Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Leader of the Future = EQ + Technology

How-to-Become-a-Better-Leader-730x493I have just returned from two weeks of working with clients in New Zealand and while I was there I was asked to give lectures at the University of Auckland and the University of Canterbury. The topic they asked me to address was, “Leading in a Time of Disruptive Change.” This is a topic I know pretty well, but I decided it would be nice to get some additional opinions to add more depth and credibility to my comments, so I sent a note asking for input to some of my friends including Marshall Goldsmith, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Tim Sanders, Jim Kouzes, Tom Morris, Joe Calloway and several other top thought leaders, asking what they would share around this topic.

Everything they offered revolved around two key ideas: EQ + Technology

 

EQ = Emotional Quotient

The next 10 years will mark one of the most explosive eras of technological advances in the history of humankind. It is hard to believe that the smart phone was invented just 10 years ago and in that time span people around the world have downloaded more than 2 billion apps. Connection by computers is increasing at a dizzying rate, whereas connection between people seems to be decreasing at an equally alarming rate. A successful leader of the future must be superb at collaboration, personal connection, empathy and interpersonal communications. They need to be effective at bringing people together, creating high-performance teams, developing deep levels of trust and building real relationships with the people they lead. For some people EQ comes naturally, they are great at working well with other people and showing genuine concern, caring and empathy. For others of us (me included) EQ is just not something we were born with, however, through study and practice I have been able to increase my level of EQ significantly and so can you. Either way, natural or learned, the skills necessary to display EQ are essential for tomorrow’s leaders.

Technology

I mentioned it briefly above, but it bears repeating, in the next 10 years we will go through a truly overwhelming influx of new technologies that will be highly disruptive to every business (and person) in the world. That might sound like hyperbole, but I assure you it is not. Last year I attended the Abundance 360 Conference (an offshoot of Singularity University) where some of the world’s top technology experts outlined the eight major areas of technological change that would have the most impact on the human race in the next decade.

  1. Computer speed / deep learning
  2. Artificial intelligence (AI)
  3. The Internet of Things (IOT)
  4. Advanced robotics
  5. Augmented reality
  6. Virtual reality
  7. Synthetic medicine
  8. Genetic decoding/recovery

As just one example, the director of the business school at the University of Canterbury explained that in 2026 you will be able to buy a laptop for $1,000 that surpasses the brainpower of a single human, and by 2046 you will be able to buy a laptop (if they even exist anymore) that will exceed the brainpower of the entire human race. When you apply this computing power to the areas I have listed above, the impact is literally unfathomable. Therefore, to be effective, future leaders don’t need to embrace change, or even revel in change, they need to DRIVE change. They will need to be visionary in their ability to predict how these seismic technological shifts will impact their industry, their individual businesses and their customers. As another example, a good friend of mine who is the president of a prominent university here in the US lamented to me, “We are training students today for jobs that don’t exist on equipment that has not yet been invented, which means we are going to have to completely change the way we educate our youth.” Now if that isn’t a disruption, I don’t know what is – and the same thing is going to happen to you.

Leader of the Future = EQ + Technology

What do you think?

 

*** Also, I am very pleased to announce that my blog has been named one of the Top Small Business Blogs to Follow in 2016.
To check out the other winners and their superb blogs click HERE

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Loose-Tight Controls for Business Success

37827-watches_teaserI recently presented several workshops for client company with an absolutely brilliant CEO, among the best I’ve ever met. He was a new to the organization and had been brought in to turn around the company, which was facing very severe financial troubles. This was very bureaucratic organization whose main customer was the government. They were slow to make decisions, reluctant to take any risks, complacent in their attempt to grow their business and keep margins strong, which landed them to more than billion dollars in debt. The CEO gave an impassioned speech about the need to be more entrepreneurial, while still having a culture of disciplined execution around the core strategies. He described it, much like Tom Peters did in his wonderful book In Search of Excellence, saying that the company needed to have “loose-tight controls.” They need to have elements of loose  control around entrepreneurship, innovation and prudent risk-taking, while maintaining areas tight of control around their values, strategy, alignment and accountability for positive business results. He told them that in order to be successful they would have to balance a strong entrepreneurial ethic while still embracing a focused culture of discipline – and summarized his idea in the graph below.

