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Douglas A Wick

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Discipline: Business Muscle that Fuels Business Growth #1-29-13) Newsletter #137

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Wed, Feb 6, 2013

“It’s simple, you either have discipline or you don’t.”  Captain Shepherd [Kenneth More), from Sink the Bismarck (1960)

As a naval history buff “Sink the Bismarck” is one of my favorite movies.  Sink the Bismarck resized 600I never realized the powerful underlying tone of this observation than when I’ve worked with my business clients over the past several years. Taking on the serious consequences of Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Bone Marrow Transplant in the last year expanded my deep respect for the power of discipline. 

I remind you of its impact with these two quotes:

As Jim Collins offers in Good to Great, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline”

“A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness.”

My last three newsletters spotlighted client’s who succeeded using Strategic Discipline for their quarterly priorities.  This newsletter chronicles a failure stemming from the inability to recognize the absolute critical nature of building discipline effectively.

This client stands out as businesses who failed to realize the impact the absence of discipline can have on your businesses’ ability to succeed. I learned a valuable lesson in my first management position as a radio station sales manager which I wrote about in An Index Card – Execution Discipline.  I’m afraid had I learned it better I’d have been more of a proponent of Discipline sooner. 

Many managers and leaders upon arriving at this new level of authority fail to recognize the need to achieve accountability.  Raising children is a similar proposition.  Where do we extend discipline and accountability and where do we not?  What levels of freedom and flexibility are important and where is discipline an absolute requirement?

An opportunity arose several years ago to work with a Publisher in California.   They committed to do the Impact Two Day Rockefeller Habits Workshop.  I’ve since learned and decided not to offer the Two Day Workshop without a corresponding coaching process to help implement the necessary routines for meeting rhythms, but at this time I did not have that policy.

The team assembled was a diverse collection of participants.  Most of the team worked off-site through their home offices.  Particularly one editor had a number of people reporting to him that made interruptions during his day a constant nightmare.  When we got together he had already started the discipline of meeting rhythms with his staff and was reporting remarkable progress.  By getting everyone together each week at the same time he was avoiding constant calls and acquiring the questions and data to share with everyone at the same time. He felt he’s made enormous progress in his productivity and time management simply by having a weekly meeting with all his editorial contributors. 

In addition the leadership group included a Technology Office, VP Sales & Marketing, VP’s of New Media and Business Development, CEO, Editor and the Director of Training, plus the Publisher and Chairman.  The Publisher & Chairman was hopeful this event would launch his CEO into more of an ownership role of commanding the company allowing himself to reduce his role in the company. 

Two developments occurred that prevented this workshop from being an all-encompassing success.  Due to my poor planning we didn’t dedicate enough time to actually defining the One Thing to the comprehensive level we should have.   The discussion on what the top priorities were for the company took a long time, and finally the lack of leadership from the company in making a decision on what their ONE THING should be never truly emerged. 

The group, primarily the in-house leadership focused on Revitalize/Protect current staff to be the One Thing.   The team discontent swung the decision.  I believe the CEO was swayed by their emotion and the Publisher/Chairman wishing to give the CEO the decision making ability did not step in to push what might have been a better approach.  The challenge became how to determine what that means and how to measure whether or not this is being achieved. The group has been without pay raises for more than a year, yet stands to share in a nice profit sharing bonus as long as present conditions continue to prevail. The staff has been working long hours without taking vacations.  It would have been a good balancing priority or critical number to have for the Annual Plan, however based on their multiple priorities established I didn’t feel right as a ONE THING.

A lack of respect for the importance of discipline, accountability, and trust within the leadership group led to the other disappointment. 

During the Rockefeller Habits Checklist exercise several managers protested that completing it didn’t make sense since these were rules from the Rockefeller Habits and were not currently being followed by the company. While the VP of content had started daily huddles and reported good success, reducing the number of emails he received and his time commitment to managing, there was resistance from this group to fully engage in meeting rhythms.

Strong leadership is required to ensure the meeting rhythms are established first at the executive level and then down to the managerial level. Communicating priorities, reviewing metrics and developing better decision making through pattern recognition are only established and expanded through the discipline of daily weekly, monthly, and quarterly meeting rhythms.

It is critical that leadership (CEO) monitors this progress and demands his managers follow the meeting rhythm discipline. In this case it might have been wise to reduce the executive team meeting group to 4-5 people to have the strongest and most impactful managers exercising decisions and to also shorten these meetings.

Looking back on this experience I failed to properly provide enough time to make sure the ONE THING was determined.  It was one of my first Rockefeller Habits Workshops and the lack of leadership to make an effective decision and my failure to make sure we had adequate time dedicated to hammer this out meant this ultimate focus was not achieved.  It makes sense to have commitment from the group to work until you absolutely have no doubt what your ONE THING is specified and how you will measure whether or not you will achieve it. 

The lack of trust in the leadership group, their fierce independence and desire to remain in their personal silos and not see how this was impeding the growth of the organization ultimately led to this not being defined for fear it would restrict them too much.

My choice would have been to establish the meeting rhythm process as essential in the first quarter for Strategic Discipline.  In 90 days they would have clearly seen the impact that the meeting rhythms, priority focus and monitoring metrics would achieve for their business. 

They may have succeeded despite this.  As I indicated they elected not to continue the coaching engagement with me.  They were disappointed in the outcome, as was I. 

A lesson you can learn from and which I did.  Without a commitment to the discipline of meeting rhythms, Annual and Quarterly Planning will fail to create enough juice and momentum for your business. 

You absolutely need a stake in the ground as to what is the One Priority for your quarter and year.  You need to measure this and monitor it through meetings.  When a group cannot make a decision on what is most important someone, (CEO or Owner) needs to step up and chose!

Decision making is critical.  Someone has to have the courage and backbone to stick their neck out even if the rest of the group can’t decide or chooses something that is not in the best interest of the long term growth of the business. 

