Archives for March 2014
Good morning everyone, my name is Hugh Blane, and this is the Monday Morning Minute.
Today, I want to share with you five critical questions I believe can transform your organization. They are:
1. How happy is your customer?
2. What is the demand for your product, services or offerings? Is the demand growing or retarding?
3. How compelling and distinctive is your brand and reputation?
4. Can your employees live out your value proposition in meaningful and compelling ways every day?
5. How good of a job are you doing communicating with your customers? Are you using communication channels and strategies designed specifically with them in mind?
Ladies and gentlemen, if you start asking yourself these five critical questions, and answering them, you will have a much more effective workweek. That is the Monday Morning Minute. I hope you have a fabulous week and I will see you here again next week.
There are five questions leaders need to have crystal clear answers to in order to accelerate their performance. They are:
1. On a scale of one through ten with ten being high, how happy are you employees?
2. On a scale of one through ten with ten being high, how distinctive and desirable are you as a leader to work with?
3. On a scale of one through ten with ten being high, how experienced are you at converting individual and team potential into accelerated results?
4. On a scale of one through ten with ten being high, how clear are employees as to their strategic direction and priorities, the value they provide and why customers should choose your department or company over another?
5. On a scale of one through ten with ten being high, how effectively are you and your employees at creating raving fans who evangelize your message?
By nature I’m not a timid person. As far back as I can remember I was willing to ride my bike faster, jump out of taller trees, and venture beyond what seemed safe and comfortable. That boldness, as my mother called it, was a badge I wore with pride. A pride fostered by a quote from T.S. Elliot who said, “only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”. I was nine years old when the risk of going too far found a new limit in me.
At nine years old, during an eight-hour flight from Glasgow, Scotland to St. Catherine’s, Canada, I experienced an unprecedented type of turbulence that resulted in our plane dropping 500 feet in a matter of seconds. This turbulence was so violent that it felt as though my seat had been suspended fifty feet in the air and dropped onto a concrete floor.
As seatbelts weren’t mandatory in 1968, passengers and flight personnel were found with broken bones and facial lacerations. At nine years old and halfway across the Atlantic Ocean I found myself in a makeshift emergency room at 37,000 feet. That was the day I learned to fear flying.
Thirty years later I jettisoned my fear of flying, as it had become a career limiting issue for me. As a consultant committed to helping executives and teams achieve higher levels of performance, I needed to fly to help them.
There are fears lurking in every leader and it impacts their performance. While their fears are different from mine, the most common fears I’ve found in leaders are:
1. A fear of holding people accountable
2. A fear of making mistakes
3. A fear of leaving a job that sucks the energy out of them the moment they walk in the office
4. A fear of not being seen as smart and successful
5. A fear of upsetting their boss or senior leaders
6. A fear of turning away from current successes in order to have even greater success
7. A fear of investing in themselves
8. A fear of making decisions
Fears like these inhibit us from thinking bigger, creates procrastination and mediocrity. In my consulting work I’ve worked with leaders who prefer sitting on the sidelines with their pristine corporate uniform on rather risking failure. Ultimately, there are long lists of lost opportunities created by a lack of courage, and the downward spiral of poor performance becomes all too real.
If you are a leader who wants to convert fear and trepidation into accelerated performance I developed a seven-step plan to help you do that. The seven steps are:
1. Calculate the costs and benefits:
Converting fear into courage starts with defining the costs associated with a fear and the benefits of removing the fear. The cost for my fear of flying was a $100,000 project in Denver. If I wasn’t willing to fly to Denver I would not be able to fulfill my obligations to my client. In turn, I would lose the project. That was a cost I was unwilling to bear.
The benefits of overcoming my fear were twofold; a significantly reduced anxiety level while flying along with an increased enthusiasm for traveling to cities and countries I wanted to visit. The benefits for me were greater than the costs of remaining fearful. When remaining the same becomes too expensive fear will be left behind.
