Work Yourself Out of A Job

images (51)What’s Your True Motivation for Being in Business?

We’re often inundated with endless media charter about becoming the ‘next Google’ or ‘next ‘Amazon’ business success. The perception that these reports paint can often cause aspiring and current business owners to lose their way and in some instances their personal financial viability by chasing fantasies. There are a lot of perceived reasons and technical explanations as to why this happens, but fundamentally it’s due to lack of purpose and vision for the business. Yes… it’s quite this simple. In working with and among startups and existing business owners, I’ve experienced more than enough businesses that exist for the purposes of just existing. A simple fix for vision / mission waywardness is to take time in the planning stages of the business and THINK!!! The following 2 questions will work wonders and get your creative juices flowing: What do I (we, if you have a team… which you should) want to accomplish with this business besides making a lot of money? AND Where do we want to be in 1 year? 3 years? 5 years?

Are You Sensitive and Receptive to the Unknown?

Now that you and your team have spent some time creatively brainstorming why the business exists and where the business is going, you’re ready to accept the fact that there’s still a lot about the marketplace you and your team don’t know about. Please accept this reality now and save yourself and your team the pending headache: you’ll learn more from doing than talking and planning. One of the unfortunate asides of the entrepreneurship boom of the mid 2010s is the emphasis on having a perfect business plan. Nothing could be further from the truth. I definitely recommend that you commit to writing the vision, mission, and other pertinent details of the business opportunity that you and your team are looking to exploit; however, don’t think for a minute that from all the research and number crunching you will accomplish can make up for the simple fact that business is about people and their irrational behaviors. No amount of research will ever compensate for the irrational realities of life and human behavior. The best solution for dealing with the irrational realities of the marketplace is to prepare and plan an action strategy founded on a vision of progressing towards an ideal destination and then prepare your mind for the worst. Not for a second am I advocating pessimism or doomsday prophecies for your business, but in order to prepare an effective action plan, you must constantly prepare your mind and business for the worst and have the attitude of learning and becoming a better business owner in spite of the downside risk or circumstances. is an online platform that specializes in providing expert level advice and guidance to the micro entrepreneur in the areas of accounting / finance, operations, management, sales and marketing, human resources, and lending in order to help grow your business and maximize your cash flow


Becoming an Effective Manager

images (49)Many successful people get promoted into management and quickly find the pressure to be higher than anything they felt in the past. As an individual contributor, it is much easier to control the outcomes of your work. It may not seem like that at times, but you have a lot more control than when you are a manager of people. I am not referring to people that receive a management title and have nobody to manage. A real manager has the authority and responsibility to manage: financial performance (includes holding others accountable), people activities (hire, keep and grow people), and positioning/strategizing the firm or department in a way that provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

One key issue a manager faces is that there are always detractors within the larger organization and the smaller team. These people may have been detractors all along, felt they should have gotten your position, or do not know you well enough to realize you are qualified for your position. In his book, “Managing Right for the First Time,” David C. Baker recommends that managers not overreact and to approach detractors as follows:

1. It is natural to have detractors, and you just need to be aware of who they are and acknowledge they are there.

2. It is important that a new manager avoid actions that give their detractors power.

3. One should not try to bully or overstep a detractor by using the power of one’s new position.

4. When dealing with issues, it is important to treat everyone with equal fairness and respect and focus on “right action.”

The key in any management position is to be a leader that staff wants to follow. This does not mean being weak or attempting to be everyone’s friend. Instead, Baker identifies the following characteristics as key to being someone people want to follow.

Approachability – Do you actively listen first before reacting?

Articulateness – When you communicate, do you do it directly enough so that people truly understand what you are thinking and feeling?

Authenticity – Are your actions and behaviors consistent with the how you really feel inside?

Honesty – Do you say what you mean and deliver difficult feedback effectively?

Consistency – How much consistency is there between vision communicated and reality? Do you do what you say or change when it suits you?

Competence – Are you competent enough to understand the issues and evaluate what is being said?

Confidence – Do you have the balance between being able to inspire others to follow you but not so much confidence that you fail to recognize you are heading down the wrong path?

Curiosity – Are you always observing and inquiring to test original beliefs against new information and showing a willingness to refine strategies and action plan accordingly?

Decisiveness– Are you willing to make choices that may not be popular?

Discipline – Do you get things done, do what you say, plan, and execute?

Fairness – Can people trust you will look out for others’ best interests when the others are not in the room?

Hopefulness – Most people would choose not to walk down the path to hell! Can you lead the way down a difficult path with a positive and winning attitude?

If you are entering management for the first time or experiencing less-than-optimal cooperation from your team, challenge yourself with the above questions and consider reading “Managing Right for the First Time,” by David C. Baker.

Missing any of the above characteristics can hinder your effectiveness. It takes a strong manager to keep all of them in perspective. It is natural to violate them when detractors enter the picture or when encountering challenges in a role.

3 Reasons Great Collaboration Won’t Happen

images (48)In most companies, collaboration is a valuable part of corporate culture. In fact, it’s expected that teams, departments and divisions work and share information together. In some of the best companies, collaboration is well executed with outside vendors, suppliers and consultants. Yet, for some reason, collaboration does not always happen. Many businesses tend to be divided by silos – groups of people who function like clicks.

Collaboration like corporate culture is the elusive quality that is characterized as a soft skill. While considered soft, it’s a skill that appears to be very hard to acquire.

Collaboration is the act of working together with one or more people in order to achieve a common goal. Sounds simple. Right? When you factor human nature, you start to see where complications begin.

What could possibly get in the way of such a desirable element for successful business? For one, people like to take credit for achievement. When two or more people work together, they combine their brains. By doing so, one thought can feed off of the others’. That makes it difficult to say who the originator of the thought was. When, in fact, the thought was not originated by anyone. It was an amalgamation of everyone involved. The likelihood of one person originating the innovative concept is low because it required the combination of conversations. However, the material gains and notoriety that can be realized from the accomplishment can cause selfish actions.

Secondly, collaboration becomes difficult when one person believes their idea is more right than others. Once a person believes they are right, that means the others are wrong. This can create an acrimonious relationship. Whether it’s groups coming together or individuals, each person has formulated an identity around the knowledge, information and experience they have acquired over time. Because most people believe they are smart – this gets worse for highly educated people – they trust their knowledge is better than others. They believe they have lived a successful life based on their knowledge and experience. Therefore, if someone comes up with an idea that invalidates what they know to be the facts of life, they will fight against them to validate their existence, knowledge and experience. This makes collaboration nearly impossible.

Third, collaboration can be difficult when it comes to resources. In an organization where departments and teams have to collaborate, there may be a concern for resource allocation. To ensure your team or department receives the resources you have requested, you may withhold information to weaken the other side. While you may win on the surface, it could kill the project or weaken the final outcome.

As you can see, collaboration comes with pitfalls. While it appears easy for people to come together for a common purpose, self-interest can derail all efforts.

Nevertheless, there have been people who orchestrated great collaborative efforts. Andrew Carnegie is one such person. He created the largest steel company of his time. He did this in the face of not knowing much about how to mine iron ore or how to mix the chemical compounds to make steel. He wasn’t even good at selling steel. He did, however, know how to choose brilliant people who knew how to do those things. He brought them together to work as a team. By serving as the thread that bound accomplished men together, Carnegie was able to foster a spirit of working together for a common goal.

What To Do When Your Boss Is Younger Than You Are

images (50)What have you always pictured your boss looking like? If you are anything like me, you’ve always pictured them as a grumpy old man. Or a grumpy old woman if you want to get all modern. However, there is one thing that I’ve never really pictured my boss as being – younger than I am! However, this is starting to happen. Firms are starting to put Gen-X folks into senior management positions. What should you do if this happens to when you are in the CIO position?

What’s Going On?

So just exactly how did you end up having the CIO job, but working for someone who is younger than you are? It turns out that one of those natural generational shifts is currently underway. The baby boomers who have been running things are now starting to reach retirement age. What this means for firms is that they are starting to replace their leaving senior management with members of the next generation: Gen-X. The Gen-X’ers were born between 1965 and 1980. This switch is happening at a lot of firms that you may recognize: McDonalds, Harley Davison, Cisco, and Microsoft.

One of the reasons that firms are moving to put a younger generation of managers in charge of (you and) the company is because they are highly aware of what is coming their way. The next-next generation of workers has already entered the workplace: the millennials. This new batch of workers are looking for different things from their employers. What matters the most to them is flexibility. In order for them to remain at a job for any length of time, they are going to have to feel engaged in their job – they need to feel as though their actions count.

Another reason that firms are moving younger workers into senior management positions is because they are losing market share and they feel as though they need new thinking in order to turn things around. Both Harley Davison and McDonalds are currently dealing with declining market shares as their traditional customers become older. The firms are going to have to start to create products and services that appeal to younger customers and the firms appear to believe that they need younger management in order to make this happen.

What Will These New Leaders Be Doing?

As a CIO who is in charge of an IT department, any time there is a change in your management, it may have an impact on your department’s ability to get work done. What this means for you is that you are going to have to understand what your new, younger, management is going to focusing on. If you can determine what they want to accomplish, then you can position your department to help them to be successful and hopefully you’ll get the support that you need.

One of the things that is going to distinguish this new crop of senior managers from the one that they are replacing is that they are willing to take more risks. They’ve all been raised around computers and so they are generally more tech savvy and they understand the importance of information technology. What all of this means is that they tend to make decisions faster than the managers that they are replacing. What this means for you is that your department’s requests for resources and funding should get an answer quicker; however, I’m not saying that you’ll always get the answer that you want!

Finally, in order to work closely with your new younger boss, you need to understand what is going to be on their minds. One of the most important things is going to be the hiring process. Expect them to spend a great deal more time working with HR trying to find out ways to attract the best talent to join the company. It won’t stop there. Also expect your boss to be very focused on trying to figure out what the company is going to have to do in order to retain the talent that it has. As a CIO, this is good news for you!

What All Of This Means For You

The times they are a changing. As CIOs we may soon find ourselves in a position in which the boss that we’re working for is younger than us. At a number of firms, Gen-X staff are starting to be moved into senior management positions. Is this going to be a problem?

As CIOs we need to understand what is going on here. The markets that many firms are competing in are rapidly changing. This means that they feel that they need to have leaders who can more quickly change with the markets. Gen-X staff are starting to be placed in senior leadership roles. What you are going to discover is that what they focus on is going to be different from the management that they are replacing. Specifically, what is important to them will be staffing and keeping the staffing that they have. You should also notice that they react to market changes quicker and make decisions faster.

No, it may not be easy working for someone who is younger that you are – “that should be my job!” However, you will need to adapt to this new generation of management. It can be a very good thing for you because things will happen faster and you should be given a freer hand to focus on the needs of your department and keeping them together.


5 Ways to Make Transparency Work With KPIs

images (47)There’s a glass wall between the waiting room and the workshop at the windscreen shop where I took my new car to have its – you guessed it – windscreen replaced last week. I could watch the whole process, if I wanted, while sipping as many espressos as I fancied.

Clearly, they aren’t afraid of their customers seeing how things happen “backstage”. They have nothing to hide. I wonder if that’s because:

    1. They clearly care about their customers. They gave plenty of time to help me understand what would happen to my precious new car, and to explain exactly what I should expect with an aftermarket windscreen compared to the factory one. No question was too silly for them to answer with care.


    1. They have defined processes. Staff moved through each step, from when I entered the reception to when I drove off, with proficiency and ease. It meant they had the bandwidth to be friendly and courteous in each interaction.


    1. They promised what they know they can deliver. The promise to me was completion in 2 hours, but the delivery was only 90 minutes. My expectations were virtually guaranteed to be met.


    1. They admit mistakes without hesitation or fuss. That seems to be because they already have the solution. They had quoted based on some additional parts for my car that they didn’t have in stock. But they didn’t end up needing those parts, so they explained the mistake and how my bill would now be $50 less.


  1. The technicians directly interact with customers. The people who did the windscreen replacement were the people who spoke with me about what would happen and gave me updates as it did happen.

Transparency means we can see through to what’s really happening. When we talk about transparency in organisational performance, it means seeing through to if and how well the organisation is doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s the KPIs or performance measures that replace the opaque walls with clear glass, so it’s possible to see what’s really happening.

That’s confronting and scary for many people. So much so, that KPIs are avoided, or only the good stuff is measured. But when results are buried in darkness, they will only get worse. To paraphrase authors of Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense, Pfeffer and Sutton, if we want to be a high performing organisation then we have to decide that we want to be told the truth and not be told only the good news.

We can draw parallels from the windscreen shop’s transparency, to bolster ourselves in the face of the transparency forced by our KPIs:

    1. When we care about our stakeholders honestly, they can tell, and they won’t be judgmental or untrusting.


    1. When our processes are deliberately designed, we know we have influence over the results we deliver, and can deliver confidently, continuing to care for our customer or stakeholder.


    1. When we know our capability, we know what we can promise. And then as we continually improve our capability, we can deliver beyond expectations. Stakeholders will only be surprised in a good way.


    1. When we own mistakes, we can own the solutions. Stakeholders want to hear solutions, not problems. When they hear solutions, they know they can trust that we are caring for them.


  1. When we involve our stakeholders in what’s happening, they feel part of the process and not like the process is being done to them.

Transparency is important – even essential – if we care about high performance, or even just better performance. But to work, it needs to be framed in clarity, curiosity and inclusiveness. While ever it’s framed in ‘checking up on’ and ‘catching out’, our fear of it will always get in the way of knowing the truth we really need to know before we can make any real improvements in performance.


Is your organisation battling with the need for and fear of transparency? How are you dealing with it? Is it working?


How Effective Will a Business Coaching Company Be?

images (45)In a previous post regarding business coaching companies, we discussed what such companies can do to help your business. They will work with your business to establish a partnership that will help you reach your goals.

We have established that working with a coach truly does produce results. The next question is: just how effective will it be? Will the results in the future truly offset the current investment?

We understand that only a marginal impact may not be enough to justify hiring a business coach but the International Coaching Federation has research that shows that there are clear benefits that arise for the individual and the company as a whole.

Each individual is unique in terms of skills s/he possesses and how s/he naturally is. Some people are very confident, others great public speakers. Here enters a business coach to present new perspectives and develop these skills.

Individuals that have gone through different programs have commented saying that it presented them with a better understanding of who they are as a person- where they feel confident and what they need to work on. Just to point out a few the developments that have been reported, data from a study shows that:

  • 80% of participants saw improved self-confidence.
  • 67% saw improved work/life balance.

Business coaching companies work with a company and its employees to help pull out their potential. Along with these personal improvements, coaching also translated to better work performance, in terms of management and team work.

Why do companies invest in hiring business coaching companies? BECAUSE THEY WORK.

Although it may be an investment, the return on investment (ROI), based on the overall results and improvements of the employees and teams, is much higher. While there is a broad spectrum of ROI figures, a reliable range of can be anywhere from 500%-700% (Anderson, 2008). With numbers like this, it is clear to see why so many businesses are looking to work with companies that provide these services.

So is hiring a business coach worth it in the long run? In a word – YES. You will see your employees experience personal benefits as well as organizations growth, resulting in better-functioning company.

Because of significant results that business coaching produces, it is no surprise that it is a growing industry. If you think you could benefit from these services, reach out to such companies in your area to see how they can work with you to improve your business.

For more information, including data points about personal and organization impacts from a study, check out our blog and the article, “How Effective Are Business Coaching Companies?”.

The Selflessness of Business

images (46)“Chief Bottle Washer” as I’ve often heard it or my personal favorite “This is Where the Buck Stop” denotes the role of servant leadership that most if not all small to mid-sized business owners play. Continuing with the thought that one of the primary objectives of creating, sustaining, and growing a business is to work oneself out of a job, business owners and their staff can either strengthen or weaken the vision and operations of the business by their application of the principles of this style of leadership.

What is Servant Leadership in the Context of Business?

