Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

A Midyear Checkup: 2019 Trends

Neon sign with an arrow upward saying "go up and never stop."At the beginning of the year, a client asked me to put together this video on the main things I learned in 2018.  I had worked on a myriad of projects from delivering dozens of keynotes and workshops to several strategic planning retreats and a lot of executive coaching. As I looked back on all of these, I saw five major trends that I challenged all of you to focus on for 2019.

While hard to believe, here we are halfway through 2019. I thought now would be a great time to check in to see how everyone is tackling my challenges and share some of the things I am seeing right now in the marketplace. I encourage you to take eight minutes and 26 seconds to watch the video, then below it, I have posted some ideas and anecdotes that I believe will help you for the rest of this year.

Five Key Ideas for 2019

CULTURE

The first idea I talk about in the video is that “Culture = Cash,” and that has really come into sharp focus in the last six months. I am coaching two executives, one in the financial industry and the other in the medical industry, and we’ve been working on improving the culture in their organizations. Both of them have identified their organizational culture as one of their only sustainable competitive advantages (along with top talent, customer relationships, strong brand, and proprietary data) and are now focusing on culture as a major strategy for the long-term success of their organizations.

LEADERSHIP

Number two on my list is the idea of servant leadership, which is becoming more and more important as the year progresses. I just did a TEDx talk on The Leader of the Future where I talked about this concept and underscored the importance of having a high emotional quotient (EQ) and creating a genuine connection with the people in your organization. Unfortunately, I don’t see enough leaders who are deeply dedicated to truly serving their employees.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Wow, it’s amazing how much people talk about the importance of great customer service and how few businesses actually deliver it consistently (number three). I see this as a massive opportunity to stand out in a crowded marketplace. In the video, I mentioned the Ritz Carlton as a great example of superior customer service and one of the founders of the company, Horst Schulze, recently wrote a book called Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise that is absolutely fantastic. So many great stories, ideas, and tools for taking customer service to a completely new level, I highly recommend you read the book.

ACCOUNTABILITY

The fourth thing I mention is accountability. This is one of the biggest issues I’ve seen at companies across my entire career (the other big ones are poor communication and dysfunctional senior leadership teams). The only thing I will reiterate here is that it is essential you establish very clear expectations of what you are going to hold someone accountable to, without doing that you have set the person up for failure.

STRATEGY EXECUTION

Finally, I touched on disciplined execution, which I view as a subset of accountability – if people are not held accountable, there is no way to execute effectively on your strategy. The point I’d like to make on this one is to make sure you remain focused, you should only have 3 to 5 major strategic objectives and only a handful of leading indicator KPIs that you use to manage your business. Remember, just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should and just because something is hard to measure doesn’t mean you get to skip it. Pick the major numbers that drive the success of your organization and focus on them intently.

Two Bonus Ideas

In the video, I outlined the five above areas for you to focus on in 2019, and at the halfway mark they are still 100% on point. However, I wanted to add two more that I have seen emerge as areas for the remainder of the year.

STRATEGIC THINKING

Three of the executives I am coaching have asked me to help them become better strategic thinkers and it has been an absolute blast to work with them on this topic. I believe there are two reasons they are struggling.

  1. They do not truly understand what strategy is and how to apply high-level strategic thinking to their businesses.
  2. They are not looking closely enough at the major trends that would impact their industries over the next few years.

Strategic planning and thinking have different approaches, something that not many executives understand. By having these executives make their own “philosophy of strategy,” they create a philosophy that they can see strategy in a completely new light and gives them the unique perspective they needed.

ADAPTABILITY QUOTIENT (AQ)

In the TEDx talk I reference above, I talk about how important it is to have a high AQ, which is your adaptability quotient, your ability to be agile and move quickly in a fast-changing business environment. Last week, I delivered a workshop for a large pharmaceutical company when one of the attendees asked me, ” How do you develop your AQ?” Rather than just explaining it, I decided to give her an example and asked everyone in the room to write down the major trends they thought would be impacting their industry over the next five years.

From there, we worked together as a group to agree on the top three. After we had reached consensus, I then turned the audience and said, “Who in here can come to the front of the room and give us at least 15 minutes of data and ideas about specifically what’s going to happen in these three areas and how your company and each of you should be prepared to meet those challenges successfully?” Not a single person could do it. I then told them that someone with a high AQ would be able to get up and speak for an hour.

So my question to you, what are the top three trends that have will impact your business and your career over the next five years and could you easily talk for 30 minutes or more explaining exactly what your plan is to take on those challenges? If not, you have some work to do.

Make 2019 Your Best Year Yet

Here we are heading into the second half of 2019 and again I challenge you to focus on the things I mentioned in the video and these additional ideas to help you make 2019 one of the best years ever for you and your business.

