Archives for November 2014

Saying No When You Have a High Need to Say Yes

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Video Notes:

Last week I had a conversation with Cynthia Whitaker. Cindy is a Nurse Executive with Swedish Hospital, and we were discussing how nurses specifically, but other healing, helping and supportive professionals also, feel a high need to say yes to people when they need to say no. For many nurses, they believe that saying no means they are being disloyal and unsupportive.

This becomes especially problematic for managers when they are invited to ten, twelve or fifteen meetings per week, and by attending these meetings they may be unable to get their work done during the rest of their week. Cindy asked me, “how do you say no to meeting requests when you have a high need to say yes?”

Cindy, there are three key points to remember when saying no to meeting requests.

1. Meetings can be inefficient. Without a rigorous focus and discipline, meetings can become a waste of time and human resources. Consider all of the meetings you were in last week. How many of these meetings did you leave thinking that the time spent in the meeting was a valuable, productive and an effective use of the participants time? If you answer in the range of 50/50, your meetings are potentially eroding a minimum of ten to fifteen hours of your week. If that’s the case you’ll want to manage this resource more carefully. Success in any endeavor requires utilizing all available resources to the best of your ability, and that includes meetings.

See this post for how to structure Effective Meetings

2. Value Your Time. If you don’t view your time as a precious resource to be guarded like a mother bear guarding her cubs, no one else will either. I’m not suggesting you become a time obsessed zealot tearing through your department removing all vestiges of inefficiency and wasted time. I am suggesting that the time you have available to provide high value to your organization is not infinite. You have a finite amount of time each week and how you allocate your time is as much a mindset as it is a resource allocation technique. Valuing your time changes your perspective as to how best to use it.

3. Less is more. When declining a meeting request that you believe is not the best use of your time and doesn’t contribute value to your team and or department, say less. The most powerful and graceful way to decline a meeting is simply to say, “I’m sorry, I’m not able to attend your meeting. Is there any information I can provide remotely or electronically that will be helpful? If not, can you send me your meeting notes or action items after the meeting and I’ll make sure to address any issues that need my attention.”

Too often, people who have a high need to say yes provide unnecessary explanations that are cumbersome and awkward.  They feel guilty for not attending and in turn explain why they can’t attend and why they feel badly for not attending. The best way to say no is to say no in as few words as possible and in as polite a manner as possible.

As a reminder, I have a teleconference scheduled for December 17th at 9:00AM PST. It will outline the 13 principles transformational leaders use to create extraordinary results. You can learn more and register with this link.

That’s it ladies and gentlemen. I hope you have a great week and I’ll see you here next week.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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I want to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. Tomorrow specifically, but this this week in general, is a perfect time to appreciate all that is good in your life. Specifically, your families, your health and well-being, your ability to positively impact those around you, and the good fortune that the future holds.

All my best!

Hugh Blane

Transformational Leadership Project

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Video Notes:

Ladies and gentlemen, over the last four to six weeks I’ve been asked six questions that I think are really telling.

  1. How can I recruit and retain the very best talent
  2. How do I increase my performance in down markets
  3. How can I execute more effectively on our strategic priorities
  4. How can I increase the level of customer satisfaction
  5. How can I reduce the too high levels of employee dissatisfaction
  6. How do I grow and innovate in a very competitive marketplace

These questions are the ones I’m going to answer on a teleconference I’m calling, “The Transformational Leadership Project.”

I’m inviting you to join me on Wednesday, December 17th at 9:00 AM Pacific time. In that teleconference I’m going to answer all these questions – I’ll answer them and share with you thirteen principles all transformational leaders engages in. Thirteen principles that when they are adopted, when they are internalized, will make sure that not only do these questions get answered, but you also create an organization that is truly thriving. It’s going to be a great way to position you and your organization for 2015.

So again, it is Wednesday, December 17th at 9:00 AM Pacific time, “The Transformational Leadership Project.” Right below this video you’ll see a link that will take you to the webpage and allow you to register. I hope to see you there. Have a great week everyone. Take care.


Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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The belief that an open door policy is the best policy has expired. And just as with expiration dates on food and medications, the open door policy needs to be discarded before it does more harm than good.

The upside to an open door policy is that by having an open door you communicate to your most important customers, employees and stakeholders that they matter and that you will make time for them.

The downside is that by continually making time for others many leaders don’t take time for themselves, and by extension, don’t have the time required to think critically about their work. They believe that taking time for themselves is selfish and that the person in their doorway takes precedence. If you’re an emergency room physician this is understandable. If you’re a leader responsible for setting the future direction of your team or organization it doesn’t work as well.

