Bill Zipp http://billzipponbusiness.com Helping Executive Leaders Accelerate Business Growth Wed, 04 Mar 2015 18:46:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Helping Executive Leaders Accelerate Business Growth Bill Zipp no Helping Executive Leaders Accelerate Business Growth Bill Zipp http://billzipponbusiness.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://billzipponbusiness.com Nail Your Next Presentation: Tell a Great Story http://billzipponbusiness.com/how-to-tell-a-great-story/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-tell-a-great-story http://billzipponbusiness.com/how-to-tell-a-great-story/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 08:00:47 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4460 At some point in your leadership life, if you haven’t already, you’ll be called on to make a big presentation. And that presentation will be critically important to your being perceived as a serious leader, your being promoted to a higher paying position, your closing a lucrative deal, or all of the above. How do […]

The post Nail Your Next Presentation: Tell a Great Story appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
13868925204_b4566b7775At some point in your leadership life, if you haven’t already, you’ll be called on to make a big presentation. And that presentation will be critically important to your being perceived as a serious leader, your being promoted to a higher paying position, your closing a lucrative deal, or all of the above.

How do you nail this presentation?

One secret to effective presentations is the power of a great story and the ability to tell it well. Yes, you’ve got to have good content, well-researched and well-documented, but no one will pay attention to any of that information if it’s not delivered in a compelling way. A great story is that way.

The problem is, most leaders spend their preparation time on content development only and wing it when it comes to telling stories. Bad idea. A great story emotionally connects the audience to your content and motivates them to take action on what you’re saying. That’s the point, right?

So work on your stories as much, or more, than anything else in your presentation. Here’s how:

STEP ONE: Set the Context

The very first thing to do in telling a great story is immediately set the context. In a brief sentence or two transport the audience from where they are now to an entirely different time and place.

This is done by stating clearly and concisely the when, who, and where of the story. Don’t mess with that formula: when, who, and where must be done is that exact order for maximum impact.

Example:

May 10, 1996.

Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, two of the most experienced mountain climbers in the world, arrived with their clients atop Everest.

Do you see how when, who, and where works? In less than 25 words I’ve got you on top of the world’s tallest mountain.

STEP TWO: State the Conflict

The next thing to do in telling a great story is create conflict. That is, present a pressing problem that, on the surface, does not appear to have a solution. A pressing problem with no obvious solution is the very definition of conflict.

Example:

May 10, 1996.

Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, two of the most experienced mountain climbers in the world, arrived with their clients atop Everest.

You think that would be cause for celebration. But it wasn’t. It was cause for concern, grave concern, that would end up as one of the deadliest tragedies ever on the world’s tallest peak.

STEP THREE: Divulge Details

Once the context of your story is set and conflict created, you’ve bought yourself some time. In other words, you’ve hooked your listeners and can use that hook to deliver the details needed for the story make sense and have impact.

Details add color that make a story feel real and establish a platform of authority for what you’re going to conclude from it. What are the details you observe of the story we’ve been following as you read it below?

Example:

You see, eighteen hours is all you have when you’re climbing Mt. Everest.

Climbers begin their ascent from basecamp, located at 26,000 feet above sea level, in the ungodly hour of 2:00 AM. They climb through the night and early morning, reaching the summit about mid-day. They then scramble back down before sunset to the safety of basecamp.

Climbing expeditions on Mt. Everest follow this strict guideline: the two o’clock rule. The two o’clock rule states that any climber who’s not reached the summit by two o’clock in the afternoon abandons their ascent and returns to basecamp immediately. No exceptions. 

The reason for the two o’clock rule is simple. Continued climbing after this time poses grave risk to climbers and their guides. You simply cannot make it back to basecamp.

Please note that this is the longest part of the story. I can get away with this, however, because I grabbed your attention by setting the context and creating conflict

STEP FOUR: Resolve the Conflict … or Not

The next thing to do in telling a great story is resolve the conflict … or not.

Great stories come in two flavors: the comedy and the tragedy. The comedy is a story that has resolution to the conflict. The tragedy is a story where the conflict doesn’t have resolution. The example story we’ve been discussing is a tragedy.

Example:

But on this day that rule was not followed and five climbers, including the two leaders of the expedition, died as they descended Everest in total darkness—well past midnight—while a ferocious blizzard enveloped mountain.

STEP FIVE: Make the Point

Here now is the payoff: the point of the story you’re telling.

With a comedy, describe in detail the new reality that exists because the solution to the pressing problem was applied. Don’t just simply conclude, “And they all lived happily ever after.” That’s lame. Drive your point home by specifically outlining how the solution created a new reality for the people in the story.

For a tragedy, that is, when the conflict is unresolved, take different tack. Present the moral to the story, the lesson that must be learned from the unnecessary loss.

Example:

Why had this happened? One reason: the absence of dissent.

John Krakauer, the best-selling author who was on this expedition, observed that a relationship of passive dependency developed between the climbers and their guides. Guides presented themselves as invincible experts. Climbers were asked to be their unquestioning followers.

Even as Scott Fischer’s physical condition deteriorated badly, struggling to put one foot in front of the other, no one talked about the the two o’clock rule or suggested an alternative course of action.

One of the twists I like to add in this step is using a quote to make the point more powerfully. In my opinion, this is the very best use of a well-worded quote: to maximize the impact of a story. The quote below is a little bit longer than I usually use, but it’s totally aligned with the story, and I’ve never lost an audience repeating it.

Example:

“Unfortunately, the experience of these teams on the slopes of Everest mirrors the group dynamic within many executive suites and corporate boardrooms around the world,” Michael Roberto writes in Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer.

“The factors suppressing debate and dissent within these expeditions also affect managers as they make business decisions. Inexperienced individuals find themselves demonstrating excessive deference to those with apparent expertise in the subject at hand. Plenty of teams lack the atmosphere of mutual trust and respect that facilitates and encourages candid dialogue.”

The Bottom Line

Do you have a big presentation coming up? Make sure your content is sound, but don’t rely on information alone to move the audience. It won’t. Emotion drives action, not information. Tell a great story.

Here’s the complete example story without interruptions. With the quote at the end it’s just 395 words long and takes less than three minutes to tell.

Tragedy Atop Everest

May 10, 1996.

Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, two of the most experienced mountain climbers in the world, arrived with their clients atop Everest.

You think that would be cause for celebration. But it wasn’t. It was cause for concern. Grave concern that would end up as one of the deadliest tragedies ever on the world’s tallest peak.

