Archives for February 2015

The Growth Challenged Player: Warning Signs

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Most leaders like to talk about growth.  Few will do what’s necessary to make it more than a concept.

There are plenty of reasons for why businesses don’t grow:

  • Industry is flat to declining
  • Too many financial constraints (tight margins, leverage, lack of capital for investment)
  • Lack of talent
  • Competition is dominant

The list can be endless.  But at it’s core it is more basic than business constraints.

Growth begins and ends with INDIVIDUALS and their ability to grow themselves.  

This is ESPECIALLY the case if you happen to work in one of those “non-sexy” businesses that are tied to industries that measure growth in single digits vs double or triple digits.

For leaders wired for growth, there may be no MORE frustrating profile than people that are simply unable or unwilling to grow THEMSELVES.  If those people are in a key role, this can not persist for long or something will need to “give.”

Many people are not ready for dynamic growth.  Why?  It isn’t easy.  It creates CHANGE.  Some people flat out struggle with change.

There are clear warning signs for people that will struggle with a growth orientation.  One or two aren’t a problem, but if the person starts checking off multiple warning signs, leaders better be prepared to have a difficult conversation.

The “Growth Challenged” Warning Signs

If they are Growth Challenged…….they very well MAY:

  • LOVE their routine.  Same route to work.  Same activities.  Same check-list.  Same closing time.  Same starting time.  They value ROUTINE and the certainty it creates OVER the uncertainty of change.  Challenging routine is a no no.

  • Invest VERY LITTLE in themselves.  No books, newsletters, You Tube videos, courses, etc have been consumed and assimilated in MONTHS trying to take their game up a few notches.  Because that is a break from routine, or countless other excuses not to grow (no time, too busy, etc).

  • Never make noise.  Never involved in conflict that results from trying to push the envelope, get better, break things, bring people together and build a team.  Sometimes rumbles are good.

  • Always involved  in the same conversations, vs developing new ways to conquer new paths.

  • Stuck to old processes that worked in a stable world but add little value in a dynamic world.

  • Defensive when receiving feedback.  As if their purpose is to protect their own image vs. figuring out how to grow.

  • Never SEEK feedback.  Too risky, or why bother?

  • Don’t ask for help when they hit road-blocks.

  • New challenges always need to be handled by someone else…..

  • Cling to the past and may even question the fundamental premise of growth: “Is this even better?”

There are natural skeptics in the world, or people that like to play devil’s advocate with every new idea.  That doesn’t mean they are anti-growth.  These could be some of the greatest assets in building a growth mindset in companies.  That’s not what the growth challenged player is about…

Leaders need to understand if their players are capable and WILLING to grow.  

If there are multiple warning signs, they need to have a difficult conversation that makes the concern clearly known.  These are not conversations where you sugar coat.  If Growth is important and a key player exhibits anti growth tendencies (and multiple warning signs), they need to clearly understand this.

The leader has a choice if they do not want to confront the warning signs with the Anti-Growth Players:  Don’t confront it.  Continue to be frustrated.  Give yourself a nice little barrier on your marathon.  ANKLE WEIGHTS.

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A Leadership Challenge: Stay Humble. Hustle Hard

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Have you ever met a great leader that doesn’t exude confidence?  Probably not.

But sometimes, like all great strengths, confidence can be over-played and it can creep into…

  • Confidence’s twin evil brother:  Arrogance

  • Confidence’s twin evil cousin:   Cockiness

I would venture to guess that Confidence, Arrogance, Cockiness are adjectives that are somewhat common among C-suite leaders in the eyes of those that matter most:  The people they are supposed to lead.  Ask anyone that has gone through a formal self assessment where peers weigh into various leadership characteristics and they can tell you how humbling the process can be.

Which brings me to another great graphic a friend shared with me recently.

stay humble hustle hard


If you believe that TRUST is critical to sound relationships, than what better characteristic could describe a leader than…


Not the typical word you hear when your thinking about titans of industry right?

But it IS possible to be humble, and also a driver with a healthy dose of confidence.

The great Tom Peters has 2 great concepts that inject a dose of humility in every leader

  • WDYT:   Ask What do you think?  Then shut up and listen.

  • MBWA:  Management by wandering around.  Get out of the ivory tower.

If both aren’t done daily, it will never become part of the leader’s DNA.

I’ll take this concept one step further.

How many mistakes does a leader make in a given month?  I’m not talking about simple “errors.”  I’m talking about real mistakes, that if we had the chance to go back in time and un-wind a decision or series of events, a better outcome would have resulted.  If you are in the business of growth and pushing the envelope, then there should be a handful by definition.

Team “Contact” Drill:
  • Pull your management team into a lessons learned session of the mistake.
  • Take responsibility, OWN it.  Explain what the person in the mirror could have personally done differently to create a better outcome.
  • Ask the team for their feedback, agreement, disagreement, other perspectives.
  • Ask the team for their thoughts, ideas, concerns on the road ahead.
  • Make some commitments
  • Follow-through

There’s no magic formula.  But it’s a fact that leaders don’t do enough listening.  That’s unfortunate, and it creates an environment that does not get the most of their teams talent.

