3 Ways to Discover Your Super Powers and Your Kryptonite

 

If leaders want to succeed they need to be self aware, a topic I covered in the recent blog, “What to Grow as a Leader? Become This.” A study I referenced found that a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.

A good leader needs to know what his super powers are. And his kryptonite.

A good leader needs to know what his super powers are. And his kryptonite.

As Anthony Tjan wrote, “In my experience — and in the research my co-authors and I did for our new book, Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck — there is one quality that trumps all, evident in virtually every great entrepreneur, manager, and leader. That quality is self-awareness. The best thing leaders can do to improve their effectiveness is to become more aware of what motivates them and their decision-making.”

To grow as leaders, we need to know what our strengths and weaknesses are, or as Tjan puts it, your super powers versus your kryptonite. So how do you go about becoming more self-aware?

  1. Feedback Analysis

In his popular book “Managing Oneself,” management consultant Peter Drucker recommended the process of Feedback Analysis as the only way to identify your strengths. Write down your expected outcomes for key decisions, then compare that with the results 9-12 months later.

This method will show you within a few years where your strengths are, which is the most important thing to discover about yourself. For example, he wrote, “The feedback analysis showed me, for instance—and to my great surprise—that I have an intuitive understanding of technical people, whether they are engineers or accountants or market researchers.”

  1. Assessment Instruments

Tjan recommends you take personality tests to learn more about yourself. Think about it – many businesses use assessment tools to test potential employees. But what about testing yourself and your senior managers? Here are three he mentions.

  • The Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment. This simple test is designed to determine your four core behavioral drives: dominance, extraversion, patience and formality. You can then identify patterns of behavior and motivations.
  • Myers-Briggs. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator identifies basic preferences in four areas. Are you more introverted or extraverted? (E or I) Do you prefer to look at logic first or interpret facts and add meaning? (S or N). When making decisions, do you look at logic or take into account people and special circumstances? (T or F) And lastly, do you prefer to make decisions or leave your options open? (J or P) Answers to the questions will determine which of 16 personality types you are with a four-letter code, such as INFP, ENTP or ESFJ. (A friend once told me she thought she was an ESPN. I told her to take the test again.)
  • Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test (E.A.T.) Tjan developed this test that measures the four key drivers for entrepreneurial success he wrote about in his book: heart, smarts, guts and luck. This brief survey measures your HSGL distribution with a graph showing the percentage of each trait.
  1. Ask for feedback from co-workers

This method can be a bit trickier than just taking a test or assessing yourself. People, especially those who work for you, can be reluctant to be honest in their feedback.

In the article “How to Get Feedback When You’re the Boss,” James Detert, associate professor at the Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management recommends constantly asking for feedback with requests for specific examples. If someone recommends you communicate more with employees, ask them for a suggestion on how to do that.

Or turn to a few trusted co-workers with this question, recommended by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith: “How can I do better?”

And when you get the feedback, listen without interruption. Ask for clarification where needed and thank them for their comments at the end of the discussion. Responding gracefully to their feedback can encourage them to continue to offer it. And putting their suggestions into action when advisable sets a good example to them of a leader working to grow and improve.

You can also enlist professional help in this area, especially as anonymous feedback is generally more honest.  Hiring a qualified professional counselor or coach can help you elicit feedback by sending out anonymous evaluations and compiling the answers for you.

With all this information, you can learn which are your super powers and what is your kryptonite.

My book “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes,” is now available as an ebook.

Funny, But True: Having a Blast

Well, at least some people thought it was funny. I didn’t happen to be one of them.

I was in a staff meeting of a steel company where I was the chief restructuring officer. The company was not doing well for multiple reasons and was facing a huge cash crisis.

We had decided our only option at this point was to reduce the 2,500-person workforce by at least 10 percent to keep the company competitive, a tragic outcome for those 250 workers and their families. We were also going to have to reduce union employee benefits, which we had discussed the day before with the union representative.

All of a sudden, I hear BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! In shock, I quickly hit the floor, only to find I was the only one there. When I got back up, the other senior staff at the table were laughing at me.

I was right to duck – those were shotgun blasts that smashed into the windows. But none of them made it through the bulletproof windows the company had installed 20 years previously. It seems shotgun blasts were a frequent means of expression for unhappy union members.

