What Unique Value Can You Offer?

Harnessing your uniqueness for success

Drilling down to your unique value offering can be daunting. It may feel like we may close the door to other opportunities. Why? Delivering that unique offering requires a high level of dedication.

Unique Value You Offer

I was struggling with getting business leads for my coaching and consulting business. In frustration, I watched as my peers continued to grow their businesses day after day. It wasn’t that they had a head start or unfair advantage. We had more or less similar training and work experience. Yet I was struggling.

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Want To Be Heard? Listening Is A Must!

Why listening is the key to building teams that last

The pigs are running the farm. So begins the story of Farmer Able. Everyone on his farm – people and animals alike – are downright downtrodden by him.

He’s overbearing and compulsively obsessed with profits and productivity. He’s a typical top-down, power-based manager, forever tallying production numbers in his well-worn ledgers. But the more he pushes the hoofs and horns and humans, the more they dig in their heels.

That is until one day when he hears a mysterious wind that whispers: “It’s not all about me.” Can he turn things around and begin attending to the needs of those on his farm, thus improving their attitudes and productivity?

The following is an excerpt from chapter 23 of Farmer Able…

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Building A Team That Matters – Part 1

10 Critical Principles For Successful Teams

Team-building is a disruptive process for everyone involved. However, this does not mean that it should be a painful experience.

Building A Team That Matters - Part 1

Over the last few months, I have agonized over why I can’t seem to get up to speed with growing my business. Despite some good business prospects, growth feels stifled. The more I think about it, I realize that it is time to build a team. To grow, something has to shift.

I read this from a friend’s story: “Two guys were walking from the farm and one of them fell into a deep pit. His friend tried to help him to come out but he failed. ‘Let me quickly go and look for a rope,’ the friend said. As he was coming back, he saw his friend already out of the pit and staring into the pit. He asked him how he managed to come out. ‘A snake fell into the pit!’ he replied.”

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I Am The Problem

When life boomerangs back at you

This guest post is by Chris Pineda, the Athletic Practice Director at the Arbinger Institute, the organization-author of the bestsellers, Leadership and Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace. Learn more about the new expanded second edition of The Anatomy of Peace

After lacing up my soccer boots I took my headphones off to get focused for the match. We were playing our rivals and one thing was on my mind: Winning!

I am the problem

It was time to step onto the pitch. It was a big day. I needed to get the best warm up possible and my teammates had better be as focused as me.

I made sure I stretched properly and warmed up with the ball, all the while thinking about what I was going to do in the game. Picturing the saves I was going to make, the plays I was going to be highlighted in, and how the fans would roar afterwards.

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The Undisciplined Pursuit Of More

When you forget your Why, your brand reputation suffers...

Consider this. You are a dominant market leader worth millions of dollars. There are opportunities to grow – and diversify – your market.

Don't try harder

However, there is one major blot on your otherwise dominance in the market. Customers desperately cry out to you to deliver your promise.

I have been a customer of a leading telecom for over a decade. The last 3 years have been the worst in terms of quality; from their products to customer service.

Don’t get me started on dropped and static-laden calls that are the order of the day. I have to go upstairs to get a decent signal. On countless occasions, I have had to tell my callers, “Please let me text you!”

With the call quality worse than a two-way radio, I could only hear half of what they were trying to communicate to me.

A quick common-sense check: it is time to move from the ice-age.

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Grab their Ideas or Lose Employees

IdeaDrivenOrg_share11-300x300I am honored to host this Guest blog by award-winning author Dean M. Schroeder. Together with his co-author Alan G. Robinson, who I got the privilege to interview over my scratchy internet connection, they have written an awesome book, The Idea-Driven Organization…

 

 

 

Not long ago, the owner of a medium sized software development firm asked me a very good question. “How does a high performance idea system work in a project environment where every project is different?” We discussed that in a project-based company like his there were lots of processes that could be improved, but his question made a good point.

A project environment does have unique challenges for a high performance idea system, and there are several different tactics that can be used to integrate ideas more fully into the natural flow of projects.

Historically, high performance idea systems developed in process-based environments – think Toyota for example – where the goal is to repeatedly and consistently duplicate the same outcome. Employee ideas focus on streamlining and continuously improving the procedures, technologies, standard work, and other elements that make up relatively stable processes [TweetMe]. But a project dominated environment is often more dynamic, with each project potentially having unique elements. At the same time, projects have a natural “pulse” – a defined beginning, regular reviews, and clear ending – that can be used advantageously in idea management.

