Archive: June 2012


Why Intrapreneurial Matters to Me

June 27th, 2012

My companies are values based. We have twenty values, or ‘tenets’, that provide us with guidelines that enable us to operate without strings. They are part of our Outside-In® culture. Everyone knows it is up to us to live them and reinforce them at work. This is the “village rules” mentality!

From a practical standpoint, we focus on one tenet every week. This is our way of bringing each one to life as we live it, reward it, recognize it and hold all to be accountable to it. Our tenet for this week is Intrapreneurial. We are often teased because it seems like a made-up word, but that’s okay – Shakespeare made up words for his plays all the time! Over 1,700 in fact. Do the words advertising, champion, or fashionable sound familiar? Yep, Shakespeare invented them.

So, made-up word or not…what does intrapreneurial mean anyway? Well, we recently decided to put the skepticism to rest once and for all, and look up the word in the dictionary. The definition we found for intrapreneur was, “A person within a corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation.”

So, there you have it. Intrapreneurs are entrepreneurs within a company. Is your head spinning, yet? If it is, stay with me. Being intrapreneurial is when employees take an entrepreneur’s mindset, an ownership mindset. Entrepreneurs take risks, make decisions, explore new ideas or create unique products or solve challenging business problems. Why can’t employees do that too? They can and…they do.

We have an environment that mimics entrepreneurship, where everyone has an ownership mindset, without the financial risk of course. We want our team to know how to think and make decisions as entrepreneurs. To gather information and analyze it. To know what it takes to be one.

Our tenets have value to more than just our employees. Being intrapreneurial means our customers  interact with employees that are empowered to make things happen, to make informed and thoughtful decisions. Have you ever heard an entrepreneur say “Sorry, I have to ask my supervisor.”? No. And I never want my staff to sound, or worse yet, feel that way in business.

We just want our team members to take direct responsibility. As a team of intrapreneurs, we add value to our teammates, our environment, and our customers. We desire innovation and we encourage risk-taking – the same kind that Shakespeare showed when he decided to add 1,700 new words to the English language. Imagine what the editors and colleagues in his theater company thought when he unveiled these new words.…Who is this guy? What type of person has the guts to do that?

My answer? An intrapreneur.

What does Marshalls have to do with Leadership?

June 20th, 2012

In some strange way, I think Marshalls has everything to do with today’s leadership.

I was recently dragged to this discount retailer to look for clothing. After all, why pay full price when you can get the same designer item at Marshalls? As I walked in, I could not help but wonder how different the store looked compared to three years ago! (It may have been the last time I shopped in a non-Apple store, frankly.) I immediately noticed a difference in the store’s inventory – it was really light.  There used to be aisles jammed with clothing, food, kitchen ware, home items…you name it, it was there. Piles of merchandise were often scattered throughout the store, overflowing from its respective shelves. Today? Not so much.

This got me thinking about the world and how it has changed leadership practices for now and perhaps for a good long time. Today’s leader does nothing in excess. Hiring, manufacturing, R&D, innovation, capitol investments….it is all “just-in-time” and/or “just enough”.

The empty shelves now symbolize our new way of leading. I think it is getting harder and harder for discount retailers to find supplier’s excess. Excess is over-production. The excess is the inventory they buy cheap and sell for a little less than cheap.

As I dig deeper into this new world leadership order, I see the same lack of inventory on the shelves as I see in organizations that are building and developing talent. Leaders prefer to lease or rent talent. They prefer another organization to develop it and then poach it. Don’t get me wrong, this is my business. We serve a very necessary strategic purpose. BUT, it is getting more difficult to find leadership talent with “high potential” as it is called.

Our lack of inventory is partially due to the demise of middle management. This has been going on for years. Perhaps the more influential reason is that organizations have not been investing (certainly a gross generalization) as much or as frequently in the proper development of leaders. Who has the time?  Who has the budget? Leaders are now responsible for doing and producing so much and there is very little time to develop “other leadership skills” like strategic planning, budgeting, and forecasting…while doing something other then responding to email.

Typically, I give folks a hard time when they bring me problems without possible solutions.  Today, I am guilty of the same thing. We have a need for leaders to be developed and no one wants to invest in it.  There is a real advantage to those organizations that do decide to replenish the empty shelves… What do you think?

Are You Ready for the Paradigm Shift?

June 13th, 2012

Guest blog spot by John Grandizio, CBI Group team member

How many times have you heard the following toast: “May you live in interesting times!“? It has been a toast offered to good friends for hundreds of years. However, never have times been more interesting than right now. Change is around us and upon us every day.

Interesting? Yes. Comfortable? Perhaps not for many! Today the word “interesting” is often equivalent to the word “change.” And some are not comfortable with change.

