The Sherpa Journal

The 5 Deadly Sins of Performance Management

Enlightened leaders who want to grow their companies, know that to be successful it’s critical to tap into human potential in order to elevate both the individuals and the organization. Enlightened leaders aren’t talking about whether this should be done, but only about how. They’re looking for a way to drive the strategy and culture [...]

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The Fear of Change

Change isn’t the exception – it’s the status quo. Leaders who can accept this concept have a much greater chance of long-term success. “…instability is permanent, change is accelerating, disruption is common and we can neither predict nor govern events. We believe there will be no new normal. There will only be a continuous series of not normal [...]

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Busting the Core Values Myth

Too often, value statements are no more than vague ideals that are impossible to measure, and even harder to implement. Millions of dollars and an unimaginable number of employee hours have been wasted on the hypocrisy of “core value statements.” Consultants and company leaders form committees and convene at off-site meetings to carefully craft the [...]

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Steve Jobs Challenged Us To Believe

What do you believe in? There are an abundance of articles and incessant talk about corporate vision and values. In fact, it seems as though every annual strategic planning session devotes some time to reviewing or revising those beliefs. And yet how many leaders actually run the company, AND make decisions, AND plan the path, AND focus the organization every day based on THEM?

Steve Jobs did. And while in his role as Apple CEO, he gave us all the gift of demonstrating those beliefs in everything the company did and said and produced.

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Tackling the Dreaded Conversation

You know the one. It’s the difficult conversation you need to have with an employee who isn’t doing the job, or causing a problem, or doesn’t play well with others. The one that keeps you up at night and causes your stomach to feel like the butterflies inside you are learning the Latin rhumba. The number of excuses you’ve come up with to evade the issue is a testament to your creativity.

That perfect set of circumstances that you’re waiting for is simply not going to happen. And you know that the longer you wait, the worse things get and the more difficult the issue becomes to address. So instead of procrastinating and suffering, have the conversation! The key is to prepare in 3 separate steps.

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Good Job! 8 Essential Ingredients of Positive Reinforcement

Well-motivated employees are typically more creative and productive. As a result, positive reinforcement can be one the most effective tools leaders possess to change behavior. Yet there are two factors working against them. First, most managers have been trained to pay attention to what’s wrong rather than what’s right. It takes conscious effort to see what’s right and then link that positive action to a positive outcome.

Second, communication studies show that employees need to hear four positive comments to counteract a single negative. That’s right, 4 positives = 1 negative! When managers are already prone to focus on wrong versus right, that’s an extremely difficult ratio to achieve.

Given those factors, it’s clear that the tool of positive reinforcement requires thoughtful planning and consistent action. Leaders and managers alike need to understand the power of positive reinforcement, what it means to their organization, and how to apply it in a way that’s consistent and effective.

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The Accountability Conundrum

We hear it all the time … that dreaded phrase … the one that conjures up fear, trepidation, annoyance, irritation …

“We need to hold people accountable!”

It’s a loathsome missive, this “accountability.” It’s so packed with emotional land mines that just talking about it is like skating across spring ice. Being HELD accountable feels like being blamed, and HOLDING SOMEONE ELSE accountable is annoying.

Of course, we can’t just ignore the problem and hope it will go away. Instead, let’s improve the concept!

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Welcome to the Sherpa Journal

Welcome to the Sherpa Journal! Once a month, we’ll publish tools, suggestions, and observations for helping leaders get results. The focus will be on HOW – how to develop team and individual responsibility, how to problem solve effectively, how to meet and exceed established goals, and how to keep your brand promises.

Don’t forget to subscribe via email or RSS – there are links in the upper right corner of this page.

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The Fierce Urgency of Now

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote about fierce urgency and procrastination should resonate when we all realize how quickly January 2011 has flown by. Now there are only 11 months left to reach your 2011 goals. Q2 is around the corner, and if you’re off track in Q1, the rest of the year may be in jeopardy. Don’t allow one more year of missed opportunity. In that short amount of time, your company could easily end up “standing bare, naked, and dejected” when the competition cleanly passes you by.

It’s not as if companies don’t want to meet their goals. They try to meet them. But there’s a hard truth here: if they aren’t meeting goals on a regular basis, something needs to change. Let’s discuss what gets in the way of achieving results: obstacles, aka problems.

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What are your odds?

It’s easy to be confident that you’ll meet your 2011 goals – after all, you have 12 new months ahead of you. But in his book 8th Habit, Stephen Covey provides a sobering analogy: 37% of employees have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why, and only 1 in 5 employees has a clear “line of sight” between individual tasks and the team’s goals.

Now comes the sobering part: what if a soccer team had those stats? Only 4 of 11 players on the field would know which goal is theirs, and only 2 of 11 would know what position they play and what they’re supposed to do.

