Archive: May 2011


Complexity Skills – Are you ready?

May 25th, 2011

Your mindset is everything. How you approach the everyday will make the difference between succeeding or not. Getting the job or finishing second. Whether your business will grow to the next level or lag behind. Will you get that next promotion? Your mindset is important because the business world moves fast and is constantly changing. If you’re not ready to embrace change, you will be left in the dust by those that are.
 
Learning “complexity skills” will help put you ahead of the pack. What are they? Complexity skills reflect our capacity for adapting to change and learning. Having the ability to comprehend the nuances around us through knowledge and learning. For a business this is all about the organization’s ability to make change and to move in new directions. Is your business flexible? Does it launch new ideas easily?
 
Complexity skills can be applied to both individuals interested in bettering their situation or to groups or organizations striving to improve and grow. Individuals’ skills, attitudes, knowledge and values are powerful forces with the mastery of complexity skills. But the collective ability of a group with the ability to adapt, drive change, and survive is unstoppable. The world is complex and those that face complexity head on can see opportunities and take advantage of them. Is your workforce capable of adapting to and exploiting opportunities day after day? Complexity skills are about workforce readiness and the role it can play in productivity, business growth and advancement.
 
Think about the people you work with. There are always some that feel “acted upon,” that are never in control because the change is always happening to or around them. These are the people that say their greatest strengths are having technical skills or a strong work ethic. The others that drive change and exploit it are the ones that have the positive outlook and feel in control of their jobs and their careers! When one truly understands “complexity skills,” their greatest strength is how they adapt well to changing environments and understand that today’s knowledgeable worker must focus on learning to be well-equipped to embrace the realities in a new role!
 
You may be thinking to yourself, “I get it… but what can I do about it?” It is not easy to influence and change, even when that is your main focus. Complexity skills are challenging for leaders and for individuals. Start by getting a clear understanding of the concept. That business wants a flexible, adaptable, knowledgeable workforce because this approach drives speed and innovation. Speed and innovation help you compete. And if you compete well, you might survive and thrive. Like any other variety of nature, those that do not adapt, do not live on. I for one would like my business and my workforce to have this advantage.
 

What’s in a Name, Anyway?

May 18th, 2011

This past weekend I pursued my favorite pastime and went backpacking in the Highlands of southwest Virginia. That 50 lb. pack never seems to feel normal but backpacking is a wonderful hobby where time seems to move slowly. During this trip we hiked a loop trail that happened to cover the Appalachian Trail. We have all heard of the AT — some of us even have walked it. Even fewer though, less than a few thousand, have ever walked its entire length of over 2,450 miles!
 
Those that are out on the trail, called “thru hikers,” have their own sub culture. It is not uncommon to strike up a long conversation on the trail or to have a stranger share their last granola bar with you when you stop for a break. The culture is free and easy.
 
The most interesting part of the hiking culture for me are trail names. Trail name, you say? Hikers either adopt a name for themselves while out on a trail (my preference) or someone names you based on an event that happens to you or sometimes because of a shared life story. We met “Four Bears”, a wonderful 78 year old man who had been hiking on his own for the last 6 weeks — his goal was to see all of his favorite spots on the trail just one more time. We met “Biscuit” who was two months in to his goal of walking from Springer Mountain, Georgia all of the way to Maine. He was 500 miles in and he had already lost 25 pounds on his sojourn, proud and aware of how hard it was going to be to walk in the woods for three to four more months. My buddies have trail names like Diesel, Duke and newly minted Trillium, for his love of flowers and fauna.
 
I have been named Chingachgook, a guide from Last of the Mohicans. He always walked out in front. Call me anxious or a little nuts but I have always felt more comfortable leading the way. In fact, my wife laughs about this at the mall or a stroll in the neighborhood, because I just can’t seem to slow down. While hiking with my family in the Tetons, my father-in-law found it so funny, that he coined the Chingachgook name. And it has stuck to this day.
 
