Video Review for Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath-‘Chapter 1’

This is a video review for the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. This video was produced by, pioneers in leadership software.

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5 Simple Questions to Determine if your Metrics Make Sense

MetricsThere are many meaningful metrics that can be used to assess your business: return on investment (ROI), employee and customer churn rates, revenues, EBITDA, and so on. The difficulty is determining which metrics provide the greatest insight. After all, the objective of your metrics should be to minimize any perspective blinds spots in your business.

Metrics are used to drive improvements and help businesses focus their people and resources on what’s important.
An important factor to the successful use of key performance indicators (KPIs) is having the ability to take a step back and determine what makes sense for your business. It is also critical to understand that the significance of certain KPIs may change over time. When establishing metrics, always take time to think about the factors that make a difference to your decision making.

Every metric provides a certain perspective on your business. Some metrics tell you there is a problem today. Others metrics give you a heads up that there will be a problem down the road. Metrics can also have very different scopes. For example, total services revenue indicates how the overall business is doing, but provides little insight on individual performance. Individual utilization metrics provide insight on individual performance but do not necessarily convey the overall health of the business.

To determine if your metrics make sense, you should apply these five simple tests.

1. Are they Actionable? The purpose of every metric is to convey relevant information about your business. In order to be useful, that information must be actionable. There is no purpose in tracking a metric that cannot be acted upon. Always evaluate your metrics by asking this fundamental question: can I make a business decision based on the metric?

2. Are they Understandable? Defining a metric is similar to telling a joke – if you have to spend too much time explaining it, then it will not work. Do not fall into the trap of establishing over-complicated metrics. Your focus should be on tracking metrics that can be understood, not only by you but by your employees as well. Employees need to understand the metrics in order to know how they can influence them and what is expected of them.

3. Do they have a Functional Impact? Every metric should help you evaluate at least one business function in your organization. Be sure your metrics are focused on the sales organization, the operations team, the marketing group, etc.

4. Do they have an Economic Impact? Almost every internal company initiative has one of two objectives: improve operational efficiency or create future revenue. Your metrics should track improvements along one of these paths. If your metrics don’t provide information about operational efficiency or generating economic value, then they should be abandoned.

5. Do you Understand the Time-frame? You should understand if your metrics are leading or lagging indicators of how the business is performing. Does a metric indicate you currently have a problem or does it warn that soon you will have a problem if the current trend continues? Be sure and understand the timeframe factor related to your metrics.

7 Tips for Reducing Unhealthy Conflict

7 Tips for Reducing ConflictConflict in the workplace is inevitable. As individuals, we naturally have different values, points of view, and ways of communicating. Ultimately, its how conflict is dealt with that makes the differences between a healthy and dysfunctional workplace.

Healthy differences of opinions should be encouraged because they often lead to better strategies and decisions. Being accountable to co-workers means that others will challenge you to do a better job or follow through on a commitment – all of which is part of a healthy work environment. Unhealthy conflict, by contrast, interferes with people’s ability to do their work successfully and is often detrimental in the workplace.

As a leader, you need to be aware of how conflict arises and how to manage it. If unhealthy conflict is allowed to escalate, it can result in lasting damage to relationships and the business. Here are seven tips for reducing unhealthy conflict in the workplace. Ideally, conflict should be addressed in an early stage to avoid its escalation.

1. Avoid Judgments. When we find ourselves in a conflict, there’s a natural tendency to believe that we are right and the other person is wrong. All our energy goes into proving that point. Once we become aware of this pattern, we can learn to accept that the other person represents a different view and we can listen honestly with a desire to understand. After all, one of the greatest needs we all have is to be understood. By making this small shift in our thinking and reserving judgment, we can take a positive step toward a more desirable outcome.

2. Manage Emotions. Raised voices serve only to escalate the situation and often lead to lasting damage. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Reflect upon what they are saying and the feelings they are expressing. When necessary, allow tempers to cool before resuming the discussion at hand.

3. Discuss Needs First, Solutions Later. Too often, our initial focus is on solving problems. In the process, we overlook the human elements involved. By taking the time to discuss the needs of each party (and not just the wants), new solutions can more readily be discovered.

4. Look for Win-Win. Enter any conflict with a desire for a positive outcome for both parties. If both sides feel they have gained in some way, then the original conflict is much more likely to be resolved. Try and avoid the win-lose situation.

5. Choose Your Battles. It is sometimes prudent to walk away from a potential conflict rather than instigate further discussion. In these situations, you must learn from experience and then have the discipline to exercise good judgment.

6. You are not an Island. While it is probably more desirable if you could pursue your own ideas and set your own priorities, that is not a realistic approach in the workplace. In order to accomplish organizational goals, we must work with others and consider the ideas and priorities of the business.

7. Focus on the Present. If you are holding on to hurt feelings and resentments from the past, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be significantly impaired. Rather than being driven by past biases, strive to focus on what you can do in the moment to solve the problem.

