Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

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

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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?

 

Do You Have A Culture Of Purpose

If you want to make more money: ASK

Several years ago, one of my clients asked me to put together a special workshop to help their employees increase the quality of their customer service. I told them that the single best way to figure out what it would take to deliver consistently superior customer service was… to ask their customers!

We, of course, pursued the standard route of sending out a general customer satisfaction survey and I also interviewed a handful of their customers to get some confidential feedback, but what really helped them achieve an entire new level of customer service excellence was inviting a panel of their top customers for an open and frank discussion about how they currently viewed the service they were getting and exactly what sort of improvements they would like to see.

On the day of the event we gathered every employee in the company (60+) to listen to what the customer panel had to say. The results were amazing! As the employees sat on the edge of their seats, key decision-makers from their seven biggest customers (representing nearly 70% of their annual revenues) spent more than two hours talking about what they loved about the customer service they were receiving; what they hated about the customer service they were receiving; and precisely what they wanted changed, fixed or improved.

Imagine having your very best customers tell you exactly what you would have to do for them to give you a larger share of their business and eagerly refer you to their friends and colleagues. In nearly 25 years of running training workshops this was one of the most powerful and motivating sessions I have ever had the pleasure of leading. By the end of the day every employee that attended felt like they understood what they personally needed to do to deliver outstanding customer service Interestingly, it was just as rewarding for the customers who said it was the very first time that one of their vendors had invited them in to share these sorts of issues in open forum. A true win/win for all involved.

So now the question is: how can you apply this idea in your business? Maybe this sort of customer panel is a perfect way for you to open the lines of communication with your customers and make significant progress in deeply understanding what it will take to consistently meet and even exceed their specific customer service expectations. Maybe your company isn’t quite as big and instead you simply invite two or three of your top customers to lunch and discuss how well your company is meeting their expectations and what they feel you need to improve. It seems pretty straightforward to me, if you want to make more money, ask the people who are currently giving you money what it would take for them to give you more money. Because, as Mark Twain so beautifully put it, “The only critic whose opinion counts… is the customer.”

This Determines the Future Success of Your Business…

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As I look back across two decades of working with companies around the world, there are a few key ideas that I think are fundamental to business success, here is one of them:

 

The success of your business is directly tied to the quality of the people that you can get, grow and keep on your team – and the relationships they create with your customers.

I have yet to meet a single business leader that does not strongly agree with this idea, however I see a lot of businesses where they do not actually live this idea. Today I want to talk about the growth and development of top talent.

Once you get somebody on your team, there is absolutely no excuse for not investing time, energy and money in helping that person continuously improve.

Frankly, I believe this is the single most important investment you can make in your company, because without highly talented people who are steadily getting better and better, you have no chance of making your company better and better. I also write above that there is, “no excuse” because never in the history of humankind has there been more information available, much of it for free, to assist you in delivering world-class training to your people.

Here are just a few of the things that you should be doing:

  • Formal mentoring program
  • Creating a formal development plan for each employee
  • Creating an internal training department
  • Training classes taught by qualified outside instructors
  • Cross training
  • Benchmarking your training efforts against leading companies
  • Buying a copy of a book for each of your employees
  • Creating a lending library of top business books
  • Creating a lending library of training CDs
  • Getting your employees a membership to an audiobook service
  • Getting your employees a membership to a book summary service
  • Bringing in outside experts for a “lunch and learn”
  • Taking your employees to visit other companies
  • Sending out a newsletter with good information for your employees
  • Sending out a list of top podcasts they should be listening to
  • Sending out a list of YouTube videos they should watch
  • Investing in online/virtual training for your employees
  • Taking your employees to a major training seminar by an expert
  • Taking your employees to an industry event
  • Annual or semiannual company training conferences

These are just a few things that I came up with off the top of my head, I’m sure there are several more you could add to this list. But here is my point: if you are not doing all or most of this then you’re not truly serious about helping your people (and your company) to be as successful as possible. A good deal of what I have listed is absolutely free, much of it is very inexpensive, and only a few things require significant financial investment. But I can tell you this, not doing the things on this list is very, very expensive.