2. Own the experience:
Having a clear and objective understanding of why you have your fear is essential. In my case I didn’t judge myself; I didn’t think I was weak or spineless. I simply owned the fact that I had an experience thirty years ago that left me fearful. The experience happened and I recognized that I simply needed to move beyond it.
Owning the experience for a CEO client started with her embracing the 100/0 rule. This rule says she is 100% responsible for creating a culture where accelerated performance is embraced and that she’ll offer zero excuses to her board for not doing so. The same holds true with converting fear into courage. Each of us is 100% responsible for owning our current situation and there are zero excuses for not improving it.
3. Be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
We all have a comfort zone, a place where things are known, safe and predictable. Remaining in our comfort zone however does not allow for growth or innovation to take place. If you want to experience something different, more rewarding and enriching, you have to move out of your comfort zone and be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
I recently spoke with a client who said the last three months of our working together were the most uncomfortable three months of his professional life. He said this based on conversations we had about his leadership team. He has come to realize that he has the wrong people in the wrong roles, and in turn, his hopes for higher performance will be stalled if he doesn’t make significant changes; changes that mean asking several employees to leave. This CEO accepts that his dreams of elevated performance are married to his willingness to be uncomfortable when making uncomfortable decisions.
4. Rehearse the outcome you want:
Rehearsing the type of flight I wanted to experience involved visualizing myself feeling comfortable while flying. I envisioned flying from takeoff to landing and saw myself experiencing turbulence and sitting calmly. I mentally rehearsed flights so many times that by the time I arrived at the airport my positive flying experience was not only ingrained in my thinking, it was on automatic pilot.
5. Adjust your attitude:
Attitude is everything when it comes to converting fear into courageousness. Moving from an attitude of flying is a fear-filled treacherous endeavor to a welcome adventure is a natural follow on to rehearsing your outcome. When Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines was told by analysts he was spending too much money on employee benefits, he responded, “sell your stock.” His attitude was not fearful, but courageous because he had an attitude of supreme confidence.
As leaders, instilling in employees a supreme confidence in their abilities is a competitive business advantage. Doing so starts when leaders recognize that an employees fear and uncertainty are normal and that their primary job is to help convert their fears into courageous next steps.
6. Engage an expert:
Converting fear into courageousness is not a solo activity. It’s far from it. Seeking out the expertise and support needed is essential to success. In my situation, I solicited the help of friends and family members and asked them for their support. Equally as important was interviewing a veteran pilot with 7,500 flight hours about turbulence. I used every tool available to me to overcome my fear including the guidance of a counselor who specializes in overcoming phobias.
7. Exert yourself:
It’s easy for me to convince myself that thinking is taking action. It’s not. Intellectualizing and or philosophizing will do little to overcome fear. Putting myself in an airplane seat and practicing everything I learned was what made the difference.
A CFO client is an exemplar of exerting himself. Bill schedules one hour for every call he has with me. When he calls he asks his most pressing question. At the moment he has the answer he needs he will say, “I got it.” With Bill this is usually fifteen to twenty minutes. He then hangs up and takes the remainder of his allotted time to execute what I’ve suggested. Bill believes that it is only by exerting himself beyond what is comfortable that he becomes a more effective leader.
Leaders are by nature not timid people. The simple act of accepting a leadership position communicates that a leader wants to improve their department of organizations performance. And therein lies the rub. Improved performance is a byproduct of changing processes, systems, and in some cases people. And change for many is a fear inducing process.
Leaders who overcome fear create courageous cultures; cultures inhabited by employees who are willing to be uncomfortable sometimes for extended periods of time. These leaders acknowledge that if and when employees become fearful, it is the leader who is required to be an exemplar as to how to navigate change and transformation. To do so they start by asking themselves the following three questions:
1. In what area of my professional life do I feel timid or uncertain?
2. What is my plan for seeing how far I’m capable of going as a leader?
3. Which of the above seven steps would provide me the most benefit if I embraced it now?