Think Growth! Blog

A Piling Strategy

15 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

Small steps towards a big goal can lead to big change.  Sometimes it is the smallest changes in how we approach our day that can have the greatest impact.

Rarely is a problem you face disassociated with everything else in your organization. Problems have causes and consequences and may have tentacles in many different processes and departments.  There is opportunity for great synergy in the process of actually solving the problem.

Often there is so much coming at you all day long, it becomes difficult to see the synergies, and you spend your whole day trying to solve the problems that arise. Obviously fires must be extinguished, but flames fanned unnecessarily by a team member focused solely on their immediate issue can create a day full of disjointed fix–it–now issues.

The interrelatedness of the issues, problems, interruptions and opportunities you are faced with is significant. Piling simply suggests grouping problems and opportunities in a pile to be addressed at a later time.  When attacked as a group, you can capitalize on the common themes, the innovative ideas that may work in one situation but not another, and the power of focused thought.

There is a significant difference between piling and procrastination.  Piling is a conscious choice that some issues or ideas can wait, and if you group them, will become easier to address all at once.  Procrastination is the delay of what should be addressed due to a desire to avoid the issue, avoid a conflict, difficult conversation or accountability, or because there is not yet a perfect solution.

Personally, I literally pile things on my desk. For example, I both sell and execute and often don’t spend time every day or every week on sales. Yet ideas and opportunities arise regularly. I could let myself get distracted by a new idea, and may decide to if it is time sensitive, but more often will literally pile papers or group information jn an Outlook Inbox subfolder.  Then I will look at those opportunities together at a point in the future.

Is your day ruled by interruptions that may more effectively be handled at a later date in a related group of issues?


Pervasive Relativism Stymies Leadership

15 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

Creativity blossoms out of individual and innovative thinking, a variety of viewpoints, and personal and professional confidence.  And no leader in their right mind would minimize the need for their team members to be thinking independently in order to pursue the company’s goals and objectives.

On the other side of that same coin is often the belief of individuals that they are entitled to act on their opinions, should be able to do things their own way, and do not need to be burdened with unnecessary rules and restrictions.  The incredible rise of pervasive relativism, defined by as “any theory holding that criteria of judgment are relative, varying with individuals and their environments,” has made it significantly more difficult to lead a group of people to achieve the company’s goals and adhere to company values and mission.

Relativism, as it rears its head in the workplace, does not recognize right or wrong, and believes more in the value of the individual’s preferences and style.

The problem is that when you, as the leader, have a powerful vision of how you want your company to operate, how you want to do business and how you will treat your customers – there is a right and wrong way to do things.  Your powerful vision is not only your passion in business terms, but also enables you to define a niche which is what provides competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Is it the only right way?  Not necessarily.  But it is the way you have decided your company or department will operate.  And within that, creativity can blossom. (Check out blog post on Processes are Strong Basis for Creative Thinking)

There is a right way and a wrong way to take care of a customer.  At times, an employee will do it the wrong way.  Excuses such as, “That is just my approach; the customer took it the wrong way,” or “They should not have approached me with that attitude,” are not okay.  The employee may have tried their best, but the fact is, it was not good enough.  It doesn’t mean they have to be fired, but they do need to realize that they did not act in a way that the company deems acceptable.

For example, Chick-fil-A believes it is right to smile and say, “My pleasure,” when a customer says, “Thank you.”  An employee could do the same thing at McDonald’s if they wanted to.  However, at Chick-fil-A, it is expected and the only right way to take care of the customer.

If you have an employee who demands to be able to do things their way, and it is directly in contrast to the behavior that you as the leader have communicated as acceptable, then their behavior is unacceptable and they must change.  This seems so simple.  Yet, over and over, I see situations where the pervasive cultural focus on relativism is brutally pushing companies to mediocrity.

What do you see?

Processes are Strong Basis for Creative Thinking

15 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

Few and far between is the entrepreneur who enjoys writing processes.  After all, starting and running a business is much more about doing that writing, right?

Many an ambitious entrepreneur has worked tirelessly in a labor of love to create something really awesome without ever documenting a process.  Then, maybe someday, when the company gets large enough to involve levels of management and departments, it might be time to write processes.

This thought processes misses an enormous opportunity!!

