Six steps to winning and getting things done

winning-strategyIf winning in business feels so great, why does it take so much work to get people to play the game to win? If getting things done is the only way to make forward progress, why is it so difficult for us to tackle the tasks on our To-Do lists? Procrastination, resistance to change, leadership compromise, lack of clarity, and indifference exist at varying levels in all companies. But when one or more of these detractors gets out of hand, the contamination spreads throughout a company’s culture, wins turn to losses, and getting anything done becomes a struggle.

Like anything worthy of pursuit, winning and getting things done is a process. Many leaders think it’s about pushing people harder. Some think “better consequences” stimulate better performance. Winning and the collective ability to get things done rest in the leader’s ability to conduct a complex orchestra of people, resources, and systems to achieve clearly defined goals and outcomes. Pushing people to work harder and do more without the right training, systems, and understanding of the goals and outcomes is a recipe for stress and dysfunction. Throw in some really cool consequences and you have the perfect cocktail for demoralizing people and wrecking a culture.

Here are my six no-compromise steps for winning and getting things done:

  1. What’s the goal and where did it come from? “Do more” is not a goal. No one fights for “do more.” Winning is about hitting the bulls-eye and crossing the finish line before time runs out. Abstract goals are worthless. Teams need a target – something they can see and understand. Many leaders are notorious for plucking goals from thin air. They can’t explain the rationale behind them and wonder why the team doesn’t take their goals seriously. A goal can take on new meaning simply by stating, “This goal represents break even plus 5%. We need to hit this number to pay the bills.” No goal – no energy. Individual goals without a team goal means there will be winners and losers on your team, and that wrecks cultures.
  2. What are we playing for? Goals for revenues and hitting critical performance numbers are important, but they only represent half the story. Inspiring, rallying, and creating a sense of urgency in the team are the true tasks of a leader. In every episode of Survivor, Jeff Probst says, “Wanna know what you’re playing for?” It may be a piece of flint to make fire or a tarp for shelter, but the reward kicks up team urgency and commitment to win to the highest level. Sometimes, just getting a win is enough. However, having a stake in the outcome feeds the desire to win and get things done. Team bonuses, some compensated time off, special privileges, or just a really fun celebration all crank up the energy. Earning a new benefit, special training, or new equipment all represent a stake in the outcome.
  3. What’s the plan? OK, you have a justifiable and worthy goal. Your team likes what they’re playing for. So, fearless leader, what’s the plan to make this happen? Goals, especially stretch goals, need a playbook – a plan. A plan brings meaning to a goal. A plan brings clarity to how goals will be achieved. A plan can make a pretty crazy goal seem achievable. A plan gives a team confidence and motivation by converting a goal into bite-size pieces. If you want to bring life and energy to your goals, you must have an execution plan. Nothing complicated. No pages of charts. Just a simple step-by-step strategy outline will do. Plan to win. Don’t plan to lose. It’s that simple.
  4. Do what by when? Your plan for hitting a goal must include specific actions and timelines. Marketing promotions to be completed by [date]. Skill training completed by [date]. Products/supplies ordered and in-house by [date]. Hire more staff by [date]. Goals and getting things done are achieved by orchestrating multiple projects and actions into one cohesive outcome that, if executed according to plan, will reward you and your team with a win.
  5. Who owns it? Fact: If no one is responsible, it doesn’t get done. If everyone is responsible, it doesn’t get done. Every project and action plan must have an owner – someone responsible for getting it done right and on time. Never have a planning meeting end without specific individuals taking ownership of the projects and actions that must be done.
  6. Who’s beating the drum and keeping score? Winning is about maintaining focus, momentum and sense of urgency. Winning also needs a scoreboard. Beating the drum and keeping score is where leadership’s relentless communication comes in. Many leaders balk at having fast daily huddles, but if goals are won one day at a time, doesn’t it just make sense to do daily huddles? What’s going to keep team members informed and on task more – 365 daily huddles a year or 52 weekly meetings? Posting scoreboards without huddles is pointless. Text message and email updates are cyber garbage. Huddles and scoreboards work in concert to create wins and to get things done.

No-Compromise Leaders set justifiable goals that are worthy of their team’s commitment and energy. They plan to create clarity and urgency. They break plans down into executable segments attached to deadlines. Team members are assigned or take ownership of the executable segments. They beat the drum to ensure that the pace is fast enough to achieve the set goal. And No-Compromise Leaders keep everyone’s eyes on the scoreboard. There is nothing like watching all of your efforts come together in a win. High-fives and woohoo’s for all!

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The six plagues of leadership

Just as leaders tend to fall into different leadership styles – like command and control, visionary, democratic, and of course whimpy – there are behavior patterns that tend to persistently plague leaders. When present, these behavior patterns can be anything from annoyances that chip away at a leader’s effectiveness, or they can be truly destructive to a leader’s authority, trust and honor.

