The Next Recession is Just Around the Corner. Are You Ready?

By Dana Borowka, MA

Whoever coined the phrase, “What goes up, must come down” must have been an economist. Nothing does a better job of explaining the cyclical nature of our economy. The problem faced by business managers is that once we’ve identified which part of the cycle we’re in, it’s too late to do anything about it. Forecasting the next upturn or downturn, and preparing accordingly, is the secret to business survival.

To give our friends and clients time to adjust for the next change in the economic cycle, we’re recently held a special Open Line web event entitled, “Planning for the Next Recession – Now!”: AudioSlides.

The purpose of this article is to highlight a few of the points our panelists explored in more detail: Why expect a recession and what to do now to prepare your business for it.

The Ups and Downs of the U.S. Economy

History has proven there is a 7-10 year cycle in the U.S. that consists of periods of recession, recovery, accelerating growth, and declining growth. Like clockwork, every decade we cycle through all the stages. The last recessionary period was 2008-2009. Since then we’ve experienced a long period of recovery culminating in what some expect as accelerating growth in 2017. So far so good. But remember, what goes up must come down.

The Next Recession is Just Around the Corner

If the U.S. economy has been climbing its way out of the recession for the past eight years, we’re approaching the time when we can and should expect another steep downturn.

There will be another recession in the U.S. The only real question is when, but based on historical trends, that time is only 1-2 years away.

It’s important to note here that I’m talking about the “normal” economic cycles we experience, not those triggered by major unforeseen events such as occurred September 11, 2001, or the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Recession? You’re Crazy, Business is Great!

For most of our clients and readers, business is good to great. Everyone is bullish about higher sales and profitability in 2017.

However, the clock is ticking. Our panelists on February 3 are going to present their views on when they expect the next recession to be felt. They believe it will likely be pre-staged by a series of financial events that trigger a severe pull-back in the market and a rapid slowdown of the economy.

One way to suspect that the downturn has begun is to study your order board. Are sales tapering off? Are orders being placed less frequently and for smaller amounts? This tells you your customers are feeling the change.

Are you noticing an uptick in job applicants? This can mean other businesses are beginning to shed workers.

Now What?

Rather than get distracted by attempting to pin-point the time of the next recession, it’s wiser to simply agree that there will be one, and it’ll likely occur within a few years. With that agreement in place you and your staff can prepare the ship for heavy weather.

Beginning immediately, you can take the following steps to prepare your business for operating through a recessionary period.

  • Your management team must accept the same economic picture and be driven to succeed in spite of it. This is a great time for imagination. Work with the team to build action plans based on three different scenarios: a. recession, b. fast growth, c. slow growth. Or, look at it another way. Build a plan for what actions to take if sales drop by 20%, another plan covering if sales drop 40%. If you don’t have an executive dashboard, ask your CFO to build one with indicators for business growth or decline.
  • Make sure everyone on the team is mission critical to building value for the business. Get lean, or refocus some jobs so they are contributing more to the value of the business in some way. If you’ve been adding staff the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve taken on some “dead wood”.
  • Keep the team motivated. One good way is to identify and acknowledge key people in the organization and make known the succession plan.
  • By all means, get the right people into the right slots now so they are confident in their roles by the time the downturn is really felt. A recession is no time to be breaking in key managers.
  • Don’t overlook your Accounts Receivable department. This may become your lifeline during tough times. Invest in top-notch people and systems.
  • Get your line of credit set. Reduce debt.
  • If you believe the downturn will be accompanied by higher interest rates, do what you can to lock in prices for your raw materials and leases.
  • Take care of your customers. Go out of your way to be seen as invaluable.

The Secret Code

Did you notice a common thread in this advice? Six of the eight recommendations involve the quality of your employees and how well they work together as a team.

Placing the right people in the right positions, for example, requires skillful hiring aided by in-depth work style and personality assessments. Reduce the risk of hiring or promoting the wrong person. Learn more about our personality assessment services.

Pulling the team together and driving forward with a single purpose requires serious team building, not feel-good exercises. An investment in team building now will strengthen the company’s ability to thrive when other companies falter. Learn more about LCS team-building services.

Developing your managers to have excellent communications skills is vital to an organization’s growth, and absolutely mandatory during trying times, such as recession. Learn more about how LCS empowers key personnel so projects flow more smoothly without frustration.

In closing I recommend a book by two economists who have been extremely beneficial to our business. The economists are Alan and Brian Beaulieu from ITR Economics. Their most recent book is, “Prosperity in the Age of Decline.”  I encourage you to read the book, listen to our Open Line panel discussion audio / slides –  and be prepared for the Next Recession.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2017

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

Healthy High Performance Teams vs. Silos

By Paul David Walker, author of Invent Your Future: Starting With Your Calling

One of my clients shared her experience in her spinning classes. She said,

“The authentic commitment and energy of the leader starts up the class. As the energy builds each members commitment and energy syncs with the others. The class feeds off each other and reaches a level they could not have achieved individually.”Spinning class

She was glowing as she told me this story. The classes have transformed her energy and improved her health dramatically. Imagine a business team that feeds off each other’s energy. We are working together to build each of her facilities into healthy high performance teams. Her story and experience will be key to this work.

Ask yourself, do the teams you are leading look like her experience in the spinning classes? Most do not, and many feel it is impossible to achieve this kind of synergy for a business team. Of course, with this attitude, it would be impossible. I have experienced many leadership teams who started out feeling stuck with the level of teamwork they had, and like my client in her spinning classes, achieved what I call a Healthy High Performance Team.

Authentic Inspiration

The first step is knowing and experiencing the possibility, like my client who experienced it in her spinning class. Once you know something is possible, your words become alive with authentic inspiration and commitment, which provides an experience for those who follow you.

Casey Sheahan, Former President and CEO of Patagonia, said this to me during his interview for my book, Invent Your Future-Starting With Your Calling:

“Inspiration has to start with you. If you don’t believe that you can affect positive change, then it won’t happen. But if you can inspire people, as opposed to motivating them with fear, then you know there is a better outcome possible … I think you can really light people up. You can light your customers up, and you can light your manufacturers up too. When people are inspired, you get a better result, working conditions, and high-quality products. It is a priority for us.”

When you know the possibility from your experience, people can feel it and become inspired, and motivated by your presence. Your presence is 93% of any communication. It has been proven that the content is only 7% of communication. Your tone, body language, and the energy that comes out of you tells the story. If it is inconsistent with the content of your message people know, and will question what you say. If it is consistent, people are inspired because they are caught up in your experience.

It Starts With You

If the leader of a spinning class was out of shape, and had to take breaks while the class was peddling their hearts out, soon there would be no class. The same is true with leaders of teams in business or public service. It is often said, “Who you are speaks louder than what you say.” The most successful leaders are living examples of their vision. This is something you cannot fake, and takes courage.

We cannot create something we cannot conceive. So how do you get those following you to conceive a possibility they have not experienced? It starts with the stories you tell about times when you experienced a high performance team. Along with a compelling picture of the future state, the stories you tell about your experience become a living example. Told effectively they are an experience for a team or individual to feel.

Silos and Workarounds

The opposite of a high performance team is silos within organizations. Groups of people who are doing workarounds to avoid accountability, or at best be part of a small team that they can control. When you try to inspire teams to exceed their own expectation most people say, “Easier said than done, or you don’t understand what we are dealing with.” This complicates getting things done and creates suspicion, backbiting and a slowing of the growth of the organization. Multiple silos lead to a bureaucratic effect.

synapsesExperience and Habit

Many say life’s greatest teacher is experience, but if this is the case why do many who are experienced people repeat the same mistakes. From research on brain chemistry it is clear that bad or traumatic experiences form neuropathways that harden and create fears that seem real. People will go into a form of “fight or flight” that once protected them when similar situations present themselves. Silos are a form of protection, and if they have created safety for people in the past, they will default to them. Only more compelling experiences will mitigate these defense systems. People will still have the fear that is presented, but after a number of positive team experiences they will default to teamwork.

Teams Committed to Each Other

If people feel part of a team that is committed to each other’s success and the success of the business or organization they will feel safe participating in new behaviors. They will still experience fear, but with leadership that reenforces team commitment and illustrates the dangers of the opposite with authentic stories that create an experience, they will change. The team becomes a sanctuary of safety and inspiration. As the success of the team and the business grows, they will become more committed.

Success Stories

Prior to success it is important to find experiences in each individual’s life when they were part of a good team, or have seen one, while watching sports. An experienced leader finds ways for them to recall times when they experienced high levels of teamwork so they are inspired to let go of old safe habits that form silos. Breaking this natural human tendency requires that they can see, feel and hear a better way.

Creating off-sites for a team that creates an experience of a healthy high performance team is effective. You can do white water rafting or other similar outdoor experiences, but it is critical each experience is related to the organizational or business challenges. What is even more effective is dealing with difficult business or organizational challenges while creating the experience of teamwork directly relevant to work. Well- facilitated, these off-sites create a living example of the possibility for the team, and create success stories.

As individual and team success occurs, it is important to tell success stories as part of the organizational day-to-day process. These stories reward people and carry the wisdom forward, creating an organizational mythology. Each story should embody the feeling of success and the strategy that created that success.

Like the spinning class, there is no denying the value of a high performance team experience and the feeling of power and pride it embodies. The more you and your team can Invent Your Future by PD Walkerexperience the power of a team, the sooner it will become an organizational reality. It will not happen overnight, but as it is achieved, the performance and wellbeing of the organization will grow rapidly. Once healthy high-performance teams are woven into the fabric of your business or organization, it will retain and attract the best talent, produce performance beyond your expectations and provide a powerful barrier of entry against completion. It is not easy to create, but what of real value is easy.

