Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

The Three Keys to Building a Great Company Culture

I’ve said it 10,000 times, but let me say it again: Culture = Cash.  I’ve learned from working with hundreds of companies around the world that the biggest area for dramatic improvement, or failure, is most often a company’s culture.  The number one factor in highly engaged, satisfied and loyal customers… is engaged, satisfied and loyal employees.

“The customer’s experience will never exceed the employee’s experience”

Recently, I read an article that outlined the three main things that millennials, the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, look for in the culture of an organization.  Those things are safety, dignity, and purpose.

Safety

What we are focused on here is psychological safety, which refers to an employee’s belief that it is safe to speak their mind without fear of being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive. In a culture with high psychological safety, employees feel confident that no one will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new iCuldea.

A study by Google identified psychological safety as the most important aspect of highly effective teams. The Google researchers found that individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.

To measure a team’s level of psychological safety, the researchers asked team members how strongly they agreed or disagreed with these statements:

  • If you make a mistake on this team, it is often held against you.
  • Members of this team are able to bring up problems and tough issues.
  • People on this team sometimes reject others for being different.
  • It is safe to take a risk on this team.
  • It is difficult to ask other members of this team for help.
  • No one on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts.
  • Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilized.

It has been my experience that it is impossible for people to do great work in an company culture where they do not feel safe.

Dignity

Dignity is derived from showing trust, granting autonomy, and recognizing the value of individual contributions. In a culture that exhibits these three key traits, employees develop more self-worth and self-respect, and feel they are respected by others. Trust, autonomy, and recognition build a sense of ownership of their work and pride in performing it well.  I believe that the path to helping people feel dignity is to treat them with genuine respect.

Let me give you a personal example.  I travel a lot, 200+ days a year, so that means I eat about  600 meals a year in restaurants.  Most people basically ignore their server, often times not even making eye contact with them.  In contrast, I realize that these people are literally “serving” me, since they are carrying food to me when I am hungry.  I genuinely respect them for that and show it by calling them by name, complementing their professionalism, commenting on the quality of the food, and thanking them often for their assistance.  I don’t do this to get a free dessert, I do it because I am truly appreciative of their efforts to make me feel well cared for.  Do I get better service?  Absolutely.  But I also have a more enjoyable meal because I get to make a genuine human connection and I let someone know that I believe that they are important.  A culture where people treat each other with great respect will encourage people to do great work.

Purpose

When I started my career in 1989, the sole “purpose” of nearly every company was to make money.  Putting money to the bottom line is of course still critical, but today many companies are embracing the idea of the Triple Bottom Line (TLB). The TBL is an accounting framework that incorporates three dimensions of performance: social, environmental and financial. The TBL dimensions are also commonly called the three Ps: people, planet and profits, but now there is a 4th P, Purpose.

The consulting firm Ernst and Young define purpose as “an aspirational reason for being that is grounded in humanity and inspires a call to action.”

Does purpose really matter?  A global study found that 89% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies that support solutions to a particular social issue.  For more than half of consumers, purpose is the most important factor in their choice to do business with one company over another when the products are similar.  So the numbers show that not only having a strong purpose is important to your customers, but it is also an essential element in attracting top talent. For 77% of millennial employees, an organizational culture based on purpose and strong core values are just as important as base salary and benefits.

If building a great culture in your organization is important to you, keep in mind that psychological safety, dignity through respect, and an inspiring purpose is the foundation for creating a culture that motivates your people to deliver excellence.


 

Do you want to take your expertise and experience to the next level and grow your business? Join my webinar to learn the performance essentials organizations and individuals need today.

They are 30 minutes long and I will be covering these items.

IQ, EQ, AQ: What is the difference, why is it important?
Purpose: It is not just a paycheck for the talented
Five Generations: There is a lot to be learned here
Culture: The Great Differentiator

 

 


What Is Your Definition Of Leadership?

a graphic displaying the word leadershipFor nearly 30 years I’ve had the honor of delivering leadership training and executive coaching to companies around the world. One of the things I get asked a lot is, “What is your definition of leadership?” I think I have a pretty good one, but first, let’s take a little detour.

