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

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.)

 

 

 

 

 

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

Strong Culture through Vision, Value, and Voice

strong culture vision value voice

When working to make positive changes or keep the “right” kind of people within your organization, it’s important that you have a strong set of company values and direction.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this concept lately and took a few minutes to talk about it in my latest video. Check it out or read through the written format below.

 

 

I think most business leaders understand that culture is a critical element in the success of their organization.

A culture of engagement with employees who have an ownership mentality, who are satisfied, loyal, proactive – those are the sort of cultures we try to build because, as I like to say, culture equals cash. It’s one of the biggest areas in most businesses that you can improve the bottom line.

And as I look at culture, there’s a ton of stuff around: There’s the Gallup poll, the Great Places to Work Study, the Firms of Endearment Study – all of which show, unfortunately, a very high level of disengagement and even actively disengaged employees who are basically trying to sabotage their company.

But, to me, there are a few fundamental things you have to have in place before making positive changes or putting “icing on the cake.”

3 Things Every Relationship Needs

Several years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine that’s a psychologist and he said, “John, there are 3 things that everybody looks for in all the most important relationships in their lives: Safety, belongingness, and appreciation.”

Safety

Folks need to know they’re physically safe.

People need to know things like they’re not going to get their arm caught in a machine and that it’s safe to walk in the parking lot at the end of the evening.

They also need to feel psychologically safe. They need to know people aren’t going to yell at them, scream at them, intimidate them, and, at some level, that their job is safe and that the company’s not going to go under tomorrow. They’re not going to go out of business. They’re not having a massive layoff.

So, they need to have an underlining idea of safety.

Belongingness

People want to feel like they’re wanted on the team, that they belong as part of the tribe, and that they’re an integral part of the company.

Appreciation

People need and want appreciation for the work they do. They want appreciation for bringing a positive attitude to work every day and appreciation for their ideas and the things and diverse ideas they bring to the table.

 

So, safety, belongingness, appreciation: These are the elements that must be present in any given relationship.

Vision, Value, and Voice

I was listening to a podcast this week, and they were interviewing a gentleman named Mike Stallard. He had 3 other things that he focused on.

I think these match up very, very, well, and I liked what he said.

His 3 elements were vision, value, and voice.

Vision

People think, “If I’m going to be engaged in the company, I need to know what the vision is. What’s the direction?”

The way I always phrase this is that people need a vivid, compelling and well-communicated vision and strategy for growth.

If you’re not doing those things, if you can’t communicate where your company and your team are going, why certain things are, what and what you plan to achieve, you’re missing something.

You must have a clear, vivid, well-communicated vision and strategy for growth.

Value

I’m taking my friend’s model and changing it slightly, by splitting it into 2 things, value and values.

The first one, value, means that people need to know that the company values them, that they’re important, that their work is valued and they’re respected, that they’re treated with dignity and that they play an important role within the company. Their work is valued.

Values, also align with the values of the company. These folks believe in the things the company says are important, and when they go to work every day, they’re proud of where they work, and what the company stands for, and hold their team members and other colleagues accountable for living the values of the organization.

This is one of the big things we talk about in hiring now: You really have to hire for a values fit as well as some skills, experience, aptitude, and a positive attitude.

Voice

The last one is voice. People need to know they will have a voice within the company. If there’s an issue, or problem, or a challenge, they have faith that people will listen to them,

But equally as important or more important is, they have a voice and a stake in the outcome. They know their voice will be heard about the vision, the mission, the value of their work, projects, teamwork, customer focus, and that they can speak up and say what’s on their mind.

Bringing It Together

So, I believe, if you want to build a really strong culture at the foundation, you have to have safety, belongingness, appreciation, vision, value, and voice.

My question to you is, How well does your organization do those 6 things?

 

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 Culture Of Purpose

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

How To Lead Four Generations At Work

A great new book from Kelly and Robby Riggs.

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