You see, eighteen hours is all you have when you’re climbing Mt. Everest.

Climbers begin their ascent from basecamp, located at 26,000 feet above sea level, in the ungodly hour of 2:00 AM. They climb through the night and early morning, reaching the summit about mid-day. They then scramble back down before sunset to the safety of basecamp.

Climbing expeditions on Mt. Everest follow this strict guideline: the two o’clock rule. The two o’clock rule states that any climber who’s not reached the summit by two o’clock in the afternoon abandons their ascent and returns to basecamp immediately. No exceptions. 

The reason for the two o’clock rule is simple. Continued climbing after this time poses grave risk to climbers and their guides. You simply cannot make it back to basecamp.

But on this day that rule was not followed and five climbers, including the two leaders of the expedition, died as they descended Everest in total darkness—well past midnight—while a ferocious blizzard enveloped the mountain.

Why had this happened? One reason: the absence of dissent.

John Krakauer, the best-selling author who was on this expedition, observed that a relationship of passive dependency developed between the climbers and their guides. Leaders presented themselves as invincible experts. Climbers were asked to be their unquestioning followers.

Even as Scott Fischer’s physical condition deteriorated badly, struggling to put one foot in front of the other, no one talked about it or suggested an alternative course of action.

“Unfortunately, the experience of these teams on the slopes of Everest mirrors the group dynamic within many executive suites and corporate boardrooms around the world,” Michael Roberto writes in Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer.

“The factors suppressing debate and dissent within these expeditions also affect managers as they make business decisions. Inexperienced individuals find themselves demonstrating excessive deference to those with apparent expertise in the subject at hand. Plenty of teams lack the atmosphere of mutual trust and respect that facilitates and encourages candid dialogue.”

Photo Courtesy of AD – Monumental

The post Nail Your Next Presentation: Tell a Great Story appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
http://billzipponbusiness.com/how-to-tell-a-great-story/feed/ 0
The Honest Truth about Leadership Transition http://billzipponbusiness.com/leadership-transition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leadership-transition http://billzipponbusiness.com/leadership-transition/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 08:00:04 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4379 All leadership roles are not the same. And while we might agree with that statement on paper, in practice we violate it regularly. In practice we promote a high performing individual contributor—a leading salesperson or a leading researcher—to the role of frontline manager and are surprised when that person struggles to win the support of […]

The post The Honest Truth about Leadership Transition appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
All leadership roles are not the same. And while we might agree with that statement on paper, in practice we violate it regularly.

In practice we promote a high performing individual contributor—a leading salesperson or a leading researcher—to the role of frontline manager and are surprised when that person struggles to win the support of his or her direct reports. In practice we promote a successful frontline manager to the role of executive leader, and are surprised when that person struggles to sustain the same level of performance he or she had as a frontline manager.

The honest truth about leadership transition is that we do this because we really don’t believe that all leadership roles are not the same. We do this because we think that leadership development moves on a linear continuum from one logical step to the next, when, in fact, it’s just the opposite.

“The most common cause of executive failure,” writes Peter Drucker in his classic book, The Effective Executive, “is the inability or unwillingness to change with the demands of a new position. The executive who keeps on doing what he has done successfully before is almost bound to fail.”

In preparing people for successful leadership transition, then, the dissimilarities of one leadership role from the other must be well understood and adapted to fully. Here are three of these transitions and how to master them:

Leadership Transition One: From Individual Contributor to Frontline Manager

The primary difference between being a leading individual contributor and a frontline manager is the difference between personal productivity and organizational capacity. An individual contributor excels by putting their head down and doing the work at hand to the best of their ability. This technical expertise results in success in the role and promotion to management.

Technical expertise, however, is not what makes a successful frontline manager. In fact, it can backfire terribly. Sure, a successful frontline manager needs technical expertise to be respected by his or her team, but this leader’s focus must be squarely on developing that expertise in others, not on doing the work themselves.

When you’re really good at something, however, it’s extremely hard not to jump in and do it yourself. Every time you do, however, you stop being a leader and act like an individual contributor. Every time you step in as a sales manager and close a deal for a rep so you can hit the number stunts the growth of that rep and diminishes the capacity of your sales organization.

But that’s not all.

Failure to understand the difference between personal productivity and organizational capacity will eventually burn you out. Why? When you think like an individual contributor, you tell yourself that if you work hard enough, everything will be okay. This thinking sets you up for failure as a frontline manager. Working harder does not develop organizational capacity because you’re not duplicating yourself in others, you’re just doing their work for them. That’s the honest truth about this leadership transition.

What is the secret to successful frontline leadership?

The secret to successful frontline leadership is learning how to be a good coach. Learning how to work one-on-one with your people so they become exceptional individual contributors in their own right. Note this well: coaches work hard, but they don’t play in the game. Coaches prepare their people to play in the game. And when they do, their people perform at the highest levels of excellence and the entire team wins.

Leadership Transition Two: From Frontline Manager to Executive Leader

The primary difference between being a frontline manager and being an executive leader is the vastly different dynamics of visibility and accessibility in each of the roles. Here’s a visual representation of that difference:

Executive Leadership, versus Frontline

Frontline managers have low visibility within an organization. However, due to their relatively small span of control, they have high accessibility. This allows them to be hands-on in leadership, giving their direct reports the individual attention and one-on-one coaching they need to excel. This up-close-and-personal approach to leadership works very well and qualifies the frontline manager to take on a more expanded leadership role within the organization.

The problem is, to quote Marshall Goldsmith again, what got you here won’t get you there. That is, the dynamics of executive leadership are just the opposite from the dynamics of frontline leadership. Due to a dramatically increased span of control, accessibility to your direct reports is decreased and the raw mathematics of the situation prevents you from providing the personal attention that led to past success. Trying to will end in utter exhaustion

Conversely, visibility within the organization is greatly increased and people jump to conclusions about you from the slightest word or action in a way that you’ve never experienced before.

“We often tell our coaching clients that the more senior you become the more perception matters,” executive coaches Amy Jen Su and Muriel Wilkins write in their brilliant book Own the Room. “You are increasingly under a microscope. Your team members, peers, and superiors interpret your every thought, word, and gesture with greater nuance. And these interpretations drive how they respond to you.”

For example, how presidential does New Jersey Governor Chris Christie look when he jumps up and down in the luxury owner’s box hugging Jerry Jones after a Dallas Cowboys touchdown? Say what you want about his “right” to do this, the wisdom of it is questionable.