I also do a lot of training in the area of high-performance teams, and one of the workshops I typically make the group go through is to create a list of the characteristics of an Ideal Team Member. I ask them, “If you were able to bring somebody fantastic onto your team, someone that you would love to work with, what would that person be like? What are the skills, abilities, attitude, and personality of an ideal team member for your company?” Here are the responses I hear the most:

  • Honest
  • Has 100% integrity
  • Positive attitude/fun to work with
  • Proactive/self-starter
  • Competent
  • Innovative/creative
  • Excellent communicator
  • Great listener
  • Highly collaborative/a strong team player
  • Lifelong Learner
  • Loyal
  • Respectful

Wow, what a great list, and after I read the list back to the group, I ask how many of them would love to have someone who has all these characteristics on their team? Every hand in the room shoots up, and then I say to them, “To get someone like this to join your team, you have to be like this first. Because anyone who has all the characteristics on that list will only work for someone else that also exhibits those characteristics.”

So, back to my definition of leadership. In my leadership classes, I run a very similar workshop where I ask small groups of attendees to develop a list of what they would look for in an Ideal Leader. I get all of the same things I listed above, plus a few more…

  • Visionary
  • Courageous
  • Inspiring/motivating
  • Fair
  • Compassionate
  • A great coach
  • Leads by example

It’s that last characteristic that shapes my definition of leadership.

To be an effective leader, you must be a living example of what you hope your followers will one day become.

Remember, if you hold a leadership position at any level in an organization, you live under a microscope. People watch everything you do; they listen to everything you say. Whatever you focus on becomes what they focus on and whatever you ignore they will ignore. Your behavior drives their behavior.

So, in my mind, to have great people in your organization, you must first become the kind of person that they want to work with. By the way, this is really hard. It takes a lot of discipline. This means you can’t just do what you feel like doing, or what you can get away with, or mistreat people because you’re in a foul mood, you must keep asking yourself, “What would an ideal leader do?” and follow that as your guide.

What is your definition of leadership?

 

 

A Fundamental Key To Business Success

Photo of a business team sittingAs I look back across two decades of working with companies around the world, from start-ups to the top of the Fortune 500, 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
  • 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
  • A formal recognition and rewards program
  • Team building events
  • Regular coaching meetings
  • One-on-one meetings with senior executives
  • Lunch with the CEO
  • Getting high potential employees a business coach

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 a 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.

Change A Life and You May End Up Changing Yours

Here is a link for the better book club, it is free for small companies and insanely affordable for other organizations. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to go take a look at their website, look at all the things it can do for your business, and I hope you join, as I said above it will make a dramatic positive impact on the success of your organization.

Click HERE to learn more about the Better Book Club

 

And now, a fantastic guest blog from Frank Sonnenberg…

 Think about a person who’s had a tremendous impact on your life. It may be your Mom or Dad who believed in you, the coach who inspired you, the teacher who guided you in the right direction, the boss who gave you your first big opportunity, or the friend who’s always been by your side. I’m sure when you think of that person, it brings a huge smile to your face — as it should.

You may say that some of these folks were just doing their job. True. But even though you’ve had several good teachers, coaches, and bosses over the years, I’m sure a few of them really stand out from the crowd. You remember their passion, dedication, kindness, and, of course, their generosity. After all, they changed your life!

That obviously begs the question…are you leaving a lasting impact on others? It only takes one person to change a life — and that one person may as well be you.

Make a Difference

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re touching the lives of people every day. What can you do to step up your game?

Be an exemplary role model. Lead by example. Demonstrate that character is the DNA of success and happiness.

Be an awesome parent. Having kids is not the same as being a parent. Raise your kids to be kind, productive, and self-reliant; to make good choices and to be personally responsible for their actions; to pursue their purpose with gusto; and to live their life with honor and dignity.

Be a humble leader. Share your success. As you climb the ladder of success, reach down and pull others up with you.

Be a dedicated mentor. Take someone under your wing and show them the ropes. Give the kind of advice that they won’t hear anywhere else.

Be a compassionate boss. Show your employees that work isn’t all business. Build trusting relationships. Make yourself available and supportive in times of need.

