly meetings, email, social media, video… any way you can think of to share important information with your employees, vendors and customers. When you think you will get sick if you talk about the vision and strategy one more time, the lowest person in your organization just heard it for the very first time.

Execution: The lack of disciplined execution is the single biggest problem I see in companies around the world. I meet a lot of very smart people who develop unique and compelling strategic plans that would surely give them a strong competitive advantage, only to see them struggle mightily in taking their plans and turning them into results in the marketplace.

The key to successfully overcoming this challenge is to make sure you spend as much time building your execution plan as you do on creating the strategic plan. Your plan must have clear, specific, measurable and binary goals. As I often say: Ambiguity Breeds Mediocrity. For a strategic plan to be successful it MUST have extremely clear expectations of what is required, who is responsible, how the work is to be done and when it is due. Then, you have to have the discipline to consistently work the plan and make sure it stays at the forefront of everyone’s mind. I promise you this, if you could increase the effective execution of your strategy by just 10%, it would have a massive positive impact on the success of your organization. This was a major focus of my work for clients this year and I anticipate it will be again next year because even the best strategy in the world is useless without superb execution.

Technology: For the last several years people have been talking about the, “hyper-speed of technological change,” but I don’t think they really understood just how fast technology is actually changing and the mind-boggling impact is going to have on every business in just the next few years. A number of my clients have asked me to deliver speeches on the future of leadership and business, which has forced me to invest a large amount of my time into studying the various trends in emerging technologies. To name just a few; robotics, artificial intelligence, big data, Internet of Things, genetic decoding and recoding, synthetic medicine, virtual reality and augmented reality are all accelerating at a pace that will leave many, many companies and people completely unable to keep up. Even though I have devoured all of the information I can get my hands on, it is still exceedingly difficult for me to comprehend just how monumental the changes to our lives, businesses, communities, and the world will be in just the next decade.

The key to successfully dealing with this change is to dedicate a minimum of 10% of your time to studying all of the technologies that will potentially impact your business. I currently work with several clients who are directly connected to the auto industry and have challenged them that unless they become “experts” on autonomous cars and other forms of transportation technologies their business might not exist in 5 years. Let me make this Awesomely Simple: Learn or Die.

Talent: For many, (if not most) businesses, two of the only sustainable competitive advantages left are the quality of the people they can get, grow and keep on their team – and the relationships they create with their customers. This means that talent acquisition, talent development and talent retention should be a major strategic objective. However, I still see many companies tolerate mediocrity, do not invest sufficiently in training and development and have difficulty retaining their very best employees (the bad employees don’t want to leave because they know they can’t get a job anyplace else). The success of your business is directly determined by the talent on your team and creating a culture of engagement, customer focus, collaboration, accountability and disciplined execution.

The key to successfully overcoming this challenge is to make getting and keeping wildly talented people as a major focus of your business. Build a talent pipeline to ensure a steady stream of quality recruits, implement a focused and consistent interviewing process, create a robust onboarding system, develop a focused and intensive training program to take great people and make them even better, and have a career pathing program with mentoring, assessment, feedback and coaching to keep your top performers engaged and thinking long-term about their role in the company.

Sales Effectiveness: Nothing happens until somebody sells something. Let’s face it, all of the other stuff I’ve mentioned is useless if at the end of the day nobody buys anything from your company. Sales are the lifeblood of every business, or as Peter Drucker famously said, “The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.” Unfortunately, the vast majority of salespeople that I meet are NOT prepared for success. They have not had enough good quality training, they don’t have the right attitude, they don’t spend enough time investing in their own development, they don’t do their homework on their products and services and they don’t spend enough time asking superb questions and being an intense listener when they are in front of their customer. In other words, they waste their customers time, which is the single biggest complaint that executives have about dealing with salespeople.

The key to successfully overcoming this challenge is to be highly selective and targeted in who you hire as a salesperson and then ensure they get all of the training, support and resources they need to be successful in the field. Set clear and specific sales targets, coach and mentor for them for success, over-train them on both sales skills and product knowledge, and align their compensation plan to strongly encourage their full engagement and a strong desire to be successful in their sales efforts.