The honest truth about this transition is that executive leaders must learn how to manage their visibility, utilizing a powerful concept I refer to as authentic executive presence, to maximize their impact on people. Then they must learn how to leverage the limits of their accessibility by equipping a handful of trusted leaders who represent them to the larger group.

Leadership Transition Three: From Functional Head to Cross-Functional Leader

Within executive leadership there are two different kinds of roles: the head of a functional area, like finance or sales, and the cross-functional leader, like a general manager or a CEO. These, as with the above transitions, are two very different roles that must be approached in two very different ways.

When I was the head of sales, I lead my sales group like many sales leaders do. It was us against them. David versus Goliath. I bred a fierce devotion among my salespeople, and together we killed it. I went to battle for them at every executive team meeting and came back with the spoils of war, product changes, increased compensation, whatever. In short, I advocated for my sales department every chance I had.

When I became the CEO of this company, however, I was shocked to find out how many people I had alienated by acting this way and how many bridges had to be rebuilt for the rest of the leaders in the firm to follow me. I had to learn the skills of inquiry, leading by listening, creating alignment, and forging alliances.

That’s honest truth about this leadership transition, from functional head to cross-functional leader. What makes you effective in a functional role is not the same for a cross-functional role. In specific, the advocacy that rallies the troops in your functional area, alienates people in other parts of the business. Cross-functional success requires a blend of advocacy and inquiry, expressing your point of view and listening intently to the point of view of others. Not one or the other, but both.

What Leadership Role is Right for You?

Here’s one final word of advice. Understanding the dissimilarities between various leadership roles is critical to managing your career path.

There is tremendous pressure to accept any leadership promotion that comes your way. But only you know if a promotion is a good fit for you. If you give in to this pressure and take on a leadership role that you’re not well-suited for, it’s like beating a square peg into a round hole. Both the peg, the hole, and the hammer will be damaged in the process.

Do you love putting your head down, working hard on your own and getting things done? Then be the very best individual contributor you can possibly be. Do you love working with people up-close-and-personal, coaching and developing them one-on-one? Then be the very best frontline manager you can possibly be.

Do you love taking on a challenge and building a kick-ass department in your area of expertise? Then be the very best head of a functional area you can possibly be. Do you have a systems view of the world and love the coordination and collaboration of getting lots of moving parts operating in concert together? Then be the very best cross-functional leader you can possibly be.

In this way you’ll know the success and fulfillment that comes from doing work that’s right for you. And that, too, is the honest truth about leadership transition.

The post The Honest Truth about Leadership Transition appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
http://billzipponbusiness.com/leadership-transition/feed/ 0
The Top Three Blog Articles of 2014 http://billzipponbusiness.com/top-blog-articles-2014/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=top-blog-articles-2014 http://billzipponbusiness.com/top-blog-articles-2014/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2014 08:00:06 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4362 The results are in! I have in my hands the top three blog articles of 2014. I used for my rating system unique open rates from my 1200 member email subscription list. All three articles had open rates of over 40%, the winner coming in at a whopping 47%. My most popular blog article of 2014 is on the technology […]

The post The Top Three Blog Articles of 2014 appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
The results are in! I have in my hands the top three blog articles of 2014.

I used for my rating system unique open rates from my 1200 member email subscription list. All three articles had open rates of over 40%, the winner coming in at a whopping 47%.

My most popular blog article of 2014 is on the technology we love to hate: email. The next is on personal productivity, and the third is on interpersonal communication.

Here they are for you to enjoy again:

WARNING: Don’t Use Email This Way. Ever.

I look back on it now with complete and total embarrassment.

I had been tossing and turning since 2:00 AM, and it was now 4:00 AM. A slight that had been served me became amplified in my sleepless mind into a full-blown violation of my basic human rights. I was incensed!

Finally getting out of bed, I authored a sharply worded, extensively documented email, and sent it to every person on the planet. Then I went back to bed.

I awoke to utter humiliation and weeks of apologies.

We’ve all done something like that with email. This amazing technology provides us with the power to ruin relationships and destroy our brand as a leader with a click of the send button. Here are three things to avoid to keep that from happening to you:

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

The Hour That Changes Everything

One week has 168 hours in it. No more, no less.

Subtract the time you spend sleeping and doing basic chores, like bathing, eating, and getting dressed, and what you have left is about 100 hours.

The cultural narrative we’ve embraced—that there’s never enough time to do the things that matter most in life—doesn’t hold water in light of these 100 waking hours.

It takes 4% of 100 hours to exercise rigorously every other day. It takes 3% of 100 hours to have a big family meal together on the weekend, including cooking and cleaning up. And it takes 2% of 100 hours to read from a book to your children before they go to sleep at night.

When you consider the fact that the average American spends more than 30 hours a week watching television, you realize that the use of our time is more about the choices we’re making than about being too busy.

The secret to using these 100 hours well, instead of wasting them week after week, is simple planning. Like the rudder on a ship, if you take one out of 100 hours—just 1% of your waking week—to plan, you’ll end up charting the course of your life in a very different direction than if you just let the wind and waves drive you.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

Beware of This Conversation Killer and Know What to Do About It

38, 53, and 72. Note these numbers and note them well.

It was 38 degrees on January 28, 1986 when Challenger flight 51-L launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The region had been experiencing unseasonably low temperatures that delayed this shuttle mission time and time again. Pressure was mounting, both from the press and within the NASA community, to get on with the show.

The problem was that the O-rings on the Challenger’s fuel system had been designed for launch at temperatures of 53 degrees or higher. Design engineers were concerned that the rings would fail to seal at lower temperatures, leading to loss of the integrity of the system.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Just 72 seconds after takeoff, Challenger flight 51-L erupted in a fiery explosion. All seven astronauts on board lost their lives and the American space shuttle program was grounded for nearly three years.

38 … 53 … 72

The greatest tragedy of this disaster was that it was entirely preventable. Engineers knew about problems with the O-rings but couldn’t agree on what to do about it. Extended discussions, both internally and externally, were conducted about this issue, but no action was taken to fix it.

I’ve read the transcripts of the actual conversations between NASA’s leaders and the engineers at Morton Thiokol, designers of the space shuttle’s fuel system, hours before the fateful decision to move forward was made. They sent shivers up my spine. The pages are filled with personal attack, angry accusations, and outright arrogance and animosity.

