Saturday, September 4, 2010

Does a Personal Brand Matter?

Most people don’t wake up in the morning determined to make the worst of their day. I am convinced the majority do not start out the morning by plotting how many ways to mess up. Most people want to do well and enjoy life. Most people want to succeed. How that is done could be debated at length but the bottom line is … most of us want to do well.

But, it is the rare person who will consistently do well by accident. And even if such an amazing accident happens, there is case after case of how this does not last. A person with a natural talent who does not better the talent will fall far short of potential success. (Remember Mom and Dad reminding you to practice? This principle still applies in adulthood.) Someone who can easily start a good thing will not follow through because of stunted personal growth. This is why building a personal brand matters.

For example, if someone cannot manage personal finances before winning the lottery, it is a safe bet that same person will do no better after hitting the jackpot. In this case, having bundles of money does not improve the ability to manage the money. Hopefully, it is easy to see in this case how one incredible event does not change the existing package (the undeveloped financial skill). (By the way … I do not advocate spending your money on the lottery.)

Here’s another example. In today’s very competitive job market, it takes more than the usual abilities to stand out and be hired, retained, or promoted. There are a bunch of folks out there who have the basic skills for your job. They can type, file, follow policy, say “thank you,” answer the phone and all the other typical things a company might want. But do they stand out? Do YOU stand out? Not to be ego-driven but what is your competitive advantage over the other people you meet? What is your unique value-added? How well do you get along with others? If you don’t know your unique contribution or don’t think you have anything special to offer, please, PLEASE think again! Look deep inside with the most objective thoughts you can muster. The good stuff is there … you just have to discover it! This is all part of building a signature brand.

Building a signature brand of excellence has very tangible, measurable, concrete results. Whether it’s getting a better job in a tough market or gaining a promotion or developing a new, innovative program so your organization does better financially, the results always follow the person who will intentionally and carefully build a consistent personal brand that generates trust.

There is a lot of good in the saying, “Live life on purpose.” There is something very satisfying about being intentional even if it gives mixed results at first. The good consequences will happen over time. Just remember to measure the results against the medium-to-long term as well as the immediate.

So really the question should NOT be, “Does a personal brand matter?” but rather, “Do I want to be excellent”? If the answer is “YES” then building a personal brand is a no-brainer!

Mike Friesen is a leadership and personal development coach with Leading Strategies, www.LeadingStrategies.net. Mike is a retired military officer, fighter pilot, former CFO, and holds a M.B.A. He is also the author of "Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It." Mike offers 3 FREE gifts for personal development at www.LSdevelop.com and you are welcome to follow Leading Strategies on Twitter at @LSTeams.

Copyright 2010 Michael A. Friesen. All rights reserved.

How to Create Your Ideal? (Part 2 of 2)

Last week we looked at how to create something better by using a method called “going out and coming back.” This uses imagination to define a detailed, desired future state in a personal or professional setting. Once the picture is alive, I suggested going out and being that painting! While this may sound mildly challenging to impossible, there are ways, in many cases, to make progress.

There are any number of possible problems you may encounter while trying to influence a stable environment (even if it’s dysfunctional). The responses to the following key questions are very important. Here are the questions.

1. How strong is the opposition?
2. How much does it matter?

Before we look at the possible answers, let me emphasize the importance of building and maintaining trust as much as possible … always. There can never be too much trust. Building trust is all about small kindnesses, making and keeping promises, considering others while being honest with them at the same time. Trust is built over t-i-m-e. Others need to see a pattern to decide that you or I are/am trustworthy. With that, let’s look at each one.

Low Opposition, It Matters Little – This is the easiest situation where the opposition is low and it doesn’t matter much anyway. The future looks bright!

Solution: Keep doing what you’re doing and accelerate your efforts to be the ideal painting.

High Opposition, It Matters Little – This is an area where you may not feel your job is threatened but life is uncomfortable or downright miserable. Chances are, the problems may stem from low trust in the environment. Work to improve trust with those in opposition.

On the personal side, the loud opposition may be from those who have less authority such as children. This does not mean their voices do not count but does mean “consider the source.”

Solution: Keep doing your good work and build trust with those who oppose you.