I have devoted the better part of my working life studying, training and coaching leaders and leadership. Much of what I learned and believe in I documented in my award-winning book, No-Compromise Leadership. The overriding theme of the book is quite simple; If it needs to be done – get it done. However, it’s this presence of the leadership plagues listed below that interfere, degrade or derail a leader’s ability to get things done. The plagues are pure compromise.

Although there are many, here are the six plagues of leadership and the no-compromise strategies to overcome them:

  1. Won’t look in the mirror: Leaders must master the ability to look in the mirror and own how their thinking and behavior is creating what they don’t like in their companies. Playing the blame game is destructive and does nothing but waste time, money, and create drama that degrades productivity. No-compromise leaders look in the mirror and own their contributions to the wrong outcomes.
  2. Master procrastinator: The no-compromise mantra IS NOT, “If it needs to be done – I’ll get to it later.” When I coach companies on new systems and initiatives, the most common response from employees is; “We’ve tried that before – we never finish what we start.” That’s compromise at the leadership level, not a problem with the system or initiative. The only cure for procrastination is to get stuff done. No-compromise leaders get stuff done.
  3. Talks a good game: Everyone talks about getting to the next level, but few back up that talk with authentic action. Authentic action is that potent blend of vision, sense of urgency, information flow, systems, teamwork, innovation and collective accountability. Leaders that talk a good game eventually are viewed by their employees as a salesman that never delivers the goods. Trust is compromised. Trust is a leader’s most precious asset. No-compromise leaders work hard to inspire and deliver the goods.
  4. Committed to compromise: My favorite Neilism is, “Do you do quarterly performance reviews at least once a year?” It always earns a chuckle, but the guilty know the brutal truth behind the question. In these economic times, every leader needs to be locked into their financials and be committed to following their cash-flow plan. Still, many leaders avoid the numbers. “I don’t like numbers” is a ‘committed to compromise’ excuse. And then there are leaders that push their team to win the game but never trust them with the score. Every company needs a scoreboard supported by an information flow system. No-compromise leaders are committed to achieving the right outcomes.
  5. Rules for everyone else: “Do as I say, not as I do” is pure compromise. Leaders that live by their own entitlement rules contaminate their company’s culture. Leaders set the tone for accountability and consistency in their cultures. If they fail to model the right thinking and behaviors they expect of others, the company is destined for mediocrity. No-compromise leaders adhere to the same rules they expect others to follow.
  6. Doesn’t know how to rock the boat: Change is about the controlled rocking of the boat. There are leaders that fear rocking the boat because it will upset people. But change always rocks the boat. It has to, because change means learning new skills and disciplines. Change means innovating new approaches to win the business game. If your company boat never rocks it is stagnant and unable to evolve in an everchanging world. And then there are leaders that allow stuff to pile up to the point where they rock the boat so violently they inflict even more damage. No-compromise leaders learn how to control the rocking of their boats. They gradually rock harder in times of big change and maintain a steady yet predictable rocking to keep everyone on their game. You must keep your boat rocking.

Why fundamentals matter in your salon or spa

I am a big baseball fan. One of the reasons why is because of the great lessons the game teaches us. For example, when a team isn’t playing well for an extended period of time, the manager focuses on the fundamentals of the game. These are the basics such as batting, fielding and throwing. He doesn’t try to get them to do fancier plays or hit only homeruns because that usually makes matters worse. Without the essentials, the great plays don’t happen with consistency, and homeruns, if they occur, can be meaningless. It’s the fundamentals that win games.

The same holds true in business. As a salon and spa consultant, I can’t tell you how many ads, plans and promos I hear about from companies that are looking to increase the number of new customers to their businesses. At the same time, their new customer-retention rates are dismal. So let’s get this straight: They want to spend huge amounts of money to ask new customers to come in to see how ineffective they are at retaining them for the long term? That’s expensive and crazy!

Avoid that in your own salon, spa or medspa by getting back to the fundamentals. Learn how to satisfy your current customers first. Only after you’ve put systems in place to accomplish that should you market to potential customers. If your company achieves excellence, you won’t be spending as much on advertising because you will be too busy serving the friends and family of the customers who recommended you!

Discounts and gimmicks only go so far. Master the fundamentals of customer retention, and you will be knocking them out of the park effortlessly and consistently. The back-to-basics approach has taken many teams from “worst to first.” It can do that for your team too.

Five ways to stay energized in your business

Feeling a little blue? First-quarter sales not quite what you were hoping for? Just a little worn out by the day-to-day routine? Try these tips to recharge your batteries and get reinspired about being a leader:

  1. Know it’s not always going to be easy. There are going to be tough days, difficult decisions, cash-flow challenges, people who call in sick. Have a plan for how to deal with the days when you’re frustrated, angry, sad or aggravated. Start now by making a list of “Things I Love About My Salon/Spa.” Add to it regularly; revisit it often.
  2. Plan for the long term. Identifying where you’re going in a few months or years can help you keep your eye on the prize. Staying focused on your ultimate goals for your business will remind you of the big picture. Take time to review where you’ve come from, too. We can get bogged down in the everyday grind and forget how we’ve grown, how much better we’ve gotten.
  3. Involve your team. Your business can never grow without the energy of your staff members. Look to them for ideas, support and suggestions. And be sure to offer lots of appreciation. Your staff has lots of options about where they work. They chose you. Doesn’t that make you feel good?
  4. Don’t put off tough decisions. The mental drain from not doing is far greater than what’s involved when you make a decision and act. Thinking everything over and over and over (and over) before making decisions is exhausting and sure to sap your energy. Gather the facts, follow your heart, and take action.

