Soft Skills...

BAMM_20190626-150042_1
…are the new Hard Skills.” Our conversation around the emerging importance of soft skills has, to this point, focused on their impact to the individual leader and in general terms of the impact to the organization which the leader leads. In this issue, we will directly address the importance of soft skills in the context of achieving sustainable organizational success using the Business Alignment Maturity Model © ( BAMM ) outlined in our “ The Missing Piece… ” series of books. As a quick refresher, BAMM is an organizational business model outlining the five stages of business alignment necessary to create sustainable success. Whether you are a small business leader/owner, a leader of a corporate business unit/team or a non-profit leader, your organization must align all its moving parts in order to achieve the desired results – over and over again! So let’s explore how soft skills factor into this sustainable...
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“Strap yourselves in…

…we’re going to jump to light speed!” I still remember the audience’s reaction to this scene in the Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. We had never seen anything like it on the big screen until then and, of course, now it seems almost archaic! Today’s 21 st Century Business environment can feel very much like everything is moving at perpetual light speed. It is also this metaphor we use to highlight the first of five Keys to Success initially mentioned in last month’s newsletter ( click here to read ). The first Key to Success is Get Ready to Warp (another name for Light Speed). Simply stated, it is not the ability to adapt that matters as much as the speed at which the leader is able to adapt in order to stay relevant. Here are three things a 21 st Century Leader can do to stay relevant: How...
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“Adapt…

…or Die” I was recently reintroduced to Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch’s book by the same name as the title.  I have always liked the bluntness of the message, especially as it applies to Organizational Culture. The importance of the value and impact of culture begins with understanding what culture really is and that it has multiple moving parts.  Once we define what culture is, we can then look at how culture affects organization execution externally as well as how culture impacts organizational operations internally.  As leaders continue to fully grasp the nuances of 21 st Century Leadership with all its changes, one truth remains constant; Culture will ultimately determine whether success is fleeting or sustainable! Culture is defined as the system of shared values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that develops within an organization and guides the behavior of the members.  Culture exists on some level with or without leadership doing anything...
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The invention of the ship…

…was also the invention of the shipwreck! Effective Leadership involves among other things a sound decision making process. As it is a process it involves looking at not only the decisions immediate impact but the longer-term effects as well. As this quote from French Philosopher, Urbanist and Cultural Theorist Paul Virilio suggests, there is casualty in every leadership decision. For context, the decisions discussed here are primarily focused on the ones with the broadest impact to the organization and the strategy. Understanding the impact the decisions have in a broader sense is the challenge every leader faces multiple times a day! There are always Pros and Cons – The first thing to understand is that every decision has pros and cons. Seems obvious, yet I routinely see leaders making decisions only based on the upside of their decision and falling victim to their own confirmation biases. A common occurrence is a...
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A Business Does Well…

…what its Leaders Measure One of the challenges in today’s business environment is the ability to show measurable progress in whatever endeavor the business is involved in. Entrepreneurs wear so many hats, they struggle with where to focus their metrics. Non-profit leaders get caught up in activities without understanding their measurable impact. Corporate leaders create a false sense of security because all they see of the business is through report-driven metrics. All of this to answer the simple question of “How do you know your business is achieving desired results?” For me, the best answer has always included using the Balanced Scorecard approach introduced by Robert Kaplan and David Norton in their 1996 book, “The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action”.  However, whichever measurement tool and/or philosophy you use, there are two tenets we use in helping clients identify areas of process improvement and quality that belong in any discussion of...
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Leveraging What Was...

... to What Will Be This is the time of year, for better or for worse, many of us take stock of the last twelve months and determine on some level what the next twelve months will look like.  While ultimately I personally favor a rolling goal planning process that is continuous over shorter intervals, most people still favor using the down time during the holidays to do their annual goal setting.  Most studies show the success rate for New Year’s Resolutions is less than 10%, so regardless of whether we set our goals annually or more or less frequently, how do we approach the process of reflecting and resetting?  The following is a structure anyone, regardless of business, markets served, title or level of experience can use to set themselves up for a successful 2017! What was… …accomplished in 2016 that advanced your business? Before we dive into the things...
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You Don't Know SWOT!