In short, the Challenger disaster was not an engineering failure, it was a failure in human relations.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

Thank you for your loyal readership. I’m looking forward to a great 2015.

The post The Top Three Blog Articles of 2014 appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
http://billzipponbusiness.com/top-blog-articles-2014/feed/ 0
Take the Test: What’s Your Degree of Sales Difficulty? http://billzipponbusiness.com/degree-of-sales-difficulty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=degree-of-sales-difficulty http://billzipponbusiness.com/degree-of-sales-difficulty/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 08:00:56 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4325 Climbing a mountain is hard work. Some mountains, however, are harder to climb than others. Compare climbing Mary’s Peak, a popular hike a few miles from my house that tops out at 4,000 feet above sea level, with climbing Mount Everest, which rises to 29,000 feet. You prepare very differently for a climb up Mary’s Peak […]

The post Take the Test: What’s Your Degree of Sales Difficulty? appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
Climbing a mountain is hard work. Some mountains, however, are harder to climb than others. Compare climbing Mary’s Peak, a popular hike a few miles from my house that tops out at 4,000 feet above sea level, with climbing Mount Everest, which rises to 29,000 feet.

You prepare very differently for a climb up Mary’s Peak than you do for a climb up Everest. You have very different kinds of people with you on the journey and utilize very different kinds of resources.

So too in sales.

All sales is hard work: an upward climb, so to speak. But some sales paths are more difficult than others. Whether you are the VP of Sales for a Fortune 500 firm or sell your own services as an independent consultant, it’s critical to know the degree of difficulty ahead of you so you can do everything in your power to reach the summit.

Read each pair of statements below. On a scale of 1-5, select the number that best describes the product (or service) you sell, the process you use to sell it, and the kind of prospects you sell to. I don’t have this assessment as an online form yet, so you’ll have to do this on a (gasp!) separate piece of paper. Total your degree of difficulty scores and read my words of advice at the end of this post.

Product Sales DifficultyDoD, Part_1

Process Sales Difficulty

DoD, Part_2

Prospect Sales Difficulty

DoD, Part_3

If your score is between 44 and 60:

The degree of difficulty in your sales path is high. Turnover is probably also high, and good sellers have been hard to find. If you have more than one sales department in your firm, consider filling open sales positions from a sales path with a lower degree of difficulty rather than hiring inexperienced reps into this role. When you find a seasoned climber that likes the wind and the cold, do whatever you can do to keep him or her on your team.

The people who sell for you, like the climbers on Everest, need lots of support, organizationally and emotionally. Look at some of the higher scores on the survey and see if there’s anything you can do lower them a bit, like giving more help generating leads or providing more support with service after the sale. This could ease your degree of difficulty, increase revenue, and reduce turnover. All good things!

If your score is between 28 and 44:

The degree of difficulty in your sales path is moderate. Selling is challenging for your people, but usually not overwhelming. It’s more than likely, however, that your salespeople need more coaching and encouragement than you’re giving them right now. Mount Hood in Oregon is nowhere near the altitude and difficulty of Everest, but it’s still hard to climb with tragedies on the summit every year.

To prevent these tragedies from happening to you, look at some of your higher scores and figure out how you can help your salespeople get better at them. This may mean be teaching them how to reduce time in the funnel and close with fewer appointments. It may mean scrubbing their account list so they’re calling on the best possible prospects. Or it may mean mapping the decision maker matrix to manage it with greater ease.

If your score is between 12 and 28:

The degree of difficulty in your sales path is low. Congratulations! Your lower score may be due a temporary window of opportunity in the marketplace or a hard won competitive advantage. Whatever it is, find out the reason for it and do whatever it takes to to sustain it.

If you have more than one sales department in your firm, consider using this area as an entry point for new sales hires. Also, don’t let more experienced sellers get bored. Push them to attain higher goals than they ever thought possible and challenge them to take on additional responsibilities in the company.

Download the full assessment here:

Degree of Sales Difficulty Assessment

The post Take the Test: What’s Your Degree of Sales Difficulty? appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
http://billzipponbusiness.com/degree-of-sales-difficulty/feed/ 0
Don’t Take Yes for An Answer http://billzipponbusiness.com/dont-take-yes-for-an-answer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dont-take-yes-for-an-answer http://billzipponbusiness.com/dont-take-yes-for-an-answer/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 08:00:37 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4311 Eighteen hours is all you have. That is, if you’re climbing Mt. Everest. Climbers begin their ascent from basecamp, conveniently located at 26,000 feet above sea level, in the ungodly hour of 2:00 AM. They climb through the night and early morning, reaching the summit about mid-day. Then they scramble back down before sunset to the […]

The post Don’t Take Yes for An Answer appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
everestEighteen hours is all you have. That is, if you’re climbing Mt. Everest.

Climbers begin their ascent from basecamp, conveniently located at 26,000 feet above sea level, in the ungodly hour of 2:00 AM. They climb through the night and early morning, reaching the summit about mid-day. Then they scramble back down before sunset to the relative safety of basecamp.

Climbing expeditions on Mt. Everest follow this strict policy: the two o’clock rule. The two o’clock rule states that any climber who’s not reached the summit by two o’clock in the afternoon abandons their ascent and returns to basecamp immediately. No exceptions.

The reason for the two o’clock rule is simple. Continued climbing after this time poses grave risk to climbers and their guides, causing both to descend from the world’s tallest mountain in total darkness.

But on May 10, 1996 that rule was not followed, and one of the deadliest tragedies ever on Everest occurred as a result.

Best-selling author John Krakauer was on this trip and barely escaped with his life. Five climbers, including the leaders of the expedition, perished as they descended in darkness—well past midnight—while a ferocious blizzard enveloped the peak.

The Absence of Dissent

Why did this happen? The absence of dissent.

Krakauer observed on the trip a relationship between climbers and their guides of passive dependency. The leaders of the expedition, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, presented themselves as invincible experts. Climbers were asked to be their unquestioning followers. Even as Fischer’s physical condition deteriorated badly, struggling to put one foot in front of the other, no one talked about it or suggested an alternative course of action.

“Unfortunately, the experience of these teams on the slopes of Everest mirrors the group dynamic within many executive suites and corporate boardrooms around the world,” Michael Roberto writes in Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer.

“The factors suppressing debate and dissent within these expeditions also affect managers as they make business decisions,” Roberto concludes. “Inexperienced individuals find themselves demonstrating excessive deference to those with apparent expertise in the subject at hand. Plenty of teams lack the atmosphere of mutual trust and respect that facilitates and encourages candid dialogue.”

