Friday, March 29, 2013

What you need in your business is Clarity-- part 3

Recently I read a book called The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni.  It is a follow up to many of the other books he has written.  This is a practical guide to implement many of his "parables" from the earlier books.  After reading the book, I did something I NEVER do.  I implemented it!  My last 7 staff meetings have been focused on these concepts. 

If you care to catch up, here is part 1 and part 2

My last meeting was the easy meeting.  What we were to do with this meeting is write down "What we do?"  Simple right?  Wrong!  I had each of the team members take 5 minutes and write down what they thought the answer to this question was for Mirabella.

After 5 minutes, I asked each team member what they had gotten.  The answers were all over the board.  Then I read mine. 

Then I told them that this is a very straightforward definition.  Don't use any adverbs or descriptors.  Don't use qualifiers.  Just write what we do.  I read some examples from other companies like:

A power company:  "We generate and deliver electrical and natural gas products and services to people throughout the state."

A credit card company:  "We provide payment products and extend credit to consumers."

The team gave me all kinds of grief.  Of course your answer is right John, you knew the instructions at the beginning!  So, make sure to give good instructions in advance.  Though it seems straightforward, it can get a little squishy if you don't make it super practical.

So what did I write?

"We are the developers of a brand of color cosmetics called Mirabella"
Our newest Bridal Kit, Bohemian Bride

Yes, that is what we do!  It is clarifying to come to this simple conclusion.  It helps, just like the other exercises, to direct us.  It helps us to stay focused on who we are and what we are trying to do!

I have loved this so far.  I think it has caused us to speak about the big picture more than we did in the previous 3 years combined.

Our next exercise is the hard one, how will we succeed?  This is all about strategy.  I made sure everyone got it this time.  I copied the pages of the book for everyone to read in advance.  No excuses this time!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Finding leadership ideas in the craziest places...

Quartermaine's Terms Rowan Atkinson and cast
I went to a play called Quartermaine's Terms.  It starred Rowan Atkinson.  Basically the play was about a language school in England that taught foreign students the English language.  Rowan was one of the teachers.  Each scene was set in the teachers lounge.  All the teachers and administration came and went with their assorted personal problems.

In the opening scene, a new teacher is hired.  He is an awkward man.  But he applies himself to his students, works hard, and frankly doesn't get recognized because he doesn't "get along" with the administration.

The main character is Rowan.  He is a fixture in the teachers lounge.  Everyone comes and goes with their lives.  But Rowan is a likable, agreeable sort that is desperately lonely.  Everyone likes to spill their problems on him as he listens well and is always agreeable.  These traits serve him well with the administration as well.

However, Rowan is a horrible teacher who is completely disinterested in his students.  At one point he actually forgets to teach his class.

In the end, one of the teachers is promoted to take over the school administration.  He promptly fires Rowan in the concluding scene leaving Rowan sadly contemplating what he will do next.

It was like watching a true to life organization function.  Not very good entertainment.  but a GREAT business lesson!

What can we learn?

The Administration-- they are responsible to make their organization great.  And in fact they would like to think they are.  However, when we leave underperformers in place, they are showing everyone; teachers and students that mediocrity is tolerated.  With people like Rowan, the administration needs to tell the truth.  This is really fair and humane for your people.  It is just hard.  No one likes to have hard conversations, especially with nice people that are agreeable and supportive of what you are trying to do.  Also, the administration needs to look beyond the awkward teacher and notice his talent, his work ethic.  Again, it is easy to look past people who are more difficult to be around, people who don't always agree with everything you are doing.

Rowan-- This man obviously knew he wasn't giving his all to his job.  He was bored with his job, but he loved the other people on the staff.  He was NOT achievement oriented.  I always remember my dad saying "Life is NOT a dress rehearsal".  People are filled with fears; fear of failure, fear of confrontation, fear of people.  Many of us are to afraid to upset whatever job they may have as it is stable.  But we are given this life.  We are given skills and talents.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made!  Use what you have been given.  Use it up.  Use it all!  What a sad day, those that never truly LIVE.