Leadership Development: I have been teaching leadership skills for nearly 25 years and I can say with great confidence that in the last few years the requirements for being an effective leader have actually changed quite a bit. Theory X, command-and-control and “do as I say not as I do” has not worked in a long time, yet I still see people trying to “lead” this way. Currently just over 50% of the workforce is made up of millennials with this number growing every day, and millennials definitely have a different way they want to be led. If you agree with me that talent is a critical element in building a successful company, then it is important to remember the single biggest reason millennials leave a company is poor leadership. Several research studies also show up to 50% of lost revenues are a direct result of ineffective leadership. Those numbers should be eye-opening to you.

The key to successfully overcoming this challenge is to understand everyone in your organization needs to be a leader. That begins with treating them like a leader, training them, supporting them and rewarding them for superior leadership skills. It also means having the courage to remove people from the team who are ineffective in leading in your organization. I’ve also stumbled across a new idea this year that I think is an important complement to creating great leaders: helping people to learn how to be great followers. Although everyone in your organization needs to be a great leader, they won’t be leading all the time, actually they are typically “following” a good amount of the time as well. So it is also essential to help people understand the importance of being a supportive, encouraging and productive follower.

There are other issues I came across during the last 12 months, but these are the major ones my clients specifically hired me to help them with. I hope my recommendations above will help you if any of these sound familiar.

I look forward to your feedback and comments, what have you been seeing?

Three Great Books and a Fantastic (Free) Sales Webinar

The Sales Webinar has already passed — it was earlier in the year.

 

Effective Followership

42BAF516-2E42-4C1D-B901-4F0B46E6DA09_t_4101-e1352134353644Earlier this year I was sitting in a restaurant in St. Louis reading an article in the Wall Street Journal and I had an epiphany. This is my 22nd year of traveling around the globe teaching a number of different business workshops including Advanced Leadership and in all that time I have never heard of a single company, nor met a single instructor, that taught a class on followership. How can this be? In order to have effective leaders you need effective followers. And everyone in the company has someone they have to follow, even the CEO has to report to the board of directors. I know that most people love to go to a leadership class because they want to think of themselves as leaders and aspire to be better leaders, but few people would get very excited about going to a followership class, even though being a good follower is a critical steppingstone to becoming a great leader. True to form, I immediately went to Amazon.com and bought every single book I could find on followership and have begun a quest to study this topic deeply so that I can create a program on how to be a superb follower. However, I decided yesterday when working with a fantastic client in Las Vegas, to test my idea. I explained to the audience of about 300 people what I have just explained above to you and heard a giant sigh from the crowd as they too realized they had never been taught how to be highly effective followers. To learn more, I broke the audience up into groups of 5 to 7 people and asked each group to develop a short list of what they felt were the most important things needed to be a great follower. I then asked several of the groups to share their list and here are some of the things they came up with:

  • Want to be there – be engaged
  • Be highly capable and competent
  • Support the vision
  • Know the vision, mission and goals of the company
  • Hold yourself highly accountable
  • Ask for help when needed
  • Work to support the leader and the team
  • Give loyalty – but not blind loyalty
  • Challenge the leader’s ideas when appropriate, but with respect
  • Be proactive, don’t wait to be told what to do
  • Have an ownership mentality

This is just a partial list of the feedback I got but it is extremely telling. Although a number of these correspond with the sort of answers I get when I ask about what it takes to be a leader that people would willingly follow, there is a portion of this list that is unique to being an excellent follower. Based on this feedback I am extremely excited to be building a new class on the elements of effective followership, and I would highly value any feedback or ideas you want to share with me as I research this topic and begin to build the new program.

What do you think it takes to be a great follower? I very much look forward to your ideas.

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The Five Keys to Business Success in 2016

year-red-white-background-d-rendered-image-36767974At the beginning of each year a lot of us look for inspiration on how to take our business to the next level over the coming 12 months. In past years I put together special videos outlining what I believed it would take to make the next year in your business one of the best years ever. This year, I simply want to reiterate what I believe are some of the most powerful business success ideas I have ever learned. Below is my video on the “The Five Fundamentals of Business Success,” this is a class I have taught all over the world to every type of business from mom-and-pop shops and startups to companies in the Fortune 10. I created this particular video in December of 2014 after a speaking tour of the Netherlands with the Entrepreneurs Organization. I truly believe that if you will watch this video and apply the ideas I share with you, it will have a dramatic positive impact on your business success in 2016.

