What happens when a corporation’s leadership is engaged, talented and competent, but so stuck in their ways—their comfort zone—that they can’t quite grasp the importance of acting as a strategic, forward-thinking team?
If that’s the case, it could be time for drastic measures. Measures so drastic that company vice presidents might be left mumbling, “What just happened?”
To that we say, “Shake them up.” Don’t be afraid to get people’s attention in an over-the-top way, even if it means pretending you’re Zeus, and a very miffed Zeus at that.
We’d never ask anyone to fire lightning bolts we wouldn’t ourselves. Frank once dressed as the top Greek god at a company training session—complete with blaring music and swirling clouds—and required his dubious vice presidents to dress as gods, too.
We might have called what Frank did as outside the box thinking, but we’re not sure Frank has a box.
These extreme tactics may sound absurd, but they can snap executives out of their doldrums and inspire them to view daily decisions from a different perspective.
Not every company CEO will go to the extremes Frank did, but they still can think creatively, and even outrageously, in figuring out ways to help their company leaders evolve into a high-performing team.
3 comfort zone blasters
Three lessons for zapping people out of their comfort zone that we’ve learned from our sessions that could benefit other CEOs include:
Place people in the right roles.
Sometimes a job just isn’t the right fit for the individual. Rather than fire them, place them in a role that capitalizes on their strengths. At the conclusion of one of Frank’s training sessions, 40 percent of his vice presidents were assigned to new positions that better matched their abilities and potential.
Hiring people is an art, not a science, and resumes can’t tell you whether someone will fit into a company’s culture. ~Howard Schulz, Chairman & CEO of Starbucks
Train first, then promote.
Often, high-performing employees are rewarded with promotions, but are woefully unprepared for their new duties. Promoting people and then training them afterward is not the best way to develop leaders.
I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies. ~Lawrence Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell International
There is little growth without discomfort.
Most people prefer to keep everything as is once they become comfortable. That may get the job done, but improvement won’t happen unless people are confronted with situations that throw them off balance.
Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience? ~Thomas John Watson Sr., IBM
Be proactive. Companies that can get their leadership teams thinking strategically are rewarded with greater teamwork and a better bottom line.
Today’s contributors, Frank Granara and Lorraine Grubbs, are co-authors of Beyond the Executive Comfort Zone: Outrageous Tactics to Ignite Individual Performance. Granara is CEO of General Insulation Co. and has a bachelor’s degree in business from Northeastern University. Grubbs is president of the consulting firm Lessons in Loyalty and takes principles and practices she helped develop to companies that strive for better employee engagement and loyalty.
Great, you got the job! Some people in this situation might think, “Whew! Now I can relax, cruise a while and rest on my laurels.” Actually, your work is just beginning, but so is your “glory!”
6 priorities for first 90 days on the job
There are six priorities that you should focus on during the first 90 days of any new job. They are:
Establish positive relationships with your new colleagues. Be honest, open, friendly, reliable, and clear. Be outgoing and introduce yourself to co-workers—don’t wait for them to approach you.
Develop a reputation for producing tangible results. Immediately start a “success file” and track your accomplishments and contributions. Make note of the positive feedback you get from others such as clients, managers, clients, colleagues, vendors, etc., in conversation and in writing.
Knowledge may give weight, but accomplishments give lustre, and many more people see than weigh. ~Herodotus
Communicate plans and progress to your superiors and to your team. Become known for setting challenging goals and for completing projects on-time, on-budget, and with measurable results.
Begin building your own in-house contact network. Cultivate good relationships with everyone including the employees above and below your level. Get to know people’s names. Reach out to the mail guy, the security guard, the IT guru, your manager’s executive assistant…everyone! You want business friends and supporters in a 360-degree arc around you.
The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity. ~Keith Ferrazzi
Review and fine-tune your job description with your manager. Make sure to sit down during those first 90 days and create an “individual development plan” for yourself and your role. This plan needs to includes your short-, mid-, and long-term goals. This is critical to ensure that the job you landed becomes the job you love.
Maintain a healthy balance between your work life and your private life. Make sure that you don’t “go overboard” with enthusiasm for your new job. Family time, hobbies, and “recharging your batteries” are all part of your long-term professional effectiveness and success.
You must focus on garnering respect, visibility, and credibility during your first 90 days on the job. The precedents you establish during this period will tend to last for your entire tenure at that organization.
This ‘thumbprint period’ is critically important to your long-term success—make the best of it!
Today’s guest contributor is Ford R. Myers, President of Career Potential, LLC. Ford has been a frequent guest on television and radio programs nationwide and is the author of Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring.
You don’t have to be a business guru to recognize when a business is firing on all cylinders nor to recognize that everyone is putting their skills to maximum use, working together, and actually having a good time. How to create that chemistry, though, is the question.
Having people with the right qualifications who are willing to bring their A-game every day is crucial.
