Archive for 2010

Book Review: Traction

October 5th 2010

Get a Grip on Your Business

Review Review Review Review Review

Author: Gino Wickman

Let me start by simply stating my own praise for this already highly recommended book.  I have read a lot of business books and Traction is definitely my new found favorite.  It packs in so much applicable content around 6 key factors for running a business; it is an excellent handbook to use for growing and leading any small to medium sized business.  It covers these components from the perspective of starting from the top in a business with the leadership team and expanding the concepts throughout the organization as the tools are implemented and proven.

Most books and many that Wickman references are excellent business guides for narrower topics and while agree with many of his references and have enjoyed those books as well, this one covers such a wide scope, yet with an incredibly strong focus on the leadership component itself and with what is called the Entrepreneurship Operating System (EOS).  The EOS is Wickman’s term for the overall system used to run the business and it is what the book teaches very well with example company implementations used throughout the book, with specific tools and implementation strategies and with outlines and samples available for every step of the implementation process.  This is what I like so much about Traction, it is more of a handbook and one that gives an excellent set of steps for implementation.

Wickman covers these 6 components:

  • Vision
  • People
  • Data
  • Issues
  • Process
  • Traction

Inside each component, he presents the strategy of why and how to implement changes to make each step of the EOS a success.  It typically takes anywhere from one to three years to fully implement and realize this EOS in a business and see the resulting change and/or growth as a result.

To give a bit more detail about one of these components, I particularly liked the component on issues as it is a strong area especially in engineering and software areas which I work in.  The issues component is certainly not new to me in my company but it is often an area we struggle with solving.  Wickman gives a framework to use for the issue solving track that is three mains steps:

  1. Identify – This step involves examining an issue to discover the real issue that is faced by that can only be discovered by being honest and uncomfortable to peel back the layers to identify what the underlying problem really is
  2. Discuss – Everyone involved has their say about the issue with a focused effort to discuss that issue alone (no tangents). Keep the discussion around what is right overall for the company (the greater good) not individuals or individual groups.  Once any discussion becomes redundant, it’s time to move to step 3.
  3. Solve – This step is mean to conclude the issue and solve it once and for all.  The whole point is to make the issue go away forever and not come back.  You turn the discussing into one or more action steps and you decide to move forward to finally solve the issue.

So overall, this book is one I will definitely be using in business to implement much of this EOS as I see the value, am excited by the overall focus and approach Wickman has and very much like the components and implementation guide.  I’ll leave you with a final quote directly from the book near the end about putting this system all together.

Many books have been written on the topics of meetings, planning, solving problems, developing people, and prioritizing.  What is new about the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) is the way these disciplines have been assembled into a complete system for running an entrepreneurial organization.  Each individual tool is not as important as the whole, and all six components that make us the Entrepreneurial Operating System and the EOS Model need to be understood and mastered in order to fully gain traction.  You can read more about the process and book at the website, www.eosprocess.com

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews | 2 Comments »

Risky Business: It’s One Way to Build a Breakthrough Team

October 1st 2010

The following is a guest post by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, authors of a new book called, The Orange Revolution.  They’ve sent me a book for review and am happy to have this guest article from them as a sample of their work and how one breakthrough team can make such a difference!

As any gambler knows, in order to win, you have to be willing to place the big bet. In business terms, of course, big bets can be risky, and yet when multi-million dollar business wagers do pay off, legends are made. In writing The Orange Revolution, we traveled to Somers, New York, for an amazing example.

A Guru Assembles a Team

When Rajendra Gursahaney introduced himself he extended a hand and said, “Hello, I’m Guru.” His real title is Pepsi Beverages Company’s Senior Director of Engineering; the honorific “guru” has been thrust upon him by his peers.

Now Guru is truly brilliant, but he knows he can’t build world-changing bottling systems alone, especially when this self-proclaimed “cowboy” likes to take risks to improve the process. Case in point: the reason we met with Guru. Two years ago he took an extreme risk when he formed a team that would either revolutionize the bottling industry or cost his company millions of dollars.

