Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

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?

What Is Visioning?

visioning vision board action planWhen I work with large corporations and CEOs, I often challenge them to think about the trajectory of their company. Where do they want their organization to be in the future? Based on how things are going, where is it headed now? These are vital questions.

Here is an overview of a powerful business idea I use to help organizations create a detailed and compelling vision of the future they want to achieve for their company.

Check out the video or read through the content below.

 

What Is Visioning?

I want to share a tool with you that I sometimes use when I’m working with CEOs and helping them create a foundation for their strategic plan, and it’s called “Visioning.”

I will challenge leaders to create what I would call a “painted picture” – a vivid, compelling, highly detailed picture of where the company will be in the coming years. Let’s just use 2025 for this one.

And there are two ways I ask them to approach it:

Approach #1

One way could be to write a story as if you’re a reporter from Inc., Fortune, Forbes, something like that, and you were there to write a story about your company in 2025, about all the things that it accomplished. Maybe you just made the Inc. 500, or Inc. 100, or Fortune 400, or whatever it might be, but they’re really impressed with your company and they want to come and write an article about all the cool things your company is doing.

And I want it in detail, just like it would be in the magazine.

And I challenge them: Read a couple of business magazines with overviews of companies, and that’s what I want you to write.

Approach #2

The other way, which happens to be my favorite way, is I ask them to write a story about what it would be like to be an employee in this company in 2025:

  • What would it be like?
  • What would the culture be like?
  • Who would I be working with?
  • Would it be a casual atmosphere where people brought their dog to work?
  • Would it be a more formal culture?
  • What kind of locations would we have?
  • How much total revenue?
  • Would there be an employee profit-sharing plan?

But I want them to sit down and really give some serious thought to where do you see your company 5 to 10 years from today, and I want it to be as if I was there.

What’s the Point?

Now, what does this do?

This creates a really broad story about what the owner, the CEO, the president, whoever it might be running the company, of what they really see the future look like for their organization.

Step 2, then, is to give that out to your senior management team and get some feedback. And oftentimes, there will be some difficult conversations.

And then once you get alignment on the senior management team that, yes, this is where we want the business to go, this is what we see in the future, then you can back up and do your vision statement.

But What Is a Vision Statement?

A vision statement should be short, concise, to the point, focused, typically with some numbers in it, total revenues, position in the market, locations, number of employees, whatever numbers are important to you.

From that vision statement comes your strategy, because your strategy is built to get you to the vision you have of the future of the company.

You start it out with where we want to be in 2025, and you back up, year by year, all that way down to the current year, and say, ”All right, if this is where we want to be in seven years, where do we have to be next year, and the year after that, and the year after that?”

Then it’s pretty simple to create some major strategic objectives, 3 or 4, but no more than 5, for where we want to be this year, and then break that down into organizational action steps – tactics that go all the way down to the front line, and then it cascades all the way back up to the vision.

But for me, creating a Visioning exercise is a really good way to get people dedicated to where they want to take the company in the future.

Apply “Visioning” in Other Places

And by the way, this works exactly the same for your life.

Sit down, and some people actually create a picture. They cut stuff out from magazines or take photos and say, ”This is what I want my life to look like in 2025. Here are some images that motivate me and get me excited.”

And then back up to today and say, ”What would I have to do today – what decisions would I have to make in my life today so that 7 years from now, I’m actually living that vivid vision of the future I want to create?”

 

I hope you found this helpful.

 

How To Create A Mastermind Group

My wife, Sheila, speaking at a Mastermind meeting at our home.

Recently I’ve had several people ask me about how to set up a mastermind group. I wrote a blog about this back in 2011, but I have updated it and added some new information. I hope you find this helpful.

 

 

“You become what you focus on… and like the people you surround yourself with.”

This is the single most important lesson I’ve learned in my life so far. How did I learn it? By understanding the power of Mastermind Groups.

