Category: Profit through People

Sequoia and the Power of Silence

August 8th, 2019

My best friend from high school and college was in town recently and we went to Sequoia National Park. First, I must say, what a ride to get to Sequoia on winding, mountainous roads! Once we arrived, we went to the ‘Trail of 100 Giants’, and it was impressive! These Sequoias were over 1500 years old, and gigantic. The largest tree has a diameter of 20 feet and is over 220 feet high.

Yet what stood out was the power of silence. You could hear the rustle of the wind in the trees. It sounded similar to sitting by the ocean. It certainly was a calming and humbling experience as the silence and the sounds of nature overpowered everything else.

Have you ever thought about the power of silence? Do you find it to be more effective than 1000 words? In a business setting, silence can speak volumes…

One tip to implement this week:
We all hear the advice to stop and listen.  Yet, how often are we thinking about silence? The most powerful speakers know the power of silence. The dramatic pause will emphasize just the right words. Certainly the best actors use this technique expertly, and we are putty in their hands!

Or have you thought about how not answering immediately answers the question? For example, at one client, I admit that after a particularly grumpy executive who didn’t want to support our project told me that he didn’t think consultants were valuable and didn’t want to talk to me to answer my questions, I was silent because I was thinking about how to respond that would be productive. Sometimes, it is better to be lucky than brilliant! In this case, since I didn’t respond quickly, he ended up filling the proverbial silence (since we weren’t communicating in person) and came back to me and agreed to do exactly what he just said he wouldn’t do. A light bulb went off that there is power in silence!

Silence is extremely valuable in negotiations. Have you noticed that whoever is silent gains the upper hand? That’s because we are typically uncomfortable with silence and rush to fill the gap. Next thing we know, we’ve given away more power and information than we intended, and we are behind in the negotiation. Yet I have to say, silence used as a manipulative strategy will not achieve your intended result. People will pick up on whether you are genuine or not.

Consider silence instead of a long response the next time you are going to open your mouth in a high stakes communication. Let me know how it turns out.



Dana Point and the Customers’ 1st Experience with Your Product or Service

August 2nd, 2019

Last week, I went to Dana Point for a good friend’s daughter’s wedding. It seemed like an opportunity for a mini-getaway.  So, I spent the night at the Marriott (pictured). Not only does Dana Point appear majestic with the view of the water, the lawn in front of this hotel provides a great first impression.

Your customers’ first impression can be very important. It gives them a “feeling” about your product or service. As my consulting mentor says, “Logic makes people think. Emotion makes them act.” In this case, it gave a calming and majestic feeling. Great for the end of a busy week!

What is the first impression of your product or service? Does it appear to be high quality? Or is your service welcoming and customer friendly? Mainly, is it what you would like it to be?

One tip to implement this week:
Start by taking a step back to think about your first impression. What would a customer experience? One idea is to ‘shop your business’. If you have a product, go to shipping to see what your next customer will receive as a first shipment.  Also, check on the carrier or truck to understand the delivery experience. Perhaps order your product for a family member (so your team doesn’t know it is for you), and see how it arrives. If your provide a service, call a customer upon your team’s first interaction.  Or go to the point of service and observe or test your service. Test your perceptions.

Once you gain an understanding of your first impression, consider ways to improve upon this first impression. Don’t just think about what you would want. Put your mind into your target customer’s experience.  What value could you add (that doesn’t have to cost anything) that they would appreciate and value? The clients that do this the best have a completely different relationship with their customers. It is worth pursuing if you’d like to increase your customer value and your bottom line!

 



Who Are Your Stars?

July 21st, 2019

In our 14 years of consulting experience and almost 30 years of working experience, we have found that 80% of executives spend the majority of their time with the 20% of employees who do not achieve results. Unfortunately, this means they don’t have time to spend with the stars who achieve 80% of the results. Do you fall into this trap as well? As executives commented in our 2019 predictions document, talent is a hot topic in today’s tight labor market. If you aren’t paying attention to your stars, they will jump ship to someone who does pay attention.

