Archive: April 2012

Entrepreneurial Yin Yang Effect

April 24th, 2012

Today I had the pleasure of speaking to a room of small business people, coaches and entrepreneurs about the barriers to growth. The barriers include: the leader’s ability to develop and change, the need to put systems and processes in place as the business evolves, and the need to understand how your marketplace changes as you and your business grow.

While I went in with a planned presentation to lead a group discussion, I also walked away with a new insight that all of us face when being entrepreneurial. There is a yin yang effect about everything, including starting and running a company. We start companies for many reasons. For some it is the freedom of expression and creativity that comes from an environment with much less policy and bureaucracy than working for the man. For others, there is a desire to be the best baker, brick layer, or auto repair person you can be. Or because of experiences and insights from working for someone else that give you the perspective to be able to do the business better. Yet we quickly learn that being great at baking or bricklaying has nothing to do with running a bakery or contracting firm.

In so many ways being a successful entrepreneur requires us to run into our weaknesses head on. Entrepreneurs are often focused on vision and the future, however, if you are to make it more than a year or so, you quickly learn that success in business is one part vision, two parts getting things done! Execution really matters!

Being creative and exploring new solutions, technologies, or ideas are the life blood of entrepreneurship. Many new companies come from the notion of research and development, but be careful. Be creative, yet be selective. Prioritize well, my friend. Or find yourself having “bit off more than you can chew,” as the saying goes. Over funding too many ideas, projects and innovation can leave you without a product or market to sell it in, and no revenues and no cash in the bank to prove it!

I was the asked some good questions today. “When do you know what to do? It sounds at times like the free-for-all, wild west style of running a business fuels growth and innovation.” My response was, yes it can. “So when you put structure, routine and process in place… aren’t they at odds with the entrepreneurial spirit?” Yes, they can be. After all, opposites only exist in relation to each other.

The best advice of all comes in the form of ones own experience. For me I want structure, routine and and process to fuel the early entrepreneurial spirit. I find that this yin yang effect helps me amplify the entrepreneurial spirit and extend its shelf life, if you will. It is this very structure that helps an entepreneurial company be creative, to be able to communicate in practical ways with more staff and customers, to balance priorities and be like it used to when it was much smaller. And if you ask me, slightly better than before.

Do you have a yin yang, entrepreneurial story? Please share and give me something to write about!

Tri-State HR in HD

April 24th, 2012

Are you attending the Tri-State HRMA 26th Annual Conference? We are.

Come visit us, Rita Scanio & Glenn Koetz, at our booth as we support the HR in HD: Getting a Better Picture conference on Thursday, May 3, 2012.

You’ll also have a chance to hear the Keynote Speaker, Freeman Zausner, COO of URBN, a man who has seen his current company cultivate and grow from a single store into five very successful brands even when the rest of the country was going through the worst recession in recent history. At CBI Group, we have a similar story, making it through the rough years and launching Placers on the other side. We celebrate in the success of entrepreneurial leaders – congrats Mr. Zausner!

When you stop by our booth, have a go at our raffle to win a Tri-State Local Goodies Basket! See you next week!

Learn more about Tri-State’s 26th annual conference.
Register Here (Update: Link Removed)
*This conference has been approved for 7 general HRCI Credits.
*Strategic credits are pending.

Leadership is like Walking a Tight Rope

April 18th, 2012

All of us can visualize a tight rope walker – the person walking on a thin wire high above two buildings with little margin for error. Leadership feels that way to me, at least, the little margin of error part. Being a leader is so complicated and multidimensional. Are you a visionary that can paint a vivid picture for your organization of where it will be three, five or 10 years down the line? Are you able to get things done and help the organization focus on the right projects and area of focus in the short-term? Sometimes leadership involves knowing what NOT to do, what NOT to try and fix, what NOT to invest in. This is the tight rope, so little room for errors.