Low Opposition, It Matters a Lot – This scenario may be one where your job could be threatened eventually. Significant opposition, whether of a low or high amount, usually comes from a boss or other high-placed person in the organization. One important approach is to try to uncover unmet needs. Is the opposition from a lack of understanding? Are you being perceived wrong?

In a personal setting, a close friend or spouse may give some push-back. Again, can you discover unmet needs? This can easily include better two-way understanding.

Solution: Keep doing your positive work and look for unmet needs.

High Opposition, It Matters a Lot – Of course, this is the most difficult of the outcomes. You are strongly opposed and it matters a lot. At work, this could be your direct supervisor who is completely opposed to your efforts. If this is the case, you need to choose whether the environment is worth holding out for over the long haul. Have you mis-judged the organization and it’s possible to take another and better tactic? Is some of the opposition based simply on misunderstanding? Are there any allies in the setting from which you could gain advice?

If this is personal, you are in a tough spot. Not impossible, just tough. First, ask the question, is this setting valuable … long-term? Also, consider your commitments. A commitment to a spouse may be different from a commitment to a friend. Further, what is the current state of trust? If you have behaved in the past to hurt trust, it will take time to regain just an average level of trust. You may need to be patient.

Solution: Pull back, build trust, discover unmet needs OR look for another setting. If you decide to stick it out, be ready to work hard for an extended period.


Mike Friesen is a leadership and personal development coach with Leading Strategies, www.LeadingStrategies.net. Mike is a retired military officer, fighter pilot, former CFO, and holds a M.B.A. He is also the author of "Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It." Mike offers 3 FREE gifts for personal development at www.LSdevelop.com and you are welcome to follow Leading Strategies on Twitter at @LSTeams.

Copyright 2010 Michael A. Friesen. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to Create Your Ideal? (Part 1 of 2)

Here is a way to create something better. In my coaching, I call it “going out and coming back.” Not very original or creative but it works. The idea is to move into the future, define as much as possible out there and then come back to reality and decide on ways to get to the desired future state. Here is a practical exercise.

Pick a setting. It could be in your personal or professional life. Let’s pretend you choose your overall work life. Using your imagination, what is the ideal? How do others treat you? What do customers say about your organization? What do they say about you? What do they tell their friends? What are people systems like? How is the teamwork? What is the creativity level? How are processes efficient and useful? Let your day-dreaming go and try to make the picture as real as possible in your head. Now, write down the details of your ideal. Be sure to include the typical behaviors when everything that can go wrong does. Be the best “fly on the wall” possible.

Now that you have created a pretend painting in your head, go out and “be” that painting. What?!? You might say, “You don’t know my boss … he’s a real jerk.” Or maybe the paperwork rules are killing us. Or … fill in the blank. The suggestion stands. Go out and be this incredibly, profound, amazing painting. It is easy to blame others (I’ve done my share of it) or make excuses why things are not as good as they could be. Within your circle of influence – not just your job description – start doing those things that will lead to the ideal over time. You may need to do this in many steps if current reality is very different from the future ideal.

Let’s address two possible scenarios with the easier one first.

Scenario #1 – In your imagined ideal, maybe you saw all members of the organization treat each other with respect, regardless of position, time with the company, education and so on. You can immediately start respecting everyone you meet and interact with in the environment. The challenge comes on how to deal with those who do not share your newfound attitude. If you want to influence positive change, you must persist even in spite of blockheads. (Sorry, that wasn’t very respectful.) The test of making positive behavior stick is to do so over time with consistency – especially when it is difficult. Do not be obnoxious about it, just do it consistently. Hint: One of your secret weapons is tasteful humor at key points of stress.

Scenario #2 – As you painted the picture above, you saw no unnecessary red tape in the paperwork war. In most companies, you cannot simply stop following policy or paperwork requirements without explanation. In fact, failing on the administrative side might lead to an early, prolonged vacation and the current re-employment environment is pretty tough. Remember to break the goal into manageable pieces. What small steps do you think could slowly move the setting toward the imagined ideal? Start with the least sacred in the environment and then talk with your supervisor about the process. Make suggested solutions – do not just throw rocks. You are trying to find an ally, not make somebody defensive. Make a genuine case for how this will help the profitability of the company or increase the quality of service to the customers. Hint: Make proposals that move toward your ideal AND help the other person do his or her job better (and look better too).