If you found value in this blog, I hope you will share it with your network.

***  I wanted to let you know about a very special event I will be participating in on March 12-14 at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in the incredibly beautiful town of Banff, Canada. It will be an exclusive retreat for leaders of fast growth businesses who are looking to engage with other leaders in pursuit of higher levels of performance. We have done this event twice in the past and it has been a resounding success. If you’re interested, here is a link to learn more about the program, we would love to have you join us!

Click HERE to find out more

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A Perfect Breakfast Storm

240_F_90927099_z6LSkcqAbKKIpsbNmhygPROfNiNTK1x9Recently I witnessed a perfect storm of two prevalent business problems:

 Activity vs. Results and The Law of Unintended Consequences.

 

I was having breakfast at a very nice hotel. When I was seated I asked the hostess if I could have a menu but she explained to me that they only offered a buffet. So I walked over and put together a plate of food. When I returned there was a glass of water on my table, however, I really like to have iced tea with my breakfast, so I looked around to try to catch the attention of one of the servers. I was literally the only person in the restaurant, yet I couldn’t get any help. The staff was feverishly working away at folding napkins and setting tables for lunch (it was 8:40 AM), busy as could be and completely ignoring me. When I started to eat my meal, the eggs were cold, the sausage was cold and the potatoes were cold, so I decided I might as well have some yogurt, because it’s supposed to be cold. I set my plate to the side and went back to the buffet for the yogurt, upon returning my plate was still there and no iced tea. After I ate my yogurt I waited patiently for someone to come over so that I could ask for a check, and no one ever came to my table. So on my way out of the restaurant I mentioned to the hostess that no one asked me to pay for my breakfast, to which she replied, “Oh it is included in with room, you have already paid for it.”

That is when it dawned on me. Because they had no way to earn a tip, nobody put any effort into helping the customers, it was much easier to just look busy folding napkins so that their manager did not give them a hard time. Again, I tell you these sorts of stories not to complain, but to hold up a mirror and ask you: Do you ever do this in your business? Do you judge your employees by how early they get to work, how late they stay and how busy they look – not on the quality of their work or results they deliver? Is your reward and recognition system in alignment with the priorities of your business?

Are you paying your people to do what is most important and drive success, or to have nicely folded napkins?

If you would like some ideas about how to improve your culture, I wrote a short ebook with my best ideas. Here is a link to learn more:

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A Lesson About Team Culture

636103432294773262-0925-kcsp-utfl-068-asbThis is not a sports story, but it does revolve around a story about sports. I live in Gainesville, Florida which means it is mandatory for me to be a Florida Gators football fan. Last weekend we played the Tennessee Volunteers, they have not beat us in 11 years, the smartphone did not exist the last time Tennessee actually beat the Gators! However, this weekend they beat us… no, they crushed us. The final score of Tennessee 38 – Florida 28 does not come close to representing the thrashing our team took. The funny thing is, we were winning 28-3 at halftime, then Tennessee scored 35 unanswered points. By the middle of the third quarter the Gators had completely given up, they were walking with their heads down or sitting on the bench. There was an opportunity for us to come back and win in the fourth quarter, but the Gators had already decided they were going to lose. On the other side of the field, the Volunteers, even though they came into the second half needing at least five touchdowns to win, were motivated, focused and playing like a real team.

The big lesson for me came at the end of the game when Tennessee broke their decade-long losing streak and won a huge game for their school. The players had every right to dance around the field and celebrate, pumping their fists and mugging for the cameras, but instead they ran over to jump in the stands and celebrate with the other students. The head coach ran over to the sideline, climbed up on a ladder next to the conductor of the school band, and led the musicians in playing the Tennessee fight song. The attitude and conduct of the two teams during the second half of the game, and after the game, highlighted a big lesson about organizational and team culture and how, in a very large way, the leader sets the tone. One team quits halfway through the game and mopes off the field humiliated, the other team stays optimistic, cohesive, determined and then celebrates the win for everyone in the school, not just themselves.

So the question I have for you: How does the team at your company play?