With my health improving however limiting my ability to meet clients at their location for the next several months I’ve developed a special Strategic Discipline Momentum Builder for 2013 that you can purchase and implement through GoToMeeting with Positioning Systems.  It’s intended to offer you 90 days of impact and the necessary discipline to start, maintain, and stay on course with the routine of building growth and these essential habits in your business.  

Ask for details in the section below. 

I sincerely hope I’ve outlined for you the impact and critical nature of discipline in building your business.  I’m developing a Good to Great People Discipline Checklist which I hope to share with you in a coming blog.  It’s intended to make you aware of the critical elements that drive the People Decision in your business, similar to the Rockefeller Habits Checklist where the focus is on Execution.  


Do not deceive yourself that your business can be successful without discipline.  Make a decision now to work on developing your team and your business through exercising the business’s muscle that fuels growth: Discipline

The Best Coach in the World #102 2-23-10

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Wed, Feb 6, 2013

Question:  When choosing a business coach, what would you suggest are the most important characteristics to look for?

Answer:   There are a number of answers to this question from authorities and sources if you Google this question on the web.  Please allow me to share a story with you to offer what I feel is your most important consideration.

Imagine that you’re a high school basketball player. You’ve completed your freshman season.  It’s been a disappointing season since you were accustomed to winning.  Your team finished with just 6 wins and 12 losses.  You averaged 8 points a game and are the team’s second leading scorer.  The varsity team at your school failed to win a game, prolonging  a consecutive game losing streak that has now extended past 30 games.  The varsity coach invites players to continue to scrimmage after the season and you’re more than happy to continue playing.  You love basketball and want to improve.  In fact immediately after the last game in your disappointing season you recommitted to a promise you’d made to practice a minimum of an hour each day.

The new coach has a plan for the next season.  He begins to push his agenda immediately.  In these scrimmage sessions each evening after school as you and your teammates practice he preaches, shouts and scolds the team to “Pound the ball inside”  “Get the ball down low”  “Go to the hole”  “Drive when you get it down there!”    He’s adamant that his team will get the ball inside to his 6’4” center.  Each evening over and over he repeats his message.  He’s building his approach around one player, the center. He believes this person has the commitment, dedication and ability to turn the high school program around.

Your sophomore season is worse than the freshman season in terms of wins.  As a starter on the varsity your team wins just two games, but it breaks the better than two year victory drought that the team had slumbered through.  Your point production improves to 16 points a game.  That’s because the center the coach wanted to pound the ball into is you.  The team shows dramatic improvement in your junior season improving to 12 wins and 7 loses.  You lead the team and the entire conference in scoring – 24 points a game. 

Your coach leaves after your junior high school season, but his work has set the foundation for a turnaround in the team and your personal fortunes.  As a senior you again average more than 24 points a game and the team wins 16 games and loses only 5. 

My high school coach was named Gene Wick.  While his name is the same as mine he was not my father.  My father never played basketball and would have had no interest in the game had not I played it.  Yet this man, Gene Wick, had possibly as much influence on my life as my father did.  Why?  Because he believed in me! 

At the core of your decision to choose a coach is that coach’s belief in you.  That means that they must know the powerful influence that someone can have in the life of another.  They must recognize that believing in you and what you are capable of can profoundly influence your ability to achieve your dreams.  The example provided from my own life isn’t an isolated incident of people who have had deep affect on my life.  A sales manager, college teacher, my wife, brother and family members have all impacted my life by their faith and confidence in me. 

You would be a rare person to have not been influenced significantly by someone in your lifetime.  The insight here is that if you plan to hire a coach, it is critical that you find someone who will believe in you. 

That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t also remain objective and be able to criticize you, because among the other critical elements I feel are important in coaching are discipline, accountability, assertiveness, asking questions, and experience. 

 A coach’s bottom line requirement is the ability to keep you accountable for your commitments. They need to ask questions to discover what you know and how you feel.  They are best if they help you discover the answers within you because then you will respond best to your own enlightenment.  In many cases they will help you uncover what you already know, you just forgot it somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind and heart. 

The final piece of the puzzle is the last element in our Gazelles 4-3-2-1 formula.  The 1 in the formula is: A coach is a catalyst.  Their work should catapult you to greatness, to achieve your potential.   They must stick with you through thick and thin and believe in you even when you’ve lost faith and find it difficult to do so yourself.  They need to kick your butt and pad your fanny when you need it most.

Having been a sales manager, general manager, owner and sales person, among other titles in my career I know of no other source that can stimulate higher achievement than a mentor, coach, or friend who believes in you and your capabilities.

The ability to look into our souls, to be able to love and believe in us despite the faults that we are all too familiar with, in my personal opinion, is the critical element to selecting a coach who can vault your performance to the pinnacle of achievement.

It is an honor to work with my clients.  It’s become second nature for me to believe in them and what they can achieve.   I sincerely hope that I will have the privilege to work with you someday.  If not, it is my sincerest wish that you discover someone who is capable of help to make your dreams come to fruition.   May you find as I have the best coach in the world.  

Topics: Accountability, Coach Advisor, 4-3-2-1 formula for business growth, Discipline Plan, Catalyst

Quarterly Discipline: Hitting Your Target Late #136 12-25-12

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Wed, Dec 26, 2012

Each quarter my clients exercise the discipline of quarterly planning meetings. For someone who has never undergone this required discipline that Gazelles Coaches and Positioning Systems practices it’s difficult to appreciate how much can be accomplished in a short amount of time.

In this newsletter I provide the 3rd of three quarterly examples of what three of my client’s achieved in the third quarter by investing in a day or more on quarterly planning. To produce results in 2013 you need to make quarterly plans and most importantly dedicate a day or two to annual planning by the end of the year. This is the third of three newsletters to offer how my clients achieved success and most importantly realized their One Thing for the quarter.

This month’s example is from the contracting field, a service company that offers concrete moisture testing for new construction and remodeling businesses. Their third quarter One Thing was Delivering Projects To Clients On Time and as Promised. This is a productivity measure and they balanced this with developing a system for Employee Performance Reward Tracking. Remember you need to balance your One Thing with a critical number that counterbalances your Productivity Driver with a Relationship Driver. The Employee Performance Reward Tracking offered employees an opportunity to be rewarded for their service and efforts and recognize their contributions.

