Archive for ‘Strategy’

April 18, 2017

Gifts of Leadership

I recently tweeted a link to an article on leadership by Jeff Haden at the Inc.com website. He makes points well worth remembering, so I thought I’d mention it again.

Good reading … in the meantime, I think I’ll finish my taxes. It’s Tax Day!

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February 11, 2017

Playing to Win

No matter who you rooted for (unless you were rooting for Lady Gaga), what a thrilling Super Bowl it was last weekend, with New England coming from way behind to win in overtime. At one point, the young, upstart Atlanta team raced out to a 28-3 lead, but somehow did not score a single point after that.

There’s been plenty of analysis in the sports columns about how they lost, what the key plays were that turned the momentum, and which plays should or should not have been called. It’s easy to second-guess after the results are in. So I’ll add my own contribution to this debate, but from a completely different perspective.

As young as the Atlanta team is, I happen to think that there’s a possibility that two collective thoughts doomed the team in the third quarter when the score first reached 28-3: (1) “We’ve got this well in hand, everyone was saying we couldn’t do it,” and (2) “Don’t blow it now.”

Those thoughts together lead to a strategy of playing “not to lose”. If you have thoughts of playing not to lose, or playing not to make a mistake, then you generally stop doing whatever it was that got you to that point of success. And because you change your style of work, you often won’t get the same successful results.

I wonder if playing “not to lose” was indeed the beginning of the end of the game for the Falcons. What do you think?

November 26, 2016

How to Create a Tradition

After eating my share of turkey on Thursday, in an after-dinner haze I idly wondered, when did turkey start to take hold as a staple of the Thanksgiving dinner? Some quick unvalidated research (i.e. Google) revealed that the first Thanksgiving dinner was held by the Pilgrims in 1621 soon after their arrival.

The feast supposedly lasted three days, by the way. Apparently most of us try to cram that kind of meal into one sitting in today’s times.

But it wasn’t until 1863, over 240 years later, when President Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving, that turkey started to become associated with the Thanksgiving holiday. And I’ll bet most people think turkey’s been a part of the tradition since way back in 1621.

Rumor has it that the turkey and cranberry industries lobbied this into being. What a way to create a tradition! Can you do something like that in your competitive space? Hope you had a good holiday!

October 12, 2014

Is Passion the Answer?

Last week, I delivered a short keynote at a breakfast event called “Too Young to Retire”, held in Syracuse, New York. The event was sponsored by community group FOCUS Greater Syracuse, and was held to attract Baby Boomers who are thinking of starting their own businesses. About 80 folks, overwhelmingly most of them Boomers, were in attendance for this early morning event.

During my keynote, I answered the 2 main questions I hear through my work on my program The Second Boom, which are “Is it too late?” (to start a business), and “Have I failed too many times?” (I’ll give you one guess on my answer to both.)

After my short segment, a panel of 3 local entrepreneurs answered questions by a moderator, and took questions from the audience. One of the themes that emerged from the panelists was something along the lines of “if you have a lot of passion for what you want to do, good things will happen.”

This was mentioned several times, and each time it was mentioned, I had trouble sitting still. Finally, I had to make a comment, and raised my hand, even though by then I was merely a member of the audience.

I said that I felt passion is an important component to reaching for success, but it’s not the only answer. There’s a lot of motivational talk about “thinking positively” and “being passionate”, but as I reminded everyone, that’s not the only thing. You still have to have a realistic plan for the business, one that provides a product or service that solves some kind of problem that enough people are willing to pay money for.

And that is because when you start a business, your goal is to make money. If you don’t make money, you’re just starting a hobby. Businesses make you money, but hobbies cost you money.

Be sure the thing you’re passionate about becomes a business, not just a hobby.

June 3, 2014

Life’s Good? We’ll Have to See…

I’m undergoing a customer experience with LG Electronics, which you might know has as their advertising slogan “Life’s Good”. At the moment, I can definitely say life is NOT good (as it relates to LG), but the final word has not yet been heard.

This surrounds an LG refrigerator I purchased last year. Further disclosure, I have bought other LG products like digital TVs and smartphones, and have been happy with those devices. Until last year, however, I had never thought of trying LG for refrigeration. But the product we bought had the features we wanted without the features we didn’t want, and it fit into the space we were working with.

Almost 13 months from the purchase date, the LG fridge died just before the Memorial Day weekend. The warranty was for 12 months, so you can imagine my first reaction when it happened. Fortunately, LG Customer Service was good enough to extend my warranty for an additional 30 days to cover the repair. And that’s when the ride got bumpy.

Because of the holiday weekend, we couldn’t get anyone in until 3 days later, when the repair guy from the “LG authorized service center” said the compressor was bad. They would have to order it, and it’ll take 3 or 4 days to come in, he said, but they’d try to put a rush on it. We groaned; it was looking like we would be 10 days without a fridge. But, what can you do. Little did we know that 10 days would have been great.

A week later, I called the service center, a local 3rd party company, to check the status of our part. The parts lady told me that it was backordered, and would not be available for shipment until June 17. My reaction to that was much more than a groan, and will not be repeated here. With that schedule, we’d be out of a fridge for almost one month!

But she suggested I call LG directly to try to expedite the part, and that’s when the fun really started.

Yesterday, I collectively spent almost 2 hours on the phone talking to several different LG customer service reps, talking to the parts lady at the local service company, and being on hold for interminable periods of time. The first time, I found myself in the middle of an argument between the LG rep and the parts lady at the service company. The parts lady said she was told by LG the part is backordered and won’t ship until June 17. The LG rep said she was told by LG that the part is in stock and ready to ship.