The process of documenting processes in writing has multiple, powerful benefits:

  1. It extracts, from the entrepreneur’s brain, the brilliant details of how they want things done, which have been the basis for their success.  These are things they often fail to mention, think others will automatically do, or don’t even realize they do themselves.  Gold mine of information!  Leads to consistency.
  2. When followed by others, it leads to more effective communication of expectations, and enables employees to be more successful at completing tasks as expected.  Many processes can be turned into checklists to ensure quality performance. Leads to increasingly successful employees.
  3. Maybe most exciting, they provide a basis for creativity.  How can you improve a process unless you know how it works now?  How can you know if a process needs to be improved if it is not done consistently in the first place?  By looking at and documenting each step of the process, each step becomes an opportunity for creativity and improvement.  Flowchart the process and circle the areas with greatest risk exposure, greatest opportunity to create awesome customer experiences and greatest chances to innovate and move ahead of the competition.  Leads to innovation and growth!

It can be quite a painful exercise to document processes – especially to getting started.  And, as innovations happen, the processes really should be updated.  But, even in a very growth-focused, entrepreneurial organization, there are still some people who ‘ground’ the rest of the team who, if supported by others, would gladly do this for you.  Who are these individuals in your organization or department?

The Conversation You are Not Having

10 Sep
by Bridget DiCello

Complain, Complain, Complain

We complain because we have what we believe is a legitimate concern that we really want to see addressed.

We complain to those who we think care.  Because they are good listeners, because they react and/or empathize, or we believe they have the power to solve it.

And we complain to ourselves, because we will always listen!  Although this may get to the point of creating unhealthy and unproductive thought patterns.

Behind every complaint from you, to you, or from and to you, there is a conversation that you are not having with the person/people about whom the complaint revolves.

Why do you not address something that bugs you?  Let’s get the excuses out of the way.

Excuse:  “I can’t change them anyway!”

You are right.  You cannot change them.  Are you afraid they will change you?  They may change, but it will be because they want to.

Excuse:  “They’ll think I’m being petty.”

If something is very important to you, then it matters, and there is opportunity for synergistic greatness, even if it starts small.

Excuse:  “I don’t have the authority.”

So what?  Done right, you are a person concerned about something important to both of you – and you can make a difference.

Excuse:  “It will cause a rift in the relationship.”

Hasn’t it already, for you?

Excuse:  “I know what they are going to say already!”

Do you?  Great, then you can prepare better for the conversation.

Excuse:  “I’ll get upset once we start talking.”

So what is it that you need to do to maintain your peace during the conversation?  Do you know what brings you peace?

Take the bull by the horns

Have the difficult conversation.  Can you thrive on that conflict, out of which come their frustrations and ideas, and your frustrations and ideas – a combination full of opportunities for creation of something cool?  You have to believe that’s possible first!

Getting into the conversation can be the hardest thing to do.  Showing up is half the battle.  Decide to have the conversation, then be honest and phrase things in a way that avoids personal attacks.

What do you expect?

Setting expectations is very important.  Spend a moment determining your main objective(s) of the conversation.  If “…” happens, this will have been a success.  Keep your initial expectations to a very small step.  Those are very hard to take, and taking them will yield positive momentum.

“What’s really important to me in this conversation is…”  You cannot climb a mountain in one step – no matter how great of a climber you are.

Stop!  If the conversation is unproductive, agree to step away for a while, to think or to cool down.  Agree to do this if it becomes necessary, before you start the conversation.

Believe in Greatness!

Believe great things can happen – out of conversation and through the people with whom you are interacting.   The greatness you expect becomes the foundation for productive conversation.

Vision Meets Engagement

31 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

Successful companies are comprised of visionary leaders at all levels and engaged employees throughout the organization.  As a leader, there are many opportunities in your day and week to engage your team in seemingly small ways with powerful results.



If you desire to create a project plan, an agenda, a policy, a job description, a quality checklist, or document a process; as a leader you may be tempted to do it yourself.  Afterall, you know the information best, understand the big picture, and can probably do it faster than any team member. And you don’t have to take the time to delegate or hold them accountable.



The process of creating, even creating something like a policy that seems simple, can be energizing as well as provide a reality check. It often makes sense to delegate the creation of a draft document to a member of your team.



Reasons to delegate the draft:



1. The process of creating is empowering, fun and can energize your employees.



2. Asking someone to commit to paper what they believe they understand can be extremely revealing to them and to you regarding what they know and understand.