People don’t leave companies. They leave bosses!
As an executive, stop to think about what questions you are asking. Do you ask your direct reports about their stars? Could you identify the future stars of your organization? Or are you just addressing issues as they arise? Key customer issues. Board questions. Performance problems. Etc. If so, undoubtedly, you are receiving information from stars or they could be working behind the scenes, invisible to you. We find that these stars can be easily overlooked because they might not like the spotlight or they are likely to be the person to bring up unpopular topics. Does your culture support these stars or encourage them to stay hidden?

Here are ways to find your stars:

  1. Pay attention to who your leaders go to in order to get information. There is always a star behind the scenes who has the information when you need it. It is likely this person could be several layers below you and so you’ll need to pay attention.
  2. Have you asked old-timers for information or ideas lately? Ask employees who have been around a while. If they feel overlooked, they aren’t going to offer ideas and information until asked. However, when valued, you just might be surprised with some amazing results. We have had countless numbers of clients with this sort of hidden gem! Typically there is at least one person like this in every organization.
  3. Look for someone who might be unpopular in meetings because they’ll bring up issues. Frequently, there is someone who is willing to speak up about issues who becomes unpopular because the rest of the team doesn’t understand or think the issue will occur. This person is also seen as delaying the process. Sometimes, these folks are just problem employees but often they can be your stars. Stars are willing to speak up about issues, and if you listen to them, they will save you from all sorts of problems. Of course, if it was only that easy! Typically these folks might not be the best communicators, so they aren’t seen as stars by their managers. You’ll have to look hard.
  4. Look for the influencers. Although not typically in a position of power, the masses will follow them because they trust their judgment. This isn’t obvious because leaders aren’t involved. Look for who employees go to with questions or look for who they will go to if issues occur.
  5. Ask each employee about his/her ideas and/or create small group discussions. Once you gain trust, you’ll rapidly identify your stars.

Since your stars are responsible for 80% of the results and are the go-to people for any project worth doing, there is a dramatic ROI in finding your stars and embracing them. It certainly seems worth the effort of checking in on a few employees each time you walk through the office. Don’t stop and talk with your favorites or those with which you have common interests. Instead, stop at the first desk that wouldn’t part be part of your routine. Be interested and listen. We’ll bet you learn compelling ideas rapidly. Let us know how it goes and what strategies you find the most successful in finding your stars! We are always interested in this vital topic.

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Employee Performance: Do Not Ignore Your Stars

People Rule!



A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity for Manufacturing, Logistics & CA to Align

July 15th, 2019

Last week, I went to the California Capitol building as a part of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership’s (IEEP) regional leadership academy. It was interesting to hear how the process works. I also am also representing the IEEP’s Logistics Council as it relates to moving forward with the Brookings report recommendations to create a consortium of logistics and advanced manufacturing excellence in the Inland Empire.

We are positioned ideally to scale up and partner with industry, academia and government/non-profit partners to achieve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of aligning seemingly disparate goals of manufacturing, logistics, California government and the federal government’s interests to achieve a win-win-win-win. Wouldn’t that be a feat!

The idea is simple. The Inland Empire’s predominant high-paying professions include logistics and manufacturing. The IE has been outpacing all of California in job creation due to these industries yet they are not typically supported (to say the least!). Since they are contributing vitally to the IE community and jobs, we have the cards stacked in our favor:

  • IE logistics is #1 in the U.S.
  • IE manufacturing is strong and vast (SoCal is #1 in manufacturing in the U.S.)
  • The IE has access to great talent in the local and surrounding area universities (CSUSB, UCR, Drucker, Harvey Mudd, Cal Poly, Redlands), community colleges (Norco, Chaffey etc.), and partners such as GA Tech
  • And, the IE is in the unique position to leverage advanced technology to increase customer value, improve profit and create clean technologies as a win for the environment, X.

Thus, we are scaling up and collaborating for success.

