Archive: January 2010

How is your Poker Face?

January 21st, 2010

Poker is considered by many to be a game of chance. Chance implies an outcome without an observable cause. Perhaps poker is really about knowing the odds and statistics. Less about luck and more about having experience and knowing what plays to make. Experience helps you do things on autopilot and anticipate what cards the other players probably have and whether your hand is better than your competition. The truth is, it takes a lot of repetition to get good at Poker. Bluffing your opponents could be considered an art form all to itself. You may have heard that we all have a “tell” when we have a good hand. You might smile or touch your ear. Great players work hard at knowing the “tell” of their competition. See where this might be heading?

I propose that running a business these days might be compared to a high stakes game of poker. The other players are your competition. Business should not be a game of chance. Rather, it should be played by knowing the rules, having the right information, and surrounding yourself with talent that can help you make the right moves in the game. Our current economy? Imagine that it is like a poker game that has gone on a little too long. The players are tired. They are beat up. They may have needed to be really conservative with their chips to not fall out of the game. As a business leader or small business owner it is entirely possible that you feel might feel like that poker player at the end of a 12 hour game!

So like the game when do you know you have a good hand? Is this the time that things are going to improve? Do you push all in because you sense the market is ripening? Do you continue to play the game conservatively and wait for the straight flush? Or do you play the hand you are dealt? All of this in the business world equates to making decisions about when the recession is over for you. Do you have the desire to grow again? Maybe you prefer the conservative style that you developed, out of necessity, over the last few quarters?

As a leader and coach I know this issue is on the mind of my customers and my network. When is it over? Do we make major investments now? Or small pilots to test the market? What are the other players in the game doing? Are they being conservative or aggressive?

So you are back at the card table and you are staring at your opponents &mdash’ are you all in or waiting for the next hand? Or have you already tipped your hand?

As always your emails and comments are terrific — keep them coming. Poker anyone?

Some Leadership Planning Tips

January 14th, 2010

So did you find your water cooler? I hope so. As the economy gets marginally better, we need to make sure we are all there to take advantage of the opportunities that will come. Remember, the water cooler is symbolic of running your business well.

Speaking of running your business — leaders often ask me about how they can be a better leader tomorrow. What can they do right now to have impact on their business. I find the key is to know how to plan and approach leadership actions creatively. Still not sure what I mean? Leaders do stuff — they are in meetings, they make and take phone calls, they solve problems, etc. As a leader you could spend all day reacting to the world around you, in fact it never stops coming. All day long the smartphone rings, and the inbox fills up. Yet this is not leadership and certainly not planned, thoughtful leadership. Leadership planning is a way to have real impact. To be proactive and creative in improving the lives of your employees and the productivity they can achieve.

No matter what industry you are in, you will inevitably have customers, employees, vendors and prospects in your day. The best way to plan? Think about any employee. What do they need right now? A compliment?  Recognition? A tough talk? Someone to listen?  Training? Your job is to eliminate barriers for your employees while holding them accountable, to remind people that they have something to learn, let them know you’re there to help and that you care.

Still not so sure what to do? Think about your customers. Who can use a proactive call from you. Have you pulled the team together just to talk about a customer when there is not a problem? This is where the real opportunity lies.

    Leadership planning is scheduled time.
    Leadership planning involves critical thinking.
    Leadership planning can be exciting and creative if you know how.
    Leadership planning is a basic skill that can change your world. And your employees.
    Do this homework assignment on a Sunday night.

1. Take out a note pad. Right out your top to do’s for the week/Monday.
2. Analyze the list. How much is recurring or just work to do?
3. Make a list for an employee or special project.
4. Think about them. What do they need from you to be more successful?
5. Make plans.

Remember we all can get better, all of the time. And we will if our leaders can impact us in a meaningful way.

Need help to have real impact or want to share your ideas with others? Would love to hear more from you; we all have something to learn!

The Water Cooler Effect

January 7th, 2010

Happy New Year to everyone… I hope you took some time to recharge and re-energize this Holiday season.  As a leader did you take advantage of the Holidays and give people time off when the world is a little sleepy? My mentor always taught me that this was a great time to let the “rookie” take vacation or to take that key day off and to cover for them as a leader. It sends a critical message; we are all in this together and we are all equally important. Nothing is more empowering than equality.
You ask what is “The Water Cooler Effect”? My blogs cover a variety of topics. Primarily focusing on leadership, specifically the issues and challenges one faces in business. I take the entrepreneurial point of view. Be flexible, adaptable with your business. Stay lean. Stay in control.
The “Water Cooler Effect” is about symbolism. When I worked for my father with the Placers, we knew we would grow fast and take advantage of market opportunities. As we did this we might take our eye off of costs occasionally — not on purpose, of course. We would shift our attention to what was important and it is human nature to look the other way on something else. How did we get it back? The Water Cooler? We sought involvement from staff to focus on the costs side of the business. We asked for suggestions. We wanted staff to be “intrapreneurial” and to think like an owner. We did this by constantly looking at each and every line item to figure out how to lower the costs. When all else failed? Out went the water cooler.
When the water cooler disappeared people grumbled. They could bring their own water or get it from the tap. They knew it meant that as a leadership team and as a company we had costs under control. The removals sent a message. People missed them. People wanted them. Staff got them back when their business P&L made its goal.
History repeats itself; wait until my Father hears this. In this time of conservation and rethinking what is really important, I discontinued our water cooler service. The funny thing is we have two. During times of plenty, staff decided to get water delivered. They did not want the filtered water we already had and pooled employee monies to pay for it. Times change and, over the past 5 years, staff moved onward and upward. Today CBI Group owns the responsibility for the water cooler. By removing it, I know as a leader I am doing the right thing for my business. Of course, it is not about the money. It the point of managing costs, investing in the right things and sending a clear message to my team that we are on top of expenses.
Consider taking these actions to find your “water cooler”:

  1. Review each and every line item of expenses. Do it with someone who does not normally have this role or responsibility. Business needs change. What was important yesterday is perhaps not relevant today. Every customer that I have that has done this has cut things that were not important to the current plans of their business.
  2. Call your vendors for annual reviews of services. Most have created more recession friendly offerings to court new customers. You will get them if you ask.
  3. If you pull your water cooler or coffee service or whatever — get mileage from it. Tell the water cooler story of cost management. Recession aside, it is how you stay competitive and run an entrepreneurial business.

Send me your water cooler story!

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