Think Growth! Blog

“Good” isn’t enough, bring me the data!

17 Apr
by Bridget DiCello

“How is … going?”  You fill in the blank.  What have you asked your team about?  Projects?  Sales?   Customer satisfaction?   Daily tasks?

And have you heard in response, “Good!” or “Fine.” and wondered just what those phrases really meant?  Sometimes they mean to communicate:

  1. “Things are not all that great right now, but we’ve got a solid plan to address them.”
  2. “I’m really not sure how things are going, but nothing appears to be in fire, so I think we’re okay.”
  3. “If I say, ‘Good!’ or ‘Fine.’ you will not worry as much and give me some room to go figure out how things are really going.

This is not only the case if you have a few slackers on your team who avoid accountability.  In many very successful businesses, even good performers may not have a handle on specifically how things are going.  There is this common aversion to data collection and analysis in many organizations because it requires time and effort that could be spent doing things instead.

Brad Robertson, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) St. Francis Hospital has a sign hanging in his office which reads, “In God We Trust, all others bring Data.”

What data might your team need to bring you?

  • Customer service metrics
  • Sales and Pipeline data and pipeline building activities
  • Profitability, and the related pricing, expenses, execution, rework, delivery
  • Company overall health – current assets, long term liabilities
  • Where we are, where we’ve been, trends, projections
  • Industry specific measurements

How often do you need to see this data?

Part of the objective of gathering data is that the process can become part of the daily routine, so metrics are gathered and reviewed routinely (at least monthly, more often for some metrics), not only by a leader, but by team members as well.  If a doctor had to assess you without any tests, lab results or equipment such as a blood pressure cuff or stethoscope, and only saw you once in a while, an intuitive doctor might be able to make some guesses, but you would not have the same opportunities for good health.  It’s the same for the business or department you lead.

Identify the right data to gather, the easiest way to obtain it, a set time to review it, a consistent way to use it for making solid decisions, and stay consistent in that process.

On a final note, for those of you reading this who think that data is fabulous and you could spend all day just gathering and analyzing because there is so much good information to be gleaned, be careful to balance the value of gathering and reviewing accurate data with the objective of using it to improve business processes and ensure greater success.

Top Five Reasons Why People Fail to Achieve Their Goals

08 Apr
by Bridget DiCello

When you realize it’s April, the first quarter of the 2013 calendar year is over, and you look at your goals for the year, are you:

  • Energized by your progress?
  • Depressed by the lack of achievement year to date?
  • Frustrated by what took you off track?
  • Unsure of how exactly you are progressing because you haven’t looked at your metrics yet?

Top 5 reasons why people fail to achieve their goals:

1 – Never wrote goals in the first place. If you never committed to paper, you didn’t see the value in spending that time, were unsure of exactly what your goals were, were never committed enough to put them on paper – lest you fail, or believe things change so quickly that you were going to go with the flow. The commitment from goals in your head, to goals written on paper by your hand, and shared with others – is a big commitment. And it’s a leap for most people. If you have never written your goals, jump that hurdle and put them on paper. Then share them with someone. And, if you have a team who is responsible to achieve these goals with you, by all means, share the written goals with them!

2 – Goals were way too ambitious. Have you ever made a list in your head of what you want to accomplish on your day off, or on a weekend – and never made it even half-way through? Excited by the prospect of a day off, or some ‘free’ time on the weekend, we quite rightly, think of all the things we want, need and would like to accomplish, including some time lounging at the pool. In business, it can be the same way. If you are excited about your job or your business, you will have high hopes and ambitions. Don’t let them get away. Just make sure when you write your goals list, you pinpoint realistic goals, corresponding strategies and reasonable action items, so you and your team can make progress, and can celebrate those achievements at month or quarter-end. Then, also keep a list of your hopes and dreams, ambitious goals and ‘to do someday’ items, and consistently chip away at that list.

