Category: Momentum

CBI Group Unveils 2013 Company Theme

January 15th, 2013

outsideinlogo1If you’ve ever read Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, the best-selling business practices book by Verne Harnish, then you’re familiar with the concept of establishing a theme to motivate your company to accomplish its quarterly and yearly goals. CBI Group is a proud observer of these habits and consciously works to frame our daily business practices after them.

Last Friday, team members gathered together for our quarterly celebration, the Quarter Kickoff, to announce the company’s 2013 theme as well as our goals for Q1! This year’s theme is The Outside-In® Happiness Project, and was inspired by the best-selling book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. A popular self-help book, The Happiness Project chronicles Rubin’s personal journey to finding her own happiness and fulfillment in life.

To bring the theme to life, team members transformed our Grand Teton conference room into a relaxing oasis where attendees could unwind and be – what else? – happy! Daddy O’s catered the event and provided a refreshing menu of healthy, “good mood foods” which included seared polenta with roasted vegetable terrine and charred cherry tomato, coconut chicken with dark chocolate mole, grilled asparagus, and roasted mussels in a white wine sauce. These foods were selected based on their mood-lifting abilities – yes, you will actually feel happier after eating them!

Happy Bingo after lunch kept spirits light as team members competed to fill their squares, and along the way, learned what made their team mates happy as the bingo charts were full of the team’s submissions of their personal happiness. Some of the entries? Hiking, shopping, going to the beach, and working at CBI Group!

When the time came to announce the company’s goals, the leaders were excited to share that the rocks were mapped to reflect the 5 Happy Habits – five simple tips to maintain daily well-being – researched and defined by the London-based think-tank, the New Economics Foundation. So, what are these five simple tips for daily happiness?  They are:

  • Connect With People Around You
  • Be Active
  • Take Notice
  • Keep Learning
  • Give

We are very excited to embark on our own journey this year towards being more Outside-In® and finding our own personal happiness. Our president, Chris Burkhard believes that if our team is inspired to pursue our own passions and find happiness, then we will be more Outside-In®, bringing our customers greater peace of mind.

Honest, Direct, Humble, Open, and Authentic

January 2nd, 2013

Happy New Year to you!

This time of year we often think about what actions we are going take to fulfill personal goals or a new years resolution we’ve set. “I’m going to lose weight.” or “I’m going to travel more.” or “I’m going to spend more time with my family.” Whatever the resolution is, it usually involves an action, right? What about how you’re going to be this year? Don’t get me wrong,  I believe setting goals are crucial to making progress and I live by setting goals. But, we are all given the same choice with how we carry ourselves each day, and that choice impacts our achievements, too. So, let me ask you this:

How will you start the new year?

From the heart.  This is how I will start the new year.  We are all given the same choice. I am going to be honest, direct, humble, open, and authentic in all I do as a leader, husband, father, soccer coach, community volunteer, son, brother, and all the many roles I play. But I am only human, and choosing to be these things in the large scope of life gives me so much to strive for!  And that is what is so wonderful about my resolution.

I encourage my organization to present itself this way as well. Honest, direct, humble, open, authentic. It is a great way to be a leader.  It’s an awesome way to be in business development. No matter what the role is – it’s all the same to me. It’s like our 20 Outside-In® values that we live and breathe each day. For my team, I hope that in addition to our 20 values, we carry out our Outside-In® culture in an honest, direct, humble, open, and authentic way.

Being at CBI Group and in a values-based group of companies has given me the unique chance to think about how our purpose in business  can do more than help our customers. For years (10 plus now and counting), our purpose has been to give our customers a competitive advantage through our services. We still feel this is really important.  However, this is the year we will add to our purpose, where we begin to explore how our values can help us outside of our defined work role. And that is a purpose worth attaining.

Honest, direct, humble, open, and authentic.

Five simple words. To me they bring on a whole new meaning to my work.  What’s more, they present areas of potential mastery for myself and for the CBI Group team.

How will you start the new year? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts!

A Winning Culture, Where does it Come From? The Accumulation Effect.

September 19th, 2012

When does a team start to believe in itself? When can leaders know they have something special building? When do the values, strategies, and every day actions start to become visible to employees so that they get it and just know the right things are being done and that progress is being made? I have been doing a lot of thinking about what it takes to create a winning culture. I am certain of only one thing: Winning and culture are earned.  There are no shortcuts, no cultural “easy buttons” to press.  Winning and culture are not overnight, instant successes.