As a entrepreneur, being ahead of the pack and visionary is a good thing. Especially if you are well grounded and can focus on the execution of your plan. Do leaders need to be out in front? We all can picture the Army captain taking the hill leading his troops that follow behind. It is what I was taught and what many expect. As a hiker? Well, perhaps there is value in slowing down to see the world around you.
 

Leave Your Recession Mindset Behind

May 11th, 2011

Over the past few years we have all gotten quite used to operating in down times. As leaders we were looking for ways to reduce our overall costs, delay investments, or find ways to focus on being more efficient in our business. It took a while for most of us to fall in line and practice this form of tough love, but once we started it became what we know and do. And evidently, recession style leadership practices have helped many companies build cash and improve their balance sheet while streamlining their operations for future growth.
 
Unfortunately, this recession mindset impacted the “people side” of our business. It was hard to stop hiring at first, than BAM, everyone went cold turkey! Then the media continued to report rising unemployment and that the masses could not find meaningful work. At the height of the recession, there were seven unemployed for every job. I believe this perspective has seeped into our consciousness; we expect to have talent galore lining up for the few openings we have. And our people practices began to shift — we believed that:

    We had unlimited choices to fill our open jobs.
    We should slow down our hiring practices and bring in more candidates.
    We could scoop up a potential bargain at real value and that people would appreciate having any job!
    We should not have to compromise, negotiate or move off of our perfect candidate because of the perception of available talent.

Every day, my company coaches leaders on hiring around the shifting and changing realities. People are getting jobs more quickly, they have more choices and they are receiving raises again — not big ones, but compensation is beginning to increase. The reality is, despite the labor stats you may read, there are not as many talented people to go around. Having a recession mindset is dangerous because we don’t know when to change our behavior or trust that now is the time to hire or take risks again.
 
Perhaps you have been thinking that these thoughts are not your reality. I know my customers in the “ist” (scientists, biologists) and engineer category know that regardless of the reality of the total job market, some talent never went “on sale”. So as things change, we must all adapt. So how do you go about changing your recession mindset?

    Gathering information and observing your company and its behaviors are good steps to start with. After all, observing and coaching people is what leaders do, right?
    Think about the way you and your organization hire. What is your team’s mindset? Perhaps it is time to have some training on the shifting workforce and workplace realities and trends?
    Are you starting to lose talent through your hiring process? Are you moving through the process with pace? Or does your company think it has “a recession time line” to make its decisions?
    Is recruitment in your company not working well? At CBI Group we see issues with recruitment processes every day. A recruitment organization that was built structurally to hire less and more slowly will not compete with today’s faster pace, higher volume recruitment world.

Bottom line — what got you here, won’t get you there! The survival instincts that got you through the recession must now shift. Are you ready to leave your recession mindset behind?
 

Selling is Strategic Serendipity!

May 4th, 2011

I wish I could claim this clever phrase as my own creation. Strategic Serendipity conjures up wonderful images for me. It is serious yet playful, organized but whimsical, hard-nosed but also a little fun! So what is Strategic Serendipity? You know the saying “the harder I work, the luckier I get”? When we do the right thing as leaders, great things happen. When we have a solid business plan and work hard on execution and the act of doing something, even the wrong thing, we create activity — and results.
 
How do I apply Strategic Serendipity to Sales? Sales is a mix of relationship building and technical prowess. It is likability and ability. It is knowledge and reputation combined with a little hustle. Sales is hard; one must do a lot of little things well. A sales person must know what they are doing and be very centered on the “moment”, yet organized enough to have enough volume of overall activity to meet target quotas. Sales Activity begets more of everything. It builds confidence and momentum. It forges connections and increases market knowledge, both of which make the “community” smaller. And when you have a plan and work that plan really hard, you get a little serendipity in your world.
 
Need some real proof? Ever wonder where that “new customer” really came from? Sure, I know that your company has its story, but ask the customer. In my experience the truth is NEVER what you think it is. The truth is more random. It is more circuitous and chaotic than how we attempt to explain wins and losses away. Don’t believe me? Go ahead, ask.
 
Doing the right things and having the right plans create a little luck! Go double check to make sure those two things are happening. A few wins are sure to follow…
 

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