 

*** If you are interested in learning more about how to build and sustain a winning culture, I have written a short and very focused e-book that outlines my very best ideas and tools. Here is a link so you can take a look: Winning Culture eBook

 

CULTURE = CASH

7564321-big-pile-of-money-stack-of-american-dollarsFor many, many businesses today the only competitive differentiator they truly have is the quality of the people that they can get, grow and keep on their team… and the relationships they create with their customers.

Competitors can copy your products, beat you on price, match all of your distribution channels, spend more money on marketing and advertising and out manuver you on social media. However, if you can attract, develop and retain top talent and then get them insanely focused on taking great care of your customers… that is not something your competition can easily copy.

So, what attracts top talent to work in a company? I was interested to know this so I did a survey of more than 10,000 high potential employees at top companies around the world and they told me there were six things they look for from an ideal employer.

  1. Fair Pay – which they defined as 10% above or below what they would make to do the same job at a different company.
  1. Challenging Work work that was engaging, meaningful and matched their skill set.
  1. Cool Colleagues – A-players only want to play on a team with other A-players.
  1. Winning Culture – a place where people smile just as much when they come to work as when they leave.
  1. Personal/Professional Growth – the chance to learn and improve every day, as well as seeing a place for themselves in the company 5 to 7 years in the future.
  1. A Boss I Respect And Admire – which was actually one of the most important things they wanted!

If you think about it, all six of these factors are actually elements of a winning culture. If you want to bring top people in your company you’ve got to do these six things exceedingly well. On the flipside, the vast majority of people that leave a company exit because they hate their boss and are disengaged by the culture. I just listened to an interview with David Burkus talk about his new book Under New Management  (which I highly recommend) where he mentioned that only two employees out of 10 are fully engaged in their work. Think of the wasted time, money, resources and opportunity. However, if you could engage another two or three people, you would likely create a company that would dominate the marketplace.

In both a positive and negative sense: CULTURE = CASH

*** 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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Three Business Fears

12311745_10153134220142466_849282776_o (1)I have just returned from a trip to Kraków, Poland where I was invited by the US Consulate to be the keynote speaker at the Polish American Innovation Bridge event. I also had the opportunity to give a speech at the Polytechnic Institute. I found the Polish entrepreneurs I met to be very energetic, enthusiastic and passionate about building businesses. However, there was one theme that ran through all of the comments and questions which was, “What happens if I fail?” There seemed to be an overwhelming fear of failure across the groups I spoke with. The event organizers asked me to focus on two special areas, how to handle failure and how to successfully network with other entrepreneurs and business people. It also seems that the current Polish entrepreneurial culture does not support the idea of win/win networking. Many of the students and entrepreneurs I talked to were very worried about sharing their ideas with anyone else and did not believe that other entrepreneurs in their community would be willing to help them, so in large part they decided to go it alone.

Earlier this year I spent a good deal of time in Australia and New Zealand working with business people and entrepreneurs there. I find it fascinating that they had almost the opposite fear: the fear of success. There is a saying that they have in Australia and New Zealand, “The tall poppy syndrome.” If you, as a poppy, grow too tall compared to the rest of the poppies, they cut you down to size. In these cultures if you are too successful it agitates the people around you who are not as successful and you are put under a great deal of peer pressure to conform to the societal norms of not sticking out. The question I kept getting in Australia and New Zealand was, “How do you think so big in America?” They just couldn’t understand the idea of wanting to grow a billion-dollar company or the desire to be hugely successful, and said that in their business culture colleagues often tried to keep you in a more “reasonable” frame of mind when talking about business growth.

Let me be very clear, I was extremely impressed in Poland, Australia and New Zealand with the very bright and talented entrepreneurs I met. They were curious and wanted to find out how to improve themselves and their businesses. And not everyone I met fits in the categories I mentioned above, but I did find it interesting to see the stark differences in the different cultures. What’s even more fascinating is that I have run into all of the same issues working with entrepreneurs in America. They are fearful of failure, afraid to be too successful and reluctant to share their ideas and ask for help from the other entrepreneurs and business owners around them.

So my question to you is, do you suffer from any of these three entrepreneurial fears?

I look forward to your thoughts – John