However, change is all around us; it occurs without warning. We can wake up to find our savings or investments wiped out. Our employer could go belly-up overnight, or almost without notice, a merger could take place and we’re “downsized”.  Of course, not all change is bad. It can be wonderfully pleasant as well. A short-term stock investment could skyrocket in value due to a buy-out announcement. Modern medicine could save the life of a loved one. We “could” win the lottery (somebody always does – and it certainly changes their lives)!

Interesting times? Yes. Comfortable times? Only you can decide. That may depend on how adept we are at adapting to change.

How can we cope…even survive…in these interesting times?

I’ve found that the most adaptive people to change are often entrepreneurs. No matter if they are independent business people or corporate executives, they react quickly to change and they maintain a “What’s next?” mentality. They seem to have certain attitudes and behaviors that allow them to roll with the punches and take advantage of changing situations. When change occurs – whether good or bad – they nearly always land on their feet. For them, change truly is interesting.

What are these characteristics that allow entrepreneurs to adapt so well to change?

1. A keen awareness of what’s happening around them. For example, when entrepreneurs sit next to a stranger in an airplane or a waiting room, they usually engage that person in conversation. They are frequent net workers and attend gatherings of all kinds, intermingling friends and business acquaintances. Their curiosity and probing with others can uncover endless opportunities.

2. Ability to think out of the box, while creating and implementing new ways of doing things. Often more interested in the future than in the present or past, particularly if it promises better methods and more positive results.

3. New challenges are always of interest and are investigated deeply. They plan for this and quickly take advantage of changing situations. When a perceived roadblock surfaces they find ways around them always working to be a part of the solution. The process may involve people they know and/or methods they’ve discovered. But always, they enjoy the challenge. And, one thing’s for sure – they rarely give-up.

4. Entrepreneurs also have a tolerance for risk, since adapting to change may involve failure. When things are “stuck” in place, they often will take action – any action – just to get things moving again. If a wrong choice is made, the result can be a disaster much worse that being “stuck.” But that’s the risk they take to hopefully gain reward.

In short, they have an awareness of when change may occur and what its consequences may be.

So, let’s all keep in mind that change is irreversible. We can hate it and try to ignore it. Or, we can do what entrepreneurs do, and stay aware of what’s going on in the world around us, anticipate and plan for change, meet it head-on and figure out how to make it work for us. In short, we can either be victims or we can prosper. The choice is ours. You have the choice to embrace it or fight it, but rest assured change will never stop occurring around us.

Outside-In® is the Power of Intention

June 6th, 2012

Outside-In® is blowing the customers mind. Every nuance of the experience, every moment, every touch point, every moment of truth is the best it could be. Did you ever stop to think that it was intentional? Outside-In® experiences must be planned and well-orchestrated. They do not just happen with “Rah! Rah!” speeches and directives from leadership. You must have the power of intention.

This power of intention applies to any and all business situations. Picture the college I mentioned a few blogs ago, Messiah College. They recruit with intention. This is a Division III school without scholarships, mind you. Yet kids go there willingly and have to pay full freight. Why and how can they do this? First of all, it takes years of practice. The key? — the power of intention. The coaches and existing players plan every single detail of a recruit’s visiting weekend. This is not just video games and a party….which most schools do. No, this is well thought out. This is stuff of legends. Players spend the entire weekend with the recruit. They get to the kid, they see the strength, bonds, and team chemistry and want to be there. Captains take parents to dinner. Seniors spend real time with the recruit. They don’t assign the recruits to lowly freshmen, instead it’s a privilege.

Now imagine your business. Imagine how you handle a day of candidate interviews in your business. Or what you do when a client is coming to visit. Does everyone know their role? Is their intention to create an unbelievable Outside-In® experience?

All of us know the answer: Sometimes… or: It could be better…, or: Wow, what a great concept! Imagine getting everyone to be intentional and contribute to these moments? I am never surprised at what is possible and what can get done when everyone is clear and excited about creating a unique experience.

Remember this is about recruiting the best talent or customers to your business. You can’t afford not to do this. So now that I may have ruined your day, go examine how your last guest was treated. It always gets worse before things get better.

  • Did you greet the guest on time or late?
  • Did you have their first name somewhere to welcome them?
  • Were they offered refreshments? Made to feel comfortable or offered any creature comforts like bathroom locations or water fountains?
  • Was your team on time and prepared?
  • Did each of your team members know their role?
  • Did you send thank you’s? You do want to make a unique impression right?

I am pushing the envelope to prove a point. Your intention can be what fits your world. Just know there is an experience that can be bettered in your building. What is your power of intention?

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