Without going into the science of the idea here, we can tell you that Guru’s company was about to roll out a new product line in Russia with Lipton Tea. As always, Pepsi was concerned about the cost, weight, and environmental impact of thick plastic bottles. Guru wanted to take a risk with this new product line that would create a thinner bottle using technology that had never been attempted before.

“I went to my boss with the idea. Nobody had ever tried it in our industry. It was a massive risk.”

We’ve often noted how upper management at progressive organizations such as Pepsi encourage a degree of risk-taking, as long as it based on the type of well-founded analysis that Guru had undertaken. To fail would mean reversing and buying three traditional machines at a cost of $7 to $8 million, not to mention months of delay. But if the idea worked, it would not only save millions per year per line in plastic costs, but could actually help the planet in a remarkable way. He added, “I know it’s a risk, but I think our team can make this work.”

Guru’s boss informed the organization of what they were about to try. And he told Guru that he would “fully support the team through the process.”

With his own belief and that of his boss, Guru assembled a team of people who weren’t afraid to risk, knowing that Pepsi would back them either way. Finally, after 14 months, the team had a bottle that withstood all the technical and aesthetic requirements.

A Sweet Outcome

To get an idea of the impact of this breakthrough team, here are some of the numbers: A traditional 1.5 liter bottle weighs 63 grams. Guru’s team made a bottle that weighs 48 grams. That’s a cost savings of about 2.2 cents per bottle. And remember, these lines produce up to 50,000 bottles an hour. Three lines have already been installed in Russia, so Pepsi Beverages Company forecasts savings of $2.5 million per line per year in plastic costs alone, adding up to $7.5 million in annual savings. And the environmental benefit for all of us is substantial.

Remarkably, Pepsi has decided not to patent this idea, but instead is letting the entire industry benefit by sharing this technology with anyone who would like to save money and reduce the carbon footprint of having to produce the resin for the bottle from a landfill and recycling perspective. It’s a great example of one team changing not only their company, but the world for the better.

In 2009, Guru was awarded PepsiCo’s “Best of the Best” Sustainability Prize, recognizing his efforts to reduce energy consumption and landfill impact. In Guru’s typically direct fashion, he admitted that he didn’t deserve the prize alone, so he shared the reward with the people on his team.

“This just goes to show you, if you get a group of people together who are like-minded, who know they can take a risk and you have their back, you can pretty much make anything happen,” he said.

How Breakout Teams Benefit from Risk

While risk is not the most popular word in boardrooms, improvement and creation demand it. It’s interesting that in the conversations we had with breakthrough team members for our new book, a similar insight emerged time and again: Individuals who created Wow for their current organizations admitted to being stifled in their past. Many reported having great ideas that, when they brought those ideas to leadership, were rejected—often because of the word ‘risk.’ Breakout teams see risk differently. They know risk is necessary, and they understand the impact—both positive and negative—of taking one.

What follows are just four few ideas to spark more smart ideas in your team:

  • Reward risk takers. It’s just as important to publicly praise those who succeed as those who fail if you want to encourage creativity.
  • Tell their stories. Share anecdotes about the innovators on your team, i.e., “Bill faced a similar problem when we were rolling out the CRM system, and he came to us with a great idea to try a new approach…”
  • Get other great minds involved. Edison didn’t invent the light bulb alone, Gates didn’t build Microsoft by himself, and Mother Theresa didn’t feed the hungry alone. They had other great minds working with them.
  • Be curious yourself. Study other great leaders in your organization. Lead out and take risks yourself. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes, but also pat yourself on the back when your risks pay off.

New York Times bestselling authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton are the authors of The Orange Revolution: How one great team can transform an entire organization published September 20 from Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Learn more at their site and blog at carrots.com.

