Grow or Die

Grow or Die

“When faced with a radical crisis, when the old way of being in the world, of interacting with each other and with the realm of nature doesn’t work anymore, when survival is threatened by seemingly insurmountable problems, an individual life-form — or a species — will either die or become extinct or rise above the limitations of its condition through an evolutionary leap.”
Eckhart Tolle

GROW OR DIE?

Though Tolle said it more eloquently (and many years ago, before anyone had heard of COVID-19), that is the choice we all face right now. The realm of nature has changed. The human race is at war with a new enemy we don’t yet understand and therefore cannot defeat with one mighty stroke of the sword.

Let’s choose “Grow.”

Let’s choose to fight, to unite as a species — and as entrepreneurs — to evolve in a way that helps us survive this crisis as we’ve survived so many others in humanity’s very brief history.

What does that mean for each of us?

Change.

A simple word that under normal circumstances, most entrepreneurs would say they embrace and embody. And yet, as this crisis has unfolded, most of us have discovered just how set in our ways we’ve become. We like things “just so.” My personal inventory of things I’ve resisted for years despite growing evidence that it would help me, or my family, or my clients; well, it’s huge.

Now, I’m not saying all change is good. I’m just saying Newton’s Second Law is absolutely true: “an object at rest tends to stay at rest.” And we as leaders all need to recognize that our businesses — individual life-forms in their own right — tend to justify the status quo and fight change unless it’s absolutely necessary.

A story of Good Change

One of the Visionaries I spoke with last week had been driving his organization to embrace technological and cultural change for years. This is in an industry in which about 80% of the billable work can be done by a single person and reviewed by a second person who is not in the same building. And yet, they still allowed very few people to work from home (and frankly did even that reluctantly). Just about every member of the team could think of one reason or another why the sky would fall if they extended that “luxury” to everyone.

Enter COVID-19.

In two weeks, 100% of the company’s team members are able to work from home. This organization is an “essential business,” so they’re able to come to the office if they choose, but they don’t. And my client — who also happens to be a friend — reported that they plan to be FAR more liberal with work from home (WFH) flexibility in the future, regardless of health concerns.

It’s time to ACT

After hearing dozens of similar stories from clients, entrepreneurs, and longtime friends these last three weeks, I decided to act. Here’s what I did (and I hope this helps you, too):

  • I reviewed my V/TOs™ (one for my business, one for my family) to stay clear on my “Core.” This is the stuff that should only evolve if absolutely necessary to ensure your survival. It’s who you are and why you’re able to help and deliver value to those you love most. It’s your Core Values, Core Focus™, 10-Year Target™ and — for my business — Marketing Strategy. This exercise confirmed to me they’re all still rock solid and right.
  • Next, I compiled a list of things I’ve resisted changing in my life and business, prioritized the things I must change now, and set 3 Rocks to evolve NOW.
  • Everything else went to my V/TO Issues List, because I want to continue evolving regularly long after this crisis has passed. My hope is that — even when a crisis no longer forces urgency — I can maintain this level of intensity and discipline.

This is what Jim Collins and Jerry Porras called “Preserve the Core/Stimulate Progress” in the 1994 classic Built to Last. The value of evolution is timeless and has long been the key to successful businesses, entrepreneurs, and leaders (and all humans) surviving the test of time. A crisis doesn’t CREATE the need to evolve and change, it simply intensifies it.

So please… let’s all choose “Grow.” And if you’re not sure where to begin, please let a Professional EOS Implementer® help you Lead NOW.

Written by Mike Paton on April 02, 2020

A road sign saying tough decisions ahead

HEALTHY vs SMART – SIX KEY QUESTIONS

Are you getting 100% of what you want from your business? The key to that – for any owner, any team, any company – is your ability to confront and make the difficult decisions we all face.

Some of those decisions involve the “smart” part of running a business – strategy, business plans, budgets, investment choices, and so on. We tend to be pretty good at these because they’re objective – often quantifiable. They’re also what we’re taught to be good at when we learn how to run businesses.