3 – Never created a detailed plan. Being able to execute on a project or initiative is a lot harder than it may appear, and the skill is not in everyone’s toolbox. Even the most diligent of people cannot always get things done on time without a solid plan in place that clarifies objectives, creates the roadmap, identifies milestones, pinpoints key action items, assigns responsibility, allows for obstacles that will inevitably occur, and monitors progress on execution of that plan. This is not a lengthy paper document, but it is a plan on paper, with the ‘how’ we are going to get this done (in relatively small bites), ‘who’ is going to do it, by ‘when’, and ‘what we will do when things don’t go as planned.’

4 – Failure to measure progress. It takes some work to identify metrics to measure performance upfront when goals are written, and then to take a moment to check on those metrics throughout the quarter. However, it is more effective to spend this time upfront than to get to the end of the time period and find out you missed your goal. Enormous Accounts Receivable balances don’t occur in 90+ days without first occurring in 30 and 60 days. Closed sales don’t plummet without first seeing a drop in calls and appointments.   Whatever you are concerned about should have a measurement associated with it, not only so you can measure your success, but also your progress. Some measurements are more subjective, and based on manager or owner evaluation. These can be just as effective, when the criteria are spelled out up front.

5 – You moved the finish line. If you work with or for someone who might be called an “Achiever” or even an “Over-Achiever,” you’ve learned that no matter how much success is experienced, it’s never enough – and they are quick to celebrate and move on to the next challenge. Written goals help with this challenge as well, because while you are excited about achieving a goal and setting the next one, you can’t continually move the finish line and not frustrate the team. However, the team can move the finish line as long as the success is acknowledged and don’t burn themselves out working overtime.

What’s in your Job Description?

11 Mar
by Bridget DiCello

When is the last time you looked at your job description? Do you have one? If you’re a business owner, you may never have written yourself one beyond, ‘Chief cook and bottle washer.’

When job descriptions are written, typically it is in an ideal bubble, where someone thinks through what needs to be done, and who is the best person to do it.

Then reality hits.

Ambitious employees keep very busy doing what needs to be done and what they are asked to do. This is admirable and necessary in the short term. But, continuing this way will create a very reactionary culture in an organization. Being too busy becomes the excuse for staying in urgent mode, and never moving to the more strategic and important components of the job.

Certainly, there is a need to be somewhat flexible and adaptable, since not all tasks, scenarios and activities can be foreseen in a job description, and being the person to jump in and get things done is very valuable. However, strategic activity is what moves the company forward through and out of the day-to-day of today and into future and greater success.

Take a moment to think about the key strategic roles that you need to play in your current position:

  • What needs to get done consistently, but often gets pushed to the back burner?
  • What are the things that you’d like to be able to do in your role, but rarely find time for?
  • Who would you communicate with more routinely if you had the time?
  • Where, or to whom, should you give more feedback?
  • For what meetings or milestones would it make sense to spend more time preparing?
  • In what areas would it make sense to measure current performance more accurately?
  • What are you doing to make things work better and more efficiently?
  • Strategy is by nature forward-looking and focuses on improvement. What is your role in improving systems and processes, beyond routinely executing them well?
  • What are the most key components of what you do that impact your customers?
  • When do you spend time on activities that impact future operations?
  • What is your role in consistent improvement of operations, which continues when cash flow is good and things are running smoothly, AND when times are tight and crises are occurring?
  • Which components of your job may not be noticed if you don’t do them, but detract from overall success of the organization if they get pushed aside? (safety committee, staff meetings or daily huddles, improving a process that isn’t broken to stay ahead of the competition, team building activities, and professional development for strong employees – all may be included in this category)
  • Look at your individual professional goals for 2013. Do they reflect the strategic components of your job? Have you made more progress in those areas or on the goals that revolve around routine daily activities?

No doubt you’re busy, doing important work and doing it well. At the same time, ask yourself what strategic components of your job description have you let slide, and what priority will you put on bringing one or two back into the forefront?

Myths of Successful Teams

26 Feb
by Bridget DiCello

People working together in teams can create very powerful results, experience great satisfaction and feed off the energy and wisdom created by the team.  There are a lot of myths about teams though; things that people take for granted or do not clearly understand.