Be a shrewd businessperson. Develop win-win rather than winner-take-all relationships. Prove that there’s more to go around when you grow a large pie, together, than when you squabble to divide a smaller one.

Be a real friend. Demonstrate loyalty when someone’s chips are down and no one else has their back.

Be an inspiration. Set high expectations and push people beyond their capabilities. Show confidence in them when they’re having a weak moment.

Be perceptive. Give someone the big break they need in life. See someone’s potential even when others are blind to their promise.

Be tough, but fair. Make people accountable for their actions. They’ll thank you one day.

Be available. Give the gift of time. Lend a shoulder to cry on when someone needs a friendly ear or support during tough times.

Be the better person. Be the first to give, the first to forgive, the first to compromise, and the first to say “I’m sorry.”

Be even-handed. Stand up for injustice, speak up for the less fortunate, and don’t give up on fairness and tolerance.

Be a loving spouse. Put your heart into your marriage. Share your hopes and your fears, your laughter and your tears, your joy and your sorrow.

Change a Life Forever

Think of your greatest accomplishments. Where would changing someone’s life rank on your list? Consider: If they hadn’t crossed paths with you, they wouldn’t be the person they are, they wouldn’t have the opportunities they have, and they wouldn’t be positioned to achieve their hopes and dreams. Bravo! You made a difference! As an added bonus, change someone’s life and you may end up changing yours.

Why complain about the ills of the world when you could be a world of difference to someone you know? You may not be able to change the world, but you can change the world around you. Change a life and create a ripple that cascades forever.

 

This post is an excerpt from Soul Food: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by Frank Sonnenberg

Frank Sonnenberg is an award-winning author. He has written seven books and over 300 articles. Frank was recently named one of “America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders” and one of “America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts.” Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world.

Additionally, FrankSonnenbergOnline was named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs”; among the “Top 100 Socially-Shared Leadership Blogs”; and one of the “Best Inspirational Blogs On the Planet.”

Frank’s newest book, Soul Food: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, was released inNovember 2018 (© 2018 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.)

 

 

 

 

 

Practice This Skill and Become a Much Better Leader

In this video, I’m going to challenge you to practice an extremely important leadership characteristic that many people struggle with. If you can master this skill it will create more trust, risk-taking, candor, and innovation within your organization.

I hope you follow through on my challenge, and as always, if you find this video helpful please pass it along to your network.

Thanks so much – John

The Courage to Speak Up

happy employees happy customersRecently, I took a few moments to talk about something I see far too often in the companies and groups I work with all over the world. It’s something that exists in every organization to some degree – in every industry – and it’s something I’m passionate about helping leaders identify and work on with their teams.

Check out the text below or, if you prefer, watch the video on my YouTube channel.

 

This is one of those videos you’re gonna wanna gather everyone around the computer or send it out to everyone in your organization, because I’m gonna discuss an issue that drives me crazy that I see over and over again in organizations when I’m coaching people or working with different groups or teams. It’s the unhappy employee who doesn’t bother to tell management they’re upset.

They sit at their desk, they brood, they build up more and more anger and frustration and resentment. Oh, and they’ll go tell other people in the organization, or they’ll go home and tell their family, but they won’t go to their manager, leader, boss, whatever it might be and say, “Hey, I’m not happy about this,” or “I think this isn’t going well.” Many of you that are watching this now that you think yourself, “Well I got some things I really don’t like about how they do things around here, but I’m not gonna go tell my boss, because I’ll get” – and I love this term one person told me – “I’ll get vaporized.” And you’re gone.

If you live in an environment where bringing criticism, let’s say negative feedback, pointing out something that doesn’t seem to be going right to you, if you work in an environment where doing that would cost you your job, you probably need to work someplace else because you work for a poor leader and things will likely not ever get better.

State or Trait?

There’s another thing to check: Maybe it’s your attitude. What I always say when I teach this sort of stuff in companies is, is it a state or trait?

A state, “I’m just having a bad day, I’m just upset about this one project, I’m just … Things aren’t going well in other parts of my life and I feel like taking it out on the company.” It’s just a temporary state of being dissatisfied, frustrated, whatever it might be… stress.