Advice to Leaders and Their Followers

Strong, driven, intense leaders do this unintentionally, but do it nevertheless. They wrap themselves in an aura of competence that makes asking them a question, or pushing back in any way, tantamount to treason.

So leaders, I urge you, follow the advice of the title of this article: don’t take yes for an answer. Poke, prod, and even cajole, until you’ve uncovered the real opinions of the people you lead. Or, as Patrick Lencioni describes it, “mine for conflict.” It’s how you uncover the truth.

And followers, don’t conspire with this dysfunction by refusing to accept the responsibility of questioning authority. Not because your leaders are evil villains out to the destroy the world (Instances of these are, thankfully, very rare), but because your leaders, like all of us, are flawed, finite, and fallible. As such, they need followers who faithfully provide feedback and help them fulfill their best intentions.

The post Don’t Take Yes for An Answer appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
http://billzipponbusiness.com/dont-take-yes-for-an-answer/feed/ 0
Four Keys to Time Mastery http://billzipponbusiness.com/keys-time-mastery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=keys-time-mastery http://billzipponbusiness.com/keys-time-mastery/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 07:00:08 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4269 Busy, busy, busy, busy, busy. That’s the word that describes the life of every business leader I know. Busy. Crazy busy. That’s the word that probably describes your life as well. It’s the reality of the 24/7/365 world in which we live. We can’t stop it, but we can control it. We can master it. […]

The post Four Keys to Time Mastery appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
24-7-365Busy, busy, busy, busy, busy.

That’s the word that describes the life of every business leader I know.

Busy. Crazy busy.

That’s the word that probably describes your life as well. It’s the reality of the 24/7/365 world in which we live. We can’t stop it, but we can control it. We can master it. In fact, we must master it, or it will master us.

“Concentration—that is, the courage to impose what really matters most and comes first—is the executive’s only hope of mastering time and events instead of being their whipping boy.” Those words were written over 40 years ago by Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive. Never have they been more true!

Here, then, are four keys to mastering time and events (instead of being their whipping boy):

Time Mastery Key One: Your Vision

The first key to time mastery is knowing where you’re going. It makes no difference if you land half an hour early at Atlanta International Airport when you’re supposed to be in New York. In other words, efficiency with your time is useless if you’re headed in the wrong direction.

That’s what vision does. It heads you in the right direction. It tells you, in the words of Peter Drucker, “what really matters most and comes first” in life.

The mistake most of us make with vision is that we allow it to become one dimensional. That is, we make it about work only and live a life about as satisfying as listening to a guitar with one string. No one uttered these words on their death bed, “Damn, I wish I went to more meetings!”

Right?

So capture a vision for all of your life using the questions below:

four-life-tasks

Time Mastery Key Two: Your Year

Vision, however, is not enough. While it’s good to have high ideals and noble aspirations, they are utterly useless if you don’t do anything about them. So the second key to time mastery is making sure every year you have a handful of specific, measurable, challenging goals for the four key areas of your life outlined above.

A lot of blood has been spilt devising memorable acronyms for the definition of a goal (that no one actually remembers). Goal setting is really very simple. A goal is:

X by Y

That’s it.

X is exactly what you’re going to do and Y is exactly when you’re going to do it. Pursuing a handful each year ensures that the vision you have for all of life actually gets done in real time. In other words, your goals determine “what really matters most and comes first” for the next 12 months.

MORE: How Many Goal Should You Have?

Time Mastery Key Three: Your Week

And, yes, all of us have set goals for the year that never saw the light of day after the first few weeks of that year. So the third key to time mastery is making every week count so the vision you have and the goals you’ve set actually get done.

I believe the most important personal discipline you can establish in your life is a weekly planning meeting with yourself. The half hour or so I spend every week reviewing my vision and revisiting my goals is the secret to keeping me on track with them.

Not just reviewing them, however, but taking action on them. One question drives the agenda of my weekly planning meeting, “What are the most important things I can do this week to fulfill my vision and achieve my goals?”

I determine those things and place them in my calendar and task list for the week. They are not the only things I do in my week, but they are the most important things. They are the first things. They are the things that get done no matter what.

MORE: How to Make the Most of Every Week in 60 Minutes or Less

Time Mastery Key Four: Your Day

The Prussian general, Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard Graf von Moltke (How’s that for a name?), famously said, “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”

And he was right.

Contact with the enemy is where your vision, your goals, and your plans for the week come face to face with the demands of your day. But it is here where we must, again, “impose what really matters most and comes first.” And that takes, as Drucker declared, courage.

Start your day with courage by quickly checking in with your calendar and task list and making sure what you have planned for the day is even reasonable to do. If not, make changes immediately.

Live your day with courage by saying yes to the things that are aligned with your vision and goals and saying no the the things that are secondary and trivial. Or as 37signals founder, Jason Fried, advises, “Dump half your projects to focus on the core of your business. Too much time and effort are wasted on second-tier objectives.”

End your day with courage by honestly reviewing what got done and what didn’t get done in your day, setting up the next day for success.

24/7/365 is not going away any time soon. The genie is out of the bottle. And for the most part, that’s okay. It’s our job, however, to respond to this new reality and live the life we want to life, not the one the genie is telling us to live.

Cast your vision. Set your goals. Make a plan for every week and check-in with that plan every day. Dream it and do it!

The post Four Keys to Time Mastery appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
http://billzipponbusiness.com/keys-time-mastery/feed/ 0
31 Ways to See Things Differently as a Leader http://billzipponbusiness.com/31-ways-to-see-things-differently/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=31-ways-to-see-things-differently http://billzipponbusiness.com/31-ways-to-see-things-differently/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 07:00:27 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4227 Everyone has had this happen to them. You’re taking a shower, driving the car, walking the dog and—wham—an idea pops into your head that’s a perfect solution to a pressing problem. A solution that comes to you in a flash: not by thinking about the problem, but by doing the exact opposite. What’s going on? It […]

The post 31 Ways to See Things Differently as a Leader appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
Everyone has had this happen to them. You’re taking a shower, driving the car, walking the dog and—wham—an idea pops into your head that’s a perfect solution to a pressing problem. A solution that comes to you in a flash: not by thinking about the problem, but by doing the exact opposite.

What’s going on?

It is, quite simply, how our brain works. Over-thinking about something can be just as detrimental as not thinking about it at all, because over-thinking paints us into a corner mentally and emotionally.

