Customer Focused + Results Driven = Success

Success math problem

I’ve been working in my selected field for many, many years.  For at least the last ten of those years I have been in an owner/senior leadership position within my organization.  Over those years I have learned countless lessons on the do’s and don’ts of entrepreneurship but I’d like to discuss two of some of the most important ones today. The first one I’d like to discuss is a commitment to being customer focused. I’ve found that one of the biggest keys to success is an absolute commitment to customer service.  For more than 10 years I‘ve given every customer I’ve ever had my cell phone number and told him or her they can always call the owner of the company; and I have never regretted giving them that option. Customer service is often the easiest thing you can provide and the thing they will remember most. Repeatable quality is important because your customers will always remember your failures more readily than your success.

If you do have a customer service set back it is critical to immediately be accountable. Accountability is critical in every facet of leadership but with customers, not being accountable will result in a lost customer that never comes back. Real leaders own their mistakes, learn from them and move forward. Occasionally you can even profit on the heels of a customer issue because it highlights an opportunity for improvement. These opportunities are the lifeblood of the entrepreneur.

Another important lesson I’ve learned is that being successful isn’t just being able to spot the opportunity in the mist of trouble but it is being able to tease out the problems you will encounter along the way and work with others to take the data available and make the right decision. Often this means making decisions without all of the information. Entrepreneurial activities often require working in uncharted territory with less than perfect information; this makes ensuring the analysis you have that much more important.

Once you have the information necessary to make the decision or reach the point at which either no more information will be forth coming or where the value of making a decision in the near term outweighs any further certainty in awaiting additional information it is critical to act decisively. Not making a decision is making a decision.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Leadership: the dangers of “yes-men”

Leadership and diversity

Spock – Not a “yes-man”

One thing I have learned unequivocally over the course of my career is the importance of diversity in achieving success. Leaders should be skeptical of too much agreement and actively work to bring in people that complement rather than duplicate their own viewpoints, backgrounds and beliefs. This diversity leads to an organization that is better prepared to handle complex challenges and more likely to develop a diverse set of innovative solutions to challenges. Innovation cannot truly flourish when you are surrounded by “yes-men.”

Of course with this diversity also often comes differences of opinion with regard to decisions making and other aspects of organizational leadership. I have learned over time that in order to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce you must be able to work within your team and organization to ensure that the inevitable conflicts are resolved in a manner that lends itself to the ability to achieve success as an organization.

This can often mean working within your organization and teams to develop the capability to handle this type of tension. The ability to develop others and to mentor and improve those in a manner that enables them to provide better leadership to their own teams and peers is a core building block of developing a high performing organization. It is also a key component of team building as a whole. The ability to develop others and the openness to enable others to facilitate your own development is a core component enabling the team as a whole to accomplish its objectives.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Critical leadership skills in uncertain times

6805754462_1a60ab513aThe current environment including the government shutdown, sequestration, and a slow recovery from a long recession have all made the need for real leadership an even more critical resource for organizations than ever.  It’s not just the technical capabilities or their ability to execute that becomes so important, although that is of course critically important because mistakes in this environment are even more punishing; it’s the other factors that become even more important. It’s the ability of leadership to inspire hope and productivity in the work force.  It’s their ability to assure the workforce that the organization will weather the storm, that it’s headed the right direction, and to be able to say that both confidently and honestly.

I believe it’s also important to have transformational leadership in times like these.  People that aren’t afraid to see things form another perspective, that have the courage to think outside the box, and have a willingness to pivot the business in order to ensure continued success.  It is in these times that it’s critically important to have somebody at the helm of your organization or team who is able to inspire confidence, lead change, and manage execution flawlessly; not just at the top but at every level.

As we continue to move thru these uncertain times, I think it’s important for each of those leaders to reach down into their organizations and work to instill real leadership qualities. They need to talk about those things in terms of helping people understand why those qualities are important and how they help the organization build as a whole towards success.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

The importance of being likeable

likeable

I was reading a blog post by the founder of Hub Spot the other day. One of the things that jumped out at me from the article was when he was talking about startups and how everything you need to get your startups going isn’t necessarily everything that you learned in business school. He was sort of making fun of all the complex models that you learn about in business school and how they aren’t necessarily as applicable as being able to read your bank account successfully, trying new things, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.  All of it was really good and worth reading but what really jumped out at me was he when he talks about the importance of being likable. It really hit home with me because to some degree, as a leader, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have tough times, especially in a startup environment. So I think it really is important that you be likable.

