Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

On The Intolerance Of Mediocrity

5117ec57cab7b.imageI have spent the last 20 years of my career studying excellence. I have read dozens if not hundreds of books on the topic, interviewed CEOs, Olympic gold medalists, artists, musicians and other people who have achieved preeminence in their field. I especially enjoy spending time with world-class chefs who are insanely focused on producing only the finest dishes they can humanly make. Recently I read an article from one of the top chefs in the world that discussed how he built his restaurant into one of the most revered eateries on the face of the earth.

His simple four-step formula for excellence?

  1. Strive every day to be the best in the world.
  2. Be completely intolerant of mediocrity.
  3. Constantly innovate and push the envelope.
  4. Deliver a truly world-class dining experience to every customer.

I read that list and thought to myself that you could pretty much copy it, change number four a little bit, and it would apply to being excellent in nearly any business. But I have one big problem, its number two, something I believe in very strongly, but can cause a tremendous amount of stress in your life.

For those of us who want to be highly regarded at what we do, I believe it takes a complete intolerance of mediocrity, both in yourself and in those you work with. However, taking on that attitude means that you will often be frustrated and sometimes be seen as too aggressive or even a bully. I have been mentoring a young man that wants to be one of the top 10 chefs in the world and during a recent breakfast he asked me, “If I become one of the best chefs in the world, will any of the people that work for me like me?” And I quickly answered, “No, they will think you’re an asshole.” I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. In order for him to demand near perfection and be completely intolerant of anything less than excellent, he will have to step on a lot of toes and bruise a lot of egos.

Which brings me back to…me.

I struggle mightily with this idea. I coach all my clients to stop tolerating mediocrity and to remove anyone on their team that is not a solid contributor to the success of the organization. According to a recent test I took, I literally broke the scale on self-competitiveness, so I obviously have no problem (or perhaps it is a problem) in pushing myself very hard to achieve excellent results. But I will say that my focus on making myself and my company absolutely the best I possibly can does make it extremely hard on the people that work with me and the vendors we do business with. I am accused by many of being too harsh, unrealistic and overly demanding – which part of me takes is a great compliment and the other part of me feels almost embarrassed about because I know how difficult it can be to work with me.

In the end though, I know that to achieve a high level of success I must be unwilling to settle for mediocrity. On the other hand I am coming to the realization that the distance between “Mediocrity – Good – Great – World-Class” has a lot of room for delivering fantastic work, without having to be constantly stressed and frustrated over not delivering world-class work. I understand now that driving for near perfection can often times drive people into the ground, yet if I challenge them to deliver the best they possibly can a level that I can accept as really, really great work – then I don’t have to be an ass. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but one that I’m working on.

What about you?

 

 

Doing Your Job

business, job, workLet me help you understand something… doing your job gets you NO extra credit at all. Showing up on time, finishing your work, making sure your work has been done correctly, being courteous to co-workers and customers, staying until you are supposed to leave… that is what you are paid to do. I am getting tired of people who expect special recognition, an award, a big tip or raise – for simply doing their job.

It is like when the guy from the commercial cleaning crew that cleans my office tells me with great fanfare and excitement: “We wiped down all of the desks, vacuumed the floors, washed the windows, cleaned the bathroom and emptied all of the trash cans.” Then breathlessly waits for me to tell him how awesome that is. But I am thinking, “Well, no shit, that is what I hired you to do – so what?” However, if after he rattled off that list of tasks completed he said, “We also put fresh flowers on your desk and noticed that you were out of Diet Coke, so we put a 12-pack in the fridge for you.” THAT is awesome – that is special – that deserves some special recognition!

Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE evangelist for “creating a culture of catching people doing things right,” and I clearly understand that praise and recognition is critical to developing highly engaged and loyal employees, but I am not going to throw you a party just for having a pulse. I have been surprised lately by employees at some of my client companies that are angry and surly because they did not get  a raise or promotion when it is abundantly clear to me that they have not done anything special to earn it. They seem to believe that if they just show up and put in their time they should eventually become a Vice President. No, all that gets you is NOT fired!

I read an article about one of the top chefs in the world and they asked him his secret to success. His answer?

  1. Be completely intolerant of mediocrity.

  2. Strive every day in everything you do for true excellence.

  3. Be incredibly customer focused.

  4. Be highly innovative so you can continue to delight your customers.

That is a great list; that is how you become the best in the world at what you do. Anything less is simply doing your job.