“Here you will find a treasure trove of distinctions, tools, and models that will allow you to engage people in a way that naturally harmonizes and enhances working with others—and that in turn advances the mission and purpose of the organization. More than that, you will be introduced to the thinking that guides and directs our most advanced leaders. There are years of learning available in Invent Your Future. Do not be surprised when, in the days and months to come, you find yourself referencing this book. It’s that good.”
-John King, Bestselling Author of Tribal Leadership

Permission is needed from Paul David Walker to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2016

Paul David Walker, CEO and Founder of Genius Stone Partners, is one of the early innovators of leadership consulting and coaching at the executive level. For more than thirty years, he has successfully guided the CEOs and senior executive teams of such Fortune 500 and mid-sized companies as New York Life, Mutual of Omaha, Chase GIS, Finance One, VONS Grocery, Pacific Mutual, Rockwell International, Conexant Systems, Harrods, Anne Klein, Union Pacific, StarKist, The City of Long Beach, Long Beach Fire Department, Culver Studios, Shout Factory, Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar, NTS, Archstone Foundation, The Queen Mary and many other thriving organizations. He is author of Invent Your Future-Starting With Your Calling and Unleashing Genius: Leading Yourself, Teams, and Corporations. He specializes in building teams of leaders committed to each other’s success and the success of the business. Feel free to contact Paul by email pauldavidwalker@geniusstone.com or his cell 562-233-7861.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement. To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code and Cracking the Business Code, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information, visit http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

Creating a Culture Strategy — On Purpose — For Today and Tomorrow

By Suzanne Mayo Frindt & Dwight Frindt – Excerpt from Cracking the Business Code

Is your company culture and your leadership practices designed for success in today’s world?

By Brian Hefele

By Brian Hefele

In the face of unrelenting change and increased complexity of issues facing us in business today, our past based practices and structures may not be sufficient to succeed in this new paradigm. Let’s take a look at how company cultures and leadership must shift to respond powerfully to the circumstances we are currently experiencing.

People don’t really fear change itself; they can become afraid that they won’t be successful in the new paradigm. It is the job of leadership to create conditions, a culture, where people can learn, grow, and adapt to be successful in today’s world.

Change and Change Again

Our world is rapidly shaping in many amazing ways:

♦ As the video, Shift Happens has pointed out to the millions of YouTube viewers who have seen it on the Internet, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist, who will be using technology we haven’t yet discovered, to solve problems we don’t even yet know about yet” (Shift Happens video, created by Karl Fisch and modified by Scott McLeod).
♦ The quantity of information, its availability, and speed of delivery are increasing at an exponential rate as costs are approaching zero.
♦ The number of people accessing and using this information, and the many ways it is disseminated, has exploded since the advent of personal computers and the Internet — which in turn exponentially speeds up the rate at which new technologies are developed.
♦ Women are stepping into leadership roles at all levels, in diverse venues and in unprecedented numbers all over the world.
♦ Awareness that our global environment cannot continue to withstand a collective human consumption race is spreading quickly.
♦ Our children are being born into and growing up in a world that is so different than the one we grew up in, that it requires a new way of being for them to lead successful lives.
♦ More people over 65 are alive today than have ever lived to that age, so that group will be looking for whole new models for leading healthy, successful lives.

The list of changes that we have already experienced is inexhaustible. And as soon as you read this article, there will be even more changes that have occurred. Accelerated change has become the new normal. At the same time, we hear many clients say “as soon as it slows down or gets back to normal.” Those who think there will be a return to the “good ole days” are in for a great shock.

Our cultures, leadership, and structures have to shift from top down to valuing learning and expanding capacities to problem solve in the face of uncertainty, mining all available wisdom and creativity.

Culture…What’s That?

By rekre89 (Flickr)

By rekre89 (Flickr)

Excellent companies have Financial Strategies, Operational Strategies, Marketing and Sales Strategies, and commensurate Resource Allocation Strategies (including People, Time, Money, Equipment/Assets, etc.). How many companies actually have a Cultural Strategy? Yet all companies have a culture, implicitly if not explicitly. They have been developed on a historical basis and impact productivity, success, and health for generations. And, they can be experienced differently depending on one’s position within the organization.

Our first conversations with executives about Culture and Culture Strategies begin with a definition — a shared definition. Since so much of what comprises a culture is often accidental and somewhat invisible, some people have a hard time accepting that there is one, or that it can be defined or even changed.

Once we work through a few of the definitions below, most CEOs and executives agree they do have a definite culture. Then comes the question of whether it is the most productive culture given their purpose, values, and the changes we are experiencing every day.

A company culture can be defined as:

♦ A cognitive framework consisting of attitudes, values, behavioral norms, and expectations. (Greenberg and Baron, 1997)
♦ The collective thoughts, habits, attitudes, feelings, and patterns of behavior. (Clemente and Greenspan, 1999)
♦ The pattern of arrangement, material, or behavior, which has been adopted by a society (corporation, group, or team) as the accepted way of solving problems. (Ahmed et al., 1999)
♦ Includes the organizational values, mission, norms, working language, systems, beliefs, and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving and even thinking and feeling. (Wikipedia)
♦ A set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for certain situations. (Ravasi and Shultz 2006)

From this collection of definitions of culture, it becomes clear that a group or an organization’s culture is foundational to the success or failure of all other strategies, and yet little, if any attention, is consciously placed on the care and feeding of a productive culture. It is the invisible glue that binds together ever more diverse workforces, including people from many cultures and generations. Since it is invisible, most executives are not conscious of culture or of the implications of their decisions on the development of, or the degradation of, culture. Organizations in a high growth or acquisition mode are at a high risk of failure due to culture clashes. It is very unusual for us to see organizations that understand the criticality of this dimension of an acquisition, or adding lots of employees in a short period of time. Without a clear and intentional culture strategy, along with the allocation of resources to be sure that it is communicated and very well understood and incorporated into every day business interactions, the culture is drastically impacted by whatever the acquisition brought with them, or what the large numbers of employees bring with them. The sad reality is that productive organizational cultures often suffer a demise due to an unconscious neglect by leadership.

What people often complain about is usually a description of the unproductive aspects of the culture, at least from their perspective. We have heard from executives: lack of accountability, defensiveness, competitiveness at the expense of the company, or customer outcomes. In an organizational 360 tool that we use, we have heard from the workforce: micro management, lack of trust, no clear direction, compensation, and reward systems that emphasize individual results rather than company success. This was all within the same company!

Many organizations that we have encountered through our leadership development firm, 2130 Partners, have had what we call “accidental” cultures. Perhaps it was generated initially by a founder entrepreneur, mirrors other cultures in the same industry, or was created by a particular hiring practice or compensation structure. Nonetheless, most cultures develop by accident.

Cultures can be designed on purpose, and existing productive cultures can be maintained and enhanced intentionally.

Leadership — Replacing Commands with Vision

In this evolving new reality, successful leadership will have a very different nature than traditional approaches.

By Aadi Sing

By Aadi Sing

It was quite different to be a leader in simpler economic times and when the world moved at a slower pace with less connectivity. There were successful models and practices in place as well as more easily identifiable and attainable goals. Patterns of entitlement offered at least the illusion of security, and there was more time and predictability in producing results. However, now — when previous business models and assumptions have been turned on their heads, when people’s livelihoods are changing and disappearing regularly, and when successful businesses are being transformed for the new realities — the leadership required is radically agile, proactive, and creative.

Leaders who will be effective in this time of incredible opportunity are those that lead as if they are in a dance with reality — that is, they look to create exciting new paradigms, processes, and even companies based on creating the next game while being responsible for the current and unfolding global economy. They are not simply waiting until the economy gets back to normal or using past experiences to map out current pathways. Being in a dance demands conversations appropriate to dancing. Think about it — when you get out on the dance floor, do you tell your partner, “I need these four steps from you in the next minute, followed by a repetitive pattern until I tell you otherwise”? If you have done that, perhaps you have found that it leaves you with very few dance partners. How then do you engage with others in this new reality?

We call the management model we use to replace the old “command-and-control” paradigm, Vision-Focused Leadership, which is an approach grounded in shared vision and built through collaboration.

Vision: A mental image produced by the imagination

Vision-Focused Leadership as a mental model shows how thinking, listening, speaking, and actions — most importantly those that you employ to lead others — are focused and informed by a shared vision. Focusing on your shared vision allows you to make choices; orient your creativity, energy, and resources; and correlate your thoughts and actions and the actions of people working with you on your shared intention. In the absence of shared vision, it is easy to become victims of or be distracted by circumstances, worries, and fears, and to react based on instant, automatic, unconscious, and unexamined thoughts, beliefs, and judgments stored in your mind. Without necessarily realizing it, the past winds up driving your bus.

When we talk about leadership here, our intention is to stress that leader- ship can be evoked anywhere in an organization — that is, every person can exhibit leadership qualities, no matter what his or her job description may be.

If you and your team members have done a good job developing and sharing the vision, then creating powerful actions will flow much more naturally. People will be able to individually source their ideas, actions, and interactions from the shared vision. If you replace commands with shared vision and broaden the source and responsibility for creativity to the entire team, you will maximize creativity, ownership, collaboration, and velocity in fulfilling the shared vision.

We use the term “Yonder Star” to include shared vision, goals, objectives, and strategies to obtain it. It can be applied at any level from a strategic corporate vision to your vision for the outcomes you intend to produce in a single conversation or meeting. The Yonder Star is the ideal, out in front of you and up above the path you are currently traveling, that provides a common focus and inspires your actions. Rather than hanging onto sacred past-based activities and processes (i.e., “what did we do and how did we do it last year?”), priorities, plans, and milestones are designed from a focus on the Yonder Star. From this mind-set, actions are prioritized by their value in fulfilling the Yonder Star. All members of the team are inspired to explore their own integration of the goal with their passion to contribute and the specific role their work will play in its fulfillment.

From shared dedication to the overall outcome, a pervasive attitude of “I’ve got your back” naturally develops within each member of the team. Dissent, one-upmanship, and agendas fueled by self-interest tend to fade to the background.

Collaboration Requires

Connection, Alignment, and Focus

Yonder Star clipartThis graphic is our shorthand illustration of this notion. Here we show a group of people who are interacting from a solid foundation of mutual trust, respect, and safety to reach their mutual Yonder Star. In this case, a collection of aligned Yonder Stars, shown in a stack of different sizes, depicts the many intermediate goals that lie between your current situation and fulfillment of your Yonder Star. To sort out which actions will be most productive on your route to your Yonder Star, look back from your fulfilled Yonder Star and ask, “What’s missing in our current reality that, if we work on it, will accelerate fulfilling our Yonder Star?” From your list, determine the decisions and actions that will be most leveraged in closing the gap. By leveraged, we mean the actions that produce the greatest impact while requiring the fewest resources and taking the least amount of time to accomplish. Get started, monitor results, recalibrate with new position updates, and continue on your path or make adjustments as necessary to stay on course.

Collaboration — New Ways of Working Together

As we go forward, those who lead will be the ones taking advantage of the creativity and productivity gains available by focusing on the human, collaborative dimension, while laggards will suffer in the face of unrelenting change.