If it’s a trait – that you see this happening over and over again in your life and you’re constantly frustrated and upset, then you might wanna look at the mirror and say, “Maybe it isn’t the people around me, maybe it’s me.”

This is also, – now I’m gonna shift to the leader – this is also something to look at when someone brings you a critical feedback or they’re frustrated or upset or angry or stressed. Is it a state or a trait? Are they just having a bad day or is this an employee who just has a bad attitude?

Leaders: Listen Up

Let me now speak to the leaders. The only people that can tell you how to improve your company are your customers and your employees. I am flabbergasted at how often leaders and companies don’t wanna hear from either group. “Let’s send out a customer survey? Oh no, they’d tell us all the things they want us to change and expect us to change them.” or “I don’t wanna get the negative feedback.”

I see this a ton internally, where I’ll go to a leader, a CEO and say, “When did they do an audit of your internal organization?” They’ll say, “No, no way, I don’t wanna hear what they’re complaining about, I’d have to do something.”

Now the reverse is I work with a lot of organizations and great leaders who want to get that feedback. Often times it frustrates them that they don’t get enough of that feedback, because they know everything’s not perfect. They think to themselves, “Wow, if people would just bring the information, I could fix it.”

It’s kind of like if you’re really sick but you don’t wanna tell the doctor about it, I’m not thinking you’re gonna feel a lot better soon. But this is the really important point for leaders, managers, leaders, bosses, CEOs, and presidents: You have to make it safe for people to bring you bad news. You can’t kill the messenger.

If someone goes way out on a limb to share some not-so-great information with you, don’t saw the limb off, run out there and give them a hug. Say, “Thank you. I didn’t like hearing this, I’m upset to hear this is going on in the company,” or “I’m distraught to know that you feel this way.” But you can’t have retribution, finger pointing, getting back at them, telling them they’re wrong. You’ve gotta make it safe – you’ve got to make it really safe for people to bring you even bad news because you can’t fix it unless you know about it.

Ignoring the Problem Solves Nothing

If it’s down there festering and people are afraid to talk to you about it, it will likely hurt or kill your organization. We’ve got two things here: If you’re an employee, you have to have enough courage to go and talk to the people above you about issues or problems or concerns or criticisms you have if they’re bad enough to really impact your productivity. If you’re a little upset, a little frustrated, let it go, this too shall pass. But if it’s really something that’s got you worked up, you owe it to yourself and to the company to let people know. Now the other side of that, I‘m saying again, Leaders, is you have to make it safe. You have to thank them, thank them, thank them for bringing you the bad news, the criticism, the negative feedback and encourage other people to do it, too. Hold them up as someone that brought you information you didn’t want to hear, but information that, now you know it, you can work on it, improve it, fix it and make the company better for everybody.

Here’s a big, big idea: Happy employees lead to happy customers, which leads to more profit. Unhappy employees lead to unhappy customers, a bad workforce, and talent leaving, which isn’t typically the way you run a successful business.

I really hope you take this to heart, pass it around your organization, send it to other folks because this is an issue I see over and over again. I see how bad it hurts the individual and the company not to be able to discuss things that aren’t easily discussed, that might be a little bit uncomfortable, but if fixed or attended to, it could have a huge positive impact on everyone involved.

I hope you found this helpful.

 

The Role Of A Leader

It was 36 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a pretty good football player in high school, not a star, but at least one the key starters. I played nose guard on defense and when we were in the red zone close to the goal line I would sometimes go in as a running back to punch the ball across the line. I was a big guy even back in high school, a good athlete, but not the best… then everything changed.

In my senior year the head coach came to me and said that he was going to make me the captain of the defensive squad. I was excited, honored, and proud… I was going to be one of the team captains! Then he explained something about my role as a captain. He said, “John, if you’re going to be one of the captains you have to lead by example. You’re going to need to work harder than everyone else, play the best you’ve ever played and help the rest of the team to be excellent. That means coming to practice early, studying the playbook, supporting the coaches, working hard in the weight room and always coming in in the top three on sprints and long runs.” As I said earlier, I was a pretty big guy in high school, I think the word would be fat, and I had never, ever come in anywhere close to the top three on any running drill. Coach must have seen the fear in my eyes and said, “You can do this Bear (my nickname in high school), I have confidence that you can stand up and be a real leader for this team. Can I count on you?” I immediately answered, “Yes Sir.”

