Blog Post Cover: Business Operations Professional People Skills

We’re continuing our look at Marcus Whitney’s Book Create and Orchestrate by examining what it means to have a strong sense of business operations.

If you missed any of the previous posts, don’t worry, links are at the bottom.

At its core, the purpose of operations is the indefatigable elimination of risk in the business.*

The Structure Of Business

The United States has a dizzying array of tax codes, legal standards, and licensing requirements for businesses. I’m not a tax professional, and I understand very little about the different structures and benefits to each different type of business entity.

What I do understand, however, is risk mitigation and people management.

Yes, creating the right entity matters.

Of course, you need to have insurance, file the proper paperwork, and utilize the right tax incentives.

But above all, it’s the measure of people’s development, conflict resolution, and personal investment that really shapes the future of your business.

Effective Business Operations Includes Substantial People Development

Years ago, I was coaching an individual that often touted his own leadership capabilities. He was convinced that both his ideas and his methods were right. It came as an absolute shock then when he was passed over for a promotion.

To hear that he didn’t play well with others, handled criticism poorly, and was developing a negative reputation in the organization truly came as a surprise to him.

Early on he expressed his anger and frustration. Everyone else’s inability to see his greatness was offensive. It was then that I asked him a fundamental question about his leadership. Blog Post Cover: Business Operations Professional People Skills

“Great leaders produce more leaders. Who are other people you’ve developed that would identify you as their main source of influence?”

He sat in silence for several minutes, ultimately unable to come up with a single name.

He was slowly beginning to realize the difference between ordering others with tasks and leading people effectively.

To his credit, he took the insight seriously and began to change. His method and approach to interacting with others improved greatly. He led his team more effectively and radically improved his leadership capabilities. As a result, his overall business operations improved. His happier (and more well-developed people) made for a better culture, which made for a better customer experience. Everyone won.

Your Key Three Takeaways

To effectively grow your business operations and, as a result, your overall business, you must, as they say, play well with others. Ultimately it will all come down to how well you invest in the people and culture of your organization. Here are three things for you to practice this week:

1.) Think Through the HR Logistics

One of the reasons businesses call me is because they sense that a change is needed in their HR policies. People are leaving. Customers are unhappy. Turnover is high. What’s going on? Most times, the business owner hires an employee but then stops the conversation. Outside of the occasional business meeting, there is little to no talk of promotion, a pay raise, or leadership development. If this is you, your business operations are in need of a serious overhaul. Start with people. End with people. Develop people at every step along the way. Think through those logistical questions and treat your employees with respect, trust, and goodwill. It goes farther than you think.

If you’d like some help with this, feel free to email me and we’ll set up a time to talk.

2.) Praise Publicly – Criticize Privately.

I almost wrote, “Don’t criticize.” It’s not that people don’t need to hear good, constructive feedback, it’s that it’s so often done poorly. Coach your people through problems. This gives them the opportunity to listen and learn from their mistakes by applying critical thinking to their own actions. The most effective way to change behavior is through good, insightful coaching.

On the positive side, be generous with public praise. I once worked with an employer that openly refused to praise their employees.

“I give them a paycheck, why should I praise them for doing their job?”

The short version of that story is that employee turnover was extraordinarily high and morale was constantly low.

Praise frequently and extravagantly.

Let someone know when they do a good job.

Better yet, make sure others know it as well.

3.) Win Relationships, Not Arguments

Several years ago, mired in a personal conflict with someone else, I learned a very harsh reality: If I win the argument but lose the relationship, I’ve lost everything.

I’m sad to say that I lost everything. My moments of weakness, poor leadership, and even worse conflict resolution ability cost me a friendship and ultimately a job. As a person in charge of business operations, this decision haunts me.

From that moment on, I was determined to never let it happen again. Since then, I’ve never been disappointed. Even when it means swallowing my pride or allowing the other person to be right (even if factually I am) it’s always been worth the extra effort and energy to win the relationship.