Here are my four reasons why an open door policy needs to be reconsidered.

1. It erodes trust and respect. Leaders want their teams to think highly of themselves because employees who have high self respect trust their judgement. They are confident in their ability to develop new insights and make good decisions. When a leader is continually available the exit ramp taken for good decisions frequently is the leaders office. This builds trust in the leaders ability to solve the problem and not in the employees ability to think critically and develop their own solutions.

I covered this in greater detail in my Mastering Your Mindset teleconference. The audio replay is available for download here.
2. It drains the leader. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you need time to refresh and rejuvenate not only physically, but emotionally. To do that you need to turn off your responsibilities for thirty minutes at least once per day in order to be maximally effective. Yes, I said thirty minutes. In this time you can think deeper and more clearly about the past and how it is impacting your present, as well as how the present if left unattended is jeopardized your future by simply repeating the past.

I have clients who are in back to back meetings Monday through Friday. They arrive home conflicted about spending time with their most important relationships. They want to nurture their relationships as well as get the “real work” they were supposed to get done during the day accomplished but couldn’t because they were in meetings. This will drain you of your best thinking if left to continue indefinitely.

3. It sends the wrong message. When a leader keeps their door open the message is that their time is less important than their employees. One of the most respectful things a leader can do is close their door and remove themselves from their day-to-day priorities. It will send the message that in order for each person to maximize their potential there must be time to think, to reflect and to ask important strategic questions.

4. It changes your perspective. What you pay attention to, whether an asset or a liability, a strength versus a weakness, what’s working versus what’s not working…influences your perspective and in turn your behavior. Having time away from your daily priorities allows you to pay attention to what you pay attention to and to shift your perspective in positive ways.

Would you like time to think deeper about your work, your results and your future? If you do, I suggest you close your door.

The Five Reasons Why Purpose is Essential

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Video Notes:

I’m going to share with you the five reasons why purpose is absolutely essential in increasing organizational performance. There are five reasons why having a clear and compelling purpose are important.

#1. Clear and compelling purposes infuse hope, optimism and enthusiasm into an organization. Without it, it is almost nearly impossible to cultivate hope, optimism, and enthusiasm.

#2 You will eliminate false starts with a clear and compelling purpose. You eliminate the false starts because you’ve gotten clear and you’ve eliminated the mental barriers that get in the way between you and your purpose. You remove all distractions and you become laser focused.

#3 You’ll recruit the best talent. You’ll retain the best talent. Let’s be really clear about this; there are highly talented people who were looking for new opportunities. They are high performers. What they’re going to screen for are opportunities to do something that is meaningful and transformational. They want to go someplace where their work is going to make a difference. Is that your organization?

#4 You’ll be market differentiated. You will say to the marketplace, “This is what we stand for, this is what we hope for, this is what we aspire to do.” When it is compelling to your customers they gravitate towards you as opposed to your competitors. They do so because you are doing something that is really compelling for them.

#5 Here’s the one point that people glom onto. If you have a clear purpose that’s compelling, your performance and profits will be three hundred percent greater than your competitors. Let me say that again. If you have a clear and compelling purpose your profits and your performance will be three hundred percent greater than your competitors. I’m not making that number up. That’s a number that comes from a ten year study with fifty thousand brands.

Ladies and gentlemen, this week it is essential for you to start getting clear about your purpose. Purpose is not a throwaway word – purpose is the catalyst for extraordinary performance. That’s why if you work on clarifying your purpose this week you’re going to have an exceptional week, and you’re going to have the profits and the performance you have always dreamed of.

That ladies and gentlemen is the Monday Morning Minute. I hope you have a fabulous week, and I will see you here again next week. Take care.

High Performance Cultures: What every leader can learn from Ferrari, Bentley and Lamborghini

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Photo courtesy of iStock Photo

It was one of the most thrilling moments in my life. I was doing 187 miles per hour at the Porsche Driving School in what is best described as a rocket ship built on four wheels. The engine, only a few inches from my head, pounded in my chest as if I was receiving CPR, and the trees flew by so fast that they were no longer trees, but more a blurry green swatch of color out of the corner of my right eye.

I came to learn how to drive fast. Not to race you from one traffic light to the next down main street, but to become a more educated and safer driver in all types of circumstances. Learning the subtle nuances of when and how to shift gears, when to accelerate and when to brake, I left with a vastly improved lap time as well as greatly enhanced mindset behind the wheel.