3. The employee who creates the draft has more buy-in to the product, even after you offer your insight, edits and make changes.



4. You may never take the time to do it yourself, even if you are quicker and more knowledgeable, and therefore it will not get done.



5. It keeps you from getting stuck in the details.  You can review and edit the draft with your big picture and visionary perspective, catching opportunities to improve the draft to more precisely make progress towards company goals.



So next time you are about to create something, ask yourself who on your team should be involved, and who will execute on it. Then ask them to draft it first. Be sure to tell them they are creating a draft, so they are not disappointed when you edit it. Then you can add your vision of what your team is capable of accomplishing to the draft. A true team effort!


The Disciplined Professional

25 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

Do you wish you had more disciplined employees? Employees who would routinely and consistently deliver high-quality work?

A disciplined employee is a product of their own work ethic but also rely on the discipline of their manager and their work environment.

What does a disciplined manager look like?

1. Tracks metrics. Someone who is disciplined keeps track of their current performance, any dips, and any increases. Not only does the manager track the employees’ performance, but they track their own performance, and share what is relevant with the rest of the team.

2. Does the tough things. In every job, there are tasks that are important but not necessarily urgent, that no one may want to do. They will improve overall performance once they become routine. The disciplined manager needs to lead by example in their own work, and employees will follow by doing the tough, but important, tasks in their jobs.

3. Gets started.  Often the hardest part is to get started, even if it is to take a small step on a difficult project or task. The disciplined person takes that first step forward.

4. Focuses on professional development. A disciplined person is continually looking for ways to professionally develop. This goes beyond performing well every day, to looking for ways to perform better, differently, and grow professionally.

5. Tweaks their own performance. A manager who is disciplined not only professionally develops, but also improves their own daily performance incrementally. This often requires the discipline of monitoring, identifying small steps that can be taken, and acknowledging those small steps and progress both for themselves and for the rest of the team to follow their example.

6.  Is passionate. Discipline is defined by words such as “rigorous, training, control, regimen, rules, state of order.” They certainly don’t sound like a whole lot of fun. However, when you combine a level of discipline with a passion for creating, contributing, and achieving that about which you are passionate, great and exciting things can happen. Although the trip may be tough, the results are significant and rewarding. The disciplined manager is passionate enough about the work they are doing to inspire others to follow the rules and regimens, which are improved with innovation over time, but consistently move forward.

Are you disciplined enough to achieve that about which you are passionate?


Purposeful Days

07 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

In order to manage your time well, you only need to make the best decision every moment of every day. The question is how to make those best decisions. Some of the most effective people plan and execute their day based on well thought out goals that are specific and measurable.

It is difficult to be disciplined enough to write those specific goals and keep them top of mind. However, sometimes even more difficult is truly being excited and passionate in spite of the pressures of the day. That passion and excitement exists when your goals are aligned with your personal vision and purpose.

A purposeful day does not necessarily mean it was, or was not, hectic or stressful.

What do you need to accomplish today to feel successful and fulfilled at the end of the day? What is that important to you? Much of your day may be filled with urgent tasks, but you may not feel content unless you spend some time on the more important and less urgent activities.

Dr. Buckminster Fuller tells us that each person looks out into the world and sees things that “need to be done” and we need to go do those things because no one else sees the world exactly as we do, and if we don’t do these things, they will never get done.

What do you see that needs to be done? And are you making progress every day?

Each one of us can only work so hard day after day unless we are working toward something, and for a purpose, even if it will take some time to see results.

If you are not energized by what you are doing every day, maybe it is time to revisit your passion and purpose. One of the most effective ways to do this is to make your “What bugs me” list. For me, my list contains many situations where people are not living up to their potential, are wasting their talents, their time or their resources. I am most energized by the days where I can help people work towards discovering greatness and potential in themselves and others.

What bugs you? And what do you see that needs to be done when you look out into the world? Are you making progress in those areas in big and small ways every day?

Plan your day. Execute the plan. Evaluate the day. Be sure the evaluation is based on not only someone else’s goals, but also the purpose and vision you have for yourself.

Inevitable Turnover?