*** If you found value in the video please send it to everyone in your network so we can help them too! Thank very, very much – John

 

 

 

Doing Your Job

business, job, workLet me help you understand something… doing your job gets you NO extra credit at all. Showing up on time, finishing your work, making sure your work has been done correctly, being courteous to co-workers and customers, staying until you are supposed to leave… that is what you are paid to do. I am getting tired of people who expect special recognition, an award, a big tip or raise – for simply doing their job.

It is like when the guy from the commercial cleaning crew that cleans my office tells me with great fanfare and excitement: “We wiped down all of the desks, vacuumed the floors, washed the windows, cleaned the bathroom and emptied all of the trash cans.” Then breathlessly waits for me to tell him how awesome that is. But I am thinking, “Well, no shit, that is what I hired you to do – so what?” However, if after he rattled off that list of tasks completed he said, “We also put fresh flowers on your desk and noticed that you were out of Diet Coke, so we put a 12-pack in the fridge for you.” THAT is awesome – that is special – that deserves some special recognition!

Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE evangelist for “creating a culture of catching people doing things right,” and I clearly understand that praise and recognition is critical to developing highly engaged and loyal employees, but I am not going to throw you a party just for having a pulse. I have been surprised lately by employees at some of my client companies that are angry and surly because they did not get  a raise or promotion when it is abundantly clear to me that they have not done anything special to earn it. They seem to believe that if they just show up and put in their time they should eventually become a Vice President. No, all that gets you is NOT fired!

I read an article about one of the top chefs in the world and they asked him his secret to success. His answer?

  1. Be completely intolerant of mediocrity.

  2. Strive every day in everything you do for true excellence.

  3. Be incredibly customer focused.

  4. Be highly innovative so you can continue to delight your customers.

That is a great list; that is how you become the best in the world at what you do. Anything less is simply doing your job.

 

Your thoughts?

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How to get the most out of a workshop, seminar or speech

This is a great video for leaders, managers and employees to watch to help get the very most out of a business training workshop, seminar or keynote speech. I have been a business trainer and keynote speaker for more than two decades and I share with you in this video why it is so critical to pay attention and apply what you learn when your company spends a lot of money to send you to a training workshop, seminar or speech.

Delivering Business Excellence

11127664_10152747300417466_255902195476459028_nI recently stayed in the best Best Western in the world. I was in Hamilton Canada to give several speeches and stayed at The Best Western Premier C Hotel by Carmen’s and was absolutely delighted. As someone who spends more than 200 nights a year in hotels, I’m a very seasoned and somewhat cynical guest, to me the hotel and restaurant business just does not seem that complicated, yet so few of them seem to understand that. Here is all I really want…

Hotel: easy check-in, professional and friendly staff, clean rooms, free high-speed Wi-Fi, double pane glass so my room is quiet, and a uber-comfy bed.

Restaurant: good food, very good service, reasonable prices, exceedingly clean, quiet with a relaxed ambience.

You deliver these things and I will love you forever, and the folks at the Best Western Premier C absolutely nailed them. So here’s my question for you…

What are the handful of things that you must do consistently do to delight, enthrall, surprise and satisfy your most important customers?

Let me break that down a little bit…

Handful of things: the three, four or five Moments Of Truth that make or break your relationship with the customer. Every business has a few limited things they absolutely MUST do flawlessly to create loyal, engaged, and satisfied customers. What are they in your business?

*By the way, there are external Moments Of Truth that you must deliver your customers, but there are also internal Moments Of Truth that your staff needs to deliver to each other… in order to be able to deliver the external Moments Of Truth to your customers.

Consistently: it does no good if you only deliver the Moments Of Truth every now and then, it must be every single time for every single key customer. This is why I teach at all of my classes that: if you want repeatable success, you must have process. You have to have the systems, checklists, processes, procedures AND training to ensure that your employees know exactly how to deliver the Moments Of Truth flawlessly.