So here’s some free advice. If your workers are routinely so unhappy they are shooting at senior staff, rather than spending money installing bulletproof windows, spend time thinking about rethink how you are managing the company.

My book, How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEO’s Mistakes, is now available as an ebook.

5 Tips to Maximize Your Company’s Most Valuable Resource

 

You may be watching your company’s financial situation with an eagle eye, being careful to budget wisely and cut out waste. But what are you doing to maximize one of your company’s most valuable resources, one that is often overlooked on the balance sheet?

I’m talking about time. More specifically, time spent in meetings. Research has shown an organization spends about 15 percent of its time in meetings every year. According to “How Much Time Do We Spend in Meetings? (Hint: It’s Scary)” people in upper management can spend up to 50 percent of their time in meetings.

Here are a few scary facts from that article:

– There are 25 million meetings in the US every day

– More than $37 billion is spent on unproductive meetings

– Executives consider more than 67 percent of meetings to be failures

You may be reading this in a meeting right now, as 92 percent of people surveyed said they multitask during meetings.

So how do you stop wasting your company’s time and make those meetings more effective?  Here are some tips for making meetings add to your company’s bottom line, not take away from it.

  1. Make sure you need to meet in the first place

Does this communication need to be in a meeting, or can it be adequately handled with a group email or text? If you’re just looking for a status update or feedback on a project, you probably don’t need to meet. Have a clear purpose in mind. What do you want to accomplish with a meeting?w150317_saunders_shouldholdmeeting

  1. Always have an agenda

To keep meetings productive, focused and on track, always have an agenda. Decide what your goal is and what input you need from attendees to accomplish that goal. Send the agenda far enough in advance to let the attendees have time to prepare if necessary.

If you find the meeting getting off track, reign it back in by moving back to your agenda and tabling important issues that are raised for a separate discussion or follow up.

This step can actually help with step #1. If you are trying to create an agenda and find there isn’t much you need to meet about, cancel the meeting and send an email.

  1. Make the meeting the right size to accomplish your goal

Only invite people whose attendance is necessary. Ask yourself who will have the input necessary for you to achieve the stated goal of your meeting. Who would be most affected by its outcome? Who do you need to implement the decisions you make?

You can also invite people to the meeting if their input is needed for just one part, then allow them to leave when that section of the meeting is over.

Some people use the 8-18-1800 rule to decide how big a meeting should be.

  • To solve a problem or make a decision, invite no more than eight people.
  • For brainstorming, go as high as 18 people.
  • If you need status updates, and everyone present is providing an update, go as high as 18.
  • If you’re meeting for a pep talk or morale booster, bigger is better. Go for 1,800 or beyond! 
  1. Phones down, heads up

You’ve carefully determined your goal, planned your agenda and invited the necessary people to the meeting. But now everyone has their heads down, looking at their phones.

Consider asking all personal devices be switched off and put away. Sounds drastic, I know, but you need people’s full attention and concentration.

  1. Follow up with key decisions made and action items.

We’ve all attended a meeting and started a discussion only for someone to ask, “Didn’t we already make a decision on that? Who was following up?”

To make sure the meeting is productive, have someone send a follow-up email with what key decisions were made and what is going to be accomplished by what date and who is doing what tasks.

That email will serve as documentation of the decisions you made and hold people accountable for what needs to be accomplished.

 

 

Funny, But True: Firing Grandma

 

Family businesses make up around 80 to 90 percent of all businesses in North America, according to the Family Business Center. These businesses are obviously crucial to our economy. But working with family members brings its own set of challenges.

For example, how do you fire a family member? Firing anyone can be fraught with legal, economic and morale issues. But when it’s a family member? That can be an even stickier situation. For one, you will be seeing these people again and Thanksgiving dinner may never be the same if it’s not handled correctly.

Dealing with these type of issues is actually a major benefit of working with an outside consultant like me. You may not want to fire your son, daughter, wife, nephew or other relative. But I can, I will, and I have if it’s in the best interest of saving your company.

I once took over a warehousing company that was in dire straits. The company was 120 days past due in payments to the bank. I found out that Grandma was on the payroll, and after doing my research, I discovered her primary task was to knit the CEO socks for Christmas. While that’s a lovely thing to do, it does not contribute to the bottom line of the company. So I let her go.

