Sustainability Needs Leaders Motivated by a Compelling Purpose

Rick Miller featured in GreenBiz.com:

In business school, the classmates who stood out fell into three categories: investors; combiners; and entrepreneurs. Visionary investors could see what capital owners needed and when they needed it. Visionary combiners could see the efficiencies possible through unexpected mergers and acquisitions. And visionary entrepreneurs could see a market earlier than anyone else, and create a new category to go after it.

To thrive today, CEOs need all three skills plus one more: They need to give purpose to their employees and to their business model.

My friend, legendary agency founder Roy Spence, wrote the book on purpose a few years back. His core concept is still spot on: “It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for.” At the time, purpose was found within the category, such as BMW’s focus on creating the “ultimate driving machine.” But today, a visionary purpose is increasingly tied to solving an intertwined pair of global problems.

In other words, it’s no longer enough to be best in class. Today, best in class means best for the planet and the people as well as best for profit. Tesla illustrates this ideal perfectly. Volkswagen illustrates the opposite. Walmart is executing what may be perhaps the most dramatic 180-degree turn, from a company that accelerated social and environmental depletion to one that champions sustainability and employee engagement. Walmart is boosting wages and exiting the supercenter footprint that gave it such unparalleled economies of scale.

For CEOs, two issues are causing the biggest consternation as we move into 2017: climate change; and sustainable, long-term growth. Just last year, CEOs from more than 400 of the world’s largest companies urged world leaders to adopt aggressive climate targets in the Paris Conference of Parties. Two months later, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, wrote a chairman’s letter asking every Fortune 500 CEO to send him a strategy for sustainable, long-term growth.

Waiting on Washington

Not too many CEOs got A’s on Fink’s homework assignment. Understandably, CEOs are finding it impossible to chart a long-term growth strategy when all the incentives in the system are pointing in the opposite direction. Instead, CEOs have been waiting for Washington to create the level playing field in which climate change and long-term growth can be addressed. Those CEOs are happy to lend their name to a campaign just as long as they can get on with the business of business.

Except the 2016 election delivered a roadblock. At the risk of understatement, the new power in Washington is not focused on climate change nor on long-term growth — yet.

So CEOs need a plan B. This week a group of chiefs are gathering at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, to talk about climate change against the backsliding signaled by the new U.S. president. From where I sit, they, and hundreds of others, need to rise to the occasion. In doing so, there is no better role model than Bill Knudsen.

Knudsen was CEO of General Motors in the perilous years before America entered World War II. He recognized two things: the unavoidable threat of the day, fascism; and that as Henry Ford’s former mass production wizard, Knudsen himself had unique talents the nation would need to defeat two wealthy industrial enemies. Before Congress had the nerve to act, Knudsen started to re-organize American industry, giving FDR the term “arsenal of democracy.” Knudsen gave business new purpose.

For some CEOs, taking a stand is already in their DNA. Groups such as The B Team, Focusing Capital on the Long Term and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development have been grinding away for years.

But at the dawning of 2017, sustainable growth has taken on new urgency. CEOs no longer can set aside some corporate social responsibility funds to support incremental advocacy efforts. Now the CEOs — and the big institutional clients of Fink — have to roll up their sleeves and figure out how to design and implement a new grand strategy for sustainable growth that addresses people, planet and profits.

The business case for strategic leadership is a no-brainer. For the United States, “The New Grand Strategy,” by GreenBiz Executive Editor Joel Makower and co-authors Mark Mykleby and Patrick Doherty, lays out a pragmatic strategy for extraordinary growth. Overseas, the Business & Sustainable Development Commission’s new report does the same. The challenge lies in transitioning to the new economics of sustainable, long-term growth without help from government.

As CEOs know, the problem never has been about finding the right ideas. It’s all about leadership motivated by a compelling purpose. The purpose is now clear. We just need some Knudsens.

 

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The 5 Elements of Effective Leadership

Rick Miller featured in MWorld, the journal of the American Management Association:

START_QUOTE_30t_smYou may not realize it, but every person on your team at every level of your organization has the potential to be a Chief. By that I mean they have the potential to be a more effective leader, and you can make it happen. Let me explain.

Based on 30+ years of experience, I have developed a roadmap that enabled entire organizations to move from a position of losing market share to a place where record level productivity and profits occurred right alongside personal development and relationship building—for everyone involved.

You have likely been introduced to, and practiced, a variety of leadership styles, but I’m willing to bet that you haven’t considered the critical intersection that exists between the implementation of five key elements: discipline, support, creativity, insight, and values.

These five elements make up what I refer to as the All-In Roadmap. With this roadmap teams of employees tripled the growth rate in million and billion-dollar companies. The roadmap allowed me to connect with my teams, and most importantly, it helped my teams connect to each other and to themselves. The result was a measurable shift and strong, sustainable growth.

I have used the All-In Roadmap in a broad range of organizations—from startups to multinationals to nonprofits—in a number of industries. Each time, the result is growth—both personal and profit. After 30 years of putting these concepts to work, I am now sharing them so that they can work for you, too.

DISCIPLINE

Discipline is an orderly pattern of behavior that increases the likelihood of a desired outcome. In business, discipline is the essence of management. Discipline begins with self-discipline. When you are able to adhere to a particular practice, set of parameters, or guidelines will you effectively inspire others to do the same. There are five main choices when it comes to discipline. A chief chooses to envision, strategize, plan tactics, implement and measure, and adjust.

You can think of these five choices as the discipline toolbox. Implementing one or more of these choices on a regular basis will help you to be a better Chief. Here’s how.

Envision: It is not only the duty of executives to provide the vision for an organization, it is an opportunity for everyone. When you encourage each individual to choose and follow their own personally compelling vision, the energy behind them becomes boundless.

Strategize: Your team will be more effective if you share your strategy—at least part of it—with everyone. Those at the top can determine strategy, set goals, and allocate resources, but by sharing the “why” behind the “how,” the entire team will move more cohesively toward the targets.