Delight, enthrall, surprised and satisfy: the goal here is to deliver what is most important to your customer in a unique and highly valued way. However, the only person who really knows what this entails… is the customer. That’s why one of my very favorite quotes is:

Whoever owns the voice of the customer, owns the marketplace.

Most important customers: not all customers are created equal. If you’re going to spend the time, energy and effort to deliver the Moments Of Truth flawlessly, you want to try to do this for all of your customers, but it is essential that you do it for your most important target customers. These are the customers that value what you deliver, are willing to pay for it, are easy to deal with and have the ability to tell lots and lots of people about how great you and your business are.

While in Hamilton I interacted with the staff from the Best Western Premier C Hotel by Carmen’s, the Baci Ristorante and the Hamilton Convention Center by Carmen’s and was truly delighted, enthralled, surprised and satisfied in all of my interactions. From front desk staff, to the servers, to the housekeeping crew… everyone was professional, extremely customer focused and had a great positive attitude. Can you say the same about everyone that works for you?

As someone who teaches business excellence for a living, it was a joy to see an organization that clearly understood how to deliver exceptional service and a wonderful guest experience. Here’s the kicker, when I talked to the manager he made it clear that the main reason for their success was to cut out all the clutter and just focus on the fundamentals. When I stepped off the elevator on the third floor to go to my room I was greeted by a giant quote painted on the wall (which just so happens to also be on the back of my business card!) that summarized their philosophy:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

Mastering the Art of Workplace Relationships

This is a guest blog from my friend Jesse Ferrell, a very dynamic and thoughtful professional coach and speaker. I hope you find his article of value!

We have discovered 3 easy ways to build great and sustainable relationships in the workplace.  Our research has uncovered a very simple solution to common reasons people are unhappy on their jobs and ultimately quit and find other places to work.  An employee engagement company out of Salt Lake City confirmed that fully 85% of people will leave their job because of poor on-the-job relationships and lack of engagement.  They site unfriendly bosses, frustrated and passive aggressive co-workers leading to a caustic unproductive environment manifesting into a negative unfulfilled company culture.

When we work with companies in an effort to help them improve the cohesiveness of their staff and teams, plus the quality of their company culture, the most common challenge we find as mentioned above is maintaining respectful and proper communications.  Companies of all sizes often experience major communication breakdowns between management and staff, from department to department and among the staff themselves.  As communications breakdown, the professional relationships are imperative in cultivating a successful workplace culture.

MASTERING THE ART OF WORKPLACE RELATIONSHIPS IN 3 SIMPLE – NOT EASY STEPS

There are 3 simple not easy steps you can adopt in order to take your work environment from good to great.  You may help turnaround a company culture that is negative and divisive in nature to a thriving positive energetic work culture. I highlight them below:

  1. Help your team practice extreme self-knowledge through a good personality assessment like the Color Code
  2. Safe place to tell the truth – this offering will be environment clearing
  3. Diversity and inclusion innovation – use the full range of your company’s talents, backgrounds and perspectives

In almost every case where there is a communication and relationship breakdown, a silo exists.  People tend to work in silos and disregard the value of teamwork.  They forget that not one of a company’s departments is able to stand alone without the support and superior communication from other departments.  Does this sound familiar?  Is this challenge rushing through the veins of a company that you either work with or have worked for in the past?  The top three problem areas that consistently haunt most companies are:

  1. The absence of epic communication (internal and external)
  2. Relationship (understanding self and understanding others)
  3. Value misconceptions of others

Are any or all of these challenges present in your company?  Have you spent sleepless nights stuck in hours of insomnia as you rack your brain thinking about how to resolve and improve your problem areas?

There are times when a company struggles with understanding why their teams don’t communicate effectively and is in need of raising their relationship equity.  So many companies are stuck and unsure of how to foster a company culture that will allow them to retain their top talent, to ensure the fit of diverse individuals, and to realize true sustainable value for those individuals and the organization.

SIMPLE STEP 1 – EXTREME SELF KNOWLEDGE

In highlighting the first of our 3 simple – not easy steps we offer the extreme self-knowledge step. We highly recommend the enrollment of the Color Code personality assessment, as we know that bringing about clarity of one’s own character is a crucial starting point and offers the roadmap to practicing how to use extreme self-knowledge.