So, where does your company sit in this matrix?

Best Managed Companies graphic

What Is Your Legacy?

 

Click HERE to listen to the interview
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Three Great Books and a Fantastic (Free) Sales Webinar

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

 

Team Building Advice for a New Team Leader

shutterstock_46846525I recently received an email from the young lady who recently moved into a new job and was put in charge of a team. These are folks she had never met and she was struggling to pull the team together and get them working as one cohesive group under her leadership. She asked me if I had any advice on how to make this happen. Here is the quick, but focused, response I sent to her.

This is a challenging question, the key is to build trust. There are several factors that go into building trust, but here are a few that are fundamental:

Competence: They need to see that you are very good at what you do.
Concern: Showing true empathy, interest and concern for your team members.
Reliability: Another word here would be consistency, always doing what you say you will do.
Intimacy: This is also called tie-strength, in other words, spending time with your people so you get to know them better and create stronger bonds.

These things do not happen by chance, you have to create a plan where you find a way to demonstrate competence and concern, prove that you are reliable, and set aside time to talk with and get to know your team on a personal level. This does not mean you need to be their best friend or therapist, simply that you need to get to know them more as an individual than just an employee.

I hope you found this advice helpful, good luck – John

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

 

 

 

On The Intolerance Of Mediocrity

5117ec57cab7b.imageI have spent the last 20 years of my career studying excellence. I have read dozens if not hundreds of books on the topic, interviewed CEOs, Olympic gold medalists, artists, musicians and other people who have achieved preeminence in their field. I especially enjoy spending time with world-class chefs who are insanely focused on producing only the finest dishes they can humanly make. Recently I read an article from one of the top chefs in the world that discussed how he built his restaurant into one of the most revered eateries on the face of the earth.

His simple four-step formula for excellence?

  1. Strive every day to be the best in the world.
  2. Be completely intolerant of mediocrity.
  3. Constantly innovate and push the envelope.
  4. Deliver a truly world-class dining experience to every customer.

I read that list and thought to myself that you could pretty much copy it, change number four a little bit, and it would apply to being excellent in nearly any business. But I have one big problem, its number two, something I believe in very strongly, but can cause a tremendous amount of stress in your life.

For those of us who want to be highly regarded at what we do, I believe it takes a complete intolerance of mediocrity, both in yourself and in those you work with. However, taking on that attitude means that you will often be frustrated and sometimes be seen as too aggressive or even a bully. I have been mentoring a young man that wants to be one of the top 10 chefs in the world and during a recent breakfast he asked me, “If I become one of the best chefs in the world, will any of the people that work for me like me?” And I quickly answered, “No, they will think you’re an asshole.” I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. In order for him to demand near perfection and be completely intolerant of anything less than excellent, he will have to step on a lot of toes and bruise a lot of egos.

Which brings me back to…me.

I struggle mightily with this idea. I coach all my clients to stop tolerating mediocrity and to remove anyone on their team that is not a solid contributor to the success of the organization. According to a recent test I took, I literally broke the scale on self-competitiveness, so I obviously have no problem (or perhaps it is a problem) in pushing myself very hard to achieve excellent results. But I will say that my focus on making myself and my company absolutely the best I possibly can does make it extremely hard on the people that work with me and the vendors we do business with. I am accused by many of being too harsh, unrealistic and overly demanding – which part of me takes is a great compliment and the other part of me feels almost embarrassed about because I know how difficult it can be to work with me.

In the end though, I know that to achieve a high level of success I must be unwilling to settle for mediocrity. On the other hand I am coming to the realization that the distance between “Mediocrity – Good – Great – World-Class” has a lot of room for delivering fantastic work, without having to be constantly stressed and frustrated over not delivering world-class work. I understand now that driving for near perfection can often times drive people into the ground, yet if I challenge them to deliver the best they possibly can a level that I can accept as really, really great work – then I don’t have to be an ass. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but one that I’m working on.

What about you?