So does it happen after the first big win?  Is it when individuals get recognition and reward for a job well done?  Or is it when there is visible momentum that the outside world starts to take notice? Winning is such a personal thing. Winning is about interpretation.  What is winning to one is failure to another.  Winning is all in the eyes of the beholder and is about expectations. Winning can be a feeling, an instinct, an observation of a continual pile of decisions made, and results accomplished.

Personally, I have had teams and employees believe in me. I’ve have also had teams lose faith.  So much goes into a business, a sports team, or a volunteer organization that is out of the control of the leader right?  If you led anything through the last recession, trust me, you saw and experienced the impact.  A good economy covers up so many mistakes.  A bad one exposes every flaw, scratch, imperfection, and amplifies their impact!

But there is a formula to winning through culture, at least mine:

  • Humble, Honest, Authentic leadership is irreplaceable.  I make mistakes, I forget things.  But I maintain trust by communicating and sharing everything all of the time.  I find employees, players, volunteers all appreciate being treated as equals. I hope I don’t come off as arrogant here; so many don’t view leading as their primary job and it should be.  Lead with your values in mind.  Use those values to guide reward, recognition, and as a means of addressing needed changes!
  • Speaking of Values, hire against them.  If your company is informal, relaxed and not hierarchical than make sure you have folks that fit.  We are entrepreneurial, our companies focus on the customer, that is our brand promise.  But we don’t care about the corporate uniform.  I look for positive, half-full (players, employees, volunteers) who believe in and naturally follow our values.  I find they come to us seeking a place to be their natural best. That other places have felt incongruent and out of sync.  That the values act as guide lines for conduct and decision making – they don’t really need their boss!
  • You have to be Outside-In®.  For me, that is studying how to get better every day, all of the time. This is learning from competition and others.  I like to think this is about reducing hassles in the business.  The customer point of view is critical here.  However, the key is setting a cultural expectation around getting better.  This might seem strange; however, I have seen so many cultures that prefer no change.  “We like things the way we are” is the mantra and leadership allows it, prefers it even, because there is always something to risk if you change. Empower. Encourage the heart. Unleash your teams on the problems and learning opportunities. The key is to get better all of the time.  This takes time, let it work to your advantage.  Each day, little wins and small gains accumulate and become a real advantage.
  • Have an accountable culture. Care about getting things done.  This is so much harder than the words. We must teach and model the right skills and behaviors.  As leaders, we have to show people how to do things.  And stick with the basics!  Be careful about adding new ideas, strategies, and initiatives to the agenda until you master what you were working on.  Do the basics really well, and than you can add complexity to the mix.  Choose your priorities carefully.  Work on them, get them finished.  Watch the impact on things if you chose the right ones! They will help your winning culture.

If you ask me, a winning culture comes from The Accumulation Effect.  In business development, results can come from working on selling and meeting people over time. In other words, you let the benefit of time work for you. Build your portfolio of marketplace relationships and if carefully cultivated, your sales and rainmaking will come.  Of course this is assuming that you are in a winning culture!

So, for a company or sports team to have a winning culture you have to have consistent leadership and you need to do it for a while. You have to have the right people.  So hire them to your values! You better have values that are compelling to all stakeholders. You need to have a good overall plan that makes sense, allows for, and encourages continual tweaking and adjustments.

It is important to keep in mind that you will need to work on the right things and get them right!  Be sure you don’t move on until you get them right. Do the basics right before you get complex. This is much harder (and a less interesting path.) Finally, if you do this long enough and you do it the right way you will get ahead a little at time. Your team or company will be working on problems and challenges that are well-ahead of your competition.  You will be ahead of the game in the most basics of ways and this is a competitive advantage that can’t be bought – only earned!

Play Like Calgary

March 14th, 2012

At 6 years old, my son Josh (now almost 15) was sitting with me watching the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Hockey Finals. The game was Tampa Bay Lightning versus Calgary Flames. Tampa was ahead by one goal. If they held on they would get to hoist the oldest trophy in sports in celebration. But Calgary was flying all over the ice, coming at Tampa in wave after wave of play. Josh kept saying Calgary is trying really hard. They are working so hard. We were both sitting riveted at what we were seeing.

These teams were playing so hard that they had nothing left in the end. As they say, they left it all on the field (or ice in this case). They gave it their all. What other sport is so exhausting that your shift lasts a mere 45 seconds!? It is hard to skate at 20 miles per hour, get hit and keep focus.

