The damned if you do, damned if you do not hiring decision

hiring_dilemma2The situation: Revenues are falling flat and the company is missing its monthly goal more often than not. It’s not that the company is doing poorly; it’s just stretched financially. Your company has reached an awkward stage where it needs to hire someone with a specific skill set, but the financials to support adding on a new team member simply do not exist. As the leader, you’re frustrated with the feeling of being stuck because you know what needs to be done but you also know that making an expensive hiring decision can convert that frustration into some ugly financial stress.

The opportunity: Even though you weren’t actively searching, you happen to meet an individual with just the right credentials and experience. It’s like the universe heard your request and delivered a seemingly perfect candidate. You do the interview and the fit looks even better. Sure … there were just a couple super teeny-tiny red flags, but you wrote them off as interview jitters. The fact is you really like what you see; you want to close the deal and hire this perfect candidate.

The reality: Through conversation and body language, it’s obvious that your perfect candidate wants the position. You know your cash-flow situation is tight and that adding more financial stress to your company is going to push your payroll percent over the red line. But what the heck, you want to push forward to the pay negotiation. You take a deep breath and say, “So, tell me what your pay requirements are?” The perfect candidate sent by the universe gives you a number … and almost instantly that number red lines your payroll. It’s not terribly over, but definitely into the “this […]

The ultimate leadership wish list

leadership_definedIn its most distilled state, leadership is about getting to a better place. It is about leadership of the self, leadership of other people, leadership of processes, and leadership of resources. At a deeper, cerebral level, leadership is purely about shaping the disciplines of thinking and behavior. So what does this all mean? It means that being a truly effective leader capable of achieving and sustaining forward progress and growth is more a journey of self-discovery than a destination.

Leaders come in many styles. Some are great communicators while others are abrasive. Some are disciplined and organized while others are inconsistent train wrecks. Some courageously lead through various crises while others struggle with daily stressors, like making tough decisions and finding a light at the end of the tunnel. Some are compassionate and appreciative while others are … well … buttheads.

No matter where you are on your leadership journey or what “style” you utilize, there are things for which, by word or thought, all leaders hope. The following list represents the most commonly shared “wishes” that leaders make. I’m sure you’ve made a few of them yourself.

  • Can’t they just do their job? You hire people to fill a position and do a job. What’s so hard about that? FACT: There is a lot that’s hard about doing a job. If this is a recurring wish of yours, it’s time to turn the mirror around and examine your systems, your training, your skills at clarifying expectations and your company’s ability to provide the resources to do said job. It’s also time to reconnect yourself and your people to the purpose and vision of your company.
  • Why can’t they “see” stuff? What kind […]

When the unthinkable happens

lightning_strikeBeing in the coaching business for over 22 years, distress calls from owners are all too commonplace. They come by phone, email, text message, Facebook Messenger … and at presentations and seminars with a conversation that begins with, “Can I talk to you privately?” Most often, it’s about a financial crisis, employee challenges and the proverbial “staff walkout”. Next are the fires, floods and acts of god. And then there are the unthinkable crises like life-threatening or fatal diseases, accidents, and partner/employee suicides.

Life and business is about dealing effectively and courageously when the unexpected … and the unthinkable … rock your world. When engulfed in crisis, the best strategies and decisions are difficult to see and can quickly overwhelm and overstress even the most experienced leaders.

Today’s Monday Morning Wake Up was inspired by a Facebook message I received a few nights ago from a business owner that had the unthinkable happen in her business. The message read …

Hi Neil,

I’ve meant to reach out to you for a few days with a suggestion. While I am not a TBP salon, I have been a Strategies fan for years and catch you as often as I can on the “lecture circuit.” That being said, I have a question. Maybe it’s a suggestion. I’m actually not sure. Twelve days ago, one of my team members was the victim of a random murder by a serial killer. I have a media background and was able to maneuver my way through this crisis. It was a difficult dance to balance the needs of my team with the needs of our guests, especially during the holiday season. Couple that with trying to keep my team […]

By |January 5th, 2015|Monday Morning Wake-Up|3 Comments

Twelve No-Compromise Resolutions for 2015

fresh_startAs we wrap up 2014, it’s the perfect time for business leaders to reflect on the year’s accomplishments, ponder the lessons from challenges overcome, and look to the New Year with anticipation, confidence and determination. It’s also a time to address those patterns of behavior that, much like a minefield of your own making, routinely cause things to blow up.

The annual practice of making New Year’s resolutions can lead to a lot of empty promises that you make to yourself. However, if you add a potent dose of No-Compromise Leadership thinking and behavior into the mix, you could enter 2015 on a road free of behavior minefields … but only if you are committed to the process.