The extremely affordable, and nearly instant, access to vast amounts of information and ways of interacting with whole communities that are becoming available, combined with a productive attitude toward change and the new realities it brings, creates huge opportunities for you and your leadership. However, leading effectively will require a new mind-set to unleash potential and creativity and to capitalize on opportunities.

The challenges lie in strengthening your ability to choose the direction, form the goals, and then communicate and enroll others so that you build groups and organizations that can collectively navigate shifting realities. This means improving your ability to communicate, work together collaboratively, and lead others to do so as well. If you learn how to identify and utilize the navigational guides to traversing this uncharted territory, you will experience higher productivity, more rapid innovation, and greater organizational agility. Additionally, responsiveness to the needs of customers and other stakeholders in the organization and more rewarding relationships will become something you can rely upon.

Building Collaborative Capital — It Begins with Me

To effectively change our outer reality requires being willing to shift our inner reality.

Today, talented, educated people who know how and are motivated to work interactively with each other are the key to success for more and more businesses. This new collaborative approach means many more minds are put to work on the opportunities and challenges facing us whether in business, in our organizations, or even in our families.

When we were born, we came equipped with the most powerful computers on earth (although Shift Happens cites projections that the quantitative computing power of a supercomputer will pass that of the human brain by the year 2013). These innate computers serve us well in producing new ideas and dynamic solutions — as we can see in all that has happened just in the past twenty years of technological growth. The core thought processes that guide our reactions and interactions were mostly loaded into your brain and ours when we were children and have been chugging along ever since, functioning as an unconscious and unexamined operating system.

Don’t change the world, change worlds…starting with your own.
Adapted from St. Francis of Assisi, Catholic patron saint of animals and the environment

Being able to think in new ways requires challenging the very basis of your own thinking — your self-concept, worldview, and automatic ways of interacting with others.

What Is a Productive Culture Anyway?

By Anne Davis (773 Flickr)

By Anne Davis (773 Flickr)

We don’t use terminology such as “good” or “bad” cultures, which is a binary and simplistic assessment. We consider the organization’s purpose, or vision and mission to determine if the existing culture supports the achievement of that purpose while calling forth the best from the people within the organization. Does it call forth high performance and productivity on a sustainable basis? Does it reward Self-Generated Accountability and Productive Dialogue? Does it foment gossip, jealousy, politics, CYA, or individual success over company success?

What is productive in a culture is what people are proud of about their company or their work. When shared values are demonstrated and memorialized in great stories, people tell about “the time when…”

What If You Created a Learning Culture?

A Learning Culture is one where the individuals and teams consciously invest in growing and developing themselves. In a Learning Culture, executives are conscious and purposeful about the impact of decisions and strategies on the fabric of cultural development. There is a purposeful focus on reducing friction and waste in communications and developing productive working relationships. People know there is an expectation for growing and learning. Hiring decisions are made with an interest in an individual’s ability to learn, adapt, grow, and shift outdated mental models, as much as their past-based, functional experience. An atmosphere of curiosity, forward thinking and ‘how can we learn from this’ thinking permeates. It becomes the foundation or platform on which everything else is built.

What Are The Payoffs of a Learning Culture?

For an organization, this type of culture provides much more innovation, creativity, flexibility, agility, and expedited problem solving capabilities. It also affects retention and even hiring decisions of individuals in the firm.

For individuals, it provides opportunities for learning and growth; enhancing marketability and value to this or other organizations. It also provides forums to be challenged, to add value, and to contribute at a high level. Some CEOs have actually expressed concern that growing their people will make them more vulnerable to their best people leaving. However, if looked at from the individual’s perspective, why would they leave unless they have fully used up the growth opportunities where they are right now? Why would someone leave a position where their value and contribution are recognized, supported, and rewarded?

How Can We Develop a Learning Culture?

There are many books and articles about learning organizations including work by Senge and Argyris that explain in depth about the what and how of learning organizations. Our 2130 methodology (and terminology adaptation in some instances) ties to the 5 aspects of a learning organization that are generally accepted by leadership “gurus” as follows:

1. Systems Thinking: Understanding how things influence each other as a whole. Our view is that executives and organizational leadership are accountable to the entire organization and all stakeholders for this larger view. This includes strategy development, planning, implementation, review, and adjustment. This is a level above what most executives contribute on a day-to-day basis from their functional expertise (Finance, Operations, Sales, Marketing, HR, etc.). In addition to a responsibility for systems thinking on an individual executive basis, it is also critical that the entire executive team itself operate as a productive, learning system. Most organizations develop a Vision statement, Mission, and Values that constitute the overall framework, (we call it the ‘Yonder Star’), and then on a regular basis develop strategies, initiative, goals, and actions in the dimensions of finance, operations, marketing, sales, resource allocation, and to a lesser degree, culture. Our methodology, “Vision-Focused Leadership” is designed to support systems thinking. We work with top executives — the CEO, President, or entrepreneur — in a trusted advisor or executive coaching assignment to create a learning culture. We also work with the team of top executives to support the development of and focus on all the strategies required to be successful. Our Operating Principles create a platform for a productive, learning culture with the executive leadership team and then the entire organization.

By Gerd Altmann

By Gerd Altmann

2. Shared Vision/Values: “A vehicle for building shared meaning” from Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline. Unfortunately, this often looks more like the version from Dilbert: “A long meaningless statement that proves management’s inability to focus.” Over the last 20+ years we have worked with organizations to develop Vision, Mission, and Values using our “Vision-Focused Leadership” methodology. Leadership gurus have been espousing for at least two decades the value of a shared vision to focus and align resources. Absent a shared vision, individual agendas rule the day and gaining personal power becomes a major executive focus. Shared Vision/Values encourage a learning culture by emphasizing the gaps toward our Shared Vision/Values, what is missing and what is next, versus what is wrong from the past.

3. Productive Mental Framework: We talk about busting mental barriers, increasing mental agility, and increasing capacities to deal with the unrelenting pace of change and increased complexity of issues facing leadership today. It requires skills at reframing for ourselves and others, and developing focus in chaos and high emotional states. Past-based arrogance and rigidity undermine productive cultures. It is critical to become aware of our blind spots and biases to be able to think clearly in the present to make the best decisions in a complex business environment. We use our Operating Principles and Essential Notions, developed and validated over the past 20 years to help build a learning culture platform and equip leaders and man- agers with the mental and collaborative skills needed in today’s world.

4. Personal Mastery: This is the commitment of every person in the organization to improve, develop, and challenge themselves to be more than they are today, and to proactively challenge themselves inside a framework of contribution and collaboration. Individuals who insist on status quo and structural barriers to communication usually self-select out of a Learning Culture. In our book, Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World, we say that when individuals develop themselves they have increased their collaborative capacities. We will get older automatically, however to grow as we age requires a conscious choice. In our work, we describe conscious choice as the Leadership Choice Point. Every moment of every day presents an opportunity for choice. Will I relate to the world around me, the circumstances of my life as the defining parameters, or will I choose to use the circumstances as an opportunity to grow toward the Yonder Star?

5. Team Mastery: In addition to individual learning and development, organizations must realize that groups of people, (of any size of two or more), creates yet another “entity” with its own dynamics and productivity levels. Two or more people, who may be very developed individually, when put together in a group or team may not be as productive together as the sum of their individual productivity. The question becomes: will we synergize our efforts where 1+1=3 or more, or will we diminish productivity potential with friction and waste to make 1+1=1.5 or less? There are numerous examples of sports teams that have all “star” players, yet a team of “average” players can beat them because of the way the average players have developed their team effectiveness. The sum of what the players produce together is much greater than adding up individual skills — and so it is for organizational groups and teams. There are group skills and developmental opportunities that build on, yet are distinct from individual capacities. When groups develop these capacities we call that increasing their collaborative capital.

So What Will You Do Now?

1. Take stock of your culture. What are the stories being told about your organization by employees, clients, and vendors? What stories would you like to be told? What attributes of this powerful, invisible platform are important to you? Where are the gaps? What will you commit to taking on, challenging the status quo, and BEING as an example of the cultural aspect you are committed to developing? (We use an online organizational assessment to gather objective and confidential data to understand the present condition in an organization).

By Skeeze (Pixabay)

By Skeeze (Pixabay)

2. What cultural “artifacts” do you have in place? (We call the collection of these items, all on one page, your Strategic Focus.)
a) Compelling Vision, Mission, and Shared Values (We also use our Operating Principles as a key piece of culture definition because they are design principles for productive conversations.)
b) Business strategy that fulfills the Vision and Mission
c) Bold Goals that clearly take ground toward the strategy and mission, and are consistent with your vision and values

3. Is your Leadership and management team aligned behind #2 above?

4. Has your Strategic Focus been clearly communicated? Does your team know how to communicate it to their folks?

5. Are your departmental and individual goals lined up with the Mission, Vision, and Strategy?

If you are missing any of the above, fill in the missing pieces immediately! If your Vision or Mission statements are a paragraph long or no one remembers them anymore, throw them out! Vision and Mission statements have a positive influence on culture only when they really “live” inside the hearts and minds of people in the organization. It is not a job for the marketing department or your PR firm to “word smith.” It is the role of leadership to capture and communicate and nurture the Vision and Mission and Values. Each executive and management team member must be willing to have their leadership and management practices be guided by these major cultural influencers you create. When the actions or practices of people in management positions are contrary to what have been espoused as values and the mission then there is a huge disconnect for individuals in the organization, resulting in cynicism and resignation.

If you need help, consider hiring a professional facilitator to work with you and your leadership team to help define the existing reality, clearly define each aspect of your Strategic Focus and identify the gaps. Accomplish this first, before working with the balance of your organization, to develop thinking and behaviors consistent with a learning culture and self-generated accountability.

Above all, keep growing and learning and Accelerate your Leadership.

If Leadership is not consciously strategizing, designing, and developing culture, what is left to form it? Culture exists and is alive in the stories employees, (and vendors and customers), tell about what it is like to work there, how people get treated, how to get ahead, whom to hold your tongue around, whom to please, whether merit or seniority count to a greater extent, what happens if you are ill, what are the opportunities for development, promotion, raises, learning. What stories are being told about your company? What stories would you like to be hearing? How does leadership affect those stories? What are the payoffs? These are the questions to ask to get conscious about the affect of your culture.

by Devanath (pixabay)

by Devanath (pixabay)

References:

Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World by Suzanne and Dwight Frindt – to order go to www.2130partners.com.