You’re going to need to suffer through some times that aren’t ideal and you’re going to need people to believe in you. More importantly, you need people who want to succeed with you and want to play a part of helping you and the rest of the team get over the hump. I think that the importance of likability is undersold to a large degree within today’s marketplace. You read so many articles about the next big way for marketing your company, the next big way of inspiring innovation within your team, and things like that but I think he had it right saying without the likability factor those next big things are much harder to achieve. It was so simple which is maybe why we don’t think about it but I don’t think you can understate how important it is in terms of inspiring real results. Being likeable is a lot of the grease that gets things done. It is the stuff that helps people get through the hard times and I think that’s really important.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Make somebody’s day and show your appreciation

Make soebodys day blog

No matter who you are I think it’s always nice to get a compliment especially if it comes out of the blue and you weren’t expecting it. Somebody says something nice and it can just change your whole day.  For the better part of the last week or so I’ve been working pretty hard on things and I’ve had my head down. So when I had somebody kind of unexpectedly say something really nice it just completely brightened up my entire day and it’s sort of carried forward the rest of the week. It’s amazing; you can have all the self confidence in the world, you can believe in what you’re doing, and it’s still nice to hear someone say, “Hey you’re doing a great job” or “I believe in what you’re doing.”  A simple compliment can make a lot of the time and effort that you spend worthwhile.

I think the biggest reminder in that for executives and managers is that sometimes you got staff that work really hard all the time. It’s not that they’re not doing anything extraordinary they’re just doing the great things that they do all the time at all times. It’s easy to forget that what they’re doing really is exceptional.  So I think you almost have to file a reminder away somewhere to make sure that you don’t overlook the everyday excellence. You need to take time to compliment people for the great things they do every day.  I know I’ve talked about it a few different times on here about making sure that you give credit and provide feedback both positive and negative. Particularly making sure that you provide positive feedback where it’s applicable but I think it’s something that’s really easy to forget the power that a quick little bit of positive feedback or compliment can have on a person.

Having that occurrence the other day just reminded me of how important that is to everybody, no matter who you are. It makes a difference, raises your performance, re-energizes you, and I think it’s something that everybody should try to do on a regular basis. So if you haven’t done it recently and you’ve got people sitting in your office today that really deserve a compliment for all their hard work, make sure you take the time to walk by, pick up the phone or get on a conference line and say thanks for all the hard work. Make sure to shoot them a quick note because it really makes a difference for people to be recognized for all the hard work they put in every day. Anyway I’d love to hear back from people and get their thoughts on things and if you want to call out somebody in particular for all their hard work and effort feel free to here.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Working: In times of tragedy

I think most people here today, you got up this morning and your heart just goes out to the people of Boston and people that are directly and personally effected by yesterday’s events. It’s hard, if not impossible, to think about yesterday’s tragedy without thinking of all of the things that we’ve had to endure in our recent past and continue all the way back to 9-11 where we’ve just been profoundly affected by these national events.  For most of us today, we had to get up, get ready to go to the office, and continue to perform our everyday tasks in the face of heavy hearts and thoughts that might be other places. We’re not thinking about the spreadsheet that we’re looking at, the document that we’re working on, or the call we’re about to do.  It’s just hard to think and execute on the mundane and trivial things when you’ve got something like this going on in the country. So I think particularly as a manager, a leader, or team member, you should keep a few things in mind today and the days to come.

It’s in times like these it’s important to be sensitive to the people most affected by this and the extended network of those people, some of whom may be in your office. The Boston Marathon attracts people from all over the world and it’s not hard to believe that somebody in your office was there, had family there, had a friend there, and was touched in some way personally by this.  I think that it’s very important to recognize that in some way if you know that it is happening. You need to provide an environment that allows people to step forward if they want to acknowledge some sort of personal connection to this so that you can make allowances for that person.

This is a difficult time for people in this country because it makes people call into question their safety on a daily basis and makes them call into question the types of choices that they’re going to make.  Here in DC we’ve got a lot going on this weekend. There’s going to be heightened security and there’s going to be a lot of extra thought put into what you may or may not do this weekend on the basis of what happened at the Boston Marathon.  So I think that it’s something that we have to recognize is going to be a presence in our lives for some time to come. As such, we need to be very conscious of its effect on potentially the people that we work with. You need to let people be given the opportunity to put themselves in that camp so we can give them that extra consideration around things. This can be done by just a simple matter of saying, “I recognize that something terrible has happened in the country and I want to make sure that everyone here, our hearts, minds, and thoughts go out to the people of Boston. If anyone here needs some time or wants to talk to me about a situation that they have with regard to  that please feel free to do so and if there’s anything we need to do to accommodate that just let us know.”