Next week we will explore potential consequences of your action plan and ways to change the plan to maximize the chances of success.


Michael Friesen is the owner of Leading Strategies, a firm dedicated to coaching concierge medical groups and other service organizations to build high performance teams (www.LeadingStrategies.net). Mike is a retired military officer, fighter pilot, former CFO, and holds a M.B.A. with Strategic Leadership emphasis. Michael is also the author of "Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It." You are invited to follow Leading Strategies on Twitter at @LSTeams.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What is Your Word Worth?


Here is a way to stand out in any crowd: keep your word. Seriously. Do not make the smallest, implied commitment without intentionally remembering and following through. Write it down … on your forehead if necessary. (OK, I’m kidding about your forehead.)

Why does keeping a commitment matter? It creates above-average trust. Do not say, “I will see you tomorrow” if you have no intention of keeping the appointment. Do not say, “Keep in touch” if you do not mean it. Creating high performance organizations begins with high performance people who are trustworthy at their cores.

Dr. Stephen Covey uses a metaphor for trust called The Emotional Bank Account (EBA). (Covey, 1989) One significant way of depositing into the EBA is making and keeping promises – implied or otherwise. Not keeping your word reduces trust. Why does this matter?

Deep down, most of us want to matter in some way. We may not long for fame or riches but there is a desire in most to leave a lasting legacy. Part of this legacy will be based on what we say. If others believe I will keep my word, my word means something and therefore others will be more open to listening to my word on more topics … including those subjects where I long to make a greater difference. Said another way, keeping my word and influencing others in a positive way are completely tied together.

Some folks are proud of “saying it like it is.” They use this motto to justify being brutally frank … all the time. If I figuratively poke you in the eye most times we talk, how long will you stick around? It is important to be honest as this too builds or harms trust. It is also critical to consider others, not just self. The idea here is to be honest and considerate at the same time. Be balanced in giving your word in the first place and then be dogmatic about keeping your word in the end.

Another implied part of this discussion is consistency. If I keep my word one out of every 10 times (or worse), how well am I actually keeping my word? Not well, I’m afraid. Honoring my commitments requires consistent action. If all else fails and I simply cannot keep my word because of other, new circumstances, I must apologize. Again, it is all about honoring my word to cultivate similar thoughts in others.

Here is the bottom line.

  • Giving your word gives others hope
  • Keeping your word consistently builds trust
  • Taking your own word seriously causes others to do the same
  • Not giving your word when there is doubt you can keep it is better than making an empty commitment

As one, anonymous smart guy said, “it is better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.” This applies to relationships between individuals as well as entire companies, employees, and customers.

Reference

Covey, Stephen (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York, NY. Fireside.

Michael Friesen is the owner of Leading Strategies, a firm dedicated to coaching concierge medical groups and other service organizations to build high performance teams (www.LeadingStrategies.net). Mike is a retired military officer, fighter pilot, former CFO, and holds a M.B.A. with Strategic Leadership emphasis. Michael is also the author of "Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It." You are invited to follow Leading Strategies on Twitter at @LSTeams.
 



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Excellence

I am reading Tom Peters’ latest book titled “The Little Big Things” and am energized by Tom’s writing on Excellence.* (Peters, 2010) You may recall Tom wrote the best selling “In Search of Excellence” several years ago and has been an important voice ever since on the idea of reaching higher. (Peters and Waterman, 1982)

Here are questions to consider: What is Excellence? Why should I pursue Excellence? How do I pursue Excellence? While there could be many long answers to these questions, here is one writer’s attempt to answer.

What is Excellence?

At times, excellence is something you just know when you see it. (Thanks, that helps!) No, really it is true. Let’s say you and me stop to buy gas at local station A. The attendant saunters out and gives an unenthusiastic, “What can I do for you today?” Once the transaction is complete, we drive away. Later in the week, we stop by local gas station B. This time, the attendant approaches our car with a purpose in his step, pleasant look on his face, looks the driver in the eyes and gives an energetic, “What can I do for you today?” The attendant quickly works with other drivers in a similar way and still has time to say something to us about the weather over the last few days. Just before we drive away, the same attendant hands off the receipt with a genuine “Have a great day!” Which of these two instances were Excellent? Which transaction caused us to leave with just a bit more optimism for the day? You know the answer.

