Blogs Archive - Predictable Success

Ending and Starting

Most all of us can start things well – if we really put our mind to it – but ending things well? That’s a whole different matter.

In today’s video blog I talk about how starting next year with a bang depends more than you might think on how you end this year. Check it out:

So...How are you ending out this year? Click a number to self-assess:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Failing it!

Nailing it!

TRANSCRIPT:

So it's December 1st as I'm recording this and so here in the US we have just completed our big Thanksgiving holiday and are now caught up with everybody else in chasing headlong towards Christmas.. uh, well... actually, (as there's been a debate for as long as I can remember), we started chasing towards Christmas even before Thanksgiving got here. Or so it seems anyway.

I'm a bit of a traditionalist. I like to hear my carols in December and not before, but anyway, be that as it may, we're headed towards Christmas and towards what is one of, if not the, key pivot point for many organizations, which is when the calendar flips from one year to another.

And you know, in theory that shouldn't really make any difference whatsoever, because time is a continuum. And the fact that we have a calendar that says this day is in this year and this day starts a new year shouldn't actually make any difference, except that for just about every organization I've ever worked with, the year is the unit by which we measure our performance in its largest sense, although of course we also look at days, hours, minutes, quarters, weeks, all sorts of units of time.

But the year is really the unit we use to measure our medium and long term goal achievement. And you know, one of the things that sorta happens is that we get a little fuzzy when we start thinking about an upcoming year thats hurtling towards us in this sense: It feels like a big, vast, open pasture, you know - it feels like it's a large bucket to fill. But here's what I've noticed over the years. You've actually only got 45 days to set in stone most of what's going to happen in your organization next year - the first month and a half.

By the time you hit Valentine's Day (ironically enough), most of the plasticity around what you can achieve in terms of medium and longterm goals is already baked in. We often continue to have the illusion of some degree of control and flexibility when most of it has been taken from us by what's happened in those first 45 days.

Those first 45 days set stuff in motion that then causes the rest of everything to play out. Now, of course, we can change stuff as the year goes along, but it's to a much lesser degree than you might think. Those first 45 days are absolutely critical and I'm going to talk a little bit more about those in some future videos between now and the end of the year.

One of the things that happens in those first 45 days in my observation - and it happens a lot - is that we get so bogged down or distracted by tying up the loose ends of things that were really last year's, that we don't get the momentum that we really, really want.

We don't really get that push that we're looking for at the start of the year, and I just wanted to pass onto you a couple of year-end routines. They're very mundane (you've heard me say over and over again 'brilliance is built on the mundane'), but there are a couple of mundane things I do every single year, and they've stood me in really good stead in terms of achieving my goals, particularly in the early weeks of a new year, that I just want to share with you - and the ones you want to share today are really Mundane!

Two tips:

Here's the first one. Get a bunch of these. It's your basic cardboard storage box. I get between five and 10 of these every year and I fill them with everything that's moveable in my work area that is to do solely with the outgoing year. So all of my old files, all of my dead tech - you know that stuff that we got that just doesn't work anymore. (I have an old Mac mini that I don't use. It's going there - I'll probably do something with it - donate it somewhere, but it's going.

I'll even look at the walls around my office and see what little tchotskes or mementos I've put up and I'll make a conscious decision: Are they 'so last year'? Are they going to stay part of my environmentK I find it really important to refresh my environment at the end of the year. And I know it all sounds a little Mari Kondo (if that doesn't make sense to you, go look up K O N D O - Mary Kondo. Um, but it's important, I believe you've got to have your environment as current as it needs to be to keep you fresh and keep you focused.

And I do the same thing - I have the equivalent with my electronic files, which are these days much more important. I'm old enough to remember when putting paper files in these boxes used to take me maybe 20 boxes worth at the end of each year. Now most things are on my hard drive and I do exactly the same thing. Every client folder, every project folder has got two sub folders. I've got an archive folder and I've got a current year folder and at the end of every year - during this month - I'll move everything that's currently in the current year folder and I'll put it up into the archive folder. That means it's all still available - I can search and find it, but when I go into my current year folder to work on my client work or a particular project, I've only got the current stuff there. My brain isn't cluttered with all of the stuff from the previous year.

And for each project and for each client. I'll do a single text file that where I'll just list the stuff that I need to remember or recall from the previous year's if necessary. And that's also by the way, just a great exercise to do at the end of the year anyway and I'll give you a great opportunity to review whether some of those projects shouldn't even make it into the new year ( and indeed maybe even some of your clients).