There’s a thing about listening:  It’s a skill.  It takes practice.

Leadership is a CONTACT SPORT.  However, sometimes the “contact” is not outward, it needs to be directed to yourself, with the people you lead.  Thick skin optional, open mind mandatory. 

The great Jim Collins has written extensively about this trait and he describes it as “Level 5 Leadership” in Good to Great.  Here’s a great HBR primer on the topic:

Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve

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Too Much? Over the Top & All In

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Questions are magic for jump starting the mind.

A great, yet simple question came from one of my colleagues in the context of  developing a series of ideas:

“Is it too much?”

Meaning, is it too much of a break from tradition, outside of our comfort zone and those that will be touched  by it?

I bet everyone asks themselves sub-consiounsly something along these lines when developing any NEW thinking.

It’s in part driven by fear.  Maybe fear of rejection, or fear of the blood/sweat/tears that may be associated with pulling the idea off.  Few things are easy.

How many great contributions are NOT brought forward in a business because people are holding back and thinking it may be too much?  Too many.  What a shame….

Maybe it’s too many because our education system does not value “playing loose” but insists on staying in line and talking only when your called on.  18 years of that model and you wouldn’t exactly be trained to push the envelope would you?  That’s a digression, but I’ve profiled some lessons from my son’s first grade class…

Leadership’s role is to inspire a culture where people disrupt the status quo and feeling trusting enough to do that.  Killing business as usual.  

Cultures that inspire fanaticism, breaking things and pushing the envelope may often be chaotic, and not everyone thrives in chaos.

What about the individual?

First, performance is rarely equally spread.

Show me any company and I will show you a “bell curve” of distribution among its talent.  There will be an 80/20 rule emerge where the few contribute out-sized results.

We can all wonder why this exists.

  • Natural Born Talent……they hit the genetic jackpot!
  • Education!
  • Great Mentors!
  • Luck!  Right place, right time!
  • Out-sized achievements that were parlayed time and time again….

How about this for a hypothesis?

The people  that tend  to be the top 10% of any business come in all shapes and flavors.  But they tend have one thing in common:  They believe that nothing is too much.  They tend to go over the top.  They go all in, not just enough, in every area that matters.  

All in

Pick any area of the operation that matters, and I bet you will see something emerge with the stars.  Everything about them, when compared to the “average” will be considered TOO MUCH, especially in the eyes of the average.

There’s a great  law of statistics that is worth understanding:

Correlation does not imply causation.

Just because two things are related, does not mean one drives the other.  BUT, when 2 variables move in the same direction……you are in the area of needing to poke around and learn more.  You are getting warmer.

And maybe the most important question of all?  

If you have a burning desire to achieve something, ask yourself:

Am I ALL IN?  

If your being honest with yourself and the answer is not an emphatic HELL YES!, CONGRATS!  You have just walked up to the starting line.

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Dreams & Hustle

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It is flattering when people say “they thought of you” when they see anything with my favorite word in it!  I LOVE this image a friend shared with me:

The Dream is Free, but the Hustle is sold seperately

Image Credit:

Seems like common sense right?  Not really.

In the Dream/Hustle camp there are really 2 types of people:  Those that “Get it” and those that don’t:

Those that Don’t Get it:

  • Have an opinion on EVERYTHING, but won’t change nothing in the mirror to make their world a better place.

  • Have a great new idea everyday but won’t put the blood/sweat and tears in to take action on it……making it someone else’s job to do the hard work.

  • Talk about how things SHOULD be more than investing in themselves to “be the change they want to see.”

  • Don’t have a dream period!  But they are excellent at pointing out what is wrong or broken with no solutions or initiative to fix the very things they are complaining about!

If more than a few people come to mind on the above scenarios, The Dream & HUSTLE image isn’t common sense, is it?  They tend to deplete energy vs add to it.

Those that UNDERSTAND Dream & Hustle mentality:

  • The countless number of immigrants that saw something special in the USA, and were willing to risk everything to make a better life for themselves…..

  • The single mom/dad raising their children, earning a paycheck and somehow figuring it all out as they go to be dead tired.

  • Our greatest heroes:  Our nation’s veterans.  And Military families.

  • Our teachers, many of whom dip into their own pocket, organize fundraisers and find a way to connect with different challenges, and for reasons far beyond financial….

  • The kid working their way through college to try and make it all work, taking on multiple part time jobs and network for their future.

  • Community volunteers – People who donate their time to causes, all in the hopes of making a difference.

What’s the point?

Dreams are made possible by HUSTLE.

Surround yourself with people that get it.  They will ADD energy to your quest, not deplete it.  Energy fuels Hustle.  

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