The much tougher decisions, and the ones that really determine whether you get what you want, involve the “healthy” part of running a business – culture, alignment, accountability and, most difficult of all, people. If you sometimes struggle with those issues, it just makes you normal.

Most of us struggle with them because they can’t be quantified and often involve letting go of something – or someone – familiar, safe and comfortable. These decisions require us to do things that we’ve been socialized NOT to do, especially telling people things we think they don’t want to hear. To make this even harder, few of us are ever taught how to be good at the “healthy” part of running a business.

“Healthy” means having a strong culture and vision that get people engaged and aligned. It means being great at accountability, so you can count on work getting done without having to micromanage it. It means being truly open and honest with one another, holding nothing back, so that difficult issues are addressed, not avoided, and so that difficult decisions are made, allowing the company to move forward.In his most recent book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni says that if you had to choose one or the other, healthy or smart, you should choose healthy for one simple reason. Healthy will help you become smart, but smart won’t make you healthy.

So the next time you take a clarity break – a chance to get your head outside the business so that you can think about it objectively – try asking yourself these questions:

  • How strong are our culture and vision?
  • Do they attract and engage the kinds of people we want?
  • If I asked my people – all of them – to describe our culture and vision, how many different answers would I get?
  • Are our lines of accountability crystal clear? When an issue arises, do we all know immediately who owns it?
  • Are my people willing to come into a meeting having NOT done the things they told their teammates they would do by that date or is that simply unthinkable to them?
  • How open and honest are our conversations? What do we hold back?

In the answers to these questions, you will find the places where your team, and therefore your business, is less healthy than it could be. These are the most important issues you face, the ones that are keeping you from getting what you want. The good news is that they can be solved (yes, we can help with that – it’s a process, not a mystery). Solving them will set you on your way. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can accelerate into the future you dream of.

Written by Dan Wallace on February 6, 2014

An image showing two powders in two jars

Do you love Simple Elegant Solutions?

I do. Take the GNC protein tubs and scoops featured in the blog picture. Before you had to dig around in your powder to find the scoop (which had a habit of hiding). Customers (including me) were clearly frustrated leading the GNC team to a simple solution – a scoop that is captured in the rim and secured by the lid when it is closed – Brilliant!

In a similar fashion, when developing the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®) Gino Wickman worked tirelessly to refine and simplify, creating a Complete Proven System of Simple Practical Tools to help Entrepreneurial leaders get more of what they want from their companies.

In the EOS Toolbox™, 5-5-5™ is a great example of Gino’s obsession to simplify. It allows for a clear quarterly conversation between an employee and their manager, making sure they are both on the same page, and moving with Traction towards the Vision of the organization. Contrast this with most organizations where reviews are only annual (if at all) and the manager and employee alike dread the event. In my experience both struggle to prepare, articulate their thoughts and concerns, and as a consequence fail to have any kind of meaningful purpose-driven conversation. 5-5-5™ addresses this with simplicity, and purpose.

It works like this. Each quarter the employee and their manager schedule an hour to talk, preferably offsite, away from the office, perhaps in a coffee shop. They then simply discuss openly what’s working and what’s not working around their shared expectations of CORE VALUES (5), SEAT ROLES (5) and QUARTERLY ROCKS (5). Of course, there may not be exactly five of each and that’s okay. 5-5-5™ just makes it sticky so you both clearly know what you will be doing.

5-5-5™ Simple Elegance! Don’t you just love it!

Written by Richard Price on January 27, 2020

Several hands all holding a growing plant in soil

BOOST ACCOUNTABILITY, DRIVE PERFORMANCE!

Poor accountability could be the single greatest threat to your company’s future – creating a culture of excuses, confusion, and inefficiencies – ultimately resulting in poor performance.

According to Gallup, only 30% of employees are “engaged,” 50% are disengaged (just going through the motions) – and an incredible 20% are actively disengaged, or working against you every single day – all of which directly impacts a culture of accountability.