Delivering projects on time as promised for this quarter would be no small achievement. While my client had an exceptional record of getting their reports to their clients on time, this quarter their largest client provided them with a moved up agenda of new stores to conduct their moisture testing on. If they achieved the targets they set it would result in record quarterly revenue.

The company set their targets ahead of the guaranteed time frames they promised their customers. This assured they under promised and over delivered. It also would allow them to protect themselves from circumstances beyond their control, including weather and the unpredictability of outsourced technicians.

As the quarter progressed the demand on operations to meet the unexpected but anticipated capacity of work expanded. Teams were working harder, more efficient and in better communication than ever before. The leader of this group was down in the trenches working more tactically than strategically to ensure he and his team met their target dates.

Several obstacles arose during the quarter that interfered with reaching the deadline. One of the programs they were using to build reports for their clients crashed delaying data gathering and reporting for about a week. Internally the team failed to use support staff to help them complete their projects, losing an opportunity to delegate and speed up their completion time. Several of the projects required additional clarification. Rather than working on these as they arrived, the list grew to more than 50 projects. Even as they attacked these, new projects were added, creating a bottleneck in reporting.

Additionally my clients outside source, technicians used for gathering the data from the customers’ sites, needed to be managed better. Technical writers should have called the technicians on all projects that needed clarification. Passing projects between Tech writer and Project Manager’s proved to be inefficient.

Finally an unforeseen opportunity for training came up during the final week of the goal. This took two of my client’s most productive operational people (including the manager) out of production at the most critical time.

Even while all this is occurring, in our monthly meetings when dashboards are updated the leadership team member accountable for hitting this target maintained assurance his team would hit the target. In retrospect he was overly optimistic. He recognizes his own failure to realize the complexity of the issues that held his team back. His failed to report this to the leadership team and ask for a short extension. Based on the progress they were making and despite not getting the reports all completed to clients, it’s likely he and his team would have been given a reprieve on their target for reports being complete.

Why would the leadership team extend the deadlines? Simply look at the numbers.

Record projects billed and reported. Targets hit for billing clients and record sales for a month and for any quarter in the company’s history.

Had they been given an additional week or two to complete the reporting portion of their priority they most likely would have achieved their targets.

The perplexing result was despite record projects completed and revenue achieved they failed to hit the ultimate priority, “Delivering Projects To Clients On Time and as Promised.” This is by their own definition of what the target meant.

To his credit, the leader of the team recognized his accountability. He noted that at the very least he should have not been so optimistic, and informed the leadership team of the issues beyond control. He should have asked for an extension. He learned a valuable lesson in how to manage.

The owner truly wanted to give the full bonus to his people, yet realized in doing so it could set up a poor precedent for future themes. How likely would future deadlines be perceived in a reward situation like this?

After a meeting with the operations leadership team in which they accepted responsibility for failing to hit their targets, the leadership team met to discuss options. It was decided that the bonuses wouldn’t be awarded since the targets had been missed. (Keep in mind this bonus would be unprecedented in the company’s history since they’d just started conducting themes this year.) The owner wished to ensure the efforts of his team didn’t go unrecognized however. It was agreed that when all the reports were completed a celebration at a local restaurant would be held immediately after work. The owner additionally handed out sizable checks to each operations member (albeit the amount substantially less than the bonuses they would have earned) to thank them personally for the extra hours and increased efficiency they’d displayed.

What might you have done in this situation? Would you be able to rely on the collective intelligence of your leadership team to help you do the right thing?

The owners course of action I feel is correct. Targets that are elastic are not targets at all unless there is agreement on why they should be changed. At the same time it’s important to recognize and applaud your people when they extend extra effort to achieve a goal.

The owner intends to recognize their efforts again in the company’s annual year-end bonus program.

Making plans for 2013? It’s not too late. Michael Gerber noted that, “Businesses that plan always do better than businesses that don’t. But business that change their plans are always more successful than businesses that plan but don’t change them.” That’s why it’s important to recognize an annual meeting is only the first of your meeting rhythm disciplines required to achieve your company’s 2013 priorities.

If it requires you to strategize and plan in January it’s better than having no plan. Give your team the clarity, alignment and cohesiveness they need to make 2013 your best. Need help? Contact us or ask for a Needs Assessment to schedule a meeting with one of our coaches/consultants.


Topics: quarterly meetings, Annual Plan, Balanced Priorities, Process/Productivity Drivers, People/Relationship Drivers

Cross the Red Sea #128 4-30-12 (What’s Your Formula for Success?)

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Thu, Dec 20, 2012

My blog last Monday, Disappointment and Inspiration, shared the story of how one of my classmates told she was going to die from lymphoma is alive today 37 years later. 

Perhaps you’ve faced adversity and challenges in your life and found a way to overcome them.  If you have you’ve found an inner spring of confidence that allows you to face challenges with more assurance, certainty, and determination than someone else. 

Several of you have commented on my determination, resolution, and tenacity through my diagnosis and treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).  I don’t have a previous battle with cancer like my friend Sue Kallas to provide that inner knowing that I can and will defeat this.  

Rather I have a personal story almost twenty years ago that fuels my belief that I will live beyond this temporary inconvenience.  I thought I would share that story and the formula I followed then along with a new formula I’ve discovered that closely mirrors what I followed previously.

Here’s where my confidence comes from.

A year after several partners and I started a 50,000 watt radio station in Wausau, WI, I meet the most stunning, soft spoken, selfless, principled, and beautiful woman I could have imagined. 

The story of how we met is one in itself.  My first opportunity to date Michelle didn’t do much to impress here.  It took several months before she allowed me another opportunity and even then she kept me at arm’s length. As I persisted eventually Michelle allowed me to get closer.  In December on Christmas Eve, I proposed and she accepted.

Shortly after that Michelle got cold feet.  One reason; she’d promised herself she would never marry a man who had been married before and had a child.  Unfortunately there was no getting around the fact that Doug Wick had that baggage.  I had a son from a 1986 divorce who was 11 years old. 