Myth #1:  People must like one another.

For a team to be really successful, its team members must like one another, be like a second family and have commonalities. People who are alike, like working together more.
The Truth:  Likeness can provide a false sense of security.  Complementary talents, which are valuable, often come with different personality styles.  Learning to work with others unlike yourself can be rewarding, as long as you don’t expect work to provide your social life.

Myth #2:  No unnecessary conflict is good. 

Good teams only praise each other, do it often, respect and don’t second-guess one another. They focus on being supportive and refrain from unnecessary conflict and confrontation. Team members must choose or compromise between getting the job done and treating one another humanely.
The Truth:  Conflict represents unique ideas and approaches being voiced, inadequacies and lack of motivation surfacing, and passions being shared.  Tackled correctly, these can be the spring boards to greater success for the whole team!

Myth #3:  People work better in teams.

People like working together and work better in teams. Teamwork is more productive than individual work, and the larger the team the better.
The Truth:  There are many times when working with others might slow you down, especially if your energy is not derived from interaction with others.  Certain activities that require collaboration are completed better in teams, and other times, working alone provides the environment for focus and fuels a ‘get it done’ approach that is difficult to coordinate in a team.

Myth #4:  The team is the goal.

A great team is an honorable goal. It takes a lot of hard work to create one.
The Truth:  Only if your goal was to build a team.  Most of the time, the goal or result you were tasked to, or wish to accomplish requires the work of a team, but the creation of one is purely a functional task, not an end in itself.

Myth #5:  Managers build teams.

Managers and owners are responsible for building teams. They need to hire the right people and the team will work well for a long time.
The Truth:  Managers play a valuable role in assembling capable team members. However, the really strong and effective team is the one who works hard to build its own abilities and effectiveness, and increase them over time.   The right people who are stagnant, turn into the wrong people.

Myth #6:  There is no ‘I’ in team.
Team members must be focused more on the group than on themselves and their individual success; and work hard not to do anything to the detriment of the team.
The Truth:  There may not be an ‘I’ but there is an ‘M’ and an ‘E’.  A team is comprised of people with complementary skills, offering each other mutual support.  Each person MUST focus on how they can grow and develop their skills to be able to contribute to the team, and focus on themselves and what they do well and don’t do well.

What Am I Listening for?

06 Feb
by Bridget DiCello

People like to be listened to, receive your attention and be heard.
We know that we should listen in conversation with friends, associates, employees and supervisors.
Even the Super Bowl coaches say they listen more now to their players. 

But, what is it we are listening for?
Haven’t you been in a situation where you felt you were supposed to listen as the person went on and on…? That certainly didn’t feel like the productive thing to do at that time!
And are you supposed to listen, when you feel you already know “the answer”?

Purposeful listening is paying attention to hear the messages the person is trying to communicate, relating them to your overall purpose for having the conversation, and asking the right curious questions to arrive at these two results.

Listen with a purpose. Know why you are entering a conversation in the first place. If you don’t know why, don’t enter the conversation yet. I’m serious. If it is simply for social purposes, make sure the other person would see it that way too, or they may be trying to communicate something serious and you appear to ignore them.

When you enter a conversation with a purpose, you stay focused on what you want to accomplish, while realizing that unless the other person begins to see and buy in to that purpose, you will not be successful – whether you need their help or cooperation, their willingness to be passive, or their active engagement.

You want reports to be completed on time.
They have a million excuses.
You want to tell them to get them done on time, ask if they get it, get a head nod, and have results be consistent and what you’ve demanded.
Fat chance.
The idea behind listening is to find out why they’ve been late – really why they’ve been late.
By asking questions that lead them through their thought process, and listening to the answers clearly enough to lead them in a way that they will follow you willingly, they will discover why their reports are late. Then you can ask my very favorite question: What specifically will you do differently?