Harvard researcher and psychologist Shelley Carson, author of Your Creative Brain, advises that if you’re stuck on a problem, an interruption (like taking a shower, driving the car, or walking the dog) can “provide the break you need to disengage from fixation on an ineffective solution.’’

As leaders we must admit that sometimes we get stuck in our problems, fixated on ineffective solutions. We get so obsessed with an issue that we can’t find an answer to it, even a patently obvious one.

How do you get unstuck?

You get unstuck by seeing things differently, opening your mind to creative ways of thinking. Fixation is broken when you stand on top of your desk, as the character played by Robin Williams urged his English boarding school students to do in Dead Poets Society. This is critical because, “We cannot solve our problems with the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” An astute observation attributed to Albert Einstein.

Here, then, are 31 ways to do that. That is, 31 things you can do to stand on top of your desk, opening your mind to the random moments that bring a blinding flash of brilliance. Pick one of these to do in the next 30 days, and pick one to do in the next six months. Then make it your aim to live like this as a leader.

  1. Go on a road trip for the weekend.

  2. Tour a museum or an art gallery.

  3. Serve in a soup kitchen.

  4. Go to a concert or a comedy club.

  5. Visit one of the great cities of the United States, like New York, Boston, San Francisco, or Seattle.

  6. Write poetry.

  7. Climb a mountain.

  8. Plant an herb garden.

  9. Read a children’s book, like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Giver, or The Phantom Tollbooth.

  10. Learn how to play a musical instrument.

  11. Take a college class for credit.

  12. Go bungee jumping, sky diving, or zip-lining.

  13. Help build a house with Habitat for Humanity.

  14. Invite all your neighbors over for a BBQ.

  15. Learn how to speak a new language.

  16. Wander through a bookstore.

  17. Visit one of the great cities of the world, like London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, or Sydney.

  18. Volunteer with hospice.

  19. Listen, really listen, to great music.

  20. Read, really read, a great novel.

  21. Take a hike or a bike ride.

  22. Run a marathon or a half-marathon.

  23. Go to a Shakespeare play.

  24. Go to a Broadway play (It doesn’t have to be on Broadway).

  25. Help a medical relief team in a developing country.

  26. Brew your own beer.

  27. Bake your own bread.

  28. March in a parade.

  29. Go to the circus or the zoo.

  30. Learn how to draw or paint.

  31. Befriend a senior citizen and listen to their life story.

The post 31 Ways to See Things Differently as a Leader appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
http://billzipponbusiness.com/31-ways-to-see-things-differently/feed/ 0
Two Incredibly Simple Secrets to Excellence in Execution http://billzipponbusiness.com/excellence-in-execution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=excellence-in-execution http://billzipponbusiness.com/excellence-in-execution/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 07:00:12 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4201 We had come to the end of two very intense days. Whiteboards had been scribbled on, erased, and scribbled on again and again. Flip chart pages stuck to the wall like debris from a battlefield. The executives in the room sat bleary-eyed and exhausted. I had seen this before. I had caused this before. And […]

The post Two Incredibly Simple Secrets to Excellence in Execution appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
We had come to the end of two very intense days. Whiteboards had been scribbled on, erased, and scribbled on again and again. Flip chart pages stuck to the wall like debris from a battlefield. The executives in the room sat bleary-eyed and exhausted.

I had seen this before. I had caused this before. And I wasn’t done. At least not yet.

For I’ve learned from bitter experience that all the best intentions of any strategy session, no matter how brilliant, will amount to nothing—zero, zip, nada—if execution isn’t part of the process. So I end every engagement like this with the following two exercises and have discovered that these exercises are, in fact, the secrets to excellence in execution.

Yes, they’re simple, but they’re not easy to do. And, yes, they work. Amazingly. The last team I used them with delivered the highest quarterly revenue increase in the history of their company. So here they are: focus and follow-through.

SECRET ONE: Focus

The first exercise, which you can do anytime as a business leader, is this: Select 3-4 things to do from your long list of things to do and make them your most important things to do for the next three months. In other words, I ask the executives in the room to identify, from all the issues we’ve talked about, what their highest priorities are for the next quarter. And I only let them have three or four.

One reason why we fail to execute at the highest levels of excellence is that we are simply trying to do too much. When we try to do too much we end up doing a lot of things halfway and nothing very well. So the first key to excellence in execution is focus. That is, determining the handful of things that will have the greatest impact on our work and concentrating on them like a laser.

Focus as a key to execution is confirmed by actual data from the field. Productivity specialists, FranklinCovey, surveyed thousands of teams and discovered the following facts:

How many goals

Please note, that focus is not doing less for the sake of doing less, but doing less for the sake of doing more. That is, doing the few things that will achieve 100 things, rather than doing things that are utterly inconsequential to your business.

Focus simply answers the question, “What are your vital few priorities for the next three months?”

Notice, also, how this secret doesn’t just focus on a limited list of things to do, but also on a limited time in which to do them: one quarter. Ever wonder how you get so much done before you go on vacation? Or how hard salespeople push to meet their goal at the end of the year? Want to enjoy that same intensity all year long? Establish four finish lines, not just one, by creating highly-focused quarterly sprints.

Quarterly sprints, to be sure, need to be coordinated with your annual plan and overall business objectives. The secret to their success, however, is that you concentrate on a few high priorities and get them done in a fixed period of time. I even like the rhythm of 12 weeks sprinting and one week jogging four times a year, rather than a 52 week marathon.

SECRET TWO: Follow-through

Focus, however, is not enough to drive excellence in execution. It’s not enough to identify your top priorities for the next three months, you actually have to do them (Imagine that!). So the next exercise we complete is what I call a Sequence of Events.

A Sequence of Events is simply the steps of action it will take to complete your vital few priorities for the quarter. First brainstorm all those steps, making sure that they are specific and measurable. Then put them in their chronological order based on due date and assign them to the person who will be accountable for their completion. Another way to say this is WWW: Who is going to do What by When?

Then make the Sequence of Events publicly available for all to see and track progress against it every week for the next 12 weeks.

Excellence in Execution

As simple as it sounds, very few leaders actually do this. It’s like they have leadership ADD, moving on to the next shiny object that attracts their attention, rather than keeping the main thing the main thing. If adjustments needs to be made mid-quarter to the Sequence of Events, and I’ve never seen a quarterly sprint that didn’t need some adjustments, make them and move on. Plan your work and work your plan.