Plan tactics: A Chief understands the critical nature of detailed tactical planning and the role it plays in the probability of a strategy’s success. When all members of a team set their own work goals and are encouraged to give input during planning, execution is much more likely to run smoothly.

Implement and measure: Success occurs when you plan the work and work the plan. Quality implementation and careful measurement are the backbone of discipline. They provide shape and direction so that any project can move forward.

Adjust: Change is the only constant. When a Chief recognizes this and creates an environment that nurtures an optimistic perspective about change, then your team members feel comfortable seeking opportunity when change arises rather than recoiling in fear of the repercussions.

SUPPORT

Support is the structure that holds an organization together. It is made up of tangible components, such as offices, factories, and all things tech. It is made up of visible components such as the organizational structure, company benefits, and resources. But most of all it is made up of the interactions—spoken and unspoken—that transpire between people.

These interactions drive the pulse of an organization. Fueled with the proper support, your team can move mountains. Thus, it is the duty of a great Chief to help ensure that proper support is always given. To do so you can choose to model, inspire, enable, encourage, and question.

Again, think of these five choices as the support toolbox from which you will utilize the tools you need to build a sound support structure.

Model: The credibility required to build trust and earn respect comes from consistency. As an effective Chief you will not only talk the talk and walk the walk, you will be the talk and the walk. When you align how you talk with how you feel, think, write, and act—all in alignment with your values—your authenticity will be felt by your entire team.

Inspire: An effective leader’s authenticity, as created by modeling, will also serve to inspire the members of an organization. As an effective Chief you will choose to inspire as well as be open to be inspired by others. You will recruit and align people to a cause without relying on positional power, which will serve to better integrate your team as a cohesive whole.

Enable: A great Chief is an enabler, in the best way. As a servant leader, you provide freedom for individuals to exercise new capabilities and to choose to be Chiefs themselves. An organization thrives when people feel empowered and accountable.

Encourage: When you choose to encourage others while also seeking encouragement yourself, you will be able to change the underlying tone in any organization from one of resentment to one of respect. The ripple effect of encouragement has the potential to extend far beyond employees.

Question: An effective leader has a natural curiosity and learns to foster this curiosity in others. Underlying this curiosity—this need to question and understand the connection between people and ideas—is the ability to listen. Choosing to listen while questioning may be the single most important element of being Chief.

CREATIVITY

Creativity is traditionally defined as it pertains to innovation, but I define creativity in an unconventional manner. I propose that creativity is actually the ability to create, or manifest, the future. There are five main choices when it comes to creativity. Chiefs create the future when they choose to feel, think, speak, write, and act in alignment with who they are. Your creativity toolbox will be used by continually checking to ensure that each of the following choices is made in a consistent manner with the others.

Feel: When you are aware of and attuned to your emotions, you will have access to a strong source of truth. Listening to gut instinct, which is very much a physical and mental feeling, is crucial for the fine tuning required of a great Chief.

Think: We all think, of course, but when you choose to actively think—that is, to manage your thoughts—not only does your intellect become more organized, but you fuel the energy that will help to create the future. As the saying goes, “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions.”

Speak: As an effective Chief, you can choose your words carefully, acknowledging the energy behind verbal communication and the impact words have on the future being created. Speaking involves more than words, however, so care must also be taken when considering eye contact, facial expressions, and body language.

Write: The written word enjoys a greater level of permanence and impression. People have long understood the power of the pen as a creative force to influence others. Writing is the action of bringing together feelings, thoughts, and words in a concentrated and powerful manner. I recommend utilizing this tool to be a more effective leader. Write down your thoughts and your dreams, and write away your fears.

Act: Building on the previous creativity choices, our actions are the culmination of creativity. We are held accountable for our actions more than for any other form of creativity. When you act in alignment with who you are, the ease with which your goals are met will increase along with the quality of your efforts.

INSIGHT

Insight is the understanding that comes from self-awareness. Such powerful insight can be a challenge to discover in a world that appears to move faster and faster each day. The development of insight is key to increasing confidence and effectiveness. Be on the lookout for insight in the simplest experiences in life and from the least expected places.

There are five ways you can learn more about yourself. When you choose to be present, still, accepting, generous, and grateful, you develop the ability to know yourself in a way that you may not have previously considered.

Be present: When you choose to be totally attentive and participate in the moment, the activity you are engaged in will be energized and you will be more effective as a leader. When present, you give 100 percent of your attention to the people with whom you are engaged. This simple practice can completely transform interactions and relationships.

Be still: When you choose to be still for a certain period of time on a regular basis, you will develop the ability to listen to the voice that matters most—your own. In this noisy and fast-paced world, the ability to be still will help any individual be a Chief.

Be accepting: You have the choice to accept people and situations for who and what they are. In doing so, you can avoid the frustration of trying to change people and change the past. The first step toward acceptance, however, is self-acceptance.

Be generous: When you choose to be generous with your time, possessions, and money you may find that instead of having less, you have more. To balance that generosity, however, you would benefit from getting comfortable with receiving. A continual flow of generosity, both giving and receiving, will teach you as much about effective leadership as the P&L reports.

Be grateful: A truly effective Chief will find gratitude not only in moments when everything is going well, but also in moments of struggle. The grace required to face tough times and remain thankful is a blessing.

VALUES

Values are the foundation of relationships and of effective leadership. Underlying each choice an individual makes are his values. When you choose to make evident your own values, all while seeking out the values of other team members and the organization itself, you will become a more effective leader.

I believe that values are a personal choice. Rather than list a set of values for you to follow, I urge you to take some time to choose your own values or reaffirm values you have already in place as a way to deepen your commitment to the driving force behind everything you do—business, personal, or otherwise.

I offer these five elements as a guideline that you can follow, but know that you can implement these elements and their corresponding choices in a way that works best for your unique situation. You may find that you do not need to modify your current discipline habits, for example. I am sharing this roadmap so that you may find an alternate path toward your goal when your current route no longer serves you.

