Blogs Archive - Predictable Success

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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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

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

Rita McGrath on How to See Around Corners

My good friend Rita McGrath is not only a highly esteemed professor of management at Columbia Business School, a world-ranked #1 business thinker, award-winning author and an incredible consultant who has worked with many of the most renowned organizations around the globe - she's also a keynote speaker at our upcoming conference, ScaleCon 2019!

In this brief interview with Les McKeown, Founder and CEO of Predictable Success, you'll get to know Rita, and learn how at ScaleCon she will be teaching us how to 'see around corners' and know what's coming next in your path to scale. Enjoy!

ScaleCon 2019

Brian Rempe on leading hyper growth in a fast-changing environment

Brian Rempe joined CivicPlus straight out of school a decade ago, as a, supervising a team of 3 people. Now, he's the President and CEO of the company, overseeing a team of 320+ - and he's also a keynote speaker at our upcoming conference, ScaleCon 2019!

At ScaleCon, Brian will be giving us a 'Report from the Trenches' - a no-holds-barred, inside look at the challenges of scaling a multi-faceted business in a fast-changing environment.

Check out this brief (8-minute) interview where Brian talks a little about the work CivicPlus does, his personal journey as a leader, and what he'll be sharing with us at ScaleCon 2019:

ScaleCon 2019

Touch Points and Teaching Are Central to the Success of ConvertKit

Email marketing is one of the pillars of digital marketing, and service providers come along all of the time. However, ConvertKit has been able to disrupt a seemingly commoditized market with its simplicity in design. Tune in to the audio interview between Les McKeown, Founder and CEO of Predictable Success and Nathan Barry, Founder and CEO of ConvertKit, and hear about the mission and impact this company has had on their industry.

podcast - convertkit nathan barry

ConvertKit is an email marketing platform for creators that sent more than seven and a half billion emails over the last five years, with its subscriber base of roughly 20,000 members (and counting). At only 35 years of age, Nathan has managed to build a thriving organization with unbelievable growth, a subscription model publicly showing one point 7 million in monthly recurring revenue!

One of the factors that sets ConvertKit apart is its transparency. If you haven’t heard, this is a company led by a Founder who teaches everything he knows, and publishes his own company data on a public dashboard for anyone interested. Wins, losses and everything in between – it’s all available for the public to review, analyze, and learn from.

Nathan shares the biggest impact that Predictable Success has had on him, and how important the Whitewater phase can be to the growth of any organization. He shares the evolution of his management and leadership style, and how different styles of conflict resolution can ultimately lead to less stress and better team management. Perhaps one of the most interesting things I learned about his company was his “unfair advantage” as he calls it, and how it is central to the culture of ConvertKit.

Listen in as Nathan shares his journey, from his homeschooled upbringing that fueled an entrepreneurial spirit, to the product launch that sparked the creation of ConvertKit. Hear why understanding the phases of Predictable Success can help you to feel “normal” and empowered to grow and succeed.

Ways You Can Listen:  (Running time is approximately 28 minutes.)


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Identifying a Gap and Going Deep Leads to Predictable Success

Many people start a business because they want the freedom that comes with launching their own venture. However, not many couples start by jumping off of a bridge! Meet Bryan and Shannon Miles, Co-Founders and Co-CEO’s of BELAY, a company that provides solutions to equip their clients with the confidence to climb higher. Their focus is in serving leaders, and it is evident by their passionate approach to virtual assistance.

podcast - convertkit nathan barry

After identifying a need in the marketplace, they made a conscious decision to focus on the one vertical that they were already experienced with, and go deep into that vertical to gain traction. Clearly this decision paid off. Their agility in the early days allowed them to take advantage of opportunities for expansion, most notably in the form of a single tweet that turned into their “Oprah moment” and launched the company into 25 different verticals.

When they upleveled their small business mindset and shifted from wanting to own the business instead of running the business, the game changed. When you understand phases of Predictable Success, you will be more prepared for the challenges that accompany growth, and you are better suited sustain the business for long-term success.

As Shannon so eloquently stated, “We fight so hard to stay in the Predictable Success phase because we want to create a sustaining, lasting company that our employees and clients and contractors can get behind.”

Listen in as Bryan and Shannon share their journey, from meeting in college to starting a family, leaving successful corporate careers, and cashing in their 401Ks to planning to scale to $50 million in the next 5 years.


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The Icarus Syndrome: 3 Warning Signs Every Leader Should See

By Les McKeown, CEO of Predictable Success
The Icarus SyndromeCall it the Icarus Syndrome: A once high-flying business leader finds they can’t get a break – at least not until their board hands them an enforced break, by way of a firing or a sabbatical.