Both were convinced they were right. Where did that leave me? Extremely frustrated, and still without the prospect of restoring my refrigeration.

When I asked for an LG supervisor, I was given an extension number to ask for help. I tried later in the afternoon, and first had to repeat part of the story (despite LG having notes in my case file), because “I need to tell them why I’m transferring you”. I was transferred, was on hold for 20 minutes listening to the same annoying message, then hung up to try again. Tried again, and when they transferred me, got cut off. Tried again, asked the agent to try getting the extension before transferring me, and she came back and said because no one was answering, she’d “have to let me go”.

What does that mean, she’s firing me as a customer?

Gave it another try, and after a shorter wait, finally got someone in the group I was looking for. This last person, a supervisor, was much nicer and much more responsive, but even she accidentally disconnected me too, leaving me to wonder if this was some kind of conspiracy. (Actually, it just frustrated me all the more.)

Fortunately the supervisor called me back, and we’ve proceeded from there. They’re trying to decide what to do to fix my situation, so I’ll just have to see what they say.

Why am I writing about this? Here’s the main point … throughout all this, I just wanted “to be the customer”. And as an LG customer, I just wanted to know someone cared, to be helped with my problem, and to have my refrigeration restored.

I did not want, or sign up, to learn how LG’s distribution channels communicate, which number their service centers are supposed to call for parts, or what they’re supposed to do before they transfer my call (or cut me off). Nor did I want to listen to the service center tell me that the LG rep “doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” Nor did I sign up to call back repeatedly after being disconnected or left on hold for the black hole. And I certainly did not want almost 2 hours of my day taken up navigating that phone journey. I have enough of my own work to do.

So in your businesses, when you troubleshoot your customers’ problems or issues, just remember that all they want to do is be your customer. They want to know that your products and services bring them satisfaction and even joy, but if they do run into a problem, you’ll be there to help them. And that you won’t bother them will all the details that don’t concern them, and don’t get them any closer to a solution.

As for my situation with LG, I hope there’s a satisfactory ending. At the height of my frustration, I exclaimed to one poor LG rep, “You know what, right now you guys are not LG. You’re LNG — Life’s NOT Good!”

I just want to be the customer … and maybe be able to have a frosty cold beverage waiting for me in the fridge at last.

March 27, 2014

Find Your Passion First

I think the thoughts I posted a couple of days ago on my other blog at TheSecondBoom.com are worth repeating. In that post I mentioned the importance of figuring out your passion, or whatever moves you, before you start a business. Check it out, and tell me what you think.

March 19, 2014

Just Take Action

Even though it’s my mantra, and I regularly remind business and coaching clients to “take action” (after proper consideration of course), I still am struck by the difference in the feeling of taking action versus waiting with indecision.

I’ve recently been grappling with a problem in one of my businesses, where a change in the look of an ad didn’t seem to be working out. Yet, the ad was not necessarily the only factor involved here; there were other dynamics that could also be affecting the outcomes. So I waffled … do I give it a chance? Or am I digging myself deeper in a hole by giving it a chance?

Early this morning, after considering the overall situation, my partner and I decided to ditch the new look and return to the previous one. That alone might not fix the issues, but we felt that there were problems with the new look that needed to be fixed anyway.

What a difference the decision made! I felt so much better for the rest of the day, because I knew I was taking action, not waiting nervously. The nervousness I’d been feeling the past few days seem to have melted, at least for now.

Sometimes, you have to think it through, and just take action. You’d be surprised at how much better it can make you feel.

November 19, 2013

5 Minutes Instead of Checking Email

Instead of checking email yet again, why not spend 5 minutes doing something else, perhaps something more refreshing or energizing? In a recent article posted on the FastCompany website, Laura Vanderkam offers 17 possible suggestions.

What do you think? Any of those sound good to you?

November 14, 2013

8 Things You Need Before the Start

In business, the hardest thing is the start. And there are often factors that prevent us from launching successfully, or that create distractions after we launch. On my other blog, The Second Boom, I wrote about 8 things Boomers need to have in place before they consider starting a business, but those 8 things are not restricted to just Boomers. Jump over to that post and tell me if you’re thinking of those 8 things:

Do you have these 8 things in place?

Where do you stand in regards to these 8 things?

October 7, 2013

The FORE Leadership Cycle

In my second book, Let It Fly! Defy the Laws of Business Gravity and Keep Your Company Soaring, I introduced the FORE cycle of leadership. FORE is an acronym which stands for focus-offload-review-encourage. I’ll let you read the book and learn the details of each stage of the 4-stage cycle, but in this post, I want to point out that FORE is a complete cycle. You can’t just do some of the 4 stages, you have to do all of them. Here’s what happens if you leave out a stage while doing the others.

If you leave out the “F” or focus, you might still offload, review, and encourage your team, but they’re all over the place because you supplied no focus. Lots of unfocused work just passes the time.

If you leave out the “O” or offload, you never trust your team enough to offload the responsibility to them. Then you become a micro-manager, even though you review and encourage, because all you’re doing is reviewing and encouraging them on exactly what you told them to do.

If you leave out the “R” or review, you’ve focused your team, offloaded responsibility to them, and encourage them, but never check on whether they’re executing properly. Things that break could be broken for awhile until you finally discover them. Plus, if you’ve been encouraging them all along, they might be reluctant to bring you bad news.

And finally, if you leave out the “E” or encourage, you have a good team that’s focused, takes responsibility, fulfills your reviews of them, but never gets thanked or encouraged about what they do. That could become a thankless job for many of the team members.

See how focus-offload-review-encourage, or FORE, is a complete cycle of stages? Those of you with leadership responsibilities, please take note.