By integrating the five elements of my All-In Roadmap, every individual in an organization can be a Chief, or be a better Chief. It’s not about title or level anymore. It’s about who we are that drives what we do and how we do it. Helping your team align these elements will unlock their potential and drive growth in and around your organization.

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10 Ways to Build an Adaptive Culture in Your Organization

Rick Miller featured in Vistage Executive Street online publication:

START_QUOTE_30t_smIn this post-Great Recession era, too many companies are suffering from a lack of growth in revenue, profit, and job creation. Company leaders are facing unparalleled technology shifts, increased competition, changing government regulations, and accelerating globalization.

So how can managers respond to unprecedented challenges and create increased innovation, jobs, and top- and bottom-line growth? Some would tell you that new challenges require whole new leadership tactics. I disagree.

The truth is that unprecedented challenges (just not these particular ones) are nothing new—change is a constant. Fortunately, leaders can create growth despite these challenges. Research has proven that an unconventional approach can enable company leaders to sustain high performance, even in the face of great change, by creating a change-adaptive culture.

Specifically, in 2011 Jim Heskett and John Kotter published Corporate Culture and Performance, sharing an updated version of the seminal work they first offered more than 20 years ago. It provides great insights for today’s leaders.

The authors offer impressive data to support their central assertion: If you build an adaptive culture, rather than simply a strong culture, you can create long-term economic performance. The results of the dozens of companies studied over 11 years are compelling.

Heskett and Kotter go on to offer specific advice on how to create this type of culture. They focus on actions (discipline, support, and creativity) and attributes (insight and values) that lead to performance-enhancing and change-adaptive cultures.

Here are the top 10 ways you can build an adaptive culture in your organization:

  1. Create a need for crisis and a need for change and a new direction
  2. Communicate consistently and broadly
  3. Display an “outsiders” propensity to embrace change and new ideas
  4. Reinforce the importance of innovation
  5. Build and maintain an “insiders” credibility
  6. Institute a balanced focus on the success of customers, employees, and shareholders
  7. Establish leadership or the ability to produce change as an important focus at ALL levels
  8. Decentralize decision making where possible
  9. Promote carefully and demote when necessary
  10. Operate as a servant leader

I have personally seen the benefits offered by this approach in organizations from all sizes and in all industries. For example, an internet startup facing a market crash grew revenue from $1M to $11M in just a year while a multinational tripled its revenue growth rate from 5 to 15%, growing to $5B while facing intense market competition. In each case,

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both employee and customer satisfaction reached new levels.

With so many companies facing challenges, will more follow the proven path forward outlined by Heskett and Kotter?

Only time will tell. The path is not easy. It has been rare that organizations have committed to the discipline, support, creativity, insight, and commitment to values required to build truly change-adaptive cultures. Those who chose to follow the path consistently benefited with strong results.

With the levels of complexity and challenges ever growing, leaders would be well served to make this unconventional approach a little more conventional. Should you try it?

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How a Growth Roadmap Drives Financial and Personal Growth in Turbulent Times

Rick Miller featured in The Wealthy Business:

START_QUOTE_30t_smHere’s the good news: Many companies are announcing record profit levels. Now for the bad news: Too many of these same companies are saving their way to profitability rather than driving top-line revenue growth as employee engagement continues to fall. While markets have risen, there is a clear concern about whether this growth is sustainable. In my experience, revenue, profit, and personal growth are all attainable and sustainable in tough times using a proven Roadmap.

As a senior business turnaround specialist, I have worked with teams facing daunting business challenges ranging from poor culture and product shortfalls, to external issues like illegal competitive activity and market crashes. In each case, I relied on the All-In Roadmap as a guide. Independent of industry or whether I was in a startup or multinational, each time our team succeeded.
roadmapI created the All-In Roadmap, providing evidence that strong performance can be sustained even in tough times by focusing on a set of actions and personal attributes. A famous fighter once said that a plan is fine until you get hit in the mouth. In my experience, when things get tough it’s both the plan and your execution that determine success. The All-In Roadmap includes a balanced focus on five areas: discipline, support, creativity, insight, and values.

Success requires a key component—discipline. I define this as an orderly pattern of behavior that increases the likelihood of a desired outcome. For example, you must develop effective dashboards that include leading and lagging indicators. Do you have detailed plans linked to your strategy? Can you adjust quickly? Do you maximize the probability of your team’s success with strong discipline?

Support is the act or process of promoting the interests of another. First, truly successful leaders offer great support by being the example. Are your words consistent with your actions? Is your team properly trained for the battle and recognized when they achieve goals? Do you go the extra step and take responsibility to “set others up” for success? Do you do all you can to support your team?

Creativity is defined differently in my model. The All-In Roadmap advocates that creativity is actually the ability to manifest or create the future. It is up to you to “make things happen.” Do you listen to your gut feelings? Do you manage your thoughts? Do you speak your words carefully, write deliberately, and act in a way that will align each of these? Do you create fully and consciously?

Insight is the power or act of seeing intuitively that comes with self-understanding. You are most effective when you engage in actions that are consistent with who you are. Here are five ways you can learn more about yourself. Can you choose to be present and focus on the task at hand? Can you be still long enough to get in touch with your own voice? Can you accept what is? Are you generous and grateful? How well do you really know yourself?

Values are the foundation of great relationships. And great relationships can be characterized by a number of values including compassion, forgiveness, respect, empathy, and kindness. How visible are your values? Can team members clearly see your values in how you speak, write, and act? Do you respect the values of others?

Although my approach is research-based, it has also been called unconventional. Regardless of one’s opinion, it works. It’s why I was hired by AT&T in 1995 as the first outsider in 100 years to take over a poor performing business unit. Three years later, employee and customer satisfaction reached record levels while the revenue growth rates grew from $3B to $5B.

At a time when so many organizations face challenges, consider using a proven Roadmap to ask the right questions. Revenue, profit, and personal growth are all attainable and sustainable, even in tough times.
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So You Want to Be a CMO

Rick Miller featured in Direct Marketing News online publication:

START_QUOTE_30t_smWhat choices can you make to unlock the potential of every member of your marketing staff? Many studies have confirmed that leaders can create and sustain next-level performance by focusing on a specific set of actions and personal attributes. Using these studies and adding a reality check from my personal frontline assignments as a senior operating executive, I have developed a simple set of choices to help you bring out the marketing chief in every member of your team. I refer to this tool as the All-In Roadmap.

The critical parts of the All-In Roadmap include actions (discipline and support), attributes (creativity and insight), and values. Positive choices in each of these areas will enable your team to perform at the next level—as Chiefs.

Discipline is an orderly pattern of behavior that increases the likelihood of a desired outcome. Whether you’re managing a team or simply managing your own projects, good discipline is always the right starting point. You must plan the work and then work the plan, while also developing effective dashboards with metrics for important leading and lagging indicators. Successful marketing requires not only a focus on many moving parts—strategy, competition, research, budget, endless details, etc.—but also the ability to quickly adjust your plans as needed. Do you maximize the probability of your team’s success with strong discipline?

Support is the act or process of promoting the interests or causes of another. Truly successful leaders offer great support for others, and support begins by being the example. It is often said, yet infrequently practiced, that great leaders must “walk the walk.” You can inspire team members with the consistency of your actions as a way to teach everyone more about who you are. Support can include the practice of asking questions to guide less experienced staff toward new ways of thinking. Or, formal and informal recognition can help encourage risk taking. Finally, you can take responsibility for enabling team members’ success. Take the attitude, and perform the actions, required to set your team up for success. Do you do all you can to support your team?

Creativity is the ability to bring things into existence. Creativity is no stranger to the field of marketing, but I offer to you an unconventional definition. All-In Leadership advocates that creativity is actually the ability to manifest, or create, the future. To be successful in marketing, there are five ways to be creative: Listen to your gut feelings, choose to manage your thoughts, speak your words carefully, write deliberately, and act in a way that will align each of these. If you find yourself having trouble creating the future you want, you can choose to simply “act the part” and feelings, thoughts, and words will follow. It’s important to acknowledge your accountability to create internally (through feelings and thoughts) and externally (in talking, writing, and acting). Do you create an optimal culture for your team fully and consciously?

Insight is the power or act of seeing intuitively that comes with self-understanding. You are at your most effective when you engage in actions that are consistent with who you are. Insight can be challenging to discover in a world that appears to move faster each day and is filled with challenges, opportunities, and seemingly endless to-do lists.

There are five ways you can learn more about yourself, and thereby learn more about your team. You can choose to be present (focus on the task at hand), still (get in touch with the only voice that matters—the one inside your own head!), accepting (don’t fight it), generous, and grateful. These acts may seem contrary to everything that goes on in your current workplace, but once implemented, they will open up new insight that can take your team to previously unreachable heights. Do you regularly invest time to quiet your mind to hear your own voice?

Values are the foundation of great relationships. Great relationships can be characterized by any number of values including compassion, forgiveness, respect, empathy, and kindness. Each of us has the choice to bring positive values to all our relationships—with team members, customers, owners, and partners. The values of truth, service, equality, and connection are universal value principles that can offer a great framework for your organization. Can team members clearly see your values in how you speak, write, and act?

Taken together, discipline, insight, support, creativity, and values comprise the parts of the All-In Roadmap. At a time when so many organizations and groups are in need of stronger leadership, I urge you to consider your opportunity to make choices proven to unlock the leadership potential in your team. It really doesn’t matter if you’re on top of an organization or somewhere below the top. You can help create a culture where every member of your team can operate as a chief. This roadmap has helped me unlock the potential of many diverse teams and I sincerely believe it will help you and your marketing team. The choice is yours. Good luck.

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There are Marketers and Chief Marketers: Which are You?

Rick Miller featured in CommPro Marketing online publication:

START_QUOTE_30t_smBeing a Chief Marketer has nothing to do with level or title. Instead, it has everything to do with choices. Like Chiefs in other areas, Chief Marketers are leaders. They set the pace for others. They consistently make choices that demonstrate their value as they increase the value of those around them. They can be found in any part of any organization. So what choices can you make to earn your Chief stripes?

Research has confirmed that leaders (Chiefs) can create and sustain strong performance by focusing on a specific set of actions and personal attributes. Using these studies and adding a reality check from my experience as a senior operating executive, I have developed a simple set of choices to help you operate as a Chief Marketer. I refer to this set of choices as the All-In Roadmap.

The critical parts of the All-In Roadmap include actions (discipline and support), attributes (creativity and insight) and values.

Discipline is an orderly pattern of behavior that increases the likelihood of a desired outcome. Whether you are managing a team or simply managing your own projects, good discipline is always the right starting point. You must plan your work and then work your plan, while also developing effective dashboards with leading and lagging indicators. Success requires that you be able to quickly adjust your plans as needed while focusing on the many moving parts involved in marketing—strategy, competition, research, budget, endless details, etc. Do you maximize the probability of your team’s success with strong discipline?

Support is the act or process of promoting the interests or causes of another. Truly successful leaders offer great support by being the example. You can inspire team members with the consistency of your actions as a way to teach everyone more about who you are. Support also includes the practice of being curious. Ask questions to guide less experienced staff toward new ways of thinking. Also, formal and informal recognition of reserved staff members can help encourage risk taking. Finally, you can take responsibility to “set others up” for success. Do you do all you can to support your team?

Creativity has always been critical in the field of marketing, but I am offering you an unconventional definition of creativity. I believe creativity is actually the ability to manifest, or create, the future. To be successful in marketing, there are five ways to be creative: Listen to your gut feelings, choose to manage your thoughts, speak your words carefully, write deliberately, and act in a way that will align each of these. Acknowledge your own accountability to create internally (through feelings and thoughts) and externally (in talking, writing, and acting). Do you create fully and consciously?