As the inventor of the Color Code, Dr. Taylor Harman Ph.D. says, “When you get yourself…you get others”!  This quote is true because when you learn the 4 color distinctions (Red, Blue, White, Yellow) of what motivates your behavior. Why you do what you do, you are simultaneously learning the motives of others and you will be able to speak their language during the communication process.

The best form of internal and external customer care experiences, as well as communication development, starts with self! This is the gateway to improving the communication process and offers sustainability of relationship development. The Color Code personality profile will help you and your teams understand why they do what they do. This strategy will allow for creating better and sustainable relationships, while helping your team learn to speak the language of others.  Mastering the art of relationships is well on its way during this stage.

This will put you on track for creating epic communication.  When an organization becomes aware that epic communication is missing from their environment and chooses to hold themselves accountable for discovering how to develop the basics of creating epic communication, it becomes a positive game changer.  Action must immediately follow the awareness and discovery phases.  The start of this discovery phase begins with asking prudent questions and using the best active listening skills as a precursor to initiate this process.  The other key components of epic communication are nestled in the following sections on Color Code personality assessments and innovating through diversity and inclusion.

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The ultimate goal of mastering the art of workplace relationships lead to high-performing teams while creating a movement whereby your team gains the insight of how to co-create a winning culture. We know that implementing these concepts will raise the level of relationship equity and  leadership growth opportunity.  This is simple, but not easy as it will take discipline and dedication to learning your motives of why you do what you do through your four color distinctions.

 

SIMPLE STEP 2 – SAFE PLACE TO TELL THE TRUTH

You may be amazed by how many companies don’t realize that many of their environments are not encouraging a safe place to tell the truth because of the fear of judgment, shame or blame and feeling like they don’t fit in.  The best way to create a major shift in this area is by taking a top down approach.

 

Insure that senior management fosters a safe place to tell the truth with their direct reports.  Insist that those same direct reports create the exact same environment within the staffs that report to them.  Establish monthly check ups from the neck up where you share the best discoveries within the company as a result of exercising the “safe place to tell the truth” campaign.

Be willing to be vulnerable enough to share the breakdowns and problem areas that are not working.  Lastly, be willing to ask for help from colleagues, mentors, board of directors, bosses and co-workers. This final piece is the part that is not easy for most, because so many people do not like asking for help.  However, this is where the best growth happens when you offer faithful well-intentioned help from a diverse community within the workplace.

SIMPLE STEP 3 – INNOVATE THROUGH DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

Setting a strategy to innovate through diversity may be the most exciting piece to the equation of mastering the art of workplace relationships!  Choose to hire and maintain top talent and give them the room to grow.  You may ask yourself what is the best way to attract and retain our top talent to insure the fit of diverse individuals in your company?  The answer is simple, innovate through including those diverse individuals.  Capitalize on the strength of their differences!  Help them embrace the first two steps mentioned earlier, which are to promote the effort of practicing extreme self-knowledge and offer your diverse workforce a safe place to tell the truth.

The Salt Lake City based employee engagement company conducted expansive research gathering meaningful statistics and have proven that 70% of college graduates leave their first job within two years of starting it because they don’t feel the job is a goof fit for them.  85% of people fired last year were fired because of relationship problems at work.  Approximately 65% – 85% of mergers and acquisitions fail to deliver the desired results for which the companies come together, largely because of company culture clashes that cause top talent to exit the organization or lose focus and energy.

Being able to attract and retain top talent brings bottom line benefits to any workplace.  Giving these staggering challenges related to workplace culture, the best question is, how do we foster a company culture that will allow us to retain our best talent?  We want to ensure the best fit of diverse individuals and to fully realize real sustainable value for our companies.

The answer lies in our ability to use innovation through diversity and inclusion by understanding and valuing differences in a way that allows each person to contribute his or her best within the organization.  Choosing to master the art of workplace relationships through these 3 simple, not easy steps will bring sustainable value for individuals and companies!

What will you choose today in terms of developing a solid plan for mastering the art of relationships in your company?

** From John: If you enjoyed this blog I strongly encourage you to take a look at Jesse’s website, he is a true professional and always does a superb job for his clients. Here is a link to his site:  http://www.jesstalk.com/


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence