Tag Archives: Canada

5 Minutes Early Is On Time; On Time Is Late; Late Is Unacceptable

Watch --- Image by © Image Source/Corbis

Watch — Image by © Image Source/Corbis

I couldn’t agree more with this author’s take on being late. It feels like running late, and last minute cancellations, have become the rule rather than the exception in business. I can’t stand it. I don’t like it at the doctor’s office, I don’t like it in a meeting, and I don’t like it socially either. No matter how you frame it, being chronically late is a selfish act; you are somehow, whether by accident, time mismanagement, or sheer inconsideration, deeming other people’s time and schedules as less important than your own. And it feels as though it’s becoming more and more acceptable and expected when, in fact, it should be becoming less and less so.

One of my favourite quotes from the following Forbes article, listing the realities of what being late really means, is the following.

“Megalomaniacal. While most grow out of this by the age of eight, some genuinely believe they are the center of the universe. It’s not attractive. Note, this is also called Donald Trump Syndrome. Do you want to be compared to Donald Trump?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

The next time you are booking that 11:00 am meeting uptown, on the back of a 10:00 am meeting downtown, and thinking to yourself “I’m sure I can make it on time”, take a moment to consider the impact on other people’s schedules if you don’t.

read the article here

are your leadership skills outdated?

2015.07.03_are your leadership skills outdated

Utilizing Technology
Understanding the Global Economy
Maintaining relentless Customer Focus
Attracting and retaining Top Talent

The complex skills required to effectively lead a successful organization in 2015 are not the same skills that might have ensured success a few decades, or even a few years ago. The world has changed, the economy has changed, and individuals, from both a customer and employee perspective, have changed. It is imperative to understand the importance of keeping up with these changes in order to thrive as a leader. The article below outlines four modern workplace challenges that cannot be ignored if you hope to lead your organization, or even your team, successfully. While the core components of strong leadership remain the same, it is flexibility, and the ability to deal with changing leadership requirements as demanded by economic and cultural shifts, that can make or break even the most admired executives.

What new or unique challenges do you see facing leaders in years to come?
read the full article here

the power of positive leadership

2015.04.15_the power of positive leadership

My grandson Spencer is the student council vice-president for his primary/middle school in downtown Toronto. At 12 years old he seems well on his way to running the world, or at least a mere Fortune 500 company, and it is very gratifying to watch him thrive in a leadership role.

One of the student council’s current initiatives is to redevelop the school’s Behavioural Code of Conduct. The current Code is written using negatively based language (i.e. everything students shouldn’t be doing), and student council representatives are working alongside the Vice-Principal to re-word the school’s Behavioural Code into positive descriptors. In other words, describing what someone adhering to the Code of Conduct is doing right, rather than what those who are violating the Code of Conduct are doing wrong.

Interestingly, the process and final product are not all that different from the Competency Models we develop with clients in the “real world” of business all the time. Which begs the question … If a group of 12 and 13 year olds understand the motivational importance of using positive language to help guide behaviour, then shouldn’t all organizations and managers be capable of the same?
Some food for thought the next time you are in a position of providing feedback to your employees or team.

the authenticity paradox

Authenticiteit

Imagine speaking to a room full of aspiring business leaders. You ask “who of you wish to be an authentic leader”? Of course, you picture hands raising as very few of us wish to be perceived as disingenuous or insincere, in either our business or personal lives. In a time where authenticity has become a gold standard for leadership, however, it is important to understand the inherent paradox, a tipping point at which too much authenticity, or rather a too limited definition and understanding of what is required in order to be an authentic leader, can hinder both your credibility, as well as your organizational impact and leadership success.

So, when exactly does rigid adherence to the pursuit of authenticity turn into a stumbling block to successful leadership?

First and foremost, true leadership almost always requires us to step out of our comfort zone, take risks, and challenge ourselves and others around us to grow, adapt, improve and change. As a leader, you may regularly be forced to choose between the self you are today, and how you are comfortable doing things, and the self you could be tomorrow, stretching, growing, and leading yourself, your team, or your organization down a new and more successful path. Choosing to remain true to your current self may feel more authentic in the short-term, but growing and changing are integral aspects of leadership. Understanding that growing and changing do not compromise your authenticity is crucial. Personal growth needs to be appreciated as key component of authenticity.

Successful leadership also requires us to inspire others and generate confidence in those who work around us. Blanket self-disclosure and transparency of your every thought, feeling, and insecurity may feel like a very authentic way of leading, but too much disclosure of uncertainty can undermine your team’s confidence in you as a leader. There are few certainties in life, and, as a leader, it is your job to regularly weigh information in order to determine a course of action and then confidently lead others through it, while remaining open to necessary changes as circumstances require. Telling your employees they are an integral component of the team’s success may be both positive and authentic, however, telling a new team that you’re depending on them because you have no idea what you are doing is going too far.

Finally, selling yourself, your visions, and your ideas are another integral component to leadership success. The act of doing this, however, can feel forced and unauthentic to some people, so much so that they avoid doing so at all costs, hoping their work will speak for itself and have the impact they wish it to. This is a naïve and ineffective ideal that can impede leadership and team success. As leaders, we need to understand and accept that the promotion of our ideas, and the act of influencing others, are not selfish pursuits, but ways to create collective team and organizational successes.

For more interesting insight into The Authenticity Paradox read the full HBR article below:

read here

“I don’t know!”

I don't know

Like others, just before the holidays I watched in stunned disbelief as Leaf’s goalie Jonathan Bernier described the great Nelson Mandela’s amazing achievements “on and off the ice”. I mean I get it, he’s a professional athlete and neither his legacy nor his pay cheque hinge on being well-versed in politics or world issues. It is hard to imagine, though, that he would attend a charity event and not at least have googled the individual being honoured. What was really interesting on top of that, was the way he chose to go into so much added detail, rather than just admitting what he didn’t know, or even offering up that he was a truly inspiring man and vaguely leaving it at that.
Why can’t we just say the words “I don’t know”? We all know that nobody knows everything, so why is it so painful for us to admit when we’ve been hit with a question we don’t know the answer to? Is it pure ego? Cultural expectations? Where does it come from and when does it start? More importantly, is there a downside to living in a society, or working in an organization, where we don’t feel that it’s OK to say so when we don’t have the answer? Plenty of business articles advise never saying you don’t know, but there can be a deep cost to that attitude. It can certainly impact your credibility, as it did for Bernier, when his inaccuracies were so blatantly obvious, however, it can also cost the organization when decisions are being made based on information presented as fact, simply because the individual making the call didn’t want to admit that they didn’t have all the answers.
Three simple words – “I don’t know” lend themselves to all sorts of positive business outcomes such as seeking solutions, acquiring knew knowledge, gathering new information and collaborating with others. Just because you don’t know one thing, doesn’t mean you don’t know anything, and the same goes for your colleagues, superiors and direct reports. This radio podcast, from the individuals who brought us the documentary Freakonomics, is a fantastic listen, and offers insight into the roots of our fear of admitting when we don’t know an answer, as well as highlighting the negative impact this can have on businesses that foster it.

listen to the entire podcast here

The Art of Strategic Thinking

Download PDF

Download PDF

By Harrell Kerkhoff
Maintenance Sales News Editor

In today’s business climate, the old way of doing things to stay relevant as a company is antiquated. Incremental change is no longer good enough to survive, let along thrive.
This has required leaders to radically shift their thinking, according to The Beacon Group President & CEO R. Douglas Williamson, who presented “The Art of Strategic Thinking” during an educational session at the recent ISSA/INTERCLEAN® North America 2014 in Orlando, FL.
Williamson discussed how company leaders can combine their strategic intelligence, with their contextual intelligence, in a suite of leadership competencies that will position them to be front-runners in today’s new order of business.
This “new order,” in large part, was brought about by the Great Recession that started in 2007.
“Business always has been, and will continue to be, about choices. Sometimes we make good choices, sometimes we make bad choices. Prior to 2007, you could pretty much get away with making (average) choices. Now, the quality of your choices needs to be better,” Williamson said. “The tolerance margin for error is less, and the stakes are higher.”
For business leaders, today’s strategic thinking process is different, and far more critical, than strategic planning. In fact, due to an uncertain business climate, many strategic plans are useless.
“It’s important to think about the way you need to run an organization, and the way you need to think about strategy, given the world that we are living in today. We have never seen this world before,” Williamson said. “If you are leading an enterprise, or putting together a sales or business plan, you have to do a better job at the input end of the equation in order to remain relevant in this world. The input end centers around how best to imagine and think about your business and opportunities.
“Ask yourself, ‘At this moment in time, do I need more planning or do I need more thinking?’ Do you honestly believe that you can plan the future when the future is as uncertain and turbulent in business as it is right now? I will argue that planning is NOT what you need. Planning is a science in a predictable world. Strategic thinking is more art; and the environment that we are working in today requires you to become an artist.”

It’s A Different World
When it comes to today’s business, the old adage is true — life used to be simpler. However, according to Williamson, when looking at the long economic and business history of North America and around the world, “The train is going in one particular direction. There is no reason to believe that this train is going to do a u-turn and return to the old ways.”
Williamson discussed the evolution of business reality, stating that the way of conducting business from the end of World War II through the 1960s was quite simple.
“There was a more rationale environment in place back in those days. Business remained pretty predictable through the 1970s, when you could still use a ‘sane’ business plan,” he said. “The complexity started in the 1980s to the point where we are now, in 2014 — a very irrational market with tons of ambiguity.
“If this premise is correct, and everything you have learned about how to run your business in previous eras is outdated, you need to ask: ‘What does this crazy world look like? And, what is the appropriate response given this crazy world?’”
To thrive in today’s business climate, it’s more important to improvise, according to Williamson, such as what great jazz artists do, compared to the go-by-the-book philosophy found with classical musicians performing a piece written by Ludwig van Beethoven.
“Look at the business environment that we are all now in. It’s important to adjust. You may not like it, or be able to master it, or be comfortable with it, but the current environment dictates the music (jazz) — in this case, the music of business,” Williamson said. “This is one way to understand the difference between strategic thinking (jazz) and strategic planning (classical music).”
When it comes to today’s business climate, dealing with complexity is a way of life. This brings several truisms to contemplate: The world is not a simple place; no one wants to be led by the simple minded; turbulence is a permanent new reality; and, leaders must be able to make sense of things.
“Complexity is going to remain with us. If you are not able to think in laser beam clear terms through all of the complexity, you are not likely to be able to make good choices and decisions. You will make bad decisions slowly, rather than brilliant decisions quickly,” Williamson said. “It’s important, however, to not get freaked out by the complexity from a mental standpoint, but be able to simplify what you see around you and create a story that is digestible.”
In today’s uncertain and ambiguous business climate, he added, it makes no sense to spend a lot of time collecting facts to prove a particular point, when the uncertainity around any particular point is so huge.
“You can spend 40 hours next week trying to build the perfect plan, or the perfect business case, and collect all the facts you think you need to support your argument. In reality, all you have done is waste at least half your time,” Williamson said. “Now, I understand that is scary, because it’s not the world that most of us grew up in. But, you have to understand the context of our times.”
He added it’s impossible, when running a business today, to lock down absolute perfection.
“If being right is what you are all about, than being right is a prison. It’s a prison of the mind. You can’t operate a business in an ambiguous market when you have to be right all of the time. You will lock yourself into a mental model that is a prison,” Williamsons said. “We now live in a business world that has evolved. The new mind-set venturing forth goes into uncharted territory.”
The classic breakdowns in business occur when there is a breakdown in skills, processes, structure and/or strategy, Williamson said. However, the biggest failure in business comes when the quality of the thinking about a proposition is not good.
“In today’s market, where everybody can find free information over the Internet, hire good people and buy blueprints, the one area that you can control the most, over your competitors, in your market space regards the quality of your original thinking. The rest of these are commodities,” Williamson said. “Thinking is not a commodity. It’s the one area where you still have room to create unique advantages for your business.”
According to Williamson, breakdowns in strategic thinking occur when a company sets its hurdles too low, when the point of view about an opportunity and the competition is too narrow, when the scope of ambition is too cautious, and/or when the nature of change is incremental or transactional.
“You could survive in the 1950s through the 1980s by setting low hurdles, but this is not the world we operate in today,” he said. “When your hurdles are set high, your point of view is wide, your scope is ambitious and the nature of your changes is transformational — all of sudden different options present themselves.”
He added, “The most important part of strategic thinking is how to best frame opportunities that are in front of you. If your frame is too small, then all of the potential opportunities outside of that frame aren’t even in your wheelhouse. If you frame it larger, then all of sudden more opportunities emerge. It’s true that these opportunities may come from the fringe and bring with them additional risks, but they can also bring more reward.
“Shrinking ambition in order to better digest it is a tendency among many business people. Unfortunately, every time we shrink ambition, we lose something in terms of the upside,” Williamson said.

A Brawl Is Brewing
As different economies continue to come out of the Great Recession, which Williamson said brought unparalleled pain and destruction for many small- and medium-size companies, a “brawl” is brewing among survivors in the global business world.
“Do not assume that a return to growth in the economy means things quiet down. In fact, it’s the opposite,” Williamson said. “The minute confidence goes back into the economy, we are going to see unbelievable turbulence in the corporate and business environment.
“Why? Too many businesses have to make up for too much lost time. It’s going to be a foot race among those who can quickly seize new opportunities. This is a premise, and I don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s a point of view.”
He added that the best time to plan for war is during peace.
“There is a saying in my field, ‘You pick up bad habits in good times and good habits in bad times.’ So, the question for business people is, ‘What have you learned, and how has it altered your thinking?’”
Williamson compared the upcoming business landscape to the “hurry-up offense” in football.
“The really dominate players in every sector — from jan/san to high-tech to health care — are going to be running this type of offense. That is why planning isn’t as important as having a quarterback and wide receivers who are able to improvise at the line of scrimmage,” he said.
According to Williamson, he is not alone in this way of thinking about the future. There are major organizations that see similar challenges and opportunities ahead.
“Are (these organizations) going to be 100 percent right on everything? No. Are they going to be 80 percent right? Yes. Are they going to be directionally perfect? Probably,” he said. “The great businesses of the future will suck up all the intelligence they can find about the external environment, because that is what they need to ensure they will remain relevant. If your company fails, God forbid, it will be because you didn’t think about your business in the right way.
“The bottom line is, the future just doesn’t happen to us. All of that mess (from the Great Recession) was predictable. If you had looked at basic economic trends, you would have known things were over-heated. The very few people who said, ‘Be careful,’ didn’t get listened to. This failure led to carnage.”

The Generalist Is Back
In today’s complex business world, there is strength in numbers. However, those numbers must include the right kind of thinkers.
“The world has changed. It is no longer about the depth of a person’s experience. Rather, it’s all about the breadth and diversity of his/her experience,” Williamson said.
He added that the shelf life of a specialist is getting shorter. When building a winning team in business, it’s more important to find people who possess “an experience repertoire.” This is going to be of more value to a company than someone who has a deep resume of just selling certain products or doing certain things.
“The good news is, the generalist is coming back. Having those broad generalists onboard is now more important,” Williamson said, “This should be to the advantage of small and medium-size businesses. Most people in these companies are, by nature, generalists. This is only good, however, if they can properly think about the future.”
According to Williamson, there are certain forces and pressures in place that can influence a business. This includes new and existing competitors, customers, suppliers and companies that serve as complementors. One of the greatest forces and pressures placed on a business, however, is what he referred to as “organizational blinders.”
“Be wary of the things you believe to be true. Be wary of traditional thinking. Be wary of the ‘yes’ people in your organization. Be wary of anything that looks like a blinder, because there could be one or more people out there who have a different view,” Williamson said. “The way to navigate turbulence today is different than in the past. The old approach to weathering a storm will not work.
“There is an evolution in thinking. For example, the traditional business view is to not attack your enemy, while the new view is to attack your enemy and go right into its wheelhouse. Be brave enough to knock them off their pedestal. Do not, for a minute, believe you can defend your space (in business). What you can do, however, after properly thinking it through, is become hyper-competitive and go right into the face of your competition.”
He added the new view of business also states:
n Everything is in motion and flux;
n Learn to take advantage by moving quickly;
n Embrace full frontal hyper-competition; and,
n Create disequilibrium and change.
In running a business, Williamson said both operational and strategic leaders are needed. Operational leaders are skilled at managing currently invested resources to help gain market share and profit. Strategic leaders, on the other hand, are skilled at identifying and selecting future markets in which to invest resources for future growth.
“Being an excellent operator will not create the same advantages as 10 years ago. The real differentiating advantage comes from the strategic side of the equation,” Williamson said.
He added that those who follow the “strategic planning” path to the future are taking the stance that they are smart enough to figure the future out. Meanwhile, business people on the “strategic thinking” path recognize that they can’t figure it all out and admit their imperfections. To compensate, “they must operate more like a jazz quartet.”
This involves a new way of thinking about business, and not being afraid to disrupt the marketplace.
“If you can put the ball into play when your competitors least expect it, you will then have an advantage. You can either play on the defensive side of the field, or go to the offensive side with the hurry-up offense,” Williamson said. “Ask yourself, ‘What does the environment require of us as an appropriate response. Can we project into the future? Can we connect the dots? Can we get to the opportunities first? Can we overcome the hurdles?’
“The biggest hurdle you, as a business person, have to overcome is cognitive. Don’t become an organization wedded to the status quo. Find ways to outthink your competitors.”
To help with this, it all goes back to business leaders surrounding themselves with the right kind of thinkers.
“Old-way thinkers aren’t going to help you today. You need some really ‘off the wall’ thinkers to at least test your way of doing things,” Williamson said. “Remember, you can have a real brave idea and then taper it back, or you can have a pipsqueak idea that doesn’t go anywhere. I would ask you to think big, go crazy, and then taper it back if you must. You are still ahead of the alternative.”
Williamson recognizes the fact that it’s hard for a lot of small- and medium-size business owners to have a wealth of advisors. However, there are still people to be found who can help a company make “strategic thinking” businesses decisions.
“It’s possible to have an advisory council in place. This can be a loose network of people who are able to help you think about the future. If nothing else, spend two hours on a Sunday researching one of the future society organizations that can be found on the Internet, or start reading a different magazine or website to exercise your brain. This can all help improve fresh thinking.”
Thinking differently about business, for example, can lead to significant changes when putting together an annual sales plan.
“I think there is a series of metrics that we tend to use too much when it comes to something like a sales plan. This includes market share, which I feel is retrospective,” Williamson said. “What is new in business is predictive metrics. If you read about data mining and analytics, it’s all centered on predictive information. Instead of focusing only on share of market and year-over-year sales growth, what business people should be more interested in concerns their share of opportunities.”
As for the years ahead, Williamson sees a period of great ambiguity and uncertainty in the business world. Victory, he said, will go to those who can think about, reimagine and redefine the scope of future opportunities.
“I choose to see this as an unbelievably exciting time to be in business. I can’t imagine a more opportunistic time, provided that companies are built for the kind of ‘white water’ that is ahead.”

The Beacon Group is a Canadian-based leadership and strategy development firm. It has clients spanning a cross section of industries and geographies.
Visit www.thebeacongroup.ca for more information.

leading a winning team

leading a winning team

After almost 30 years at the helm of English Football’s Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson is regarded by many to be the most successful, admired and respected manager in the history of the
game. After his retirement in 2013, Anita Alberse, along with Ferguson himself, set out to outline and detail the primary management principles which contributed to Ferguson’s long standing success within the game. Not surprisingly, these principals transition quite naturally over to a business application, two different yet similar worlds, where ultimate success hinges on the creation of a strong and dedicated work team. I’ve listed the principals below, however, the true insight lies in Alberse and Ferguson’s detailed descriptions of the implications and value of each one.
I highly encourage this read, especially for anyone who feels strongly about the parallels between sport and business leadership.

1. Start with the Foundation
2. Dare to Rebuild Your Team
3. Set High Standards – and Hold Everyone to Them
4. Never, Ever Cede Control
5. Match the Message to the Moment
6. Prepare to Win
7. Rely on the Power of Observation
8. Never Stop Adapting

Opportunity Sensing

In business, we are not particularly good at the kind of singular focus required to take full advantage of pivot points or strategic inflection points when they occur. It often seems we feel the need to mitigate absolutely all of the natural risks associated with a big decision. As a result, we never quite make the commitment necessary to take full advantage of the situation. Instead, we carefully hedge our bets, rather than aggressively pursuing our options and, in the process, we limit the full scope of the opportunity we have.

Opportunity sensing is about taking advantage of the discontinuities when they appear. Opportunity sensing is about staking a claim on an unknown piece of land. Opportunity sensing is knowing, deep in your bones, that what you are about to do just feels right. The leader who can get comfortable with this new way of thinking is the one who will be able to take maximum advantage of the opportunities resident in the state of disequilibrium in which we find ourselves today.

‘How’ Matters More than ‘What’

People like Roger Martin, Tim Brown and Matt Ridley, have it absolutely right when they talk about the fact we need to fundamentally approach problems and think differently. All of them have suggested, in slightly different ways, that our success as leaders in the future will be determined not by WHAT we do but by HOW we look at the future and whether we can genuinely open our minds to the opportunities rather than shelter behind convention and the status quo.

This extends to the material successes seen in modern innovation. The biggest breakthroughs in history have not been in the ‘What’ we do, but in the ‘How’ we do them. People have always travelled; by foot, horse, carriage and even boat. But now we can travel to places faster by car, train and plane. The act of travelling hasn’t changed; but HOW we travel has!