On behalf of myself, my wife and business partner, Sheila Spence, our Operations Manager, Mercedes Petrus and our Financial Manager, Esther Mallard – thank you VERY much to all of our clients from 2016 for trusting us to be involved in your businesses.
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I 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?
Last week I posted a blog that got a lot of comments, it was called: On The Intolerance Of Mediocrity. One of the folks that shared some feedback indicated that he was struggling with employees that were, shall we say, less than extremely motivated. I was beginning to write out a reply to him and realized it was probably best to post it as a blog so that everyone could see my ideas and comment as well. Here are my suggestions for dealing with lackadaisical employees.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do they have clear, specific and measurable performance expectations?
- Have those expectations been exceedingly well communicated to them?
- Have they agreed to deliver those expectations?
- Do they have all the training, tools and support necessary to achieve those expectations?
- Are they held rigorously accountable for achieving those expectations?
- Do they get positive reinforcement for positive behavior and negative reinforcement for negative behavior?
- Do they understand the impact their behavior is having on the overall business?
- Do they understand the impact their behavior is having on the rest of the employees?
- Do they realize what is at stake if they do not meet expectations?
- Do they understand all of the positive ramifications if they exceed expectations?
These are just 10 questions to get you thinking, but if you’ve got employees who are not delivering the required results, I would look over this list and see if there is any place where you have not given them what they need to succeed. It’s one of the things I learned a long time ago as a young manager, if one of my people is not performing the way I want them to, it is my fault. Either I hired the wrong person, did not train them well enough, did not explain what I really wanted, didn’t give them the tools or support they needed… it was always something that I did wrong and I simply had to take accountability and ownership for fixing the situation. If you do the same, I’m confident you will get a positive resolution, one way or the other.
I hope you found this helpful in a very much look forward to your comments – John
I have literally just walked off the stage from my last presentation/workshop for 2015. It’s been an extremely busy year with more than 200 days on the road, zigzagging across the United States and Canada and delivering programs in Australia, New Zealand and most recently Poland. As I look back over the year here are a few big takeaways that I think you might find of interest.
- Culture and talent are critical. In most of the businesses I worked in this year the single biggest place where they could reduce waste, reduce costs and increase revenues and profits was in the quality of the people on their team and the culture in the organization. I believe that companies need to put more focus on hiring, growing and retaining top talent – and building a winning culture of engaged, satisfied and loyal employees who are highly results driven, customer focused and accountable. To me, these should be major strategic objectives in almost every business.
- Lack of accountability and disciplined execution are the biggest problems I see in almost every organization worldwide. There is no shortage of bright, sharp, talented people who can develop highly innovative strategies and ideas – but there is a huge shortage of people that can take those ideas and effectively turn them into results in the marketplace. Again, another place to see major revenue growth and profitability in many companies is focusing more on execution.
- As I look at the programs I was asked to deliver, there is a clear pattern of a handful of workshops and keynote speeches that the majority of my clients asked me to focus on:
Advanced leadership, especially leading organizations through change
I delivered this program for a number of companies whose industries were undergoing massive change and were challenged to get their employees not just to embrace change, but to drive change.
Many of my clients requested that I help their organizations learn more about how to create higher levels of engagement, commitment, teamwork and collaboration – what I have come to call creating and “ownership mentality” throughout the organization.
Business excellence/strategic thinking
I spent a good bit of time this year helping companies take a hard look at their current operations, benchmark against best practices and fine-tune their strategies to be successful in the future.
Although I started my career doing high-level sales training, I stepped away from it for a few years, but now many of my clients are asking me to help their entire organization become a sales organization focused on being trusted advisers to their customers.
My recommendation would be to look closely at your organization and make sure that none of these are areas that you are neglecting.