 

Your thoughts?

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How to Build a Personal Advisory Board

mentor advisor, mastermind business successI received an email this morning from a colleague who was asking about how to expand their network and specifically how to create an “Advisory Board,” of key individuals with specific expertise that could help him be more successful in his career. I get a lot of inquiries about this subject so I thought I would give you some brief advice about how to at least get this process started.

Step One: Determine exactly what you are interested in learning about. It does you no good to simply connect with people hoping that they might be able to add value to you, so it is important that you take the time to sit down and think through the skills, capabilities, information and expertise you hope to gain through your advisory board.

Step Two: Once you have a very clear idea of exactly the kind of person you want to meet, send a clear and focused note to everyone in your current network asking them if they know anyone who possesses the skills and experience you are looking to learn about and might be willing to assist you as a mentor or on your Board of Advisors (Basically a group of mentors).

Step Three: When one of your current contacts identifies a potential advisor, do as much homework as you possibly can on that person before you get introduced to them. Google them, check their LinkedIn profile, see if they have a Facebook profile, ask your contact for any and all information that they will share with you – before they make the introduction. And then create a very clear and specific outline of what you hope to learn from this person so that your contact can make a solid and compelling introduction on your behalf.

Step Four: Once the introduction is made be extremely respectful, do not waste one minute of their time, explain exactly what you’re hoping to achieve, and then ask them what they are interested in learning more about so that you can work as hard as you possibly can to help them gain new information and ideas that would be of value to their personal and/or professional growth. Remember, for a networking or advisory relationship to be successful you must give as much or more value back to the person who is advising you as they are offering to you. You have to make a significant effort to constantly be on the lookout for ways that you can help them, bring them new ideas/information and introduce them to other people that they might find value.

Step Five: Once you create a solid advisory/mentoring relationship with this new contact, and you feel comfortable that you have gotten to know each other fairly well, ask them if they would introduce you to three people they feel would also add a lot of value to your growth and who would enjoy spending time with you and find value in the kind of information you would bring to them.

Step Six: With each of these new contacts go back to step three and repeat the process over and over again. If you do this diligently, and always strive to add as much value as you possibly can back to your mentor/advisor, you will look up in a few years and your network will have grown exponentially and you will have a handful of very key advisors who could literally change the trajectory of your career and life!

I hope you found this helpful, and if you did please share it with everyone in your network.

Thanks so much – John

My Gift To You For 2015

GTD_630822Well, here we are together, just a few days before the end of 2014. It’s a cliché, but how did the year go by so fast?

While this past year was a great year for my wife and I, and I hope it was for you too, for many people 2014 was an incredibly challenging and difficult year.

As a race we face many global problems and as a country we are currently struggling through one of the most divisive and divided eras in our history. These are big problems, very BIG. I do not know how to solve them but I do know this…

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

And I also know that WE have to solve them, we have gotten ourselves into this mess and we will have to get ourselves out of it. There is no magic wand, it is going to take a lot of hard work, tough decisions and sacrifice from everyone around the world – and that includes you and me!

So to help you look at things in a in a new way for 2015 here is a video with the highlights of some of the top TED Talks of 2014. I encourage you to watch this clip and then go watch any or all of the full videos, it is sure to shake up your thinking, which is the best gift I can give you as we head into the new year together. After all, it is up to us, WE have to drive the change we want to see in the world. A tall order indeed, but one we must all rise to embrace.

I wish you every possible happiness and success. Love, John

Incredible Resource for You

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

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

Click HERE to go to the video page

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


 

Ten Business Success Ideas

John in Toronto_edited-1As I sit here in the lobby of the Marriott in downtown Vancouver, I am reflecting on some of the highlights of the past few weeks which have taken me to assignments in Charlotte, Baltimore, Vegas, Toronto, Barbados and now to Vancouver. The clients have ranged from Bank of America to small business owners, to a workshop for 1,000+ CPAs and a speech to 8,000+ of the top financial planners in the world. Also, with so much time on planes I have read 20+ books on various business topics. Here are some big business success ideas I have picked up  (or re-confirmed) along the way…

 

1. Accountability and disciplined execution are the MOST pressing issues in almost all of the companies I have been working for in the last 6 months. This is a HUGE issue and can negatively or positively impact a company’s success in significant ($$$$$$) ways!