This opportunity didn’t just fall into the IE’s lap. The leaders saw potential and ‘went for it’. Are you looking for opportunities?

One tip to implement this week:
In our work with clients, it is commonplace for clients to ignore vast opportunities such as this exciting initiative. There are always roadblocks, different interests, money flows to address and lots of other issues that arise. The key question is whether you are looking at each issue as a detriment or if you see the big picture and train your eye to ‘see’ a successful path forward.

Recently, our APICS Inland Empire chapter had the opportunity to provide training and education to Target (thanks to our partnership with the University of LaVerne). When the opportunity arose, we didn’t know how we would scale up and fulfill it successfully. However, we took the leap of faith to create value and had the confidence that we’d figure it out.

At first, we were worried about executing against our commitments.  Yet, it all fell into place. It forced us to be a bit more creative.  So, when the next leap of faith opportunity arose to provide manufacturing and logistics education to high school students to help bridge the gap to a profitable career, we went for it. We continue to evolve as we go but it has allowed us to make a difference in a way we would never had pursued or been involved with previously. Are you taking a leap of faith?



Do You Treat Your People as Critical Assets to Your Success?

June 24th, 2019

As several CEOs lament continually and as Steve Erickson, president of Corona Clipper, Inc. and UK Business Unit Group, said in our 2019 predictions document, talent is a hot topic in today’s tight labor market. Perhaps it is time to put a bit more thought into our talent.

As a consultant who works with organizations from a few million in annual revenue to multi-billion dollar conglomerates, it is quite clear that talent is an issue across-the-board. It doesn’t matter the industry, the size, or the ownership (private equity, publicly traded or closely-held). Talent is an issue that is top of mind of every executive interested in growth and innovation. The trick is whether you just think about talent or are willing to invest in talent. Which are you?

Certainly, those who invest are far more likely to retain top talent and develop new talent. In zero unemployment markets, there is something to be said about creating your own talent. If you aren’t focused on this topic, it is quite likely the competition will steal your talent away.

There are many ways to invest in talent:

  1. Provide mentor opportunities – If your organization looks for ways to support the growth of employees with mentors, you are bound to be more successful than the norm. In our experience, the best companies realize that people need to learn through practical application and mentoring provides this opportunity.
  2. Invest in leaders to encourage continuous coaching – aAyearly review is quite useless. Who can remember what happened that long ago and understand how to improve or build on a strength? Instead, I found that 90 day one-on-one performance conversations with a limited number of objectives do the trick. Continuous feedback and investment of time can go a long way. But let’s not expect leaders to know how to conduct these sessions if we haven’t invested in them. Remember, it trickles down hill.
  3. Provide training opportunities – Search for training topics that will supplement what your employees should understand. For example, any employee in operations and supply chain should take APICS courses to understand the fundamentals of supply chain and operations management and related principles. If nothing else, it will provide the body of knowledge and associated language.
  4. Provide experiences – In larger companies, there might be job rotations or overseas assignments.  No matter the size, there are cross-training opportunities as well as enabling visits and collaborations with customers, suppliers, systems and technology providers, consultants/experts and other partners.
  5. Allow the freedom for experimentation – To encourage new ideas and innovation, it is important to design programs that educate employees as well as provide a framework to try out new ideas. In our consulting travels, we find that employees who are allowed to test new ideas in a safe zone feel invested in.
  6. Address poor performers – Instead of ignoring your poor performers because it is an unpleasant task or you are worried about repercussions, proactively address them. Work with them to turn them around or move them out of the organization, and you’ll unleash your top talent.

Why not merely increase your engagement by investing in your already-existing talent? According to all the surveys, engagement is at horrific levels in the vast majority of organizations yet engagement is key to driving performance. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out investing in your people is not only common sense but it can do more good for your bottom line than almost anything else. The key is to not treat investment as throwing money at an issue but instead seeing it as a priority. Let us know what ideas you have to engage your most critical assets.

 

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Are You Retaining Top Talent?

Profit Through People