As a business owner or other leader, be sure to win relationships. With your employees, your customers, your superiors, and your community. Sacrifice the idol of always needing to be right and instead work towards always needing to be loving. Demonstrate grace, compassion, and empathy as a leader.Create and Orchestrate Book Cover

Eight Core Concepts

This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series.

  1. Leadership
  2. Finance
  3. Operations
  4. Growth
  5. Product
  6. Service
  7. Sales
  8. Marketing

*  Whitney, Marcus. Create and Orchestrate: The Path to Claiming Your Creative Power from an Unlikely Entrepreneur (p. 69). Creative Power. Kindle Edition.

Blog Post Cover: A Strong Financial Plan

We’re continuing our series on Marcus Whitney’s book Create and Orchestrate, and his eight core concepts to successfully run your business. In today’s post, we’re examining how to have a strong financial plan.

Financial Planning: An Introduction

It seems self-explanatory that a business needs to have a handle on its finances. Yet most new entrepreneurs don’t understand the importance of finance in their business. In my experience, finance is the aspect of business that most new entrepreneurs are weakest in. Understanding finance is critical to ensuring the sustainability of your business.*

Whitney’s assessment has been true not only of my own entrepreneurial journey but of many of the businesses I have coached and partnered with along the way.

I’ll never forget the first month I “made money” as a coach. Someone had actually written me a check, I was profitable … right?

Not so fast. There were the marketing bills I had to pay, the time spend on social media engagement, the debt collected by getting more education, the operations costs, and other bills to pay. All I had really done was gone slightly less in debt that month.

The next month, more people wrote checks. In the following months, there were a few more. Eventually, I was making more from my part-time hustle than I was from my full-time gig. That was when the profit started to happen.

Whitney highlights six key financial components every entrepreneur needs to be aware of in order to have a strong financial plan. These include:

  1. Revenue
  2. Expense
  3. Profit
  4. Assets
  5. Liability
  6. Capital

If you want to see what Whitney says about each of these, pick up a copy of his book here.

For us, it’s enough to note them and talk about the implications from a coaching perspective.

The Benefits of a Strong Financial Plan

When I first began coaching, I spent my time focusing on leadership health and burnout. Immersing myself in the material and understanding the causes and symptoms, led me to coach my clients through what I call the “health and integrity pyramid.” We examine seven core aspects of everyone’s life and how they need to address pain points and growth opportunities in each of these areas.

The capstone project of the pyramid is financial freedom. This is important because it not only addresses personal and business financial components but to the ultimate goal of purpose-driven entrepreneurs: generosity. Blog Post Cover: A Strong Financial Plan

Leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs are almost always on a mission. The work they do is to give their life meaning, but to extend that meaning and purpose to others. Leaders who are clear on their calling (the what and why of the work they do) almost always come out with a need to give back.

To be generous.

They want to bless others.

The journey they started on is ultimately not about them, it is about the people they get to help.

And along the way, if you’re focused on your debt, your limited finances, or your inability to get out of the red, you will be limited in the effect you can have on others.

First, we get their personal finances in order.

Then we get their business finances in order.

Finally, we get them to live a life of total generosity.

Total Generosity

Clients can always tell when it’s about the money. I learned this a long time ago. If I subconsciously bring to a relationship the need for a sale to pay my electric bill this month, my clients can pick up on that. Time and time again, I’ve seen this play out, not only in my own life but in those of my clients. When you have more “month than money” you can only do so much good in the world. However, when my finances are in order, I can multiply the effectiveness of my money and the blessing that I am to others.

If I’m focused on my own needs, I cannot serve those around me. It is only by being financially free that I can ultimately leave a legacy of influence and impact.

That’s why we focus on total generosity. This encompasses a strong financial plan that is free of debt, structured for profit, and able to give back freely.

2020 has been difficult for many of us. We’ve seen just how thin our true security is, and how financially stapped we are. If you’re interested in breaking free of your debt and living a life of total generosity, I’d love to help. For a free resource and to discover more about the health and integrity pyramid, you can read this series I posted on LinkedIn.

If you’re ready for coaching, contact me here.