Posted by Mike King under Business | Comments Off on Risky Business: It’s One Way to Build a Breakthrough Team

Integrity Right to the Core

September 28th 2010

Integrity is something that is very important to me and it is one of my 4 core values (Integrity, Service, Spirit and Honesty) that I live by.  Integrity is a trait that most people aspire to have or show and there are many reasons why.  I’ll explain, but first; core values are what you shape your life around and they outline you as a person.  It’s in your core values that your nature is revealed and you can align your behaviour with who you really are by your core values.  Not everyone knows or has even thought about their core values, but whether you know them or not, you have them.  And to me it all circles back to having integrity in how you live your core values in the first place that integrity is all about.  Integrity is in part being authentic and being true and also it is about holding to your values.  Therefore integrity requires that you know your core values and you can’t really have integrity without knowing yourself since then you simply can’t stand for what you believe in.  You also can’t really have much integrity if your values are always changing, as then your values themselves don’t even have integrity, and since core values make up who you are, it’s impossible for your core values to easily change if they include integrity.  It is the value that ensures you live up to your other values and to who you say you are.

Alignment with Yourself

Aligning your life with your core values not only shows integrity but it allows you to life in harmony with those values.  It is a deep alignment and authenticity with your true core of your being.  Awareness of this authentic self brings a lot of peace and understanding about your life, how you live it and what you stand for.  It helps you to live a conscious “aware” life that is not as separated from your unconscious mind as if you did not tie to these core values.  This connection right to the core allows you to make easier decisions and to feel good about them, as there is no internal unknown batter going on between your conscious and unconscious values.

Aligning Your Core is Never Easy

Aligning your decisions, your actions, your choices and thoughts with your true core is not easy and often it comes at a price. You will constantly be facing situations where taking one road is not as difficult as taking another and often the easy road is the one that does not align with your values. Making that choice to live congruently with your values might cost you time, criticism, difficult actions in order to do what is right or in alignment and sometimes it means not doing things you might otherwise be able to do had you ignored your values.  It is these set of choices and alignment with your values that represent your authenticity with yourself and it can bring about a wonderful internal peace with yourself.  It lets you live your life without regret, with the feelings of satisfaction and with that internal peace to let your life as a whole flow freely and easily.  Individual decisions or choices may not always be easier, but your character and happiness in life will certainly benefit.

Every time you stray from your core values, you build up an internal stress that seems to pry its way in against your core values.  A single decision or choice often presents itself with another one where it becomes something you feel you must justify why it was off your values in the first place.  Doing this leads to similar justifications away from other values, especially when one is integrity.  This off-course action chips about at your moral character and leads only to more situations where core values will be tested.  It is easy to be trapped in a cycle of transformation away from your values and often this is made worse by the people we spend time with or the situations we face in our environment.

Protecting Your Core Values

Because of the situations we get into that test our core values, it is wise to know how to protect them.  Obviously you can simply avoid these situations but doing this will lead you to live a very sheltered life with little interaction with others.  Instead, it is better to learn ways to protect your core values while still living an interactive life.

Other people we interact with will shape and test our core values the most so there is some value in at least limiting our time spent with people who do not match our own authentic selves.  Having close relationships with people and friends that do share our own values will help you to reinforce them and stay true to them.  When your core values are not being tested, it is much easier to be authentic and honest in your relationships.  Ensure you have a strong group of friends that do share many of your core values.

Sharing your core values is another way to protect them.  Letting people know what you stand for and believe in before you are faced with a situation that tests any values, will make standing up for that much easier.  In fact, it lets you use your integrity to your advantage since you know others will expect you to follow your values, it makes it that much easier to do so with that extra pressure.  When others know your values, it is easy to rely on and ask for respect of that when there comes the time to deny a request or make a decision to maintain your integrity.

So in summary, there are 4 important pieces here to build your authentic core being:

  • First, know your core values and use your integrity to live them to the core
  • Second, align the choices and decisions in your life with your core values to be authentic and have a mind at peace
  • Third, recognize when you your core values are challenged and make your choices and decisions based on them in order to stay in alignment with your core
  • Finally, protect your core values by expressing them, sharing them and being honest about them before they are tested.  This will allow you to have integrity right to the core.