How can it be that so many previously stellar CEOs suddenly can’t deliver the goods? Is it the rest of the world (or the rest of their organization) that is suddenly out of step?
More often than not, no – the person who is newly out of step is almost always the now-flailing CEO. And beware, you’re no less exempt from the Icarus Syndrome than were any of those celebrity CEOs.

The Warning Signs

Here’s how it happens: You build a business. You master it. You know every wrinkle, every nuance, every employee. You are personally involved in every major decision, and nothing of any significance happens without your say so. It’s as if you live in a zone of laser-like awareness about every aspect of your business. Until one day, none of this is any longer so – and the only person who doesn’t know it, is you.

Put it down to complexity. Complexity (or rather, to be precise, the aggregation of complexity over time) is a leadership killer. Like a frog slowly boiling to death in a pot of water, ever-increasing complexity takes you slowly, incrementally, but inexorably further and further from that ‘zone of awareness’ you lived in for so long. Over time you know less than you think you know, see less than you think you see, understand less than you think you understand.

And the kicker? You almost certainly don’t realize that any of this is happening. You still think you’re the font of all knowledge, the best person to make every decision.

There are three specific areas where your decision-making is impacted by the Icarus Syndrome:

1. What you know may still be right, but what you don’t know is how it connects with and impacts everything else.
So maybe you are still the best judge of how a new product, say, will land with your target demographic. After the growth of complexity, however, what you don’t know is (say) what the alternatives are for your customers out in the marketplace; or how difficult it is now (compared to ‘the early days’) to adapt a product after beta-testing; or how much your vaunted new product is cannibalizing your existing market.

Think of this as the ‘What you don’t know about what you do know’ category.

2. There’s tons of important stuff no one is telling you.

Then there’s the somewhat simpler category of ‘What you think you know, but you don’t’. This can be particularly dangerous. For example, you may well think that important Project Y is being headed up by Jo Soap, a stellar middle manager who you entirely trust to execute well, when in fact, that project was taken over by the untried and therefore high-risk Jim Colander weeks or months ago.

3. Your gut doesn’t work right any more.

If you’re in denial about whether or not you’re slipping in to the Icarus Syndrome, here’s a litmus test: How many recent decisions that you just ‘knew’ were right, didn’t work out? If the answer is more than one or two, then complexity is almost certainly rendering your visceral decision-making less and less effective. (This would be the ‘What you think you can intuit, but you can’t any longer’ category.)

That can’t-miss hire you made that flamed out? Icarus Syndrome. The product launch you dreamt up over a weekend in a flash of genius, but which died a death in the marketplace? Icarus. The big meeting with the potential customer you thought you’d wing easily, but which went south? You get the idea.

Complexity screws with the ability to manage viscerally. Don’t leave your gut behind, but put more of your brain in the mix to process all the new data you need to master in complexity.

How to Stop It

So, if you feel you’re drifting toward your own Icarus-like fall from grace because of the increase in complexity, what should you do to stop the drift and regain control? Start with these three imperatives:

1. Delegate (but verify).

It’s time for you to start passing off decision-making authority to the folks who really do have the information needed to make high-quality decisions. Use this phrase as your mantra: “Only make the decisions that only you can make.”

Take an objectively hard look at the decisions you’re still making yourself, and you’ll almost certainly find that there are many that you should not be making anymore. (To get even better feedback on this, ask your colleagues, peers and direct reports, “What am I keeping hold of that I should really be delegating to someone else?” Then stand back.) Oh, and make sure you institute a fail-safe accountability process to give you regular feedback, so you don’t go crazy with worry in the early days that things aren’t getting done.

2. Slow down and do the work.
In our business, we have something we label a ‘drive-by review’– it’s where someone has been asked to review a document, or read some stuff ahead of a meeting, and they give it a cursory glance and email it back with ‘Works for me’ or something similar. Drive-bys are the on-ramps on the road to a full-fledged Icarus syndrome.

Do the work. Read stuff – with your full attention. Sit in on information-sharing meetings. Go meet your people and ask hard questions. Listen to long answers.

3. Make remaining decisions in teams.

After you’ve effectively delegated much of your decision-making (see 1 above), run whatever decisions are left through this prism: “What’s the best (i.e., optimal, most efficient and effective) team to make this decision?” If the genuinely truthful answer is “Just me, on my own”, then fine, make the decision on your own. If it isn’t (and I can guarantee that the honest answer in 80% of the cases won’t be ‘Just me’), then find an effective way to get that team together.

