Failure to Respond


Are you someone who fails to respond?  Not to cold-calls or blind solicitations, but rather to someone you contacted first?  I am curious what is causing you to behave in that manner?  Do you realize that when you reach out to someone else, they must spend time and energy to respond?  Your own lack of responsiveness when they reply to you creates more work for that person, who wonders if their message was actually delivered or tries another way to reach you, thus expending even more time and energy.  If you contact someone and then change your mind, it would seem to be common courtesy to let them know.  You could send a quick note or leave a voice mail message, anything that would enable the other person to take you off of their list of things to do.

Vistage is not for everyone, so I know that many of the people I speak with will not be a good fit for our organization.  However, I want to help people and will always try to respond in a timely manner when someone reaches out to me.  However, when they fail to respond to my offer to answer any of their questions or provide them with information, it becomes very frustrating.  I am left alternating between irritation, concern for their well-being, and curiosity as to why they reached out to me in the first place.

If you read this and realize you have been unresponsive to others, it’s not too late to change your behavior.  Just let them know you resolved the situation and no longer need their assistance.  Display some no-longer-so-common courtesy!

Stretch Goals


Miss Charley Leaping for Treats

What are your stretch goals for 2016? Make sure they are “SMART”: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, and Time-Specific. Then write them down, share them with others, and look at them daily or weekly.  If your goals can be broken down into milestones and you can establish target dates for those milestones, you have just increased your chance of success.

Along the way, if you are not achieving a particular goal, figure out why. Is it a limiting belief that is holding you back? If so, work on overcoming that limiting belief. Is it procrastination? Then make a point to tackle that goal first thing in the morning before doing anything else. Or establish mini-rewards for achieving milestones toward that goal. For example, once I have achieved “X” today, I’ll take a break and walk around the office, or get a latte, or go out to lunch today rather than eating at my desk.

If you are particularly challenged with a goal and you can’t figure out a strategy to overcome a roadblock, ask for help. Others might be able to brainstorm alternative approaches that would enable you to achieve that goal.

Lastly, sometimes outside forces make a goal no longer relevant or attainable. If you are a taxi company and your original goal was to continue to grow your business as you have done in the past, and now Uber has come into your area, your original strategy may not be working. Rather than focusing on your goal of doing more of what you did in the past, it’s likely you will need to revise your strategy to compete with Uber. If goals become impossible due to external factors, it’s fine to replace them with other goals that will help you to achieve your long-term vision.

Stay focused, and make 2016 a terrific year!

April Checklist for Leaders

April Checklist
cathyse97 / Foter / CC BY-ND

In our personal lives, April is often the month to check a number of items off of our to-do lists. Common things people do in April include: Filing personal tax returns and doing a financial plan for the rest of the year, spring cleaning, registering for summer camps for the kids, and planning family vacations. While not all of those are fun (e.g., taxes and spring cleaning), we generally feel good once they are checked off our list.

Good leaders have lists in their business. April is a great time to look at your goals and strategic plan. Did you achieve your first quarter goals? Are you making good progress toward your strategic plan? Or you a bit off track, necessitating some adjustments? Taking action in April can get you back on the path to success for the rest of the year.

Good leaders also schedule time for spring cleaning. Spring cleaning in business might mean evaluating personnel. Are people meeting or exceeding your expectations? If not, have you given them feedback and shared clear expectations and time frames for improvement? If you have outlined performance expectations and measurements and someone still has not achieved them, it may be time to “release them to industry” and find someone who can get the job done for you.

Another form of business spring cleaning is purging files, shredding, scanning, and perhaps reorganizing work flows. Could your business be more efficient? April is a great time to evaluate processes and procedures and make changes that will help save time and money the rest of the year.

How about planning a fun summer outing for your team? Why not put together a committee, give them a budget, and have them present you with some options for fun group activities. Starting in April will give them time to come up with some great ideas before summer arrives. Perhaps you could take the team to a ballgame, play miniature golf, act out a murder mystery game, conduct a scavenger hunt, have a potluck picnic in the park, or head to the beach for friendly beach competitions and silly games. Finding activities everyone on your team can do will enhance bonding and increase morale. It’s also never too early to start planning the year-end holiday party, so you may want to add that to your April list.

What about building teamwork and camaraderie in a different way? Perhaps you could allow employees time off to serve a local charity. Some ideas include: Preparing and serving meals to the homeless, building a house for Habitat for Humanity, putting food in carts at the local food bank, bathing dogs at the local animal shelter, picking up trash along waterways, providing clothing and toiletries to a domestic violence shelter, or collecting toys and books for a local orphanage or safe house for kids. These activities are often very rewarding for employees as well as for the local charity.

Be creative and get started on that April checklist – you’ll be glad you did!