High performance cars are very similar to high performance cultures. You have a choice as to whether to drive one or not. You can choose to drive a car that is purely functional transportation. Or, you can choose to drive a car that is one part engineering masterpiece, one part handcrafted artwork, and one part a catalyst for supreme exhilaration.

Here is good news. Whether you are a university, healthcare institution, a financial services organization or a technology department, you have a Ferrari sitting in your driveway and the keys are in your hand. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of people who own a Ferrari, the level of intimidation about the power, torque and performance of the Ferrari has the car parked in the driveway looking good but not being driven. Their owners are not experiencing the acceleration, the cornering and the ability for the car to transport you to an unparalleled more compelling driving experience.

In my consulting work I’ve found that driving a culture that is the equivalent of a finely tuned sports car requires embracing five high performance cultural mindset shifts. Not unlike a manual transmission in a car, making these mindset shifts allows you to trade in your functional transportation for a finely tuned, hand-built work of art that accelerates you to the finish line before your competition. I call these Hugh Blane’s Cultural Accelerators. They are:

1.Cultures are hand built. Not unlike Ferraris, Bentleys and Lamborghinis, cultures are made with painstaking attention to detail by master craftspeople. Automobile engineers pour over specifications in the hopes of eliminating tiny imperfections, and marketing and customer care representatives create experiences that are exhilarating and rewarding.

The same holds true for your organizational culture. It is handcrafted and not an off the shelf idea culled from the most touted leadership book of the quarter. It is crafted with an uncompromising and meticulous passion for a compelling future. A future that outperforms your competition, builds customer loyalty and commitment, and leaves you in a category of one. In all races between you and your competitors, the race to customer loyalty and commitment will always be won by the most committed and passionate culture.

2. Cultures are customer centric. All of the car manufacturers I’ve mentioned know their customers inside and out. They have painstakingly thought through every aspect of the purchase process and engineered it to adhere to the automotive admonition “the thrill of the wheel seals the deal.” Once a prospective car-buyer has been thrilled by an automobile, the likelihood of them being converted from a prospective customer to a loyal customer increases exponentially.

Cultures that strive to thrill their customers, as well as to thrill the employees who work directly with them, will have customers’ speed toward them. If you are not thrilling the customers that matter most to you they will jump in their car and drive toward your competitors.

3. Cultures need to perform at higher speeds. Regardless of whether you agree that a Bentley Continental GT needs to hit tops speeds of 197 mph is irrelevant. What is important is that the automobile has been designed to achieve these speeds with an amazing amount of composure and safety.

Cultures are the same. Your culture can be designed to travel from a complete standstill to sixty miles per hour faster than your competitors and it can be designed to achieve a higher top speed with composure and safety. But the important question all leaders need to ask is, are we traveling on the Autobahn in Germany at top speed? Or, are we on a two-lane highway in Shreveport Mississippi with a governor holding us to fifty-five miles per hour?

In today’s world of work where hyper connectivity and access to information is expected in seconds, traveling fifty-five miles an hour will leave you obsolete and surpassed by newer and faster competitors. It’s time to speed up.

4. Cultures require better car handling skills. Creating a handcrafted culture that thrills customers and accelerates performance requires better car handling skills by drivers at every level of an organization. Specifically, every leader in the organization must embrace the admonition from racecar driver Mario Andretti who said, “If everything feels like it’s under control you’re simply not going fast enough.”

Gone are the days of having everything under control. The race for accelerated performance requires you to build a culture that is capable of balancing itself on the safe edge of the known and predictable along with the unknown and uncharted. This will leave some leaders on the edge of their seats proclaiming they’re going too fast. If you’re not hearing this, you’re not going fast enough.

5. Cultures cannot be purchased on the cheap. High-performance sports cars as well as high-performance cultures require you pay a premium. You cannot take a Chrysler minivan to the racetrack and expect to be competitive. You have to invest a premium either in purchasing a car designed for the racetrack, or to convert your current car into a competitor. If you’re not willing to make the investment into creating a high-performance culture then you will be resigned to being at the back of the pack and not being competitive.

Creating a high performance culture does not require you buy a Bentley. It does require that you buy-in to the five mindset shifts above and to move toward the same belief that W.O. Bentley had when he started Bentley automobiles. He said: “we will build a fast car, a good car, the best in its class.” Here’s to fast, good and best in class cars and cultures.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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If you are not making a meaningfully positive difference in the lives of your customers and employees you need to make an exit.

It is a reality in the world of work that customers demand an increasingly higher-level of service, courtesy and engagement in order to be a repeat customer. When this is not present customers leave and go elsewhere.