- Lastly, I am becoming more and more aware that building a strong network of people that want to help and support you (because you are helping and supporting them) and then using that network to generate strong positive word-of-mouth… should also be one of your major strategic objectives. It has become obvious to me that social media, combined with social proof, are the future of referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. But all effective networking and word-of-mouth marketing is based on, delivering massive value and being so incredibly remarkable at what you do…that people want to remark about you, that is, tell other people about how great you are. Just trying to build up your email list or the number of contacts you have on LinkedIn is not an effective strategy, it only works when the connections are created through trust and strongly demonstrated competence.
So those are some of the major things I noticed about 2015, which means they will probably continue to be big issues in 2016. Are you seeing anything different?
I very much look forward to your thoughts – John
I 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?
Strive every day to be the best in the world.
Be completely intolerant of mediocrity.
Constantly innovate and push the envelope.
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
Let 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?
Be completely intolerant of mediocrity.
Strive every day in everything you do for true excellence.
Be incredibly customer focused.
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.
I received an email this morning from a colleague who was asking about how to expand their network and specifically how to create an “Advisory Board,” of key individuals with specific expertise that could help him be more successful in his career. I get a lot of inquiries about this subject so I thought I would give you some brief advice about how to at least get this process started.
Step One: Determine exactly what you are interested in learning about. It does you no good to simply connect with people hoping that they might be able to add value to you, so it is important that you take the time to sit down and think through the skills, capabilities, information and expertise you hope to gain through your advisory board.
Step Two: Once you have a very clear idea of exactly the kind of person you want to meet, send a clear and focused note to everyone in your current network asking them if they know anyone who possesses the skills and experience you are looking to learn about and might be willing to assist you as a mentor or on your Board of Advisors (Basically a group of mentors).
Step Three: When one of your current contacts identifies a potential advisor, do as much homework as you possibly can on that person before you get introduced to them. Google them, check their LinkedIn profile, see if they have a Facebook profile, ask your contact for any and all information that they will share with you – before they make the introduction. And then create a very clear and specific outline of what you hope to learn from this person so that your contact can make a solid and compelling introduction on your behalf.
Step Four: Once the introduction is made be extremely respectful, do not waste one minute of their time, explain exactly what you’re hoping to achieve, and then ask them what they are interested in learning more about so that you can work as hard as you possibly can to help them gain new information and ideas that would be of value to their personal and/or professional growth. Remember, for a networking or advisory relationship to be successful you must give as much or more value back to the person who is advising you as they are offering to you. You have to make a significant effort to constantly be on the lookout for ways that you can help them, bring them new ideas/information and introduce them to other people that they might find value.
Step Five: Once you create a solid advisory/mentoring relationship with this new contact, and you feel comfortable that you have gotten to know each other fairly well, ask them if they would introduce you to three people they feel would also add a lot of value to your growth and who would enjoy spending time with you and find value in the kind of information you would bring to them.
Step Six: With each of these new contacts go back to step three and repeat the process over and over again. If you do this diligently, and always strive to add as much value as you possibly can back to your mentor/advisor, you will look up in a few years and your network will have grown exponentially and you will have a handful of very key advisors who could literally change the trajectory of your career and life!
I hope you found this helpful, and if you did please share it with everyone in your network.
Thanks so much – John
Well, here we are together, just a few days before the end of 2014. It’s a cliché, but how did the year go by so fast?
While this past year was a great year for my wife and I, and I hope it was for you too, for many people 2014 was an incredibly challenging and difficult year.
As a race we face many global problems and as a country we are currently struggling through one of the most divisive and divided eras in our history. These are big problems, very BIG. I do not know how to solve them but I do know this…
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
And I also know that WE have to solve them, we have gotten ourselves into this mess and we will have to get ourselves out of it. There is no magic wand, it is going to take a lot of hard work, tough decisions and sacrifice from everyone around the world – and that includes you and me!
So to help you look at things in a in a new way for 2015 here is a video with the highlights of some of the top TED Talks of 2014. I encourage you to watch this clip and then go watch any or all of the full videos, it is sure to shake up your thinking, which is the best gift I can give you as we head into the new year together. After all, it is up to us, WE have to drive the change we want to see in the world. A tall order indeed, but one we must all rise to embrace.
I wish you every possible happiness and success. Love, John