But this story is not really a story about hockey. It is a story about how we live our daily lives. So many of us do not know who we really are, what our personal values are, what we are really capable of. Life is so empty of passion. So void of purpose. So numb to all of our surroundings. Some of us simply skate through life on the surface.

For Josh, this game changed his sports life. At six years old he figured out what it meant to put forth the extra effort. As he nears 15, I need only one phrase to motivate him, “Josh, play like Calgary”… “Attack your school work like Calgary would.” Some days we both slip. We’re human. He is a teenager. Enough said.

Some days we don’t live life like the last 10 minutes of a Stanley Cup game. But, every day I get up with the intentions of going for it. If you are wondering, Calgary lost the game. But for Josh and me, Calgary is a one word motivator that makes us both smile, and even makes us well up a little. I have lived a little life at this point, however, I have never, ever seen anyone give so much of themselves with such absolute abandon. SO FEW close the gap between who they are and what they are capable of.

Inspiration comes to people differently. What is your muse? Find what you are passionate about and give it your all. Play like Calgary. Work like Calgary. Live like Calgary.

The Ritual

February 29th, 2012

I have come to understand that the hardest part of change for anyone is a new routine. Think about starting a new diet or getting to the gym for the first time after a long break. Ben Franklin said it takes 21 days to build a new habit. He is so right. We tend to start anything new with enthusiasm but fade quickly into old, engrained habits. We are creatures of sameness. As human beings, we prefer the comfort zone of the familiar. Change is hard. But only at first.

I have come to think that altering one’s routine is not good enough because routines are to easy to keep. I think change comes when one starts a new ritual. By definition, ritual means an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite. I will take the term rite and insert leadership actions or even general employee work habits. We all have set ways of operating. And these set ways are often the real barriers to changing one’s lot in life.

If you walk into the wall the same way and continue to hit the same spot, you’ll get a bigger bruise. For leaders this is profound. We can talk about helping someone change, we can try to adopt new rituals, but talking and trying doesn’t make it any easier.

Think about what rituals you may have — we all have them. Who thinks it’s funny that I brush my teeth in the shower? I do, but it is my ritual. This pattern is repeated every day, and every day it gets harder to change. And I’m just talking about a stupid tooth brush. Imagine asking someone on your team, or worse yet, trying to change your own ritual at work? It’s a difficult thing to do, but so necessary too.

Ritual means procedure, compliance, established protocol. Words and whimsical attempts never stick when it comes to rituals. One must think differently to establish new ways of brushing ones teeth. Or to affect any real and meaningful change in their personal or professional habits. If you’re a leader? Well, good luck. Start with some understanding — study the habit and explain the why. And most importantly, help by designing a new way of thinking. Without it? We fade back into the known and the familiar. We are creatures of habit.

What ritual will you establish?

Isn’t Every Job Temporary?

September 7th, 2011

Sometimes seeing and acknowledging workforce and workplace change happens very slowly. For the past fifteen years there have been predictions that almost 50% of our total workforce will be contingent workers. To be specific, contingent means temporary, contractual labor, even seasonal and part-time workers.
We are not close to 50% yet, however, it seems with each economic business cycle the numbers edge upward. And you know what? I am beginning to wonder what ‘temporary’ means when it comes to jobs. But I will get back to that premise in a minute. First, let’s talk about the business side of the workforce.
Smart businesses have learned to manage their labor costs. Much attention and press has been given to our slow moving economy and the minimal job growth. Companies survived through the recession by trimming their “core” jobs and by reducing their contingent workers. In fact, from 2007 through mid-2009, the temporary workforce dove by 33.7% while the total private workforce dropped by just 5.8%, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data in The Atlantic.
For years the staffing industry has been espousing the benefits of a “contingent workforce strategy.” The numbers from 2007-2009 are evidence that businesses could reduce their costs and were able to do so quickly. In other words, the plan worked. Typically cost comes into play, simply put, there are less employee benefit costs. And for most, cost is a driver for using “temps.” However, the real benefit has been flexibility. The flexibility to lower labor costs quickly. The flexibility to change your workforce overnight. The ability to NOT have to build a permanent Human Resources department to screen, qualify, hire and fire. And finally, the ability and flexibility to add skills and competencies for project work.
And the numbers support that. In 2010, employment in temporary help services rose by about 300,000 to 2.21 million, according to the BLS. “By 2012, contingent employment will have returned to 2008 levels,” says Dana Shaw, senior vice president for strategy and solutions at Staffing Industry Analysts in Mountain View, Calif.
Growth and decline and temporary jobs will happen as a part of smart business. But isn’t every job temporary anyway? Have you ever looked at the average tenure of leaders of public companies? Some studies support that they average a little over year. I know some contract work that is longer than that! Besides, think about your job. Yes, the one you are in right now. Think about how much project work there is with a beginning and an end. Think about how frequently you are challenged to do things that aren’t written in your job description. Businesses demand both productivity and a growth in skills from its workers.
Burkhard theory suggests that most people are congruent or right for their jobs just a few times a year. Companies change fast. Jobs evolve. We grow in interest and in skill, and our job might not. Or the job changes around us and we might not be capable or even interested in how it evolves. If you’re in a fast-growing company, skills and work experience will change faster than people can settle in. If your business is shrinking? Many employees become too experienced for their role.
It seems like just yesterday that we all wanted was to work for parental companies and retire with the gold watch after thirty years. Many of us lived through the “age of free agency” in the workforce and perhaps scoffed at it for our own careers. Change comes slowly. However, change does come. And perhaps we are beginning to realize that every job is in fact “temporary.”