I understood Michelle’s feelings as we had previously discussed it.  That didn’t make it any easier to swallow.  I was devastated.  I don’t recall ever feeling so hurt and depressed in my life. I had tremendous difficulty sleeping, eating and concentrating at work.  Many days I would simply leave the office to drive the highway listening to music, or simply go home, lie down in a vain attempt to eliminate my depression.

After weeks of crying, not sleeping and beating myself up I turned to a deeper involvement in my faith and meditation to overcome my grief. 

Beyond church and the bible, I discovered a formula in an audio sermon I had from a Unity minister, James Rosemurgy.  It title: “How To Cross Your Red Sea.”  Rosemugy’s audio offered Five steps to follow in order to achieve the success Moses and the Israelites did in being released from their Egyptian bondage.  The steps are simple:

  1. “Fear Not!”  Peace, be Still!         
  2. “Stand Firm”  Don’t do anything.  Can’t face a problem on the level of the problem.  See the salvation of the Lord – what God will do.  Raise your level of Consciousness.          The Lord will fight for you have only to…….         
  3. "Be still and know that I AM God”          Define your purpose – it is to know God – not get what you want.
  4. “Go Forward”        Under the direction of Spirit.  Allow for guidance from within.  Let God be God, Trust!
  5. “Don’t Predict your Solution”

As I practiced this formula I listened to lots of music, read the bible and began to meditate.  Constantly.  Some days 2- 3 times a day. 

Slowly my emotions and life got back to normal.  Looking back, the 45-60 day period after I had been in such turmoil that I spent in quiet meditation, prayer, and thoughtfulness is probably the most restful, calming, restorative time of my life.  Possibly one of the happiest as well.

Whenever I would feel overwhelmed by fear or grief I recall affirming, “this or something better, let the divine results appear.”  It calmed me.   Yet I wasn’t tied to an outcome.  Staying true to the formula I chose not to predict my solution.

How did it turn out?  Somewhere in that peaceful period of time one evening the phone rang. It was Michelle She asked how I was doing.  My heart was beating wildly when I realized it was her.  I found the courage to ask her out, and she accepted.  Iozzo’s an Italian Restaurant in Wausau, WI would be are re-engagement date.  At the end of the meal I got done on my knee and asked her again, Will you marry me? 

Why wait?  I knew what I wanted and I was convinced that her calling me was sign from God and the universe that it was right.

While I’m sure Michelle can look back at many times she’s been disappointed in me  I can tell you never once have I regretted that decision.  It’s been the absolute best of my life!

Ironic in all this is that Michelle has no recall of any of it.  She doesn’t recall calling me to this day.  Why would she have done that she asks?  She would have had to have a reason to call someone. And she not one to make calls to guys for no reason!

Yet here I am, and here we are with two boys (13 & 17) to prove it worked! Do I consider that challenge more than my current bout with AML?  I do.   The effort that it required to overcome the feeling of rejection was huge, not unlike the challenge currently of overcoming the physical aspect within my body.

However in reality both the emotional and physical overcome are not something I have control of.  It’s important to recognize the value of this step in the formula “the Lord will fight for you, you have only to be still and know that I am God.”.

I’m following a similar formula now.  One taken from Joe Dispensa’s book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New On. It explains why “How to Cross your Red Sea works combining Quantum Physics using elevated emotions versus survival emotions.  It is remarkably close to the pattern that Jim Rosemurgy outlined.

What’s all this got to do with my business Doug?

While I’ve written frequently about developing routines and habits, the truth is that these same routines can bind and inhibit us.  Too frequently we are all about doing and little about being.

The value of Strategic Discipline (Priorities, Meetings, & Metrics) is putting into practice fundamental tools that best practices and thought leaders have proven successful.  If the current habits and routines your team is following fail to meet these patterns, then you will have automatically broken the pattern of memories and habits that are actually keeping you in a downward or mediocre trend. 

Simply by adopting a new pattern of meeting rhythms, revolving around an agreed upon set of priorities and metrics to measure your progress you will have set the stage for growth and ultimate success.

Is it time you considered Strategic Discipline as a formula for growth for your business?

Teamwork Thrives Through Strategic Discipline #11-27-12 (Example) Newsletter #135

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Dec 3, 2012

Each quarter my clients exercise the discipline of quarter planning meetings.  For someone who has never undergone this required discipline that Gazelles Coaches and Positioning Systems practices it’s difficult to appreciate how much can be accomplished in a short amount of time. 

In this newsletter I provide the 2nd of three quarterly examples of what three client’s achieved in the third quarter by investing in a day or more on quarterly planning. To produce results in 2013 you need to make quarterly plans and most importantly dedicate a day or two to annual planning by the end of the year.  This is the second of three newsletters to offer how three specific clients achieved success and most importantly realized their One Thing for the quarter. 

In last months’ newsletter we reviewed Patrick Lencioni’s principles in The Advantage on how Organizational Healt can help your business create a competitive advantage.  Clarity of priorities is one of his fundamental principles for establishing Organizational Health.  My client example this time not only achieved success through this principle but also gained a tremendous boost in morale and teamwork.  

The second of three clients in this example is a Financial Planning firm.  

After years of doing investment planning for their clients an opportunity to work with a larger firm my client trusted and had worked with before arose.  My client had deep respect for this company. He attended classes and learned financial best practices from the company’s owner. He believes providing their financial investment expertise offers his clients the best opportunity to secure their financial success and growth.  Not only would it improve their ability to produce financial success for their clients (This firm had an excellent track record in delivering market success) it would also free his team to be more responsive to his customers and focus more on earning new client business.

Federal regulations require any change in financial platforms like this to have customers sign and approve documentation to move their assets.  This would demand considerable time and energy on his staff.  It would also come with the risk of losing some customers who would not welcome the change.  In addition my client would be increasing fee structure which would further increase the risk of surrendering clients.