Insight is the power or act of seeing intuitively that comes with self-understanding. You are at your most effective when you engage in actions that are consistent with who you are. Insight requires you to slow down at times to learn how to truly listen to your inner voice. There are five ways you can learn more about yourself. You can choose to be present (focused on the task at hand), still (in touch with the voice inside your own head), accepting (not fighting), generous, and grateful. These acts will open up your insight, which will have far-reaching beneficial effects for you, professionally and personally. Do you regularly invest time to quiet your mind to hear your own voice?

Values are the foundation of great relationships. Great relationships can be characterized by a number of values including compassion, forgiveness, respect, and kindness. Each of us has the choice to bring positive values to all our relationships—with team members, customers, owners, and partners. As you perform your marketing activities, can team members clearly see your values in how you speak, write, and act?

Taken together, discipline, insight, support, creativity, and values comprise the parts of the All-In Roadmap. At a time when so many organizations need great marketers, you have an opportunity to be your best. I urge you to consider choices proven to unlock your leadership potential. It really doesn’t matter if you are on top of an organization or somewhere below the top. Independent of level or title, you can operate as a Chief. The choice is yours.

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Leading in a Storm

Rick Miller featured in Empower Me Magazine online publication:

START_QUOTE_30t_smAs an entrepreneur or senior leader in a small business, you have never had an easy job. Among lots of other tasks, you must envision, strategize, and plan tactics for your company after you have researched the market for your products or services. Of course, you do all of these things with limited resources. Assuming you have developed an appropriate financial plan for your company, and have kept your competitive profiles updated, you must also flawlessly implement your plans and measure with quality and speed to produce results. You are accountable to align your employees by communicating direction throughout the organization by being confident, clear, concise, convincing, and compelling (5 C’s).

Attempted together, these tasks can seem daunting. Yet in tough times, even these practices alone are not enough. In fact, when things get difficult the MOST IMPORTANT part of your job might be that while you are communicating with the 5 C’s, you also need to be truly OPEN to input and opinions from key stake holders in and around the organization.

With today’s unprecedented turbulence, the most successful leaders are those who can confidently set the direction for their group while actively seeking, and intently listening to, input from employees and customers for much needed innovative ideas.

In Servant Leadership, Robert Greenleaf describes the approach required of a leader who truly understands that game-changing insight can come at any time, from anyone. “One must make choices. Perhaps one

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chooses the same aim or hypothesis again and again. But is always with a fresh and open choice, and it is always under a shadow of doubt”. Leaders open to fresh perspectives are more likely make critical adjustments ahead of others. In today’s “stormy” business climate, this ability is critical.

Greenleaf also offers a perspective on how a leader can create true communication and engagement. He emphasizes both the exercise of authority and the inner quality of humility that characterize a true servant leader. With a commitment to serve first, a leader is more likely to truly listen. With an underlying belief in equality and respect for every individual, successful leaders appreciate the necessity to learn from anyone and everyone.

With the economic, political, social, and environmental challenges we are now facing, pressure to perform is higher than ever. You will always be looked to for future direction. Your due diligence and the quality of your strategies and plans will continue to be an important starting point of your business. You will continue to need to display confidence in your organizations. In light of today’s complexities and uncertainties, however, your long-term success may hinge far more on your ability to find the right balance of confidence and the humility that comes with a healthy dose of doubt.

I suggest you add a big “O” to the 5C’s. The O is a reminder to be OPEN. You’ll get better ideas and employee engagement will stay high, just when you need it most.END_QUOTE_30t_sm

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How Coachable Are You?

Rick Miller featured in MSN Business on Main:

START_QUOTE_30t_smIf you aren’t open to feedback and new ideas, it could be what’s keeping you and your business from long-term success. Here’s how to be more coachable.

“Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you believe the Emerson quote above, then every one of us could use a coach. In spite of the difficulty in finding hard data supporting the efficacy of executive coaching, most everyone who has ever had a coach swears by the experience.

“I combine my emotional intelligence, experience and understanding of business with [good] coaching, and the result is magic,” says Tom Walter, a serial entrepreneur and founding partner of Tasty Catering, an award-winning Chicago-area corporate catering and events planning company.

The way Walter sees it, the more he taps external and internal coaching resources, the better. To that end, Walter engages in several different networks for ideas, feedback and advice—from his millennial staffers who help him tap into current market shifts, to his independent group of nine advisors, to his membership in several associations, as well as a peer mentor group, among others. “I rarely override them, because their ideas are about what’s good for business—a solid financial basis, strong market share, et cetera,” says Walter.

Not surprisingly, entrepreneurs aren’t always the easiest coaching candidates. And yet, “Ask pretty much any executive, and they’ll likely be able to tell you things they would like to improve about themselves and/or their company in a heartbeat,” says Michele Michaelis, chief executive officer of IvySage Education LLC, an online interactive tutoring service. “Most of us also realize that we probably have blind spots—areas for improvement that we are not even aware of,” says Michaelis.

Indeed, the requirement of a leader to become more self-aware happens as a company grows and the entrepreneur needs to delegate and depend on other people. At that point, “It becomes critical to understand who I am, what I do best, what I don’t do well,” says Robert Holland, Ph.D., chairman and CEO of Vistage Michigan, an executive coaching and peer-to-peer advisory group organization.

“When I share [that information] with a coach, two of us are working on the problem rather than one,” he says. A coach also helps give leaders a balanced view of their performance, and helps them develop clear professional development goals. But just what does it take to be coachable? How do you get started?

Take a risk. This kind of a risk is different than the type of risk it takes to start a company. Many coaching newbies are concerned about losing themselves or their company direction as a result of too much external advice. But keep an open mind and realize this is a new experience that may be out of your comfort zone. Give yourself six months as a tryout period.

Identify areas of growth. If you’re comfortable, ask those closest to you (not necessarily work cohorts) for feedback on areas that you would like to develop — it could be driving an effective meeting, making public presentations, or managing and motivating employees.

