How to be a Horrible Communicator
Posted on Monday, Sep 26, 2016 by Michael Canic

Every organization struggles with communications. It’s almost always the number one issue that comes up on employee surveys.

Why? Has anyone analyzed what leaders do, or don’t do, to communicate so poorly?

Here for the first time is the tried-and-true, repeatedly proven, failsafe method to be a horrible communicator:

  1. Communications should be 1-way. Everyone’s busy. There isn’t time to have a full-blown discussion about everything. And at the end of the day their opinions don’t really matter. Just tell them.
  2. Don’t get lured by the video fad. Video is fine if you want to impress people with how your cat can ride a bicycle. But for the serious business of business, words count for more than images.
  3. Communications should be cascaded. Respect the organizational hierarchy. Leaders should communicate important messages to their direct reports who then communicate to their direct reports. Violating the hierarchy only raises questions about who’s in charge.
  4. Tell ‘em once. Employees tune out when leaders keep repeating the same message. Don’t be a broken record. Tell them what you want to tell them one time and then move on.
  5. Stick to the Script. Since when did communications have to be fun and games? And does anyone even remember the message? If you want to be a clown, join the circus. If you want to communicate in business, never deviate from the message.

Am I missing anything? Let me know if you can add to the list!

Your thoughts?


Why You Should Embrace Pressure
Posted on Monday, Sep 19, 2016 by Michael Canic

The quote in the article stopped me in my tracks.

“Pressure is a privilege.”

Wow, I’d never thought of it like that. Mike Babcock, coach of Team Canada at this year’s World Cup of Hockey, was responding to the expectations that come with his team’s frontrunner status.

The pressure of high expectations is a privilege. It comes when you have exceptional talent or skill. It comes when you’ve been successful. It comes when you have a legitimate opportunity to win. If you’ve worked hard to become really good, then you’ve earned the pressure that comes with high expectations.

How did we come to view pressure as a bad thing? Excessive pressure can be a bad thing. Yet not enough pressure leads to complacency. That’s a bad thing. An optimal amount of pressure is what leads to the best results.

People experience pressure differently. It’s like the engineering distinction between stress and strain. Stress is the concentration of force applied to an object. Strain is the change in that object as a result of the force. Different objects with different properties respond differently to stress.

Adaptation to pressure can be trained. Which means we can learn to respond effectively to increasing amounts of pressure over time. If those increases aren’t too great, too soon.

Pressure is a privilege. Understand it. Apply it. Embrace it.

Your thoughts?


Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed To Do
Posted on Monday, Sep 12, 2016 by Michael Canic

One of my favorite books about managing employee performance is a little gem called, Why Employees Don’t Do What They're Supposed to Do … and what to do about it, by Ferdinand Fournies.

For those of you quick to point fingers: no, it’s not because employees are incompetent or lazy (at least not in most cases). It’s because managers don’t do what they’re supposed to do … and don’t even know they’re not doing it.

So what is the “it” that managers are supposed to do? Based on the actual experiences of 25,000 managers, Fournies devotes a full seven chapters of his book – and it seems almost silly writing this – to conveying clear and credible goals and expectations:

  • They don’t know why they should do it
  • They don’t know how to do it
  • They don’t know what they are supposed to do
  • They think your way will not work
  • They think their way is better
  • They think something else is more important
  • No one could do it

I could go on to the other chapters but I won’t. If I did you’d take what you just read for granted.

Leaders! Don’t assume that your people understand where your organization is headed, why and how! Don’t assume they are crystal clear about what is expected of them, why and how! And don’t assume that what you communicate is credible!

Yes, you must clearly communicate. And, yes, you should repeatedly communicate using a variety of channels and media. But one-way communication is not enough. Active engagement is critical. What did they hear? What do they remember? What do they think? How do they feel?

Get back to basics. Relentlessly communicate. If it doesn’t feel like you’re communicating too much, then you’re not communicating enough.

Your thoughts?