“Developing a Corporate Culture as a Competitive Advantage” by Golnaz Sadri and Brian Lees .

Peter Michael Senge is an American scientist and director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is known as author of the book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (originally 1990, new edition 2006).

Chris Argyris is an American business theorist, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, and a thought leader at Monitor Group. He is commonly known for seminal work in the area of “Learning Organizations.”

Suzanne Frindt is a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners, an executive leadership development and education firm that launched in 1990. She is also a recognized speaker on the topics of Vision-Focused Leadership™ and Productive Interactions™, speaking to organizations around the world. She is also a Group Chair for Vistage International, Inc. an organization of CEOs and key executives dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of more than 12,000 members. Each month she facilitates groups in Orange County, California, and Seattle, Washington, while also regularly contributing entrepreneurial creativity and management experience to several companies through service on their advisory boards.

Dwight Frindt is also a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners. Since 1994, Dwight has been a Group Chair for Vistage International facilitating groups of CEOs and senior executives. He has received many performance awards for his work at Vistage and in 2009 Dwight became a Best Practice Chair and began mentoring the Chairs in the South Orange County area. Since then he has added two additional Best Practice Chair regions; the Puget Sound and the Greater Pacific Northwest. In 2011 Dwight received the Best Practice Chair of the Year Award – Western Division. Combining his work with 2130 Partners and Vistage, Dwight has facilitated more than 1,000 days of workshops and meetings, and has logged well over 13,000 hours of executive leadership coaching. In addition to working in the for-profit world, Dwight and Suzanne are very committed to working with non-profits and have been investors and activists with The Hunger Project for many years. To reach them, please visit www.2130partners.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2016 This information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement. To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

To Be In The Right Place At The Right Time – Think Like a Weirdo!

By Dana Borowka – Excerpt from the book, Cracking the Business Code

If you or your team members are going to be sitting down for a management meeting soon, ask yourself – who is the oddest and most unusual thinker on your team… who comes up with the most fantastic ideas? Those are the weirdos in your group. One definition of a “weirdo” is one that is odd, unusual and fantastic… even a bit magical or mystical. It’s those who upset the apple cart and watch the apples roll down the street and observe the flow. Maybe it’s even the person who sees how the market place is shifting and gets everyone upset. Or the individual who has an idea on how to improve the work flow that causes everyone to pause and then reply, “We can’t do that!” Yet that idea might save 10 catching ideasseconds of time in processing orders. This multiplies out to saving 800,000 seconds a year for a department or 13,333 hours annually, which could equate to $250,000 – 500,000 of hard earned money saved… all due to the weirdo. Now that is weirdness at its best!

Upsetting the Apple Cart

No longer do we have boxes to think outside of! Our goal is to create the next new whatever – to help those we work with to not only improve but inspire coolness in our lives. Whether your organization is a service-based financial firm or manufacturing operation – we all need to do whatever it takes to help one another in reaching our market place.

Here are some questions to consider for your team:

♦ What does it take to keep ongoing business and grow market share?
♦ What is the first step to take to start those proverbial apples rolling?
♦ Are you and your team being intuitive and what the heck does that mean anyway?
♦ What are we hearing:
— From our market place?
— From staff members?
— From colleagues, friends, others?
♦ How do we know if we are listening to what is being said?

The answer:

It takes creativity that will affect the approach and the execution. We want to create an environment of thinkers as opposed to organizations filled with silo individuals that respond with – “I can’t do that!”. The days of silo thinking are long gone. That type of thinking came about from attempting to build a machine we called “homogenizing customer service”. That is one way to lose business overnight!

Having the “Can Do” Attitude

Recently, I was in contact with an organization that kept telling me they can’t accept bulk orders – they could only take one order at a time. I really wanted this product so I kept climbing the laddercalling back and finally found a true go getter – “a weirdo”. This individual had the “can do” attitude. Due to the organizational structure this person worked in and against all odds, we found a work around! Later, I spoke to the supervisor and wrote a note to the organization about what had taken place. I received a wonderful note back from the CEO who shared how appreciative they were for the ideas I shared. For them to be in the right place at the right time, all they needed to do was to listen. Now they have an opportunity to approach a huge market place that they had never thought of before. Yet – if I had not been so persistent, they would never have known nor thought about how they were closing off a source of revenue. Not only the revenue but they were also missing out on sharing a product with others who would truly appreciate it. Don’t miss out on sharing your services and products due to a lack of listening. You and your organization should be thriving with your heart, mind and soul in the right place – at the right time. All it takes is to listen and then to execute through the creativity that is all around you right now.

For additional ideas on this topic, you can read more in Chapter 10 in our book, Cracking the Personality Code.

Be a Trend-Setting Weirdo!

What brings a company to life is a creative approach where ideas are contributed and fulfill the vision of the organization. Creativity will guide your organization to go with the flow of an ever-changing market – it will provide ideas for bringing your service or product to the market place and to stay ahead of the pack. It will produce a fun and exciting environment for the refinement of processes, services, sales, marketing, accounting, production, QC and every department in your organization. So, go ahead and be a trend-setting weirdo!

We’d love to hear from you about this topic – please email us at reception@lighthouseconsulting.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2016

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. They also have a full service consulting division that provides domestic and international interpersonal coaching, executive onboarding, leadership training, global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training, operational productivity improvement, 360s and employee surveys as well as a variety of workshops. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He provides workshops on hiring, managing for the future, and techniques to improve interpersonal communications that have a proven ROI. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires and staff development, team building, interpersonal and communication training, career guidance and transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

The Fog of Uncertainty: Ideas for Dealing with Uncertainty to Reach your Destination

By Dana Borowka – Excerpt from the book, Cracking the Business Code

The idea for this article came while driving up the coast towards Malibu, California. The morning sun was rising and I noticed a fog bank several miles off the coast. It was interesting to see it from this perspective. The wall of fog stood before the magnificent coast line with many miles of visibility mountainsin both directions. As the sun continued to rise, the top of the fog bank was whisking around which made for a beautiful scene. As I headed up into the mountains to get to my destination, I kept looking back to see how it was progressing. As I ascended in elevation, I could clearly see the fog was covering the ocean as far as the eye could see. The fog was progressing towards the shore and in just a matter of a few minutes what was clear visibility along the coast was now completely obscured.

Have you ever had this experience in either your business or personal life? You have a course, a plan, a direction and then… the fog rolls in. What do you do? I’d like to share an experience. Then we’ll jump into some specific steps that you can consider and talk over with your team members as we move into the new year.

I have been an avid sailor and that usually leads to getting bigger boats over time. We traveled to San Diego, California to purchase our next boat that was 28 feet in length. We needed to get the boat to Marina del Rey, California which is an 100+ mile journey. We had planned on bringing it up over a two day period. Our plans included having all the appropriate tools – a navigational chart, GPS, fog horn, radar deflector mounted on the mast but we had no radar. When we woke up in the early morning hours to set sail on our sailboatjourney and opened the hatch we could barely see the boat next to us – the fog was so thick that visibility was only 15-20 feet at best. We waited a bit for the fog to clear but we had a schedule to keep. So with charts and GPS in hand we set out and made our way through the harbor very carefully. Our charting was spot on but we had a spotter/listener on the bow to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Things were going well until we hear the sound of waves crashing – we were off course and fortunately we had our spotter on the bow. We adjusted our course immediately and made it out to sea. The fog cleared and we had porpoises swimming all around us with clear sailing and visibility. On the final leg home, we hit fog again. This time we made it to the breakwater which appeared right in front of us by only 100 feet or so. It was just where we thought it would be thanks to the planning.

Uncertainty can seem to be a constant theme. Yet if we have a plan and remain flexible with our goals then we can make it through the fog and reach our destination safe and sound. By using the ideas we are about to share you’ll know if your organization is heading towards the rocks, the open sea or on a clear course towards your destination.

Think for a moment about the various components of a boat that are needed in order to keep it afloat and heading in the intended direction. Observe how they compare to your organization.

Components of a Vessel

Hull – Need to have a structure that can endure and thrive in the elements.
Fuel – The energy needed to move the vessel forward and towards its destination.
Crew – The crew will either make sure the ship reaches its destination in a timely manner or cause it to go off course or cause an incident that could result in loss of resources.

oceanThe Changing Environment

Water is the most unstable surface on our planet. No matter how much planning a business does a rogue wave can come along and cause havoc. This might be changes in the market, unhappy clients, distribution channels, technology, financial, etc. Preparation can only go so far yet if your organization has one key ingredient you’ll be able to survive and thrive beyond your wildest dreams.

Key Ingredient to Thrive

The answer always comes back to having the right crew on board. It all begins with the selection process, mentoring and staff development. If this is done correctly or you have the right people with potential for growth, you’ll not only make it through to 2011… you’ll also be ready to ride the wave of 2012 and beyond! Let’s take a look at how this works.

By having the right crew on board, you’ll have:

♦ Contributors – That will help the ship reach its course through innovation, ingenuity, timely fulfillment of tasks, follow through, etc.
♦ Happy customers – They’ll keep coming back due to the outstanding service and quality of the product.
♦ Happy employees – They’ll go the extra mile for the organization and its customers. This also leads to positive word of mouth that can attract top talent.
♦ Open Minded Culture – Problem solving is the key to anticipate needs, deal with weather changes, being open to adapting to the environment.
♦ Profitability – You’ll meet your organization’s goal and objective where everyone is rewarded for doing a great job and your organization will be able to continue to provide services and products with the opportunity to visit other destinations in the future.

An organization can build a sturdy ship but without the right people behind the scenes it won’t leave port. All this starts with the captain of the ship and with its officers. If they select the correct crew up front, they know the job will get done correctly, in a timely manner and the work can be trusted. Can you trust that your crew will do their job not only correctly but in a timely manner? Do they also contribute ideas for further improvement so you can get the maximum value from each individual?

If the answer is “I’m not sure” then your answer may be reflective of the future survival of your vessel. Every organization must have all hands on deck with crew members that are excited and grateful to be aboard and have the ability to perform the best they can.