Gratitude and Appreciation

Gratitude changes everything
Gratitude and Appreciationsymphony of love / Foter / CC BY-SA

I’m fortunate to live in Florida, and most days get to drive across a bridge (or several bridges), over Tampa Bay. Sometimes traffic is so bad that I cannot really pay attention to my surroundings. Other times I’ll notice pelicans, seagulls, and even dolphins frolicking in the water occasionally. I can also go out on a pier not far from my home and see manatees in the bay. And I’m thankful that I get to see this beauty on a regular basis.

Those moments make me aware of how frequently I take my surroundings for granted. Do you take your surroundings at work for granted? Do you take the people that work with you or for you for granted? Or do you occasionally come up for air like the dolphins and manatees, and realize the beauty that surrounds you, and let others know that you are thankful they are working with you? Do you regularly acknowledge their presence and contributions?

Similarly, have you ever taken a look at your office as if you were a first time visitor? Even if you don’t have customers coming into your office, what message are you sending to anyone who visits? Your office may be perceived as an extension of you. Does the appearance of your office send a message that you don’t care about yourself or your surroundings? Or is it sending a message that you are aware of your environment and proud and grateful to be a part of it?

Why don’t we make this a week of gratitude and appreciation of our surroundings and for those with whom we work?

Are Your Goals Still Relevant?

Are Your Goals Still Relevant?ekkebus / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

I encourage people to establish annual goals in advance. Sometimes when I ask how they are doing with those goals, they tell me that they are not doing very well, and they are pretty hard on themselves. When I dig down to learn more, I discover that the person has not failed to achieve the goal, but rather the goal is no longer relevant. Something has changed in the environment or situation that has caused that goal to no longer be important in the big scheme of things. Instead of acknowledging that change, the person instead feels like they are failing.

If that sounds familiar, I’d suggest you change your thinking. If you are faced with a goal that is no longer relevant, why not replace that goal with a more relevant goal? Just make sure you are not confusing the urgent with the important, and that the goal still moves you toward your long term vision. (For more on urgency and importance, I’d suggest that you read author Steven Covey.)

Just as most companies no longer utilize 10 year strategic plans because the world is changing too quickly, our goals can also change during the year. Make sure your goals are fluid and relevant…and still a stretch to achieve!

Weird Weather and Leadership


Weird Weather

Weird Weather

It has certainly been a year of unusually challenging weather throughout the country.  Between incredible snowstorms, severe tornadoes, and excessive amounts of rainfall, many businesses have been impacted in unprecedented ways.   HSN just reported that their first quarter earnings were down partially due to the severe weather.  Several of my Vistage members in Florida also faced unanticipated demand reductions this winter due to the snowstorms up north. Weather issues impacted transportation, and many of their customers were unable to ship their products up north, causing delays and reduced demand for my members’ products and services.  Additionally, people were snowed in for days at a time, reducing purchases and productivity since they could not get to work.

Just this week, one of my Vistage members reported that they had to shut down one of their offices for a day due to the severe flooding and road closures in the Florida Panhandle.   Business may be impacted for several more days as damage is assessed.  Thankfully none of my members’ employees were harmed in any of the severe weather events.   However, business cash flow and profitability have been negatively impacted due to weird weather.  What is a leader to do?

First, make sure you have the appropriate insurance policies in place.  Talk to your insurance agent to make sure to have business interruption insurance in addition to coverage for property damage or loss.  While it will not cover the indirect reduction in demand for some of my members, if your business is directly impacted it can provide a valuable safety net.  Second, you should build contingencies into your business plan.  Make sure your net profit margin isn’t razor thin in the first place so that you can handle unexpected downturns.   And make sure you have appropriate lines of credit available to help you manage cash flow through unanticipated situations. Third, a disaster preparedness plan is crucial for longer, more severe disruptions.  Do your employees know what to do?  How to communicate with you and one another in case phone lines are down and electricity is unavailable?  How often do you revisit and update the plan?

As a leader, it’s our job to deal with unanticipated situation.  The best leaders plan for the unexpected.

Leadership and Texting in a Movie Theater

New phone


The shooting that occurred this week in a movie theater between a man who was texting during movie previews and a retired police officer made national news and has generated a lot of discussion.  For those of you who have not heard about this event, what has been reported so far is this:  A man was texting in the theater before the feature movie began, and an argument ensued between the man and a retired police officer who was seated nearby.  The outcome of the argument was that the man who was texting was fatally shot by the other man.

Everyone seems to have a different opinion about what is acceptable behavior in a movie theater.  Most people say that talking on cell phones in the theater is distracting and unacceptable.  Some feel that any use of a cell phone, including texting or reading emails, inside a theater is rude.  Others say that until the feature movie begins, texting is fine – who wants to see previews, anyway?  There are dozens of opinions, and while I have seen most theaters include a statement on the movie screen about turning cell phones off, I suspect the policies will become more clearly defined and communicated as a result of this incident.