Why Should I Pursue Excellence?

Excellence is like a magnet. Most of us like to be around Excellence in any form so why not be an Excellence magnet too? We all like Excellent food, Excellent family members, Excellent friends, Excellent grocery stores, Excellent anything! Not only that but the word about an Excellent establishment OR person spreads quickly. It does not take much imagination to decide what might happen by showing Excellence all around.

How Should I Pursue Excellence?

I am convinced few people wake up in the morning and say, “How can I have a mediocre day?” I believe most of us want a good if not great day. While a faulty paradigm may be the problem sometimes, the greater challenge is likely consistency. Think about it. Most of us know how to treat others well but do we do so consistently? In the gas station example above, both attendants probably knew something about good manners and what it takes to make others happy but one did it and one did not. Pursuing Excellence may be more about pursuing consistency than turning over a new leaf.

Application Challenge

• Identify one positive paradigm or mindset you would like to behave out of more consistently. What specific things will you do to make this happen? Think in increments as achieving Excellence is a journey, not a destination. What will success look like in this context?
• What are your best behaviors? Now ask “why” to understand the Excellent mindsets underneath the actions. Take a moment to enjoy these successes. How can you expand these strengths into other areas of your life? For example, if you are great at customer service on the job but struggling with a relationship at home, how can you apply the “work” mindset to improve on the personal side?
• Find more people with Excellent attitudes. Make friends with them and learn from them. Hang out with them … a lot. What new things do you discover about living an Excellent life?


* Tom Peters strongly recommends always capitalizing the word Excellence.


References

Peters, Tom and Waterman, Robert (1982). In Search of Excellence. New York, NY. Harper and Row Publishers, Inc.

Peters, Thomas J. (2010). The Little Big Things. New York, NY. HarperCollins Publishers.



Copyright 2010 Michael A. Friesen. All rights reserved.

Michael Friesen is the owner of Leading Strategies, a firm dedicated to coaching concierge medical groups and other service organizations build high performance teams (www.LeadingStrategies.net). Mike is a retired military officer, fighter pilot, former CFO, and holds a M.B.A. with Strategic Leadership emphasis. Michael is also the author of "Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It." You are invited to follow Leading Strategies on Twitter at @LSTeams.

The Importance of Trust

With your indulgence, here is an excerpt on trust from a book I wrote two years ago.

“The root of all effective human relationships is trust. All relationships have trust in some form or another or else the bond will not last. Trust is so pivotal to all human interaction and is a business imperative. Those who scoff at building and maintaining trust in a business or other setting do so at their own peril. Productivity and creativity are higher when trust is valued. If trust is not important, productivity and creativity will become sluggish and eventually disappear.

Most people know that treating others with trust and respect will bring very positive outcomes and yet how many of us struggle to do just this? Many of us could make an impassioned argument for the importance of great communication (to include deep listening) only to find ourselves moving too quickly past a conversation with a spouse, child or co-worker. What did she say? What did he mean? These and other questions are all important to process carefully in the moment.

Why is trust important to leadership and healthy cultures? Without trust, individuals are not open with each other. They hide behind a fa├žade for personal protection. In spite of outward bravado, most people gravitate toward those they can enjoy on some level in a two-way exchange. In any healthy human relationship there is a basic question under the surface that says, “How much do you care about me?” Most people will not maintain a long-term friendship with someone who belittles them, tears them down or devalues them. We have all worked at some point for a boss who was impossible to please. You can be sure there was some sort of negative reaction going on first internally and then sometimes externally.

Think back to that boss who was always unreasonable and treated you poorly. What if he or she would have approached you asking for input on an upcoming project? If you knew your ideas were consistently not valued or used, how likely would you have been to contribute openly? You might have made some helpful comments depending on your personal values but probably stopped short of full input.