—–

Eight Core Concepts

This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series.

  1. Leadership
  2. Finance
  3. Operations
  4. Growth
  5. Product
  6. Service
  7. Sales
  8. Marketing

*  Whitney, Marcus. Create and Orchestrate: The Path to Claiming Your Creative Power from an Unlikely Entrepreneur (p. 61). Creative Power. Kindle Edition.

Blog Cover Photo: Rise To The Occasion

This is part of a blog series from a business development talk I gave. To get caught up, see: Committed to Mastery and then Transformative Teamwork.


Today, we’re covering part three of the speech: Rise To The Occasion.

The contrast of several Northern leaders needs our attention. The North, at the outset of the Civil War, was lacking in high ranking military men. Most of them had gone south at the start of the war. The few that remained, like George McClellan rose quickly. Others, like Generals Custer and Grant, would rise to the occasion.

Setting The Stage

McClellan was a brilliant tactician. His study of worldwide fighting styles, military strategies, and historical aspects of war made him highly desirable. He graduated second in his class from West Point. Dubbed the Young Napoleon, McClellan’s future was bright. Everyone expected great things from McClellan. He cared deeply for his soldiers and they loved him for it. From their perspective, they were well fed, well trained, and rarely fought. It was a pretty good arrangement.

However, between McClellan and President Lincoln, things were rarely ever smooth. McClellan became famous for requesting more supplies and exaggerating enemy numbers. One account tells of a breakdown in Confederate lines and supplies after a battlefield loss. Research seems to indicate that had McClellan pursued them and chased them down, the war would have been over in less than two years. Richmond would have been captured. Top generals would have been defeated. The North would’ve won without further bloodshed. George McClellan

Instead, McClellan estimated enemy numbers exaggerated by 20% and blamed the possibility of bad weather as reasons for a delayed attack. As a result, he called off the chase. Within two days, the South regrouped, shuffled their troops, and counterattacked. They drove the north back. For more than two additional years the Civil War would be fought because of this one failure in his leadership.

Rise to the Occasion

Contrast the brilliance, genius, and ultimate ineptitude of someone like George McClellan with someone like Grant. Grant rose to the occasion given to him. Grant’s war policy was to attack consistently and ferociously. He was adept and editing commands on the fly. He was both well prepared and adaptable. Because he knew the ultimate goal, he could change his methods as the battlefield dictated.

George Armstrong Custer, from outward appearances, had nothing going for him. He barely graduated from West Point coming in dead last in his class. Custer gained an unfavorable reputation because so few trusted him. He was often pulling pranks, spending time in detention, getting into trouble, and had an overly brash demeanor.

However, throughout the Civil War, he distinguished himself as a man of courageous action. By the end of the Civil War, he had been promoted to Major General and was in command of the entire cavalry. In an age where leaders worked from the rear and made orders for other men, he gained admiration by fighting from the front. It’s been noted that he was often the first to go flying into combat with his men trailing behind him. At the conclusion of the war, his unit was responsible for capturing more POWs and infantry flags than any other unit. He was even respected enough that he received the table that unconditional surrender terms were drafted.

Where We Find Ourselves

Three men at the same point in history take dramatically different paths in life. One, seemingly given every advantage, squanders it all. He leaves frustrated, disgraced, disillusioned, and desperate. The other two inspire, engage, and rise to the occasion. McClellan, from the top of his class, witnesses everything crumble before him. Grant and Custer rise from the bottom. Custer, quite literally from the bottom of his class to one of the highest positions available and becomes the stuff of lore and legend.

There is something inside of our DNA that loves these transformational stories. Zeroes to heroes inspire us. We long for stories of David defeating Goliath. Worst to first and victory in the midst of defeat give us hope. Blog Cover Photo: Rise To The Occasion

Undoubtedly, there are many parallels in our businesses. Perhaps you even know of a time or two in your own life or that of your company (or even an employee) where you can see now how things could have and should have worked out differently.