I have a group of business leaders I meet with for an entire day each quarter of the year. I call this group the Business Growth Club. In our sessions together we talk about all kinds of issues, effective marketing, employee engagement, financial intelligence. But every session ends with each leader identifying the 3-4 goals they are going to work on in their business over the next quarter, and the specific steps of action they’re going to take to achieve those goals. And every session begins by each leader standing up in front of the group and reporting on the progress of their quarterly plan.

The growth in these businesses over the course of the year is amazing. I’ve become convinced that I could do nothing else but insist that the two exercises of focus and follow-through are completed, and these business leaders would get their money’s worth from the program. But, of course, they get much more (Not to mention a free lunch).

Here’s The Bottom Line

Two older women sat in the back pew enduring a typical Sunday morning sermon. One of the women, who was hard of hearing, said to the other woman, “Is the sermon done yet?”

To which the other woman replied, “It’s been said, now it needs to be done!”

When all is said and done in business, there’s a lot more said than done. Yes? It’s time to stop talking about things and it’s time to start doing them by utilizing the two secrets of excellence in execution: focus and follow-through.

The post Two Incredibly Simple Secrets to Excellence in Execution appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
http://billzipponbusiness.com/excellence-in-execution/feed/ 0
How to Coach the Strong Personality: Three Secrets http://billzipponbusiness.com/how-to-coach-the-strong-personality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-coach-the-strong-personality http://billzipponbusiness.com/how-to-coach-the-strong-personality/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 07:00:17 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4178 Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That’s the dilemma facing leaders dealing with a strong personality on their team. If you do try to coach the strong personality, the whole thing can blow up in your face, causing more trouble than it’s worth. If you don’t try to coach the strong personality, […]

The post How to Coach the Strong Personality: Three Secrets appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That’s the dilemma facing leaders dealing with a strong personality on their team.

If you do try to coach the strong personality, the whole thing can blow up in your face, causing more trouble than it’s worth. If you don’t try to coach the strong personality, this person can cause so much turmoil that your leadership life becomes a living hell.

So you’re stuck. Here’s help.

Having spent most of my professional career in the sales side of the business, I’ve had more than my share of strong personalities cross my path (You know who you are). I realized I needed these intense individuals to help me meet my goals, but had to learn how to lead them well or else I would lose my mind. So I made coaching this kind of person one of my strengths, and the people who possess this personality became some of my closest friends.

Here are my three secrets:

SECRET ONE: Affirm

The driving force of the strong personality is this: they want to be heard. As a result, they will press their point until they feel they are heard.

The problem is that this behavior backfires on them, as other less dominant individuals withdraw in silence in the face of their verbal barrage. So the strong personality presses even harder, and the rest of the world withdraws in silence even more.

As a leader it’s your job to stop this unproductive cycle by listening to the strong personality and affirming what they’re saying. This does not mean you have to agree with them. That’s not even what they want in pressing their point so hard. They just want to be heard. So listen and show that you’re listening by reflecting back in their own words what you hear them saying.

One warning, however.

Don’t patronize the strong personality. They can sense insincerity a mile away, and it will infuriate them. What you have to do is truly listen, being fully present in the moment (no faking it) and rephrase what they’re saying until they exclaim, strongly of course, “Yes, that’s it!”

Coaching the Strong Personality

SECRET TWO: Reframe

Now we all know that the strong personality, like any flawed human being, is not right all the time. They may not even be right most of the time. The problem, however, because of the way they communicate, is that it sounds as if they think they’re right all the time. And, because of the way they respond to feedback, it seems impossible to convince them otherwise.

Truly listening to this person, Secret One, will get you far in preparing them to explore another point of view. But when it’s time for you to speak, it’s critically important to frame your input in a certain way. Here’s that way: Respond to the bold declarations of the strong personality with an honest, authentic question.

If you merely match strength with strength, responding to their bold declarations with bold declarations of your own, all you’ll get into is a battle of wills where there’ll be no winners (even if, on a paper at least, you think you’ve won). An honest, authentic question—not a rhetorical question or a leading question—disarms the strong personality and diffuses the unproductive cycle of pursue-withdraw-pursue-withdraw-pursue-withdraw.

A Real Life Example

Imagine that you want to help a struggling sales rep that a strong sales manager you supervise has on his team. As this sales manager’s boss, you know you can go directly to that sales rep, but you don’t want this leader to think that you’re conspiring behind his back. So you ask him about it.

His response to you is, “Absolutely no way! There’s no way I want you talking to Susan. You’ll completely undermine my authority with her and undo all the hard work I’ve put in teaching her how to sell!”

You now have three options:

  • Say, “Screw you, I’m going to do it anyway!”
  • Back off and let Susan continue to struggle without extra help
  • Affirm and reframe

You know from experience that neither option one nor option two will end well, so here’s how to do option three.

“You’re exactly right, Tom. You’ve put in an amazing amount of time working with Susan teaching her how to sell. A lot of lesser of leaders would have given up already. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that I would never do anything to undermine your leadership with anyone on your team. That kind of garbage gets us nowhere.”

“I’ve just found that sometimes a different set of eyes and a different voice can help people get unstuck. I was wondering how we can give that to Susan without undermining your great leadership and undoing all your hard work?”

Now don’t press for a decision. If you press for a decision, you’ll force the strong personality to react, and, being strong, they’ll react strongly. Let them think about it and come back to it later in the conversation or at another time. Not in a month or two, but later in the day or the next morning. And keep asking the question until you reach a mutually agreeable answer.

I’ve used this affirm/reframe process literally hundreds (thousands?) of times and have found that when I’ve done it with a true, honest heart and a servant-like approach to leadership that it works for me most every time.

SECRET THREE: Flatter

I thought long and hard about using the word flatter for this third secret, because it’s so easily misunderstood. But I think flatter is the right word, as I explain later, but here’s what I don’t mean by it. I don’t mean by it that you lie or make stuff up. The strong personality will reject these kind of overtures completely and will never trust you again if you use them.

I do mean by using the word flatter the very best dimensions of that term: to praise this person, to compliment them, even charm them.

Here’s why this is needed. Due to the bold exterior the strong personality publicly portrays, most people wrongly assume they don’t need to be praised. Or when they do receive recognition, it’s about things they’ve done, accomplishments and achievements, never about who they are as a person.

So whenever I’m working with a strong personality, I always make it a point to praise them personally, even for silly things like the new sunglasses they just bought. That’s what I mean by flatter, recognizing this individual for who they are as a person. And trust me on this, you’ll be the only one in their life who does. Sad, but true.