Not only did I save the company money, I earned the gratitude of the employees. Later that day a forklift driver pulled up alongside me and congratulated me on firing grandma. They all knew she didn’t have a real job there.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to fire a family member, check out my blog “It Takes Finesse to Fire a Family Member” for tips on ensuring your success during the process. It can help make those holiday dinners this year a lot more enjoyable.

Funny, But True Stories: Keep Your Girlfriend Out of the Picture

Cheating on a spouse has been the downfall of many a business owner or CEO. Some of these stories aren’t too surprising. Consider the case of the founder of the famously hacked website Ashley Madison, created specifically to make it easy for people to cheat on their spouses. At one time the cheaters’ website claimed earnings of $115 million and a membership of 39 million around the world.

So can anyone feel surprised when it was revealed that founder Noel Biderman had cheated on his own wife, despite his claims to have a strong marriage? He called himself the King of Infidelity and in June 2014 when asked if he had ever cheated on his wife, he said, “Not yet.”

He got outed by the hackers, as did thousands of others whose extra-curricular activities were uncovered. Many divorces and some suicides have been linked to the hack.

Obviously it’s not good for anyone to cheat. Not on their taxes, not on their spouses. But it’s even more critical when you’re a CEO or business owner. You stand to lose a lot more than your marriage.

Yet, it happens. All the time. Take the case of the married president of a pipe manufacturer I worked with. In addition to running his business, he wanted to craft a racer with an innovative design.

He was successful and was asked to be on the cover of a prestigious industry magazine. Sounds great, right? Except when the photographers came to shoot the cover, his girlfriend was there, in her revealing bikini. Did he ask her to make herself scarce for a bit? He did not. And who shows up in the background on the cover with him? Yep, the girlfriend in the bikini.

It didn’t take long for his wife to figure out what’s up. And oh yeah, her husband had started the business with her father’s money. She filed for divorce and he lost control of the company. I’m not sure what he did with that magazine cover, or whether he got to keep that racer or not.

5 Reasons CEOS Wait Too Long to Address Problems

The worst cases in my career in the turnaround industry are when I work with businesses that could have been saved. If only we had been called in earlier. Those are the ones that really bother me, because these business failures didn’t have to happen. Had we been brought in earlier, we could have determined where the problems were and had many more options to fix them.

But often we are like firefighters who are called in after a home is in ashes, rather than at the first sign of smoke. Then all we can do is sift through the ashes.

Sometimes the best we can do is to get the most for a business in bankruptcy or through a fire sale, pun intended. And I always think, “If only they had called us earlier.”

The saying we have is “If the alligators are snapping, it’s too late to drain the swamp.” You have to pay attention when things are going wrong and fix them early on, before they become larger problems later, possibly even insurmountable.

If you catch a problem early, you have options. You can drain the swamp. But if you wait too late and the alligators have moved in, well, now you have to face them head on. Those alligators aren’t going to just relocate and find food elsewhere.

So why do CEOs and business owners wait until it’s too late to ask for help? Here are five reasons:

  1. Hoping the situation will change

Your sales manager isn’t meeting his quota and he is experiencing a lot of turnover in his department. He keeps promising he’ll hire more sales reps and “we’ll exceed our quota next month!” But he doesn’t and the competition is taking over your accounts. He should have been fired or refocused and now your competition is taking your accounts.

  1. Thinking you can fix it yourself

When I get time, I can focus on the problems in our accounting system, you think. It’s not working correctly and you aren’t getting the financial information you need to make the best decisions for your company. If you could only take a day to focus on where the problem is and what you need to do to solve it. Every day comes and goes, each with its own set of priorities, and you never do get around to focusing on the issues with accounting. And your business is suffering.

  1. Not wanting to admit mistakes

Sometimes with big jobs comes big egos. And an unwillingness to admit that you’ve made a mistake. Larry, the CEO of seminar company, hated change and would not admit to mistakes. He firmly believed that people were more likely to respond to the hundreds of thousands of mailings he sent if they were posted from their home states. So he had trucks driving hundreds of miles so mailings would carry a local postmark, to the cost of around $400,000 a year.

Fortunately, I was called into this company in time, and despite the fact their EBITDA was -$4 million, I was able to pull off a successful turnaround.