The following twelve No-Compromise Resolutions represent the thinking and behaviors that we at Strategies encounter most often when coaching leaders. No doubt you will see yourself in some, though hopefully not all. Your challenge is to take decisive action and break free from the nonsense that stands in the way of you achieving your full potential.

Here are my twelve No-Compromise Resolutions for 2015:

  1. I must finish what I start: Planning is tough work. Executing a plan is even tougher work. It takes time. It takes change. It takes unwavering commitment, discipline and accountability. Execution is the commitment to carrying out a plan – in this case, it means promoting consistency and always getting what you start across the finish line. Execution in business requires a certain degree of suffering and discomfort, but it’s that suffering and discomfort that creates wins, breakthroughs and extraordinary success.
  2. I must pay attention to long-term employees: The great thing about long-term employees is that they know their work […]
By |December 29th, 2014|Leadership, Monday Morning Wake-Up, No-Compromise Leadership|1 Comment

80% of your 100% is still 80%

comfort_zoneWhat does “giving it your all” really mean? When you ask your team to give 110% effort, do you really get that 110% … or do you get 100%, 80% or less? When you tell an employee, “Do your best,” are you setting yourself up for disappointment? When you say, “I’ll do my best,” are you really saying, “I’ll give it 80% of my 100%?” No doubt, defining what the 100% effort bar means on both sides of the conversation is highly subjective and open to interpretation.

This Monday Morning Wake Up is about perceived effort. When my cycling coach gives me a workout with a perceived effort of 9.5 (on a scale from 1 to 10, where a 10 is maximum effort), I know it’s going to hurt. If I just give it a 7, I’m intentionally avoiding the hard work and the measurable gains that come from it. As a leader, there are times when 100% effort is a non-negotiable. If your behavior pattern is to intentionally dial it back to 80%, don’t be surprised when the expected outcome falls short too. Giving 100% is a choice … as is giving 80%.

Here are some No-Compromise Leadership insights into “80% of 100%” thinking and behavior:

  • Leaders establish perceived effort: Ever wonder why a company rarely hits their goals, is always tight for cash, or has excessive employee turnover? Simple. It has an 80% of 100% leader in charge. Employees and teams never give 100% effort for an 80% leader because the leader has set the perceived effort level at 80%. The only way for a team to surpass the leader’s 80% is to mutiny. And because employees cannot force a leader to […]
By |December 22nd, 2014|Monday Morning Wake-Up|Comments Off

Delivering excellence is more than a choice

excellence_choiceExcellence is a beautiful thing to behold, but what is it? It is that rare state when all things converge flawlessly into a product, service or experience. It is the culmination of innovation, fierce attention to detail, finely honed systems, discipline and accountability to a desired end result. And once achieved, that state of excellence is admired, respected and sought after.

In business, excellence is coveted by many but only earned by few. It is much like the Lexus tagline, “The relentless pursuit of excellence,” where the word “relentless” defines the extent of the company’s commitment to chasing the extraordinary. Without “relentless”, the word “pursuit” becomes highly suspect in its meaning and intent. A company can easily give lip service to its pursuit of excellence without ever channeling the resources, commitment and leadership necessary to achieve it. Simply put, you may want excellence … but how far are you willing to go, and what are you prepared to sacrifice to get it?

Here are some No-Compromise Leadership insights into delivering excellence:

  • Actions over words: To employees, talking about delivering excellence eventually just sounds like, “Blah, blah, blah.” It’s talking about going to the gym to workout but never showing up to feel the pain of gain. It’s talking about losing weight but never sticking to a diet. The worst occurs when a leader starts to believe his or her own hype, viewing their flawed version of excellence as something that it truly is not. Achieving and delivering excellence is about taking action and the commitment to do the tough work of getting it right. Excellence is like a vision statement. If you and your company don’t earn and live it every day … it’s […]

Anatomy of a cash crisis

hurricaneFor entrepreneurs, there is nothing more dreaded and stressful then going through a cash crisis. Much like the “battle stations” siren on a warship under attack, a company experiencing a cash crisis instantly goes into reaction mode to batten down the hatches and plug the leaks. The truly tough work is keeping a “business as usual” demeanor to avoid freaking out employees and exposing customers to the crisis that is occurring just behind the curtain. Unfortunately, the more critical a cash crisis gets, the more it impacts employees and the company’s ability to deliver its standard of excellence to its customers.

