The Power of Relationships

August 31st, 2011

The power of relationships is immense! I typically partner with clients to accomplish significant bottom line results on a wide variety of topics ranging from organizational change and culture projects to process projects such as service improvement, inventory reduction and lean programs to technical projects such as leveraging and implementing ERP systems, and there is one common element across all of them – the power of relationships. To add fuel to the fire, it also holds true for personal success.

As tempting as it might be for executives to think that “all will be fine” if only they implement the latest fad (even if it is a “good” fad such as lean, green or whatever will be the next fad, probably rhyming with “een”), technical bell and whistle or best practice process, don’t fall in the trap! Although many of these might be valuable from one perspective or another (which is why it is so common to take a trip down this rabbit hole), the 80/20 to achieving bottom line results goes back to people. So, why waste so much time, money and resources on the “20” of the 80/20?

In addition to the traditional aspects of people (hiring exceptional people, valuing your employees, following a simple yet effective performance management process etc.), there is nothing more critical to success than developing and leveraging the power the relationships. Thus, a few tips include: 1) Take stock. 2) Build relationships. 3) Value your relationships.

1. Take stock- It sounds silly but it is not bad to start with simplicity – what relationships do you have currently? Which are those you consider long-term partners (customers, suppliers, trade association members, brokers, other people at your company or client, etc.) and/or people you’d like to stay connected to for the long term? Which are shorter in nature yet critical for a period of time? Which are already on a solid track? Which need help? Take a step back and think about how you’d prioritize? For example, as a leader, it is typical to spend the majority of your time on your non-performers yet your top performers deliver 80% of the results – where should you focus?

2. Build relationships – I’d be surprised if you didn’t find someone you need to build a relationship with and/or a relationship to nurture. So, how do you begin? How about taking a step back and thinking of how you can provide value to your employee, your boss, your customer, your supplier or whoever you’ve identified? No point in starting with what you want – how is that interesting to the other person? It’s not! Instead, ask compelling questions and listen – you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to build a relationship.

3. Value Your Relationships- My neighbor across the street from my house passed away suddenly recently – such a nice man. 15+ years ago, I remember him always wandering by to check on things if need be, and he really liked and appreciated my parents as they were whirlwind gardeners (and he didn’t even know what they did in the house!) – they came for a long weekend, and my garden/ landscaping could go from so-so to great in 8 hours flat! It makes you think – do you take your relationships for granted or do you value them? The same is true of your best, low-maintenance customer or supplier that you always overlook for your high-maintenance, low profitability customer.

There is only one nugget of wisdom which spanned every role in my 20+ year career without exception which ranged from roles of Production Planner to Project & Transition manager to VP of Supply Chain & Operations to Business Consultant, Entrepreneur and President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. and APICS Inland Empire (and non-profits do throw a few wrenches into the mix) – it is the undeniable power of relationships. Think of it this way – who is there for you when the unexpected occurs? What are you doing to build and nurture your relationships?

Life Balance – What to do?

August 14th, 2011

As I’ve been side-tracked this summer and just getting back to my blog, I thought this an appropriate article to start with……….thanks for your patience! — Lisa

Since it’s the summer and many folks are taking vacations and enjoying the summer while others are struggling to fill in “back at the office”, I thought it was appropriate to discuss life balance. My consulting mentor, Alan Weiss, talks quite a bit about this subject and has a monthly newsletter on the topic – “Balancing Act”. There has never been a better time to take a step back and think about life balance!

I’ve known many exceptional people ranging from CFOs to VPs of Operations to Directors of Supply Chain & I.T. who have had to take significant pay cuts and/or had to look for new jobs. And, on the other hand, I’ve seen many retirees deal with what is supposed to be “retirement” and “rest” – I know my relatives want to know when the rest will start! And, to add to these complications, there are endless things to worry about ranging from nuclear crises to a dollar crisis to how to pay for the rising cost of gas. Thus, life balance is even more critical today in order to not only survive but to enjoy life.

I just returned from a driving trip with my family – not really “restful” in that I drove endless numbers of miles with many complicated family scenarios to make life entertaining; however, it was great to spend time with them. Have you ever heard anyone near death say they wished they had gone on one more business trip? Me either.

Instead, we discovered that the over 65 crowd (and me) had trouble answering questions to prove we were “better than a 5th grader”. Of course, my nephew returned later to prove it isn’t easy for a new 5th grader either. We also saw a bison rolling in the dirt to scratch his back. My mom particularly enjoyed the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (although her favorite part was seeing her best friend from her youth – my Aunt Cheryl), and my dad enjoyed the parts of Yellowstone he’d never seen before (as he kept the tradition going since he went to Yellowstone with his parents, and he and my mom took us to Yellowstone when we were children and now everyone went with my nephew).

So, how do you achieve life balance? Of course I do not have all the answers but I have a few ideas to think about: 1) You have only one life. 2) People are #1. 3) Prioritize.

You have only one life – Most people try to separate their work life from their personal life, and I concede that this works for some folks; however, I’ve found that if I look at it as having 1 life, it is less complex and easier to enjoy. If I want to do emails from the beach (although Yellowstone does not support this idea as there is no cell or email service – good grief!), I should do that so that I can support my clients and enjoy the rest of the day. On the other hand, if I want to take off to see my best friend’s son play baseball in the middle of the day, I should do that too. Life becomes much simpler with 1 life to keep track of – and enjoyable.

People are #1 – Similar to what I always say about business success, people are #1 in personal success as well. It is easy to get wrapped up and lose track of those closest to you. Although it’s easy to do (I often get sidetracked thinking of what’s ahead and forget what’s going on at the moment), what could be more important than remembering that people are #1? People can cross over between your work and personal life as well – another great reason to have 1 life. Great people are hard to find. Keep in touch and appreciate them!

Prioritize – Last but not least, remember to prioritize – an excellent way to maintain life balance. Think about what is most important to your work and personal life. Then, focus on those people, tasks etc. as your #1 priority. Sounds easy? Not! It seems easy to spend all your time on “one last” C task and never get around to your A priorities. I’ve found making a list, reviewing the importance and urgency of items and then sticking to priorities “works”.
In today’s new normal environment, life balance is a must. Similar to what airline attendants tell you about using your oxygen mask before assisting your children and others, you must take care of yourself (personally and professionally) before assisting others. Why not start now?