Thirty-nine years ago I failed out of college. After my first year at the University of Miami (Florida) I had a stellar 1.6 GPA!! Unfortunately, all the people I was hanging out with had lower GPA’s than I did so it did not seem like that big of a deal… until I was expelled. I moved to Gainesville, Florida to restart my college career and met an incredibly wise professor (Roger Strickland) who strongly recommended that I start a “study group” – a.k.a. — a mastermind group. At the beginning of each semester, I would stand up on the first day of class and invite anyone who wanted to do well in the course to join my study group… as long as they had a 3.6 GPA or higher! Forming that study group changed EVERYTHING. In the span of six years, I went from failing out of the University of Miami to graduating in the top three in the United States in my major from the University of Florida and then becoming the CEO of a Rockefeller foundation just three years after graduation.

I have continued to create mastermind groups throughout my life. In my early 30’s I created a group of young CEOs that met once a month at a local restaurant to share ideas and support each other as we tried to grow our businesses. For the last few years I’ve run a mastermind group of senior leaders, people who have been in business for 20 or 30 years, that gets together to talk about cutting edge business ideas, economics, politics, whatever important topic we all want to explore. This group has all become very close friends and I know that whenever I need help they are on my team. I’m also in a mastermind group with other people in my industry; professional speakers, consultants, and authors. We share our best ideas, contacts, client referrals and do everything we can to help each other improve our craft.

The reason I share my experiences with these two groups with you is to show you how incredibly powerful they can be in helping to guide, support, motivate and direct your life. I cannot possibly express how valuable it is to be an active member of a high-quality mastermind group. But here’s the catch; for most people, if you want to be in a mastermind group, you’re going to have to create it yourself!

Here are my recommendations on how to start and sustain a mastermind group.

Although there are many successful mastermind groups that meet via phone or online, I believe the most powerful ones meet in person, once a month or every 45 days, so I will address that sort of group in this article.

The first step is to look around your local community for one or two people who you respect and would enjoy learning from. Approach these folks with an invitation to create a mastermind group with you, let them know that it will be highly focused and a valuable use of their time.

When someone accepts your invitation, ask them to choose one or two people that they respect and would like to learn from and invite those folks to join the mastermind group too.

The goal is to have your initial meeting with six or eight members in attendance. At the first meeting is a good idea to take some time to set the framework for how the meetings will run and discuss the expectations that the members have about what they want to achieve in the mastermind group and what things would be of significant value to them. Structure is important to running an efficient mastermind group so you should set some rules around how often you will meet, where you will meet, attendance requirements, topics to be covered, length of meetings, confidentiality, and other issues you deem important. There should also be some discussion around how to invite new people to join the group what the process will be for deciding that someone should leave the group.

In our mastermind groups, we typically pose a single important question and ask everyone to come fully prepared to discuss it in the meeting. For example, in our last two meetings, the questions were: “What are the three most important lessons you have ever learned in your life?” And the next month we asked everyone, “If you were to turn your business over to your children (or someone else), what are the three most important pieces of business advice you would give to them?” Sometimes we all read a book and discuss what we felt was most important in the book and how we will apply those ideas in our lives and businesses. Other times we allow one of the members of the group to bring a specific challenge they are facing so that all of us can give them our best advice and connect them with anyone in our networks that we feel might be able to help them.

One of the biggest challenges of creating a mastermind group is keeping it to a manageable size once the word gets out that you have created something so powerful. I highly recommend that you have no more than a dozen members, which means you’ll likely have about 8 to 10 people in attendance at each meeting. If you get much larger than that, then you end up with cross conversations and a lack of focus.

Currently, my wife and I host the meetings at our home, we offer some light hors-d’oeuvres and cocktails and we all sit on the back deck for about two hours discussing the assigned topic, sharing stories, asking for help and getting advice. Not only is this incredibly beneficial session for learning new ideas and tools for improving your life and,  it is truly a blessing to be surrounded by such incredible people and to count them among your closest friends! We also invite spouses to attend which adds a lot of vibrancy and diversity to our meetings.

