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360 Review (#8-26-14) Newsletter #156

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Sep 1, 2014

Recently one of my clients introduced a 360 Review to their leadership team coupled with a six month Topgrading Evaluation.  The latter process involves using the same Job Summary Scorecard used to hire someone for the position to evaluate the performance of the current position holder.  It’s great because it serves two purposes and allows you to evaluate how the person is performing against your “A” standards you’ve previously setup.  The 360 is a look inside those people who should know you the best in your management position.  It asks to score you on several leadership and management qualities so you can get their view of your capabilities.  If you have not done a 360 on your leadership team or yourself, I’d encourage you to do so.  Here’s why: 

Review360 resized 600Each Leadership team member including the CEO was reviewed by the staff in the following ten areas:  Leadership, Planning & Managing Achievement, Flexibility, Collaboration, Innovation, Risk Management, Organizational Sensitivity, Strategic Thinking, Managing Customers, Networking, and Personal Impact.  Grade levels were on a scale of 1 through 7, with the bottom level extremely poor and the top level excellent.  There were also categories for Not Applicable, and Don’t Know, in case the evaluator had not had an experience with the person or simply had no context to grade them. 

Participants were also asked to comment on three questions:

What are this Manager's Strengths?

What are this Manager's Weaknesses?

What Steps does this Manager need to take to increase his or her skills as a Manager?

I must warn you that the process of reviewing the 360’s as well as the Topgrading Evaluation is time consuming.  To perform both required a minimum of 90 minutes with each process.  In some cases the participant required longer as we dove into some aspects that required more attention seeking to solve some deep rooted issues. 

Only if your business and your leadership team is truly committed to growth and self-improvement should you decide to undertake this. Only a business that is truly committed to its people would invest the time to complete this arduous yet rewarding engagement.

A link was set up to allow everyone to provide their score anonymously.   Once the results were received the outcome is provided to the leadership team member ahead of their meeting.  My customer did the meetings in tandem with the CEO and I providing observations and input along with taking notes from the meeting.  The first step is to review the grades and determine the validity of the scores from the individual’s perspective.  It is one thing to hear an employee you’re supervising make a comment, it’s quite another to see the results of them scoring you on these leadership skills and have several others agree.  That includes positive and negative results.

Are your people truly interested in improving their performance and ability to manage and lead?  I can tell you each of the leadership team members I sat in on were excited to get this feedback.  They truly are invested in their future.  They were eager to see the results and willing to discover where they can improve their leadership styles.

We’ve discussed the idea of Priority, The One Thing focus that we emphasize with our customers in coaching them to grow. The same target is ideal for growth and improvement generated from the results of the 360 reviews. 

While there are arguments and discussions about some of the results, at least in our meetings there was always agreement from the leadership member on some aspect where they could improve.  The key is developing a plan to initiate and make that change occur.

The 360 Action Plan is precisely for this.  It asks the individual to assess the results, brainstorm ideas for correcting or improving a behavior, discover obstacles and support for making the improvement, and then to take specific steps to achieve the desired change.  It asks for whom you will have support you, how you might reward yourself for achieving the desired result and finally a commitment statement as to what you wish to achieve. The emphasis here is on focusing to improve or change one thing. 

Most importantly this isn’t intended to be a canvas of commitments and changes, rather a focus on one change, one improvement, one acknowledged area that you, your team members you supervise, and your peers agree that would make a difference in the quality of your leadership ability.  One Thing is the priority.

Most people will want to change multiple elements.  I urge you to suppress their ambition for doing this.  More progress will be made focusing on one change or performance improving skill set than by selecting more.  Indeed it’s likely that other scores will improve by simply improving one area.

If you’re looking for questions to ask in a 360 you can ask Positioning Systems for help or search the web or articles like Sample Questions for 360 Reviews.  It’s important to ask the right questions, yet without a dedicated desire to improve and an action plan to follow the possibility of achieving any results from this exhausting exercise will be precious little.  Furthermore without an impact from this the likelihood of those who participated enthusiastically responding again greatly diminishes.

If you’re going to launch this process you should do so with the commitment from the people being reviewed that they intend to utilize the results and make measureable improvements in their behavior and skills from the feedback received.  Otherwise the gains from this will be negligible now and for the future.

