The Mindset of Those who are Intensely Committed
Posted on Monday, May 22, 2017 by Michael Canic

How committed are you to winning?

It's a question I've asked thousands of business leaders. The overwhelming response – unsurprisingly – is "100% committed", "totally committed", "all in".

I'll let you in on a secret: most leaders aren’t as committed as they think they are.

Yuichiro Miura is commitment. Back in the 1970's he famously became "The Man Who Skied Down Everest” and had a film made about his exploit. Not content to bask in his success, Miura looked for a new challenge and, at the age of 70, became the oldest person to summit Mt. Everest.

Then, two heart operations followed by a shattered pelvis from a ski accident. It was time to wind things down.

But not for Miura. In 2013, at the age of 80, he summitted Everest again!

So what makes him so committed?

“The key to living life to the fullest is to have a big challenge. The bigger your goals and dreams are, the more you will be filled with what in Japan we call ikigai, or purpose in life.”

Now 84, Miura is finally ready to rest and look back at his accomplishments.

You weren’t going to buy that, were you? Here’s Miura's new goal: to become the first person to summit Everest at the age of 90. Ninety!

What artificial limits have you placed on yourself? What excuses have you allowed yourself? One more time: How committed are you to winning?

Answer: Not as committed as you thought you were. But you need to be.

If an 80-year-old man can summit Mt. Everest, then what’s your excuse?

Make it happen.


Why There is No “Hope” for Your Business
Posted on Monday, May 15, 2017 by Michael Canic

I always cringe when I hear statements like:

“I hope our digital media campaign drives sales.”

“I hope we can find a solid replacement for our VP of HR.”

“I hope the new software will improve our productivity.”

Hope. Even if it isn’t meant literally, it conveys a mindset. That you’re not taking full responsibility for the outcome. That somehow it’s in the hands of the fates.

I don’t want to hear about your hopes. I want to hear about your intentions. And what actions you’re going to take to make sure those intentions get translated into outcomes. Hope implies it’s out of your control. It provides an easy excuse for when the desired outcomes aren’t achieved.

Rarely will you have total control in business. Fortunately, the game isn’t about having total control. It’s about maximizing influence, especially when you don’t have total control. How you tilt the odds in your favor. How you anticipate what could go well, and plan to exploit it. How you anticipate what might not go well, and plan to prevent or mitigate it.

Intentions, not hope. Influence, not control.

Language shapes mindset. Hope is not a management strategy. My intention is that now you’ll understand the difference.

Make it happen.


Why Failure Can Be a Gift
Posted on Monday, May 8, 2017 by Michael Canic

Failure can be a gift. But only for those who see failure as an opportunity to reflect, analyze, refocus, and commit to what needs to be done.

Take Theo Epstein. The Theo Epstein whose data-driven, analytical approach as the general manager of the Boston Red Sox helped them win two World Series titles in nine years. The Theo Epstein who, for an encore, as president of baseball ops for the Chicago Cubs, helped them win last year’s World Series title, their first in 108 years.

Yet Epstein’s formula for success in Chicago was not the same as it was in Boston. Why? Because of a powerful lesson he learned that resulted from failure. During his final season in Boston, the team was in the thick of the playoff race once again … until things imploded. Players began to feud, egos spiraled out of control, and the team chemistry became toxic. A losing mentality took over the clubhouse, and what had started as a promising season ended sourly.

Reflecting on the season, Epstein came to realize that for all the data and predictive analytics they had about players, there was a missing element in his model. Character. The traits that determine how a player responds to adversity, how a player influences team chemistry. Epstein was determined to integrate character into the player evaluation and selection process in his new role with the Cubs.

Stop. Imagine how easy it would have been for Epstein to simply put that final season in Boston behind him, write it off as an aberration, and shift his focus to the fresh challenge in Chicago. Yet if he had done that, the failure would have been wasted. Instead, he mined the failure for nuggets of truth, which ultimately became critical to his success in Chicago.

How do you respond to failure? Blame? Avoidance? Justification? Or do you view failure as a gift that can yield insights to help drive your future success?

Make it happen.


How to Develop Your Team Through Micro-Training
Posted on Monday, May 1, 2017 by Michael Canic

Everyone wants training but no one has time for it. Yet to be successful and outperform your competition your team needs to elevate their technical, interpersonal, leadership and other skills. So how do you resolve the dilemma?

Micro-training. Brief, structured sessions designed to address one issue, one concept, or one skill.

Need to improve your frontline managers’ communication skills? Deliver single-topic workshops of no more than 30 minutes. Topics might include: communicating expectations, giving effective feedback, or providing high-impact recognition. In the workshop you would: 1) “Tell” – explain the skill, and when and why it should be applied (5 minutes), 2) “Show” – demonstrate the skill (5 minutes), 3) “Do” – have them role-play the skill with each other (15 minutes), and 4) “De-brief” – feedback experiences and answer questions (5 minutes). You could provide a 1-page hardcopy and e-copy summary to reinforce what you’ve covered.