I’m not going to give you some technical, dictionary definition, but rather a description from experience. The model of servant leadership needed to strengthen the vision and operations of a business derives from someone (and their team) that embodies the passion for why the business exists. In other words, the purpose of the business’s existence has to incorporate a balance between the dollar (delivering of value and return of capital) and the people (staff, customers, investors). Servant leaders have an ethereal ability to transfer their passion for the business based on the balance of the dollar and the people to others they encounter both inside and outside the business. One of the primary motivators of servant leaders is the desire to experience the impact that their passion for the business ignites in others. Remember, businesses exist to provide solutions to the problems of people for the opportunity to receive fair compensation. Thus, the passion that a business owner exudes for his / her business in the context of servant leadership is to see others on fire to help solve the problems of others that engage the business for a fair compensation.

Why is Servant Leadership Important for Business?

The fuel that drives all of us towards various accomplishments and pursuits has its origins in passion. An old mentor used to tell me, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm!!!!” The same is true for businesses. It’s not enough to exist for the exclusive purpose to make $$$$ because although a pillar in operating a business, it’s not the sole reason for it. One of the methods that owners can use to empower their staff to operate the business at a high level is to invest their time and resources into infusing everyone involved with the business with his / her passion for the business. A major benefit in doing this is that it creates a sense of ownership and preservation in others that hold a stake in the success of the business. Aside from improving operations and workflow, owners must spend time cultivating and nurturing passion in the context of servant leadership to increase the odds of business survival and ultimately success. is an online platform that specializes in providing expert level advice and guidance to the micro entrepreneur in the areas of accounting / finance, operations, management, sales and marketing, human resources, and lending in order to help grow your business and maximize your cash flow

What Can a Business Coaching Company Do for You?

images (44)Should you consider hiring a business coach to help you further your business, career or even personal life?

People sometimes are weary before hiring a coaching company because they do not know if it is worth the investment. Now this can stem from the uncertainty of future results or the initial investment of crucial time and money. When you are running a company, you do not want to waste your resources. And no business coaching company wants you to. Rather, they want to help you develop skills that are essential to your progression and future business success. Read the information below to better gauge if this seems like the right fit for you.

What exactly can working with a business coaching company do for you?

They can help change the effectiveness and overall work ethic of your employees and teams. The most important part of coaching is that it is about cultivating a true relationship between the individuals, NOT a simple transaction. Interesting data shows how, although coaches are not specifically hired to help with people’s private life, often times, the line between personal and professional lives merges, as s/he helps you grow as an individual. Research from the International Coach Federation has shown how their methods can help a company’s employees, employers and even their families. The reason for this is because business coaching focuses on teaching problems solving skills, individual leadership skills, and organizational skills. These payoffs result in a high ROI that more than justify the money and time spent.

One thing to note here is that satisfaction is often a relative term, where no one experience will be the same. Because the problems within each company and the goals that a client wants to reach vary, the experiences and results that one individual will see will be different from someone else’s. You must go into the process with an open mind and be willing to work with the coach for the partnership to be successful. However, 99% of companies and individuals that have moved forward have said that they been between ‘somewhat’ to ‘very satisfied’ with the experience. As long as the client is happy with the partnership, most of them carry on with the coaching in order to see continued results and positive changes.

Contact a local business consulting company and set up a meeting to see how they can you and your company achieve the results you want.

For more information, including data about ROI as well as personal and organization impacts from coaching, check out our blog and the article, “How Effective Are Business Coaching Companies”.


Is An Innovation Contest What Your IT Team Needs Now?

images (43)How’s everything going for your team right now? I suspect that like most IT managers you’d say that everything is going “OK”. Yeah, yeah, things could be better, but they are not too bad. You and I both know that that’s an acceptable state to be in; however, you could be doing better. What you really want is for your team to be working together with a great deal of both energy and enthusiasm. What you need is a contest!

Why Contests Matter To Your Team

Contests are not easy. When you are able to use your IT manager skills to find a contest that you think that your team could compete in, you are going to have to have a discussion with your team. The heart of this discussion should be the difficulty level of the contest. Does the team think that they might have a shot at winning the contest? Expect the range of opinions on your team to vary from member to member.