One of our favorite ways to start a project is to conduct a “pre-mortem” by asking the members of the project team the following question: “If you could get in a time machine and travel forward to a date six months after the scheduled completion of the project and found that it had been unsuccessful, what would you see as the primary causes for its failure?” The resulting discuss is often spirited and comes up with responses such as:

  • “Poor communication lead to confusion and misunderstanding,”
  • “Passive resistance from key constituents undermined the project’s effectiveness,”
  • “Supporting functions and suppliers missed deadlines and we ended up going over budget.”

Often relatively minor ideas for tweaks in the project management process or that can be easily incorporated into the project’s plan can mitigate most of the sources of failure that were identified. A good pre-mortem also starts the team off by confirming that they are responsible for the success of the project and their ideas are important to achieve that success.

Well managed projects have regular meetings to review progress, identify delays or concerns, discuss ways to deal with them, decide what actions are to be taken by whom, and generally keep everyone up to date on the progress of the project. In a number of ways these meetings are similar to idea meetings. Problems are identified, ideas for solving them are discussed, and action steps are assigned.

But there is a subtle but important difference in the goals of two types of meetings. Project meetings focus on addressing issues related to a specific project; whereas idea meetings focus on capturing ideas to help the organization continually improve [TweetMe]. At a project meeting it would be perfectly appropriate to suggest a one-time “patch” on a problem to keep everything on time or overcome a barrier; however such an action would be considered inappropriate at idea meetings with its goal of identifying and eliminating the root cause of the problem.

Regular project meetings can double as idea meetings, but in order to do so team members need to be willing to analyze issues with an eye toward identifying their causes and developing ideas that assure that the problems do not reappear with future projects. If the root cause cannot be identified and eliminated immediately, the issue should be captured and documented for further action later, often during the project close out.

Before the celebration of the completion of a project, it must be properly closed out. It is surprising how often this logical and vital step is given short shrift as team members are anxious to move on to new assignments. From an idea perspective the critical elements of a close are a thorough post-mortem that captures improvement ideas, documentation of the lessons learn throughout the project, revisiting the problems encountered along to way to see if there are any opportunities for ideas on improving the project management process, and make certain that all ideas for process changes that were decided upon are made and fully documented.

One of the more interesting challenges when putting a high-powered idea system in a project environment is that project team members are often people who already consider coming up with ideas as a major part of their jobs – engineers, designers, marketers, etc. Initially they often don’t see the need for a formal idea system. The key to implementing a system in such situations is to make as few changes as possible. Simply change the existing project management process to incorporate idea management into every step [TweetMe]. These subtle changes will usually be seen as nothing more than logical improvements that make their jobs easier in the long run.

About the Authors

Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder are award-winning authors, consultants, and educators. They are the co-authors of the bestseller Ideas Are Free: How the Idea Revolution is Liberating People and Transforming Organizations. Between them, they have advised hundreds of organizations in more than twenty-five countries around the world on how to improve their creativity, innovativeness and overall performance. Their first book, Ideas Are Free, was voted the Reader’s Choice by Fast Company magazine and selected as one of the 30 best business books of the year by Soundview Executive Books. On March 31, 2014, Robinson and Schroeder will release their second book together, The Idea-Driven Organization (available on Amazon). Follow them on Twitter – @alangrobinson and  @deanmschroeder and visit their website – idea-driven.com .

Leadership is Owning Failure

medium_6167125536A lapse of service with my internet provider spawned a rapid exchange of tweets. I even had to tweet via text messaging as I couldn’t get any decent internet connection. Promises from the supplier flowed like a flooded river. But like the debris to be found in such murky waters, I was over-enthusiastic in my hope for spring-quality water to quench my thirst for data.

Fast-forward to the following day… nothing! My broadband software indicates that I have a maximum speed of 2.14 kbps. And that is the bright side! Downloads were non-existent at 0.00 kbps. I was jammed on a narrow snail-track in a throaty Formula 1 racing car waiting to eat up some serious track. I had all the power but could not go anywhere!

With a lot more time in my hands than I had bargained for, my thoughts were naturally drawn to the lessons in this experience. It dawned on me that as a leader, I need to handle my CRAP in a better way. Before your mind wonders off in all directions, I mean that the following should be in my sights at all times: Customer, Relationships, Answers and being Proactive.

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” ~Pablo Picasso

Customer is king [TweetMe]. They are paying for the service in the first place. Not only are they keeping their end of the bargain, they have a right to what has been promised to them. As I lead, it may be out of service to humanity. But I always have to remember that those I influence have given me the permission to do so. I should hold that in high esteem and not short-change them. “If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.” ~ Thomas J. Watson.

