Simple Is Powerful and Effective

Simple Is Powerful and Effective

““No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element of thinking.” ~ J.P. Morgan

SIMPLE IS POWERFUL AND EFFECTIVE

One task that binds every business leader together is problem solving. We are the Ann Landerses of our respective fields, expected to be the silver bullet to slay difficulties. The sheer number of problems we solve in a day takes a mental toll, even if simple answers are sufficient. One method to reduce the mental fatigue is to ask that every problem that is dropped in your lap is explained to you as if you were a five-year-old. Those who have been around small children for more than ten minutes have been forced to explain complex ideas in simple terms. We also encapsulate our explanations to the wee ones as succinctly as possible, because the attention span of a five-year-old is on par with that of a busy executive.

This simplification process can initially feel silly and perhaps even maddening, but a funny thing happens when you break any problem or idea down into its elemental or fundamental components. The momentous bogeyman of a problem becomes smaller and more manageable. The moving parts of the problem can then be triaged to focus on groups of smaller solutions that will form the basis of the plan.

Those that have come to you for a solution are forced to reexamine the problem in a different context as well. The act of simplifying the problem and presenting it to you in that form will often guide the team member into formulating their own solution. At that point, if no additional guidance is needed, your mental energy is spared. Your team member has been taught a skill that will eventually lead to fewer problems being laid at your feet. In that case, everyone wins!

Consider this …

1. What problems are “sitting on your desk” currently that need to be addressed?

2. How can you simplify those problems down to their fundamental elements so that they can be more easily understood and solved?

3. Bring your team together and engage them in the process of problem simplification and solution design.

4. Create a regular forum (weekly, monthly, etc.) to bring your team together to simplify and solve the problems at hand.

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in Top Performer’s Field Guide)

Gut Check

“A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.”~ Frank Capra

Gut Check

Intuitive thought is given a bad rap in a data-driven world. We can’t take our peers through a spreadsheet quantifying “that gut feeling” we have about a particular decision point. To say you’re relying on intuition feels like an excuse for the unprepared, but your history with gut instinct tells a different story. How many times after taking a test did you look at the results and think, “I knew I should have gone with C”? Your first instinct was to pick one answer, but you over analyzed the choices inevitably picking the wrong one. “I should have gone with my gut,” is the near-audible response when you see the red marks on the test.

According to a 2007 study conducted by the University College London, there’s something to gut instinct. Participants in the study were asked to identify a rotated symbol in a field of 650 identical symbols. Those that quickly decided which symbols were rotated were more accurate than those who examined the screen closely. The only explanation researchers could postulate was that snap decisions were a result of participants’ subconscious pointing to the rotated symbol. 

Our brains, after all, perform more functions than we’re aware of. Millions of autonomic functions are handled without our conscious knowledge every day. Is it so difficult to believe that the lifetime of stored memories and experiences congeal into a gut instinct without the painstaking conscious decision-making process?

We often exercise the “trust but verify” motto within our business practices, so hold your intuition accountable. Track those times you go against your gut feeling and monitor the outcomes. If the trend leans toward your intuitive decisions being correct, perhaps you should listen to your gut more often

Consider this …

1. How trustworthy is your own gut instinct?

2. In what types of circumstances are you prone to get strong vibes or gut instincts?

3. How can you favor your gut instincts while also holding yourself accountable for quality decisi n-making?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in Top Performer’s Field Guide)

To Decide or Not to Decide?

““The way to develop decisiveness is to start right where you are, with the very next question you face.” ~ Napoleon Hill

To Decide or Not to Decide?

There’s a little red blinking light that goes of in the corner of our eye when we are asked to decide. The longer we pause in coming up with a solution or making a decision, that blinking light flashes faster and faster. They’re waiting… They need to know… now!

Here’s a news flash: every decision does not have to be made on the spot. Just like saying “no,” there is a power in taking the time to decide when an answer is not immediately necessary. Many “of -the-cuff ” decisions can be terrible ideas that spawn from the perceived pressure exerted on you by the person seeking an answer. Should you delay making a decision, set a timetable that your response will be given and stick to it.

What you have actually done by delaying a decision is practiced time management. You have delineated how critical the problem is by setting your own timetable. You have the luxury of contemplating, researching, or asking advice in setting your decision timetable. All of this, of course, is based on your accurately triaging the problem at hand. Deciding if you should purchase printer toner from another supplier is vastly different from being faced with a Hindenburg-sized disaster.

If you are delaying because you have trouble making decisions, that’s another issue. In those instances, delaying can be a crutch. If you have a pattern of latent decisiveness, it must be addressed. You cannot always rely on the luxury of time. However, taking time to reflect and research options is not necessarily being indecisive. You are indecisive if you do not follow up with that decision or waffle on a decision you’ve already made. Henry Kissinger once said, “Competing pressures tempt one to believe that an issue deferred is a problem avoided; more often, it is a crisis invited.” Poignant words for those who often delay their decisions.

Consider this …

1. Briefly describe your pattern of decision-making. Are you normally decisive? Indecisive?

2. Reflect on a decision you made too quickly—one that ended up being the wrong decision.

3. Now reflect on a decision you delayed—one that ended up being a crisis because of your indecisiveness.

4. Now reflect on an impending decision. Take the steps to ensure this one is the right one!

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide)

Really, a Section on Meeting Notes?

“When your heart speaks, take good notes.”~ Judith Campbell

Really, a Section on Meeting Notes?

Taking meeting notes is probably as Business 101 as it gets. Yes, I take notes during meetings … let’s skip this chapter. Not so fast grasshopper. Yeah, you take notes, but are you taking the right notes? Yes, I note deadlines, contact information, blah, blah, blah. Did you note that your client’s son has a piano recital next Thursday? Was there a sticky note about the administrative assistant’s favorite pastry? If those aren’t part of your note-taking skills, you might want to read on.

It’s no secret that small personal connections with clients can make the difference between just pounding the pavement and bringing home the deal. Calling your client Friday morning to see how little Johnny’s piano recital went or bringing a piece of baklava the next time you’re in the office could go a long way toward sealing the deal … toward securing someone’s business. If price, service, and quality are equal, who are you most likely to place an order with? The person who sent you a handpicked and signed birthday card, or the person who only calls to see if you’ve run out of widgets?

Making client, or even team member, connections on this level gives an added value to the relationship experience. As you probably deal with hundreds of people a week, keep a short list of personal follow-up items as part of your meeting prep. This is not meant to be a creepy, stalkerish list of inappropriate information. With the sheer number of contacts you likely have, a reminder mechanism of this value-added proposition is necessary. Over time, as you build strong, trust-based relationships with your prospects, clients, and colleagues, the need for these types of memory joggers will wane. Until it does, these notes could mean the difference between “so-so” and being stellar!

Consider this …

1. Name your top three clients and your top two internal stakeholders.

2. Now, write down three important facts or “nuances” you know about each one of them … things that are important to THEM.

3. Now, list your top ten external clients and your top ten internal stakeholders. Make it your mission to learn what’s important to them.

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in Top Performer’s Field Guide)

Words Are Tools: Use the Right One for the Right Job

“There is a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together.”~ Josh Billings

Words Are Tools: Use the Right One for the Right Job

There is a transformative power in the language we use with our teams. If you don’t believe that words are important, why do news stories waft across our feeds about a group calling for the ban of a popular book? Why do companies now have “talent management” departments instead of human resources or personnel departments? It is because the way ideas are communicated carry weight. In our businesses, the power of words sets the standard in our team’s mental state. Consider a team member who comes to you with an idea you can’t quite wrap your head around. There is a huge difference between saying, “I don’t understand a word you’ve said; tell me again” and “I’m not clear on some points; let’s go over it one more time to make sure I understand.” The first response’s language might make your team member reluctant to come to you with ideas, whereas the second statement lets your team member know you’re invested in their opinion. Furthermore, the first statement implies a problem with the idea or the manner in which it was presented. The second statement suggests the problem is with understanding of the receiver (me). 

The structure of our language to team members should always hold the connotations of encouragement and growth rather than criticism and dead ends. That is the difference between saying, “What if we…” versus “That’s not possible” when a clunker is thrown into the mix. The recipient is challenged when faced with a “what if ” and given permission to continue their line of thought. “That’s not possible” automatically tells the recipient their idea was not valid, and they will become guarded before speaking again.

If your language choices normally roll toward the dead-end spectrum, it’ll take some practice to change your habits in that regard. It’s been said that actions take 10,000 repetitions to form a habit (to become cataloged as “muscle memory”)— the same concept is true with language choices. Develop your own personalized set of encouragement-centric language and practice its usage. This may sound contrived, but as a leader, you literally set your team’s tone via your language

Consider this …

1. Identify the common words you use when expressing disagreement with someone or when giving constructive feedback.

2. Highlight the negative terms or phrases that seem to be habitual for you.

3. Identify replacement words or alternatives to these overly negative terms or phrases that are much more positive, or at the least, neutral.