Choose wisely. “Relationships work best when the coach’s style and experience matches the needs and preferences of the leader,” says Rick Miller, executive coach and author/founder of All-In Leadership. Ask for recommendations from executives and business owners who’ve been coached. Find someone who’s an expert in the areas where your company is struggling. Regularity of interaction can range from weekly to monthly to periodically, based on need.

Remember the ‘iceberg’ rule of feedback. “If you show that you’re willing, able and eager to accept criticism and advice, the coach will be more comfortable giving you the whole story (the full iceberg), versus just a bit of feedback (the tip of the iceberg),” says Michaelis. Listen carefully and ask clarifying questions. Make sure you’re being very open to new ideas and fully understanding and considering the feedback and suggestions.

“Once you’ve worked with a coach and trust her, ask her to address any other issues that she sees—what are your blind spots and how might they be holding you back?” says Michaelis.

Keep in mind that while you should listen carefully and consider ideas with an open mind, if the rationale for an idea doesn’t make sense, always trust your instincts.

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Need to Meet Rick Miller

Rick Miller featured in Thomson Reuters, Buyouts:

START_QUOTE_30t_smWith private equity in the spotlight of political controversy, industry executives have a chance to get their message out, but only if they can connect with the 99 percent at a human level, says executive coach Rick Miller.

The problem is not unique to buyouts pros, but is common to senior executives in many industries, says Miller, the president of Morristown, NJ consultancy Choices & Success LLC. “I think they as a group are chastised for not being good listeners.”

The buyout business, however, starts at a disadvantage, because members of the public were unaware of the industry until political opponents started assailing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his career at Bain Capital.

“They didn’t know about it before. Now they are seeing it for the first time in a harsh, perhaps untrue, light, and they’re entering the conversation cynical,” Miller said. “People aren’t interested in listening to the facts, often, until you reduce their level of cynicism.”

In public presentations or on television, breaking through those barriers may involve taking off the suit jacket and necktie, as Romney has done on the campaign trail to reduce the level of formality. Likewise, in smaller groups or private meetings, executives first must listen before they can be understood, Miller said. “Communication is the joint construction of meaning.”

That can be as simple as directing one’s assistant to hold phone calls during a meeting, said Miller, who has worked in environments both corporate—he is a former president of global services at AT&T—and countercultural—he served as CEO of a dot-com startup during the Internet bubble era a decade ago. “And let’s be clear about how much time we have. If you think we have an hour and I think we have half an hour, when that half hour is up, you’re just getting into it and I think it’s over, you’re going to feel the tension.”

Body language, engagement, eye contact, vocal tone, posture—many factors beyond words themselves influence the way that encounters succeed or fail. The simple act of checking your Blackberry during a meeting can send a crucial signal to others in the room, he said. “For a lot of senior people, we’ve been told multitasking is a good and necessary thing. I would tell you it destroys potential relationships quicker than anything else.”

The irony is that senior players automatically seek to make those human connections when they are dealing with others whom they considertheir peers, Miller said. “The challenge is to remember that everybody is a senior player.”

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Coach Offers Body Language Tips

Rick Miller featured in Small Business Opportunities publication:

START_QUOTE_30t_smRenowned executive coach, author and former President of Global Services of AT&T, Rick Miller offers the following Tips on Body Language and Management:

  • Joint construction: Up front remember that communication is “the joint construction of meaning.” You can’t communicate alone.
  • Set the stage: Close your appointment book, shut off your monitor and ask your receptionist to hold your calls; announced or unannounced, showing someone you respect that they have your undivided attention is a powerful way to communicate, even before the meeting starts.
  • Consider losing the tie: What does your attire say about your ability to relate to others in your organization?  From Mark Zuckerberg’s pullover to the infamous mock turtleneck made famous by Steve Jobs, the uniform is changing at the top.
  • Posture: Even when innocent or unintentional, the most subtle slouch can be a key indicator of apathy or indifference. Lean in instead.
  • Get out from behind the desk: A symbol of inequality, a surface can be as much of a communicative barrier as a physical one.  Connect eye to eye and face to face.
  • Two-way: Ensure adequate time to allow for both parties to speak their piece and avoid interrupting. You may just learn something!
  • Put up your antenna: You’re looking at someone, but how present are you? Eye contact alone doesn’t cut it. Practice whole-body listening. The polar opposite of multitasking, having your antenna all the way up can be more beneficial than knowing your industry’s latest news, trends and competitive market data.
  • Tone it down: Be aware of your volume and tone. These are as important as the words you choose.
  • Recap: After both parties have spoken and been heard, acknowledge they were “heard” by summarizing the exchange.
  • Simple thanks: Show appreciation for their time and the conversation.
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10 Strategies Improve Culture and Performance

Rick Miller featured in The Business Edge, March 30, 2012:

START_QUOTE_30t_smIt is often said that the toughest thing to turn around is a culture. According to Harvard Business School researchers and authors, John Kotter and James Heskett, “Culture represents the interdependent set of values and ways of behaving that are common in a community and that tend to perpetuate themselves.” I came across their classic Corporate Culture and Performance when I was a regional vice president at UNISYS in the 90’s. The book not only validated the link between culture and performance, but the authors’ findings gave me a starting point for the roadmap that I created and used for the next 20 years.

Turnarounds are my game. In assignments ranging from a startup to a $13 billion worldwide business unit, I developed and deployed a simple roadmap that has led to consistent and sustained improvement on corporate culture and performance. Recruited to join AT&T to turn around a $3.3 billion unit growing at 5 percent, I used the roadmap, had the company averaging 16 percent growth for three consecutive years, and built a robust $5 billion business. I’d like to share the key takeaways of what worked for me then and highlight some of the research on which it is based.

Kotter and Keskett promoted the importance of building an adaptive culture, rather than simply a strong culture. Adaptive cultures expect and embrace change and are the key to create long-term economic performance. Over a ten-year period, the results of the companies studied are compelling.

cost of low performance cultures
It was clear from these results that while culture may be among the toughest things to turn around, it is absolutely the most important and only place to start. As a president, COO and turnaround specialist, my roadmap is designed for senior executives to use as a blueprint for their organization, helping them build and sustain a corporate culture that delivers stronger results.