Relationship is key [TweetMe]. I think that we forget who our real employers are. Your company may be holding your contract, but ultimately, it is the consumer or shareholder you should be more worried about. They are the source of the revenue that in part ends up in your pocket. If your service or product is poor, it affects your bottom line. Period!

Answers, not excuses, are what a customer wants to hear [TweetMe]. The reason I called customer care isn’t because I have much time in my hands. It is because there is a problem with a service or a product. In many cases, I wish that I am calling to appreciate exceptional service, but that’s not the case in majority of my calls. A 48-hour bullet point in your service level agreement will not cut it. A more appropriate response would be, “We have messed up, have no clue what is going on, but a team is already looking at it. I will personally follow this up and provide feedback in the next few hours.”

Proactive nature wins the day [TweetMe]. I must at all times position myself in a better way to ensure that the issue is captured well before it reaches the user. This is what sharp minds call being proactive. Remember, “All progress takes place outside your comfort zone,” says Michael John Bobak.

“To be successful in the long run, you need to do more than connect. You need to keep connecting, and you can do that only when you live what you communicate.” ~John C. Maxwell, Everyone Communicates Few Connect.

Are you a connector or need to connect better? Share your comments below.

photo credit: Jeffpro57 via photopin cc

Bravery verses Bravado

medium_5852285035How many times have you picked up a book that kicked you in the gut from the very first page? “Only one man out of ten will finish strong,” notes Steve Farrar in Finishing Strong: Going the Distance for Your Family. As I read, questions began to buzz through my mind like bluebottle flies to a carcass. To be honest with you, I panicked.

As these questions hovered over me like hyenas waiting for me to flail and pounce on me, two words slowly crept into my mind. These were Bravery and Bravado. A day later, my wife comes along and throws in a spanner into my already crazy situation. “You don’t take enough time-out between events,” she started. I knew exactly what she meant. My attempt to wiggle out of the situation was a pathetic and wimpy reply.

Suddenly, I felt like a bolt of lightening coursed through my body. Steve’s statistic came rushing in like an express train ‘whooshing’ past a small station. Was I being brave or was I displaying the classic symptoms of bravado?

Bravado can only be found on the outside. It is what ‘positional leaders’ are made of. Their influence is guided by what they have; high position, money, connections, godfathers, etc. People follow them because they have to and that followership is driven by fear.

“Fear is the sand in the machinery of life.” ~E. Stanley Jones

Bravery, on the other hand, springs from the heart. Authentic leaders are brave as their strength comes from within them [TweetMe]. They know who they are, value their soul and lead by character. People follow an authentic leader because they want to.

“Things will be different because you have chosen to be intentional.” ~Scott Dinomore

And bravery leads me to some three key lessons I learnt yesterday from Finishing Strong: Going the Distance for Your Family. Rare, Exceptional and Teachable.

It is the rare man who finishes strong [TweetMe]. Wow! I immediately thought of how beautiful diamonds are. But did you know that for a diamond to be formed it has to undergo very high temperatures and pressures deep in the earth’s crust. A rare man is one who is ready to withstand tremendous peer-pressure, weather storms of life and grow deep in not only knowing themselves, but also serving from the heart.

It is the exceptional man who finishes strong[TweetMe]. To be exceptional, I have to live my calling. A.J. and Melissa Leon said this, “A good life is not living the life everyone else intended for you. It is being deliberate in the way you live your life.” How true this is. It is only those who are brave enough to face life head-on that are exceptional.

It is the teachable man who finishes strong [TweetMe]. There is no choice, if I don’t learn, I will eventually wither off and die. As I listened to my wife’s wise counsel, it downed on me that I should have more deliberate, planned breaks. “It is important to be aware of your life, aware of everything in it, and what’s important,” says Wokie Nwabueze.

Will you finish strong? Take a ‘time-out’ in thought and share your comments below.

 photo credit: StandUPP via photopin cc

Crush Leadership Blind Spots

medium_3855181622(Guest Post by Canute Waswa)

Succulent, tangy and sweet, loquat fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. This unique fruit originated in the mountainous, evergreen rain forests of southeastern China, from where it spread all across the world, including Kenya.

Growing up in Kibera, a low-income suburb of Nairobi Kenya, you can bet that many a fight broke out among young boys over this yellow treasure. To date, my brothers and I can barely stifle our laughs whenever we are having a good time. We have adopted our childhood saying kukula luguu (eating loquats) and given it a literal translation to English. It has become our colloquialism to express that “we’re having a great time”.