Of course, there are also character traits to look for: a positive, can-do attitude, for instance. If a person doesn’t fit in the mix, not only will he or she be less likely to bring their best, they can also compromise everyone else’s game. Having egomaniacs who cannot collaborate can to grind productivity to a screeching halt.
5 culture building blocks
I believe there are five essential building blocks that create the hum every CEO wants in their workplace culture as well as in their respective industry.
Staff your team with A-players; they’re worth the wait.
An A-player is someone who brings all of the necessary qualifications to the table, perhaps more than you were expecting, as well as that something extra as a human being. Of course, that something special isn’t always readily apparent during a 45-minute interview; it can take time for the true colors of a talented individual to come through. This speaks to the importance of having an intuitive hiring manager, which may be a small business’s CEO.
Having fun not only helps your team do well, it’s a sign that you’re doing things right. Where fun and work meet is the understanding from employees that they’re making a difference. You want a team of individuals who are motivated by the ‘why’ of what they do.
Fun at work means having energy and enthusiasm while tending to the tasks at hand.
Make employees, and clients, your extended family.
A family environment significantly facilitates having a team mentality, especially for those quiet geniuses who like to keep to themselves because they’re shy. But why stop there? Extend the love to clients, suppliers, and other crucial components of the business. Without these folks, your business couldn’t survive.
Direction: understanding the “why;” encourage difference makers.
Our team members are driven by the ‘why’ of what we do. The right content in the right person’s hands at the right time can change the world forever. We believe in sharing stories, passion, and knowledge to guide and help others learn and grow.
Commit to lifelong learning.
Seek to uncover and promote the leader in every one on your team by encouraging all members to follow a path of personal and professional development. With increased knowledge, experiences, and skills, people lead to a more fulfilled life, which can profit everyone within a working environment.
Today’s contributor is Adam Witty, founder and CEO of Advantage Media Group, an international publisher of business, self-improvement, and professional development books and online learning. Witty has been featured on ABC and Fox, and was selected for INC Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list of “America’s coolest young entrepreneurs” in 2011.
It’s not unusual for careers to get off to wobbly starts as young people, hampered by their lack of experience and contacts, find it difficult to achieve a firm footing.
That’s one reason they should make it a goal to find mentors who could help guide them through the rough patches.
One of the biggest benefits of having a mentor is that person’s success can act as a catalyst for your belief in yourself. It’s also a way to expand your network because a mentor can introduce you to people who could help you with your career and who you otherwise might not meet.
While mentors can be a great asset for young people in their career advancement, don’t expect the mentor to materialize out of nowhere and then do all the heavy lifting. Much of the onus is on the mentee to seek the relationship, cultivate it, and make the most of it.
Here’s a list of four simple things you can to find someone willing to mentor you.
Don’t be afraid to reach out.
A simple LinkedIn search can help you find people who are currently in your dream job. Somehow, they managed to get the very thing you want. How did they pull that off? Send them a short message and tell them your aspirations. Ask if they can spare 30 minutes for you to visit their office and “pick their brains” about how they achieved success.
Do your homework.
After you went to all the trouble to set up that meeting, you don’t want to show up unprepared. Learn all you can about this potential mentor with a Google search. Write down any questions you want to ask. For the meeting, dress like you already have a job with the person’s company and be 10 minutes early.
Join a networking organization.
If reaching out to an individual isn’t in your comfort zone, seek a networking organization that focuses on career growth. Sign up for a MeetUp group taught by someone you admire. Take notes as the person speaks. After the event, you’re also going to need to muster up the courage to introduce yourself. To find a good mentor, in most cases you really are going to need to take the first step.
Pay attention to the mentor’s advice.
You may not follow through on every suggestion, but you do need to listen to what they have to say. After all, the wisdom and experience they can provide is the whole point of having a mentor. I recall early in my career joining a networking group and trying to pitch my company to the members without success. I mentioned my inability to generate any business to my mentor.
My mentor told me if I wanted to be taken seriously as a business woman that I needed to change my wardrobe. I put away the summer dresses I typically wore and bought some tailored jackets and other clothes that helped present a business-professional look. Soon after, business picked up.
I still actively seek women who are in my industry and at similar career levels. Sometimes they even work for competitors. We don’t share any company secrets, but we often are experiencing similar struggles, so we swap stories and give each other advice on how to overcome those challenges.
Today’s guest contributor is Lauren Davenport, chief executive officer at The Symphony Agency. She’s a contributor for the New York Daily News and has been featured on PBS, ABC Action News, iHeartRadio, AMEX OPEN, and more.
As humans, we tend to let ourselves fall into familiar routines, especially when we’re working.
Any sequence of mental action which has been frequently repeated tends to perpetuate itself. ~William James, philosopher
I’ve seen many shades of the autopilot work mentality, which can range from severe creative block to not realizing you have a problem. Regardless of which end of the continuum you occupy, it’s worth your time to ask if whether there’s a better way.
To help you reframe how you work, innovate, and think, I offer four steps to help you rethink what you’re doing.