The second thing that I want to pass on to you is this old standby here, which is a big legal pad and a big fat marker. And I'll tell you why this is important: Any of you that know me well will know that I'm a productivity nerd. I mean I really geek out on productivity, particularly electronically based productivity, and I have a productivity stack that's quite complicated.

There are big moving parts that most people will have heard of at sometime - For me they're OmniFocus, Evernote and Gmail. And between all of those I really manage my life. But there's something about an electronic list that takes the urgency away and for a number of things I'll always use an actual written big fat black marker - a handwritten list - and at the year end that's when I find that most important. This pod will go with me everywhere between now the end of the year and I will typically cover probably about a third of the pad in total with big moving parts, big things that I want to have finished by the end of this year, and not bring them into next year because I don't want them cluttering up my start to next year.

Now for me (your list is going to differ from mine), just looking down at this, there are a couple of things that I want to close off from a client point of view because it's just going to help me an awful lot to not take that that particular project into the new year.

There's a ton of stuff on my website, been bugging me all year to get round to. Uh, I've got a note here to go to Upwork or Fiverr and get two or three things, just punch list items done - gone so that I don't carry those into the new year. It may be a different list for you. Maybe you need to really put the hammer down to get all your performance assessments done in your organization before the end of the year. That's one of the things I see handed over a lot in a lot of organizations. And can you imagine the sense of entropy that's brought into a new year if you haven't done your performance appraisals for the previous year, so it hangs over everything. Maybe there are accounting, bookkeeping, legal, other routines. Don't let them distract you in your new year. Get them done now.

Next week in the next video, I'm going to look a little more deeply at what it means as a leader from a behavioral mindset point of view to start to move from one year to the next. See you then.

ScaleCon 2019: FULL PRESENTATION: Rita McGrath: ‘Snow Melts From the Edges’

ScaleCon 2019

Rita McGrath is a world-renowned thought leader and a professor at Columbia Business School, where she directs the popular Leading Strategic Growth and Change program. She's also a great friend of Predictable Success and made one of the mopst scintillating presentations at ScaleCon 2019.

Click the link below to watch Rita's full, highly-rated presentation at ScaleCon 2019: 

Associated Resources:


Download Rita's slides here.
Download the 1-page worksheet here.
View / purchase has Rita's new book "Seeing Around Corners" on Amazon.
Visit Rita McGrath's website.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence In Early Struggle and Fun

emotional-intelligenceIn the early stages – from Early Struggle through Fun, most organizations have strong, unconsciously innate, built-in emotional intelligence.

Because the organization is small and centrally controlled (usually by a strong founder/owner[s]), there is nowhere to hide for anyone with poor EI. People who ‘don’t fit’ are usually expunged – office gossip, manipulative power plays and emotionally dysfunctional behavior is easily seen and dealt with.

When and if someone does exhibit emotionally dysfunctional behavior, the response is usually straightforward: Are they major revenue contributors, or not? If the former, they are often given leeway – indeed, revenue ‘big dogs’ are often given considerable scope for emotional dysfunction.

If, on the other hand, the employee is in a support function, the scope for ‘grandstanding’ is considerably less, and is usually not tolerated to the same degree.

During Early Struggle and Fun, there is usually no need, and nothing to be gained, in messing with what is happening naturally. Best leave well enough alone and let the organization grow (in size and emotional maturity) at it’s own pace, and in it’s own way.

The psycho-boss exception

An exception to the leave-well-enough-alone principle is when the founder/owner (or one or more of a founding group) is significantly deficient in Emotional Intelligence.

A pathologically manipulative, abusive, moody or otherwise emotionally disfunctional founder will cap the growth of the organization by poisoning the atmosphere and driving out stellar performers.

[In an interesting aside, many abusive founder/owners do achieve what can be seen as enormous growth in their organization by sheer willpower, and often, fear. They often achieve high rates of early growth, win awards and wow the business press, despite high employee turnover and persistent morale issues. But it rarely lasts.

What is misunderstood in these cases is how great the organization could be – truly world-beating and less transient – if the dysfunctional owner could address and correct their lack of emotional intelligence through coaching and/or mentoring.]

Prescription:

In Early Struggle and Fun, stay out of the way, except when an emotionally dysfunctional founder/owner threatens the success of the organization, in which case, coaching should be provided (assuming the individual is receptive, and someone has the power or influence to attempt the intervention…).

Next: Emotional Intelligence In Whitewater

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Whitewater

emotional-intelligenceAs the organization grows and becomes more complex, layers of management and ‘silo-d’ functions create more and more space for emotional dysfunction to appear and take root.

This happens in two specific ways:

The bitter veteran

1. Usually by the time the organization hits Whitewater, there is at least one or more individual(s) that many of the management team, and most employees, view as emotionally dysfunctional.