You can read more about core values here in determining and sharing your core values.  Also, my building better relationships eBook also has a whole chapter on authenticy and using that to build strong relationships.

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 7 Comments »

Leadership by Listening

September 21st 2010

Leadership is not always about having people follow you.  It is also about being an example for others to look up to and about being a person of good character and morals.  There are many skills a leader must have and one of the most important ones is to be a strong listener.  Good leaders truly do listen more than they speak and they let people follow their actions, more than their words.  Listening is a skill that is not only difficult to do but humbling since it requires great discipline to simply be quite and talk less than you listen.  It sounds simple, it is, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.  Here are some ways to become a better listener and show leadership in that listening.

  1. Segue Into Conversation
  2. Purposefully Eliminate Interruptions (technology, multitasking, etc)
  3. Hold Back the Urge To Speak
  4. Interact Passively

Segue Into Conversation

In order to listen well in a conversation you must be able to focus on it.  When a conversation first starts, you are almost always already doing something with your mind thinking about that so it can be difficult to immediately be attentive in conversation as a listener.  That is where a segue comes in handy. A segue is simply a smooth transition from one topic to another, or in this case, from one activity to another. It can be a brief statement or action that you do to trigger your mind to switch towards the conversation so you can engage fully in listening attentively.  A number of things can work as a segue, you just need to find and use your own method for switching tasks into an active conversation.  It is best to find both an action and a statement to use.

  • Action – this could be something as simple as stepping or spinning away from your work area or computer to start a new conversation.
  • Statement – the other part of a strong segue is to make a statement about starting a conversation.  This works well to help you shift your mindset and shows the other person(s) that you are truly listening attentively.  It might sound like, “OK, just one second here, let me step away from what I was doing, can you start again from the start and you now have my full attention”.

Purposefully Eliminate Interruptions

Interruptions in conversations are terribly distracting and disruptive to both people and quite frankly, they are often unintentionally disrespectful.  Everything from email and cell phones to bosses or other people stepping in to break a conversation that is already in place.  It is your job to eliminate these as best you can.  The segue can help if you have stepped away from your work area and computer, you can turn off your cell phone and leave it ‘out of sight’, and you can kindly ask people who do interrupt to wait or let you get back to them shortly after you have finished your conversation.  Every step you take to show you are focused on the other individual shows them respect and allows you to be a good listener, which you cannot do effectively with distractions.

Hold Back the Urge to Speak

Listening requires one really important point.  You simply need to shut up, and listen.  It’s simple but hard to do.  Listening really requires more than simply not speaking but also the urge to speak.  When we have the urge to speak even if we don’t open our mouths our minds are already thinking about what we want to say and we stop listening when we do this.  This is the danger of the urge to speak, long before we actually add our two bits to a conversation.  Learning to hold back the urge to speak takes a lot of discipline and practice.  The best way I’ve learned to do this is to focus on rewording what the other person is saying as they are saying it so our mind is busy really thinking about what they said instead of formulating our own response.  This ensures you are listening.  The only danger with this internal rewording is to get lost in translation and lose focus on continuing to listen.  I suggest you use verbal paraphrases and reflection with the other person when you need to slow them down or stop for thinking a bit longer on what they said.  This will also show you are really thinking about what they are saying and not just holding your tongue.

When you do finally have something to add or comment on in a conversation, ensure you wait for an obvious pause and count a few seconds before responding.  You want to ensure the other person is truly done expressing their thoughts and ready to stop and listen to you.  After all, what good will your comment have if they are not listening to you because you interrupted their thought.  Slowing down a conversation gives you more time to think about what you do have to say and a lot more time to think about and reflect on what others have to say.  This is a skill of all great leaders and one that is valuable in every relationship you will develop.