4 steps to get off mental autopilot
Step 1: If you’re stuck or not sure, ask “What if?”
Ask yourself: Am I treading water? What work goals haven’t I achieved? Can I imagine a new way of achieving those goals?
If you answered “no” or “I can’t,” then it’s time for you to reframe how you think. Telling yourself “I can’t” predetermines unaccomplished goals. Counter-balance that negative responsive by repeated asking “What if…?” That’s the first step to opening the door of possibility.
Step 2: Start making the “What ifs?” real with your work team.
Schedule a meeting and start it with a silent warm-up ideation period of three minutes. Write down all the “What if” ideas that surface in the three minutes.
Don’t worry about people coming up with the same idea at the same time. Just write them down and keep the creativity flowing.
If you and your team need more ideas, repeat the process.
Step 3: Follow good response practices when ideas are shared.
Tell your work team members to say “plus one” if they have an idea that’s like one that someone else has suggested. This streamlines the process and strengthens bonds between those with similar ideas.
Saying “Plus love” is a good way to express that you wish you came up with the idea. Hearing “plus love” on a crazy idea encourages you to come up with more crazy ideas and enables the group to be more creative.
Saying “I’m good” is a positive way of saying “I don’t have any more ideas.”
Step 4: Filter your ideas. How much do you love an idea?
Now’s the time to start sorting all those ideas that have been shared. Ask a few questions to begin the sorting and sifting process: Does the idea solve a real need? Will it save money? Is it feasible?
Next, further whittle down the idea list by asking how easy or difficult an idea would be to execute.
Then move on to consider the “wow” factor, meaning how much the idea would impact someone’s life or how much a client would like it.
New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done; 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing; 3) I knew it was a good idea all along! ~Arthur C. Clarke
Sometimes to get out of the mental autopilot rut, all we have to do is carve out some time so we can discover new ideas for ourselves.
Today’s guest contributor is Mona Patel, CEO and Founder of Motivate Design, a user-centered design agency based in New York City that helps Fortune 500 clients.
Many employees probably groan and grumble when they see that the boss has scheduled yet another meeting. I believe that doesn’t have to be the case. Meetings aren’t terrible, it’s just that most people are terrible at running meetings.
5 strategies for having good meetings
If you want to make the best use of people’s time in your meetings and improve employee morale and productivity in the process, there are five simple things you need to do.
• Have an agenda.
Meetings that don’t have a clear agenda tend to get off track easily. They also often include people who don’t need to be there and would be better off back at their desks completing important projects. The agenda can be short and still include the main purpose of the meeting, possible outcomes, and action items to be covered.
An agenda prevents the meeting from being hijacked by some random topic. It also allows more introverted team members to prepare ahead of time what they want to say in the meeting. Most introverts won’t chime in when they don’t know the agenda ahead of time, which means you could miss great input.
•Determine a meeting style.
There are basically three styles of meetings: information share, creative discussion and consensus decision.
In an information-share meeting, the information flows in one direction. Either employees tell the leadership something, or senior management has something to say to employees.
Creative discussions are brainstorming sessions. People toss out ideas without any judgments made about feasibility or validity, and decisions come later.
Consensus-decision meetings are held when a decision is needed. These meetings can get testy so be certain to establish a few ground rules going in. Once the meeting is over and consensus has been reached, put any disagreement behind you, and don’t continue arguments outside the meeting.
•Start on time and end early.
If you scheduled the meeting for 10 a.m., start at 10 a.m. This shows respect for people’s times and good management skills. End meetings early if you can. That gives people time to grab a cup of coffee, check emails, go to the restroom, or chat with colleagues before their next meeting.
•Foster useful communication.
Some people talk a lot in every meeting. Others rarely speak. For a meeting to be successful, get everyone engaged. Foster dialogue with newcomers or quiet people. Go around the table and solicit feedback or ideas. Have a “be present” rule: make sure people aren’t distracted because they are responding to email on their cell phones or laptops.
•Know your role.
Every meeting should have a chair, a timekeeper, participants and a closer.
The chair announces the type of meeting it is, makes sure everyone sticks with the agenda, and prevents the meeting from going sideways.
The timekeeper does what the name implies, making sure everyone stays on schedule and that no one lingers too long on any one point.
The participants should not be passive observers. They need to arrive prepared to contribute and to remain interested throughout the meeting.
The closer usually the chair, who closes the meeting by recapping action items, i.e., who’s doing what and by when, and agreements. This step assures 1) that participants have noted their assignment and deadline for achieving it, and 2) that everyone is on the same page about decisions made.
Employee frustration drops drastically when you keep meetings focused on the task at hand and avoid people’s wasting time.
About today’s guest LeadBIG contributor: Cameron Herold is an author and business man best known as the driving force behind 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s spectacular growth from $2 million to $106 million in revenue in six years. Cameron is a top-rated lecturer at the EO/MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program as well as a speaker at EO/YPO and Vistage events around the world.