Often, though not always, this person is someone originally hired by the founder/owner, and who feels alienated by the changes in the organization as it grows. As their loyalty to the founder/owner becomes strained, they can become (at the extreme) bitter, defensive and passive-aggressive.

During Whitewater, this persons’ behavior – until now merely irritating – becomes increasingly disruptive, and stands in the way of alignment and team cohesion (a vital requirement for the transition to Predictable Success®).

If the organization genuinely wishes to push through Whitewater into Predictable Success®, at some point the emotionally dysfunctional individual(s) will need to be confronted and the issue resolved: either they accept the fact that the organization has changed – permanently – from what it was in the old days, and they ‘get on the bus’, or they accept that there is no place for them in the ‘new’ organization and leave.

[Note: if the individual in question is indeed an appointee of the founder/owner, this can be a prolonged and painful business. Often the founder / owner will duck the issue, seeking to find another role for the individual in which they might ‘fit better’ and become more productive. This can happen 2 or 3 times before the owner/founder finally concedes defeat and fires the individual.]

The emasculated ‘Big Dog’.

2. The second area of EI difficulty in Whitewater is with the ‘big dogs’ – the high-performance individuals who did the most to get the organization to where it is now.

Because they were part of the building of myths and legends during Fun, the big dogs have a large amount of ‘sweat equity’. Translation: They have a direct route to the founder/owner if they feel annoyed about anything.

Combine that with the high degree of autonomy and authority they had during Fun.

Now mix in the loss of autonomy that big dogs experience during Whitewater, caused by the rise of the Administrator and subsequent increasing implementation of systems, policies and procedures…

Result? A confused, concerned and increasingly emasculated big dog, who may choose to fight back in emotionally dysfunctional ways.

In many cases, the big dogs will learn to ‘play the new game’, and/or can be quietly directed to the ‘dinosaur park’ (see elsewhere for details on how to build and operate a dinosaur park), but occasionally one or more big dogs may become so emotionally dysfunctional that their bitterness, negativity, carping and back-biting threatens the cohesion of the team and the alignment of the organization.

In such a case, again the founder/owner may have trouble admitting to him or herself that their former superstar – previously so loyal and dependable – has in fact become dangerously dysfunctional andcannot be rescued. The founder/owner will often allow the matter to drag on for months, even years, prolonging Whitewater, and postponing the move into Predictable Success®.

Sooner or later, if the organization is to get to Predictable Success®, the truly emotionally dysfunctional big dogs – those that cannot learn to accept that the world has changed and that they have to ‘play nice’ – will have to be replaced.

Prescription:

In early Whitewater, diagnose those support staff and ‘big dogs’ that are exhibiting signs of low emotional intelligence in dealing with the turbulence and change in the organization. Provide resources for assessment and coaching / counseling. In late Whitewater, unresponsive individuals will have to be replaced if the organization is to achieve alignment and emerge in to Predictable Success®.

Next:EI In Predictable Success

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Predictable Success Stage

emotional-intelligence

In the Predictable Success stage, EI will be balanced and in harmony.

To stay there, two things must happen:

1. Senior management must watch for the danger signs that the organization is slipping back down into Whitewater, or forward, into Treadmill. See the paragraphs above and below for indicators that either might be happening.

2. Unlike Early Struggle and Fun, it can no longer be assumed or expected that the organization will display ‘unconscious competence’ in EI. The organization will be too large and too complex for EI to be maintained at a high level by itself.

Instead, the organization must become ‘consciously competent’ at EI – structures and programs put in place to maintain EI within the organization.

Prescription:

In Predictable Success, the organization must begin to formally train and coach key players (managers, team leaders and supervisors, as a minimum).

Next: EI In Treadmill.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Treadmill

emotional-intelligenceIn Treadmill, the organization has begun to lose its ‘mojo’.

The creativity, propensity for risk, openness to new ideas, an effective challenge function…all are stifled or eradicated altogether. In their place come meetings (and more meetings), Powerpoint decks, policies and procedures, checklists and large lists of people on the ‘cc’ line of every email (of which there are hundreds, thousands, a day, as people increasingly begin to operate in ‘CYA’ mode).

Management begins to emphasize volume and compliance over quality and creativity.

Dog food? Dishwater?

Employees begin to get the message that they are not meant to bring bad news to their superiors. To fit in, it becomes necessary to ‘drink your own dishwater’ – take the corporate kool-aid, eat your own dog food – choose your own metaphor…

Unsurprisingly, emotional intelligence becomes seriously distorted in this environment. People stop listening effectively to others.