Having adopted the principles of Strategic Discipline and the Rockefeller Habits in January the team was primed and ready for this overhaul.  Yet how well the team came together to work things out and commit customer to the new planning practice and fee structure is remarkable.

One staff member put together an extensive dashboard (in Excel) with a list of the priorities including due dates to achieve to make sure everyone had key time frames and responsibilities to focus their completion upon.  Another identified every client with key steps for conversion including the final critical step of receiving the signed paperwork to complete their conversion.  Both of these scorecards were updated in weekly meetings.  

Achieving success required everyone to fulfill their commitments and complete their personal dashboards.  Each of the priorities were achieved or exceeded.  As of last week the team had successfully transitioned 94.6% of the customers assets to the new financial planning platform and expectations were the would still exceed 96-98% when all the latent paperwork is completed.  The company they are transitioning their financial assets to is amazed at their conversion rate among their current customers.

Most importantly a team who by its own admission had previously worked almost entirely in personal silos, worked together to resolve the many challenges that the transitioning of its entire customer base required.  When the team ran into a roadblock in getting a client transitioned, or a communication issue arose with their planning company or clearing house, staff with the experience to help and handle the situation rose up to resolve it.   The staff communicated better and helped each other to finish their scorecards with a perfect mark.

The owner acknowledged that it is the first time he could feel the sense of unity and teamwork he’d always hoped his business would be about.

The clarity of purpose, realizing the significance of what they wanted to achieve, and how critical it is for the firms growth crystalized the team to achieve a synergy that is in stark contrast to where they were at the start of the year.

When we reviewed their third quarter accomplishments every staff member remarked about the cohesiveness and cooperation.  Everyone willing stepped up to put their shoulder to the wheel to hit the targets that had been set. 

Patrick Lencioni feels one of the few remaining areas to achieve a competitive advantage is to get everyone rowing in the same direction.  This companies’ ability to do so in the third quarter helped them to achieve such distinction.  This experience and continued development will help them to move forward with an aggressive growth plan for 2013.

Next newsletter: what do you do when you reach your priorities through a record performance but not in the time frame expected?  That’s my final example of a client’s experience with their quarterly priorities.


Have you set time aside for your annual planning?  Do you have an agenda?  Are you including strategy and planning as two distinct but separate elements to your Annual Planning Meeting?  Is it time to bring in a professional facilitator like Positioning Systems to help you achieve your desired outcomes for 2013?

Rinse Cottage Cheese – Advance or Retreat on Discipline Newsletter #133 9-25-12 (Example)

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Tue, Oct 16, 2012

One of the stories in Jim Collins Good to Great is about a disciplined world-class athlete named Dave Scott, who won the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon six times.  Despite having a training schedule that would burn at least 5,000 calories per day Dave Scott would still rinse his cottage cheese to get the extra fat off.dave scott2 resized 600

How many of you in our businesses have the discipline, commitment and dedication to achieve this level of excellence?

Rinsing your cottage cheese is an obsessive activity that few athletes undertake.  Does it give Dave Scott an advantage?  Of course it does!  If not physically then psychologically. 

The requirement of Strategic Discipline is not something that a good company may wish to consider.  It is the recipe for only those who wish to be Great!  If you recall Collins pointing out in Good to Great, “Good is the enemy of Great!”   You must have a sincere, burning desire to be great in order to undertake the disciplines required to achieve Strategic Discipline and meet or exceed the fundamental principles of the Rockefeller Habit Checklist.

In Dan Greer’s blog, Rinsing Your Cottage Cheese he states, “From a business planning model this represents the last 10 percent of work that most people are not willing to do or even know exists to make their project or program the best it possibly could be.  Most people are willing to settle for 75-90% effort and feel that should really represent the best they can produce.

Sometimes the last 10% represents seemingly little things like a spot on the carpet or windows that have not been cleaned.  However that can be the very thing that a customer will notice and come to the conclusion that if you do not care about those areas what else are you not doing to be your best that they cannot see."

Collins writes, “Everyone would like to be the best, but most organizations lack the discipline to figure out with egoless clarity what they can be the best at and the will to do whatever it takes to turn that potential into reality.”  Bottom line they lack the character and the discipline to rinse their cottage cheese.”

So why don’t companies have the character and discipline to rinse their cottage cheese?

We could start with a leader that doesn’t care, however I simply don’t believe there are many people in leadership positions who don’t care or at least care for the right things. 

Rather I believe the fault lies in the CEO/President/Leadership position failure to recognize how their ego is limiting their company’s growth.  Most of these leaders have come by their ego, through great sacrifices exhausting self-discipline, supreme confidence, and the illusion that all was accomplished without the significant help of any others.

It blinds them to the need to establish discipline within their organization.  They may have great, even extreme personal self-discipline yet this same discipline it not evident in the organization.

Remember Collins path from Good to Great, Build Up to Breakthrough requires Disciplined People, Disciplined Thought and Disciplined Action.  It should be achieved in just this order.

A company I worked with for a short time had several family members within the leadership group of their organization.  The difficulty this brings to determining objectivity is often unrecognized by the leader.  No matter how objective we are, children when in your business organization are almost impossible to judge objectively, and the workplace environment only makes this more challenging. 

In fact even if the President remains objective, the problem isn’t with the children skills, talents and capabilities,  it’s the people surrounding them that always feel that the family members are getting preferential treatment.  It’s difficult to curtail petty jealousies in a group without family ties, imagine the challenge this presents with them.

My short time with this President we made many strides in helping him and his company become more productive, yet he refused to allow us to move to the next step to get his leadership team involved. Was he protecting himself from objectively viewing the performance of his children in the organization?  It’s not clear to me whether that was true or perhaps he didn’t feel my contributions measured up to his expectations and that my involvement would serve as a catalyst to push the leadership team beyond their present performance levels.

Another business I worked with had a similar situation where a family member was involved in the organization.  His performance was stellar and many of his ideas served to catapult the company forward where the necessary manpower, ideas and resources had been lacking before.  He was strong willed and his influence on the leadership team at first I thought impeded them from speaking more openly.  