Something that simple that allows people to either opt into the opportunity to have a little bit different interaction on the basis of this tragedy or opt out.  It’s very well possible that somebody does have a personal connection but they have too many different emotions going on right now to want to deal with it in a public way or with the team. So by virtue of that and them not saying anything, it’s a tacit sort of way of putting out there that they don’t want to have that discussion and you can respect that as well.  I think it’s best to lead with something like that as a manager or leader so that you give people the opportunity to opt out because some people are just going to want to be left to their own devices. I think you want to have the infrastructure in place to care for people when they need it as they need it but you also need to be respectful of people’s wants and desires.  Those are my thoughts. I’m very curious what other people have to say on this topic, ways that they’ve dealt with things. I know that in this area in Washington DC 9-11 shaped a lot of the thinking around it and I’m curious what other people think.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Vanilla Ice had it right: STOP, Collaborate and Listen

Vanilla Ice

One of the things that I’ve realized over the last few years is that despite the fact that I’ve gained more experience, I’ve done more formal educations, taken trainings, and built a lot of personal capabilities, I seem to have trended towards more collaborative decision making. I now spend more time talking to people about decisions before I make them then I ever had previously. On some level I think that this is counterintuitive. You would think that as you gain more skill in something and you begin to understand some things better that you would probably spend less time speaking with others before you make a decision. My assumption would be that you have the expertise to make those decisions yourself but that hasn’t been the case.

What I’ve found is that as I learn more, I’ve also learned more about what I don’t know. I’ve come to value other people’s perspectives a lot more. As you get into making complex business decisions, I think you have to fight continually against your own biases. I for one thing know that I have a tendency to be extraordinarily optimistic about everything. If I don’t have other people there to balance me, I might make decisions that are based on my tendency to look at the big picture and make a decisions that maybe doesn’t take into account some of the things that might go wrong. So I need people to help balance me in that sense.

It’s amazing to me sometimes how differently someone will look at a problem just based on their past experience and I think that’s something that people really need to recognize. So much of our own decision making framework is influenced by decisions we made in the past and the results of those decisions. I think it’s important to be really careful about the lessons that you’ve learned from past decisions because you don’t really have the scope of experience to understand if you’re taking away the right things. If you, based on a set of factors, decided to invest in a project and that project turned out poorly, you might say that if presented with those facts again you won’t make the same decision. The problem with this is that the last time could have been a unique set of circumstances where things didn’t work out. It could be that in most cases those same set of circumstances would have led to a smashing success. So I guess what I’m saying is that you’ve got to be careful about the lessons that you’ve learned  from the past because they’re based on very unique sets of circumstances and not always going to lead to the same destination.  This is where having a strong collaboration base comes in handy.

You have a very strong tool at your disposal if you maintain a network of people that you can talk with about things and you’re able to bring in their lessons learned and their decisions making frameworks. I know that when I look at a problem or decision that I’m making I immediately begin to narrow down the field of approaches to solving that problem or addressing that decision. Again this process is based on the things that are in my personal tool kit, what my experiences have been, and the types of approaches that have been successful for me.  I don’t narrow down my approaches by explicit decision, but simply because I don’t have them. So I end up leaving out a whole host of possibilities that otherwise would have been there had I spoken to people who had a broader experience. So having the opportunity to collaborate with more people has allowed me to take in a much greater set of possible approaches than I would have otherwise considered.

So all of those things have pushed me to develop this more collaborative decision making process than I previously had. Even though on the surface at least with my growing experience and expertise I should be able to make more of those decisions without outside help, I’ve actually trended more towards that collaborative process. I really do think that there are a lot of great things that come with experience, a better understanding of situations, and issues but one of the things that you can lose if you’re not careful is that broader spectrum of experience. I think that’s a real trap that senior executives need to avoid.  They need to be careful on how heavily they weight their own experience because you may be closing off a world of possibilities that otherwise you’d be able to take advantage of.  So I’m a big believer in reaching out to your personal network, establishing a group of trusted advisors within your circle of friends, and colleagues so that you can have somebody to bounce things off of and get access to that broader range of experience. As always I’m very interested in what other people’s experiences are in this area and what they think.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.