15 May
by Bridget DiCello

If you find yourself continually hiring and firing, your turnover may be higher than it needs to be. There will always be people who leave a job – to move up in their field, to pursue another field, they move geographically – and there is little you can do to prevent these. However, there are also several reasons that significant turnover occurs, which can be prevented:

1.  You hired the wrong person. Companies large and small have some ineffective hiring processes. Some of the most common mistakes:

  1. You hold only one interview.
  2. You talk more than the candidate in the interview.
  3. You hire them because you like them.
  4. You ignore warning signs instead of purposefully looking for them in each candidate.
  5. You ask interviewing questions that ask what they ‘would’ do, or how they ‘would’ handle a situation.

What to do?

Review your interviewing process. Create deliberate, multi-interview steps, and use effective behavioral interviewing questions. Train your interviewers to be effective.

2.  You hire a transitional type of employee. Those businesses who hire students, for example, or employees in lower level positions, can expect to see turnover as these employees move up to higher positions, or complete their training and get a job in their field of study.   Restaurants are often in this category, but there are other industries where the turnover rate is high for the industry. If you are wondering if this is you, check with your industry association and get your statistics.

What to do?

Set up a process that is not an incredible burden to hire. If you know you experience high turnover and have a good interviewing process and a great place to work, accept the fact that hiring is part of your routine work. Just a few ideas: use applications/resumes and phone interviews to screen candidates to save you time of in-person interviews, involve multiple people in the process, schedule a brief first in-person interview to prevent you from spending a lot of time on the wrong person, and use references to learn more about the person.

3.  You have an unpleasant place to work. Your turnover may occur because people don’t want to stay and do what you have hired them to do. This may occur because:

  1. You never clearly stated expectations of the job tasks and they didn’t know what they were getting into.
  2. The team is hostile and unfriendly.
  3. The managers are not effective in orienting, training, coaching, holding people accountable and developing people to bring out their best. You may end up firing a lot of people for this same reason.

What to do?

Management (processes, metrics and accountability) and leadership (set goals, inspire others, create the team) skills are very often assumed to be present in someone as soon as they assume a role with a manager title.   Although there are some who are natural leaders or managers, most must learn the skills and may destroy some teams in the process, or create a lot more work for an owner who must enable them to learn on the job. Send them to classes, have them read The Leadership Challenge, Opportunity Space and other great leadership books, hire them a coach, and purposefully mentor your leaders.


My Way – Why do I have to fight for it?

01 May
by Bridget DiCello

As an owner or leader, do you find yourself defending, selling or fighting for your standards, expectations and values? There is a fine line between demanding and expecting compliance, and creating a team of intelligent people who are thinking and engaged, yet still executing on the vision and plan you have for your department or business.

Passionately Share Clear Expectations


It’s hard to get upset with a boss who is authentically passionate about customers, taking great care of them, and doing business in the right way. You must avoid expecting compliance because it’s the rule or just because you said so. Your team members must understand why it’s important, but not be allowed the liberty to grill you with questions about every plan, process or method you implement.


So often expectations are in a leader’s head, but are not shared, not shared often enough, or not shared in a way that others really understand them. Team members need to engage – think about, talk about, report on and execute on their tasks, and why they are important to your customers and company values. And they need to hear your expectations over and over in a variety of different ways – and see those values in what you do and how you spend your time.


The distance from your head to your mouth is very long, and you may not be as clear as you think you are, and as you need to be. Expectations fall prey to assumptions, assumed agreement, what they think you really mean, and what they think is really best for you and the business. If you leave ambiguity, others will do what they think best, sometimes what is easiest and what enables them to stay in their comfort zone.


Without micromanaging, what you expect must be communicated, starting with job descriptions, processes/procedures and evaluations, and continuing with ongoing coaching conversations and accountability through measuring metrics and regular reporting. Answering the question, “What do you want me to do?” can be difficult and is more often communicated as what you don’t want someone to do. What do I do when I don’t have what I need? Yell at who was supposed to give it to me? Make do without? Go find it myself? What is the proper protocol?

Business is not a democracy!

The owner’s or leader’s vision is incredibly important. It is this individual vision that makes the business successful – generic businesses that do it like everyone else don’t last. If a leader envisions a very collaborative culture, that’s fine and will work if that is what they passionately believe in, but that’s not the only or best answer in every situation.

The employees’ role is to execute the vision, and use their expertise, wisdom, knowledge and intelligence to execute well and share insights and ideas of how to do that better – not to disagree with the vision and fight it every step of the way.