The Beautiful Game of Leadership

June 15th, 2011

Last weekend I took my son and some friends on a road trip to Boston to see a soccer game. This was not just any game. This was the USA vs. Spain match. For those of you that do not follow futbol, Spain won the World Cup last year, which is the equivalent of the Stanley Cup, World Series and Super Bowl all rolled up into one. This is the world’s #1 overall sport on the world’s stage. This game was simply a “friendly” match on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, there is no impact on league standings. The game did have a big impact on American viewers, however, attracting the largest crowd in the US to ever watch team USA play.
Spain won. Spain won easily at 4-0. This is like an NFL football team winning 49-0. But the score is only a small part of the game of soccer. There are rare times, the beautiful game, when a team plays a match to utter perfection. Spain played a beautiful game. I heard once that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to approach mastery of a subject. Spain’s club has far surpassed 10,000 hours. USA barely touched the ball. Spain controlled and dominated every facet of the game. They never missed a trap or pass – their mistakes were rare. They controlled the tempo. They spread the field. They were patient. When they tried a play and nothing was there, they simply reset.
What I find interesting in all of this is that winning used to be everything. Winning “ugly” was still a win. Winning with style was just an added bonus. Spain proved to me that there is whole other level for a leader. It made me wonder what a leader’s equivalent is to the “beautiful game.” Some might say leadership is harder than a sport because it is an intangible skill. As a leader, there are some days when I simply get through my day. I plan and ask the right, tough questions. I am engaged and involved. And then some days, it comes naturally and I know that quality time spent one-on-one with my team will carry them right through their week.
Most people that find themselves leading have not approached mastery of the topic. They are lucky to grit out leadership wins. They need to put their time in. This is the way. The beautiful game of leadership is about more than having project plans and meetings. It is more about having a culture and a philosophy as well as followers that identify with them. It is about helping people understand their limits and helping them close the gap. It is not about power and hierarchy but rather one that encourages the heart. It is more than getting things done. The beautiful game of leadership is when your leadership creates an energy source for your business.
Are you leading to impact your league standings or to play a beautiful game of leadership that inspires the heart?

Turn inside-out customer service Outside-in® to promote growth.

January 26th, 2011

I’d like you to take a minute to think about your experiences as a consumer.

    CBI-QuestionHow many of you have had a surly server in a restaurant whose first smile came when she was handing over the check and angling for a tip?
    CBI-QuestionDo you have enough fingers to count the number of times a retail clerk has continued to chat on a personal call while you stood and waited at the counter?
    CBI-QuestionConsider the last medical office you entered. As the doctor made you sit for 25 minutes past your appointment time without so much as a hello, did you notice the little sign informing you that you will be charged if you ever arrive late?
    CBI-QuestionHave you called your local utility lately and battled through six prompts on an automated phone system only to hear: “Your call is important to us. All of our operators are currently busy. Someone will assist you in” — ominous pause — “18 minutes.”