 

*** By the way, I have written a short and focused e-book with my best ideas and tools to help you build and sustain a winning culture in your organization. It sells for just $4.99. If you’d like to learn more about the book here is a link: Winning Culture e-book

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The High Cost of Poor Leadership

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I was recently asked by one of my clients to put together some statistics on the cost of bad leadership and the upside of excellent leadership. He needed this information so that he could help support an investment in hiring me to do an advanced leadership training workshop for his organization. I think that intuitively, most people understand that subpar leaders/managers obviously have a negative impact on the organization. However, when you look at how big the cost of poor leadership really is, then you begin to re-examine the importance of leadership development within the company. In order to review the high cost of poor leadership, I am sharing the information I sent to my client:

Poor leadership practices cost companies millions of dollars each year by negatively impacting employee retention, customer satisfaction, and overall employee productivity.

Evidence of the High Cost of Poor Leadership

According to research from the Blanchard Company:

  • Less-than-optimal leadership practices cost the typical organization an amount equal to as much as 7% of their total annual sales.
  • At least 9% and possibly as much as 32% of an organization’s voluntary turnover can be avoided through better leadership skills.
  • Better leadership can generate a 3-4% improvement in customer satisfaction scores and a corresponding 1.5% increase in revenue growth.
  • Most organizations are operating with a 5-10% productivity drag that better leadership practices could eliminate.

From other sources:

  • It’s a sad truth about the workplace: just 30% of employees are actively committed to doing a good job. Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report indicates that 50% of employees merely put their time in, while the remaining 20% act out their discontent in counterproductive ways, negatively influencing their coworkers, missing days on the job, and driving customers away through poor service. Gallup estimates that the 20% group alone costs the U.S. economy around half a trillion dollars each year. The single greatest cause for employee disengagement? Poor leadership.
  • Authors Rosen and Brown, for their book Leading People, compiled findings from more than a dozen studies that focused on leading companies from the Forbes 500, Fortune 500, seven hundred privately-held firms, and interviews at the three thousand largest companies in America, and Rosen and Brown found that current leadership is costing American companies more than half their human potential. To put that another way, improved leadership alone could double worker productivity. This translates directly to the bottom line. The single biggest influence on employee commitment and performance is the leadership skills of their managers.

From Harvard:

Quite simply, the better the leader, the more engaged the staff. Take, for example, results from a recent study we did on the effectiveness of 2,865 leaders in a large financial services company.

You can see a straight-line correlation here between levels of employee engagement and our measure of the overall effectiveness of their supervisors (as judged not just by the employees themselves but also by their bosses, colleagues, and other associates on 360 assessments). So, as you can see at the low end, the satisfaction, engagement, and commitment levels of employees toiling under the worst leaders (those at or below the 10th percentile) reached only the 4th percentile. (That means 96% of the company’s employees were more committed than those mumbling, grumbling, unhappy souls.) At the other end, the best leaders (those in the 90th percentile) were supervising the happiest, most engaged, and most committed employees — those happier than more than 92% of their colleagues.

*By Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman

Employee Engagement croppedPreventative Action for the High Cost of Poor Leadership

It would be easy to deliver another twenty pages of statistics showing both the negative and positive impact of leadership. Even if some of these numbers are skewed, the impact of the high cost of poor leadership is still so significant that it warrants serious attention. I would suggest that for most companies today, a focus on improving leadership skills and creating a winning culture that engages employees is likely the single greatest area for organizational improvement, and the fastest way to decrease costs and increase profitability. The high cost of poor leadership cannot be ignored.


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

The Qualities of a Good Manager: How to Make Your Managers Easier to Lead

African-American businesswoman standing with arms crossed while others walk by.

A while back, I had the chance to talk with one of my clients in California, the COO of a Fortune 500 firm who has engaged me in the past to coach several of his senior leaders. I was working with a handful of divisional CEOs who were each running a $200-600 million enterprise. During our talk, the COO said something that really struck home for me, and it gave me a super clear idea of what he wanted me to do for him. He said, “John, these are absolutely fantastic guys, but they can be tough to manage. Please help me make them easier to manage.”

That statement right there gets right down to the heart of why I am typically called in to coach someone. The executives I coach are always bright, talented, bold, creative, entrepreneurial, and driven: all of which are truly valuable traits. However, when taken to the extreme, these same traits can make these sorts of folks very hard to manage and direct. What’s more, if they cannot learn how to control their behavior and fit more comfortably into a senior role, then the very things that made them successful up to this point in their career can actually lead to their demise.