2. Lack of clear, specific and well-understood communications is a CLOSE second!

3. The majority of businesses are NOT doing a good enough job of truly listening to their EMPLOYEES and CUSTOMERS. Whoever owns the Voice of the Customer (VOC) owns the marketplace — and if you run a business your employees are actually your customer – and then they go out and serve the final customer – so you have to own the Voice of the Employee (VOE).

4. McDonalds spends more time and money training their employees than the average “high-tech” business. Think about that – and then think about how much you truly invest in high-quality training for your people.

5. See the reading infographic below – it should blow your mind and motivate you to increase your reading. Especially the very last stat… 7 x 1 x 7 = International Expert. Hey, it worked for me!!!!

6. If you have a problem with accountability at lower levels in your organization, then it is the responsibility of the middle managers to hold their people accountable. If they will not, then the senior managers need to hold the middle managers 100% accountable – if they cannot then the CEO must hold the senior managers fully accountable. In other words – creating a culture of accountability ALL starts with the tone and example that the CEO sets. This seems very straight-forward and simple – but it is typically the root of the problem.

7. From the book: Difference – by Bernadette Jiwa. “The truth is people do not fall in love with ideas at all. They fall in love with the ways those ideas, products, services and places make them feel.” This is a really important branding axiom.

8. The reason that most people do not get a ton of high-quality referrals is simply this: They are NOT remarkable. They do not truly add enough value for their customer to want to “remark” about them to others. So the first step in getting referrals is towering competencies (ideas, products, services, experiences, information, suggestions, and innovations) that are exceedingly valuable to your customers.

9. The quality of your life is determined in large part by the quality of the questions you ask… to others and to yourself! Great leaders are expert at asking just the right question at just the right time – to their people and to themselves.

10. Culture = Cash. The number ONE factor in highly engaged, satisfied and loyal CUSTOMERS… is highly engaged, satisfied and loyal EMPLOYEES. Insanely successful companies all share this practice: Higher top talent, engage them through a winning culture, guide them with a sharply focused and well-communicated vision, values and strategy for growth – then empower them to go out and WOW the customer. That is about as Awesomely Simple as I can make it!

I hope you will share this post with your network – thanks – John

READING Facts!!!


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

You MUST Learn to Delegate!

DelegateI was recently delivering a speech in Des Moines (great city – incredibly nice people) and one of the attendees approached me after my talk to ask for some advice. It seems that he had an employee that was very, very talented… except she could not (would not) delegate.

I had encountered a similar problem with a senior executive I was coaching at a Fortune 100 financial firm, he was a superstar, but was also doing everyone else’s job and working 100-hour weeks. Not only had it completely destroyed his personal life, but I was brought in because, in the words of his manager, “If he cannot learn to delegate this is the end-of-the-line for his career, he is totally maxed-out and I cannot give him any more work – or promotions.” I told the attendee in Iowa that I would be happy to put together a brief video that focused on: Superstar Who Cannot Delegate = End of Career. I hope you find this of value and share it with your network!

Success Quotes to Help You Achieve Your Goals

A good friend just sent me this list of success quotes that was created by Dan Waldschmidt. I like it very much and have added a few success ideas of my own…

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YOU HAVE TO DO THE HARD THINGS.

You have to make the call you’re afraid to make.

You have to get up earlier than you want to get up.

You have to give more than you get in return right away.

You have to care more about others than they care about you.

You have to fight when you are already injured, bloody, and sore.

You have to feel unsure and insecure when playing it safe seems smarter.

You have to lead when no one else is following you yet.

You have to invest in yourself even though no one else is.

You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have.

You have to grind out the details when it’s easier to shrug them off.

You have to deliver results when making excuses is an option.

You have to search for your own explanations even when you’re told to accept the “facts”.

You have to make mistakes and look like an idiot.

You have try and fail and try again.

You have to run faster even though you’re out of breath.

You have to be kind to people who have been cruel to you.

You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that are unparalleled.

You have to be accountable for your actions even when things go wrong.

You have to keep moving towards where you want to be no matter what’s in front of you.

* You have to ask for help, even thought it might make you feel weak.

* You have to realize that your life will never be perfect, but it can be fantastic!

*You have to walk away from negative relationships, even if they have the same last name as you.

