Archive: November 2009

Are you Ready for Open Book?

November 21st, 2009

Open book companies see value in sharing the results of the business with everyone. The “financials” are reviewed, KPI’s discussed. Generally speaking everything about the business and its performance is shared with everyone. The first time I tried this I think I expected an explosion of energy and enthusiasm. Frankly, I found that most were intimidated and had little exposure to finance. I even had my administrative assistant close my door and ask when she was being let go. She figured that I was telling everyone about the results of the business to setup some sort of management plan of action. So much for instant success with this plan.
I had worked in the family business Placers, and helped role out this concept across the business. I feel that it was one of the more important elements of our culture. It was wonderful to see people in control of their own destiny like that. Why had my organization not embraced it? I went looking for answers. First off I found that people needed knowledge. Knowledge in numbers yes. But they also needed the knowledge to trust the correlation between what they did each day and the numbers. Staff did not believe that they could impact the business. That there jobs did not have the influence on the bottom line. That there job had less of an impact than I wanted! This had to change.
Why bother with all of this? Culturally led business’s rock- they outperform other companies!  And for my business “intrapreneurship” was a key way to give my staff the knowledge, confidence and information to really serve and wow their customers and help their peers. Never heard of intrapreneurial? I have a simple goal really; I want employees to have an ownership mindset in the business without the financial risk.
I have had mixed success with the concept. Yet I always stick with it. It is something I will never stop believing in. And nothing makes me more disappointed in a leader who won’t share. The reasons? I think I have heard them all. The staff will be afraid. The staff can’t handle it. The team can’t do anything about the results. Their role has no influence! Hogwash. Only if you want it that way.
Here is what I know:

  1. Staff needs to know the truth. They deserve it. If you create this environment know that if you stop sharing it can reduce trust.
  2. Some will count paperclips rather than spend. This creates an ownership mentality. All will look to spend a dollr effectively.
  3. It is confusing at first. Do we focus on top line or bottom line? You need to lead through it.
  4. Consistency is key.
  5. This gives people some say. It gives them a voice. Remember to listen.
  6. Employees want you to make money. It is ok if your business is a success.
  7. Cash flow is the hardest to grasp.
  8. Accounts receivable is a great place to begin.
  9. Knowledge is empowering. The implications on customer pricing, on resolving customer disputes, on the business are powerful.
  10. Force to staff to collaborate. A Key customer say, “don’t drill below the water line.” In business this means a little knowledge is dangerous. We still need to know the impact of our decisions.  That we are accountable for the decisions we make. Ask for help!

Thinking of rolling out open book concepts? Have your own stories to share? I have heard from so many people by email or by phone. Please feel free to post or attach your ideas!
Until the next blog, Happy Thanksgiving to all! Count your blessings. And teach others to do the same.

The Recession was the Earthquake…

November 14th, 2009

The business marketplace is alive and interconnected like the ecosystem around us. When demand drops in business it has a ripple effect on all of us. Business is forced to become more efficient or do without. Same for the consumer. The recession is much more than a ripple, it is a large tremor. In fact, it is the earthquake deep below the sea. What comes next after a real earthquake in the ocean? A Tsunami is sure to follow.  As if the “earthquake” in business is not bad enough. I am certain there is little new to say beyond that it has had a profound impact on all of us. Living it means so much more than words. Not that it will be easy again.  Yet we have this belief that if we can just get through it- there will be less competition and more opportunity. And most of us would like to believe the the worst is behind us. Well perhaps. With every action there is a reaction! And with most underwater earthquakes there is a tsunami.
So what is the business Tsunami? Look around. Employees have changed. Those that took risks won’t anymore. Their spouse lost their job and its hard to speak up for fear that you might be next. Those that were loyal, can no longer afford to be. Business can’t be loyal to them right? Time for all to officially manager their own careers. Turnover is low for you right now? Not for long. Their are two years of employees that made the decision to stay because they felt lucky to still have a job! Yet they are starting to sense that they can look for greener grass. Not for money mind you. Rather to forget. It is easier to walk away from tough times when you can than it is stay and fight. Common sense and basic instincts of fight or flight. No ones fault. In fact, just understand it.
Employees stop wanting to make decisions? Looking to leadership to make the tough call? These are tough times, however, the front lines talk to your customer everyday and now they want to just do their jobs?  Now is the time to teach, to support, to remind all that is it is ok to risk. That not risking is a sure way to delay any hope of a turnaround.
The recession has changed the workforce in many indelible ways. Yes recessions end. Yes we will someday look back at this time as a distant memory. In the meantime we must live with the tidal wave of change that is just beginning. Are you feeling it? Do you see it? Do you disagree? I think I am looking for a fight on this topic. Be prepared. This is time to plan for the unexpected. And to expect surprises!

The Value of Being Authentic as a Leader!

November 12th, 2009

Authentic by definition is conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief. For a leader to be authentic they must understand the power and responsibility that comes with it. Business can get tough. Difficult decisions get made. Choices. Survival or not. Along the way authenticity gets challenged. What do you do about it. Live with it. Feedback will happen. We cannot satisfy everyone. It is not healthy nor desirable. Be direct, be honest. Share everything. Be authentic in as many interactions as possible. Why not every time? Because we are human and imperfect. However be the better person and learn to apologize. As my Father, a pretty famous leader himself would say, “Bless and release. Life is too short to hold a grudge.”

Leaders are flawed when at their best anyway. No one likes it perfect. It is too plastic. We don’t trust it. It appears to be something we can’t believe is real. I am not suggesting that we plan to make mistakes or show our vulnerability. Most of us just need to be ourselves and use the situations we create!  Again, mistakes and challenges abound. Just pay attention to your day or week. Plenty of fodder to pick from.

An associate Heather referred me to a great article article that discussed a talk George Washington gave in March of 1783 to the Continental Army, after his speech. Dozens of officers representing every company in the army met in a log hut to vote on overthrowing the Continental Congress. After his speech, it was reported that many officers were left unconvinced. Then, George Washington pulled out a letter from a member of the congress, and as he read, he began to lose his confidence. He looked at his troops and asked softly and apologetically if they would bear with him, as his eyesight was failing from the war. He put on his “spectacles”, and continued.

It reported that the officers were “electrified”. This was their commander and leader, who had kept the army going while others continually told him it was a losing battle, and he was asking them to bear with him with his failing eyesight. They saw him for the first time as a human being, and they voted to continue support to the Congress.

“Maj. Samuel Shaw, who was present, wrote in his journal, “There was something so natural, so unaffected in this appeal as rendered it superior to the most studied oratory. It forced its way to the heart, and you might see sensibility moisten every eye.”

Most employees start a job because they need one. Salary, benefits, even interesting work matter. Many “wake up” to the incredible possibilities that are possible for themselves and their organization. And it is usually a leader that shows them and brings to life the purpose. The future. The notion that anything is possible. However, we stay and fight when times are tough. We dig in and make it happen. We believe in the cause when the leaders are flawed, human and willing to put it out there.

Tough for all of us to be George. Have you been authentic and wonderfully flawed today?

Don’t believe me? Check out my story here.

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