The 10 Strategies for Improved Culture

Specifically, research indicates senior executives must display an uncommon combination of

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personal attributes and actions. My experience spent on the front line has taught me that executives must focus on five sets of choices in areas that include discipline, insight, support, creativity, and values. I encourage senior executives to adopt 10 specific strategies that will drive improved performance by addressing corporate culture:

1. Create a sense of urgency and a need for change when setting a new direction.
2. Communicate consistently and broadly.
3. Display and “outsider’s” propensity to embrace change and new ideas.
4. Reinforce the importance of innovation.
5. Build and maintain an “insider’s” credibility.
6. Institute a balanced focus on the success of customers, employees, and shareowners.
7. Establish leadership (the ability to produce change) as a focus at ALL levels.
8. Decentralize decision making where possible.
9. Promote carefully and demote when necessary.
10. Celebrate early success.

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Choosing Resilience Program

Rick Miller featured in USA Today online publication, “All-In Leadership Founder Rick Miller and Transition Expert Dr. Susan Berg Offer New ‘Choosing Resilience’ Program”:

START_QUOTE_30t_smTerror alerts circulate as U.S. and allies’ embassies are attacked. An investment banker ‘loses’ $2 billion and stocks plunge. Gunman appear out of nowhere, wounding and executing bystanders outside shopping malls and restaurants. Tornadoes flatten entire cities. Storm floods leave monumental destruction. In all of this, one thing is certain: in todays world, disaster can occur at any moment.

A recent study by The Creative Group found that responding to crises or problems took one third of executives’ time on the job.

“Corporations that are prepared for change have the best chance of being resilient in the face of enormous upheavals and devastating alterations, whether man-made or a force of nature,” said Rick Miller, founder of the All-In Leadership concept and president of Choices & Success, LLC, an executive coaching firm. “Smart, disciplined leaders focus on resilience before disasters occur. They communicate information employees need to know in addition to the organization’s recovery plan and strongly convey confidence in their team’s ability to overcome obstacles.” 

Miller, a highly regarded corporate turnaround expert and successful senior leader of multi-billion dollar corporations, noted that employees are in need of support more than ever before as their consistent stress levels have reached new heights. There are continuous waves of change and demands that push human limits. “Most companies can benefit from resilience programs and must prepare its workers for unpredictable hazards by creating cultures where people can excel,” said Miller.   

Miller and renowned Transition Expert Dr. Susan Berg, whose career focuses on mastering change and helping executives and groups transform into achievement and stamina-characterized teams, have collaborated to create an insightful program for organizations and individuals; helping them remain flexible while sticking to their values, providing the tools needed to cope with challenges as well as resilience strategies that include disaster recovery plans.    

The tools provided in the ‘Choosing Resilience’ program help individuals reassess their choices. It promotes participants to re-energize, encourage pliability within themselves, their colleagues and their companies when dealing with unforeseen change.

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4 Steps to Sell Your Way to Success

Rick Miller featured in 1 to 1 online publication:

START_QUOTE_30t_smTimes are tough for lots of businesses: layoffs, disappearing market demand, and lost revenue. At the same time, business leaders are still accountable for delivering bottom-line profits. As a senior executive, the one thing you don’t have is time. People are looking to you for results now. Some think the best approach is to focus on cutting expenses, but there is a limit. You can’t save your way to success when employee morale drops and customers feel the impact. Your best bet to start a successful turnaround is actually to do a better job selling to your current customers and top prospects.

Improving sales performance can be as simple as following four steps based on actions and attributes that I call DISC. Here’s how this four-step “playbook” works:

Step 1: Discipline

Contrary to the approach of many organizations, my first step does not advocate pulling the reins in to centralize decision making. I advocate decentralization as much as possible to gain both speed of execution and better decision making by moving decisions closer to the customer. This requires you to optimize your selling process for efficiency and use the right dashboards to provide focus on the most meaningful metrics at all levels of your business on a regular basis. It also requires you to focus on performance management to maintain accountability and develop a pipeline of new talent for when you need it.

Step 2: Insight

In a turnaround situation, you always encounter different ideas about what is lacking. Your organization needs you to set a confident tone. Your confidence will increase when your self-understanding increases. Your self-understanding will grow as you stay focused in each moment on the task at hand, accepting of the reality of each situation, grateful for the opportunity to face challenges, and generous with others—and as you slow things down from time to time to hear the truth by listening to yourself and to your customers.

Step 3: Support

To make your sales organization as effective as possible you need to focus on five key areas. Thorough and ongoing training must comprise hard and soft selling skills. Good sales communication can enable your sales force to internally align team members, while externally giving customers clear, consistent, and simple messages. Use market-based compensation plans, as well as recognition programs for motivation. Finally, when many things are changing in your market you can emphasize the values in your organization that will not change.

Step 4: Creativity

Using the root of the word, your full creativity is unleashed when you create internally and externally. Internally, you need to trust your gut and pay attention to how you feel. You also need to be aware of what you think. These things lead to external creativity. You know the positive impact you can make with the right words when you speak. Similarly, you can create real momentum when you write a well-timed, well-worded email. Finally, always do what you say. Aligning these creative forces brings out your best, when your organization needs it most.

The underlying theme of the playbook is to be aggressive. Establish a culture of metrics, performance, and individual accountability. Channel the confidence you have in yourself and those around you, and commit as a team to stretch goals. Back your sales force with what they need to succeed. Personally, bring your “A” game every day and realize everything matters.

At a time when so many organizations need to turn around their performance quickly, focus on selling excellence as the best place to start. Building a profitable business becomes easier with the positive momentum created with top-line
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Connect for Results: Try Unconventional Thinking

Rick Miller featured in Personal Excellence Magazine, January 2012:

START_QUOTE_30t_smTo improve performance and results, you need to connect people and pieces that have been traditionally disconnected, thanks to conventional thinking.