A Whale of a Tale for Teamwork

A manager once had an outstanding team but always told everyone what to do. This person didn’t listen, didn’t ask questions, demanded a higher level of volume without asking if the organization could handle it and created a closed environment. Over time things started to slip through the cracks, customers were not getting the attention they needed, whalesales slipped, people started to leave and the organization began to develop a bad reputation where recruitment became a problem. Upper management stepped in and started to ask the team members for their feedback. It turned out that the manager was not a good fit for that position and was transitioned into another department. When the new manager was selected, it was based not only on experience but also the ability to work with others. They learned that it is vital to understand a person’s work style and how they interact with others in order to have a high performing team. If just one person isn’t “playing well in the sandbox” the effects can ruin a brand and effect sales and future growth of an organization.

A Checklist for Success

♦ When selecting the crew – have a clear understanding of the ideal crew member and have a system and process to assure you have selected the correct crew members. This can be done through interviewing and asking questions for specific examples and compare those answers to what an ideal crew member would do. Gather as much data as possible from reference and background checks as well as provide an in-depth work style and personality assessment with Lighthouse Consulting Services. The information should be used to validate the interview responses, background and reference checks.
♦ Ask each current crew member for feedback on where they think that the team and themselves could be more efficient in the market place within the next 30-60-90 days. This means that everyone on your ship needs to have their eyes and ears open to seeing where it might be possible to improve and enhance processes, structure, services, customer service, etc.
♦ Captains and officers need to listen to everyone and create a truly open environment. Come up with three things that you can do that will make that happen.
♦ Define what the ideal crew member would possess in skills, work style and personality and make it measurable.
♦ Assist the current crew to fulfill that role. Make sure you have an in-depth work style and personality assessment of your crew members so you’ll have the insight on how to help everyone thrive and to get the best performance from each team member. Through in-depth assessments you will discover how your staff solves problems, deals with stress, makes decisions, processes information, creates and follows up on leads, etc. This will help to ensure that you have the right person in the correct position so they can perform to the best of their ability. Contact us at reception@lighthouseconsulting.com to get started.

lighthouse and boatsIf you have the right team in place, your organization will be able to deal with the many challenges that will come along during the voyage. The key is to hire right the first time and to assist those on board to be the best that they can be. This will lead to happy customers, happy employees, innovation for the future, efficiency for delivery of the product or service and of course, a profitable bottom line.

To take a leadership assessment to see if you have what it takes to help your organization sail well into the future, please click on here. You can gather additional ideas for working with your current and future crew members by reading our books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”. To order the books, go to: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2015

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. They also have a full service consulting division that provides domestic and international interpersonal coaching, executive onboarding, leadership training, global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training, operational productivity improvement, 360s and employee surveys as well as a variety of workshops. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He provides workshops on hiring, managing for the future, and techniques to improve interpersonal communications that have a proven ROI. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

 

Expanding Into China – An Export Opportunity

By Casey W. Xiao-Morris

China’s Emerging Markets: A Tremendous Exporting Opportunity

To many American companies, doing business with China means purchasing Chinese products and exporting them to the U.S. But as someone who grew up in China during a time of robust economic development, and especially as a professional consultant who helps American companies expand into China, I have seen countless examples firsthand where the business relationship goes the other way. Exporting to China is a thriving business with an ever-growing list of success stories, and I would like to share some of this prosperitychina street scene with you in this piece.

Given the size of the middle class and upper middle class—estimated at 300 million and growing, on par with the population of the entire U.S.—it’s impossible to ignore the Chinese consumer market. As reported in Nielsen, the consumption economy contributed 60% of the gross GDP in the first half of 2015. The takeaway for American executives is clear: China is not only a place to purchase from; it’s also a massive consumer market with tremendous potential to grow your company via exporting.

Potential Obstacles

Perhaps the largest obstacle facing American businesses is adapting to differences between the U.S. and China vis-à-vis business culture, market environment, consumer behavior, and laws. All of these play a critical role in shaping the way that your business should assess, navigate, and conduct business in China.

In certain ways, expanding into China necessarily means starting from scratch. This is something which successful businesses often have trouble with, since many established companies attempt to replicate what they’re already doing in the U.S. For example, we recently worked with a brand based in Philadelphia that had focused its digital marketing strategy in America on ranking highly in Google’s search results, but in China that was far less important than achieving success with Baidu, the most popular search engine in China. For every business opportunity in China’s emerging markets, there’s a corresponding challenge that you’ll have to overcome.

5 Important Realities to Consider

1. Is it feasible?
Throughout my consulting career, I have seen countless companies jump to hasty conclusions and enter the marketplace prematurely. Before making a major investment, it’s critical to do research on the viability of your business plan by thinking deeply about three questions:
A) Will you have customers?
B) What are the true costs of entering the market?
C) How competitive is your market in China?

2. Is it the right time?
China is now a buzzword in international business and it receives a tremendous amount of media coverage, much of which focuses on the extremes. You need to ignore the hype and think smartly about whether your business is prepared to dedicate time and resources towards expanding to China in a way which won’t disrupt your existing day-to-day operations.

3. Is your company’s top management committed?
Success in China requires starting from the very beginning and exploring the market opportunities anew. This will undoubtedly require dedicating time, resources, and employees to the project as well as a strategic timeline with realistic expectations. If you skip this step, you’ll find yourself unprepared for what’s to come.

4. Does your company have sufficient financial resources?
Contrary to public perception in the U.S., it can require significant financial resources to break into the market in China. China is not a cheap country to do business in, especially once you factor into account high-capacity employees, regulatory compliances, local set-up, and promoting awareness of your brand.

5. Are you exposed to any risks?
Factoring risks into account is critical, especially focusing on the way that they relate to bringing your technology to China. Conducting due diligence is essential, as many American companies have made the mistake of bringing superior technology to the Chinese marketplace that wasn’t legally protected. While China’s policies on these matters are improving, there is still a lot of progress to be made.

Next Steps for Entering the Chinese Market

Below we’ve outlined the concrete steps American businesses hoping to begin exporting to China should take while moving forward with their plans:

1. Finding the most Effective Approach
Having a high level of knowledge of the local market is essential to making strategic choices about the best way to start doing business in China. Should you set up a local company? What types of sales agencies or local distributors will you aim to work with? How will you go about improving awareness of your brand among your target market?

2. Enter the Market in Phases
In order to maximize your defenses against potential risks, don’t move your entire business at once. Rather, begin with initial testing in a particular region or sector, and learn from the opportunity before investing all of your resources.

3. Localize or Fail
One of the most important pillars of success in China is that only products and services tailored to the preferences of the local population are going to succeed. Many American companies make the mistake of assuming that the branding work that they’ve done in the U.S. will influence consumers in China. The reality is that when you take a look at which American corporations have experienced the most success in China, they are all companies which focused on localizing their operations from the onset. At each stage of the game, the primary perspective to be considered is one which understands the needs of the local market.

4. Choosing the Ideal Partners
Many American companies do business in China via local distributors, and it’s important to evaluate your potential partners closely before agreeing to work together. One of the primary reasons that business can stagnate is because your distributor lacks the means to connect you with a large number of consumers. In many cases, your distributor may not have sufficient financial capacity or business experience, and this will take a toll on your entire operation. Take this into account when you’re decide the number of Chinese distributors to work with.

5. Grow Steadily but Gradually
Success in China requires humility in being willing to grow one step at a time, and it’s unrealistic to expect to become an overnight success. Growth is gradual and requires building off of one success into another—for example, once you possess an effective model with one distributor, follow the same guidelines with other distributors. The same holds true when you expand from one region into new areas. Remember, China has over 200 cities with populations of over 1 million people—reaching them will take time and ambition.

A Brief Story of Success

By now you understand that success in China is not going to be instantaneous, but the result of implementing an effective step-by-step strategy catering to the needs of Chinese consumers. In case you’re feeling discouraged, I want to reiterate that the opportunities for success exist and are plentiful. You just need to put in the effort, like a client of mine based in Southern California which manufactures nutritional products.

Directed by our consulting agency, instead of getting swallowed up by their large competitors like GNC, By-Health, and NBTY, the client opted to enter emerging markets including high-end health management clubs and private physical examination centers. As a result, they’ve experienced successful results in a short amount of time, and now their operation in China accounts for 20% of the company’s entire revenue.

The takeaway is that opportunities do exist, but they need to be approached strategically, with the help of professionals that have on-the-ground knowledge.

 

Casey Xiao-Morris is the chief China market consultant at Leverage China, LLC. She has used her decades of international business experience to help American companies to expand successfully into China’s emerging markets. She has created unique strategies that have helped small companies all the way to a Fortune 50 corporation. She is in an unmatched position to facilitate your company’s entry to China. She can be reached at cxmorris@LeverageChina.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2015

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

Cracking the Strategic Planning Code – Ideas from the Experts

By Larry Cassidy, Marc Emmer, Diana Ho, Brian Oken, Steve Phillips & Paul David Walker

When the topic of strategic planning comes up, some individuals get very excited about the planning process while others consider it just a waste of time. With so many different styles and approaches, we thought that we’d ask a number of experts for how they approach this topic and the top three key points to think about before your next strategic planning meeting.Team activity

Larry Cassidy

Strategic Conversation

My view of so-called “strategic planning” is that today it is less an event and more an ongoing conversation. The most effective organizations are evolving, and for me that moves viable strategic thinking away from being an annual event and toward an ongoing conversation.

The idea that we can somehow nail down where and how things are (and, projected, where and how they will be into the future), and then craft a lasting response, is ineffective. The world in which we operate is constantly changing; thus, we too must participate in that same game, which requires a continuing and continuous conversation.

As that applies to crafting strategy, I recommend frequent sessions in which the “team” comes together to discuss the future. For each session, step one is to identify the most important questions which must be answered; step two is to arrive at agreement on the answers; and, step three is to define action steps based on those answers (what, why, who, how, when, resources and milestones). As you prep for these ongoing sessions, consider:

  1. Inviting more of, rather than less of, your management and supervisory team. Interesting ideas often come from the “less likely” participants. And participation invites a sense of “ownership.”
  2. Requesting from the attendees, in advance, the questions they feel are the most important to the firm’s future. You may be surprised at what you get.
  3. Building each session around a few key questions, using multiple breakout groups to discuss each question, and mixing people and functions within breakout groups for each topic discussion (thus creating fresh energy and different chemistry around each question).
  4. And, inviting a few key outsiders to participate in each session (good strategic thinkers, creative types, folks who will challenge and “stir the pot”). You will find their input tends to raise the bar for those on your team.

Marc Emmer

Strategic Planning: The Entrepreneurs Dilemma

There is one thing that almost all entrepreneurs have in common; they want to grow. Yet determining where and how to grow can prove elusive, even to the most savvy strategists.