Yet in this same leadership group, father and son would openly disagree and have conflicts.  The value of having this occur in these weekly meeting rhythms encouraged the rest of the team to step up and voice their opinions as well.  When they realized the son could speak out and be overruled their confidence grew that their opinions mattered and that at worst their ideas could be shot down as well, however at least their input would be received.

The team grew through these meetings, the DNA of the leader, Dennis Haefner (See Ideal Computer Systems Story was passed on and eventually when the businesses was purchased this leadership team was seen as a source of strength by the purchasers and everyone maintained an important role in leading the company under the new ownership.   

Developing a strident discipline of meeting rhythms, dashboard metrics to measure your performance and achievement of priorities demands more from leadership and the executive team than many companies are willing to become accountable for.  Often this has been compared to disciplining our children.  Too frequently we allow them to perform at standards lower than what was demanded of us as we grew up, under the disguise of “their good kids.” 

We fail to discipline not because it will hurt them, rather we lack the energy and commitment to realize how important discipline plays in the role of helping our children achieve.

Discipline in our homes, with our businesses, demands a higher standard.  Reaching the apex of our capabilities is not for the weak, but for the determined and courageous who seek to become more than what we believe is in us. 

A Gazelles coach can be a healthy objective observer to help your company raise the bar on performance and establish a standard of discipline that you did not believe you were capable of.

Is your business retreating or advancing toward discipline?   Can you truly tell?  Have you had your team complete the Rockefeller Habits Checklist recently?   More importantly have you had your team complete The Advantage’s Organizational Health Survey, or perhaps assess your business sell-ability score through John Warrilow’s Built to Sell Website. 

Perhaps it’s time to consider acquiring a coach for your business to help you remain objective and achieve the vision you’ve had for your businesses growth.  If so you may wish to also consider a Positioning Systems Needs Assessment

Topics: Discipline, Good to Great, Strategic Discipline

Innovation Involves Risk #8-28-12 (Example) Newsletter #132

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Sun, Sep 9, 2012

Every business leader faces the currents of change.  Today’s business environment is full of sweeping changes from social media to health care reform.  describe the imageMaking good decisions in these challenging times requires leadership that listens to their employees and customers for feedback and then has the courage to change. The following is an example of one of my clients who has consistently beaten challenges and recently made a remarkable innovation that required considerable risk.  First a little background on All County Music and Fred Schiff’s leadership capabilities.

Hurricanes, recessions, big box competitors, Fred Schiff of All County Music has faced it all. With each challenge Fred has learned lessons, remained true to his principals of foundational business practices and weathered the storm. 

Hurricanes are part of the weather challenge that every business in the southeast coast ofFloridaface. In the mid 1990’s what’s been called the chain store blitzkrieg era, a large competitor, Mars opened a location 7 miles from All County Music’s main location.  In quick succession Sam Ash and Guitar Center opened as well close to them, all large chain stores with major muscle to hurt Fred’s core business.  And they did, in fact more stores opened to compete with All County and each time Fred noticed as much as a 30% drop in his monthly retail business.

All this activity gave Fred many sleepless nights, but instead of sitting back and taking the next hit, Fred hit back.  Band rentals and supporting school band programs has been the backbone of All County Music’s business.  That’s where Fred focused.  He developed a plan that met or exceeded the school rental programs that Mars provided solidifying his position with school instrument rentals. 

The chain stores came after his people, and instead of allowing them to leave Fred counter offered effectively, not losing a single key employee to his competition. 

In Leadership Requires Vulnerability we discussed the importance of the business leader being vulnerable in discussing their weaknesses and mistakes with their leadership team and staff.  Fred is no stranger to the courage required to take risks and initiate plans that may not have predictable outcomes. 

In early 2011 Fred put together a plan to remodel his Tamaraclocation showroom, designing a custom-made maple cabinet, hardwood floors and glass doors to reveal his latest specialization project, Florida Flutesdescribe the imageFred intuitively understood (quoted in an article from Music Inc), “There are certain parts of the market that want to be niche, where [customers] want to experience something they can’t get somewhere else.”  Investment in this innovation was $10,000 not including his stock.

It was a bold attempt to predict where the market is going.  Fred anticipated that excellent band students were looking for a business that could serve their individual needs.  To help them improve their sound and performance by offering step up flutes, accessories and service.  “It’s a group of musicians who really want to fine-tune and be able to play different options.  …once parents hear what their children are playing and how it makes a difference in their sound they’re going to be more apt to purchase that and understand the difference between a $5,000 and a $15,000 flute.”

Has Fred’s innovation been right?  Fred’s Florida Flute’s project got up and running in January, including a website dedicated to this instrument specialization.  Through the middle of August flute instrument sales alone had nearly exceeded the forecast Fred had made at the beginning of the year.  describe the imageAccessory and flute service repairs have far exceeded is projections.  The initial investment has been earned back.

It should be pointed out that Fred is a master at developing relationships.  Whether it be a drop-in customer or a flute instructor from a local college or university, Fred’s empathetic approach and concern for doing what is in the customer’s best interest builds immediate rapport and develops long term relationships that grow raving fans and a strong referral base. 

Fred also understands that a business is built through the service after the sale, and he’s committed to meeting his customer’s service needs with a dedicated group of service technicians that are expected to meet very high standards in terms of quality and quantity of performance. As part of the company’s dedication to Florida Flutes they’ve set aside a dedicated bench solely for flutes.  Florida Flute customers are given tours of this section of their service department to ensure they understand the commitment and security they will have for their flute when purchasing it from Florida Flutes.

Again Fred backed his innovation with a commitment to his customers, “If you’ve got a $20,000 flute, you don’t want to put it in the mail for service.  You’d like to bring it somewhere.  And if it means you have to travel a couple of hours to do that, that’s certainly better than having to ship it.”

Building your business requires risks.  Fred Schiff at All County Music understands that vulnerability is part of any business owner’s life.  He’s already planning his next innovation niche move for his business, a similar  move like Florida Flutes but for a different instrument.