Conventional thinking is no longer acceptable because it: 1) disconnects managers and leaders (“Managers do the right things, while leaders do things right; manage things and lead people”); 2) disconnects professional and personal life (“it’s just business”); 3) disconnects the value of looking for guidance from personal reflection (feeling, thinking) as opposed to taking action (speaking, writing, acting) or relying on the opinions of others; and 4) disconnects the power of all potential leaders from the impact of a few people at the top of the hierarchy.

To facilitate connected leadership, I developed an All-In Leadership Roadmap that connects sets of choices, including Discipline, Insight, Support, and Creativity (DISC), and asks you to self-assess your actions and attributes in these areas.

Discipline starts with a vision. Who are you and what do you stand for? It is followed by a strategy and plan to accomplish that vision. After you plan the work, you work the plan. Discipline is required to build trust. Instead of relying solely on strong central control over decision-making, you decentralize decision-making and build appropriate controls to build rapid response capability to make critical adjustments.

Insight starts with self-understanding. As a connected leader, you understand who you are and what you stand for. With all the change that surrounds us today, people are looking for leaders who are reliable and confident in themselves. These leaders can integrate information that comes from others with their gut instincts and trust their own voice. They find that voice when they are focused, present, accepting, generous, and grateful. Connected leaders also understand the downside to multi-tasking. They know that by devoting all of their focus to a given individual, communication can be enhanced and relationships strengthened.

Support for others is effective only after you understand their needs. It starts by listening to understand and learn from everyone and every opportunity—being willing to accept the input of others. It can be challenging to be confident, clear, concise, convincing, and compelling—and also be open at all times to input. Support also includes questioning, inspiring, encouraging, enabling, and role modeling for others.

Creativity is at its fullest and is unleashed when you connect what you do to who you are. When you connect your internal creativity (your feelings and thoughts) to your external creativity (your written and spoken words and your actions), you see a dramatic increase in both your effectiveness and your positive influence. Knowing that your words matter, you connect your email language with the words you use in everyday conversations. You also integrate your personal and professional roles and remain true to yourself and what you believe in.

In his new book Great by Choice, Jim Collins and co-author Morten Hanson write: “It is not discipline alone that makes greatness, but the combination of discipline and creativity.”

The DISConnect strategy is supported by a strong focus on core values. When you are managing or guiding others, your values (values like truth, respect, teamwork, equality, service, and connection) are visible in word and action. Values become the ultimate glue that holds people and organizations together when everything else is changing.

When you connect what has traditionally been disconnected, amazing things happen. The potential of all people is released, leading to turnaround performance, along with improved results and resilience.

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Leading Innovation: AT&T’s First Shared Office

Rick Miller featured in Harvard Business Review, May/June 1998:

START_QUOTE_30t_smRichard S. Miller, vice president of global services (GS) at AT&T, leads some 2,000 sales and support professionals serving major corporations and government clients in the eastern United States. His organization generates $4 billion in annual revenues; its expense budget is about $200 million, of which real estate represents 6%.

In December 1996, Miller learned on a television newscast about a competitor’s initiative to pursue an AW program. Driven into action, he asked the help of AT&T’s global real estate (GRE) organization in developing a new facility. His idea: a shared office that staff members who spend much of their time with customers outside the office would use as needed, without having assigned workstations. The objective: creating an environment in which teamwork would flourish while reducing real estate costs.

The GRE unit, then in the early stages of developing AT&T’s Creative Workplace Solutions strategy, had not yet planned the type of facility Miller envisioned. So he and GRE’s planning director, Thomas A. Savastano, Jr., formed a team to consider the alternatives. The team rejected several scenarios. One would have refitted a building already occupied by Miller’s group, but that would have disrupted existing operations. Instead, the team opted for a three-part plan: redesign vacant AT&T space in Morristown, New Jersey, as a shared office; move 200 employees from five traditional office locations and 25 others from three satellite offices to the new facility; and redeploy the space to be vacated.

The total group included 58 salespeople, 101 technical specialists, and 66 management and support staff. Miller knew that the staff would need full-time space in the new facility. But he estimated that at least 60% of the sales and technical people would be out of the office with customers at any given time and therefore could share work space. At the time, the GS organization was beginning to transform its technical specialists into virtual resources; that is, rather than dedicate individuals to specific customers, these individuals would float from one account to another as needed. That change, Miller reflects, eased the transition from a conventional to an alternative workplace.

The new shared office works as follows: Through their laptops, employees log onto a system to reserve a workstation either before they arrive at the building or when they enter the lobby. Once there, they retrieve their own mobile file cabinet and wheel it to their reserved space. The workstations are six feet square and are arranged in pairs with a C-shaped work surface so that two people can work apart privately or slide around to work side by side. The reservation system routes employees’ personal phone numbers to their reserved space. As one occupant says of the new arrangement, “I don’t know who is going to sit next to me tomorrow, but interacting with different people all the time helps me think about customer issues more productively. I’m always getting a new perspective and new ideas from others’ experience.”

AT&T has installed three low-tech features in addition to its high-tech systems. A café encourages people to mingle for coffee and conversation about new sales, customer solutions, and office events. Two large chalkboards allow people to leave messages for others; this feature also reduces the paper flow within the office. And three types of enclosed space—phone rooms, “personal harbors,” and team rooms—accommodate private meetings and teleconferences.

AT&T’s project shows how significant the tangible and intangible results of an AW initiative can be. It cost $2.1 million to develop, including construction, furniture, equipment, and systems. But the investment was well worth the effort, as the accompanying table shows. Annual savings alone amount to more than $460,000 or $2,000 per person. Over five years, the company will avoid nearly $2 million in costs associated with running a traditional office. In addition, individual space was halved, and team-meeting space doubled. Finally, the project has produced closer teamwork, better customer service, and greater employee satisfaction.

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