Why Context Trumps Everything, Even Your Beliefs
Posted on Monday, Sep 5, 2016 by Michael Canic

One of automobile magnate Henry Ford’s core beliefs was that it is critical to control every aspect of production. He built power plants, owned coal mines and timberlands, ran a steel foundry, had a deep-water port and dozens of miles of railway … all to ensure he had every type of material that would allow him to manufacture cars.

Except rubber.

So Ford, who loathed being dependent on others, spent $20 million to build a city and rubber plantation in the Amazon, and create his own supply. Thousands of workers constructed a Midwestern-style city in the rainforest complete with bungalows and churches, restaurants and movie theaters, and, yes, an 18-hole golf course.

This Little America in the Amazon – nicknamed Fordlandia – was perfect … except for one thing. It couldn’t grow and sustain rubber trees. The soil wasn’t right, the rainfall patterns were too seasonal and a leaf blight decimated the trees that were unwittingly planted far too close to one another. In his zeal to take control of sourcing rubber, Ford bulldozed forward without consulting a single person who knew anything about growing rubber trees. The project was a complete failure.

Context. What applies here may not apply there. What works now may fail in the future. What you can get done with some people may not happen with others.

In every situation be sensitive to context. Ask: What are the similarities? What are the differences? Who has the insight?

Lease your beliefs, don’t own them.

Your thoughts?


One Powerful Way to Instill a Sense of Purpose
Posted on Monday, Aug 29, 2016 by Michael Canic

It’s widely accepted that when employees have a sense of purpose they are more engaged and perform at a higher level. So how can a leader help to instill a sense of purpose?

Novo Nordisk makes drugs for treating diabetes and hemophilia. They instill a sense of purpose by showing employees videos of patients who have recovered, or even survived, because of their drugs. Seeing what a product or service means to the end-user, from their perspective, can be a powerful way to instill purpose.

Imagine being a supplier of building products. Would watching customers talk with pride about what they’ve built, and how your people and products made a difference, help to instill a sense of purpose? Imagine being a commercial insurance broker. Would watching customers talk emotionally about how they had just the right coverage to protect them when disaster struck, and how their agent truly understood their business, help to instill a sense of purpose?

Could you extend the idea? How might similar videos on your website help to attract potential employees?

Purpose. It’s not just the execution of a service or the delivery of a product. It’s the lives that are touched.

Your thoughts?


The Difference Between Very, Very Good and The Best
Posted on Monday, Aug 22, 2016 by Michael Canic

The Olympic Games are a wonderful showcase of the possibilities of human performance. And of how thread-fine the margin can be between being the best, and not.

When I think of the Olympics I often think of the greatest sprinter you’ve never heard of.

Frankie Fredericks.

Frankie Fredericks of Namibia won the Olympic silver medal in the men’s 100-meter sprint in 1992. And, he won silver in the 200 meters. Four years later he again won the Olympic silver medal in the 100. And, yes, silver in the 200. The difference between Frankie Fredericks winning four silver medals and four gold medals was a combined time of 0.59 seconds.

That’s the difference between being very, very good and being the best four times.

What’s the difference between being good, very good, very, very good, and the best in your business? Are you paying sufficient attention to the details, the little things that, combined and multiplied over thousands of instances, make up the difference between silver and gold?

Good enough isn’t.

It’ll do won’t.

Will you go for good, or go for gold?

Your thoughts?


Selling Sand in the Arabian Peninsula
Posted on Monday, Aug 15, 2016 by Michael Canic

The Arabian Peninsula. The name evokes a sense of endless sands and the oven-like heat of the desert.

In the vastness of the desert there are quadrillions of grains of sand. And it would be easy to think that sand is sand is sand. Yet when the contractor for a new golf course in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates wanted to find just the right sand, he knew who to contact.

Waupaca Sand & Solutions, a Wisconsin-based company that tests, engineers and manufactures the right mix of sand for almost any application.