The Gallup survey uncovers a secret – employee engagement significantly boosts accountability leading to organizational performance. Why? Because engaged employees have an emotional commitment to the organization and its goals. They don’t just work for a paycheck. They care about their work and their company.

So why let poor accountability become an obstacle in the path to achieving better engagement and results?

10 Tips to Boost Accountability

Take action today to change the company’s DNA by creating a new culture of performance by embracing more accountability! Here are 10 ways good leaders foster accountability to grow great teams and strong cultures:

  1. Clarify your people’s roles – Employees who don’t understand the roles they play in the company’s success are more likely to become disengaged. Take the time to create the right structure for your organization, clarifying roles and responsibilities, so you have the right people in the right seats. Remember the rule of thumb: When 2 or more people are accountable for a position, nobody is accountable!
  2. Set great goals – Employees want to see how their work contributes to larger company objectives. Setting smart quarterly goals aligns everyone around what’s most important. In EOS® language, we call 90-day goals, “Rocks” – 3-7 top priorities that align everyone around what’s most important. Because “if everything is important, nothing is important!”
  3. Walk the talk – You and your leadership team have to be role models of accountability – because as you go, so does the rest of the organization. Never play the “blame game,” which is usually a ploy to control others or hand off responsibility. Accept the fact that all the company’s problems were created by you and your leadership team. But you must believe that the same team that created all the problems together can solve all of the problems together. That’s demonstrating 100% responsibility. That’s what inspires others to do the same.
  4. Communicate continuously – Make sure your expectations are clear and consistent. Remember the “Rule of 7” says people need to hear something 7 times before it sinks in. Eliminate the “I didn’t understand” excuse by using both verbal and written communications.
  5. Measure objectively – Accountability must be based on facts, not distorted by opinions, politics, and desire for power. Make sure to create a Scorecard, Dashboard or key Measurables to ensure your goals and objectives are creating the right impact. Remember, what gets measured, gets done!
  6. Give control before expecting accountability – If several levels of approvals are needed for a specific decision, no one will feel accountable, and no one can be held accountable. If more than one person is ultimately accountable, nobody is accountable.
  7. Align functional groups with business goals – If key functions aren’t under the control of the proper team, accountability will suffer. For example, if your sales group is measured on profitability, but is required to process leads from outside sources paid by volume, you have a conflict where everyone loses.
  8. Provide timely feedback on performance – High performers need regular quarterly coaching on how to improve, as well as annual full reviews. Help your people look in the mirror and see reality. Coach them to greatness!
  9. Use a process to solve your issues – Your ability to be successful and grow is directly proportionate to your ability to solve your issues. Getting to the root and solving problems should never be a “name and shame” game. Leaders need to provide a safe haven where difficult issues can be discussed and solved without assigning blame. The goal should always be to solve problems, not hurl accusations. (At EOS, we use an Issues Solving Track™ called IDS: Identify, Discuss, Solve – to knock down issues and make them go away forever).
  10. Improve trust – While accountability tools that measure data and results are important, you must also trust the people. Absolute dependence on tools leads to the abdication of personal responsibility. Build trust through strong and consistent leadership and management – all of which improves accountability!

Boost Engagement with Accountability

Can you imagine having employees who are “engaged?” Who are fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and take positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests?

If you and your leadership team are willing to be the best, you’ll realize that accountability makes it all happen. You’ll have more control over your business, build a strong, engaged and accountable culture – ultimately increasing the value of your business AND your peace of mind!

Written by Chris Naylor on October 5, 2017

an image of several people running along a beach up hill

YOUR CULTURE IS YOUR FAULT

I was recently with the leadership team of a proud company that had a big challenge. They had been experiencing declining sales and profitability. The senior leadership team understood the gravity of their situation, but they couldn’t get the mid-level managers and the frontline employees to see a need to change day-to-day habits.

Like many companies, the culture of the organization had become stale. The employees had a lackadaisical, “So what?” kind of attitude: “So what if this order is not shipped on time? So what if the customer complains?

As we set about making our goals for the coming year, one of the top priorities was, “Transform our company culture to one where ALL employees know THEY are in charge of making customers happy.”