A cash crisis follows a very predictable path. First, new purchases are cut back to only the “gotta have” items. Then, current expenses are evaluated and trimmed. Travel expenses and perks are slashed or eliminated. Advertising and marketing costs are scaled back or tossed out. Eventually, payroll costs are reduced by trimming hours, implementing layoffs, or resorting to the culture-crushing tactic of payroll reductions. Depending on the severity of the cash crisis, the company’s owners may be forced to significantly reduce their salary – or sacrifice their paychecks entirely so employees can continue to get paid. All of this is extremely stressful and falls under the heading of “making tough decisions” to get out of the fiery pit of hell.

If it hasn’t already, sooner or later your company is going to experience some degree of a cash crisis. Here are some No-Compromise strategies to remain vigilant, identify and possibly avert a cash crisis in your company:

  • Early warning signs: Many entrepreneurs make the dangerous assumption that being hit by a cash crisis is much like being hit by a tornado […]

2014: Home-stretch thoughts

home_stretchToday is the first day of the last month of 2014. So far, you have eleven months of business in the history book this year. You’ve eaten your Thanksgiving feast. The craziness of the Holiday season is officially underway. The time for implementing change and course corrections is behind you. Your company is either prepared to make the most of this final month, or it is not. All you can see ahead of you is the mad dash to New Year’s Eve and the welcoming of a fresh new year of opportunity called 2015.

This is a transitional time of year, good for both reflection and forward thinking. At this point, you’ve had your successes and failures. You’ve had initiatives that went sideways. You’ve said “good bye” to some old employees and welcomed in some new ones. You’ve hit your goals and missed your goals. You’ve loved your job … and there were times when you’ve hated your job. And on January 1, 2015, your Profit & Loss Statement revenues will revert back to zero and the endless process of leading your business will start all over again. The question to ponder now is … what do you want to change in 2015?

Here are my ten No-Compromise home-stretch thoughts:

  1. Managing your batteries: Running a company can drain your physical and emotional batteries to the point where you feel leadership fatigue … or even worse – total burnout. You’re not a superhero with superpowers; you’re a human being with real life limitations. Stress is a part of leadership, and comes in the form of making tough decisions, doing work that pushes you outside of your comfort zones, dealing with employee stuff, and feeling the […]

My BIG No-Compromise Project

Command_Center_Marquee2This Monday Morning Wake Up is a little departure from my usual rants on leadership and more about sharing a very special project that I’ve spent almost a year building. I’m very proud of the results and hope you appreciate what it took to make my BIG no-compromise project a reality.

The idea had been kicking around in my head for years. It was one of those infamous “game changing” projects that act as the missing link in connecting accountability to application, urgency to strategy and focus to vision. This is high-level leadership strategy distilled down to no-compromise, “If it needs to be done, get it done” leadership thinking, behavior and execution. It is 21+ years of Strategies’ training, systems and methodology at your fingertips 24/7/365. In the early days of 2014, it was time to bring my idea to life, and we began building what we now call the “Strategies Command Center.”


So what exactly is the Strategies Command Center? It is our very own, built from the ground up, cloud-based coaching system. The Command Center finally overcomes the inherent limitations of phone coaching that too often turn into conversations or drift from the original objectives and goals. Coaching is about achieving milestones, improving performance and that big spooky thing called accountability. We have built a system that has both the coaching client and the coach focused and looking at the same computer screen with access to an array of Strategies’ coaching tools, project management and planning templates. More importantly, we built in seamless communication and interaction between coaches and clients.

And just last week, our amazing team of Strategies […]

When your Financials speak

ListeningIf you were your company’s financial reports, would you feel ignored and disrespected? Or even worse, would you feel irrelevant? This may sound weird, but your financial reports have “feelings” too. They can feel strong, healthy and full of vitality. Likewise, they can feel sick, anemic, and in extreme cases, near death. And just as when your child is not feeling well, all you have to do is pay attention, understand the signs, and “listen” to what your financials are telling you about their past, current and probable future condition.

Entrepreneurs tend to view themselves as visionaries with the passion and drive to chase their dreams and build a company. It doesn’t matter if that company is a one-person enterprise or a multi-location behemoth with hundreds (or even thousands) of employees … all financials speak the same language and share the same vital signs.

Consumed with the passion and drive to grow a company, too many entrepreneurs simply ignore or avoid their financials. Some say they’re just too busy and that there is no time. Some claim “numbers phobia” as if reading financial reports is some form of mental torture. Many simply never had the proper training to understand the very simple language that financials speak. The fact is, when it comes to your company’s financial reports, sooner or later what you don’t know or understand IS going to hurt you.

Over the years, I’ve met many extremely bright and talented entrepreneurs that live in a perpetual cash crisis simply because they refuse to listen to and understand their financial reports. Forcing a business to live on the brink of […]

By |November 17th, 2014|Monday Morning Wake-Up|1 Comment