As leaders and employees we can relate to lousy service because we have all experienced it. These outrages are everyday occurrences in an inside-out world that focuses on cost-containment and internal “efficiency” instead of serving customers. You may be tempted to simply give up on the idea of getting — and maybe even providing — great service, but there is an antidote. It is the customer-focused approach of Outside-In®.
At CBI Group, we are customer service oriented and have three bedrock Outside-In® practices that any company could adopt tomorrow. Perhaps every company should. They’re easy to implement and have a profound effect on customers’ perceptions of our business:

    CBI-InterruptThe Interrupt Policy: We’re in the age of e-mail. That means if a client is resorting to the phone, you know there’s a pressing need that (s)he believes only you can help with. We give callers the option to interrupt our staff members no matter what meeting, discussion, or project they’re engaged in. And if someone is out of the office, we offer to put customers right through to their cell phones.
    CBI-SunsetThe “Sunset Policy”: Of course, once they’re actually given a choice, most clients really don’t mind leaving a message or taking their concern to e-mail. But some do and despite our best attempts, there are still times when someone really is unreachable temporarily. In those situations, we honor our customers’ and other team members’ needs by returning all calls, notes, and e-mails by the end of the business day, with no excuses.
    CBI-ICanHelpYou“I Can Help You”: Many front-line employees are led to think they have one function: pass customers off to someone else as quickly as possible. At CBI Group, we listen not for the hand-off moment, but for the customer’s need. Then we do everything we can to satisfy that need without transferring the call. But if the person who answered can’t help, we will personally find you the right person, with no further delay.

These practices are basic in nature and simple to adopt. I hope this is reassuring because when we think about our job and our company, the task of good customer service seems so daunting, especially when the day-to-day things seem to get in the way. It’s also important to recognize the strong impact that great customer service drives beyond customer satisfaction. It can help drive growth! Imagine that, a simple phrase like “I can help you” could help your business grow… Outside-In® customer service is just one of the ingredients that will help get your recipe for growth just right. More to come on smart growth next week!

How do you create momentum?

May 18th, 2010

All of us long for the go go days. We want action. We listen for the hum of the office. Is it a good hum with good action? Or is it quiet? The stock market has rebounded. Profits are soaring. Small business? We are optimistic. We see things getting slightly better. We have customers. We have problems to solve. But where does real momentum come from?

I grew up in sales. I knew momentum came from action. One new customer made the phone weigh next to nothing. I could not wait to get to another prospect or to make an afternoon of introductory calls. Give me a stretch where I have not talked to a live person in a while; where it has been hard or difficult to set an appointment. I lose my way. The phone starts to feel like it weighs a hundred pounds.

Today, twenty years later I look at my company and I talk to my clients. We all wonder where momentum comes from and how you can sustain it once you have it. I think I have the answer and know why many companies never find it. Great strategies are best executed by making small and incremental improvements every day. Just leave your business a little better than the day before and BAM! One day you wake up and your company is like a snowball rolling downhill – nothing can stop you.

That is fine when things are looking up. But when it feels like things have ground to a halt…what can you do?

1. Have a daily huddle. 10 minutes a day where people can get connected, seek help and hear what is going on. Nothing builds camaraderie and momentum faster.

2. Make a change on the team. I do not mean you have to fire someone. New assignments or a new project can really invigorate. If you do find yourself needing to hire, there is something wonderful and dynamic about how teams come together to help the new person come up to speed. (By the way if your culture does encourage helping one another, stay tuned for my next blog).

3. Make something happen. Leadership is about seeing things as they are, analyzing well and then taking action. Are you stuck planning or over analyzing? If your team needs a boost make something happen.

4. Focus on the fundamentals. Teach and train. If staff can do their jobs better or learn something, they have more confidence and that breeds greater productivity and outcomes.

The key? Add value. Show your employees and your customers that you have something of value. Momentum is an intangible. It can be a feeling. If you are from Philadelphia or a sports fan just look to the Flyers, our beloved hockey team. They were down 3-0 in a seven game series and came back to win 4 games in a row. They got the breaks. They worked really hard. They have a great leader in their coach and a great captain on the ice. By the end of the series their confidence and energy were contagious. No one player wanted to let down another. The team played well together and refused to fail. The fans got excited. The city got pumped up. And when they played their next game in the next series? More of the same and another victory.

How does this relate to business? Sometimes there is one event that catapults your business. A major account or a great hire. It is consistently doing the little things all of the time and some breaks along the way. Momentum, will you know it when you see it?

Just ask the Flyers…

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