Individuals or companies with all the advantages that still somehow managed to fail. Mega tech companies caught with bad numbers and crumble an empire. Someone identified as a high performer busted for ethical violations or a failure to perform. An industry darling in one year is an outcast in another.

But there’s also the flip side.

A surprise hire going on to transform a business or industry.

A perpetual under-achiever finds a fire in their soul and rises to extraordinary levels of leadership.

And while nothing in life is a guarantee, what I have found throughout my years in coaching, is that there are certain tendencies and ways to “hedge our bets.”

The Power of Coaching

Coaching advances the high performers at an astounding rate, helping them to avoid burnout. It also has the capacity to equip the last place hire to deeper levels of transformation. Coaching gives a place for both the first-place all-star and the last place “skin of your teeth, you just barely made it” performer.

My start in coaching looked much the same. I began working with clients who self-identified as someone who knew they were capable of great things but couldn’t get out of their own way (much like we might have said early on about Custer).

The ICF first defined coaching as, “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

When we equip our ourselves and our staff to reach their full potential we inspire them to rise to the occasion.

 

3 Tips for Transformational Teamwork

Transformational Teamwork

As we emerge from quarantine and are reopening, our customers are facing problems. There are some new ones we can anticipate, some old ones that we can continue to meet, and there will be new ones we never see coming.

The victors will be those that adapt and overcome. Ulysses Grant, who hated the war life, once gave the philosophy that made him successful, despite his disdain for his occupation: “The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can and keep moving on.” 

For our businesses, it might read something like: “Find the problem your customers have. Create a solution as quickly as possible. Implement your answer as best as you know how. Adapt. Repeat. Overcome.”  Ulysses S. Grant

Together, Lincoln and Grant practice what I have come to call transformational teamwork. They built the vision and strategy, shared it with their team, and the tirelessly executed the plan. Transformational teams practice three key characteristics in all they do.

Clear Goals and Directions

The first requirement for transformational teams is to have clear goals and directions. Lincoln and Grant made their vision abundantly clear. For Lincoln, it was freedom for slaves and preservation of the Union. Grant implemented this through the term “unconditional surrender.” In fact, Grant would be known by this phrase so much that for a time people that U.S. Grant’s initials stood for “Unconditional Surrender.” The goal was clear: until the south abolishes slavery and lays down its arms without thought of picking them up again, the war has not been won.

We know the goals and directions we have for our businesses. As entrepreneurs, owners, or key stakeholders, we know why we get up every morning. We know what we’re chasing and the dream we are trying to accomplish. What about your employees or others around you? Can they articulate it clearly? Do they know, like Grant know how to implement the plan to achieve the goal?

Effective Communication

The second piece required for transformational teams is effective communication. It is not enough to know the goals and directions we must communicate that information with our team. During seasons of stress, conflict, or failure, communication is often the first thing to go. Legacy Leaders know how important clear, concise, and effective communication is.

Effective communicate is done regularly. It seeks two-way feedback and establishes rules and norms. Clear Communication talks about not just what and how, but also why. It honors others, builds bridges, minimizes conflict, and restores relationships.

In times of stress or setback, good communication is often the first thing to go. People resort to perspective and bias. To preconceived notions about the way the world works. To overcome this, clear communication is a must. Anytime there is poor communication, issue an apology, and own your mistake. 3 Tips for Transformational Teamwork

As tension mounts, humility and the ability to ask for forgiveness keeps the team united and focused on what really matters. Create a culture of open dialogue, feedback, humility, and reconciliation and watch your transformational team thrive.

360-Coaching

The final component of Transformative Teamwork is what I call 360-Coaching. More than normal feedback and assessment performance reviews, it is focused on real-time, growth-oriented feedback. Instead of backward reflection, instill future-focused development opportunities.

The official definition of coaching from the International Coaching Federation is this: “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

360-Coaching takes the whole person and seeks to develop them. Employers who care about both their employee’s productivity and their outside life, inspire confidence, instill loyalty, and extend grace. This is important because as much as we may pretend that our outside life doesn’t affect our work, that just isn’t the case.