Some of my other favorite questions as you listen are: (asked with genuine curiosity)
Really? Why do you think that happened?
How else could you have approached this?
Then what did they say? (chances are they aren’t listening well to others, leading to miscommunication, a productivity killer)
Why do you think they did what they did? Seriously, why do you think they were ‘upset’, ‘stubborn’ or ‘lazy’?

In order to listen well, you must know what it is you want to accomplish in the conversation, set an agenda if you can, listen for obstacles and positive movement forward, and ask the right curious questions to steer the conversation in a productive direction.

Your Unique Voice

31 Jan
by Bridget DiCello

You can get a lot done by talking.  You can get a lot done by listening well.  In general, you can accomplish great things by having powerful conversations effectively.

What is it that YOU need to talk about?

Each of us has things we feel passionate about, ways that customers should be treated, standards to which we hold our peers and vendors, and strategies we believe will deliver what our customer demands, whether it is your boss (internal customer) or an external customer.

Why is it that you don’t speak up?

Do you ever hold back, even if you feel strongly about something?  It should be done a certain way, and it’s not happening that way?  Everyone should participate and they don’t?

You may hold back if:

  • you know it will be a tough conversation, and you don’t want to create conflict;
  • you’ve convinced yourself it’s a small detail (although it matters to you) and it’s not worth the argument;
  • you know someone will have good excuses that are tough to argue;
  • you know you disagree and may not feel like sorting through where you’re right and they’re wrong, and where they’re right and you’re wrong…

Do you avoid those conversations?

Avoidance of conflict, and lack of value put on the bold thinker – sucks the life out of many organizations.  Each one of us has high standards for ourselves and others, even if we may have buried those under bureaucracies, people with stronger personalities, and avoidance of irritating daily challenges that try to prevent us from moving forward.

Let your unique voice speak!

These passions are what are most unique and awesome about you!  These are what you can most offer your company and yourself!  When you routinely listen to yourself and share what is important to you, you will bring out your highest potential and your God-given greatness!

Listen to your unique voice, don’t squelch what wants to coming screaming out, don’t believe others when they tell you it doesn’t matter, and get impatient and find your determination to make positive change happen.

You must speak up, and when you do, you must use the Opportunity Space well – that moment before you speak.  You must communicate in a way that both conveys the urgency you feel, and takes into account where the other person is coming from and how what you will say and how you will say it, will make them feel.

Top 5 Non-Technical Sales ‘Musts’

16 Jan
by Bridget DiCello

I never wanted to sell.  I fought selling tooth and nail because I found salespeople annoying and time consuming.  I just wanted to be a trainer and a coach.  But, if no one sells, the company ceases to exist.

And if you think there is no sales in your job because you are not the owner or the official salesperson, think again.  You sell your ideas, your concerns, your approach, your strategies and your objectives every day to team members, strategic partners and your boss.

Since that time of resistance, I’ve learned a few things, and below are the non-technical (not the nuts and bolts of how to sell) things you must do to be successful.

The ‘Musts’:

  1. You must make connections with new prospects.  Sound simple?  Many people rely too heavily on current customers for recurring or new business, and keep calling on those same prospects they think will buy, but haven’t yet.  You must find new prospects whether you cold call, network, obtain referrals, initiate a marketing plan or hire a telemarketer.  Within your organization, make new connections with those involved elsewhere in the chain of events of which you are a part.
  2. You must track your sales activities.  I’m fanatical about tracking operational metrics in a business because it is the only way to measure what you are currently doing, assess how much more you want/need to do, and tweak your systems.  If you are not selling enough, but don’t have a concrete picture of what you are doing now, and therefore don’t know what to change, you will start shooting in the dark with sales strategies.  Track activity – calls, appointments, proposals, etc.  Whatever your goals, track your key activities that will get you there.
  3. You must ask curious questions.  As a leader, if you want to build powerful relationships and be able to motivate and inspire your team, you must connect with them.  Connecting occurs when you can understand where they are coming from, meet them there, and lead them in the right direction.  This also applies to the prospect.  Learn about them before you push your product on them – lest it be the wrong fit.  Get them talking to the point where they are selling themselves!  This is the best way to build strong relationships in every area of work, and personal life too!
  4. You must know yourself, as Socrates would tell us.  A major obstacle to a leader’s success is a lack of understanding of why you and others do what you and they do.  Are you driven by results, by the journey, the pat on the back, security or by the happiness of those involved?  This greatly affects how you sell, and why your prospect will or won’t buy.  Spend time in 2013 understanding you and others – read up on Emotional Intelligence.
  5. You must get some training.  If you need to sell, you need to learn how.  I often think that the skill most often assumed, but not present, is the ability to lead others, which is why so many exceptional employees who are promoted to leadership, then struggle with the new role.  However, I think the ability to sell is also very often assumed, especially if you happen to land a big sale or two at the outset.  It requires a very specific set of skills, which must be developed and expanded over time.  Within any organization, the ability to connect with others is critical, often undervalued and not natural to most people – so get some training to develop those skills.