There were some heated conversations as we discussed what it would take to achieve this transformation. As soon as one person insisted that certain operational changes must take place, someone else would disagree and say the solution was something else. The atmosphere in the room became thick with frustration and confusion.

Finally, someone said, “Hey! We are over-complicating our business. It’s not as hard as we’re making it out to be. Basically, we buy a product, then do some things to that product, and resell it to our customers. And to our customers, the basics count. If we do what we say and ship it on time, the customer is happy and he buys from us again.”

Everyone agreed that failure to deliver the basics was the reason for their decline and that if they didn’t do something, all would be lost. They weren’t delivering the basics because their culture didn’t value the basics.

And it was their fault. The senior leaders sitting in the room – it was their fault.

Culture Starts at the Top

Culture is everything, and when it gets lost or stuck, the cause is at the top. Many leadership teams get trapped into blaming the employees in their company for their own failures: “They don’t get it. They don’t embrace our values. They have lost sight of the basics.”

Becoming a great leadership team means taking ownership of the issues you have created so you can take ownership of solving them. You and your senior leaders must:

  1. OWN it yourselves
  2. COMMUNICATE it incessantly
  3. EXPECT it from every person in your organization
  4. LIVE the message by example

That’s what it takes to drive the culture you want to build beyond your senior leadership team. Transforming a culture is a deliberate act and one that must be executed by the top leaders. When an entire leadership team makes the decision to support one another completely, honestly, and with the greater good of everyone in mind, it can become an unstoppable transformative force.

Written by Ken DeWitt on May 10, 2018

A image showing an illustration of a road turning into an arrow

6 KEY DRIVERS OF SUCCESS

Photo by Artur Aldyrkhanov on Unsplash

An article by New York Times business columnist Adam Bryant poses this question, “In your experience, do these six ‘success drivers’ make sense?”

The article summarizes extensive interviews Bryant conducted with leaders of successful companies whose names you would recognize. He was looking, he says, for “the things that, if done well, have an outsized positive impact, and if done poorly or not at all, have an outsize negative impact.”

If you’d like to read the entire article, you can see it here: Management Be Nimble.
Or we can save you a little time. Bryant’s six success drivers are:

  1. Have an extremely simple plan (narrow, with an exceptionally clear focus on where you’re going, supported by a small number of key goals)
  2. Be clear about the ‘rules of the road’ (a small set of core values that are authentic, which means they truly define and differentiate your culture, and that you really live by them)
  3. Treat people with respect (so that they feel free to challenge each other and pursue the greater good of the business)
  4. Build a strong team (roles are crystal clear, right people are in right seats, and the team embraces a culture of trust and accountability)
  5. Have adult conversations (an outcome of the two previous points – the ability for people to speak openly and honestly, without fear of repercussions)
  6. Deal with difficult issues face-to-face, not via email (or other technology that makes misinterpretation and distrust more likely)

Those principles are timeless. They’re described in dozens of business books from authors like Bryant, Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni, and many others.

And of course, they make sense. If your company has a simple, clear plan that everyone understands, a strong culture based on a few key principles that everyone embraces, a rock-solid team, and an environment in which you’ve replaced politics with open, honest conversations focused on the greater good of the business, how will you not do better?

The question is whether you know how to make it happen – to do these things really well so that you enjoy the ‘outsized positive impact’ Bryant describes.

The good news is that you don’t have to figure out how to make it happen by yourself – explore the EOS Model™ and experience Vision, Traction and Healthy in your business. We are here to help.

Written by Dan Wallace on March 3, 2014 – with edits by Richard Price

a maze showing a red arrow through it

BE PART OF THE 8% WHO SUCCEED!

It’s that time of year when there’s a lot of buzz about New Year’s resolutions. But with all the excitement and possibilities of the new year, a commonly held statistic is that only 8% of people actually keep their resolutions. That means that 92% of people fail each year!! Yet we know there is great power in goal-setting. People who have defined, measurable, written goals outperform most others.