Want to elevate your top management team’s thinking? Give them a brief article each month about strategy, change, leadership, or some other relevant topic. Along with the article, give them up to three questions to challenge their thinking. Then, about 2 – 4 weeks later, meet as a team, allow up to 30 minutes, and have each person discuss their answers and rationale. You facilitate the group discussion (you don’t dominate) and help the group draw conclusions.

Those are brief, structured and planned group sessions. Yet micro-training can also be real-time (i.e., spontaneous) and individualized. An account rep is concerned about the objections a potential client might raise? You meet with the rep to identify possible objections and effective responses. You develop and record bullet-points. Then you role-play the potential client conversation. Done. That’s micro-training.

Yes, every organization is stretched and, yes, time is increasingly precious. So rethink the delivery model for developing your people. Micro-training may be your solution.

Make it happen. 


The Consequences of Not Holding Your People Accountable
Posted on Monday, Apr 24, 2017 by Michael Canic

Awww it’s going to be uncomfortable, it takes energy, and I just don’t feel like doing it now.

That’s what you think when the time comes to hold an employee accountable. This is the moment of truth. Do you take action or not?

Never forget: there are consequences of not holding people accountable. For one, you might be normalizing conduct, performance or results you said was unacceptable.

There’s a term I love called the “normalization of deviance”. It originated in a NASA-commissioned study in the wake of the 1986 space shuttle disaster. The study found that a contributing cultural factor was, in the author’s words, the normalization of deviance. In the months leading up to the tragedy, minor violations of safety standards were tolerated. Why? Because they seemed insignificant. As a result, it shifted the norm of what was acceptable. The culture evolved and became lax simply because these micro-deviations weren’t thought to be a big deal.

Are you facilitating a similar cultural shift in your company?

It gets worse. By tolerating a lower standard you demotivate those who want to be held to a higher standard, those who take pride in the performance and rigor of an organization that excels.

The final nail in the coffin? You kill your credibility as a leader. Especially if you communicated the vision, roadmap and expectations to your team. They put their trust and faith in you. And you let them down.

There are consequences of not holding people accountable. So the next time you cringe, anticipating that uncomfortable accountability conversation, make sure you remind yourself of the cost of not taking action. Then make the right decision … and don’t deviate from it.

Make it happen.


Why Strategy is About More than Just Growing Profit
Posted on Monday, Apr 17, 2017 by Michael Canic

I've been asked the question many times: Isn't strategy simply about how businesses can grow more profits? Well, no. Its not simply about that and it may not even be about that. The context in which a business operates – think industry, societal, and internal factors – determines what is strategically important.

A good example appeared in the news a few days back. The most valuable U.S. car company as measured by market cap is now – can you guess? – Tesla. That's right, not GM and not Ford, but Tesla. And for those of you who track such things, Tesla has posted only two profitable quarters throughout it’s entire history as a public company.

Yet the strategic goal of Tesla, at least for now, is not about profits. It's about scalability, brand dominance, and separation from real and potential competitors in the emerging, high-potential market for electric vehicles. And creating enough buzz to drive the stock price to provide the funds to fuel the infrastructure that Tesla needs to become dominant. Investors are betting on potential, not proof of earnings.

That strategy isn't unprecedented. There is another fast-growing company that had a similar strategy, was at best marginally profitable for many years, yet also has a through-the-roof market cap (hint: it's an online retailer named after a jungle in South America).

Now, it's true that market cap may not be the best measure of a company's true value. And it’s also true that market cap is a highly volatile measure (the value of United Airlines dropped close to a billion dollars after release of the “customer re-accommodation” video!). Yet market cap may very well reflect the success of a company's chosen strategy.

Maybe your strategic goal should be about scalability; maybe it should be about innovation; maybe it should be about the customer experience. Or maybe it should be about profitability.

Just remember this: Context drives strategy. Understand the context, and the strategic priorities and options become clearer.

That's a profitable insight.

Make it happen.


Make Accountability a Positive Experience? Here's Why and Here's How
Posted on Monday, Apr 10, 2017 by Michael Canic

Holding employees accountable. The thought of it brings to mind conversations that are awkward and uncomfortable. And understandably. Accountability is about confronting poor performance or poor results. The focus is negative and it needs to be.

Or does it?

What if the focus was positive? Imagine a conversation in which you held an employee accountable by responding to "failure" with encouragement. And belief in their ability to do better. What outcome would that likely lead to?

I'm reminded of an NFL game between Phoenix and Seattle that ended in an unsatisfying 6-6 tie. Incredibly, each team's kicker missed what should have been an "automatic" game-winning field goal of less than 30 yards in overtime.

After the game, when asked about his kicker's performance, Phoenix coach Bruce Arians responded bluntly, "Make it. This is professional, this ain't high school. You get paid to make it."

And what did Seattle coach Pete Carroll have to say about his kicker? "He's been making kicks for us for years. He's gonna hit a lot of winners as we go down the road. I love him, and he's our guy."

Well. Which coach would you rather play for?

Always keep your desired future outcome in mind. As a coach you want your kicker to make the next kick. Yes, it's important to process past outcomes. And, sure, there are times when each of us needs a reprimand. Just make sure that by reprimanding you're not simply venting. Facilitate learning, reinforce effort, build confidence and inspire performance. Because those are what will lead to your desired future outcome.