We do not charge any money to belong to the mastermind group, and we often rotate the meetings between different people’s houses to share costs. You could easily hold mastermind meetings at a local restaurant and let everyone handle their own bill, or gather at someone’s office and have food brought in.

Once you have a few meetings the group will begin to come together and start to open up. As trust builds, you will have some very meaningful conversations that will help the members of your group make major decisions in their business and life. Although mastermind groups will help you become more successful, the real wealth generated is from the friendships, learning, and access to each other’s networks…which is priceless.

If you are already involved in a mastermind group, please leave your comments and tell everybody what it has meant to you and how important it is in your life. I hope that we can start a small campaign here to get people around the world forming small mastermind groups to solve their personal problems, their business problems, their community’s problems and, yes, even the world’s problems.

Thanks, and take good care, John Spence

PS – Please take a moment to share this with anyone in your network that you feel would benefit from creating a mastermind group.

Irrationally Passionate

I was driving into the office this morning (Saturday – and you notice I didn’t call it work) listening to a podcast about how to increase sales. The person being interviewed said that the best way to grow your business was to focus on “irrationally passionate” customers. People, who are fanatical about the type of products or services you sell. Good examples would be Star Wars fans who will buy just about anything that has to do with Star Wars, or a sports fan who is crazy about their team, someone into golf, knitting, gardening, dogs, cats… a target customer who is so irrationally passionate that they become a raving fan for your business because you offer something that they “have to have.”

I love this idea. It makes perfect sense for how to identify your key target market. If you start your focus on this potential group of customers, you will also appeal greatly to the folks that are not quite as passionate but still very interested. It also makes it so much easier to sell when you are offering your products and services to people that are enthusiastic about buying them. I see a lot of businesses waste time and money trying to sell to people that either don’t want or can’t afford their product. Here is a quote I use a lot when I’m delivering sales training, “Don’t try to sell to broke people.”

However, I also saw another application for the idea of “irrationally passionate.” This is the exact same thing that YOU need to be about your business/career if you want to achieve a high level of success. It’s very hard to become superb at something you are not deeply excited about. If you want to be one of the best of the best you must be fully committed… irrationally passionate… and willingly do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do. So here are a few questions for you.

Are YOU irrationally passionate about…
  • Being better prepared than any of your competition?
  • Being insanely customer focused?
  • Delivering the highest quality products and services?
  • Delivering world-class customer service?
  • Operating with 100% honesty and integrity?
Is your company irrationally passionate about…
  • Hiring only top talent?
  • Building a winning culture of highly engaged employees?
  • Being fair and generous with your customers and employees?
  • Creating high levels of accountability across your entire organization?
  • Fostering lots of open, honest and transparent communication within your company?
  • Focusing intently on disciplined execution?
  • Demanding excellence and refusing to tolerate mediocrity?

These are just a few questions; I could easily add another twenty. The point is, you will never become truly great at something if you are not irrationally passionate about achieving greatness in that area. I know that sounds simplistic, but it is the truth. Unfortunately, I see a lot of people today that think that they can attain great success without great effort. That has never happened and it never will. All success comes from work, usually very hard work, and excellence comes from being irrationally passionate about the pursuit of excellence.

What are you irrationally passionate about?

Why Should I Worry About This?

Here is an idea that I believe can make a dramatic positive impact in your life if you apply it!

I hope you found this video helpful and that you will share it with anyone you feel would find value in the ideas I shared .