Strong personalities, especially in the sales side of your business, are critical to helping you reach your goals. They are the hunters of our modern-day business world. Master your interactions with them by utilizing these three secrets—affirm, reframe, and flatter—and you’ll reap rich rewards, both personally and professionally. And that’s the point of leadership, isn’t it, getting results through people, not feeding your ego.

The post How to Coach the Strong Personality: Three Secrets appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
http://billzipponbusiness.com/how-to-coach-the-strong-personality/feed/ 0
SOTW: The Right Way to Conduct a SWOT Analysis http://billzipponbusiness.com/swot-analysis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=swot-analysis http://billzipponbusiness.com/swot-analysis/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 07:00:16 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4143 One of the most impressive minds in the consulting world today, Alan Weiss, famously wrote that the oft-used planning tool called the SWOT Analysis is “insipid and simplistic” and using it “ought to get any consultant thrown out into the street.” Tell me how you really feel! Alan is mostly right, but partly wrong. To […]

The post SOTW: The Right Way to Conduct a SWOT Analysis appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
One of the most impressive minds in the consulting world today, Alan Weiss, famously wrote that the oft-used planning tool called the SWOT Analysis is “insipid and simplistic” and using it “ought to get any consultant thrown out into the street.”

Tell me how you really feel!

Alan is mostly right, but partly wrong. To refresh us all, the letters SWOT are an acronym formed from four quadrants of an internal and external audit of an organization’s operational environment. Both the positive and negative aspects of each are explored, and the organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats are identified, as illustrated in the diagram below.

SWOT

The first argument that could be leveled at the SWOT Analysis is that it’s incomplete. And that argument is absolutely correct. The main reason why SWOT is incomplete is that it doesn’t include analysis of the customer environment. It’s focused internally, on your company, or externally, on your competition. Therefore it should never stand alone in strategy formation, for any strategy that leaves out looking at the needs, desires, motivations, and habits of your customer is really no strategy at all.

A second failing of the SWOT Analysis is that it’s merely theoretical, data only without a path forward to action. And, again, this argument is true. I’ve sat through SWOT sessions where, at the end of the discussion, everyone stared proudly at walls covered in flip chart pages, thinking they had just finished a strategic plan.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

All too often we are content with engaging in theoretical exercises because the real work of change is hard. Data gained from a SWOT Analysis is just that, data. As such it must be acted on for it to have any usefulness. And, ironically, the more data you have, the more resistance there will be to change. Analysis paralysis is what this is called, and it’s a real issue; not because the two words rhyme, but because information considered outside of the context of execution is fatally flawed at its core.

A Twist on SWOT: SOTW

In spite of these limitations, however, a SWOT Analysis can be helpful as part of a strategy formation process when used properly. And its proper use is considering the elements in this order: SOTW, or what I call The SOTW Path.

SOTW Path

 

Companies, like people, have things they do very well and things they love to do: passions and proficiencies. These are our strengths, and instead of being “well-rounded” companies or individuals, we should be well-leveraged. That is, investing heavily in utilizing our strengths in at least 80%, if not 90%, of what we do. This is the only way to achieve excellence in the competitive markets in which we live and work.

Another way of saying this is identifying your company’s core competence, the handful of things you can do at world class levels, and maximizing the full use of them.

Where do you do that? In Opportunities. That is, moving from the S quadrant to the O quadrant. Our best work should be invested in our best opportunities for our business to grow to the greatest degree. Or as the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy assert, exponential business growth occurs in uncontested market space where competition is the least.

What happens, then, when we do our very best work in the very best areas of opportunity is that this leveraging of our our strengths makes threats to our business irrelevant. They become overwhelmed by the expanding opportunity, or at least minimized to a manageable degree.

What’s the point in considering threats at all? By understanding how they relate to your weaknesses.

This is where you move in The SOTW Path from the T to the W. Just like matching Strengths to Opportunities, you need to see if there’s any match between Threats and Weaknesses. If there are none, move back to leveraging your Strengths in the greatest areas of Opportunity. If, however, there is a match between a Threat and a Weakness, that gap must be filled in some way or else you have a fatal flaw that will undermine your business, like a hole in the bottom of a bucket.

For example, last summer I had a kidney stone attack while on a business trip in New Mexico. I received amazing treatment from everyone in the emergency room of the hospital I was rushed to. I did not receive a bill, however, for that treatment until six months later—180 days—an eternity in the world of accounts receivable.

From the outside looking in, I would say this hospital has a strength, extraordinary patient care, in an expanding area of opportunity, the aging baby boomer population in a state that’s high on most lists of worthy retirement destinations. However, a threat to anyone in the health care industry is the ever-increasing demand for detailed documentation, including timely and accurate billing. If left unaddressed at this facility, it will become a fatal flaw.

There are only three things you can do about a fatal flaw:

1. You can stop doing it.

2. You can get a little better at it.

3. You can outsource it.

A hospital can’t stop invoicing for services, but there are lines of business most companies could drop entirely. They’re not good at them and they aren’t profitable for them. Continuing to invest in these lines of business will result in even more loss, and they should be eliminated entirely.

If you can’t eliminate something, it is possible to get a little better at a weakness. And that may be all that’s needed. An area of weakness will never become a strength, but it doesn’t have to be if good enough is good enough.

Should you try to get a little better at something to fix a fatal flaw? It depends on the severity of the threat. A dire threat to your business cannot be met by getting a little bit better at something, a moderate threat might, however, might be assuaged in this way.

Finally, the option I would recommend to my hospital friends, is outsourcing the activity to someone for whom this is a strength and represents a welcome opportunity. They will take it on with the passion and proficiency it needs, and the hospital will reap the reward of being able to focus on that which they do well and love to do.

Speaking of friends, I would count Alan Weiss on that list, albeit a distant one. He is right, a SWOT Analysis used as a stand-alone strategy solution is overly simplistic. Those words could be said for any assessment that’s being employed as a magic bullet, as opposed utilizing a variety of tools in one’s consulting toolbox.

I do think, however, that this assessment used in a more insightful way, as in SOTW, can bring helpful insight to the strategy formation process. I truly hope it won’t result in my being thrown out into the street!

The post SOTW: The Right Way to Conduct a SWOT Analysis appeared first on Bill Zipp.

]]>
http://billzipponbusiness.com/swot-analysis/feed/ 0