Which wayOften, management teams face gut wrenching strategic choices. While growing a core business incrementally offers a high probability of success, companies with a singular focus are subject to concentration risk that inhibits enterprise value. The more the company grows, the bigger the problem becomes. A diversification strategy reduces concentration, but growth far afield from one’s core competency, increases the probability of failure.

Often, entrepreneurial companies also lack the talent to focus on transformational business model innovations that could drive competitive advantage. Unfortunately, many companies create a 12 month forecast within their core business, and pass it off as a strategic plan. A well thought out vision balances the short term and the long term and clarifies the company’s value proposition and strategic priorities.

Here are some success factors to consider before engaging in strategic planning:

  1. Market Analysis-A thoughtful review of trends in the industry that will impact future demand.
  2. A level of preparedness on the part of the participants so that they are in a position to make fact-based strategic decisions.
  3. A process that enables execution on strategic objectives.

As we approach the time of year when many companies formalize their business strategies, it is important to structure a framework that ensures that management takes the time to think, both about the core business and potential disruption. Great companies weave strategic thinking into their management DNA and then convert strategies into actionable measurable tactics that drive results.

Diana Ho

The Art of Strategic Planning

Strategic planning has fallen in and out of favor numerous times since my earliest days as a planning facilitator. While my experience base and process toolbox has grown over the years, so has my “beginners mind.” Rather than bringing a methodology that works for all, I approach each planning engagement as a blank slate, pay attention, listen deeply and design each process based upon the unique characteristics of the client organization.team mtg

Every organization has a strategic plan whether they know it or not. The opportunities embedded in a “strategic planning process” include a) making the plan explicit, b) aligning expectations, c) leveraging resources and d) building a skilled planning- and accountability-minded team. The process of planning is equally as important, if not MORE important, than the resulting “plan;” and the effectiveness of any planning process is directly correlated to the extent that it is aligned with the leadership/power structure of the organization. So design the process well, Grasshopper!

When considering external resources, decide where your needs lie along the continuum of “expert” (who will tell you what your process and strategy ought to be) and “facilitator” (who will leverage your organizational resources, ask questions, provide options, build capacity and hold your feet to the fire).

Three things to consider before having a strategic planning meeting:

  1. What is the organizational “appetite” for planning; should we be thinking in terms of a “planning meeting” or a “planning process and mindset?”
  2. Who needs to be at the table?
  3. What are the organizational and personal rewards and consequences for planning or not planning?

Brian Oken

Strategic Planning for the Rest of Us

If you’re like most of us, you’re leading a small to medium-sized business with limited resources, no time and a million things you need to get done. To get the best results, I believe you should narrow your focus, engage your team and make your efforts count.

But before you proceed with any group planning activities, you should:

  1. Be clear about what you want for your business. Do you want to grow market share, sell in the near future, build a legacy…?
  2. Have a competent management team in place.
  3. Decide whether you’re going to use an outside facilitator or Do-It-Yourself.

Here’s my approach to strategic planning:

Be focused and realistic. It’s impossible for any group to successfully accomplish more than 1 or 2 strategic goals a year because of all the associated projects and tasks. If you global-teamtry to do too many things at once, it will dilute your focus and compromise your results. Remember, you want to actually achieve these goals.

Generating great financial results is a team effort. Your plan and strategy (and the reasons for them) must be presented in such a way that everyone in your company can easily understand them. The plan must also connect daily activities to company goals. This is the only way your employees will feel connected to your overall vision. People need feedback and need to know their efforts are making a difference. Be transparent about your results and celebrate your successes!

Implementing a strategic plan is a methodical approach and an ongoing process to help you and your team work smarter and get better results. But in order for this to happen, your plan must drive the agenda of your staff meetings and be referenced and updated on a regular basis. Once you see how an effective plan can help you achieve your goals, I doubt you will ever operate without one again.

Steve Phillips

The Strategic Planning Meeting – Turbo charge your approach!

Strategic planning is by its nature, time consuming and hard! Assessing the environment and the company and then positioning and aligning resources takes tons of effort. So much effort that many Fortune 500 companies just don’t do a good job. And… it’s these companies that rarely hit their potential. But true strategic planning, (like what McKinsey or BCG does) can easily cost $1M or more. So what is the answer? How does a company do great planning at a small fraction of the cost? I think a turbo charged approach meets most everyone’s needs. It’s quick, uses your best people, gets everyone bought in to the implementation of the plan, builds-in an accountability system, and gets it mostly right. Think of it as a leveraged approach.

So what is the process for a turbo charged approach? It’s easy! I find it most useful to use a third party (not the CEO) to organize the process, collect and analyze the data, set the objectives and outcomes for the meeting (with the CEO) design the agenda, and to facilitate the meeting. In this way, people can do their work and the third party can do all the leg work. Then when it’s most important, everyone can meet and use their time together wisely.

So how to approach turbo charged strategic planning?

  1. Pick a third party to organize and drive the process. It can be a senior level consultant (like me 🙂 ) or an internal specialist but it should not be the CEO or President. They have much better things to do than the leg work that it will take to make the meeting effective.
  2. Collect valid data. Some folks like to collect both external data and internal data but some are fine with just picking the brains of their top folks on what we really need to do next to be most successful. (Remember, this is a leveraged “turbo charged” approach). I suggest the third party personally interview participants for about 60 minutes each. This should be plenty of time to assess what should be done next year.
  3. Create a specific and detailed agenda based upon what you learned from your data analysis. This should also include the specific outcomes and objectives for theteam lightbulb meeting and detailed agenda items. Too many times people just put topics on the agenda without ever fully considering: the type of item, the champion of the item, the outcome of the item, the process for the item, the time line for the item, the pre-work needed to be ready to efficiently use time, etc. Creating a great agenda is an art and time consuming. There are many considerations and it often takes much longer than anyone expects but when done right, huge amounts get accomplished in the meeting seamlessly and the group actually enjoys the process (and if I have my way, walk out of the room a more effective team. See #5).
  4. Use a professional facilitator for the meeting. I am not just saying this because I am one. I am saying it because it works a thousand times better than not having one! I would much prefer to be maximizing everyone’s time and using each person’s brain in the room rather than have one of those folks worrying about lunch, the air conditioning or making sure the conversation stays on point. A pro will pay for themselves a hundred times over.
  5. Use the strategic planning meeting to tune up your team. There is no question that teams outperform groups of individuals on complex tasks about 99% of the time. It used to be that we did “teambuilding”. Now I find the best way to build your team is while they are working on a real project. A professional will know how to do this seamlessly and effectively and at the same time you are setting up your plans for the future. It’s a win win win win. Better strategy, alignment, direction, and teamwork!
  6. Do quarterly follow-ups to create a built-in accountability system, adjust the plan as needed, speed up the team, and continue to develop toward high performance. It only takes about 4 hours for the quarterly meeting to meet its objectives but most groups try to leverage or maximize their precious little time together. High performing teams will rotate who is in charge of each meeting and give them total freedom to run the session where and when and how they see fit. They can be at client sites, hotels, new offices, wherever will work for the theme of the day. Most groups put in place a ¾ day or all day quarterly meeting and use the extra time to develop everyone, either with team building, leadership development, site tours, or expert panels or guest speakers. It is a day everyone looks forward to. And then once a year, usually 4th Q, we do a longer retreat to close the year formally and kick off the next, all in alignment with the executive committee and shareholders meetings.

So there you have it. A leveraged approach to your strategic planning. Pick a third party to run the process, collect and analyze data, create a specific and detailed agenda, hire a professional facilitator to run the meeting, and create a built-in accountability system that ensures people stay on track and in alignment. This process works like crazy, takes very little time, is not terribly expensive, uses your people where they are best and does not waste their time. It creates ownership and buy-in, decreases resistance and makes full implementation almost assured, creates strategic alignment, builds your team and helps them to achieve and stay at high performance. It gives you a full opportunity to participate as a leader, makes everyone smarter and leaves your organization aligned, agile, collaborative, and highly productive.

Paul David Walker

Understand Present Reality

There are flows of intelligence that manifest as multidimensional streams of cause and effect at every level of life. These flows have momentum and move forward with or without you. In business these flows are formed by market wants and needs. As you consider your business strategy, it is important to understand these flows and position your window of opportunitycompany to use these flows, like a surfer at the sweet spot of a wave, to move forward accurately. It is pointless to try to swim against the current. As you ride these flows forward you will be able to see opportunities as they emerge before your competitors. The objective is to find emerging trends that lead to a window of opportunity, as we do with our clients illustrated here.

The Right Plan For You

It is dangerous to develop a strategic plan that does not take into account your companies true capabilities. If a surfer chooses a wave that is too big for their skills they will be drowned or seriously hurt, the same is true of a company. It does not serve well to develop a business strategy that requires more resources, talent, or momentum than the company can realistically achieve. Find a place in the flow of your market that acerbates you, not one that will drown you and your company. Once you succeed and gain power and skill, develop a bigger plan.

Explosive Targeted Actions

After understanding your place in market trends, build a simple focused strategic plan. Then eliminate all activities that do not support that plan. Make sure every executive understands that this is not a drill. It is a road map for all actions. Paint a compelling picture of the outcomes at every stage in your plan and develop the courage to act. Teams with clear missions, a sense of urgency, the stillness of a master, and explosive targeted actions are the ones that will win in the 21st century. Those that hesitate will lose. To summarize:

  1. Understand present realitytarget road
  2. Develop the right plan for you, not a grandiose fantasy
  3. Commit to explosive targeted actions

 

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Larry Cassidy has been a Group Chair with Vistage International (formerly TEC International) for over 27 years. He currently works monthly with more than 50 Southern California executives, in three chief executive groups and one group of key executives, regarding all aspects of their businesses. Larry can be reached at hndicapper@gmail.com and 714-460-3090.

Marc Emmer is President of Optimize Inc. a management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning. Marc is the author of Intended Consequences, Design the Future you Wish to Create. Marc can be reached at marc@optimizeinc.net or at 661-296-2568.

Diana L. Ho is a seasoned facilitator/executive coach, percussionist, book-binder and kick-ass project manager. She began her career in retail merchandising and was Vice President and division head in a Los Angeles management consulting firm before founding Management Arts in 1995. Contact her at DianaHo@ManagementArts.com or 310-475-6563.