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The Cost of Chaos – Part III

Imagine that you have a huge digital billboard in your office. It’s something like the national debt clock, and it’s tracking something that is just as critical to your company’s future. It’s the money your organization wastes while trying to generate revenue: the cost of failed products, excess sales salaries, sales support, ads, promotions, campaigns, demos, travel, unhappy customers, re-makes, lost deals, incorrect pricing, channel support, training, and more.

We have a name for these losses — the Cost of Chaos — and your new “chaos meter” would track every minute and dollar lost from uncontrolled revenue generation. And while nothing can match the national debt clock, we can guarantee that you won’t like the numbers you see on the version that hangs in your office.

This topic is so important that we’ve covered it in a three-part series. Today we’re providing examples of specific actions you can take to reduce these costs.

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The Cost of Chaos – Part II

Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t a mystery. We know what to do and we know what we shouldn’t do. And even with all the science and evidence to the contrary, we keep trying the latest fads, buying the books and pills and programs that promise the silver bullet.

The same concept applies to fixing what we call the Cost of Chaos — the penalty for not aligning a principle-based revenue strategy throughout your organization. Companies try this new marketing program. Hire that hotshot sales rep. Add a new twist to the customer offer. Design a new logo and attend the big name trade show. In other words, companies are constantly searching for a silver bullet and, while conducting that search, pour money down the drain at an alarming rate.

This is such a critical concept in the generation of revenue that we’ve divided this article into three sections.

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The World Isn’t Flat: Planning for a New 2011

Can you imagine being alive in the late 1400s when Christopher Columbus *didn’t* sail off the edge of the world? After a lifetime of believing the world was flat, would you readily accept that it was round? Or is it possible that you might react as many others do when faced with a new reality [...]

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8 Ways to Listen to Your Market

Look OUT, not IN! If you’re following our CEO Challenge articles, speaking or consulting work, you’ve heard this mantra a lot. More often than not, answers to your most important business questions aren’t inside your organization; the answers lie out there with your customers. What problems are they facing? How is your firm REALLY doing at solving those problems? How do they make decisions? What’s the image they have of your firm versus your competitors? How much value do you really bring? How consistent and predictable is your service? Do you know what your customers wish you did better? But how can you gather this research? This action plan provides 8 ways to listen without breaking the bank.

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What are you selling? The answers may surprise you.

Pop quiz! Right now, right after you finish reading this article, go to each member of your leadership team and ask them this question: What are we selling?

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Have we entered a New Normal? Hardly.

I have a bone to pick with the phrase “The New Normal” and how frequently it’s being tossed around these days. Yes, we’re emerging from a disastrous global economic crisis. In the aftermath of a tsunami, it’s tempting to look around and call the new landscape “The New Normal.”

My discomfort derives from the implied assumption that there is a “normal” at all.

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You know the saying about assumptions. Why are you still making them?

Assumption testing has always been important in organizations. Right now, however, it’s more critical than ever. Markets are evolving so fast that the wrong assumptions can be fatal.

Worse yet, an organization’s inability to routinely identify and test assumptions is a cultural defect that can be very difficult to correct.

Rick and I often see this problem when we participate in leadership meetings held by our clients. During these meetings, we frequently hear executives mistakenly state assumptions as if they were facts.

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The Cost of Chaos

During the first week of the new year, when we tend to gaze optimistically at the road ahead, a headline from the Associated Press announced “Americans’ job satisfaction lowest in 22 years.”

The article then went on to say “That is the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference Board research group in over 22 years of studying the issue. If the job satisfaction trend is not reversed, economists say, it could stifle innovation and hurt America’s competitiveness and productivity. It also could make unhappy older workers less inclined to take the time to share their knowledge and skills with younger workers.”

Well, that got my attention! Of course there are many reasons for the decline, including the worst recession since the 1930s and the fact that downsizing has created more work and more demands on the workers who’ve survived the cuts. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that such a decline has somber implications for businesses, and executive teams need to address this issue in their organizations.

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Have the Courage to Create a Brand!

Branding is a tricky subject to discuss with small to mid-size companies. It’s a concept that’s more easily associated with consumer products, packaged goods, or the Fortune 500. Branding books use examples like Starbucks, Apple or Dell – examples that don’t resonate with midsize service companies, B2B companies, or industrial product companies.

Many of these types of businesses think of a brand their logo, the look & feel of their web site, or their slogan. Unfortunately, a brand is none of those things. Instead, we define a brand as the combination of what you sell, how you sell it, and to whom. The result is an experience that your customers trust, and it can create substantial value because the right customers will be willing to pay a premium for that experience.

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How to Survive an Investor’s Due Diligence

This isn’t a good time to raise capital for your company. But surprisingly, it may be a good time to sell. An August 2009 New York Times article (“As Deal-Making Returns, Midsize Companies Are Seen as Prime Targets” by Brent Bowers) proclaimed “The United States is ripe for a boom in acquisitions of privately held companies.” But can your company survive an investor’s due diligence?

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