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?

A Lesson About Team Culture

636103432294773262-0925-kcsp-utfl-068-asbThis is not a sports story, but it does revolve around a story about sports. I live in Gainesville, Florida which means it is mandatory for me to be a Florida Gators football fan. Last weekend we played the Tennessee Volunteers, they have not beat us in 11 years, the smartphone did not exist the last time Tennessee actually beat the Gators! However, this weekend they beat us… no, they crushed us. The final score of Tennessee 38 – Florida 28 does not come close to representing the thrashing our team took. The funny thing is, we were winning 28-3 at halftime, then Tennessee scored 35 unanswered points. By the middle of the third quarter the Gators had completely given up, they were walking with their heads down or sitting on the bench. There was an opportunity for us to come back and win in the fourth quarter, but the Gators had already decided they were going to lose. On the other side of the field, the Volunteers, even though they came into the second half needing at least five touchdowns to win, were motivated, focused and playing like a real team.

The big lesson for me came at the end of the game when Tennessee broke their decade-long losing streak and won a huge game for their school. The players had every right to dance around the field and celebrate, pumping their fists and mugging for the cameras, but instead they ran over to jump in the stands and celebrate with the other students. The head coach ran over to the sideline, climbed up on a ladder next to the conductor of the school band, and led the musicians in playing the Tennessee fight song. The attitude and conduct of the two teams during the second half of the game, and after the game, highlighted a big lesson about organizational and team culture and how, in a very large way, the leader sets the tone. One team quits halfway through the game and mopes off the field humiliated, the other team stays optimistic, cohesive, determined and then celebrates the win for everyone in the school, not just themselves.

So the question I have for you: How does the team at your company play?

 

*** If you are interested in learning more about how to build and sustain a winning culture, I have written a short and very focused e-book that outlines my very best ideas and tools. Here is a link so you can take a look: Winning Culture eBook

 

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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CULTURE = CASH

7564321-big-pile-of-money-stack-of-american-dollarsFor many, many businesses today the only competitive differentiator they truly have is the quality of the people that they can get, grow and keep on their team… and the relationships they create with their customers.

Competitors can copy your products, beat you on price, match all of your distribution channels, spend more money on marketing and advertising and out manuver you on social media. However, if you can attract, develop and retain top talent and then get them insanely focused on taking great care of your customers… that is not something your competition can easily copy.

So, what attracts top talent to work in a company? I was interested to know this so I did a survey of more than 10,000 high potential employees at top companies around the world and they told me there were six things they look for from an ideal employer.

  1. Fair Pay – which they defined as 10% above or below what they would make to do the same job at a different company.
  1. Challenging Work work that was engaging, meaningful and matched their skill set.
  1. Cool Colleagues – A-players only want to play on a team with other A-players.
  1. Winning Culture – a place where people smile just as much when they come to work as when they leave.
  1. Personal/Professional Growth – the chance to learn and improve every day, as well as seeing a place for themselves in the company 5 to 7 years in the future.
  1. A Boss I Respect And Admire – which was actually one of the most important things they wanted!

If you think about it, all six of these factors are actually elements of a winning culture. If you want to bring top people in your company you’ve got to do these six things exceedingly well. On the flipside, the vast majority of people that leave a company exit because they hate their boss and are disengaged by the culture. I just listened to an interview with David Burkus talk about his new book Under New Management  (which I highly recommend) where he mentioned that only two employees out of 10 are fully engaged in their work. Think of the wasted time, money, resources and opportunity. However, if you could engage another two or three people, you would likely create a company that would dominate the marketplace.

In both a positive and negative sense: CULTURE = CASH

*** If you want more specifics on exactly how to build a great company culture, I have created a very concise and focused ebook that will give you all of my best ideas, tools and advice. It is only $2.99 on Amazon and I promise it will be VERY helpful.  Click HERE to take a look

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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

Building a High-Performance Team

shutterstock_46846525I was recently asked to work with a team of 12 mid-level managers in an organization of about 250 people. As individuals they were an incredibly bright, competent, diverse group that are clearly dedicated to the success of the company, as a “team” they were a disaster. Prior to meeting with them I had everyone fill out a “Team Effectiveness Audit” and the scores were…not so good. However, we had a wonderful day together and I thought you might find value in some of the things they developed for turning their workgroup into a high-performance team.

The first workshop we did was to create a model of who they felt would be an “Ideal Team Member” to serve on this team.

Ideal Team Member

·         Excellent Communicator – superb listener

·         Highly competent

·         Action oriented – proactive – sense of urgency

·         People/relationship focused

·         Balanced view: strategic & tactical

·         Team-first attitude

·         Strong, self-aware leader

·         High integrity

·         Personal and mutual accountability

·         Delivers business results

After we created the above list I pointed out to them that in order to attract a team member like this, they would first have to be like this themselves. It’s one of the key ideas for effective teams; A-players only want to be on a team with other A-players.

We then worked on creating a set of rules, or a charter, for how the team would treat each other. I think they developed a pretty good list…

Team Rules for Behavior

NO games

Be fully present – no technology/be engaged

Be flexible/consider

Hold each other 100% accountable

Use retrospect and focus on the effectiveness of this team and adherence to the rules

Offer inspiration

Be constructive/solution focused

Treat each other with respect

Focus on the success of the company – not your individual departmental team

Over-communicate with honesty and transparency

Prioritize each other and this team

ONE voice

Deal with facts

Effective / valuable meetings

Have FUN!!!

Lastly, we developed a few action steps that they could begin taking immediately to start the slow and steady process of shaping them into a more effective team and hopefully, eventually, a high-performance team.

Action Steps:

Create team vision/purpose (in progress)

Define key goals that align with the team purpose and that strategy / guiding principles of the organization

Define key metrics for those goals

Define how to hold each other accountable to those goals / metrics

Create ways to force collaboration

Evaluate team effectiveness quarterly

Once they finalize the vision/purpose of the team, and define their goals and metrics I will be creating a survey to measure their effectiveness in implementing their goals and continuing to adhere to the team rules of behavior. I will be administering the survey every three months so that we can constantly adjust as they develop as a team. Based on the quality of the people on this team I have a lot of confidence that things are going to go well.

I welcome your thoughts on what this team created; do you feel that there’s something missing?


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

Incredible Resource for You

QVLKREMarshall-GoldsmithI am sure that you have noticed that I do not put out a blog every day. That is not because I am lazy – or too busy – it is because I want you to know that when I post something it will be good…really, really good… and worth a minute of your time to take a look.  Today is no exception, it actually proves the rule, as today I am sharing with you an incredible FREE resource that can have a dramatic positive impact on your business and career.

My good friend Marshall Goldsmith  is a recipient of the extremely prestigious Thinkers 50 Award for the top 50 management thinkers in the world. As part of the award he has been asked to post a series of videos with some of his best ideas. All of the recipients of the award have also done the same and this site has all of them for FREE. It is like the TED talks of management – the best business thinkers in the world sharing their best ideas. Here is a link – enjoy!!!!

Click HERE to go to the video page

PS — I was nominated for this award last year, if you’d like to keep me on their radar you can send them a note HERE — thanks!!!