What Makes a Good Goal?

Traditional goal-setting wisdom has taught us that a good goal must be SMART:

Specific. It’s always best to write down your goals – either on paper or digitally – breaking pieces of the goal into smaller steps.

Measurable. Put a number to your goal. Set it to hit it. Find an accountability partner for encouragement and set reminders to keep yourself on track.

Attainable. You must believe it’s possible, or you won’t be motivated. Be sure you think through any obstacles and the tasks needed to overcome them. Make sure it’s possible for you to have control over the outcome.

Realistic. Be sure the odds are good for you to accomplish your goals. Otherwise, you might set yourself up for overwhelm or frustration.

Timely. Always put a deadline to your goals. Typically, people have about a 90-day attention span for goals. At EOS®, we call these Rocks – the 3 to 7 most important things that must get done over the next 90 days.

While we might have a handful of annual goals or long-term priorities, shorter timeframes build good follow-through habits and reward you with quicker gratification. By having more frequent victories, you’ll build a strong track record and create more momentum. On the other hand, long-term goals force you to grow, keep you headed in the right direction, and provide a sense of greater purpose with something exciting to work toward.

A mix of short- and long-term goals is ideal. To apply this concept to your business, we use the Vision/Traction Organizer™ (VTO™).

Here are some examples of goals with a well-defined action plan and specific deadlines:

  • If you’re trying to lose 10 pounds, get specific about your diet, workout plan and deadline, say for an important event or wedding.
  • If you’re trying to reduce stress, get specific about what you will do to make that happen and by when. Maybe your measurable is to reduce your blood pressure by 10 points.
  • If you’re trying to increase sales by 20% in the next quarter, then create a 90-day plan to get you there.

We really have two choices: either we can leave things up to chance and react to life as it happens, or we can take action toward creating the future we envision for business and life. The more successful we become, the more we can contribute to making the world a better place!

So dream big, set good goals, and take action!

Written by Chris Naylor on January 3, 2019

a picture of The Beatles, the rock band

A GREAT HABIT IS HARD TO BREAK

After a client’s recent EOS session, an owner of the company made a comment about the importance of repetition in mastering a skill. Specifically, he was talking about the weekly Level 10 meeting and, after just six meetings, how much better his team was becoming at identifying, discussing and solving issues, getting things done, improving communication and team health. He told his team, “Imagine how much better we’ll be after 52 weekly Level 10 meetings?”

Good Habits Yield Great Results

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell challenges the impact that intelligence plays in determining success and points to repetition – putting in the hours necessary to succeed. He mentions the “ten-thousand-hour rule” … that it takes about 10,000 hours of doing something to truly master it. He retells a well-known story behind the Beatles “sudden” success. By the time they played the Ed Sullivan show, they had completed 1200 live performances. In Hamburg, Germany, they played 270 nights during an 18-month stretch, often playing 8 hours per night – talk about “A Hard Day’s Night!”

Gladwell also points out that the child prodigy Mozart, who began writing music when he was six, developed late in life, producing his greatest works after he’d been composing for over 20 years. To become a chess grandmaster takes about 10 years. To become an expert at anything requires about 10,000 hours of practice.

So, whether you aspire to be a chess grandmaster, an elite athlete, an artist, a welder, a baker, a chef, or a successful entrepreneur and business owner, you must develop great habits and repeat them often. Combine repetition with a pursuit of what you truly love doing and you’re on your way towards mastery. And, the longer you repeat great habits, the harder they are to break.

Written by Rene Boer on December 26, 2016

a woman on a dock looking towards the sky and birds flying

BE WHERE YOU ARE WHEN YOU’RE THERE

Are you proud of your ability to multi-task? Can you close a deal, hire someone, attend a video conference AND make dinner plans – all while driving your car?

Many entrepreneurs are not only capable of keeping all those plates spinning, they’re fiercely proud of it. Yes, it is true that cramming 20 pounds of productivity into a 10-pound bag can be an important skill when you’re building a great business from scratch. However, it’s also true that all frenetic multi-taskers reach a point of diminishing returns as their businesses and teams grow.