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide)

Train to Win

“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.”~ Navy SEAL adage

train to win

Any discussion of performance is bound to dredge up sports analogies, but the connection between excellence in business and athletics is more tangible than you might first think. The meld of mind and body is unquestioned in the sports arena, but we often discount this bond when discussing business performance. Why should that be on our radar? Unless we’re sprinting to catch a connecting f ight, there are not many occasions your 100-yard dash time matters in the daily grind of the nine to five (Wait, who works nine to five anyway? That’s a subject for another chapter.)

A 2007 University of Georgia study found a positive link between fitness and traits associated with success. Better focus, better follow-through, and higher levels of confidence were all attributed to either starting or increasing one’s physical fitness regimen. The benefits of diet and exercise shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has had a checkup in the last thirty years. What is surprising is that more professionals don’t follow up on this advice.

A component of reaching the pinnacle of one’s profession is to secure advantages. Communications, decision-making, process flow are all areas we twist and tweak for optimal performance in order to secure our business an advantage. So why do we not take the time to give ourselves the advantages physical fitness can bestow? It’s hard. I don’t know how. I’ll look foolish. We accept those same excuses for fitness that we would never accept in a business setting. If we accept those
justifications in lieu of pursuing the activities that will certainly improve our health and longevity, we will eventually accept those same excuses in our professional life.

Top performance is about a lifestyle of success, not just wins in the boardroom. The quicker you understand that the quicker you’ll be on your way to securing whatever brass ring you have in mind.

 

Consider this …

1. On a scale of one to ten (with one being undesirable and ten being highly desirable), how would you rate your current level of physical fitness?

2. List three areas (weight, strength, endurance, toughness, etc.) relative to your physical condition that you’d like to improve.

3. Make a plan to improve in ONE of those areas over the next thirty days.

 

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Making Quality Personal

“Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification cation of design, manufacturing … layout, processes, and procedures.”~ Tom Peters

clear your desks

Does the phrase “process quality” make your head spin? Do acronyms like ISO, TQM, PDCA, BPR, and OQM and the associated flowcharts and hours in hotel banquet halls watching PowerPoints make you wonder if you will ever implement the new gold standard for evaluation? Put away the checklists and certification manuals for a moment. Let’s start of with a new acronym for any process quality procedure, KISS (Keep it simple, stupid).

Your natural inclination for certification or recertification in any of these methodologies is to run back to your team, shouting, “Here’s what we’ve got to do by X date!” Passing out checklists like they’re Halloween candy will only serve to overload your team. As the kids today say, “You need to slow your roll.” The first question your team members will ask is, “How am I supposed to get this done with X, Y, and Z on my plate?” Be ready to answer this question by distilling the necessary actions for each of your team members (as well as the rationale) and be proactive by providing an individual plan for each team member’s success.

Make this plan as simple as possible for your team members. Assign compliance tasks that are tangential to the work team members are already performing. Use the buddy system where possible to complement team members’ strengths and weaknesses. Above all else, your individual plans should convey the tangible benefits each team member will receive by implementing the process quality procedures—improved efficiencies, increased customer satisfaction, or any other trigger that will get a team member excited about the process. No one likes to view another checklist as busy work so the folks upstairs can tout a certification

The more you simplify the methodology and explain the rewards to your team, the easier any implementation or recertification will be. If you’re a startup and you’re thinking this particular accelerator doesn’t apply to you, know that quality, repeatable processes are critical to any scalable business or
innovation. Ignore them at your peril …

Consider this …

1. Take some time to identify the top five business processes in your business or organization that need to be improved, standardized, and documented.

2. Now identify the various resources available from which you can learn the best way to improve, standardize, and document those critical processes.

3. Bring your team into the learning and planning process. Get them on board, tell them why, solicit their input, and work together to make these top five processes the best in the business. Once you’re done, move on to the next five, and the next five, and so on.

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide)

Avocado Toast And Mocha Lattes

“If you live like no one else, later, you can live like no one else.”~ Dave Ramsey

Avocado Toast And Mocha Lattes

Tim Gurner, a luxury property developer in Melbourne, Australia, made headlines in 2017 by suggesting young people who consistently spent their money on coffee and avocado toast couldn’t afford to purchase homes. While Gurner’s comments raised the ire of millennials, he’s not wrong. Every dollar spent on high-end consumables is one less dollar to invest in tangible assets. Futures are not built on empty Starbucks cups. Those who hold spending habits, as Gurner described, have forgotten that sound financial and business principles should be applied to create personal wealth. T e practices of expense minimization, asset allocation, and revenue growth translate equally between home and office.