* You have to learn to let go of the things you can’t control, and take massive action on the things you can control.

*You have to be prepared, even if you could wing it.

*You have to tell the truth, even when others may not.

*You have to have a plan for your life, or you will end up living out someone else’s.

*You have to guard your integrity and reputation; it is all you really have.

*You have to be grateful every day, because if you can read this you should be.

You have to do the hard things.

The things that no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that make you wonder how much longer you can hold on.

Those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make the difference between living a life of mediocrity or outrageous success.

The hard things are the easiest things to avoid. To excuse away. To pretend like they don’t apply to you.

The simple truth about how ordinary people accomplish outrageous feats of success is that they do the hard things that smarter, wealthier, more qualified people don’t have the courage — or desperation — to do.

Do the hard things. You might be surprised at how amazing you really are.

* = from John

I look forward to seeing what YOU add to this list. And if you found value in this list you might also enjoy one of my earlier blogs: 90 Quotes That Will Change The Way You Think

****IMPORTANT: I have two NEW e-books that are just launching this week!!!  The first is Letters to a CEO – which is a compilation of the actual memos and letters I have sent to executives I have been coaching over the past few years. It has short chapters filled with my best advice on key business topics like decision making, accountability, sales, team, building, strategy, business excellence and several more. Easy to read, great ideas, a truly valuable guide. Click on the cover to learn more about this book…

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The second is Strategies for Success which is my “strategic life-planning workbook.”  I have taught this at more than 90 colleges and universities across the and at companies like Merrill Lynch, Apple, Qualcomm, Allstate and many others. It is perfect for a high school senior, college student or anyone looking to create a more focused plan for their future – and it also has 11 free videos to help you go through the program successfully. This is a very powerful and potentially life-changing program. Click on the cover to learn more about this book…

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Three Keys to a Winning Culture

Happy Business Team 3During the past year a great deal of my time has been spent teaching organizations around the world how to improve their culture, as many organizations (both large and small) are now realizing that Culture =Cash! They have finally accepted that if getting, growing and keeping top talent is a strategic objective (and it should be!!!), then having a superior culture is one of the main ways to attract that top talent. So to me, there are two sides to the culture coin… what employees look for, which is a Winning Culture, a place that’s fun to work at, with a family atmosphere, where they are treated fairly , have the freedom to do their without micro management and an organization that has created a culture of catching people doing things right!  However, there is also the other side of the culture coin that the employer looks for, which is highly engaged employees who have an Ownership Mentality…that is they show dedication, passion, creativity, pro-activity, a sense of urgency and high levels of both personal and mutual accountability .

These are all important factors, and there are several more key factors to creating a winning culture , but a few years ago I was talking to a good friend of mine who is a leading psychologist and he pointed out that a great deal of what I was talking about was exactly the same things that everyone looks for in the most important relationships in their lives … and when you think about it, your relationship to your job and the people there is absolutely one of the most important relationships in your life .  According to my friend, here are the three factors that everyone looks for in the key relationships in their life :

 

Safety: employees need to feel physically safe at their job, that they’re not going to get hurt by machinery or that it’s safe to walk out to the parking lot late in the evening.  They also need to feel emotionally safe, that no one is going to yell at them, embarrass them and their job will not be simply yanked out from underneath their feet with no reason.  Lastly, they need to feel psychologically safe, that they can express their opinion, share their ideas or disagree with a superior … without the fear of retribution, bullying or embarrassment.

 

Belongingness: people want to feel that they are part of the team, part of the group, part of the tribe.  They want to know that the people at work like them, like having them around and feel they are an important part of the organization. No one wants to feel like an outcast or that no one cares about them.

 

Appreciation: employees want to know that they are appreciated not only for the work they do, but also who they are as an individual, what they contribute to the team, and the ideas and diversity that they bring to the organization.

 

Safety            Belongingness          Appreciation

 

It is my strong belief that if you flood your organization with safety, belongingness and appreciation that you will build a framework for creating a truly a winning culture.  And, as with many of the other factors, these three are mostly what I call atmosphere issues…they cost no extra money to implement – it is simply the way you treat your people, the way you engage them, and the respect you show all of your employees that make them feel safe, that they belong and that they are genuinely appreciated.

So my question to you is: What can you do TODAY to create more safety, belongingness and appreciation across your entire organization?  

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

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