The focus of accountability doesn't have to be negative. See it as an opportunity. Prepare to be positive. And then make sure to celebrate when they make the next kick.

Your thoughts?


Why Creating Experiences Creates Value
Posted on Monday, Apr 3, 2017 by Michael Canic

Standing thigh-deep in a pool of mud, scrubbing the backside of an elephant got me thinking about the value of experiences.

At the Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary in Northern Thailand, I forked over roughly $100 per for me, Bernadine and our niece to have the experience of feeding, playing with and, yes, bathing rescue elephants. What I guarantee you is this: ten years from now I won't have any idea what that experience cost. But I will have permanently etched memories of the experience including how it felt. And I'll smile a big smile when recalling them.

That's the value of experiences. How they connect with us emotionally. Because emotions are deeper rooted than thoughts. That's what makes experiences memorable. And the experiences don't have to be as exotic as washing elephants in Asia or swimming with piranha in the Amazon (for some reason Bernadine passed on that one!). I can remember just as clearly the hotelier on a small Italian island whose passion for making our experience "wonderful" blew us away. And the waiter in a Cleveland restaurant who simply could not let us order off the menu because the Chef's creation was just so succulent, so delectable that we absolutely had to have it.

So what does this mean for business? It means that making moments memorable is a powerful way to create value. If you are intentional about evoking a positive emotional response from your customers, your employees, and your colleagues, then you will stand head-and-shoulders above the overwhelming majority of people. Creating experiences creates value.

Did I mention there is a lot of backside on an elephant to wash?

Your thoughts?


How to Manage Risk When Making a Big Decision
Posted on Monday, Mar 27, 2017 by Michael Canic

Sooner or later every leader is faced with a big decision. Acquiring a competitor, shutting down a line of business, expanding into new territory - it's all part of leading an organization. Yet the outcome of any big decision is uncertain, which means it involves risk. How can you best manage that risk?

1) Expand your frame of reference

Let's say you're thinking about acquiring a competitor. Most leaders would decide based on the estimated cost/risk/reward of making the acquisition. Obviously, that's critical. Yet it could result in a bad decision. Why? Because it overlooks half the equation. Namely, the cost/risk/reward of not making the acquisition.

If you decide not to acquire the competitor, what is that competitor likely to do? How are industry dynamics likely to play out? What would that mean for you and for the competitor? The answers to questions like these give you a more complete picture of the cost/risk/reward landscape, and help you make a better decision.

2) Acknowledge your "status quo bias"

Let's say you've considered both sides of the equation. Great. Except there's a natural bias all of us have that could distort your decision-making. It's what psychologists call the "status quo" bias, the tendency to favor the current state over change.

Don't mistake staying the course for risk avoidance. Familiarity with the current state doesn't mean it's any less risky than changing course. It could give you a false sense of security. So, what to do? As with any bias, first, acknowledge that it exists. Second, be aware of it when making a decision, and consciously compensate for it.

3) Use both "I's" when deciding

For all the advancements in analytics, it would be wrong to conclude that big decisions should be made based solely on information on a spreadsheet. There is still a role for the unmeasurable, for intuition. Many successful visionaries - the late Steve Jobs comes to mind - relied largely on their intuition when making big decisions.

Of course many unsuccessful visionaries - the ones you never read about - also have relied on their intuition. Admittedly, intuition can be unreliable and is subject to emotional impulses. Still, open-minded and reflective intuition has a legitimate role in the decision-making process. It pays to use both "I's" - information and intuition - when making a big decision.

Big decisions involve risk. While you can't eliminate risk you can manage it. If you take the right things into account when deciding.

Your thoughts?


The Most Important Thing to Know about Implementing Change
Posted on Monday, Mar 20, 2017 by Michael Canic

Implementing organizational change is hard. If you research how often such efforts fail, it's not unusual to find numbers like 60%, 70%, or even higher. That's a lot of failure!

Think of the costs of all those failures. Sure, the millions of dollars of hard costs, but the soft costs and opportunity costs can be even greater. So why do we allow this to happen?

If there is one thing you must know about implementing change, it's this:

There are two sides to every change initiative, the technical side and the people side. We typically plan for the technical side but fail because of the people side. The two sides are equally necessary and equally important.

Just as you have Project Management for the technical side of a change initiative, you need Project Management for the people side. The integrated approach to change is called Total Project Management.

The people side is more than just a dash of communication, a sprinkle of training, and a little support you can add as needed. It requires a systematic approach that ensures people are engaged, equipped, coached and supported to embrace the desired change.

Most companies' so-called Change Management efforts don't grasp this. The people side can't simply be a tack-on to the "real" (i.e., technical) change. And it can't just be shuffled off to HR since they look after all the "touchy-feely stuff". No, Total Project Management requires that both the people side and technical side of change have equal voices and equal status at the table.

Implementing organizational change is hard. Whether you end up with the majority who fail or the minority who succeed is a choice. When implementing change, choose Total Project Management.

Your thoughts?



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