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Missing Ingredient:Training & Education (#1-28-14) Newsletter #149

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Jan 27, 2014

Education resized 600Positioning Systems and Gazelles coaches work with thousands of mid-market Growth companies from all over the world.  Top performers commit to 3 key disciplines (habits) that both differentiate them AND lead to their consistent success: #1 They consistently apply the Four Decisions content and tools to their daily operational routines; #2 They build into their leaders’ schedules a regular, ongoing commitment to executive education (learning); and #3 They develop and utilize an ongoing accountability relationship with an outside, independent business Coach.  In this newsletter we look at why training and education is so critical to growing your business: 

Michael Dell is a great example of ongoing Executive learning and education to provide Dell a competitive edge in the PC market. Michael’s quote sums it all up…”Start with smart executives and then keep them smart.

Any mid-size business that wants to be successful recognizes and applies the principles of training and education to their staff. Leadership succession, growth, and competitive edge come from growing the people in your business.  Learning today is one competitive advantage that keeps your business sharp, insures progressive improvement, breeding a culture where knowledge and action produce dynamic results.

One of my clients, Fleck Sales, a beer distributor, takes growing and educating its people seriously.  The beer industry is extremely competitive.  Craft Brands have introduced new competitive pressures and expanded SKU’s complicating and increasing inventory, turns, and obscuring the retailer’s decision-making on what products to carry.  In addition recent trends to sweeter alcoholic beverages put increased competitive pressure to improve last year’s numbers and increase market share.

It’s critical that their sales, merchandising, and delivery people have knowledge of the increasing number of brands they carry to help their retailers make the right choices to improve their bottom line and revenues.

Their distributor Miller Coors provides excellent resources for training and education.  Yet these tools are

worthless if they are not resourced and utilized by their staff.  Fleck Sales recently embarked on developing training programs not just for entering employees, but mandating each supervisor require a specific designation of courses to be completed by each employee dependent upon their experience and development level. 

Several of the staff has already truly embraced the opportunity to learn.  Can you guess where these people are headed in the development of their careers at Fleck Sales? 

With the number of selections now available with the emerging Craft Brands, Fleck recently required all of their sales staff to be tested to earn the ascending titles of Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone, and Master Cicerone. 

The practice of learning and education is continuous in this organization.  Monthly leadership meetings frequently conclude with the CEO providing a learning and education element.

Too many businesses profess conviction to training and education, yet fail to practice it in action.

Monthly and Quarterly Meetings utilizing Positioning Systems and Gazelles meeting rhythms process embrace and implicitly respond to this fundamental practice.  Learning and Education should be a critical part of your Strategic Learning process.

Have you experienced the disappointment of hiring a candidate whom you felt had great potential to succeed in your business, yet never realized their potential?

Perhaps the fault is your businesses inability to provide them with a path to follow to unleash their possibilities through training and education.   There’s nothing worse than failing to provide development to someone who is yearning to release their capabilities!

What restrains your business from providing the training and education your people can benefit from? 

For a limited time Positioning Systems with the help of Gazelles Growth Institute is providing our readers with several free learning courses as a gift to you.

Outlearn your competition, click here to select a class including:

Patrick Lencioni’s - The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

Liz Wiseman’s - Multipliers

Seth Godin’s - Purple Cow

Jack Stack’s - The Great Game of Business

Fred Reichheld - The Ultimate Question 2.0

Geoff Smart and Randy Street’s - Who: The A Method for Hiring

Sign up for free and choose from these selections to present to your staff at your next leadership meeting. 

Positioning Systems is committed to helping our clients have the best people through providing top thought leadership and best practices to our clients.  Learn how you can improve your staff’s performance through education and training by selecting a class to develop your people now.   This is our gift to you.  Do something about it NOW!

Topics: quarterly meetings, Strategic Discipline, People, Training, monthly meetings

IMPACT: Your One Thing (#10-26-13) Newsletter #146

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Sun, Oct 27, 2013

One Thing you’ll learn by attending Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Four Decisions Workshop, November 12th at the Kirkwood Hotel in Cedar Rapids, IA is the enormous value of focus and concentration. One of my first clients with the Rockefeller Habits achieved remarkable success in their first effort to build a theme for their company’s fourth quarter and establish the One Thing prioritydescribe the imageYou should establish your One Thing during your annual strategy and planning meeting each year.  One Thing is a concept of focus.  It should be the One Thing that if you could accomplish nothing else it would impact your business the most.  While these events occurred in 2008 and I’ve experienced the extraordinary value of this discipline many times over during my years of coaching, it’s a valuable story to repeat to help others realize the significant impact that establishing One Thing as your top priority can bring to your organization.  Here is that story again:

In the fall of 2008 Ideal Computer Systems was struggling with their customer support system.  Customer’s called for help with their hardware and software they had purchased from Ideal and often times had to wait to get the answers they were looking for.  They had been working on this area for over a year with almost daily meetings with their executive team to improve the turnaround time their support team was getting back to their customers in.  Throughout 2008 it was approaching 60 minutes and now their support manager had given his resignation, moving to New Orleans to be closer to his girlfriend.

In June of 2008 Dennis Haefner, then president of Ideal Computer Systems, enlisted my coaching services to help them with a solution to overcome this specific challenge.

Feeling at the cross roads, and realizing the importance of this area for building their business they decided to create a One Thing theme whose focus would decrease their ASA [Average Speed of Answer] time down to a more acceptable level.  After a third quarter average of 55 minutes they decided to set a very aggressive goal to drop this to 24 minutes (Green Success Criteria) and a Super Green goal of 16.  In addition, to put more emphasis on this area, they decided to hire two managers to serve support. This doubled the number of managers and attention they had previously dedicated to this vital area of their business. 

It should be noted that dissension and strife were ripe in the support area.  The group as a whole had taken on a victim mentality feeling they were being held up as the reason the business wasn’t succeeding to the extent it should due to the ASA being so high. 

Dennis and his team announced the theme at a companywide meeting.  The meeting was not only to proclaim the new goals for the quarter but also to help the entire organization recognize that lowering ASA was a company priority.  It was something they all shared in and were equally responsible for dropping to an acceptable time frame.  Instead of focusing on support the emphasis was that everyone was responsible for this number and in addition to lowering support they intended to increase their customer loyalty rating as well.  

The results were dramatic!  Instead of feeling like they were the focal point of the company’s focus and being blamed, the support team rallied around the two new managers, the theme’s intention, and felt the encouragement of the rest of the team toward achieving their goal.

ASA time dropped precipitously, below their goals by almost unheard of levels.  Not only did support beat their green goal of 24, they beat the super green goal of 16, with support ending the fourth quarter under 10 minutes at 9.6!  Just as important the customer approval rating soared to an 8.54 rating also beating their super green goal. 

Have you dedicated time to work on your business to determine your 3-5 year plan, annual plan, quarterly plans and One Thing for 2014?  The Four Decisions Workshop is an excellent opportunity to set aside time to commit to with clarity to your One Thing for 2014.  You will be free from distractions and receive an unconditional money back guarantee. 


Topics: quarterly meetings, One Thing, planning, Top Priority, themes, Success

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

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


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