On the other hand, think back to working for a boss who brought the best out of you. This person consistently appreciated participation and implemented at least some of your thoughts into a final solution. Now, how likely would you be to offer thoughts on an upcoming task? It was probably hard to shut you up! Why the difference between the two scenarios? In one word: trust. Over time, most healthy people do not gladly go where uninvited in relationships.” (Friesen, 2008)

Here are some ideas for application.

• Think of an individual you highly respect. What specific things does or did this person do to increase your respect? If you had a problem and took it to this person, what was the response? How do you see this linking to trust? Choose one behavior or principle you would like to model from your example.

• List the top five to ten people in your life. In the course of daily life, practice deeply listening to each of the individuals on the list with any of your normal interactions with them (eyes off the computer screen or Blackberry, phone down, etc.). What do you learn? How does this build trust?

• Choose one person with whom you would like to re-build trust. Without any defensiveness, apologize if needed with no strings attached. Give forgiveness without the other needing to request it. Now, start to extend small, consistent kindnesses over time. How does this repair the relationship weeks and months? Who’s next?


Reference
Friesen, Mike (2008). Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It. Chehalis, WA. Lulu Press.


Copyright 2010 Michael A. Friesen. All rights reserved.

Michael Friesen is the owner of Leading Strategies, a firm dedicated to coaching concierge medical groups and other service organizations build high performance teams (www.LeadingStrategies.net). Mike is a retired military officer, fighter pilot, former CFO, and holds a M.B.A. with Strategic Leadership emphasis. Michael is also the author of "Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It." You are invited to follow Leading Strategies on Twitter at @LSTeams.

Focused Creativity

Last week, we looked at creativity in general and how each person naturally possesses a certain amount of this trait. This week, let’s consider how to use creativity as a business tool.

Unfettered creativity and curiosity can be fun but it also can be chaotic. While businesses need to create to thrive long-term, they also need to operate consistently to get to the long-term. This creates tension: stability versus adaptability, status quo versus innovation. Either side of the spectrum need not exclude the other. In fact, the healthiest organizations look for the most holistic solutions possible.

In order to achieve focused creativity in a business, the team must first understand the true aim of the organization. This may or may not align with the nice plaque on your lobby wall. Franklin Covey put out a video a few years ago titled, “Max and Max.” (ATS Media) The pretend company in the presentation thought they enshrined the motto of “Service, Service, Service.” However, when it came to making decisions, the core mission should have read, “We Follow Policy, No Matter What.” The best day was capturing a sale and so-called customer service went downhill from there. This over-reliance on static policy rules stifled creativity and good customer care.

Again, rules and policy are necessary for an organization to operate reasonably well in the short-term; creativity is needed for the long-term health of the enterprise. Here are ways to find the “and” solution of creativity and stable operations.

Bosses
1. How much decision making ability do you give your front-line workers? Do you stretch your comfort zone on this to create a business environment with focused creativity?

2. How much tolerance do you have for well-intentioned mistakes? Do you treat these types of errors as the tuition of developing a high performance employee? Do you coach employees on how to better put decisions in the context of the organization’s core purpose (not just one of the rules)?

3. Rules and policies should have a finite shelf-life. Do you routinely review (or better yet, have the newest employee review) and recommend changes and deletions?

Non-bosses
1. Do you ever spend the last few minutes of your lunch hour daydreaming about how you could make your work place better? What are the things in your control to influence? What small things would make a big difference?

2. If you are a valued worker, you probably have more influence with your boss than you think. If you have a creative idea, how will it benefit the business’ bottom line? What is the return on investment? How will this idea help the company long-term? Are you willing to make a reasoned business case for you latest brainstorm?

3. If you were the boss and could change one thing (highest leverage), what would it be? Now back to reality … can you do things incrementally to move toward this important “one thing” over time?


Reference

ATS Media. Retrieved July 19, 2010. http://www.atsmedia.com/productancillary/MAX-22_LG.pdf

Copyright 2010 Michael A. Friesen. All rights reserved.

Michael Friesen is the owner of Leading Strategies, a firm dedicated to coaching concierge medical groups and other service organizations build high performance teams (www.LeadingStrategies.net). Mike is a retired military officer, fighter pilot, former CFO, and holds a M.B.A. with Strategic Leadership emphasis. Michael is also the author of "Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It." You are invited to follow Leading Strategies on Twitter at @LSTeams.