Do you have a leadership team that is sincerely committed to improving?  Are you looking for a tool that provides feedback to expose and discover aspects of leadership and management that will help them improve their performance?  Consider the 360 Review/Feedback.

It’s too early to tell the outcome from these initial meetings but judging by the tenor and tone of the meetings, plus the degree of commitment I felt from these leadership team members, I’ll be very surprised if this leadership team doesn’t take a dramatic step forward in their performance and ability to lead their teams.

You can download an example of the 360 in Action to provide your team with a way to take action on their results.  Ask Positioning Systems if you’d like help initiating this growth exercise tool in your business.  

Topics: Employee Feedback, employee engagement, Business Growth, employee performance, mentor, 360 Review, Employee Evaluations

Collective Intelligence: The Most Impactful 15-45 Minutes of your Week (#2-25-14) Newsletter #150

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Sat, Mar 1, 2014

collective intelligence map resized 600Solving issues, challenges, concerns, and simple brainstorming by calling on the Collective Intelligence within the knowledge and experience of your team of co-workers is an infrequent manifestation in most businesses.  Think about all that brainpower and the capacity it has to hurdle any obstacle, and you realize what an untapped resource you are probably underutilizing.  One of the magic’s of the weekly meeting is a dedicated time frame called Collective Intelligence where your team provides obstacles or ideas to discuss.   It applies the intellect of your team to solve challenges which would otherwise remain frustrations obstructing progress in your business.   The 15-45 minutes (depending on your weekly meeting designated length) will be the most productive time you receive from your business. Here some stories from clients on why:

In the past several weeks the following were topics discussed at the weekly meetings in collective intelligence from two of my clients: Sales Force Realignment, Industry Trends, Full-Time HR Position, The Great Game of Business (Book & Application to their business), vacation and holiday compensation, outside source for generation leads, organic growth of sales position, strategies to grow sales pipeline, salesperson hiring process, display art for trade show booth, company work process flow chart (7-9 essential systems), testimonials, pricing model and much more. 

Several of these topics resulted in impactful changes for my customers.  One determined that their approach to hiring sales people should be changed. They decided to outsource lead generation and develop their next sales person by first assimilating them through the company to learn the value it offers prospects and customers before placing them in the role of converting leads/prospects.  It’s been a challenging process to find sales people for this business based on the nature of their service.  After several recent hires didn’t work out they decided to look hard at their process and determine if it was poor hiring decisions, or not having defined the position and process.   Ultimately they determined they had several people internally functioning well in the role of sales conversion.  They desperately need to drive more leads.  For the time being they determined an outside resource can do that part of the lead generation process better than they could, and for a lower investment then hiring a salesperson to focus on this.

Another customer is debating the configuration of their sales force.  They presently have account managers, merchandisers and sales reps.  What’s the proper number to have in each category?  Is having one person do two or all three roles better or worse use of efficiency? 

We discussed the Great Game of Business and the value of transparency of financial information and the incentive this would provide.  The company determined that they were on this path already, sharing financial data with departments and developing incentives to reward contribution to the bottom line on a trimester and annual basis.  Long term the Great Game may deserve another look in the future.

There was a discussion on the fairness of their present holiday and vacation compensation, since some employees don’t take their share of vacation each year, and then get paid for the weeks they don’t use.  How is compensation paid for commission versus salary and union workers, and what’s fair?  Another discussion surrounded whether at their present level of employees (over 100) it merited changing their Human Resources position to a dedicated full time position with HR training and education.

In the past we reviewed sales presentations to get everyone’s input, discussed theme and incentive programs, one of which resulted in an annual theme that decreased returns for a beverage company by over $600,000.

Discover the power of your leadership team’s Collective Intelligence.  Gather the issues, concerns and discussion points at each weekly meeting that impact your business.   Once collected, decide which ones are priorities and then have someone lead the discussion searching for the best solution.  McKinsey in their excellent 2007 survey on Internet Technology“Collective Intelligence refers to any system that attempts to tap the expertise of a group rather than an individual to make decisions.”

You’ll quickly enjoy the impact that comes from your team’s observations, contributions, and discovery.  Solve your most pressing issues and discover the impact of Collective Intelligence in just 15-45 minutes of each week!   One of my clients requires I make sure we move through the Good News, Numbers and Customer and Employee Feedbac, Accountability pieces of the weekly meeting so we always have 45 minutes for Collective Intelligence. He finds it that constructive! 

