Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

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

 

 

 

How To Handle Lazy Employees

Businessman sleeping at deskLast 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:

  1. Do they have clear, specific and measurable performance expectations?
  2. Have those expectations been exceedingly well communicated to them?
  3. Have they agreed to deliver those expectations?
  4. Do they have all the training, tools and support necessary to achieve those expectations?
  5. Are they held rigorously accountable for achieving those expectations?
  6. Do they get positive reinforcement for positive behavior and negative reinforcement for negative behavior?
  7. Do they understand the impact their behavior is having on the overall business?
  8. Do they understand the impact their behavior is having on the rest of the employees?
  9. Do they realize what is at stake if they do not meet expectations?
  10. 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

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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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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The High Cost of Poor Leadership

shutterstock_65436145

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

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

Change Is Changing

082For years I have implored my audiences to “create a culture that embraces change.” I even put together a custom program for the Apple Specialists Group on “Nimblocity” (that is being nimble with velocity) and tell clients that if they want to be successful in the future they have to be… Nimbolicious! But frankly, that is not true anymore.

To be successful in the future, the rate of internal innovation must exceed the rate of external innovation, in other words, you can’t simply embrace change – you have to be the one who creates and drives the change.

I challenge you to go back and read that last sentence and think deeply about how that will impact you and your business. That means that in order to win in the marketplace you must out-think, out-innovate and out-execute everyone you compete against – both as an organization and as an individual. This is a HUGE idea and an even bigger challenge. To me, there are a minimum of six key things you must do in order to be a game changer.

 1. Business Acumen

To even get on the playing field you must have a strong foundation of general business knowledge. This means constantly studying the fundamentals of business excellence such as strategy, finance, marketing, sales, talent development, technology / innovation, customer service… and keeping a close eye on local, regional, national and global business and economic trends. It’s also critical to look at best practices of top companies (inside and outside of your industry) to see what ideas you might be able to apply to your organization.

2. Industry Expertise

You must be an expert, and I do not use that word lightly, on your industry, your competitors and especially your products and services. There is absolutely no excuse for not being exceedingly knowledgeable about your industry and all of the factors impacting your business within it. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but I am constantly surprised how many people I meet that are clueless about even major trends in the field they work in.

3. Strategic Thinking

Once you have built a solid base of general business acumen and become an expert on your industry, then you must dedicate the time necessary to combine those two areas of knowledge and think about everything you are learning and what it might mean to you and your business. That is right, you need to dedicate 5-10% of your time to just sit and think, noodle, brainstorm and introduce random ideas to each other to see if they get along. The reason that so few people are great strategic thinkers, is that so few people invest the time and effort necessary to do serious strategic thinking.

4. Pattern Recognition

The purpose of all of this thinking is to find the patterns. Strategic insight occurs when you see something before others see it; when you notice a trend, an anomaly, a spike in the data that indicates a change in your industry. Netflix saw the trend in online movie delivery, Blockbuster did not. Apple saw the trend in smart phones, Blackberry did not. Nikon saw the shift to digital photography, Kodak did not. Those who succeed in business today do not just adapt to changes in the marketplace, they anticipate and then create changes in the marketplace.

5. Business Model Reinvention

For an insight to be of value to organization it must represent a major disruptive change to your industry that will give your business a clear (and hopefully sustainable) market advantage. However, this sort of change typically means that you will have to make some dramatic adjustments and innovations to the way you currently operate. What is required here is courage; the courage to take big, bold risks, the courage to abandon old ways and the courage to create a totally new path for your industry.

6. Disciplined Execution

Even the best strategies in the world are completely useless if they are not implemented effectively. Great ideas do not change an industry; taking great ideas to market better and faster than any of your competition does. This means that your management team must be superb at taking your strategic insight, turning it into a sharply-focused and well-communicated strategy and then ensuring that is implemented flawlessly. An easy thing to say, a devilishly hard thing to accomplish.

I have spent the last 25 years of my life running businesses and studying, writing and teaching about business excellence around the world and in no time in my career has the need to do the six things I listed above been more urgent. We are entering a new era in the business world, what many people are calling the Second Machine Age, marked by mind-boggling advances in technology, computer learning, robotics, medicine and many other fields that will fundamentally change business on a global scale. As I see it, you really only have two choices: drive the change or be run over.

John has also been recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America, one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in America, one of the Top 50 Small Business Experts in America and one of the top 500 Leadership Development Experts in the World. The American Management Association named John one of America’s Top 50 Leaders to Watch along with Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

You can learn more about his work at JohnSpence.com


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