At root, complexity in organizations is the primary contributor to the Icarus Syndrome (read: Getting yourself fired out of your own job). Don’t let it happen to you.

Learn the decision-making strategies your business needs to beat growing complexity!

Amazon and Whole Foods: Why No Strategy Is Sometimes the Best Strategy

By Les McKeown, CEO of Predictable Success

Amazon’s just-announced purchase of Whole Foods reminded me of the time, years ago, when I started writing articles like these. Back then, I faced the same challenge every wanna-be regular writer faces – what the heck do I write about week after week?

There’s a plethora of advice out there on just that topic, but my favorite idea-generating device was one I came up with myself (and subsequently discovered wasn’t so original after all – many other writers use it, too): Grab two seemingly unconnected subjects and try to find a way to connect them. (See, for example, ‘What app would your business be‘.)

I found that even if that off-kilter noodling didn’t in itself generate something helpful and useable, I’d almost always find myself in some business-growth thought pattern that would. (See, for example, this series on leadership styles.)

Find that Next Growth Step

Sometimes when you’re in Predictable Success, the next step – the right way forward, the right next growth strategy – isn’t just sitting there in plain sight. A cool, logical process won’t always deliver what’s needed to keep alive that exquisite tension between entrepreneurial vision and scalable systems and processes. Building Heroic Leadership on top of High-Quality Team-Based Decision-Making (HQTBDM) isn’t always a result of taking an obvious next step.

Sometimes, like a business-model version of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, you’ve just got to take two seemingly unconnected things and smash them together. Sometimes it works – like when a fringe computer maker with tiny market share decides to make a…phone. Oftentimes, it doesn’t.
By all accounts, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos made the decision to acquire Whole Foods – and executed the deal – in about six weeks. That’s a nanosecond in corporate planning time for most large organizations. It’s clear he has some idea of what he wants to do with the chain, but has far from worked out the details.

Boost Your Odds of Success

In these ‘WTH, let’s do it and work the details out later’ deals, the difference between success and failure lies – I believe – in the Most Senior Executive (MSE)’s ability to first seize an opportunity, then execute on the basis of an already-built, robust growth platform.
I’ve written in the past about Mr. Bezos’s splendid intuition, and although Amazon doesn’t get everything right, I believe Bezos will intuit himself (and Amazon) to increased Predictable Success with this acquisition.

For the rest of us, it’s great to have railroad tracks to run on.

21 Signs Your Team is Engaging Effectively

Each day, employees throughout your organization are meeting and making decisions that will impact your bottom line. The question is, do they know how to interact and engage effectively? Is the company culture conducive to making (and implementing) good team-based decisions, at every level?

Here’s a checklist that we use to help organizations to assess this key quality. While it isn’t all-encompassing, it’ll give you a good start.

How do you rank with each of these?

1. Meetings about important matters are regularly convened by people other than senior management.
2. Meetings start even if the ‘big dogs‘ aren’t there on time.
3. High-quality solutions often emerge near the start or middle of meetings, and rarely in a rush at the end.
4. Participants in meetings engage in rich discussions with each other, not just with ‘the chair’ or ‘turn about’.
5. For a bystander looking in at a meeting, it’s often impossible to tell who’s nominally in charge.
6. There are few powerpoint-type presentations, as key information has already been circulated and assumed as read.
7. Anecdote is not treated as data.
8. The group self-polices itself, gently but firmly calling out bloviation, passive-aggressiveness and the sin of non-participation.
9. Analysis trumps prejudice.
10. Analysis informed by experience trumps presupposition.
11. Decision isn’t conflated with execution – time is taken to establish clear, actionable next steps for every decision.
12. Meetings end early as frequently as they run long.
13. The group reaches out to others not in the meeting for relevant data or opinion as necessary.
14. Meetings can’t be rendered impotent or irrelevant by the absence of a single individual.
15. Participants rarely allow themselves to be distracted by competing imperatives.
16. Humor and small talk are used as pacing mechanisms, not as work avoidance.
17. Unanimity isn’t required to make a fully supported decision.
18. Once a meeting is concluded, participants take cabinet responsibility for the decisions made – no eye rolling at, or sandbagging of, decisions an individual may not have personally agreed with.
19. An understanding of (and respect for) different management styles drastically reduces the degree of personality conflict.
20. Open discussion is deep and rich, ruthlessly constructive, and not ad hominem.
21. The single goal of all participants is to do what’s best for the enterprise.

How can you instill effective team-based decision-making at every level of your organization? Our Peak Performance Program will show you how and accelerate the process. Learn more here.