Therefore, in order to educate and encourage your managers to actually be more manageable themselves, share with them this advice that I have heard numerous leaders tell their key managers throughout my years of real life experience. Listening to these leaders has led me to make this list of the qualities of a good manager, and if your managers can apply these qualities to their own business ventures, then you will have a much easier time leading them and working with them to achieve outstanding business results.

The Qualities of a Good Manager

  1. Good managers know and run their businesses incredibly well. It is the responsibility of a good manager to make their numbers and keep their customers happy. If you cannot successfully run the business you are in charge of, then in the end, nothing else matters. Therefore, the number one priority for good managers is always to run a smooth, flawless operation that has a solid strategy and strongly contributes to the corporation.
  2. Good managers don’t do surprises. Good managers never surprise their leaders because they know that their leaders expect them to report major concerns right away rather than try to handle them until the problems exceed their abilities. Leaders want their managers to be capable of handling most of their business issues on their own, but they also want their managers to be straightforward with them and keep them informed. Chief officers cannot help their managers if they do not know what is going on, and when managers try to hide bad news, their deception will only hurt the company more in the end. Therefore, good managers demonstrate courageous communication and 100% honesty. Their leaders have to be able to trust them completely, so good managers tell their leaders everything that is important: the good and the bad.
  3. Good managers are able give and take frank feedback. Chief officers and their managers can be friends and should feel a great deal of respect for each other, but in order to do business well, they must also be able to exchange direct feedback. Leaders may even have to give uncomfortable feedback or make hard decisions that negatively affect the business efforts of their managers, but a good manager will not take this type of development personally. Instead, they will understand that it is what is best for the entire company and work hard to deal with it effectively. Conversely, good managers are also prepared to respectfully correct their leaders when their leaders may have made a mistake or overlooked something. Good managers can deliver tough news to their leaders without fear of retribution because frank feedback is a two-way street.
  4. Good managers surround themselves with the best people they can possibly find. Not only is this a solid strategy for business success, but it is also a critical part of business survival. Good managers know that they endanger the entire company if they believe that they are the smartest people in their divisions and the only ones who can do something in order for it to be done right. Therefore, good managers establish a deep bench of extremely talented people in order to help them succeed and ensure a smooth succession should it be necessary for someone else to step into their role. Always having to be the hero is not an effective, lasting tactic and will eventually lead to burnout, stress, and failure. Therefore, good managers humble themselves by working with others and considering them the best as well.
  5. Good managers know that a high IQ is not enough: a high EQ is also essential. When managers build a team of superstars, they have to be absolutely superb at motivating and supporting their team. Therefore, they never attempt leadership through intimidation, bullying, threats, or pressure because they know that this type of leadership will never win in the long run. Through bad leadership, managers might be able to make their numbers and grind out profit for a while, but in time, they will lose the support and trust of their employees. It is clear that people never give their best when they feel like they are getting beat up. Therefore, good managers build a world-class team and then coach, direct, and motive them in order to secure world-class performances. They take care of their team, and then they reap the many benefits this more considerate approach to leadership yields.
  6. Good managers are able to make tough decisions in a timely manner. As a business grows, so do the size of the decisions that need to be made. So, in order to adjust, good managers get a good team behind them that will be brutally honest. Good managers then ask their team for lots of help and use their team’s suggestions to make the best decision possible with the information at hand. Good managers know not to slow down the process with indecision. Instead, they work with others to reach their goals by being fast, flat, and flexible.
  7. Good managers think and act strategically. Firefighting your problems, even if you are great at it, is not the way to run a business. In contrast, good managers put out the fires and keep them out so that they have the time to think long-term. Good managers have a good handle on where they and their business should be in three to five years: they are not simply struggling to make budget this quarter.

The Qualities of a Good List

As you can see, good managers possess a lot of great qualities, and these qualities make them the types of managers that their leaders find very easy to lead. I have compiled this list from the statements that I have heard repeatedly from the top executives that I work with, but as I am sure that I have missed a few, please feel free to add to my list in the comments below, and use whatever ideas you found helpful from this blog to make your managers easier to lead!