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

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?

 

 

6 Keys to Effective Strategic Planning

mini-peepsI am currently preparing to facilitate three strategic planning meetings, for an association, a technology company and a Fortune 100 client. Here are a few things that I see as foundational for creating an effective strategic plan.

  1. The key to a successful strategic plan is: FOCUS. Every company, regardless of size, has limited resources and strategy is all about effectively deploying an organization’s resources where they will have the most positive impact in the marketplace.
  2. To mirror my first point, one of the most important things a great strategic thinker does is figure out what to say “NO” to. What markets will we not compete in? What products or services should we not try to sell? What current projects should we abandon?
  3. If you have 10 strategic objectives, you do not have a strategy. All of the successful companies I’ve worked with were able to focus in on 3 to 5 major strategic initiatives. Anything more than that causes a lack of focus and ultimately a lack of success.
  4. When examining business issues, are you trying to solve a puzzle or a mystery? With enough data and information, you can find the right answer to a puzzle, but no matter how hard you try it is impossible to find the exact right solution for mystery. Because of this, as much as I hate to admit it, a large part of strategy is simply an educated guess about what might happen in the future.
  5. Alignment is critical. If the senior team is not 100% committed to strategic direction of the organization, the plan will fail.
  6. It’s an age-old business cliché, because it is correct: What gets measured gets done. A major reason that many strategies are not effectively executed is because there is no way to determine exactly what the expectations are. Ambiguity Breeds Mediocrity.

Those are just a few of the key ideas I try to help my clients keep in mind as we move through a strategic planning retreat. I will also add one more critical point; to make sure you follow through and implement your plan, you should spend just as much time on strategic execution planning as you do on planning the strategy. This is a very important idea that few companies truly embrace.

What are your thoughts?

The Four Most Important Things I Have Ever Learned

I am currently going through all my blogs and looking for the ones to keep, update or remove. I ran across this one and was especially touched by all of the comments – there’s even one there from a very close friend who has since passed away. I hope you find value in these ideas, and add your own comments to the already impressive list.


In a few weeks, I will be facilitating a weekend retreat for an organization in my local community.  The theme of the retreat is “Self-leadership” and I will be delivering a very special class that I don’t often get to teach called “Strategies for Success.” It is basically an advanced life skills class, a superb opportunity to stop and take stock of your life and make sure that things are going in the right direction for what you hope to achieve in your life.  As part of the class, I have assigned some homework for each of the participants. I asked them to write down the four most important things they have ever learned in their lives.  I told them to imagine that if they knew they were going to die tomorrow, what four pieces of wisdom would they want to pass along to their family and friends. I thought that was a great question, so I wanted to share my answer with you. Continue reading “The Four Most Important Things I Have Ever Learned” »

Five Things To Focus On In 2019

2018 marked my 24th year traveling around the world to help people and businesses achieve more success. I went to some amazing places, spent time with old friends and made lots of new friends. It was also a great year for learning, as I worked on all kinds of projects from executive coaching, facilitating strategic planning retreats and doing some consulting to running lots of workshops and delivering dozens of keynotes. In this video I’m going to share with you the five major things I learned in 2018 that I think will be important for you to focus on in the coming year.

I hope you found this helpful, and if you do, please share it with your network. Thanks – John

 

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.)

 

 

 

 

 

What Are Your Leadership Values?

This past week I was asked to give a talk at my alma mater, Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida.  I was speaking with a select group of their senior management team from across the entire organization and they sent me a list of questions they wanted me to answer and discuss.  One of the questions was, “What are the three values you rely on that underpin your leadership?”  I’ve never been asked a question quite like that and was pleasantly surprised after I gave it some thought.  Here are my top three…

Honesty

To me this is the absolute foundation of leadership, if you don’t tell the truth you can’t build trust and without trust, there is no loyalty, commitment or belief in the “leader.”  The rule here is simple, tell the truth all the time, period.

Love

I believe if you treat your team, your customers, even your competitors with love and respect you are following the path of a servant leader who understands that their job is to help and support others to be successful leaders.

Excellence

As one of my personal leadership values, I see the pursuit of excellence as the driver to creating an exceptional organization that has a positive impact on the lives of its employees, customers, community and the world.  Using “excellence” as a benchmark pushes each individual to be uncompromising in the quality of their work and always striving to deliver their very best.

Those are my top three, what are yours?

I Have Changed My Mind About Strategy

I have been studying and teaching strategy for nearly 20 years and I thought I had a pretty good handle on it, but in the last year, I have changed my thinking around one of my most important ideas on strategy.

I hope you find this video helpful, I look forward to your comments and please share this with your network if you think they would find it valuable.

Thank you very much – John

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