Solving the “my team doesn’t get my vision” problem

“F&%*, they just don’t get it.”

I was chatting with a founder CEO last week and asked him if his organization had a clear mission and vision. His answer was a definitive ‘yes’ as he proceeded to rhyme off his intention for the company. Thirty minutes later I asked the same question of a key team member. Her responsibilities include communicating the company message abroad. Her response? ‘NO!’. She went on to elaborate on the confusion and frustration she experiences as a result.

How is it that your simple and compelling vision for your company’s future is so illusive to others? There is one prediction that I can make with 100% certainty. Your team doesn’t see your vision with the same vivid colour and crisp detail that you do.

So much time and money wasted. Hours of work by a team with limited contribution to the founder’s vision.

But why?

PC1 Last month I found myself at Peggy’s Cove on Canada’s east coast. It’s a quaint spot. Photographers and artists flock to the area to capture the essence of life by the sea. During my visit, a collection of painters had gathered for the day to share their passion. Easels dotted the landscape throughout the tiny village. Many of the artists were set up side by side looking out over the same landscape.

As I walked around, it struck me how different each painting was developing on the canvases. These artists were looking at the exact same landscape. Yet none of the pictures looked remotely similar. One artist was painting only in shades of red and pink. Another was capturing the broadest view possible in watercolour. Yet another had zoomed in on a small boat in the harbour. Some of the artists painted the finest details. Others aimed to capture the essence of the scene with broad strokes.

Which artist was right? When it comes to art, personal preference is in the eye of the beholder. Read More »

The easiest ROI booster that most entrepreneurs miss

From day one of starting a business, so much entrepreneurial mind share goes to figuring out ROI. Every dollar counts. You start hiring people. Their salary is cash out of your pocket. When they screw up, it costs you.

The business grows. Complexity increases. The search for ROI improvements continues. For most businesses, people investments add up. They can be the largest single expense line.

So what do entrepreneurs do to maximize the output of the team? Most of the focus falls to hiring, firing and intense management of performance. Hire top performers. Expect great things. If they turn out to be a dud, fire them. It sounds harsh, but this is a reality. When an investment isn’t paying off, move on.

The problem with this cycle is cost. Many expenses associated with employee turnover are invisible. The end-to-end process burns a pile of cash. So entrepreneurs focus on better hiring, better on boarding, faster firing. It’s an expensive way to learn.

There is a cheaper, faster, and simpler habit you can develop. It won’t cost you a dime. And if you’re not using it already, it’s guaranteed to boost your ROI.

The ah-ha moment

Chatting in office croppedA colleague of mine relayed a story to me. He was meeting with the CTO and founder of a billion dollar start-up success story. Over coffee the CTO shared a recent revelation. He had come to appreciate the ROI of asking his team about their weekend. People worked harder and gave more to the company because he showed interest in the personal lives of his team.

I shared this story with a senior leader at another company. Her response: “Wow, that’s exactly what we need. If we could get our CEO to do that… to say good morning to the team… to show he cares… it would revolutionize our company.”

Why it matters

In the early part of my career I worked in a team of 12 people reporting to an executive. He was my second-level manager so I didn’t interact with him much. But I did have full appreciation that my career rested in his hands. He came in every morning and went right to his desk. He never said hello and rarely acknowledged me. Some days it made me anxious, other days it pissed me off. In both cases it affected my creativity and contributions to the company. Read More »

The secret to boosting innovation… and the catch.

Flower lightbulbWhat if there was a secret that guaranteed your company an exponential innovation boost? And what if there was a small group of people who had figured out this secret? And what if that group was willing to share every intimate detail of that secret for free? Would you be interested?

I’m guessing you would jump at the chance.

Now, what if there’s a catch to learning this secret? And what if that catch requires you to challenge every personal belief you hold about leading business? Would you still do it?

Last week I spent three days with the people who hold this secret. They came together from all over the world to meet in two connected conferences. One in Hungary and one in Canada. These are deep thinkers. Explorers. They share an intense passion for figuring out a better way to run businesses. And together, they’ve found a secret they are willing to share.

Sometimes secrets are so big and so scary, we don’t want to hear them. This could be one of those secrets.

The need for change

Like it or not, our world is changing. With change comes disruption. With disruption comes discomfort. In business, this discomfort is showing up through disengagement. Right now 76% of full-time employees are open to new job opportunities. This raises a big question. How innovative is someone in their current job while thinking about working somewhere else?

The Google generation is looking for a new way of contributing. Power structures no longer work when everyone has access to the same information. Hierarchies collapse when everyone has an equal voice in the virtual world. Sub par ideas get crushed when power structures can’t protect them.

Yet we still aim to be innovative in organization structures designed for a different time. Read More »

Escaping the Policy Trap: Why young companies start implementing policies (and how to avoid them)

When it comes to non value add activities in business, policy creation takes top spot. Trouble starts the moment your organization slips into control by policy. The breakdown of trust is underway.

Early in my career I rocked it as a master policy writer. I took great pride in my superb ability to foresee every exception and close every loophole.

I’ve since learned from my mistakes. I now see policies for what they often are—an attempt by one person to control another.

I recently connected with one of the most progressive CEOs in my network. He shared his view on the topic. “Policies are put in place to manage the 1% at the detriment of the 99%.”

Why would we do that? Why go to so much effort to punish the 99%? The answer is simple but perhaps not obvious.

The love affair with policies

At the core of policy development is predictability and structure. They create restrictions and limitations. For those of us with perfectionistic tendencies, control is like a comfortable blanket. It keeps us safe.
That explains why some people love policies. But what about the non-perfectionists who aren’t drawn to structure? Why doesn’t this group rebel and topple the policy fortress before it’s too big?

It turns out that the heart of the issue is fear. We are afraid of having difficult, important conversations with each other. Policies, even terrible ones, provide us with a safety net. When a problem requires a difficult conversation, we have control on our side.  Read More »

Are you unknowingly dumbing down your team?

Entrepreneurs leading fast moving companies have a critical blind spot.  One habit is single-handedly dumbing down groups of uber smart people.  It’s holding back the growth of businesses everywhere.

Changing one simple habit can unlock a powerhouse of collective brainpower and creativity.

In business “building a superstar team” is the ultimate quest. To be the best, hire the best.  Entrepreneurs have their talent antenna up in every conversation. The hunt for great people is never ending.

So what happens once that super smart and dedicated team is in place? Your frustration starts to mount. Your once agile business starts slowing down. Communication starts breaking down. You are pulled into every decision. Or worse, you are excluded from decisions that you later need to overturn.  You question how people you had thought to be smart now seem… well… dumb! Read More »

Why “Being mocked by my team” should be a 2016 priority

We’re two months into a new year.

How’s your team doing so far?

If there is one period that creates more business disappointments than any other, this is it.  The first 60 days of the year.

As the leader of your company, you’re likely exceptional at creating a vision for the future. You know how to put together actionable plans.  Perhaps you even have a spectacular idea that is poised to rock your industry.  I’m betting you spent some time over the holidays thinking about what you learned over the past year.  You’ve likely drafted a road map for the next few months.  There are new projects you want the team to undertake… bad habits and poor performance of the past you plan to crush.

This is the year of big change and you have the plan to make it happen.

Two months in, and with your hand on the tiller, are things changing course as you hoped?

It’s about this time that new year’s resolutions and annual business plans start to get fuzzy. The enthusiasm that was palpable on January 1st starts to wane and bad habits continue to thrive. Read More »

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