I’ve learned to greatly enjoy selling because I enjoy the process of connecting with people who I can help and who want and need my professional expertise.  Take a look at your sales function.  Does it need an overhaul this year?  Greater revenue certainly helps to buy time to fix a whole lot of operational issues.

Need help with sales?  Contact my all-time favorite Sales Trainer and Coach, Andrew Gieselmann  He handles the technical, the nuts and bolts and all the details I’ve left out of this article…

Your Personal Goals for 2013

09 Jan
by Bridget DiCello

Will you do the same things in 2013 and expect different results?

Will you try to ‘change’ other people and remain frustrated?

Will you address those things about yourself that you most want to be different?

Personally, we are created by the person we are, the relationships we have, the work we do, the hobbies we enjoy and the legacy we leave. When you think about setting goals for 2013, think beyond work – where goals are most common, beyond weight loss – the most common personal goal, and set goals this year for the whole you.

At work, don’t only set goals for promotion, pay raise or increased sales. Ask yourself:

  • At what tasks do I want to become more proficient?
  • What routines do I want to tweak?
  • What projects do I want to start, and which ones do I want to finish?
  • Which relationships do I need to improve? What do I want to improve about them?
  • How do I want my role to change? Do I want a promotion? Do I really want that new job?
  • What skills do I want to improve?

Then, look at the area over which you have the most control and on which you probably spend the least amount of time and focus – YOU.

Thinking not of what I do, but who I am, what do I want to be different about the way I am in these categories? Maybe it’s related to commitment, time, quality, perseverance, depth, determination, focus or energy…

  • Health/Fitness
  • Business/Career/Studies
  • Self-Image/Confidence
  • Religion/Spiritual
  • Finances/Wealth
  • Social/Friends
  • Family
  • Romance/Love
  • Contribution/Service
  • Fun and Recreation

Jim Collins book, ‘Good to Great’ is a bestseller and speaks to companies who want to go from being Good to having Great results. What about YOU? How can you personally move from being Good to being Great? Only you really know the answer to that question, and only if you take a few moments and slow down long enough to find the answers.

Silent Killers in Customer Service

11 Dec
by Bridget DiCello

In the past, business was done on a handshake.  People’s reputation and word of mouth was critically important.  Since then, the population has increased to the point where we don’t know all our neighbors and definitely don’t know all the people in our town.  However, social media has brought us back together in an incredibly powerful way and reputation and word of mouth is more powerful and viral than ever in the past.

Do you ensure that your customers have the best possible experience?  Not just that they don’t have a negative experience.  If we have a bad experience, we will talk about it forever.  Just think about it.  Don’t we all have those stories that we love to tell others about our bad experiences as a customer?  The nine month experience I had with the Audi dealership in New Orleans to get a new grill plate, such terrible customer service that I drove over 80 miles to Baton Rouge for routine service in the future?  I’m sure you have one of those stories.

I’m not sure why we love to share dramatic stories of hardship, conflict and disappointment, but there is something viral about them.  We can challenge humanity to share positive stories and good news, but the fact is for our businesses, we must prevent those dramatic stories of disappointment.