Communication becomes ‘broadcast-only’ rather than a genuine feedback loop.

Written and verbal communication begins to scan like it was produced by a business b*ll-***t generator- acronyms, obscure verbiage, faddish business-speak replaces clear, simple communication.

Increasingly, employees are hired for their automaton skills (so they can pound out the hours on the Treadmill), rather than their interpersonal or EI abilities. Veterans learn that it’s simpler to complete the checklists and re-inforce management’s pre-conceptions, rather than ask hard questions and challenge the status quo.

Tin ears and institutional blindness

Gradually, the organization – which may well be espousing ‘family values’. ‘open-door policies’ and ‘honest communication’ throughout this entire process – develops an emotional ‘tin ear’, and becomes deaf to the nuances and flexibility required in dealing with employees, customers, suppliers, funders, shareholders.

If and when an organization wakens up and finds that it has drifted into Treadmill, emotional intelligence will be at a low level, institutionally.

This is in itself is one of the main reasons many organizations never recognize the fact that they are in Treadmill- they are lacking the EI capability necessary to see it.

Prescription:

First, the executive team, lead by the CEO / President, must recognize the fact that EI is lowand establish a clear goal of reversing the process. Without genuine, top-level endorsement and activity, there can be no effective change, and the organization will continue its slide into The Big Rut.

Secondly, led by the executive team, the organization must implement a formal program of assessment, training and coaching in emotional intelligence, right down to the level of the individual contributor.

Thirdly, the HR or OD department must implement an (at least annual) organization-wide assessment of the organizational EI ‘score’, and compare it to previous period, to ensure the organization is not slipping back into Treadmill again.

Next:EI In The Big Rut & Death Rattle.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence In The Big Rut and Death Rattle

emotional-intelligenceBy the time an organization has reached The Big Rut, EI is not only low – it has gone. Left the building. No longer necessary.

Think about the last time you had to interact with a bureaucracy – what was the level of EI in that interaction. I’ll gurantee it was either so non-existant as to be negligable, or it was so false you could almost smell the dry-erase markers from the training session everyone had been forced to attend a week earlier…

If challenged by any of the key stakeholder groups (employees, customers, suppliers, funders, shareholders) about the need for greater open-ness, two-way communication, less defensiveness, understanding shades of gray, relaxing the need for compliance and encouraging risk-taking and innovation, or any other EI related issues, senior management will ask for more information, inquire about specific examples, nod understandingly, empower a committee to investigate and report back, and do…precisely nothing.

Prescription:

One aspect of an organization in The Big Rut is that it is so deeply in denial about its faults that it has lost the ability to heal itself organically.

The only option is to sell the business, break it up, and/or swap out the leadership. An organization in The Big Rut cannot heal itself without dramatic external change.

ScaleCon 2019: Preview: Want to Know Where You Start Scaling Your Organization? It’s Not Where You Think

Over the decades that I've invested in helping leaders scale their organizations, I've uncovered one foundational principal that trumps all others, and it's this:

Scaling starts with you.

It's the four inches between our ears (and what goes on in there) that determines more than anything else whether or not you'll succeed in achieving your growth goals - not your business plan, not your product, service or offering, not even your team. It's you. Your mindset, your preconceptions and your biases.

Someone who knows this intimately and has (successfully) fought the inner battle to develop a growth mindset is Jeff Brodie. Jeff is the Lead Pastor of Connexus Church, one of North America’s most influential churches. He brings vision and leadership to Connexus’ multiple growing campuses  - and he's a keynote speaker at ScaleCon 2019, where he'll show how scaling your organization to the next level isn't just about growing your company, it’s about growing your own leadership.


Watch the short (13m) video below to hear more about Jeff and what he'll be sharing at ScaleCon 2019:

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ScaleCon 2019: Preview: Why You Should Put Your Face Mask on Before Assisting Others

The person who has contributed most to my personal development as a leader over the last two years isn't a management thinker, or a leadership coach, or even a productivity guru - it's my personal trainer and 'Chief Wellness Officer', Jen Gerasimas.

Jen is the founder of 7Core Wellness and creator of The Warrior Approach - and she's a keynote speaker at ScaleCon 2019, where she'll be explaining why (and how), if we are to be the best leader we can be - and the best leader our teams need us to be - we have to instill a personal level of self-care.

Watch the short (9m) video below to hear more about  Jen and what she'll be sharing at ScaleCon 2019!

Jen Gerasimas

Get a Free 1-hour Wellness Consultation With Jen!

The first 10 people to register for ScaleCon 2019 before Midnight on May 1st will receive a complimentary 1-hour wellness consultation with Jen! 

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