The next day, after the coach announced that I was one of the team captains, I started coming in in the top three in every drill. I ran faster than I ever had, I pushed myself harder than I ever had, every time I got tired I just kept saying to myself, “I’m the captain, I have to set the pace, I have to lead by example.” The metamorphosis was amazing, I literally changed my performance, dramatically, overnight. That’s when I realized it… I could have done it all along. Apparently, I had always possessed the ability to run fast and for long distances, but when I was just one of the guys on the team it was easy to come in last, there was always a few of us “heavy guys” bringing up the rear. But the minute I accepted a role as a leader I knew that everybody on the team was watching, all the coaches would be watching, everyone in the school would be watching me, and I could not let them down.

It is the same thing in my business career when I’m running a company I understand that I live under a microscope. My team sees everything I do, they see what I don’t do, they hear what I say, and they hear what I do not say. It is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – everything you do has an impact on how you are perceived as a leader. I love this, because it pushes me to perform better than I might on my own, just like on the football team I have to run faster, work harder, do more homework and deliver the highest level of excellence I can, because if I didn’t I couldn’t ask anyone else on my team to do it either.

Over the years, based on this experience, I have developed my own definition of leadership.

“Leadership is being a living example of what you hope your followers will one day become.”

I hope you found this helpful and will share it with your network. Thanks – John

 

Do You Have A Team Charter?

I have been teaching quite a few high-performance teams workshops in the last several months and have been surprised to discover that not one group I worked with had ever created a “team charter.” By this I mean, a written list of rules and expectations that the team all agrees to and guides the way they work together. I believe this is an essential document to help people clearly understand their role on the team, what behavior is appropriate and what things will not be tolerated. Without a charter, members of the group are simply guessing at how they are supposed to act and behave together as a team, leading to assumptions, politics, rumormongering, conflict, lack of accountability and ultimately lack of results. To help your organization avoid these issues here are a few ideas of what a team charter might look like:

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review recommended that a team charter should include these basic foundational tenets:

  • I agree to be on time, realizing everyone’s time is limited and extremely valuable.
  • I agree to show respect to every other member of the team and give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • I agree to give my best effort in accomplishing every task, the team’s mission, and our shared purpose.
  • I agree not to engage in any gossip about my team members and to put a stop to it if I encounter it.
  • I agree to communicate early and often pertaining to any time off needed for my personal life.
  • I agree to handle disputes, perceived offenses, or conflicts with dignity and professionalism.

This is the charter from a nonprofit organization I worked with:

  • Be accountable
  • Think before you speak
  • Ask for clarification
  • Set clear expectations
  • Treat people with dignity and respect
  • Empathy
  • Ask for help
  • Be direct and loving
  • Look for the positive first
  • Create safety zones where people can be honest in their feedback without fear of retribution
  • Be present
  • Check up on folks
  • Helpful and supportive
  • Communicate professionally
  • Spend time together
  • Have fun

This list is from a manufacturing company that I assisted:

  • Listen to each other with an open mind without interruption
  • Share knowledge, information, and experience with those who can benefit
  • Take key decisions based on reasoning, not rank
  • Express concerns only to those responsible for dealing with them
  • A responsibility culture, not a blame culture
  • Base our work on the ‘customer’
  • Strive for continuous improvement
  • Behave with integrity
  • Positively challenging dishonesty or destructive behavior
  • No ego

These are just a few ideas to help you in creating your team charter, however, it is essential that you develop a written, clear, and well-communicated charter that everyone on the team is fully committed to and agrees to support at all times. Without this document, it is impossible to build and sustain a high-performance team.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments and if you found value in this article I hope you will share it with your entire network.

Thanks so much – John

Four Fabulous Business Books

I shot this video around Thanksgiving, before I had left for London and Kraków, and forgot to post it! However, better late than never. Here are four book recommendations that would be excellent holiday gifts. Bear in mind that the book by Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick on great teams will not be available until February, but you can preorder it now (and you should). I really loved all four of these books and I hope you will too.

And if you have not read it, this is a pretty good business book too;-)