Interact Passively

Interacting as a listener must be done with careful skill to not interrupt or break the other person’s train of thought but still enable you to show interest and engagement in the conversation.  Interaction with the other person in conversation will help you stay focused on what you hear without having your mind wander from what the other person is saying.  Passive interaction can be many things:

  • Nodding to show agreement or understanding
  • Verbal cues like ‘uhha’, ‘OK’, ‘go on’, ‘hmm’, ‘I see’, etc
  • Leaning toward the person to show interest
  • Facial expressions to show reaction or impact to what was said

Keep in mind each of these interactions should be subtle and not distract the other person in their part of the conversation.  Show your interest, but don’t interrupt them or break their train of thought.  More interactive methods I mentioned earlier can be used but only at the appropriate time such as paraphrasing or responding with questions or reflection on their ideas to expand and explore a topic in more detail.  It allows you to have the person tell you more without putting your own ideas or opinions out their yet.  All these methods are important in conversation to keep a high level of interaction in place while remaining passive as a listener and not taking over a conversation.

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 10 Comments »

How to Reduce Stress and Have Better Coping With Stress

September 14th 2010

Stress is like a stretched elastic band in your life.  The same situations with stress can be improved in two ways:

  1. Reduce the forces  and consequently how far the elastic band is stretched
  2. Lengthen the elastic band

Reduce the Forces On the Elastic Band

This first option is actually the more difficult one.  Most causes of stress are not under our control so changing them can be quite difficult.  This is however where most people spend their effort in dealing with stress.  People tend to wonder why things don’t get better or why things happen to them and this typically builds up even more forces in that person’s mind making the stress worse since it doesn’t really address anything.  The forces have to be reduced by having a situation relieved, by resolving some problem or perhaps seeing through some responsibility or even by reducing one’s responsibilities which are all ways to reduce the forces causing stress.

Lengthen The Elastic Band

The second option is to change what the stress acts on.  The elastic band is you and when you lengthen the elastic band you are lengthening your ability to cope with stress.  This comes in many forms, everything from controlling your state of mind to having tools that help you stay calm and less reactive to stress.  Creating these internal tools with increase your ability to handle stress and lesson its impact on you.

Perspective and Mind Set

Perspective and Mind Set are the biggest factors to how well one can cope with stress.  By perspective I mean how you look at those external forces and how you interpret them.  It is easy to see many forces as a negative thing that increases your stress levels but often those perceived negative forces are leading you towards something good, or an opportunity in disguise.  How you frame most situations has a large impact on the levels of stress that even will cause you.  Mindset is similar but in a larger context.  Learning to have the mindset of seeking out positive things in every situation will help you to find the elements of these external forces that are positive instead of negative so that you can keep your hope and optimism without being bogged down by what others might only see the downsides of.  This kind of mindset shift will lengthen that elastic band and greatly increase your ability to reduce your stress.

Calm Your Body and Mind

Many simple tools exist for helping you to lengthen that elastic band to reduce stress and here are just a few examples :

  • Learn to calm your body and mind with proper deep breathing – Slow deep breathing detoxifies the body and calms your mind.
  • Engage in calming activities – Having some time to relax, be quite and especially having time for solitude can greatly improve your coping ability by easy quick tempers, reducing physical tension in the body and muscles and by giving your mind a chance to focus on something more enjoyable without having the stress building up in your mind.
  • Prayer or meditation is another great way to relax the body and clear the mind of the forces pushing on it from stress.  Being in tune for your inner spirit and God’s spirit will always help to ease the body and mind.
  • Balancing your time with enjoyable activities – Changing your activities and engaging in something that is either fun or helps you to stay healthy and fit will greatly reduce your stress and increase your ability to cope with stress.  Knowing when you need this and having the discipline to make it happen will lengthen that elastic band so the stress that you already have seem to have less and less of an impact.

Managing Stress Head On

Stress comes about usually from tasks or actions you need to take that can be overwhelming.  It also is caused by situational events or things that have happened in your life that force change.  Lengthening that elastic in this area means you have to expand your tools and knowledge to react intelligently to stress instead of emotionally.  This is done by learning to prioritize your tasks and ensure you make yourself highly productive so that the stressful list of tasks can actually be reduced and managed.  Learning to focus, prioritize your work and always ensuring you recognize progress and accomplishments will help reinforce this productive approach.