Because, as it turns out, sand is not simply sand. Grains of sand come in different degrees of sphericity – rounded, sub-rounded, sub-angular, and angular. And different sizes – coarse, medium, fine, and very fine. Sand has properties, and the balance of properties, such as stability and drainage, can significantly impact the firmness, consistency, durability, and even health of a golf green.

What Waupaca Sand & Solutions discovered in the Arabian Peninsula was that the sands of the United Arab Emirates weren’t right for the golf course. So it would have to be imported!

Clearly, sand is not sand is not sand.

Become acutely aware of your customers’ needs. Pay attention to detail. And understand that small things can make a big difference.

Your thoughts?


Why Details are Critical
Posted on Monday, Aug 8, 2016 by Michael Canic

As someone who enjoys outdoor activities I'm always interested in innovations to outdoors gear. I recently came across one that totally impressed me with its attention to detail: the GoBites Uno – a spork.

A spork is part spoon, part fork in one, lightweight utensil. Not hard to manufacture. Been around a long time. So why a new spork and what makes it special?

Start with strength. Many lightweight sporks feel flimsy; they’re not hard to break. The Uno has a diagonal ridge line that stiffens it and makes it exceptionally strong for its weight.

Then shape. The snub-nose spoon makes scraping the bottom of pots and bowls a breeze. Concave areas at both the spoon and fork ends provide natural resting places for your fingers. And the thick, smooth edges don’t dig into your skin when pressing down while cutting.

The central tines are just long enough for twirling noodles. Pointy enough to stab raw veggies yet rounded enough so as not to puncture your mouth. Tapered edges on the outside tines allow you to break apart even hard food into smaller pieces.

This is a thoughtfully designed product. And if you’re into outdoors activities you especially appreciate the small conveniences.

How important are product and service details to your customers? The little things that make subtle impressions. That can differentiate you. Are you paying enough attention to the details?

Your thoughts?


How to Win in the Shark Tank and Not Get Eaten Alive
Posted on Monday, Aug 1, 2016 by Michael Canic

If you’re a business person looking to entice investors, there is likely no higher profile venue than the popular TV show, Shark Tank.

Many entrepreneurs get the opportunity to deliver their pitch. So what separates those who get funded from those who get eaten alive? Kevin O’Leary, a shark who is known for being opinionated and ruthless, says that you must succeed at doing three things:

1) Articulate your idea and the benefits in 90 seconds-or-less

Sounds straightforward. Yet for all the so-called Mission Statements out there, I find that many entrepreneurs and business leaders can’t deliver the 3 C’s – a concise, coherent and compelling pitch about their business and the resulting benefits.

2) Explain why you and your team are the right people to make it happen

Everyone has an idea. But not everyone has the will or the skill to execute. Without the will to persist through pressure, uncertainty, and setbacks, you’ll never succeed. As for skill, if you don’t have it then you’d better figure out how you’re going to attract and secure the people who do.

3) Know your numbers inside-out

O’Leary says he is shocked by the number of entrepreneurs who don’t know their numbers – market numbers, operational numbers, and financials. Heaven forbid that you make it onto the show and don’t know your numbers. Because if that happens, O’Leary says he will eviscerate you.

These must-do’s don’t apply just to entrepreneurs on Shark Tank. Any business leader should be able to do them. Can you?

Your thoughts?


Why You Don’t Want to Think “Out-of-the-Box”
Posted on Monday, Jul 25, 2016 by Michael Canic

It's one of the most enduring sayings in business: thinking out-of-the-box. And for almost 20 years I've been advising leaders not to say it. Why? Because if you say “thinking out of the box,” you're not. How could you be? Parroting this saying about not thinking like everyone else only confirms that you are!

I like to say, “thinking out of the circle.” I’ve never heard anyone else say that. That one’s mine.

Pick your own shape and own it. Two-dimensional, three-dimensional, it doesn’t matter. There are triangles and hexagons, trapezoids and heptagons, cylinders and pyramids, cubes and cones – the possibilities are endless.

Just don’t say you’re thinking out of the box.

Your thoughts?



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