One of the most powerful parts of participating in a contest is that they generally have very tight deadlines. Things that if left up to your team to complete on their normal schedule could end up taking months if not years generally have to get done in a very narrow window as a part of a contest. 90 days seems to be the norm. You are going to need to use this tight schedule to set time lines and deliverables that will allow the team to quickly get something out the door.

What’s going to be the most important to your team is your level of motivation. If you are highly motivated, then very quickly this will start to drift down into your team. What you are going to want to use your IT manager training in order to see is that everyone’s moral is running high. It’s going to have to. In order to successfully compete in the contest, the members of your team are going to have to get up early, stay late, and even work on weekends. However, this is going to be easy to do if the members of your team are motivated and really want to be involved.

How To Use Contests To Make Your Team Better

Just entering the contest can have the effect of bringing your team together. This is good news. However, what you really want to do is to win the contest! No, you won’t always win but there will be times that you do. When this happens one of the decisions that you’ll have to make is what to do with the prize money. Your company may have rules regarding this; however, as an IT manager you want to make sure that at least some of it gets spent on your team. A very nice party is a great way to celebrate everyone’s involvement and efforts.

Your team’s participating in the contest means that you’ll have publicity. You’ll need to come up with a plan to make the most of that publicity once the contest wraps up. If you are the winner, then it should be easy to get interviews with the various news outlets. However, you’ll need to make some decisions about what you’ll be talking about. You need to discuss the contest, your team, what they did, and what this means. You’ll not want to leave anything out.

No, your team won’t win every contest that you may enter. What this means for you as an IT manager that you need to have a Plan B created. If the team doesn’t win, then there will be the expense of participating, the loss of moral, etc. You’ll need to take action to point out to the team what they were able to accomplish and the successes that they achieved. Make sure that they understand that they did a great job working together as a team and that you think that they they’ll probably win the NEXT contest that they enter!

What All Of This Means For You

What every IT manager wants is for their IT team to be working together like a high performance racing engine. However, what most of us have is a group of people who pretty much get along and who can get things done eventually. In order to motivate our team and ramp up their energy level, what we need to do is to accomplish some IT team building and get them involved in a contest!

There are a lot of different contests out there sponsored by everyone from private organizations like the X Prize Foundation and the government’s DARPA. Find a contest that requires the skills and talents that your team has. In a perfect world, what your team would be working on would relate to what your company does. This means that the work that they pour into the contest can be reused back at the office once the contest is over. Getting your team involved in a contest can help to create team spirit, speed product development, and just might generate some free publicity for everyone who is involved.

I wish that I could offer you a big bag of raises that you could distribute within your team. Or even better than that, how about fancy new titles for everyone? At most companies both of these types of motivational rewards are always in short supply. As an IT manager you are going to need to get creative as you search for ways to keep your team motivated and working at high energy levels. Finding a contest that they can enter can be a great way to bring the team together while both benefiting themselves and the company as a whole.


I Gotta Know

images (42)I love to learn. I read voraciously, always have since I was a little girl. I pay attention to people, to things in the world, to what is happening. I was raised by parents who valued learning, and I adopted their philosophy. You might be thinking- that is great, so what? Here is the thing, the drive to know can also be limiting.

I am so driven to know that when I make a mistake, I get upset with myself. I am much better about it after years of practice but it is still an unconscious automatic reaction to my mistakes (I am OK with other’s mistakes, as long as they fess up and fix them!). I am limited because I don’t like open-ended questions, and I stop discovering as soon as I have ‘the’ answer.

I am really committed to empowering people and especially women. I have this notion that we, together, can end the gender gap both in pay and influence, in my lifetime. Everything seems aligned for this- it is a hot topic. And I am still committed to that.

However, when I start asking a question, without answering it-the question of ‘What is really possible if women everywhere are empowered?” the playing field gets much bigger. Just imagine what IS possible. I have no idea, and most of us don’t. What I do know is if we are willing to keep asking the question and then taking action as we see the actions there are to take, we will end the gender gap and probably so much more. I am really excited and… a bit intimidated, but I figure I am not alone and together, we can do so much.

Is there something that is important to you, where you have stopped imagining what is possible? If that is the case for you, I invite you to start asking new questions, start having conversations, start taking action and see what happens!