Find the joy. Every day. Think about what went right, who went beyond the usual call of duty, which customer was especially happy. Can’t think of anything? Try harder. Ask your staff for the highlights of their days too. Jot down notes as you move through your day, just so you won’t forget. Laugh together with your team, share stories, do things just for fun.  Take a few minutes for yourself – even on the busiest days – to take a walk, breathe deeply, read the cartoons or watch a funny online video. Don’t underestimate the importance of self-care – exercising, eating well, getting sufficient sleep, connecting with friends and family.

What is it about these Wake Ups?

I’ve been writing the Monday Morning Wake Up (MMWU) for more than three years. My mission is to have every MMWU tap into the thinking and behavior at the core of a true no-compromise leader. While other leadership experts write about the “what to do,” I write, teach and coach about the thinking and behavior that must exist in order for each “what to do” to work. What’s the sense of implementing a new system, structure or approach if the leader’s wiring (his or her current thinking and behavior) is contaminated with procrastination, inconsistent accountability, lack of follow-through, inflated ego, time-management issues, poor communication and listening skills, and self-entitlement?

The survival rate of any change initiative is slim to none when the leader’s own thinking and behavior is getting in the way. This means that all change initiatives must begin with the leader’s commitment to change first. And in many situations, it’s the leader who created the issues the change initiative is supposed to fix. The byproduct is frustration and disillusionment. The good news is that all leaders possess the power to rise to the challenge and change their thinking and behavior. [Read more...]

What triggers your procrastination bug?

Everyone procrastinates. Even those people you admire for their tenacity, high productivity and accomplishments are afflicted with the procrastination bug. I know that I procrastinate. I have an alarm that goes off every Tuesday morning at 7:30 to remind me to write my Monday Morning Wake-Up. I’m writing this at 6:11 a.m. on Friday, which is fairly typical for me. I could say that I allow the ideas to bake a few days, which they sort of do, but it’s much more accurate to say that I procrastinate when it comes to writing. Would I write a better MMWU on Tuesday morning than the ones I write on Friday? Absolutely not. It’s just me giving in to my procrastination bug. [Read more...]

If it needs to be done, why aren’t you getting it done?

We all have projects and tasks that we can’t wait to dig into. We tackle them with vengeance and immerse ourselves in their complexity. We are truly in our element and feeding our desire to reach our full potential. You know exactly the projects and tasks I’m referring to because they play to our strong points. For me, it’s digging into the inner workings of an organization and discovering what makes it tick and addressing what factors may be holding it back. I love to teach workshops that focus on leadership thinking and behavior. I love speaking to large audiences and touching their hearts and minds with my leadership message and business concepts. (OK, I get a kick out of entertaining my audiences, too.) And, I love to coach leaders.

On the flip side, I am a business owner and leader. With that comes a host of accountabilities, many of which I love and willingly engage in. And then there’s that pesky little list of accountabilities I loathe. I’m talking about those accountabilities that I have become super-proficient at maneuvering around or finding other completely non-priority tasks that are just “begging” for my attention. If you think about it, it’s actually humorous how we leaders invent things to distract and divert ourselves from things that really need to be done. Foolishly, we try to convince ourselves that doing the stuff we’re really good at will overshadow or cloak the stuff we avoid. It won’t. It can’t. It never will. Period. [Read more...]

How hard are you playing the game of business?

Here are the facts: Business is a game. You play to win. There are owners, managers, coaches and players. The “season” is 12 months – one game per month. You have the option to draft young, talented players for your team or hire experienced free agents. Competitive teams are always attempting to recruit your best players. You have game strategies and action plans. Customers are your fans. Some fans are fiercely loyal and will stick with your business in good times and bad. Other fans will shift their loyalty to a team that’s winning should you disappoint. Financial reports are the scorecards.
To have a winning season, your Profit and Loss Statement scorecard must show a profit that is equal to or better than what you projected. Your Balance Sheet scorecard must show that your business is healthy. Your Statement of Cash Flows scorecard must show sufficient cash reserves to fund growth and ensure that the business can weather a severe financial storm.
Yes, business IS a game – a very serious game. Careers, livelihoods, family security, retirement and more all rely on you and your abilities to lead your business to win. There’s nothing like winning. Winning lights everyone up. Winning makes you feel and act strong. Winning fuels a sense of urgency and keeps your business on the offensive rather than the defensive.