The fact is, none of us do our best work when we’re not fully present. If you’re a visionary entrepreneur, much of what you’ve built started with your ability to think and create something from scratch. This work is best done without distraction, without the inevitable pull of “stuff” that needs to get done. When you’re fleshing out one of those big ideas, you then need to research, test, and learn from your successes and failures – all stuff that’s best done when you can slow down, tune in, and really observe and learn.

Are You Fully Present and Engaged?

As you hire and empower other capable people, they also need your undivided attention from time to time. They need to clearly understand your vision, get your feedback on a company Rock or important hire, maybe just get to know what’s going on inside that visionary brain of yours. All these things require you to be fully present, to eliminate distractions, and to show up as your best self.

How many devices are you connected to right now? Are you racing around from one fire to the next? Are you reading this blog post while on the phone with a client, employee or family member? Did you check email, text or voice messages under the table during a meeting today?

If so, you’re just not present. You’re not fully engaged in the task at hand or with the people in the room. You’re not focused. And no matter how good you are at multi-tasking, you can’t do your best thinking, strategizing, leading, and deciding without being present. And we can tell. Your family, your leadership team, even your employees and vendors can tell.

Slow Down and Give Your Best Self

So, don’t be afraid to slow down. Consider taking a regular Clarity Break™ to give yourself time to think and to ready your best self for what’s ahead in the coming week. It’s okay to keep doing lots of stuff. Just try to do it one important thing at a time, with 100% of your focus and attention.

Being where you are when you’re there will make you AND those around you better, smarter, faster, and healthier.

Written by Mike Paton on December 28, 2017

Five professional people smiling both male and female

WHY MILLENNIALS WILL LOVE EOS® – PART 2

In Why Millennials Will Love EOS® – Part 1 we said that millennials, who were raised in a different time than we Boomers and Gen-Xers, think differently. They have very specific expectations for information and for their work environments. TheVision/Traction Organizer™ and the Accountability Chart provide the vision, big picture, and culture that millennials need to understand and to be engaged.

In Part 2 I want to share specific EOS Tools that will help you lead, manage, and hold millennials accountable, as well as the rest of your team.

Quarterly Rocks

Millennials need to see progress, completion, and evidence that they are building new skills. Setting priorities for the few most important things that must get done each quarter at the company level, by department, and for individuals creates clear alignment that everyone is rowing in the same direction. This quarterly rhythm shows completion of tasks more often, develops job skills and can provide a variety of work. It also provides an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to lead without changing positions.

Weekly Level 10 Meetings™

Maintaining human connectivity is critical for digitally native millennials. The weekly pulse of reporting, holding each other accountable, and problem-solving is frankly the lifeblood of any healthy team regardless of the ages of its members. For millennials, using the IDS and the Issues Solving Track™ during this weekly problem-solving session gives the team opportunities to be creative, share, and be exposed to new ideas

Scorecards

A powerful currency for millennials is flexibility — when, where, and how to get the work done, as long as it gets done. Working remotely and flextime don’t work for everything, but they can work for certain roles. The key is how to hold people accountable. A weekly scorecard of activity-based metrics that track specific job responsibilities will provide the tool for many to self-manage their results and keep their boss and teammates plugged in.

Process

Documenting your handful of Core Processes brings consistency and scalability to how the work gets done. When followed by everyone on the team a consistent process also gives additional autonomy.

In addition to these tools, you need to master the Five Management Practices™ that speaks directly to the kind of feedback and direction millennials need to get.

  • Practice 1. Keeping expectations clear – yours and theirs
  • Practice 2. Communicating well – more listening than talking
  • Practice 3. Maintaining the right Meeting Pulse™
  • Practice 4. Having Quarterly Conversations – 1:1 meetings to talk about what’s working and what’s not
  • Practice 5. Rewarding and Recognizing – within 24 hours, open and honest, be their boss, not their buddy

Written by Clark Neuhoff on August 14, 2017