Of the many lessons I’ve learned throughout my career, one that has generated sustainable success is the effective use of the SWOT Analysis.  For those readers who are not familiar with the SWOT Analysis, it is a flexible tool that helps the leader identify internal S trengths and W eaknesses as well as external O pportunities and T hreats (hence the acronym).  It can be used to assess individual circumstances and/or organizational situations with a very straightforward process.  The challenges for both frequent SWOT users or those leaders just getting started with the tool is that most fail to realize the full value of the SWOT process.  Most only realize half the value by ignoring the most effective part of the tool! In a traditional SWOT Analysis, the leader creates four lists containing the collective insights on the internal Strengths (list #1) and Weaknesses (list #2) along with the external Opportunities...
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When things start going wrong…

…do not forget your main goal is to fly the plane. When I was learning to become a licensed pilot in Alaska as a teenager, part of the process was learning what to do when something goes wrong with the plane.  Instead of talking about what I would do in a given situation, I actually had to demonstrate what I would do in any given emergency situation and show the flight instructor I could do the right thing correctly.  That way, when a pilot is faced with the reality of trouble, they know exactly what to do.  Practicing how to recover from stalls (when the plane won't stay in the air) and emergency landings are a normal part of learning to fly.  No matter what the challenge, one thing a pilot can never forget while troubleshooting the problem; keep flying the airplane ! So too, when leaders are faced with challenges...
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Strategy…

…is a series of expedients Helmuth Von Moltke was regarded as one of the greatest military strategists of the late 19 th Century.  In the military context, his statement above meant no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.  Strategy becomes one of extensive preparation for all possible outcomes.  Flash forward nearly 150 years and business and military leaders alike find themselves in a similar environment where the key success factor is adaptability.  It is still about successfully preparing for all possible contingencies they might encounter in their area of engagement. So what does it take to plan for a series of expedients?  In my experience in the military and in business, I’ve found 3 common elements of successful adaptability: Know Your Environment – The military continuously updates threat assessments based on changes in enemy activity.  Successful businesses routinely update their environmental assessment and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis. ...
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Entrepreneurial DNA

For many entrepreneurs, a metric of success is staying in business for five years or more.  Having successfully crossed that threshold, one of the reasons is being aware of, and managing to, our strengths and weaknesses as entrepreneurs.  This month’s book review is from someone who is a resident expert on entrepreneurial styles or DNA.  In " Entrepreneurial DNA " , Joe Abraham explores the four key profiles of entrepreneurs and why it is important to understand not all entrepreneurs are created equal. My favorite section is Part 2 (of 3) where he takes the reader through an in depth profile of each DNA style and then strategies to optimize your business based on your style.  After reading this section, you will be sure to recognize your primary style and possibly a secondary style. You will also better understand how to leverage your strengths and execute strategies to minimize your entrepreneurial...
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"If You Can’t Describe What You Do as a Process...

...You Don’t Know What You Are Doing." These words from W. Edwards Deming, considered the godfather of organizational process improvement, are a great way to introduce the third element of the Total Leadership Model. To put it in perspective, we previously introduced Strategy as the foundation of the model and have discussed Leadership Development as one of the two key supporting elements of the model. This month we look at Operational Improvement, the Process side of Total Leadership, as the other supporting element crucial to being an effective leader in today’s business environment. Everything we do in our organization be it public, private, non-profit, large or small is a process. Everything we do has inherent interdependencies with what happens before during and after each task and function we execute. And because each task and function we execute has an outcome, it becomes a point in which we can measure the desired...
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"If You Can’t Describe What You Do as a Process...

...You Don’t Know What You Are Doing." These words from W. Edwards Deming, considered the godfather of organizational process improvement, are a great way to introduce the third element of the Total Leadership Model. To put it in perspective, we previously introduced Strategy as the foundation of the model and have discussed Leadership Development as one of the two key supporting elements of the model. This month we look at Operational Improvement, the Process side of Total Leadership, as the other supporting element crucial to being an effective leader in today’s business environment. Everything we do in our organization be it public, private, non-profit, large or small is a process. Everything we do has inherent interdependencies with what happens before during and after each task and function we execute. And because each task and function we execute has an outcome, it becomes a point in which we can measure the desired...
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Hope is Not a Strategy!