Video Review for the The Decision Maker by Dennis Bakke

The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time

In this book, Dennis questions the effectiveness of the old-school command and control style of decision-making. We concur and we are fans of this book.

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20 Minutes a Day to Avoid the Ivory Tower Syndrome

Dice falling downA popular reality TV show has top executives spending time in the field doing the work of front-line staff. The show is filled with examples of CEOs learning from the experience and making big changes to their company as a result.
In the business world, there’s a tendency for top executives to become out of touch with the experiences and problems the people at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy. These are the people who make and design products and services, or who interact directly with the people who pay the bills – the customers.

The ivory tower syndrome occurs when top management becomes disconnected from the reality of the business. Organization size, complexity, and information filtering all contribute to the problem. Leaders who isolate themselves too much from the day-to-day activity of their business run the risk of losing touch with their employees, their customers, and potentially even the company’s mission. In addition to a communication problem, this also represents an executive team that is out of touch because it relies entirely on the chain of command to get information about important issues instead of being directly plugged into the day-to-day activities.

The daily burden of casting vision, overseeing operations, and leading others causes a time crunch. Unless leaders specifically set aside time to make sure they stay in touch with the heartbeat of the organization, it is easy to lose a feeling for what made a company successful in the first place.

As a starting point, leaders must establish a safe environment where anyone can provide feedback without fear of retribution. Once this environment is created, leaders can take the following practical advice to avoid the ivory tower syndrome.

Every Monday, take 20 minutes to review employee feedback, paying particular attention to the feedback from employees who are farthest from you on the organization chart.

Every Tuesday, take 20 minutes to chat (in person, by phone, etc.) with a different employee each week. Get to know them and understand the work challenges they face. This will encourage them to reach out to you when they see something that you ought to know. Once in a while spend time meeting an employee who is leaving.

Every Wednesday, take 20 minutes to speak with a disgruntled customer. By having a better understanding of their pain points, you may be able to rebuild the relationship or improve your business.

Every Thursday, take 20 minutes to seek out internally what led to the customers’ dissatisfaction. Keep asking why? until you have a satisfactory answer.

Every Friday, take 20 minutes to research one of your competitors. This could include reviewing their job listings, reading the latest information posted on their website/ blogs, or signing up for product demos when possible.

The ivory tower syndrome is a common occurrence that can affect most busy leaders, unless the leader pays conscious attention, and allocates time, to staying in touch with those towards the bottom of the organization. One of the most critical steps to avoid this syndrome is for leaders to designate a small portion of their day to directly acquiring information FROM employees and customers.

Five Prerequisites for Business Collaboration

Helping HandOrganizations are recognizing that effective collaboration is critical to future business success. Collaboration is the process of working together as a team to accomplish a common goal. The process requires an attitude of sharing and willingness to help without an agenda. In today’s workplace environment, more and more projects are team efforts, and businesses need individuals who know how to work well with others.

But you can’t expect people to learn how to work in groups simply by putting them in groups. Plenty of people have been assigned to group work for decades, but still don’t know how to be an effective group member. There are certain things that must be in place in order for collaborative initiatives to be successful.

Here are five prerequisites that provide a foundation for effective collaboration.

1. Desire to Achieve Business Results. Collaboration is not a business end in itself. It is a means to an end, and that end is better business results. Collaboration should focus on where it can have the biggest impact on achieving business results. This typically includes those parts of the business where there is lots of dynamic information, where decisions are complex, and where the decisions have far-reaching consequences. Collaboration shouldn’t be forced into every discussion, dialogue, and decision if it isn’t warranted to get the desired results.

2. Shared Decision Making. Collaborating doesn’t mean that everyone gets to decide. On the contrary, it means that the authority to make critical decisions is aligned with the information required to make them. That means the right information must be made available to the right decision makers at the right time. In companies where individuals routinely hoard information and where information is power, collaboration can be a real challenge. Collaboration includes shared responsibility for key decisions. Members of a team must divide work and learn to share decision making about the activities they are undertaking.

3. Shared Accountability. Collaboration includes shared accountability for outcomes. If team members share key decisions, they must also share accountability for the results of the decisions. It may seem a paradox to some that collaboration requires ownership, but the reality of organizational life will always be based on ownership: of information that needs to be shared, of a dialogue that needs to be started, and of a decision that needs to be made. A supporting collaboration technology should be employed to promote ownership of these things.

4. Refine Communication Skills. As a collaborative team member, you will need effective communication and interpersonal skills. In addition to asking questions, making statements in clear and concise ways, attending to non-verbal signals, and listening, you must also learn to conduct effective meetings, respond to resistance, resolve conflict, and persuade others. These are some of the traits that prepare team members for successful collaborative work.

5. Design Flexible Organizations. In today’s information-based economy, companies must learn to be attentive, responsive, and adaptive to the environment. Being able to sense and respond to change requires a hybrid organization – one that blends an efficient hierarchy with flexible networks empowered to make decisions. Collaboration is the glue that holds the hybrid organization together and delivers the best business results in fast-changing environments.