Is your business innovating at a pace that anticipates and beats your competition?  Strategic Discipline offers a valuable set of meeting rhythms that offer customer and employee feedback as the backbone of weekly meetings. These feedback areas offer many options and opportunism for innovation if we as business owners take the time to listen. 

Is it time to improve your system for innovating and gather ideas on where your opportunities are? 

Topics: Customer Feedback, Employee Feedback, weekly meetings, Strategic Discipline

How to Link Customer Feedback To Profitability #120 8-30-11

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Wed, Aug 8, 2012

Answer:  A recent McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy study published by the Harvard Business Review determined that 90% of company profits are the result of your front line employees. 

How does your company look at customer complaints?  Are they considered an opportunity, or are they hidden, cast aside, and quickly forgotten?

If you don’t think getting customer feedback is important please pick up Fred Reichheld’s Ultimate Questiondescribe the imageIt’s packed full of stories and examples of companies who have made dramatic leaps forward in growth and profitability by focusing on customer satisfaction.  Reichheld’s evidence shows that companies providing superior customer satisfaction grow at 2.6 times their competition. 

Great customer service anticipates the needs of the customer.  Customer service cannot be an individual performance or it will not be enduring.  We’ve all had an experience with a great employee at a business we frequent only to come back another time and discover that this was just one person who knew how to treat people. 

Customer service starts at the top.  Leadership must recognize the value of keeping their customers happy. 

The way to make this an enduring part of your business is to incorporate customer feedback into your weekly meeting rhythms.  It’s another reason why Strategic Discipline needs to be an indispensable part of your company’s culture.  Each weekly meeting should have a portion of the meeting dedicated to employee and customer feedback.  Customer feedback is essential to begin to discover how your operation is functioning, and how customers are being treated. 

Each leadership team executive should be required to contact at least one customer every week.  Top companies like IBM has its top 200 managers talk to 5 customers and employees every week and review the information every Friday.  We recommend asking four short questions to discover how the customer feels your service is performing.

If you’re serious about your customer satisfaction effort and wish to compare it to how great companies perform, then you’ll want to start using the scale Reichheld provides with the Net Promoter Score.  Here you can begin to measure yourself against the businesses that have the top customer satisfaction scores in the industry.

I recommend visiting their site; particularly the pages that offer who the leading customer satisfaction companies are by industry and who rank highest in customer satisfaction.  The names might not surprise you, but their scores might.  Industries that don’t score well certainly won’t surprise you.  Some of the lowest scoring industries are cable and internet, health and life insurance, and credit card companies.  The highest are grocery and supermarkets and online shopping. 

How do you arrive at the Net Promoter Score?  You can find out more at the net promoter website.

If you're already using Net Promoter, or you want to learn more, check the comprehensive guide at HOW TO IMPROVE NET PROMOTER SCORE®: THE COMPLETE GUIDE.

One very interesting data point to share from this article, "according to this research of London School of Economics an average NPS increase of 7% correlates on average with a 1% growth in revenue!

Convincing evidence to start using NPS for your business?.  

One of my clients established the net promoter score as their basis for customer satisfaction.  They quickly realized store-to-store profitability increased as their net promoter score elevated.  Their goal each quarter is to exceed a 65% NPS [an outstanding score] to ensure each location is extremely profitable. 

Contact me to find out how this can tie into your overall strategy.

Topics: The Ultimate Question, customer survey, Customer Feedback, Net Promoter Score

How Much Weight Are You Carrying? #119 7-26-11

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Tue, Jul 26, 2011

Question:  What is the major difference separating businesses that succeed from those that don’t?
weight of world on backAnswer:  The simple answer to this is people.  It’s Jim Collins’ “First Who Then What” fundamental from Good to GreatOften this answer goes beyond the people to the leader themselves.    

An important part of the equation separating great businesses from good or mediocre businesses is the ability of the leader to grow and recognize not only their strengths and weaknesses, but their ability to get out of the way of their ego and let others take the reins to get results for the business.   

Collins tells several stories of businesses that were built upon the aspirations and dynamic personality of their leader.  The greatest example of this is Henry Singleton [known as the Sphinx] of Teledyne.  Lee Iacocca might be another example of a leader who became so enthralled with his leadership and charisma that he became invincible in his own eyes.   Chrysler grew for a time under his leadership, eventually crumbling without strong leadership to succeed and support his efforts.  

John D Rockefeller knew the importance of having strong capable leadership to support Standard Oil, which is why he met with his executive team daily to discuss issues and progress on their accountabilities.   

Gallup’s Strength Based Leadership book provides an excellent tutorial on what a leader needs to recognize.  It provides four domains of leadership. However it never indicates that one domain is superior to the rest, nor is having strengths in one domain or all domains important for leadership.  A leader comes from any of the 34 strength themes, however great leadership teams have strengths in each of the domains.  

A crippling weakness in the organizations I see struggle is leadership.  At either the top level or in the executive team, they either fail to take action and be accountable or they are control and micromanage efforts.  The sense of freedom and independence necessary to fuel growth is extinguished.  One person or too few carry the weight of decisions and implementation. From Good to Great their example is Bank America versus Wells Fargo.  At Wells Fargo their leadership team acted as a strong team of equal partners, ferociously debating eyeball-to-eyeball in search of the best answers, the Bank of America weak generals would wait for directions from above.     

In some businesses the weakness of the supporting team means the weight of major projects is destroyed by their inability to carry the ball forward.  A weak leader is simply not capable of carrying out a supreme challenge.  Too frequently however this is the result of a leader who fails to hire capable lieutenants to carry out their orders.  One dominant leader or a few strong executives limits the capacity of the business to concentrate on and achieve priorities.   

As the leader, how can you recognize whether or not your executive team is capable of carrying their weight or not?  One observation is to ask yourself how frequently does your team disagree with you?  Are they comfortable expressing their views and opinions even if they know you won’t agree?  Open conflict in meetings is a sign your people have confidence, not necessarily insubordination.   

