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


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?


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

People Perish

Without Vision – People Perish

One of the most powerful tools in The EOS Process® and in developing the Vision/Traction Organizer™ (V/TO™) is your 3-Year Picture™.

In this vivid vision exercise, we mentally walk the halls of the business. Ultimately, we help our clients come up with a bulleted list of 10-20 items that all the leaders agree to. It’s so powerful when you have all that human energy sharing the same vision. We then have everyone close their eyes as we tell a story about their 3-Year Picture.

Your 3-Year Picture Should Be Emotional

As we walk our clients through the story of their business, oftentimes people get very emotional. Sometimes you’ll have a leader or two crying. The reason is that a great 3-Year Picture is emotionally connected and driven.  As a result, emotionally-driven teams are more likely to achieve all their goals.

The 3-Year Picture is an exercise that is intended to get you and the leadership team seeing the same thing at the same time. They are the team that will need to accomplish the goals, so they better be on the same page with every aspect of where they are going. This is a much more effective way of planning because it has essentially the same impact of very detailed strategic plans without the heavy lifting. People just don’t remember 50 pages of non-emotional spreadsheets and words.

It All Starts With Vision, Shared By All

Our Vision/Traction Organizer is a complete two-page strategic plan. The vision side of the document is comprised of your Core Values, your Core Focus™, your 10-Year Target™, your marketing strategy, and your 3-Year Picture.

As James Allen said:

“The oak sleeps in the acorn. The bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of reality.” 

The reason our method of facilitating the 3-Year Picture is so powerful is that the entire leadership team is involved. Many leaders have created a vivid vision for themselves and try to force it on their team. The issue is that they are the only ones seeing it. It’s a start, but it’s much less effective than if all 3-8 people at the helm of the business are rowing in the same direction.

You will do much better work and go faster if the entire leadership team participates in creating your 3-Year Picture.

Written by Mark O’Donnell on January 2nd, 2020

A road sign saying tough decisions ahead


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

Several hands all holding a growing plant in soil


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


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


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


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 tutor showing text written on a whiteboard in a classroom


The impact these 76 million people born between 1980 – 2002 will have on the workforce is well-documented. Stereotypes aside, their numbers, creativity, passion and knack for technology make them a critical asset to any organization. However, they do think differently than we Baby-Boomer owners and many Gen-X leaders and managers.

When you look at articles about millennials, a handful of themes keeps showing up:

  • passion and meaning
  • understanding the big picture
  • culture
  • work-life alignment
  • projects with clear expectations
  • being creative
  • frequent and regular feedback
  • connectivity with the boss and company

Good news! Much of what millennials are looking for in an organization and how they are best-managed maps directly to the specific tools of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS®). Two of those tools that you’ll find discussed in Gino Wickman’s book, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Businessare the Vision/Traction Organizer™ and the Accountability Chart.

The Vision/Traction Organizer, V/TO

This two-page business plan with only 8 questions defines where an organization is going and how it will get there. Your Core Focus™ clearly spells out the company’s reason for being by linking your passion – why the organization exists – with your niche, what you do. Core Values define your culture or who you are as a people. This whowhy and what is essentially the soul of the organization. The 10-Year Target™ points to a bigger-than-life, energizing goal and the 3-Year Picture™ lets everyone know exactly what the organization will look like just three years out. The 1-Year Plan and Quarterly Rocks break it down to specific goals and priorities that will get you there in the near term.

Referring to the V/TO in regular company meetings and throughout the interview process, as we teach our EOS clients, will satisfy most millennials’ need to know, and make sure your vision for the company is shared by all.

The Accountability Chart

Showing who is accountable for what across the entire organization does several things for millennials. First, it provides a crystal clear focus on roles and responsibilities. Second, it shows opportunities for development and advancement as managers delegate accountabilities to their teams. Once accountabilities are defined by the five key roles in each seat, you now have a common language to discuss whether or not an employee gets it, wants it and has the capacity for a specific seat. Do they align with this job?

Millennials want to be clear on what is expected of them and what they can expect from the company. They are also looking for regular feedback on their performance. Clear roles and responsibilities are the foundation for this ongoing dialog.

In Why Millennials Will Love EOS® – Part 2, we’ll talk about EOS tools for leading, managing, and holding millennials accountable.

Written by Clark Neuhoff on August 10, 2017

a hand holding a magnifying glass over rocks


Some leaders and managers have been tempted to deviate from the 5-minute rock review we teach in the weekly Level 10 Meeting™, desiring something more detailed than a simple, on track/off track, report. The concern that team members are inappropriately reporting rocks to be on track when they are not has led some teams to create elaborate “rock crushing systems” that include breaking rocks down into smaller action steps, plotting those steps out across a timeline, tracking completion of those steps and reporting the progress in weekly meetings.

While I understand the motivation behind creating such systems, I urge you to treat the root causes rather than the symptoms. Not completing rocks and inappropriately reporting rock progress are symptoms with an underlying cause.

A person who exhibits the symptom of not completing his or her rocks doesn’t get it, want it or have the capacity to do what needs to be done. In other words, if someone can’t set and achieve proper rocks for their seat, you have the wrong person in that seat. Solve that root cause issue and you won’t feel the need to micromanage human activity in your organization. You also won’t need to waste valuable time in your weekly meetings. When the right people say a rock is on track, you can believe it. Trust them and get the heck out of their way. Don’t slow them down by adding complexity to their lives.

There are lots of project/task management tools/apps available in the marketplace. Do you really need to create another one? Is that your company’s Core Focus™? Let your people choose the productivity tools that work best for them and use your creative time and energy to build something to bring in an additional million dollars of revenue.

Simplify, don’t complicate. Trust your people, don’t micromanage.

Written by Don Tinney on August 12, 2019

a dart in the bullseye of a dartboard


Harry Beckwith says, “people don’t lead, purposes do.”

Recently, I worked with a client who became a firm believer in this statement. He is the son who inherited a successful 20-year-old family business and is now struggling to pay the bills. He has been drifting away from the company’s core business and has become distracted.

During a conversation we were having, I asked, “Why do you do what you do?”

“I do it for the money!” he replied.

After continuing to probe, he could not come up with one reason as to why he took over the business other than money. It became very clear to both of us that he had no passion or purpose in running this business, hence the direction it was going.

When Focus Gets Lost

One thing is certain over the course of time: companies and people lose focus. Occasionally, it’s because the people in charge aren’t passionate about the business. Other times it’s because they are hungry for revenue, looking for a new challenge, or maybe they’re just bored.

Whatever tempts you, your job as a leadership team is to determine what the organization’s Core Focus™ is and stay laser-focused on it. To do that, you’ll need to agree on two things:

  1. Your Purpose/Cause/Passion (your reason for being)
  2. Your Niche (your superior skill)

Your Business’s “Sweet Spot” is the Key

When you work within this “sweet spot”, the company will be more effective and more profitable, and you’ll have more fun. When you don’t, you’ll become distracted by “shiny stuff”, lose focus, and the business will suffer.

Written by Duane Marshall on December 2, 2019