Offering real-time feedback circumvents a chance for negative experiences or poor performance while opening up communication lines.

When high-performing leaders set clear goals, keep an open communication, and coach the whole person, a transformative team is born. A transformative team can conquer an obstacle and overcome any hardship.

 

This is an excerpt and adaptation of a business development seminar. To read additional excerpts, you can find part one here and part two here. To watch the presentation, go here.

Becoming a Legacy Leader

Introduction

Between 1861 and 1865, America engaged in the bloodiest wartime moment in its history. The American Civil War, primarily about the state’s rights and the federal government’s role in daily life, dramatically shaped American belief, political life, economic positioning, and future trajectory.

I have found myself increasingly fascinated by this time and the people involved. There are the often-recognized men involved. None is more famous Abraham Lincoln. Widely recognized as one of the greatest presidents in American history, he radically shaped America’s future. He lived as a man committed to a vision of what it meant for people to be free. Abraham Lincoln

Other names play an important role during this time. Ulysses S. Grant became a close friend of Lincoln. After a series of failed generals, he became a man Lincoln could trust to accomplish the mission given to him. Other names like William Tecumseh Sherman and his famous march to the sea that divided the Confederacy gave much-needed victories and morale boosts to the North. Then there’s George Custer, who long before his last stand was a widely respected cavalry hero of the Civil War.

Finally, there are the less famous, but no less significant names that appear. People like George McClellan dubbed the Young Napoleon, who despite his great military genius and insight, was almost solely responsible for the North’s struggles early on. He struggled with taking action when it was demanded. Accounts suggest that had he advanced after an early northern victory the war would have lasted less than two years. Timely action would have saved many of the lives lost during the Civil War. Perpetually struggling with doubt and fear, he inflated enemy numbers as a way to avoid taking action and it cost the North dearly. George McClellan

Becoming a Legacy Leader

My study of these men has not only shaped much of my worldview but fueled the burning desire in me to answer the question, “What does it mean to be a legacy leader?” We remember Lincoln for many outstanding qualities. However, an even more important question is why? He’s not the only one with the qualities we praise in him, he’s not even the only president with those qualities. We could identify many presidents as competent leaders, effective communicators, and strong visionaries. So, what has set him apart? What made him a legacy leader? Well, that’s part of what we want to examine today.

As we emerge from the isolation of COVID and we hope to return to normal, we need legacy leaders now more than ever. So, my goal in this series is to help you understand the world of the Civil War a bit better, what we can learn from these men, and how we can apply it to our businesses today to meet the real needs of our employees, customers, and communities to shape a strong and compelling future.

When we examine questions like, “What made Lincoln the right man for the job?” we discover the qualities and characteristics that we can apply to ourselves that will grow us and our companies. When we understand how Grant seized the opportunity to go from a washed-up drunken, failure of a realtor to commanding general and future president, we discover that these same techniques apply to our world and the opportunity before us. Ulysses S. Grant

Similarly, understanding McClellan and his unmatched genius are necessary for us. Great wisdom and insight alone won’t bring victory. We must act. That is where McClellan failed and where we must prevail.

A Nation Divided

What we see emerge in the time leading up to the Civil War is in many ways a divided America.

Urban vs rural.

North vs south.

Free vs slave.

Industrial vs agricultural.

Prior to the Civil War, the concept of “American” was somewhat loose. States weren’t united and there was a greater degree of autonomy. That will change after the Civil War, and those four years will prove to be extremely transformative for the men involved and for the country.

We also see that today. America is divided and in need of legacy leaders who can unite it, transform it, and create a compelling future for it. Your presence here today tells me you care about that as well. You want to lead well. You, your staff, your business, your clients, your community. They are all counting on you to rise to the occasion and be a legacy leader and I hope, at least in part, to inspire and equip you on that journey in our time together.

 

Additional Notes:

This is an excerpt from a recent talk I gave to business leaders and has been adapted for the blog. For any coaching inquiries related to developing your leadership capacity, please email me.

 

The free Building With Purpose Conference is only available for a little while longer. To enroll, go here.