Employees do the same. If the leader doesn’t engage the hearts and minds of employees and create an environment where each employee can do their best work, talented and valuable employees leave.

Far too many organizations tolerate employees who are not making a meaningful positive difference. In some organizations, they actually tolerate employees alienating customers or fellow employees. To these employees I say, make a difference or make an exit.

It’s Wednesday gut check time:

1. Are you as a leader making a meaningfully positive difference in your customers life? Is your answer borne out in repeat customers and increased referral business?

2. Are you making a meaningfully positive difference in your employees life? Are they inspired to do their best work and give discretionary amounts of effort in service of the customer?

3. Are there employees who say about you, “I love working with you. You make my work life so much easier?”

If your answers to the above questions are no, then it’s time to make an exit.

The quality of your questions determines the quality of your results

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Video Notes:

This week I’m going to talk to you about the quality of your questions. Here’s my bold premise for this week. If you increase the quality of the questions you ask yourself, either at home or at work, then your performance will go up appreciably.

Let me give you an example of a low quality question: how do I lose ten pounds?

That’s a bad question and is a low quality question. Here’s an example of a high quality question. What do I need to do to live the most vibrant life physically? That question can take you into areas such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, the quality of the people you spend time with when you’re away from work to the quality of the people you spend time with at work.

There’s a whole different world that comes about by asking the second question as opposed to the first one. The vast majority of people in the world of work spend more time thinking about how to put out fires as opposed to becoming fire retardant. How to become fire retardant is a high quality question. How do we put out fires? That’s a low quality question.

This week if you want to have a significantly better week, if you want to transform yourself and your organization, ask high quality questions. If you do that you will be really amazed at the quality of your week.

That’s it ladies and gentlemen. Have a fabulous week and I will see you here again next week. Take care.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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For leaders, being aware of the impact their leadership has on others is essential. Why? It’s essential because leadership drives everything that happens inside an organization. Leadership drives the culture, it determines how people behave and it defines the performance achieved.

When leaders are aware predominantly of meetings, to-do lists and email they lose sight of a transformational power residing in their organization; a power that can only be accessed and utilized when a leader shifts their awareness away from meetings, to-do lists and email to engaging the hearts and minds of the people who make things happen…their employees.

I’ve found awareness to be the jumping off point for transformational growth. Without reservation, my coaching and consulting clients who achieve transformational performance are acutely aware of the following.

1. How clear and compelling their leadership purpose is to their team or extended organization.
2. How to address competing priorities and focus on a core three strategic priorities.
3. How their spoken and unspoken promises are received.
4. How their behavior impacts their key constituents.
5. How their communication preferences are persuading people to accept or reject their leadership.
6. How to capitalize on their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
7. How best to praise people for a job well done.
8. How to best purify those aspects of their work that are not serving them or their customers well.
9. Who the one, two or three people are who could benefit most from their insight and how to best share it with them.
10. How best to cascade excellence throughout their organization.
11. What hinders them from doing their best work and how to persevere in the face of resistance.
12. How to sustain a positive mindset in the face of negativity and pessimism.
13. How to prepare themselves and others for reinvention, innovation and growth.

A key question on this Wednesday is, increasing your awareness of which of the thirteen principles would provide you with the greatest benefit?

Courage Eats Technique For Lunch

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Video Notes:

This week I want to talk to you about the difference between courage and technique.

There are some leaders that believe they can pick up a leadership book and find one thing they can do in order to become a more effective leader. I am not going to disparage finding techniques or tools, but I will tell you that there’s something that trumps technique every single day. It eats it for lunch! It’s courage. The courage of a leaders conviction. The courage exhibited when a leader is willing to move outside of the known, the safe and predictable and is willing to do something that will move them closer today; closer to that one idea, hope, dream, or aspiration that is non-negotiable for them.

Ladies and gentlemen the courage to move outside of the predictable, the safe and the known, to move closer to that one idea that has grabbed hold of you and simply will not let go – that requires courage. And in some organizations that one dream, hope, or aspiration may not be able to be fulfilled where you’re working. And it takes extreme courage to be to say, “If I cannot create that here, then I need to leave and go somewhere where I can create that.” That is a courageous act.

Ladies and gentlemen this week focus on being courageous, of moving outside of the safe the known and the predictable, to do one thing that will get you closer to that one dream, hope, or aspiration that is non-negotiable for you. Don’t worry about the technique; focus on the courage. If you do that you’re going to have a very effective week and we’ll come back at some point and talk about techniques.

That is the Monday Morning Minute, I hope you have a fabulous week. I’ll see you here next week. Take care.