How To Avoid Failing

Logo1After one of my recent leadership tips, someone asked me my opinion of the primary causes why businesses or business units fail.

Fair question.

To clarify, ‘fail’ can mean going out of business (closing the doors) … or ‘fail’ can also mean not reaching expectations.

Although I have no shortage of opinions, and there is no one answer to this question, let me share with you my experience and provide you with my top 3 – ways to avoid failing.

Business or business units can avoid failure if:

1. They have a realistic plan. Many businesses do not have a plan and if they do, the plans are often short sighted and / or incomplete. Realistic plans have to leverage your strengths, minimize your weaknesses, maximize your opportunities (current and emerging), thoughtfully addresses your threats (current and emerging). The plans have to be born with creative thought and deliberate, mindful strategies and actions.

2. They have competent leadership. Leadership that possess the skills to establish strong employee relationships and the ability to build a focused and engaged team. Caring, creativity, consistency, communication and attention to customers are key.

3. They are efficient with time. They have established priorities, they are highly productive, they avoid fire-fighting because they solve problems before they occur, they are focused and purposeful, they think things through in advance – they plan.

My leadership tip for you this week, is to have you perform a reality gut check on how well your business or business unit(s) are doing in these 3 – critical areas.

To do this, spend a minimum of half a day with key members of your team to review your performance in each of these areas. Give everyone an assignment of assessing one or more of the components of the three points made above. Be mindful of the ‘rose colored glasses’ your team may be wearing.

You may want to assign a positive viewpoint and a critical viewpoint, or get an independent 3rd party facilitator to calibrate your perspective.

Business can be good today (this quarter) … but the question is, are you doing the things today that will assure your business will be good tomorrow.

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Ten Success Rules

On occasion, I’ll pull out Herbert N. Casson’s Ten Success Rules and give myself a reality check. I thought I’d share them with you:

Put success before amusement.

Learn something every day.

Cut free from routine.

Concentrate on net profits.

Make your services known.

Never worry about trifles.

Shape your decisions quickly.

Acquire skill and technique.

Deserve loyalty and co-operation.

Value character above all.

One can always argue that there should be more (or fewer) success rules, but let’s work with these.

My leadership tip this week is to ask you to measure yourself against these ten rules and make any necessary adjustments in your leadership to comply fully.

Use the grading scale below. If your total score is below 50 points, you’ve got some work to do.

Strength of Mine – 5 points

I’m Above Average – 4 points

I’m Competent – 3 points

I’m Below Average – 2 points

I Need Some Work – 1 point

The one success rule that may give you a little trouble is ‘Make Your Services Known’.

For me, making your services known is about mentoring, coaching, advising, sharing experiences, being available, listening, supporting, encouraging, giving recognition, showing appreciation, directing and the list can go on.

As a leader, the only way to make these services known is by actively doing them … and doing them well.

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It’s All About The Results

Let’s think about your strategies for a few minutes.

Have they been designed to achieve top line growth … bottom line growth … increase / defend market share … customer satisfaction … or something else?

Are you satisfied with your results?

We know Blockbuster, Sears, Radio Shack and a many other retailers are not satisfied with their results.

Winston Churchill once said, ‘however beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results’.

All of the above mentioned companies at one time were implementing strategies that worked real well … and then it seems like all of a sudden their results were off and it was too late.

My leadership tip for you this week is to slow down and take a real close look at the results of your strategies.

This isn’t hard to do, but most of us don’t do it.

We get busy … we get distracted … we lose our focus … our priorities get out of alignment … and then the next thing you know, we wonder why we aren’t having the kind of success we thought we would.

By focusing on the results of your strategies you will be able to identify necessary adjustments in execution or modifications to the action plans designed to achieve the expected results.

You may also realize that you have the wrong strategy.

Don’t be stubborn – change it.

It’s good to be committed to a strategy … but it’s even better to be good at measuring the results and taking action.

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You Played That Well … Nice Job

If you do any amount of travel for business, you likely have been exposed to all kinds of different characters who drive cab or a shuttle bus.

On one trip you might experience someone who is extremely talkative, or very quiet, or an aggressive driver, or an overly cautious driver who doesn’t appear to know where they’re going … or something else.

I have to share with you a recent ride I took in a shuttle bus from the airport to a hotel I was staying at. I was the only passenger.

I had a nervous driver. He just seemed uncomfortable and jittery. No discussion, ‘how was your flight’ or ‘where you from’ … nothing … not a word.

Which was just fine with me, because I like to sit quietly and think.

While on the freeway to the hotel, we came across some road construction where two lanes became extra narrow with a concrete barricade on the left and no shoulder on the right.

Suddenly on the right, two vehicles were merging into the lane we were in and a couple of vehicles to our left were trying to pass. With nowhere to go, we were being squeezed out and the nervous driver was now extra nervous. He slowed down just enough to let the vehicles on the left pass us, quickly moved into their lane while avoiding collision with the merging vehicles.

Nervously, he looked into the rear view mirror to check my reaction.

Knowing he was nervous, sensing something was bothering him … I simply said, ‘you played that well … nice job.’

He beamed from ear to ear and his whole demeanor changed for the remaining 10 minutes of the trip.

I’m not positive what caused his initial discomfort, but I was glad I was able to make him smile.

My leadership tip for you this week is to never forget about the importance and power of positive reinforcement. A few well timed words, that take seconds to say, can earn you long lasting loyalty and engagement from anyone.

A few poorly expressed words, or an obvious none acknowledgement, can negatively impact your relationship and create disengagement.

So, think about this … how many positive reinforcement messages or acknowledgements have you delivered this week ?

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