The kicker is that those terrible experiences can hurt us significantly, but the silent killers are the customers we fail to make happy and their indifference turns into a powerful driver for them to go elsewhere.  People may forget what you say and do, but they don’t quickly forget how you make them feel.  Do you connect with your customer enough to forge a relationship?  This nuance is missed by most people because as long as the person buys, appears happy and doesn’t complain, they don’t worry.

How do you know if you’ve really connected?  Here are just a few indications:

  1. The customer opens up and talks freely.  They are comfortable and can voice concerns.
  2. Their concerns have been resolved to their satisfaction, not just where they say, “okay, that’s fine.”
  3. They ask you for help or assistance in another area, because they trust you.
  4. They’ve become relaxed with you, even if they are not a relaxed person.

Once you connect, you work to build the relationship.  You are keenly aware they have concerns before they voice them.  You take possible concerns and turn them into opportunities to serve them better.  The customer never walks away with a mediocre experience and certainly not a negative one they’re going to share with all their friends.

Can you connect?

Failure-Triggered Enthusiasm

05 Dec
by Bridget DiCello

“Success is about moving through failure, not avoiding it.”

As you end the calendar year, whether it’s the end of a fiscal year or fiscal quarter for you, it is a good time to take a look at what you have achieved both personally and professionally, where you’ve fallen short and what’s next. There is much wisdom to be gained from the areas where you feel you’ve failed.  And if you can move quickly from who caused the failure to how or what to do differently, there is much enthusiasm that can be created by what you didn’t get to this year, what you can and will do next year, and what challenge is not going to get the best of you!

Failure can be defined as:

  • Results are not what you expected or hoped for.
  • Nonperformance of something due, required, or expected.
  • Subnormal quantity or quality; an insufficiency.
  • Deterioration or decay, especially of vigor, strength.

 “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” – Woody Allen

Results are not what you expected or hoped for.

When you identified the results you expected, were they realistic?

Was a plan for implementation created?

Were the right people in place?

What progress did you make? Where have you taken some “practice shots” and gotten better?

Were you able to move through some mid-year failures and tweak your plan?

“Failure is when you don’t learn from a mistake, and continue to repeat that mistake. Life is full of practice shots.”

Nonperformance of something due, required, or expected.

Did you focus on doing what you planned to do?

Were accountability measures in place?

Did regular communication enable people to work together to accomplish the plan?

Did you celebrate success too early and fail to follow-up to ensure continued success?

Success is never final; failure is never fatal” – John Wooden

Subnormal quantity or quality; an insufficiency.

Were the people capable of doing the work?

Did you prepare you and your team sufficiently to do something new, different or innovative?

Did you clearly understand the quality standards expected by your stakeholders?

 “A stumble may prevent a fall.” – Proverb

Deterioration or decay, especially of vigor, strength.

Were you excited about the plan?

Was it just brief excitement, or did you have the full buy-in of the team?

Did something internal or external change that prevented you from executing the plan and you never changed?

Is your culture one of blaming others instead of troubleshooting stumbles?

Did you give up?

A man may fall many times, but he won’t be a failure until he says that someone pushed him.” – Elmer G. Letterman

I can do that better next year!

Start by making a list of your successes and celebrating those. Then, make the list of what you didn’t accomplish, pinpoint what you learned, identify why those goals were important to you in the first place, and test if they are still important (even if they are difficult). Then, let the failures push you forward!

Enthusiasm is an incredible driver of success, and is much more than excitement. It is the inner drive to make a difference, to accomplish great things, to contribute to a vision, and to do what you value and you see as important. Too often we simply follow others’ goals, accept what others say is important and accept the mediocrity that is acceptable to many people.

What is important to YOU? What energizes you? What do you love about your job? How did you feel when you started your job? Who do you need to stop blaming for your unwillingness to think big, and start acknowledging that enthusiasm that would bubble up if you didn’t let the world knock you down?

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