Brian Oken has a 20 year track record as a successful President/CEO, having effectively guided organizations through aggressive revenue growth to sustained profitability. Throughout his career, he has been involved in managing, operating and strategically positioning companies in the public and private/family sectors. He is well known for improving the profitability of organizations while also creating great places to work. Prior to opening his own firm, Brian spent two decades running manufacturing and service based businesses as President and CEO. His accomplishments include significantly growing income and cash, being listed on the Inc. 500/5000 fastest growing company list, engaging in international strategic alliances and the launching of numerous successful new products. CEOs, Presidents and business owners call on Brian as a trusted advisor to help grow their companies, make better decisions with greater returns and create the highest performing workplace cultures. Brian can be reached at boken@informalcowboy.com or 310-466-2804.

Steven Phillips, Ph.D., Founder and CEO. In his relentless effort to deliver uncommon results, Dr. Steven L. Phillips has built an enviable reputation for his senior team consulting service that focuses on results-driven off-sites for senior leadership, strategic planning, and executive leadership. Dr. Phillips has helped thousands of individuals and organizations establish new levels of teamwork, transformation, and performance, all specifically targeted toward bottom-line results. Dr. Phillips has extensive experience as an Organization Development professional. For many years he served as a SVP Chief Talent Officer for a privately held 1B company with 10,000 employees. As a consultant, he has worked with Senior Executives at Microsoft, PepsiCo, Viacom, Mattel, Boeing, and many others, helping individuals, teams, and entire organizations successfully implement change. Steve also works one-on-one with Presidents and CEOs helping them strategize for powerful and successful leadership. Additionally, Dr. Phillips creates customized team development activities for executive teams designed specifically to shorten cycle time to high performance. Dr. Phillips’ best-selling books are used in corporations throughout the world. His latest book, The Senior Leadership Off-site Playbook, is soon to be released. Steven can be reached at sphillips@phillipsassociates.net or 310-456-3532.

Paul David Walker, Founder & CEO of Genius Stone Partners was part of building the first leadership firm to align Strategy, Structure and Culture, and has been a business leadership adviser to the CEO’s of Fortune 500 and midsize companies for over 25 years. He is the author of Unleashing Genius: Leading Yourself, Teams and Corporations, two other books, and will publish a new book called Invent Your Future. He has succeeded by unleashing the genius of the people around him and is known to be a visionary leader and master of collaboration. Paul can be reached at pauldavidwalker@geniusstone.com or 562-233-7861.

 

Inspiration and Techniques for Building Championship-Level Performance
Lighthouse clients have one thing in common – all are committed to boosting the performance of their organizations. So, we are pleased to introduce our clients and friends to Boaz Rauchwerger — speaker, trainer, author and consultant.  We highly recommend Boaz to you. Ask him to deliver one of his inspirational programs at your next executive retreat or strategic planning session.

One of our favorite Boaz programs is “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”. It helps you build on the strengths of everyone’s individual differences. This program helps you discover five steps to get everyone to join the building crew and resign from the wrecking crew. This is a very powerful and inspirational program that receives rave reviews every time.

• Master five techniques to inspire others to perform like champions
• Six recognition techniques including the powerful “good finder” program
• Learn four ways that your team can gain a competitive advantage
• Identify the three prerequisites for maximizing the team’s results
• Learn the two forms of keeping a daily score so everyone wins

Who is Boaz?
Over a 30-year span, Boaz, author of The Tiberias Transformation – How To Change Your Life In Less Than 8 Minutes A Day, has conducted thousands of seminars internationally on goal setting and high achievement. He has taught over half a million people how to supercharge their lives, their careers and how to add Power to their goals. His innovative program, for individuals and corporations, is a simple and highly effective process for high achievement. He was voted Speaker of the Year by Vistage, an international organization of CEOs and business owners. How to contact Boaz – Want more information on Boaz’s Power Program, including “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”? Just click here and we’ll be in touch.

 

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code and Cracking the Business Code please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We are in Forbes!

forbes imageWe have exciting news to share!

Forbes just ran one of our articles entitled, How Robots Will Change the Future of Marketing.

Please feel free to pass it along for those that you feel could benefit from the information. You can also read the article in full on our website here.

How Robots Will Change the Future of Small Business

space robotBy Dana Borowka

Are robot employees in your future? Robots for small business have moved from science fiction to science fact.

Science fiction author, Isaac Asimov introduced The Three Laws of Robotics in his 1942 book, I, Robot (the basis for a 2004 film adaptation starring Will Smith.) Asimov’s Three Laws are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such actions would interfere with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

For a small business, I would like to add three more laws:

4. A robot must not call in sick.
5. A robot must not request a vacation day.
6. A robot must not ask for a raise.

When most people think robots in business they naturally form a mental picture of manufacturing industries such as automotive, electronics and consumer goods. However, small non-manufacturing businesses with fewer than 100 employees and 10 robots or less represent a growing segment of today’s market for robots.

What Exactly Is a Small Business Robot?

In practical terms, a robot usually refers to a machine which can be electronically programmed to carry out a variety of physical tasks or actions. The word robot can refer to both physical robots and virtual software, but the latter are usually referred to as bots. There is no consensus on which machines qualify as robots but there is general agreement among experts, and the public, that robots tend to do some or all of the following: move around, operate a mechanical limb, sense and manipulate their environment, and exhibit intelligent behavior — especially behavior which mimics humans or other animals.

The International Organization of Standardization (ISO) sets a standard for what constitutes a robot. ISO defines an industrial robot as being an “automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose manipulator” that is “programmable in three or more axes.”

However, a robot is more than a mere programmable machine like a Mr. Coffee. According to Majid Abai, Chief Sherpa of the IT and robot consulting firm, The Abai Group, to qualify as a robot requires a mechanical component and some level of programmable intelligence.

Abai is the founder and CEO of The Abai Group, Inc. He is a senior executive with a 30-year track record of building, transforming, and leading domestic and international organizations. Majid is focused on innovation, strategy, and execution in tech companies and IT departments. He speaks to technical and non-technical executives on how an effective IT organization and robotics could help increase business efficiency, revenues, and customer loyalty while reducing the costs for the company.

Abai says a true robot includes “the capability to add analysis to its tasks, not just serving as an automatically operated machine that replaces human effort.” Therefore ATM machines are not robots that replace bank tellers, and not because they do not resemble human beings in appearance or perform functions in a humanlike manner. A device that automatically performs complicated and often repetitive tasks is not what Abai would call a robot.

food robotBy Abai’s definition, a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner, would qualify. A Roomba features a set of basic sensors that help it perform tasks. For instance, the Roomba is able to change direction on encountering obstacles, detect dirty spots on the floor, and detect steep drops to keep it from falling down stairs. It uses two independently operating wheels that allow 360 degree turns. Additionally, it can adapt to perform other more “creative” tasks using an embedded computer.

Forget the cyborg imagery of sci-fi too. A Roomba, for instance, does not have to look like a domestic servant with a vacuum cleaner, like Rosie the robot from the 1960s animated TV show, The Jetsons. While a robot can be a machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (such as walking or talking) of a human being, that is not the true difference.

Future Small Biz Jobs for Robots

Robots are best applied in any fixed, purely repetitive task where the motions involved are predictable and routine. These include the four Ps of picking, placing, packaging and painting, as well as some forms of assembly, ironing and welding. Compared to humans, robots are faster, have almost unlimited endurance, are more predictable or just provide outright superior precision. They are also very useful in jobs that are too dangerous for humans, such as handling containers of molten metal in foundries or radioactive substances at nuclear power plants.

Fast food workers, tax preparers and cashiers will be replaced by robots in the future. Here are just some of the other ways small business will use robots.

Nurses and Healthcare Worker. According to MSN Innovation writer Mark Hattersley, the Japanese are taking auto line production and delivering it straight to the hospital bedside. HStar Technologies is now taking orders for its Robotic Nursing Assistant (RoNA) and Serbot, and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University are putting the final touches on a nursebot called Pearl. According to the sales brochure, RoNA is a “stable, highly mobile, dexterous, autonomous, bi-manual humanoid robotic nursing assistant. Equipped with highly dexterous robotic arms of payload up to 10 lbs.” The Serbot is designed to monitor and transport elderly patients with limited mobility. Pearl even has built-in telepresence functionality, which essentially allows the patient to talk through the robot to a physician or nurse. The nurse or physician can control the robot remotely using a tablet device. When not being controlled remotely the robot performs routine caretaking tasks and checks on the status of patients.

Attorneys and Paralegals. The rise of the machines in the legal world is coming. According to Jordan Weissman of The Atlantic, attorneys have employed manual keyword searches to sort through the gigabytes of information involved in these cases. Now more firms are beginning to use a technology known as “predictive coding,” which essentiallywalking robot automates the process at one-tenth the cost. “Several studies have shown that predictive coding outperforms human reviewers, though by how much is unclear. A widely cited 2011 article in the Richmond Journal of Law and Technology analyzed research on document review and found that humans unearthed an average of about 60 percent of relevant documents, while predictive coding identified an average of 77 percent.”

Truck Drivers and Chauffeurs. An autonomous car, or robot car, is an autonomous vehicle capable of fulfilling the human transportation capabilities of a traditional car. As an autonomous vehicle, it is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. Today robotic cars exist mainly as prototypes and demonstration systems. The Google driverless car is a project by Google that involves developing technology for autonomous cars. The software powering Google’s cars is called Google Chauffeur. The U.S. state of Nevada passed a law in 2011, permitting the operation of autonomous cars in Nevada. Florida became the second state to allow the testing of autonomous cars on public roads and California became the third state to legalize the use of self-driven cars for testing purposes as of September 2012 when Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law at Google HQ in Mountain View. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder followed suit by signing legislation allowing the testing of automated or self-driving vehicles on Michigan’s roads in December 2013, but this legislation requires a human in the driver seat at all times while the vehicle is in use. For now.

Journalists and Copywriters. According to The Guardian, Forbes.com already uses an artificial intelligence platform provided by the technology company Narrative Science to generate automated news from live data sets and content harvested from previous articles. What makes it possible is that business news content tends to be formulaic and data-heavy, listing places, stocks and company names. The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, uses robots to report on earthquakes: the organization relies on an algorithm that pulls in data on magnitude, place and time from a US Geological Survey site. NPR has reported on the use of robot sportswriters producing coverage of games.

Customer Service and Marketing Reps. Why outsource to India when you can use a robot instead? Another area where businesses use robots is in their marketing to consumers. Technology companies produce robots to demonstrate new devices or inventions and to create a sense of innovation and progress. Robots are part of interactive displays at trade shows where they compete with more traditional marketing tools for attendees’ attention.