A great leader is not afraid to admit mistakes.  I’m reminded of the Battle of Gettysburg where General Robert E. Lee greets his returning army after Pickett’s charge failed to take the Union center on Seminary Ridge, “It’s my fault!”  he shouted to them.  Only a leader with confidence, courage and humility, a level five leader is willing to admit their mistakes.   

Admitting your mistakes allows your team to be more open. They will not fear making mistakes because you’ve shown them that mistakes are okay.  This inspires and builds leadership qualities.   

Growth of your business requires leadership.  The capacity to elevate your team, admit your weaknesses and distribute power, responsibility, and decisions to your team.   

How can you teach your team to lead better?  The power of Strategic Discipline provides this.  Through meeting rhythms your executive team observes decision making, learns how to choose priorities, measure performance and conduct themselves in daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings.  The DNA of the company is passed on through these consistent practices and discussions.  

While people is one of the four decisions emphasized in the Rockefeller Habits coaching, you should not forget that level five leadership’s a common theme in each Good to Great company.  The right People starts with you as the leader. Working on you is the best place to start on improving your team.  How much energy are you devoting to improving you?


In Good to Great Jim Collins indicated professional will and personal humility make up the two sides of  level five leadership. Click here to receive a list of these level five leaders traits.

What Don’t You Understand? #118 6-28-11

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Tue, Jun 28, 2011

Question:  If you had one lesson for a business to learn and implement what would it be?

Answer:  Measure, Measure, Measure!  I’m reminded of this especially this week as I meet with several of my clients who are being challenged by people they hired.  Before you hire make sure you have measurements in place.  Establish the 5-7 specific measureable accountabilities for the position you are hiring for and look for their qualifications to meet these in your interview process. 

describe the imageWhile you can’t expect a new hire to immediately hit the targets you expect, you should expect them to reach them rather quickly if they have the qualification you set out for them in your Job Summary Scorecard.   Have a 90 day ramp up period with specific metrics for them to reach so they immediately are aware of your expectations.  Very often failure to meet your metrics is the first sign you’ve made a hiring mistake.  You miss that leading indicator if you’ve not established performance metrics for the position in your 90 day training and orientation period.   Once an employee is in place, your metrics will tell you when something is going wrong.  Not hitting metrics is a sign something is amiss.  It could be a health issue, family problems, conflict with a fellow employee, or a system failure.  Metrics not being hit demands inspection. 

Metrics reached build momentum.   Pearson’s Law is a powerful force that drives business growth.

The critical lesson I would instruct every business to learn and implement reverberates in my head from a quote from Michael Gerber, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and what you don’t measure you don’t understand.”

The quote suggests that if you’re not measuring it you don’t understand it.  Where is that true in your business?  Do your people argue with you that you can’t measure what I do?  That comment suggests your people may be afraid of punishment as I pointed out in You Can’t Measure What I Do – Measuring Performance.  

I can guarantee whatever part of your business you are not measuring will eventually rear up and kick your tail.  How far and how much damage it will do is something you will measure if not quantitatively, then certainly in sleepless nights and emotional distress.  Ask any business owner who’s gone out of business. They’ll testify that not measuring is a sure path to failure.

It’s not just important to have measurements, it’s important to have measurements that forecast problems.  At Gazelles we call these Key Performance Indicators leading and lagging indicators.  We recommend that where ever possible you have two leading [predictive] indicators to one lagging indicator [historical]. 

As Verne mentions in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, the two critical leadership skills are delegating and forecasting.  Without measurement you can’t forecast.  In fact even with Key Performance Indicators the best leaders are challenged to predict their industries direction.   A recent article on Dell questioned Michael Dell’s leadership capabilities set Dell course in the right direction.  If top leaders like Michael Dell are challenged to envision their future with all the complexities and measurements he has at his disposal, how more difficult is it for you in your business?

What measurements do you have in place for your business?  Which are critical for you as the CEO/President to be aware of?  Which, if not monitored would impact your business most?  Which measurements are you key positions accountable for?

dashboard pic resized 600One of the first tools we help our Gazelles clients to complete is an organizational strategy that identifies their key seats.  With this clarity in place we immediately identify leading and lagging indicators in order to ensure we are keyed in on their performance and the key performance indicators for the company. 

Your role as the Owner/CEO/President of your business is to be above the day to day operations.  To be in a position like an air traffic control operator who can objectively view events, results and procedures and then direct the correct measure be taken to continuously manage and lead your business in the direction of your vision. 

Measuring your business is not an ultimate panacea.   Leading a business is a complex and demanding position.  When you are in command of the numbers, measuring and quantifying performance, you can forecast and direct your business toward your goals.  It’s a critical step in a successful enterprise.   Strategic Discipline as taught by Positioning Systems focuses on priorities, metrics and meetings. These critical disciplines require measuring what you manage to eliminating any obscurity that hinders performance.

Identifying key metrics is the critical step to putting your business on the path toward your vision.

What can you measure? Click here to instantly recieve a list of indicators to consider measuring in your business. purpose is first to remind you of the power of scores.  The old truisms tell us that “what gets measure gets managed” and “you get what you inspect,” and they survive as truisms because they are manifestly true.

And second, to suggest that it is your responsibility as a leader to sort through all the many things that can be measured and identify the one score that we, your followers, should focus on.  If you want us to follow you, you must tell us what score we should use to measure our progress into the forest of the future.  This forest is dark and deep, and therefore unnerving, and so you must tell us the core score that will reveal how far we have all come, and how far we have yet to go.

- Marcus Buckingham, The One Thing You Need to Know


“ the most competitive of nations, a nation where in Vince Lombardi’s words, ‘Winning isn’t everything.  It’s the only thing.’  Why this preoccupation with scores?  Because competitors love scores.  If you can measure it, you can compare it, and if you can compare, you can compete, and If you can compete, you can win. America’s core strength is not trying, but winning—look here are the heroes and their scores to prove it.

- Marcus Buckingham, The One Thing You Need to Know


"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates."

-Karl Pearson, Pearson’s Law; Thomas S. Monson, author

What can you measure? Click here to instantly recieve a list of indicators to consider measuring in your business.


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