  1. Reluctance to ask for help

Some people see it as a sign of weakness to ask for help. As reported in the article “Why is Asking for Help So Difficult” in the New York Time, “There is a tendency to act as if it’s a deficiency,” said Garret Keizer, author of ‘Help: The Original Human Dilemma.’ “That is exacerbated if a business environment is highly competitive within as well as without. There is an understandable fear that if you let your guard down, you’ll get hurt, or that this information you don’t know how to do will be used against you.”

  1. Denial of the problems

It’s the head-in-the-sand tendency. “Calvin and Hobbes” creator Bill Watterson said, “It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.”

The sooner you accept your reality, the quicker you can get help. You don’t want to come face to face with those alligators.

5 Business Lessons from Olympic Athletes

Earlier this week Bill Murray tweeted “Every Olympic event should include one average person competing for reference.” It’s true – when those divers leap off the diving board, gymnasts fly through the air or rowers zip through the water, they make it look almost effortless.

If you take a closer look or read their stories you’ll see how much work, sacrifice and mental energy went to achieving that level of success. Although we may never compete in the Olympics ourselves, here are a few lessons we can learn from these top athletes.

  1. You have to set goals and be focused on them.

No one achieves a high level of success without setting a lot of goals for themselves, both short-term and long-term. That’s how seven-time gymnastics Olympic gold medalist Shannon Miller claimed she reached her ultimate goal of competing in the Olympics. “It’s great to have the ultimate goal, but regardless of what that long-term goal is, you have to set short-term goals. Think about what you can do each and every day to make that long-range goal happen.

As Usain Bolt, three-time Olympic gold medalist and fastest person ever said, “Dreams are free. Goals have a cost. Time, effort, sacrifice, and sweat. How will you pay for your goals?”

  1. You have to surround yourself with people who make you better.

Top athletes are smart enough to hire the best coaches. Look at the women gymnasts. They nicknamed themselves the “Final Five” in tribute to their coach, Martha Karolyi. She and her husband have been training gymnasts for five decades on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, Texas.

As I mention in my book, “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes,” I hire people who are smarter than me. Many business people like to think they know it all. No one does. When you need help, reach out to others to provide that help.

  1. You always have to be on the lookout for competition.

No matter how successful you are or how unique your product may be, you will face competition. Failure to take competition into account can be disastrous. In my book I talk about what happened with Q-Zar, initially a huge success in the laser tag field. But the company didn’t pay attention to the competition that came in the form of big-box stores selling laser tag sets for home use. That failure, coupled with massive fraud in the company, led to its demise.

You don’t have to wait for competition to come to you. The late Norwegian marathon runner Grete Waitz said, “You’ve got to look for tough competition. You’ve got to want to beat the best.”

  1. You have to persevere when the unexpected occurs.

It was heartbreaking to see Annemiek van Vlueten, the woman cyclist from the Netherlands, who was minutes away from winning a gold medal, crash on the wet pavement, and rather than taking her place on the podium, wound up in the hospital.

You’ve worked hard for years, your business is doing well, then bang. Something unexpected and unpredictable happens to derail you. You uncover massive fraud in your company. Or as happened with one of my clients, your biggest client asks to revamp your manufacturing capabilities. You spend millions to do so, then one day, the client cancels the order.

What do you do? You keep going. Olympic track athlete Brenda Martinez knows how to keep going. During the Olympic trials for her best event, a runner behind her tripped and knocked into her, throwing her off and killing her chances of getting an Olympic slot in that event. She just focused on her next event, and came in third, securing that coveted spot on the team. “The track doesn’t care about your feelings,” she said. “You’ve just got to move forward.”

  1. You have to keep your cool under pressure.

It’s hard to imagine the level of pressure these athletes feel. Many of them are just teenagers, but are carrying the weight of the expectations of their families, teammates and their entire countries as they perform superhuman feats. They have all found a way to deal with it. Gymnast Gabby Douglas said, “For the most part, I’m kind of used to it, because it has been a part of me for my whole life. I’m trained to deal under those circumstances—at the gym we do pressure sets.”

CEOs and business owners have to learn to deal with and perform under extreme pressure as well. As Mike Myatt wrote in “6 Ways to Conquer Leadership Pressure,” “How leaders deal with pressure is often the difference between catapulting an organization towards success, and contributing to its demise.”