If your meetings are not aligned you’re not receiving the full benefit of Strategic Disciplines execution and strategic value in your business. 

For an opportunity to learn more about Strategic Discipline and the power of the Rockefeller Habits register now for the Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Four Decision Workshop coming to Cedar Rapids, Iowa April 29th.  Bring your leadership group to really stimulate the value of collective intelligence and learn first-hand how to implement the critical pieces that can make your business soar!  

Topics: Customer Feedback, Employee Feedback, weekly meetings, collective intelligence, Business Growth

Celebrate Your Victories (#4-30-13) Newsletter #140

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Tue, Apr 30, 2013

celebrate victory resized 600In my client meetings many occasions of perfect synchronicity occur that remind me of the powerfulness of building Strategic Discipline into the fabric of business structure. A recent monthly meeting provided a reminder to the powerful impact that simple recognition offers to feed employees souls. 

I love this quote from Cavett Robert, “"Three billion people on the face of the earth go to bed hungry every night, but four billion people go to bed every night hungry for a simple word of encouragement and recognition."

Don’t forget to recognize your employees and celebrate your victories!

Achieving peak performance in your business requires bringing out the best in your people.  How frequently are you recognizing, rewarding and simply appreciating the contributions your people make to grow your business?

This past month one of my clients met for their 2nd Quarter Planning.  Each planning meeting we dedicate 15-30 minutes to review the victories that the individual or their department has achieved.  This means including about 3-5 quick stories on success and achievement.  After everyone has bragged about themselves the next exercise asks them to offer success or achievements that they observed others accomplish in the organization.  

Imagine that, you don’t even need to notice how your people are doing; you can enlist the support of your staff to observe and recognize them.  In fact in many cases their scrutiny and detective work is more insightful than yours.   Receiving recognition from your peers can be more uplifting than hearing it from the boss.  Isn’t it your job to give them recognition? A peer observing it means much more.

As we continued through bragging on others it became obvious that everyone was recognizing everyone. In fact one member who identifed just three people as the form suggested, he immediately expanded his, offering he had wanted to include everyone but felt restricted by the form.  (It is limited to two lines to brag on others.)

The stories and tales of achievement included some redundancy, however many offered additional insights and background to the extraordinary efforts everyone made. What do you imagine the meeting room felt like?  Participating purely through video on GoToMeeting I could still feel the change in enthusiasm and upliftment the comments provided.  The meeting was lighter in mood and the openness and vulnerability blossomed as the meeting continued.

The meeting moved on to reviewing last quarter and planning the next quarter, yet the harmony and good will this established flowed through the meeting and made decisions easier.

Every quarterly planning meeting doesn’t go quite as smoothly.  Every team isn’t as cohesive, nor have they built a spirit of harmony, cooperation and trust as this team has.

Aubrey Daniels, (author of Bringing Out the Best in People) offers recognition should be in a four to one ratio. This meeting certainly surpassed that by a multiplier of two or more!

Getting your people to perform at a higher level isn’t always easy.  A good start is to remember this four to one ratio.  If everyone is feeling good about themselves and their contributions, performance improves dramatically.

Another portion of Strategic Disciplines Quarterly Planning Meetings is “What did we learn?

It’s remarkable what is overlooked each quarter and year as we move forward striving to achieve more.  Your organization will achieve more even if the gains are small.  Success breeds success.  Each gain builds momentum.  Victories recognize the achievement of the individual, department or team, and business!  They elevate good will, and recognition paves the way toward more success.

The “What did we Learn?” exercise often continues the victory parade.  It includes wins and mistakes which when not identified often can be compounded in subsequent quarters ahead.  How often has your organization failed to achieve a desired outcome only to discover the method used had been tested and failed somewhere else or previously in your organization?  This will prevent that from occurring.

Celebrate your victories. You’ll be pleased to see the progress your people are making.  The recognition will please and inspire your team and build steady momentum in your business.

For help building quarterly planning and meeting rhythms that build a cadence of accountability contact Positioning Systems. 


Topics: Employee Feedback, quarterly meetings, Bringing Out the Best In People, employee engagement, Employee Recognition

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


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