Being thought of as a good leader has little to do with being liked. Being liked certainly helps, but being trusted is what really matters. And trust comes from the balancing of your actions and your words. This is literally doing what you say, walking the walk, talking the talk. It involves bigger moments in your business too. Are you a talking head about what is important? Or will you step out and actually work on what is important. No one wants a leader that is always saying how change is necessary: a new IT platform, a critical new product launch, or new program started but then will not do what it takes to get it done. Are people looking for execution? Could be. Leaders also need focus and understanding on what will move the business forward. There are only so many precious resources to spread around. On that tightrope again. Do you lose your balance? I do and I just hope not to fall.

Balance is key. Are you buddy and boss? I think so. This is not an either/or situation. Leadership is both. We must expect results but not at the expense of working relationships. The key, in fact, is to balance both and raise the bar even higher. We must consider what motivates and is of interest and also protect the shareholders’ interest.

What I have learned from good leaders is that there is always work to be done, projects to start, real challenges, obstacles, and opportunities for any business. Leaders stay upright on the rope when they have a method for knowing how to determine their focus and where to put time, energy, resources and money.

Some call it gut, intuition, experience. I think great leaders have a process for all of this. Business is a system of people and activities. Good leaders track that system and examine what is broken, what can be tweaked for maximum gain. To be a great leader, you have to be able to prioritize your business. Will you slip? Maybe. Leadership is about knowing that details are never unimportant. And that we do really have a say in things. Leaders can have an impact on what needs attention.

Walking the rope is about prioritization, getting things done in the short-term, backing key projects, and being able to share a longer range vision. That is how you get to the other side.

Asking the Right Question

April 11th, 2012

Leaders talk too much. Myself included. We can’t wait to give the answer. Sometimes it’s to move on to something more important. Other times it’s because we simply know the answer and can’t wait to be helpful. But are you sure your people want the answer? I know from my wife, Kim, that so many times we just want to be listened to. We don’t want a problem solved or to hear a diatribe on the subject.

But what everyone can appreciate is the right question. The right questions demonstrate interest, that you care, that you take people and their work seriously. And you know what? Leaders need to learn to ask questions the right way. The right questions are critical to the right kind of leadership coaching and teaching. They can reinforce organizational values. If you are team-oriented or entrepreneurial, then good questions can reinforce collaboration. If you encourage risk taking, then your questions can help your team frame risks and encourage the right fact-finding to make tough decisions.

I, for one, need a constant personal reminder for this. I think it is because there is no owners manual for a leader to know when to listen and ask questions and when to give the answer. Just as there is no way to know when to tell people what to do and when to ask. Leadership style is both personal and situational.

The great leaders we know listen and ask good questions. Not sure how to do this?

Build your questions around:

  1. Your vision
  2. The values of your organization
  3. Your leadership credo (You do have one right?)

Try it. People might not notice, however, they will like you more. Just ask my wife!

Hiring Tens, Nines, Eights… Ones?

April 4th, 2012

It is the contemporary point of view of talent management experts that hiring A players and keeping A players is the way to go in business. A’s outproduce B and C players tenfold and A’s don’t play well with B’s and C’s.

Over the years, I have been taught a similar theory in hiring. We all want to hire 10’s. The challenge is that over time if your hiring process is not a focus, 10’s tend to hire 9’s, 9’s hire 8’s and so on. And if you’re not careful your business could be full of 1’s and 2’s.

We see this in our work with customers every day. It’s never intentional. We tend to hire staff we are comfortable with. We want to hire people that can grow into the job. We want comfort and ease, not a strong push and challenge from our team.

Growth is a also a factor. When we are growing, we skip steps in our hiring. We forget to reference. We hire in a hurry to get to the tasks at hand. We compromise and select from the candidates that are available. We don’t take the time to put together quality job descriptions. We don’t invest in using search firms or focus on building a talent acquisition function or competency in our business.

We do not want an overly arduous process either. If you take too long you will lose great talent.

But if you are not careful in your zest to grow and get the job done, you might just find yourself surrounded by 1’s and 2’s at a time where it takes 10’s to make a real difference!

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