Lack of Professionalism in Communication – Why it happens and What to do

25 Apr
by Bridget DiCello

Why do we react in ways that may not be professional?

Anger, frustration, lack of patience, sarcasm, abruptness, or any of many other reactions that may damage professional relationships, cause tension, result in lack of performance and initiative, and resistance.

Consider these truths:

  1. While we are well beyond animalistic and untamed in our responses, we still have emotional reactions based on our passions, beliefs and frustrations.
  2. Despite these initial reactions, we have the ability to decide what to do and say next, if we decide to use that Opportunity Space before we respond.
  3. Every person has their own ‘good and valid reason’ for doing and saying what they do and say, which makes sense to them, even if it doesn’t seem ‘good’ or ‘valid’ to others.

What does ‘emotional’ look like in the business world?

Emotional reactions in the business world come in the forms of:

  • loud verbal frustration with performance of lack thereof,
  • avoidance of people or situations,
  • saying everything is okay and yet complaining when the person isn’t around,
  • sarcasm with coworkers or employees,
  • refusing to speak to another professional or gossiping,
  • firing or writing off employees as incapable to avoid the tense conversation, just to name a few.

Why do ‘emotions’ have to get in the way?

Personally, I would much rather corral emotions than deal with someone who has let their passions be buried by life’s stressors, failures, and the beliefs of others.  ‘Emotions’ come into play because we are passionate, full of potential and see opportunities in the world of how things should be and could be.  Every one of us does.  If you feel your passion has been dulled by life’s events – find it again.  It’s a good thing and a powerful force.

Simple example:  Driving on the country road by my house, following a vehicle going 24mph in a 45mph zone, where I had been known to drive 65+mph in my Audi S4 before I started driving the mini-van…  I begin to get emotional, frustrated and mad because of this person’s slow driving.  Why?  Because I’m just an emotional, grumpy person?  No, it’s because there are certain things I am personally passionate about:

  1. Unused potential – we could get somewhere a whole lot faster if we went the speed limit, and we could use our time much more productively than driving.  I thrive on finding unused potential and maximizing results – even if those results would be to have an extra 10 minutes to play with Lincoln Logs with my children.
  2. Lack of concern for others – when someone ignores the impact they are having on others, they cause unneeded stress and frustration, and possibly have more serious consequences if there is a more critical reason to get somewhere.
  3. I don’t like being late – because I see it as inconsiderate of the other person’s time, we were already running late for soccer practice, and I could make up a bit of time on this country road.

At the same time, as a former Nursing Home Administrator, I’m compassionate to the elderly driver, who may be preserving their freedom by continuing to drive, while going slowly to compensate for senses and reflexes that aren’t as strong as they used to be.  So, immediately my emotions calm down, until I see the elderly driver talking on the cell phone in the car in front of me.

It’s not about you!

Remember, it’s typically not about you, and another’s behavior is usually not meant to be a personal attack.   People do things for their own reasons, based on what is happening in their world, and often do not consider, or purposely plan, consequences that affect you.

How to address situations that cause ‘emotional’ reactions?

Use the moment between when they say or do something and you react, which I’ve called the Opportunity Space, to make the best decision.  Consider:

  1. What do you want to accomplish in the long term?  Your own mental and physical health?  Productive relationship with this person?  Specific results you may need this person’s help with?  Utilization of strengths you believe to be present in the person who is aggravating you?
  2. Where are they coming from?  They have a ‘good and valid reason’ for doing what they are doing – in their head, it makes sense.  Think of six possible reasons why they are doing what they are doing, see if you can learn how they are thinking, identify common beliefs and values, pinpoint a common goal or common approach on which you can agree, and then move forward to a solution.
  3. How are you making them feel?  Your words, non-verbal expressions, and actions can have serious consequences on another person.  Remember, they are an ‘emotional’ being that has strong passions and beliefs as well.  You cannot take back words and it takes a lot longer to repair a relationship than to keep trust and respect by acting purposefully.

Once you get emotional in a conversation, it ceases to be productive and you lose credibility – regardless of what prompted your behavior.

Note:  This assumes each person’s best intentions and there are situations where people trigger your emotional response on purpose, to manipulate the situation, or out of anger.  You should be alert to these possibilities and consider those with whom you interact.

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