We cannot hope for success! Yet how many times a day do we say so without even realizing it? In what has become one of my all time favorite quotes, this title of Rick Page’s book is a constant reminder to me that whatever we successfully do as leaders, we have to do with a defined purpose that leverages all of our available resources to achieve our goals. In the nearly 20 years of applying this idea to a plethora of businesses, I have come to realize how important business alignment is to achieving sustainable success. In “ The Missing Piece: Achieving Sustainable Success Through Business Alignment ”, business alignment is defined as “…the process of matching the organization’s tactics to the available or readily acquirable resources to achieve its strategic objectives.” The real question is “How do we do that in our business, especially in today’s challenging business environment?” The...
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Are you aligned with your customer’s business and how do you know?

Last month we took an internal view of business alignment using the Pittsburgh Steelers and a celebrity chef as examples of how everything within our business must be in sync, or aligned to produce superior results. In this month’s issue we will take an external view of business alignment. This view uses the same principles of the Business Alignment Model and applies it to your customers, suppliers, distributors and anyone else outside your business you depend on for your success. For the moment, let’s focus on your customers. Every customer you have, whether business or consumer has a purpose and/or strategy behind their buying decisions. They look to achieve their own results by way of goals establish to succeed in whatever circumstances brought them to you. A business customer may have a more deliberate and pronounced Strategy, Structure and Goals whereas for the consumer customer these may be more implied, but...
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Change Occurs At The Outer Edge of Your Comfort Zone

As we wind down 2012, many of us are reflecting on what we accomplished in 2012 and what changes we will make to continue our successes into 2013. In my own work with small and medium businesses as well as non-profit organizations, managing change is the most common topic of conversation; and why not? The uncertainty that remains in the economic and political environments have leaders in the unenviable position of making the next right strategic decision in the face of all this uncertainty. How do leaders mitigate this uncertainty enough to make the crucial decisions before them? While there are many moving parts to a successful business strategy, two elements of leading any organization is understanding the general environment you are competing in as well as knowing how your current capabilities match up to that environment. Key to a leader’s strategic thinking process includes a recurring assessment of their general...
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The Art of Progress is the Preserve Order amid Change and Preserve Change amid Order"

This quote by Alfred North Whitehead symbolizes the leadership challenge faced by businesses of all sizes and industries in today's competitive economic landscape. The implication in this quote is the balance required maintaining some measure of order in business organizations and plans while at the same time identify and execute change strategies in order to achieve real progress. My experience suggests many businesses are doing one aspect of this process well but struggling to do the other and/or both to full effectiveness. So how does today's leader manage order and change simultaneously? The answer lies in the business Strategy. Simply stated, your business or organizational strategy dictates how your business or organization competes in its industry and markets. Having created strategies in businesses from large corporations to small entrepreneurial, mature and start-up, for-profit and non-profit, I find this definition of strategy to hold true universally. The strategy is a by-product of...
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The Art of Progress is the Preserve Order amid Change and Preserve Change amid Order"

This quote by Alfred North Whitehead symbolizes the leadership challenge faced by businesses of all sizes and industries in today's competitive economic landscape. The implication in this quote is the balance required maintaining some measure of order in business organizations and plans while at the same time identify and execute change strategies in order to achieve real progress. My experience suggests many businesses are doing one aspect of this process well but struggling to do the other and/or both to full effectiveness. So how does today's leader manage order and change simultaneously? The answer lies in the business Strategy. Simply stated, your business or organizational strategy dictates how your business or organization competes in its industry and markets. Having created strategies in businesses from large corporations to small entrepreneurial, mature and start-up, for-profit and non-profit, I find this definition of strategy to hold true universally. The strategy is a by-product of...
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Are we there yet?

How many times have we heard that refrain from our children (or maybe from our significant other!?!) when their impatience got the best of them? Or maybe we’ve said it ourselves in different situations for the same reason. In most cases, it is because they don’t have a sense of time or speed relative to setting correct expectations of arrival. In the business sense, whether for-profit or non-profit, we find ourselves either half way through our operational year or possibly just beginning a new one. We are likely compiling data telling us how well our business has performed over the last 6 months because of that natural halfway or transition point. Or are we? This issue focuses on the all-important role of measurements as a crucial element of effective business alignment. We are talking about not only what we measure on a regular basis, but also how we measure what we...
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