Apparently this movie theater had a policy of not allowing guns in the theater.  Questions are swirling around that policy.  Does the policy also apply to law enforcement, retired or active?  Was the policy clearly defined and communicated to theatergoers?  How is the policy enforced? 

Those same types of questions could apply in your business.  Do you have written policies and procedures?  Have they been clearly communicated to ALL of your employees?  What about communication to customers and vendors?  How are the policies being enforced?  What’s the protocol for disputes or disagreements?  Let’s learn from this unfortunate event and make positive changes in our businesses. 

Photo by:  fd / / CC BY-NC


Bizarre Headlines and Mixed Messages

Bizarre Headlines

Bizarre Headlines


As I was reading the paper this week, I was struck by some bizarre headlines.  First, there was the mayor who admitted to using and purchasing illegal drugs and yet insisted that he was a positive role model for kids.  Really?  How interesting.  He was also videotaped threatening to kill someone.  He was asked to step down and has refused.  He doesn’t sound like someone I’d like my kids to emulate!

Another bizarre headline this week was the announcement by London’s Metropolitan Police that the spy whose body was found stuffed inside a locked gym bag at the bottom of his bathtub, likely died in an accident with no one else involved.  Huh?  He died accidentally and then locked himself in a gym bag?  That’s a trick even Houdini might have found challenging!  What does that conclusion say about the judgment of that police department?

These bizarre headlines are just two examples of how we are bombarded with mixed messages from a variety of sources.  While these types of stories might make for interesting discussions at the water cooler, they certainly do not increase confidence in the judgment or leadership abilities of the organizations involved.

What are your headlines saying about you?  Are you inadvertently sending mixed messages to your employees and customers?  If you step away and look at all of your messaging from an objective distance, what does it say about your leadership and judgment?  Does it inspire confidence?  Or does it just provide additional fodder for those water cooler discussions?

photo by: steve_huison

Veteran’s Day and Battles

But It Is Patriotism
Veteran\’s Day

Have you ever heard someone at work say, “Time to go into battle!”?  I’ve heard people say that when they are heading into a particularly challenging negotiation, whether it’s with a customer, vendor or peer.  I’ve also heard people say that when they were just talking about going back to work after a short break.

Why do some people use that phrase?  Do they really see it as a battle?  With most battles in war, there is a clear winner and a clear loser.  And of course, as we honor our veterans on Veteran’s Day, many military personnel who head into battle know that they may not come out of it alive.  I don’t think most of us in business have that risk with our daily “battles”.

On this Veteran’s Day, I’d like for us to consider a couple of different points.  First, if you are one of the people who refer to a negotiation or your work environment as a “battle”, please consider utilizing a different phrase.  By telling yourself in advance that it will be a battle, it is more likely to become one!  You have just told your brain to expect a battle, and it will oblige.  Studies have shown that what you focus on expands.  (Have you ever thought about buying a particular make and model of car and then started seeing them everywhere?)  Perhaps you could instead say, “Time to have fun!”   Even if you don’t really think it will be fun, you have set a different expectation for your brain.  It will be looking for the “fun” and you are much more likely to enjoy the experience along the way.

Second, most of us know veterans who have served our country.  Please make a point today and every day to thank them for their service.  They are the reason we are able to enjoy the level of freedom we have today.  And many of even the youngest veterans have already experienced more “battles” and loss than I will in an entire lifetime.  That’s quite a sacrifice that they have made for all of us.

Veterans, thank you for your sacrifice and service!

Photo by:  B Tal / / CC BY-NC

As a Leader, What Do You Tolerate?


On the Run - 338/365 - 4 December 2009
What Do You Tolerate?

As I meet with people, I sometimes hear, “I love what I do.  If it weren’t for the people I work with, my job would be great!”  Sometimes that comment comes after a frustrating day, and the person is joking or just letting off steam.  If I think the person is serious, I will try to learn more.  If I’m talking to the CEO or business owner or even a high level manager, I’ll ask, “Who’s the boss?    Why are you putting up with behavior you don’t like?”  That usually generates a lot of excuses or explanations.  Typical responses are that good people are hard to find, or that the people are good at what they do, they just aren’t good at interacting with others.  Sometimes I’ll hear something to the effect of, “They’ve been with me a long time, so what can I do?”  Or, “I’m already short-staffed, and a warm body is better than none.”

Really?  Is that really what you believe?  Do you feel that you have to tolerate poor behavior?  If so, you have just lowered the bar for everyone in your company, and effectively granted them permission to perform poorly.  What will happen to your best performers?  Over time, their effectiveness and morale will diminish, or worse:  they will leave for greener pastures.

A good leader will establish clear expectations and then hold people accountable for performing to those standards.  A great leader will establish a culture of accountability so that employees will hold each other accountable for performance and help those who do not meet expectations self-select out of the company.  Take a look around you.  What are you tolerating?  Take action before it’s too late!

Photo by:  John Flinchbaugh / / CC BY-NC-SA