Thanks – John

The Single Most Important Leadership Characteristic

For more than 20 years I have taught leadership at startup companies to the Fortune 50 and the single most important trait for highly effective leaders has always been the exact same thing. I can show you dozens of major research studies from around the world, representing millions of respondents, and they all say the exact same thing. When I teach classes on leadership and ask the attendees what they look for in a leader they would willingly follow, it’s always the exact same thing…

HONESTY

However, it is getting harder and harder for people to believe this.  In nearly every arena; business, politics, religion, science, education…there are “leaders” who have no problem lying. I’m not talking about small mistruths, or perhaps twisting the facts a little bit, I’m talking about boldface, in-your-face, complete and utter lies. So-called “leaders” who can look you straight in the eye and tell you something that they know is absolutely false.

I am NOT taking any sides here. Every side of everything now has people who seem to have no regard for the truth and are willing to say anything, no matter how outlandish, to advance their position. When I open the floor for questions at my events, inevitably someone will ask, “If telling the truth is so important, then why do we have so many leaders who don’t?” My response: “I don’t know. It does not make any sense to me. I would not consider those people leaders; however, they are in leadership positions. I don’t understand how people like that rise to the top positions in organizations. It drives me crazy.”

The Death of Honesty?

I refuse to believe that we have come to a place in society where lying is an acceptable, even expected, behavior. I’m at the point where I question the validity everything I hear and read and that is painful and frustrating. It makes me physically tired to listen to the news and hear the constant stream of stories about “leaders” who have been lying, cheating, stealing, killing… and mostly getting away with it. I cannot fathom the damage this has done to our society and the example it is setting for our youth. It terrifies me to think about a generation of young people who have been raised watching authority figures lie, and then lie about their lies.

But I believe there is a solution and it starts with you and me.

Now more than ever I feel that it is essential to be a living example of honesty and integrity. It is only through modeling these behaviors, in even the most challenging situations, that we can demonstrate that character, authenticity and truth telling are truly the most essential characteristics of leadership. We need to make more of an effort to highlight and showcase successful leaders who build great companies on a foundation of honesty, fairness respect and generosity. We also need to call out “leaders” when they are dishonest, when they mislead us, and hold them accountable for their destructive actions and behaviors.

This will not be easy. There is a tsunami of misinformation, lies, fake news and manipulation coming from all directions. Again, I am not taking any sides here, I am simply saying that it is up to you and me to hold ourselves to the highest standard of honesty and integrity in our personal and business lives. I will end with one of my favorite value statements, from one of the greatest leadership institutions in the world, West Point.

“A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.”

Sounds like a good plan to me.

 

For more of John’s ideas on leadership here is a link to his book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I Really Need To Say Anything?

I have started a new practice that has made a huge positive impact on my life. As a consultant, I’ve always known that my job was to ask good questions and listen intensely. However, in my personal life I will often give my feedback, opinions, ideas, suggestions and direction without even being asked for it! Because I realized this wasn’t exactly a positive trait, during the last few months I have focused on asking myself a few questions before I open my mouth.

  • Do I really need to say anything right now?
  • Is what I’m going to say adding any significant value to the conversation?
  • Is what I want to say helpful or am I just trying to talk about me?
  • Do they want my advice or simply for me to listen to them?

Just taking a moment to pause and ask myself these questions has totally changed the way I approach conversations with my family, friends and colleagues. I have found that in the past I would often say things that were not relevant, did not help the conversation move forward in a positive direction or were simply an effort for me to impose my thoughts and values on someone else. Carefully thinking about what I am planning to say, before I say it, has cut my comments by 80%. I talk a lot less, listen more, and end up having much better and more satisfying conversations for myself and others.

So to finish, rather than telling you what to do let me ask you a question; Do you think it would be helpful to ask yourself these questions before you start talking?

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Do You Have a Strategic Plan for Your Life?

Click HERE to see John’s BIG Ideas on Strategy

How To Be More Successful

I recently had the honor of being asked to do a segment for ITPRO.TV, a video channel aimed specifically at delivering world-class training and certification courses to IT professionals. The topic they asked me to speak on was professional development, especially focused on how to take your career to the next level in 2017. I think there are several good ideas here that apply to anyone who wants to have more success in their career and life.

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