That is why the use of the same tree as a metaphor in Leadership Termites made my ears ‘twitch’. How could those termites dare take on my favorite fruit tree? But truth is that they just did it! They made me think hard about how I can improve my leadership ability.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” ~Mark Twain

Vulnerability: In order to stay on top of my leadership mettle, I need to continually think of how to maintain trust with my team [TweetMe]. This can only be done through being vulnerable to them. You see, when I am at my highest point, coasting will only bring me down.

Leadership, like the loquat tree with the green bark, is one of the truest ideals of the dream world. It is a joy and a privilege not to be taken for granted. Yet many have it and become satiated and that may lead to internal death. Without life under the bark that drove them to productivity. Your followers are part of your core. Your relationship with them can only be maintained if you remain vulnerable to your team. Past accomplishment guarantees nothing about future success. Just ask the loquat tree.

Positive conflict: Newton’s first law of physics states that it is generally the change that requires energy and effort, not the continuation of something we are used to. The best way I keep an eye on the overall pace of change is to engage in positive conflict [TweetMe]. I do not necessarily match it, but I aim to understand the implications of my own choices.

There is a need for feedback for both individuals and organizations. We need to adapt to feedback from our teams if we want to avoid becoming redundant. Positive conflict would have enabled the loquat tree to understand that it needed fumigation. By knowing what needs to change, we by definition also know what to keep. That is why Muhammad Ali called feedback ‘the breakfast of champions’. World champions also need feedback.

Attention to Results: As a leader, I often keep my eye on the big picture, and I should. But I must never forget to focus on the little things [TweetMe]. This could be taking the time to talk with a co-worker about their kids or giving a new employee constructive feedback. Ignoring them can lead to big problems.

The modern senior executive tends to be a strategic thinker, one who is effective at delegating tasks to more detail-oriented team members and rallying those team members towards a common objective. He or she is the face of a corporation’s management. However, the leader is judged on the results of their influence. My mother loved to remind us to ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’. Take a co-worker to lunch. It’s amazing what you might learn from them.

And by busting these little, feisty termites, you can create a big thing… progressive and continuous success.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Take action: How will you blast those termites that eat up your leadership?

Canute Wasawa is the Founder and Managing Director of Outdoors Africa. He has over 9 years of work experience and is a member of the Association of Experiential Educators, a joint venture of the Association of Experiential Educators and the University of Dalhousie-Canada. Waswa has worked extensively in the area of Management Psychology, senior executive selection, and held the position of Organizational Development Specialist for several corporate entities.
photo credit: nimishgogri via photopin cc

Design With the End in Mind

DiscoverSweetSpot

Guest Post By Scott M. Fay

Author, Discover Your Sweet Spot

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What do you plan on doing with the new space?” I inquired with genuine interest.

You’d be surprised how few of my clients know the answer to this question.

“I’m not sure I know what you’re asking,” he responded back with equal sincerity. “I thought you were just going to pick out some good- looking trees and shrubs for us. You’re the professional. Isn’t that why we hired your team?”

“I’m definitely up for advising you along the way,” I said reassuringly. “But trust me, designing with the end in mind will help tremendously. Think about it this way: as you imagine the new space we’re designing for you, what do you see yourself doing in that space? Are you hosting garden parties with friends? Do you see yourself sitting next to a small waterfall feature in the evenings while reading your favorite novel? Or maybe you picture your grandkids playing Frisbee with you in the backyard on a plush green lawn?”

A warm smile slowly spread across my client’s face.

“OK, I get it now. You know, come to think of it, I can see myself doing all three!” he chuckled.

“One thing though, Scott,” he shot back.

“Sure, what is it?” By this time, I anticipated a little humor. “Before I give you my final answer, I just have to ask…do you have any additional options besides those three? After all, I don’t want to limit any fun.”

At this comment, we both started laughing. “Now you’re getting it,” I grinned.

I start every job the same way, helping my clients design with the end in mind. It’s always better to talk through their desires in the design phase than to work them out in the build phase. Designing with the end in mind saves them money and it saves me time. Although my landscaping team is always happy to help, and we can do almost anything, most clients don’t have an endless supply of money. A little intentional thinking on the front end saves everyone time and money on the back end.

But this principle reaches far beyond waterfalls and flowerbeds. In fact, it touches every single one of us. Although we might not be able to literally design the environment around us, we’re each given the responsibility to design a conducive environment within us.

Are YOU designing your environment with the end in mind?

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Excerpt taken from Discover Your Sweet Spot by Scott M. Fay, published by Morgan James Publishing, available here via Amazon. More info:  www.thesweetspotsystem.com .