If you are a leader, tell your people where they stand!  Tell them both the good and the bad.  Even if you don't like someone, if they are a performer, reward them.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What you need in your business is... Clarity? Part 2

After reading my first post on Clarity, you might enjoy my second installment.

I read the great book by Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage.  He states the key to successful companies is a good team of leaders who are willing to deal honestly with each other and get things done.  And second, a successful company has clarity about where it is going and how it will get there.  Few books cause me to shake up my company like this one.  But that is what we are doing!

In the first meeting to help us get Clarity on Mirabella, we discussed, "why we exist".  After a long discussion, we landed on this phrase, "inspiring confidence with whatever the day may bring". 

In our next meeting we tackled an equally difficult topic, How do we behave?  The essence of this topic is determining the companies core values. 

Patrick first tells you what they are NOT.  Your core values are not aspirational, accidental, nor permission to play.  An aspirational value would be a value we would LIKE to have, but frankly it is not part of our core today.  An accidental value would be a value that happens to be true about our company, but it did not happen on purpose.  And therefore, it is not something that we MUST repeat in the future.  And finally, our core values are NOT just a permission to play value.  An example of this would be providing excellent service.  Today, to be successful, you MUST provide great service.  If you don't you won't get a chance to compete.

Once everyone is clear on those, Patrick suggests to identify team members at the company who embody what is best about Mirabella.  Then you list the characteristic that make them admirable. 

For us, someone suggested our Creative Director Amber Bowen.  That is an easy one.  She is a passionate, dedicated, flexible, and humble.  Then someone suggested our National Sales Manager Jennifer Rider.  Again, she is definitely someone who embodies our culture.  She is driven to be results oriented, hands on, persistent, and resourceful.  And finally, we put our Founder Christy Thurston up as one of those that embodies who is Mirabella. 

Christy doesn't work here any more, but her resourcefulness, passion, and persistence are what made this company.

We also listed words like excellence and perfection.

The next part of the exercise is to identify employees who didn't work out for the company, but were very talented.  And what was it that made them distracting? 

Again, each of us remember former team members who were tremendously talented, but didn't make it within our culture.  Again, many of the same words from above came to us about why they didn't work out.  These people generally lacked passion for Mirabella, were not resourceful, didn't embody persistence, or couldn't be flexible.

Forgive the poor hand writing, it's the thoughts that count!
After coming up with our words, Patrick recommends that you put those words into meaningful phrases.   

For us, it ended up being a long discussion.  We had 12 core values.  We needed to narrow it to 3!  Which were the most important?

We realized that some of them were related so we circled those.  Then we ordered them by importance.  Again, there was much discussion about this.

But we finally ended up with these Core Values to answer the question, How do we behave?

I Make It Work

I Am Inspired

I Will Succeed

It Is Not About Me

It Is About Mirabella.

I make it work was about being resourceful and flexible.  These were probably our top values.  We are a small company.  To get things done, you MUST do much for yourself.  You MUST find different ways to accomplish your goals as they will likely need to change.

I am inspired was about passion.  You must have a great passion for Mirabella, its products, its customers, and its people.  Without that, we are just another makeup company.  Each of us need to embody this in how we approach our jobs.

I will succeed is about competing.  It is about being persistent.  To work for Mirabella, its people must be driven to win.  That could mean our salons, our educators, our distributors, or our employees.  As a small company, success is NOT guaranteed.  It reminds me of the great quote, by Theodore Roosevelt.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

And finally, though we were limited to 3 values, we couldn't stand to keep off humility and transparency.  These are key to who we are.  It was important to us that we all realize that it is not about puffing up any one person, but rather it is always about the star of the show, Mirabella.

It was a great exercise.  It better defines who we are... and who we are not (sometimes even more important). 

And the best part is that our team did this.  It was not me who put this together.  It was their words.  I simply guided the conversation forward to a natural conclusion.  I cannot wait for our next session.  We are going to attempt to answer 2 questions; What do we do? and How will we succeed?