Many of the 1 percent—the uber-rich—translate these practices in their personal lives. Warren Bufett still lives in the home he bought in 1958. David Cheriton, Stanford professor turned Google stock profit billionaire, cuts his own hair and drives an old VW. Dish Network founder, Charlie Ergen packs a brown bag lunch for work. Aside from being enormously wealthy, these individuals have another common trait. All their parents grew up during the Great Depression and imparted lessons of frugality born out of a life or death level necessity.

More importantly than thrift, the bigger Depression-era example given to these men was that the good times can, and will, come to an end. You might have weathered the financial crisis of 2007–08 and feel like you can survive anything. As bad as that calamity was, the Great Depression was go out and hunt a possum for dinner bad. I guarantee anyone living the high life in 1926 wished they had cut back on their avocado toast intake to prepare for the future.

It’s often said to, “expect the best, but plan for the worst.” Our personal finances should follow this maxim. Your success will buy you security in lean times and is worth far more than an oil drum of mocha lattes.

Consider this …

1. Take an inventory of your personal financial life. On a scale of one to ten (one being awesome and ten being awful), how would you rate it?

2. Where would you like to be, financially, in five years?

3. What steps should you begin taking NOW in order to get you one-ffith of the way there over the next twelve months?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in Top Performer’s Field Guide)

The Power of You

“No one ever made a dif erence by being like everyone else.”~ P. T. Barnum

the power of you

 “There is a subtle misconception that crops up when one reads books like The Innovator’s Field Guide. When faced with examples of the business community’s elite performers there is a tendency to think their methods will spell success for you. We fall into the same reasoning when reading books that outline a specific step-by step method to achieving your dreams. The authors of those types of books are successful and, by golly, it should work for me too. So, you change your management style or follow the steps only to f nd you’ve only succeeded in creating changes that haven’t netted the results you hoped for. How can this be? It worked for those individuals, but why are those tactics not working for you?

It could be that there is one critical component to following any example or methodology for success—you. Success comes from what new ideas and exemplars unlock within your unique set of skills and talents, not from being a carbon copy of someone else. Imagine if Jeff Bezos cloned Henry Ford’s early philosophy of, “A customer can have a car painted any color he wants as long as it’s black”? Amazon would offer a tenth of the items it currently does, and no one would think twice about Bezos’s business acumen.

There are authentic, innovative powers inside of you that should never be discounted or even remotely set aside. Are there behaviors and practices that will help you evolve into the success you want to be? Absolutely! There are lessons to be learned and systems to make your path easier. However, pathways to success are as unique as you are. Never forget that you have the power to adapt, evolve, and refine the ideas of others into your vision of success. That’s the power of you and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

Consider this …

1. What key strengths or unique, innovative powers do you possess?

2. In what ways do you utilize these powers in your everyday work?

3. In what ways could you better leverage your uniqueness in pursuit of the key results you’re looking to achieve?

 

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Powered by Teamwork

““Building product is not about having a large team to manage. It is about having a small team with the right people on it.”~ Fred Wilson

powered by teamwork

Fact: a true iconoclast is unicorn rare. Popular culture has sold us on the idea that innovators dig within their souls and against all the odds come up with the solution to save the day—all alone. T e pictures history paints of the Tomas Edison’s and Henry Fords is that they did everything from unclogging toilets to making accounts receivable calls on top of being innovators. What would Jeff Bezos be  going right now if the thousands of Sues and Bills stopped pulling orders in his warehouses? Bezos wouldn’t be rolling himself in the glory of imagining and implementing new programs for Amazon; he would be wondering why his team fell apart.

The true success of any innovator is not limited to his or her invention or idea, but the often-forgotten success lies in how that person created and maintained their team. The symbiotic relationship between “the idea” and those that make the idea a reality can never be dismissed. One might think of this as the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials where a bar of chocolate ends up in a jar of peanut butter followed by the tagline, “Two great tastes that taste great together.”

As you develop your confidence and skills as an innovator or change agent, remember that team-building is critical to your success. The more genuine you are with your vision, the more infectious it will become for your team. Your goal is to empower your team to make good creative decisions, as well as being committed to your vision at the same level of passion you are. If you can do all of that, you will be amazed at the platform effect your team will produce.

Consider this …

1. Find at least two mentors who will give you feedback about your leadership strengths and your blind spots

2. Identify the top three most critical tasks or areas of responsibility in your business or team for which you are not the ideal person to carry them out.

3. Develop a plan to get those tasks or areas of responsibility completed by someone who’s skilled and/or naturally gifted in those areas.

 

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

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