Call Center Staffers and Outbound Callers. Every business needs some form of telecommunications infrastructure to communicate with suppliers and customers. Robots can simplify a business’ call center and handle incoming phone or Internet traffic to keep the channels of communication open and running smoothly. Automated calling robots place prerecorded calls, including appointment reminders and customer satisfaction surveys. Likewise, an automated call center uses a programmable interface to greet callers and direct them to the appropriate information or department.

Inventory Takers. Robots also perform inventory tasks for businesses with large warehouses or sorting facilities. Inventory robots are essentially driver-less vehicles that can navigate a warehouse and select specific pieces of merchandise, bringing them to employees who enter product requests into an automated system. Inventory robots save time and also reduce the likelihood of human error that can cause inconsistencies in inventory tracking.

Entertainers and Performers. Another class of robots used in business are those that entertain audiences. Robots and robotic displays appear in storefronts, in theme park attractions and in television and film programs. Some of these robots are skillfully crafted to resemble real people while others represent fantastical creatures or mechanical robots from a fictional world. Robot characters populate science fiction narratives while special effects robots endure hazardous conditions that would be unsafe for human or animal actors.

But Who Takes Care of the Robots?

Typically, many small business leaders today are not interested in using robots for three reasons: expense, lack of expertise, and fear. All of these will be overcome. As the price of robots continue to fall and functionality continues to rise, the robot employees are coming. The jump in productivity will demand it.

windup man robotThe answer to the lack of expertise and fear objections is to hire the right employees to help with your robotics. Without a doubt, a tough challenge for small business managers with robots is consistently hiring quality people to take care of the robots. These devices need to be set-up, programmed, monitored and repaired. No benefit comes without a price.

Hiring the wrong people to handle the robots will create many problems: reduced time to market, a loss of market share, higher turnover rates among productive humans on the payroll, lost management time, lost customers to the competition and the tremendous opportunity cost of unmet sales goals.

To improve any hiring decision, many companies have found they need to crack the personality code by using robust personality testing. Personality tests are a standard recruiting practice for many branches of the government and military, as well as many Fortune 500 companies when assessing potential hires for key or critical positions. This is not guesswork or an untested science.

Therefore, when hiring robot handlers the secret is to cultivate top performers through a three-step process: assess candidates with an in-depth work style and personality assessments, screen candidates for behavioral tendencies, and manage more effectively based on behavioral styles. The goal is to base your hiring and managing decisions on the best data that can be collected about the best personalities to work with the robots. The same you do for any employee.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. They also have a full service consulting division that provides domestic and international interpersonal coaching, executive onboarding, leadership training, global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training, operational productivity improvement, 360s and employee surveys as well as a variety of workshops. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He provides workshops on hiring, managing for the future, and techniques to improve interpersonal communications that have a proven ROI. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s,  workshops, and executive & employee coaching.  Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

Growth Takes Resources, How Fast Do You Want to Grow?

By Jim Canfield

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]T[/dropcaps]here is ultimately only one reason to grow your business; to increase its value. Business leaders like you everyday are entering into, swimming amongst or exiting out of some stage of their company’s growth. You don’t have to be a Wall Street resident or even an expert to recognize the daily stock man growing moneyprice fluctuations speculating what will be become the next stage for an enterprise. Do they predict booming growth based on the current track record or are they raising red flags indicating someone or something is potentially locking that growth potential down? Whether the stakeholders in your business are private or public, unlocking any door to a stage of growth is an overwhelming and gargantuan task. However, nothing can create value faster than actual or visualized organizational growth.

I have had the good fortune of watching hundreds of companies and their growth patterns as they attempted to unlock the potential growth envisioned by the CEO and supporting management team. While each organization possessed similar desires to achieve their projected results, the actual outcomes I witnessed varied widely. Some started out well enough, full of enthusiasm and confidence only to lose focus and momentum eventually forcing them to a plateau. Others, while starting slow, built steam but failed to push hard enough to create the required breakthrough. What caused these best intentions to disintegrate into disappointing outcomes?

One thing was apparent, each organization subscribed to the same two notions:

  1. The CEO and his/her supporting team “wanted to take the company to next level”, yet they were unaware of what their current level was and therefore couldn’t identify the next one they wanted to achieve.
  2. This same leadership team also declared that “our business is different” and for that reason the hurdles they must conquer to get to the “next” level cannot parallel any other organizations.

What are these levels to which they alluded and was each company truly all that different?

The various levels that the management teams alluded to can be summarized into what I term as The Four Stages of Growth: Start-Up, Initial Growth, Early Growth and Mature 4 stagesGrowth.

After spending thousands of hours with CEOs and their executive teams, you would think that these theoretical differences between one organization and the next each attempting to advance would be crystal clear. This was not the case. Instead five issues creating hurdles to the next growth stage emerged over and over again; People, Processes, Profitability, Personal Leadership and Planning.

This concept is the basis of the GrowthSpeed formula for company growth. At each level of growth, the five hurdles appear in a slightly different form. The company must successfully negotiate and leap over each of these five hurdles to move on to the next level of growth. The inability to make a transition over one of these hurdles forces the envisioned growth to stall at the current level. The company must then repeat the attempt at that hurdle until it is conquered.growthspeed formula

Imagine the thoroughbreds that compete in hunter-jumper competitions. They are confronted with a series of hurdles or gates as they negotiate the course. Each hurdle presents a different type of challenge; some are tall, others wide, several hurdles in sequence, while others require a landing in water. When a hurdle is not completed it may be due to a horse and rider which fail to attempt a hurdle and when part of it is hit, it is not counted as complete. The horse and rider are penalized and in some cases they must attempt the hurdle again.

As I mentioned, these hurdles show up in different forms at each growth stage. The Start-Up level is characterized by the desire to launch a new idea or concept into a viable commercial venture. This can be the emergence of a new company, the distinction of a new operating division and/or the development of a new product or service offering. The focus is on survival. The predominant activity is proving the concept by generating sales revenue. Finding a customer becomes paramount. This phase is often characterized by the founding team exclaiming, “we got the business, now what do we do?”

During the Start-Up stage, the People Hurdle is focused on creating assistance for the founder. The Process Hurdle is focused on identification and documentation of effective processes to provide clarity for new team members that join the organization in the future. The Profitability Hurdle in this stage is focused on staying afloat as the new venture attempts to sustain itself. This often requires outside funding, capital infusion or income sources from the owner. The Personal Leadership Hurdle places the founding leaders each in the role of the Champion. The leaders must be the Champion for the business, the concept and the value customers will receive. The Planning Hurdle represents the need for a business plan that can effectively articulate the value proposition and the opportunities associated with the new venture. This document will be the looking glass through which prospective investors, partners, customers and employees will determine whether they see themselves as part of this company’s future.

Each one of these hurdles represents a critical juncture for the organization. If they are not successfully negotiated and conquered, the company must repeat the attempt until the hurdle is crossed or risk their possible demise.

As a company navigates their way through the stages, each of the five hurdles is clearly present, but manifested in different ways. As you enter the next stage, not only do you need to recognize their new appearance, your arsenal to conquer them will also likely change. Think of the garden enthusiast who desires to make an empty patch of land into a vibrant and bizperson plantingbountiful vegetable garden. First they must plant the seeds and during their start-up growth, snails appear. By using the latest and greatest repellent, the gardener kills the snails. As the seeds continue their growth and the garden begins to flourish, crabgrass appears. It doesn’t look like a snail, it doesn’t act like a snail same but it is a hurdle nonetheless. The gardener can’t use the snail repellent this time; crabgrass is its own animal and requires a different solution. You get the point.

Regardless of the size of your business, or the type of business you are in – your desire to advance through the four stages is most likely present. And therefore, so is the inevitable emergence of the five hurdles. Take a look around, what growth level are you at right now? How are the hurdles expressed in your organization? Most importantly, what level do you want to be at and how can the GrowthSpeed formula get you over those hurdles?

A client company launching a new line of business faced these hurdles recently. While successfully negotiating several hurdles, two presented obstacles. The founder/CEO was still in the role of Champion and hadn’t transitioned to Leader. He found it difficult to recruit, retain and develop new salespeople because “no one knew the business like he did.” The organization also lacked clarity in the identification and reliable application of its processes. What symptoms did the organization possess to reach this diagnosis?

First, It was obvious the company was growing, yet employees felt they were working harder and accomplishing less. There was significant time wasted on re-doing tasks and explaining unsatisfactory work which was blamed on inadequate processes. Second, virtually all new business development was still being accomplished by the founder/CEO. This put the organization at risk of being totally dependent on one person for growth.

As a result of this diagnosis, new strategic plans were developed including key objectives for developing new revenue growth by recruiting and developing additional sales professionals. An operational plan was documented to improve effectiveness of existing processes while redesigning others. The key to these changes and the subsequent growth acceleration was person holding cloud over treethe application of the GrowthSpeed formula to identify the obstacles to growth and then implement the plans to address them.

Every organization I have worked with has been confronted by these hurdles as they navigated their own desired course of growth. Their ability to identify and subsequently conquer the hurdles is what truly differentiated them from each other after all. If you would like to identify your current stage of growth and what might be holding you back, contact Jim Canfield at 858-449-4207 or JimC@ExecutiveForums.com.

Jim Canfield is the CEO of Renaissance Executive Forums, a world leading membership organization for company CEOs and business owners. He enjoys the opportunity to provide programs, mentorship and inspired connections that develop CEOs and management teams, to drive bottom line business results and enhance overall quality of life. His focus throughout all that he does centers on supporting and inspiring business leaders who are committed to growth and achievement. He has worked with inspiring clients that include small-to-medium size organizations and incredible thought-leaders such as Tony Hsieh from Zappos.com, Chip Conley, author of “Peak,” and founder of JDV Hotels and more. His years of coaching and working closely with CEOs and their teams has been extremely rewarding and has over 5,000 hours of coaching and worked with more than 300 CEOs. His approach brings a unique blend of extensive experience in leadership theory coupled with practical real-world experience building several companies. Providing clarity and insight into the unique leadership roles and responsibilities of CEOs, business owners, senior executives and managers, he is able to make moving to the next level a reality. Jim can be reached at 858-449-4207 or JimC@ExecutiveForums.com. Contributing Author for this article: Kristy Cornell.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.