Staying organized will also help and can be combined with helping your productivity by using lists of tasks, recording and reviewing your accomplishments.

Having the courage to say no to non-important tasks that continue to arise is another critical tool to managing stress.  When you are already overloaded or under stress, you should recognize the danger of this and minimize any new forces that will build on that.  On the flip side of this, you also need to learn to ask for help and to accept help from others when you can’t manage well on your own.  For more tips on handling stress, see my previous article on eliminating negative stress.

It Could Be Worse, It Could Be Better

Comparing to other situations and things that could be worse can help to raise one’s spirits.  Any stress you have can almost always be compared to someone or some situation that would be even worse and looking at this helps us to appreciate and realize what we should be grateful for and appreciate.  Often the stress we have is a result of our own abundance and what we consider to be a stress is often another person’s dream, especially when stress comes about from money or spending choices.  We don’t often recognize that things could be so much worse, but when we do, we realize the stress is not really that important afterall.  Do you have your basic needs in life?  Do you have relationships to rely on and people that love you?  Do you still have a life to live with your own freedom and choices of how to live it?  Try these questions when you find stress to be overwhelming.

Most situations with stress could obviously be worse but dwelling on that for the future is also dangerous.  You don’t want to focus on the future becoming worse as a result of stress so instead, you need to purposefully seek out making things better and surprise surprise, it usually will happen.  Everyone has ups and downs and seeking out the ups and knowing that it could be better is what will enable you to make that happen as well.  Seeking out good friends, fun activities and simply spending more time with positive people will help you to see the bright side.  Keeping that mindset that it could be better will drive you to get what is better and no longer be burdened by your stress.  Stretch out your own internal ability to cope with stress, lengthen that elastic band and enjoy a life with more freedom, pleasure and joy.

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 16 Comments »

Resources – August 2010

September 10th 2010

This month I have a new collection of resources that will interest you as they relate to personal development and related subjects.  I missed getting a list out in July with so many holidays through the summer so I’m merged a few earlier ones here as well.

Favorite Articles

  • How Do You Spend Your Life Dollars – A cool look at how everything you do and buy relate to your life hours.  Makes you think about each your decisions to spend your time and money…
  • How to Reach 10000 Blog Subscribers – Any blogger will surely be interested in Steven’s new book to help you grow your subscribers.  His past 6 months of growth are a sign of his success and expertise on the subject.
  • The Short but Powerful Guide to Finding Your Passion – Zenhabits I’m sure you have heard about.  This article I particularly like and love the subject of discovering and living your passions.
  • Alternative Sleep Cycles (Sleep is for the Weak) – OK, the title caught me on this one, however, I love learning about sleep patterns and cycles and find that that knowledge has certainly improved my life, health and productivity despite what is often published about the need for sleep.  This is a great article about various alternative sleep cycles.
  • Problem Definition – Litemind delivers another excellent guide on problem solving using techniques from Einstein.
  • How to Feel Great and Keep a Smile on Your Face – A great article about keeping happy with a smile on your face.
  • Stop Demotivating Me – A collection of work related actions that demotivate people.

Additional Resource News

  • The Personal Excellence Book – While this one isn’t free, for anyone who reads Celes’ work, you will already know about her quality writing and so her new eBook is definitely one to check out.
  • Productive Magazine – I could highlight this every issue released, since there are great articles in it.  However, you can easily signup if you want them, each issue has a number of articles on mastering productivity.

The 100 Lists Continue

I know I didn’t inspire all of these lists myself, but in making my own 100 Lists (see 100 Ways to Be a Better Leader) I know the effort and thought that goes into making these and how useful they are when completed.  Here a couple new 100 lists I like that I’ve seen lately.

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 4 Comments »

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